Comfortably Numb

Hor hey, eh

Hello? Hello? Hello?

Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me

Is there anybody at home?

It is always when one looks back that one realises, actually that was a bit mad. When I had to ask the stewards to take my bottles out and fill them with water and nutrition mix I probably should have asked myself the question was it wise to continue this 100km race only at that stage approx 35 km in. And I say approx because i only checked my watch for distance twice during the whole first marathon. Which I can tell you is not me whatsoever. My Brain had gone on holiday.

This was essentially a training run, but a race is a race and I was very lucky to be able to do such a race 10 minutes from home. The last Ultra I did was in Donegal, a 64km without one flat piece of road and made up of a lot of trail. So i was confident of putting in 10 – 11 hour 100km in Ballina last Saturday morning.

Storm Jorge, or Hor hey as it pronounced was mooted on Wednesday and by the weekend I actually did not care about what it was going to do. We had a vomiting bug in our house leading up to the race. I was a bit crampy and stuffed up but figured the day was long enough anyway.

So any issues I had would iron themselves out, It was super cold on the morning. I had prepared all my kit the day before. 3 complete changes of cloths, all my nutrition on me or in the boot of the car which was well parked and ready to go. I was as i thought at the time well prepared.

It was quite mild at the start, tripping down to Killala is hilly but enjoyable – and the vibe of these races are so friendly and easy going that folks are just chatting and enjoying the day. The wind was starting to pick up and on the second lap down to Killala as the marathoners and 50km runners were coming back towards me I could see the discomfort on their faces. With the wind on my back and against theirs I did have my first. This is no Bueno moment.

Then bam, the temp just seem to plummet, hail, wind with the worst wind chill I have ever experienced, snow and rain. The road was getting flooded in spots so my feet were getting wet and cold. I am not a cold cratur – I actually seek the cold out! But i had to turtle my hands into my skins top as my fingers and hands went numb.

I started to run a bit faster than i hoped against the wind just to try and keep my core temperature up. Salivating at the thoughts of warm dry gear in the boot of my car. The weather just got worse and worse and possibly I had some mild hyperthermia.

Once I had early completed the marathon, another 100km competitor had just completed 50kms when race director Cezary said that the race was now cancelled because of the weather. And rightly so, totally the right call. The thought never really crossed my mind to quit the distance though. With Marathon Des sables around the corner I wanted a good tough blast in the mind and body.

At this stage the remaining people on the course were soldiering towards the marathon finish line. I was at about 50kms. I met Sheila Masterson, she was in for the 100km and was doing so as her 200th marathon. In a world of influencers and the gram in general it was a pity that only those in the know could see her complete such as feat. For she is one of the most inspirational people I have had the pleasure of sharing a course with. Literally battling all the elements to complete 200 marathons. Not an insta story or feed in sight. Just a hard core amazing woman that we do not celebrate enough.

Hitting 50kms and heading for 60 kms I was now the only one left running. He 100km leader did the smart thing and pulled he pin. The race was over. On my Tod i just decided to keep going, mam and dad met me on the course and had a coffee and apple lattice slice for me ! The sugar and caffeine hit my system and I went on the gram and facebook professing that I was going to do the 100km on my own. It was a total rush to the head and 30 minutes later i really regretted it because with the cold and soaking, running fast to keep my core temp warm- I was now fucked.

Still I had done the first two parts of the course and it was now time to do the 28 laps of the greenway mile to complete the last marathon. My run buddy Aiden drove into Ballina to help me out. I was only at 62 kms and the realisation of what i had to do, what I should not have said online! And now the weather starting to deteriorate again – the wheels were starting to come off rapidly. Deals were made, and it was decided that 70 sounded better than 65 so Aiden literally dragged me for anther few kms.

With all the drama, the storm, the race cancellation, not giving in for a further 28kms had the very positive effect of raising a lot of awareness and money for Hughs house. I have completed Ironmans in personal best times, and feel and felt better about last weekend.

No finish times, no results, just spending a morning during an orange weather warning with an eclectic bunch of people. And I could not be happier.

I think I have found my calling, 100kms races.

To be raced from June to September however.

Resilience

I have been asked to give a talk on resilience, however I have just realised i can not even spell the word never mind give a talk on the subject. R E S I L I E N C E. Resilience. Thank the lord for spell check.

It is something that someone else wants me to share with people yet i do not have the foggiest about what to say. I asked my wife to enlighten me. ”Its like when you go out and run 30k and then do it again the next day” I was no clearer. That to me is nothing to do with my understanding of the word.

Is Resilience a part of wellness or is wellness Resilience. I want my kids to have it. Yet what is it that I am supposed to be teaching them. And how am i going to teach it.

To me my closest understanding of the word is in cahoots with another word. Ego. And what is Ego but, Yin and Yan positive and negative traits to the human personality. Marmite if you will, some like it some do not.

In theory if someone wanted me to talk about Resilience to a group, based on what they see me do from social media and the likes I would have to say that what they see as Resilience is actually Ego in play, Ego and the drive of an ego be it conscious or subconscious manifesting as Resilience.

In my opinion Resilience is Not Resilience. And what one sees most times where it looks like Resilience is actually ego.

I still have to give this talk, they want to hear about Resilience – but maybe I can sub in Robustness for Resilience and see if anyone notices. To me Robustness is a better way of describing something tangible within wellness. The word first came into my lexicon through Setanta in Thurles. Not the mythical one but a lecturer on the course who talked about creating Robust players in order to prevent injury and improve performance.

I feel this is a better way to describe what is needed and i would feel far more comfortable giving a talk on the ways of becoming robust. To me, becoming Robust is quite simple.

To become robust means getting muddy running in trails in the middle of no where, to become robust means having a mentally draining day and knowing that it was not physical , Robustness is getting into a freezing lake, river, stream, sea or pond with or without clothing in January and enjoying it. And yes robustness is running 30k and then following it up with another 30k the next day.

There are many levels of Robustness, inter county , club and the non team sport playing individual that just wants to be robust enough for day to day life. One is not going to become robust thinking about it. Even reading about it. (Although I do appreciate if you are still reading this). Robustness means getting out and doing. And continuing to do, whatever it is that floats your boat.

Be more Robust, it is the new Resilience.

Dream stage

When you are training you are thinking about sleeping. When you are sleeping you are dreaming about training and the event itself.

Because so much time now is spent in preparation it naturally starts to take hold of most of ones thoughts. These can manifest in many funny ways. Apprehension , fear , worry and anxiety. All normal ways to feel when one steps into the unknown.

Long runs are going really well, as I am being coached really well. It is not sometimes the training but fitting the training into life itself that pinches time. I do try and make this pinch enjoyable in some way. I had to do a very late 30km run on a Saturday night finishing after 11pm. I had saved a Rich Roll podcast with Chad wright for this. He was a former US Navy seal turned ultra runner so two hours listening to his soft southern drawl was quite enjoyable. Amusingly, stopping many’s a time to chat to random people around Crossmolina at this stage I’m guessing that if something is running in high vis at a daft hour the assumption is – it is me.

The following day I hit the hills, taking in a lovely looped run around Tornakeel in keenagh , the following weekend I took in a skinny dip in a pool in Leterkeen woods. It was off the cuff, next time I will have swim shorts! For fear I’d get reported as some weirdo in the woods. but it was a lovely sensation after 20 odd kms getting into a wooded stream for a cold dip if only with one eye out for a random hiker.

This weekend crosses another level in training , one long run but then a weighted vest run rather than two long runs back to back. I also have the ”3 Marathons in 2 days” 100km race in Ballina in less than 4 weeks now so I am really looking forward to that.

Outside of the bricks and mortar of training, our tent has been allocated. And I now have my race number. I like the fact now that I do not know anyone – I think it makes the whole experience even more fun. Most of the equipment I need I have now in my possession. All the important stuff anyway, I am still in two minds about certain items I want to carry versus bringing extra food. On food , there is a company that does expedition food. I can get 1000 calorie vegan cous cous and veg. Probably taste like shite but I am sure it will do the job. I am not a Nazi Vegan but at the same time having gone this long now I would be disappointed to have to get chicken or beef for dinner!

Slowly but surely I am getting my head around the nutrition, the amount of calories I will need and how I will facilitate that. I am part of a UK and Ireland Marathon Des Sables facebook group which drip feeds information based on where we are all at in preparation and equipment buying which has been great because I would have a nervous breakdown leaving things to the last minute.

My own body fat is way down, but weight still holding at around 85kg. I am working at keeping my diet as nutritious as possible whilst trying to get into a calorie deficit to cut those 5 kegs as intelligently as possible. I am following a fella called Fionn Mc Sweeney on Insta that shared a pretty good study regarding over exercising and underfeeding in order to cut weight. It is something that does not work well in heavy bouts of training.

So what I have been doing is eating 3 really nutritious meals per day and essentially not eating after dinner bar an apple until the next morning. (I do snack, but as well as posssible) . My dinner time is generally around 3/4pm and I work from 5-10pm. Coming home from work I can be hungry so ill just have a glass of water. It’s working slowly but surely. With 7/8 weeks of hard training left I should come down a couple more kg. But I do not envisage dropping under 80kg.

Fundraising for Hugh’s house is now coming along nicely to date we have nearly 1200 EURO in go fund me link here : gf.me/u/xfsmmb

I also got word yesterday from a fellow Crossmolina man who based on the story and many like it regarding our and other experiences with Hughs house donated 4000 euro through his company.

So it has not been a bad few days fundraising. Maybe we can make a few more pound for Hughs House before I hit the sand.

Mairead

Maybe it is lyrics or maybe I read it somewhere – when there is a young death that person is forever young. What is young however changes as I get older. It was teens but is now late thirties and sometimes someone older will comment that a fifty year old was very young when he or she died.

When they pass their face is a time capsule, it is not an old wrinkly face but a young and buoyant one. It is not what i associate with incense and funerals in my youth all those heavy winter jackets and smells.

Mairead was one of those people that formed a glue between many different groups. Folks that I would not really have much in common with were connected by a common denominator- Mairead. She was wild, but in a kind cosy sense. I love to hit the hay at 9:30 now. Back in my twenties it was not that early but when Mairead and our friends would be headed for an early opening pub or later nightclub I would be in bed. In a hoop. She had a zest for life in a way, that I have not met many like that since.

We all drifted as the years moved on, like all do. But it was when she got her first diagnosis and when I started to get more and more into health and wellness did we re connect – albeit online. All of a sudden we were liking our shared enthusiasm for magnesium bath salts, Yoga, plant based lifestyle and Wim Hoff .

I followed her like thousands of others in her cancer journey. All the ups and downs, treatments and journeys to far flung places and people.

And like many others felt a deep sense of shock when our mutual besties messaged to say she had passed. Shock in an overconfidence that she was just going to pull through again like every time she had done before.

Luckily I was able to go and say good bye to her last Wednesday. Luckily I was able to hear stories from her nearest and dearest and she her final resting place which is quite beautiful being overlooked by green hills. It reminded me of stradbally, where I will derive memories from the most.

Overwhelmingly the only way I could describe this sense of grief for the loss of a woman that I had not seen in person in nearly 10 years was a sense of imprint on my heart. Like a chick is imprinted to its mother she had somehow managed to imprint herself right here in the left side of my chest.

It created the most somber feeling exiting strokestown on the N5 early Wednesday afternoon.

The priest giving the sermon mentioned that Jesus died at a similar age, and that lots of people expect to live to 90 or a 100. People do not expect that someone like Mairead can die in her mid thirties. Even with her diagnosis I had no doubt that she could scrap all the way.

Thinking about fairness would make one angry, thinking about sadness is unfair to her and what she brought to the world. Thinking at all hurts my head.

Either way, we both loved to write and now I write about you Mairead. All on the pulpit talked about you attending this great gig in the sky.

I hope if you get a moment you can give this a read

x

Cruising

We’re cruising along quite nicely,I am well and truly over the Dublin Marathon now. The only glitches seem to be ongoing seasonal coughs and splutters. Not helped with never ending days and weeks but there is no time for taking feet off the gas unfortunately. So unless I’m actually about to die I’m going to keep plugging away.

The weekend after next, is my first real back to back runs with 25kms both on Saturday and Sunday. Nothing too major to be honest it is just fitting these two hour jaunts with life that can causes logistical strain.

In an ideal world every weekend run could have been like last Sunday’s. Relatively mild super dry and the most wonderful winter light illuminating land and bovine creatures all around the backroads of Crossmolina and Ardagh. The Deel castles in the morning in such winter light and early morning fog are truly underestimated in beauty and as a destination. I often wonder how many millions would it take to bring them back to splendor.

In a stroke of luck, local Marathon Ireland enthusiast Cezary is organizing a 100km run in February. This is bang on perfect as regards preparation and as a psychological stepping stone towards the Marathon Des Sables itself. Otherwise I would have had to do three marathons back to back and it is far easier get buzzed up for a race. especially my first 100km which feels like a milestone.

I am doing shy of 90kms now a week mixed with two to three self practice Yoga sessions and two to three strength sessions. Unless specific work on glutes etc I am just enjoying doing the clean and jerk. As an olympic lift, it has many different features and benefits from pulling and pushing , triple extension, rate of force development. My buddy Neal meets me at 05:20 and we bang out a few full clean and jerks then derivatives of the clean and jerk such as power cleans, front squats and push press finishing with further clean and jerks. I know my coach who is reading this right now is not overly happy. Which is understandable as it is not overly sports specific. If at all.- But i have to say I just really enjoy the lift and horsing a hape of weight over my head and feeling altogether very manly and dripping with testosterone and endorphins until approximately 2pm where then, I need a nap!

Because I am putting myself in a calorie deficit with fasted runs and a plant based lifestyle, and the fact that I am only lifting twice per week on average I am not worried about bulk. If anything it is really leaning me out already some five months away from race start.

Sarah from Marathon Des Sables emailed me yesterday, this year one can organize their own tent mates. There is a UK and Ireland Facebook group for organizing. There does not seem to be much of a bust from the Irish folks to do anything, and i could not be arsed organizing it. So I told Sarah to throw me in wherever. With three kids under 5 in our house how bad could eight in a tent be. I like the idea of random to see what sort of characters I will meet- lifelong friends or do the river dance on some bucks head.

The unknowing, is exiting.

B

Deciphering Pink Unicorns and Monkeys along the Inner Eye Highway

If you’re brain and or mind is a series of canals and tributaries , criss crossing one another or perhaps, some reaching dead ends. How is it that finding or being selected for an adverse event – or indeed choosing an event can some how open up further canals and tributaries for one to cruise along and discover.

Digging deep, and finding deep. Finding oneself deep within the foundations of your inner being where only an inner eye can see. An all consuming and knowing knowledge of oneself that you may feel has not been seen before. However I do believe that this inner eye has no doubt nor surprise at the intricacies of what i , you , or any other person is capable of. Not that any of these are unwritten stories, but more so an internal cpu operating in real time and being able to process in real time.

So if you think you know what madness is, what it constitutes and how it manifests. If you think you know yourself and oneself- do you even know what your inner eye and or cpu thinks about your’e own views on that particular vision of madness. It is in real time that this Polaroid is being viewed. It is on real time that we live. Unable to change the past or control the future.

Maybe you are aroused, your senses, aroused to the challenge- aroused to the upcoming event. The importance of this arousal, keeping your’e senses sharp. Ready to win small wars. Or perhaps maybe your sense of battle arousal has been dampened by fueling with the wrong fuel. Both information and nutrition and information on nutrition. You can not lie to you’re inner eye. You can not hide from the devil in the detail. You can not not dampen that arousal for something that is there and wants to be unleashed and let go. Allowed to move, be free, allowed to glide carefree.

Who is winning, the inner eye or Professor Stephen’s inner monkey. Is self doubt flanking the potential that your inner eye can see. Because simply of what something looks like rather than how that something can make you feel.

A manifestation, is what a manifestation is. It can be fictitious as much as it can be real. Is fiction controlling your own cpu. Herein lies the problem, where inner eyes and monkeys meet unicorns and pink elephants. You are dampening something that is real with something that is made up of fantasy.

Marathon Des Sables prep stage 1

Twelve became four and then four became one. Watts app groups went from lively to dormant over the course of a second installment.

Options of putting this off for a year were put forward, but I knew an experience like this will be harder to justify as time rolls on.

In all honesty I was not really up for this until very recently. Why would anyone want to go and run two hundred and fifty kilometers in a desert over the course of six days. Why would anyone want to leave the comfort of a memory foam mattress to sleep on a desert floor. Why would any one want to put themselves in the position to need a venom pump in the unlikely event that they may be bitten by a snake.

Deep down my why is an understanding with myself that I know that this challenge will expand the recesses of my own ceiling. It will help punch through where I am at right now and raise the bar. It will , I feel be so draining over the course of 6 days that It can only aid in the creation of further ideas – and abilities to deliver those ideas.

Or worst case scenario be a good blog post in the airport on the way home.

I listened to Jeff Butler on a podcast with Ger Prendergast where he talked about getting a runners high in last years event. Sleeping under the stars properly for the first time does seem pretty awesome and I’d imagine sun rise and sun sets will be pretty special. But having been to Morocco surfing a few times it is still hard to get a head around what it will be like stringing those days together. Especially the long stage which is up on ninety kilometers.

I have an intrigue, about how I can grow with this challenge mentally over any sort of physical challenge. If anything it is the mental aspect that I am most exited about.

With a one day event there is always the lure of a coffee, warm bath and or warm bed. Knowledge of no matter how hard you push on safety of comfort is quite close by in comparison. If perhaps one was to over extend, get lost or do something daft to which i am quite capable of doing. One is quite fucked. And this is the cheese, but also a developing anxiety. I am at that stage, of all consumption now. Dreaming about training or about the event itself. Paranoia about kit and weight and beginning to read and watch stories about previous competitors and what they do and do not recommend.

One thing i am glad about is the fact that i started fat adaption training nearly a year ago now. That was a damn good idea by my coach Stephen or Stephan, i can never remember is it an e or an a.

Fasted training , and essentially getting used to running on very little food i think is practically essential for the Sahara. One has to carry what you eat, so carrying less that 15k calories for the 6 days makes a lot of sense. The mattress i have bought is already starting to annoy me and i have not even opened it out yet. I am seriously debating just roughing it on the sand.

I bought two pairs of HOKA One one’s today, one will be sent to have gaiters attached to prevent sand from getting into ones shoes. James Gereghty a former competitor of this has advised feres balsam for treating feet for blisters which are enemy number one out there. I will have all necessary kit by next month. All that is really outstanding is a down jacket and sleeping bag, cooking bits and bobs. The big debate seems to be whether to bring a phone for photos, the weight of a phone adds to all so I will make a decision on that soon enough and maybe get a lighter go pro or something similar.

Anyway, the most important part of all this is running some pretty crazy distances. And that to me is a hobby, irrespective of the hour, weather or light. Just add caffeine and I have the best miles to gallon ratio this side of the Shannon.

It looks like there will be a 100km race in late February locally and that should be the first real proper test of the season, and i am quite looking forward to running my first 100km. It feels like a badge that one has to achieve in the ultra distance journey.

My program for the next two weeks has not dropped yet, I get the feeling that the long run days will be veering towards three hours now.

Bring it on.