Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hell and Back Titan: A big thank you and Review!

Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated to my chosen charity, Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD), I am very grateful and I never in a million years expected the support and kind words that I received! In total, I raised €535.63 (€35.63 over my target, yay!). SOSAD is a charity that have taken on the very difficult task of raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and more specifically, suicide, in Ireland. The money raised will go towards providing the support and facilities needed to make this possible. I've always wanted to raise money for a cause I believe in and I'm delighted I had the opportunity and the fantastic support I had to do it. It's the first time I've raised money for charity but I promise this won't be the last! Thank you to everyone again, I really really appreciate it. I have been meaning to write this for the last month but the new job and the no internet access in my house have proven to be two huge obstacles but as we all know, I love a good obstacle to conquer so without further a due here is my race review (that rhymed) :

The morning of the race I was late as usual and we could have just about made our wave if my dickhead of a bladder didn't kick in and I had to wait in line for the portaloos, it's times like these that I wish I was a guy and I could pee against a tree in the open without judgement! (Disclaimer: This is not an invitation to buy me a ShePee for Christmas) We ended up running in the wave after ours which was grand, it's a nice option to have but it just meant that we weren't sure how we were doing in relation to our wave as they had a good half hour on us! I was nervous about the actual running of the course this time but I surprisingly found it pretty easy and I didn't feel like I wanted to die half as much as I did when I raced the last Hell and Back. I think the combination of weight training, trail running and not doing a tap the week before the race well and truly paid off this time. My legs and arms were a bit sore the day after but nothing compared to last time! Last time I genuinely felt like I was hit by a bus and I couldn't walk for a few days! Out of all the races I have done, I had, by far, the most fun at this one! There were a few reasons for this, one being I didn't feel under any pressure to perform as there were no time chips! I'm naturally very competitive so without the constant nagging in my head that I had to do my very best to make sure I placed well I just focused on getting through the course and having fun. A good few people weren't happy with the decision to rule out time chips but to me it seemed like an obvious decision. The very chaotic nature of an obstacle course coupled with the sheer amount of people who participate mean it isn't a very viable option to time chip because it doesn't reflect your true ability at all. This is purely because wait times for obstacles means times are thrown way off. No timing chips ensures a much more relaxed atmosphere where the aim is to have some fun and not get bogged down in figures, there's plenty of muck to get bogged down in instead.  The spirit of hell and back is camaraderie and if you were to focus on time too much that element really goes out the window. There's plenty of other races you can do if you're set on timing yourself so it's best just to go into this with the intention of having fun!

Another reason I enjoyed it so much was because me and my team stuck together for the majority of the race this time, whereas, we'd usually all go our separate ways and meet at the end. I hadn't seen them for a good few weeks so it meant we were just catching up and having a laugh instead of focusing on the pain in our legs! The craic at all the obstacles was absolutely great, I'd say it's always been that way but I was more aware of it this time because I wasn't so focused on just throwing myself over them as quick as possible! There was a considerable amount of waiting time at the walls but I thankfully had two strapping men on my team so it meant I got a hand over everything without too much worry! The only complaint I would have about the course this year would definitely be the wait for the log obstacle. It was a good twenty minute wait which meant my nice and toasty temperature plummeted and I was left shivering. The line was so long that we didn't even know what we were lining up for until we were right down to the bottom and by then a lot of people just skipped ahead and didn't bother taking a log, I was very tempted but ultimately decided if I was going to do it I was going to do it right and did my two laps which was definitely tough! It had potential to be successful but I think the best idea would have been to scrap the logs and just have everyone run it twice, it was hard enough without the logs and they could have easily been introduced at another stage! I was so unbelievably relieved that there wasn't a sniper alley this time, I didn't even realise it wasn't an obstacle until the end when it dawned on me that I didn't in fact have a panic attack and I had no red little swelts all over my legs! Like I said in my last post I was absolutely dreading the shock of horrors and the entire way throughout the course I just kept thinking about them and then when I saw it I nearly had a heart attack. In fact, one of the reasons my brother decided to not participate in this race was based on this obstacle alone... pussy. I could see it leering at me in the distance when I saw one poor girl accidentally get the shocker caught in the crease of her elbow without realising and scream as she was shocked repeatedly. I laughed in both severe amusement and dread cos I knew I was next! I don't think I've ever quite punched the air so triumphantly as when I managed to jump out of it unshocked!! The trick was to avoid the 3 or 4 first rows and then crawl on your stomach the rest of the way!

crawly crawl crawl

Some of the costumes were absolutely brilliant! I'm sure a lot of you noticed the two lads who dressed as Walter White and Jesse from Breaking Bad. I'm sure they were regretting that decision by the time the 1482th "Got any meth?" was shouted at them but absolute fair play! When we were stood waiting for the log obstacle I told them they'd have enough time to head back to their caravan and produce a batch by the time we'd actually get to run it. I'm hilarious like that. There was two guys who were dressed as convicts with actual chains around their feet and I was thoroughly impressed! I think I'm gonna dress up for whatever my next race will be just cos I can, it makes everything more fun! I overheard a fair few funny conversations while running alongside people, one guy was chewing his friends ear off about how thoroughly perplexed he was as to why "the German girl" didn't get back to him after their first date, I told him it was because of his bad breath and ran away. Another guy had just awkwardly jumped off a wall and crushed his nads and while in the foetal position announced to his friend that he's now gonna have to tell his wife they can't have any children. This is why I love doing these races so much, there's so much to do and see. You get to meet new people, have a laugh and challenge yourself at the same time. Courses like this are the future of fitness, where being fit is a functional skill utilized in the most primitive and fun way possible. It makes keeping fit seem like the obvious solution to your mental, physical and social well being. Finishing a race like this gives you such an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that inspires you to carry on keeping fit. It's something I highly recommend everyone do just once to prove to yourself just how resilient the mind and body truly are.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hell and Back Titan Tomorrow!!!!!

The evening before the race. Sarah is feeling guilty for her lack of training and her lack of blogging. 

Not gonna lie, I feel completely and utterly unprepared for the race tomorrow. I started my new job in Belfast this week and with all the planning and preparation for the move to Belfast last week and my workload this week I haven't had time to sleep, let alone exercise or blog so I'm not feeling entirely confident about it. This is why the whole no timing chip thing might come in handy, no one will ever know how terrible I'm going to do, mwaha! On the plus side I'm loving the job and I'm sussing out the different gyms that are about and the potential running routes I'll be able to take when I'm finally settled in. I have a feeling trying to work out as much as I used to is going to definitely be challenging with a full time job! I don't think I appreciated that freedom enough but I'm hoping to get a gym close to work and I plan on heading in 3-4 times a week after work. I'd love to be one of those people who can get up at 5am and squeeze in a morning session but I know that will never ever happen. Having to walk to work at 8am is currently more than enough cardio for me in the morning!

I haven't even looked at the map until now which is a disgrace. Maybe ignorance is bliss! I see there's a good few new obstacles which I'm looking forward to! The Mud Mounds, The Mud Plough and Trench Warfare sounds lovely and messy! The Screwball scramble sounds incredibly fun but I've learned from the last race that if it sounds fun, it's probably not. I am absolutely DREADING the Shock of Horrors. I could actually cry just thinking about it, I guess I'll just have to suck it up! I'm probably gonna find the 14km a real challenge! I haven't ran properly in a while and I didn't get my distance up to 15km like I wanted to. Having not run in a while might actually work to my benefit though as I've always found that when I go on a long distance run after a long period of not running I can usually run a lot further than usual. This isn't exactly revelatory though as it's usually common practice to taper off your running distance the closer you are to a race. I thought of the last two races as just that, races, but this time I'm seeing it as a bit of fun and I'm not gonna beat myself up if I feel like walking for a bit but that will be avoided as much as possible! My friend picked up our race packs today in Dublin and I'm excited to see my new tshirt tomorrow! The weather is miserable and cold and I'm really really hoping it doesn't rain tomorrow, but it more than likely will! Not like it'll make much of a difference considering I'm going to be plunging myself into skips of water and into a river, but still.

Well best of luck to everyone who is racing tomorrow! I will definitely be doing a race review because they're my favourite things to write ever, essentially the whole reason I have a blog, but I can't really say when I'll get around to it as I'll be heading to Belfast for work after the race but hopefully I'll be able to get it up before the end of the week!

P.S. I'm so grateful to everyone who has sponsored me so far! I have raised €337.09! I'm just so happy that the money will be going towards a good cause! Just to remind you I'm raising money for SOSAD (Save Our Sons and Daughters), it's a charity that have taken on the very difficult task of raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and more specifically, suicide, in Ireland. They provide support and direction to those feeling depressed and/or suicidal. They also offer support and direction for those who may know someone who is suicidal and for those who have been bereaved by suicide. I will still be trying to reach my target of €500 even after the race because I really want to try and do my best for the charity and in turn, the people who need their help. So if you have a euro or two to give to a good cause I would really really appreciate it! Here's my donation page:

 Thank you! 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Training for Hell and Back Titan

Just under 3 weeks until race day. Dun-dun-duuuuun.

Apologies for not having blogged last week, I have been stressed up to my eye balls with relocating to Belfast, I forgot how hard it is to find somewhere to live that doesn't cost a limb! And I really need my limbs to run and jump and stuff, they come in handy. This blog post is basically going over the exact training I've been doing for the race and the rational behind it! I've been focusing on a different set of muscle groups every time I go to the gym, so at the moment I'm on a 3-4 day split. A work out split is simply when you split up your workouts so that different parts of your body are worked out during different training sessions. Here's a good article explaining it all in more detail and why it is beneficial to do so. 

On top of this I'm trying to run 3-4 times a week. My issue with trying to run while maintaining a proper split is that I have to make sure I have ran my long run before I focus on my legs in the gym because otherwise I tend to not be able to run as well. I think this is a dilemma for many people who run and weight train. Well okay no it's probably more my problem because I'm highly unorganised. If I want to run and I feel like running, I'll run. Then and only then will I do a leg day, safe in the knowledge that I have my long run out of the way. Not the most streamlined form of training but it works for me! This just means that I usually do a lot of arm, back and ab work in the gym at the beginning of the week and then as the week progresses I'll do a long run and then do a leg day towards the end of the week. Most people don't need or want to train in a gym but I love weight training far too much to not incorporate it into my running routine. In fact, I'd say I'm more fitting running into my weight routine at this point. 

If I have a baby this is what it's gonna look like in my womb.
Disclaimer: I am not actually pregnant... and this is
not my womb

Herding sheep is the best
exercise one can do
In the gym I am lifting heavy and mixing the rep ranges up to keep the body guessing. I mostly superset all my exercises. It means I exhaust my muscles quicker and more effectively and I'm out of the gym sooner. Using supersets when strength training is when you complete two different exercises one after the other without any rest in between. It is such a valuable tool when training for something like the Hell and Back because you're utilising your time in the best possible way while gaining muscle and getting a good cardio session in at the same time! I don't superset when doing compound (bench press, deadlift, squat) exercises as you want to have your full strength when performing these exercises. I tend to start my routine with a ten minute warm up, then one of the three main compound lifts depending on what muscles I want to train that day and then after that I'll do a few supersets and then I'm out. On top of this I'm trying to run 3-4 times a week. One long run (10-15km), two 5kms and one hill/trail run. I usually do the 5kms on the treadmill cos I just prefer to get it out of the way there and I like that I can put up the speed, not everyones cup of tea but again, it works for me! 

I touched in my last blog series about hill running and how important it is for Hell and Back due to the sheer amount of incline there is constantly. For the last race I didn't do half enough hill work and this time I'm making sure I don't make the same mistake. I will never ever forget running up the sugar loaf, it just never ended and I was angry with myself for not putting in more time with hills because I knew it wouldn't have been half as bad otherwise! I'm not going overboard with it though, just once a week I go out to the forest trails and run up and down the steeps hills until my legs feel like they're on fire. So I highly highly recommend in the time that's left before the race, if you haven't already, get out and run up some hills! 

In my last post I talked about how I'm trying to raise money for the charity SOSAD and I'm delighted to say as of today I have raised €227.09! Still a good bit to go but I have every hope I'll make my goal of €500! I would really appreciate all the help I could get as it really is an amazing charity and I would love to do my very best for them!  The link to my charity page is down below and every euro helps, thank you!    

Me with my SOSAD tshirt they
very generously sent out to me

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mental Health and Raising Money for SOSAD

This blog has always been about physical health but there is something as equally important to me that I want to talk about; mental health. Mental well being and physical health go hand in hand for me, they are not mutually exclusive, they must co-exist in harmony in order for me to be happy. I have suffered by own mental health problems and this is not something I am ashamed of, it is simply a part of who I am. It took a long time for me to realise that there is no shame in admitting to having a mental health problem. This is how embedded the shame of mental health is in the psyche of many young people in Ireland today and I want that to change. I was never taught growing up what anxiety or depression was and unfortunately and potentially more devastatingly, I was never made aware of the facilities available to handle these emotions. This is why I have chosen to run the Hell and Back Titan race for the charity SOSAD (Save Our Sons and Daughters). I'm going to try to raise €500. Here is my charity page that is now live on

SOSAD is a charity that have taken on the very difficult task of raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and more specifically, suicide, in Ireland. Check out their website here. They provide support and direction to those feeling depressed and/or suicidal. They also offer support and direction for those who may know someone who is suicidal and for those who have been bereaved by suicide. The services they offer are completely free and they receive no public grants or funding. Therefore, they rely on the generosity and goodwill of people in order to provide this vital service. This charity would simply not exist without the help of selfless volunteers and generous contributions from donors. Your money will go straight into the bank account of SOSAD if you donate online, it's a very simple process and it will be put straight to work offering people the phone support, face to face counselling and advice they so desperately need. I am asking you sincerely and humbly, to please try and donate anything that you can to this charity. You never know when your darkest hour will arrive and your donation will ensure that the help and support is there for others when theirs does. I am asking, begging, pleading, that everyone reading this donate just €1 or whatever you can to SOSAD. If you can donate, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have seen first hand the consequences that have resulted from the misunderstanding and the stigma attached to mental health and I am passionate about not letting this unnecessary shame permeate this generation or any other generation to come. The fact is that there is still a deeply ingrained stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland and the act of seeking help is still seen as a personal failure. This has to change. As clichéd as it sounds, it changes with me and you. SOSAD has undertaken the challenge of rewiring the old ways we think about mental health and you can help them break this taboo that is a scorn upon our country, a clandestine disease that is killing our friends and family. I won't be constantly asking people to donate, that's not what I'm about, if you can and want to help, please do, but otherwise it'll be fitness based posts surrounding the race from now on. All I want to do is harness the support and positivity that my blog has generated and try to make a positive change to the lives of people who really need it. Thanks very much for reading and again, if you can donate, please do, thank you!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hell and Back Titan: It's on!

soooo prettyyy
I change my mind quicker than I change my socks and on a semi-whim I've decided to do the Hell and Back Titan race in November. I know I know I said in the last post I wasn't but as it turns out I'll have that day off work and 7 weeks is plenty of time to get back into the swing of things and honestly, I really really want the purple t-shirt! The vertigo medication is a god send and I've been able to put some really good work in this week, I think I've managed to work out 5 days this week without even realising it so I'm definitely getting back on form! What really spurred me on to do it again though is a tough walk up forest trails with some friends this week, I really enjoyed the challenge and I knew the steep ass hills were the perfect training ground for the race. Also, I really want to blog about it again because it's what I love to do and I want to train differently this time so I'll enjoy documenting it! I did too much talking last time and not enough actual work, which is pretty much the story of my life.

If this will be your first Hell and Back race welcome to the blog and I hope I can put your mind at ease a little bit! The first race I did was tough, the second was tougher and I can only imagine what this one will be like with the added distance and added obstacles no doubt. It is not easy at all so I won't be easing your mind in that respect, you need to train and prepare for it, there is absolutely no short cut to doing this race, whatever you put into your training you will feel it on the day of the race! But what I can do is keep you up to date on what I've learned from doing the last two races and how I'm going to apply these lessons to my training and preparation for the next one. The only important tip I have for this introductory post in the series running up to the race, is to get out as much as possible. Be it for a run, jog, bike ride or just out for a walk, keep your cardio up and if you can do some strength training that is brilliant!

So, without further ado, here's a summary of the blog posts and training I did for the 8 weeks running up to the last race!

1: Introduction and Training Tips for Hell and Back Apollo

2: Hell and Back Apollo, update and training plan.

3: Hell and Back Training Update

4: Sportswear and What I'll be Wear For Hell and Back 

5: Course Map and Training Update

6: Hell and Back Apollo Race Tips and Final Chance Workout

7: Hell and Back Apollo Race Review 

Workouts This Week

For old times sake, here's a summary of the workouts I did this week:

Monday: Arms, Shoulders + Stomach.

15 mins cross-trainer

Bench press:
12kg dumb bells, 6-8 reps x 2
14kg dumb bells, 4-5 reps

Shoulder press:
10kg dumb bells, 6-8 reps x 3

Tricep Dips using bench:
20 reps x 2

Wide grip front lat pull-down:
30kg, 6-8 reps x 3

Iso Row:
30kg, 10 reps x 3

Leg raises, incline bench situps, situps with ball, plank.

Treadmill: 2 km sprint.

Wednesday: Legs

Warm-up: 10 mins on bike

Squat with bar:
30kg, 5-8 reps x 2
40kg, 3-5 reps

Backward lunge:
12kg dumb bells, 10 reps x 3

Forward Lunge:
10kg dumb bells, 20 x 2

Leg extension and Leg Curl:
8-10 reps x 3

10 minute run on treadmill.


5km hike on steep forest trails.

Friday: Arms + Shoulder

Repeat Monday.


10km run on road.

So that's it for this week anyway, it's safe to say I won't be doing a tap again until Monday! In my next post I'll talk about my exact training routine I'm planning on doing to prepare for the day, I'll go over some brilliant strength exercises that are easily done at home if you don't have access to a gym and I'll definitely be touching on form and a more in depth explanation of workouts because it's so so important. I've said this before but just to be warned, I am in no way a certified instructor, just a girl with a passion who likes training, racing and writing, so exercise caution, but most importantly, just exercise :) Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm at a place called Vertigo.

I'm all too aware that the next Hell and Back race is happening in November but I'm sad to say I won't be taking part. After doing the first one I did in January I imagined myself doing them all but unfortunately stuff doesn't always work out like that. I would love love love to be doing it but I've been looking to relocate to Belfast the last few months and with job interviews and the constant travelling up and down and the likes it just means I haven't had the time to get my head around doing the next race. I'm happy to say I've been offered a job in Belfast and it starts in a couple of weeks so it means I wouldn't be able to take the time off to do it either, what with being a new employee and all that. I'm aware the trying to move and the job offer doesn't make up for my lack of training for it though. Running has fallen to the waste side since I've been living at home. There's no real reason, I just haven't been arsed. Running is a pain in that once you don't do it one week it's harder and harder to convince yourself to go the next and the vicious cycle continues. Although I have been running away on the treadmill, I'll do the odd 5km/10km and sprints so the fitness is still there. When I get up to Belfast, which is looking like it'll be pretty soon, I know I'll go running all the time. I need a city to explore when I'm running, new little streets to go down just cos I want to, with different faces and things to see all the time. I can't stand the monotony of running around the country roads where I live, some people would much prefer the calm and serene that the country offers but it's just not me.

There I am having great craic
Another reason for not being able to train properly is I've been diagnosed with vertigo (see what I did with the title ... yeah.... yeah?!), which means I've been nauseas, dizzy, very tired and getting bad headaches a lot of the time. Vertigo is basically an imbalance in the ear. It's very interesting actually, in the ear lies calcium crystals and they're knocked out of place by sudden movements like bending down, lying down, getting up, turning your head left or right, pretty much anything you do on a daily bloody basis now that I think about it. And when these movements happens the dislodged crystals float like little bastards in to the inner ear making you feel terrible. It had been going on for a few months and I was finally told after a few doctor appointments that that is more than likely what it is. I thought I had anaemia of some sort but the symptoms were all very spontaneous, sometimes I would feel them all at once and sometimes one at a time. I really didn't have a clue what was going on but I'm so relieved that I know what it is now. I'm on medication for it and only after a few days I feel completely back to myself again, hence the actually writing a blog entry! It's only a short course of medication but hopefully after taking them there'll be some improvement. There's no cure or anything so I just have to kind of hope it's clears up.

Even though I've felt like fainting and sleeping pretty much constantly the last 3 months, I've still managed to do a lot of weight training. I've been getting really into squatting, deadlifting and the bench press. I've definitely gotten stronger and I'm seeing a bit more definition in places which is always nice. I used to wince picking up the 12kg dumb bells but now they're light which feels pretty good! I've started to ask people in the gym if they think my form is okay while I squat because I still feel a bit self conscious doing it, as if people are looking at me and thinking I'm doing it wrong, but so far so good! My goal is to squat 60kg. I started on 20kg, then 30kg, and now I'm on 40kg. I do 3-6 reps and 3 sets so I might actually be able to squat once with the 60kg but I'm not gonna push it too hard just yet. I'm gonna build everything up slowly because it's in my nature to just push forward as much as possible and in the past I have gotten way too many injuries as a result of this. For the deadlift, I think I'm doing about 30kg. And once again I'm just doing 4-6 reps and 3-4 sets. I was told last summer I wasn't flexible enough to deadlift but I think I've improved on that since. I have gotten a pair of weightlifting shoes so I'm closer to the ground and from what I can see my feet are in the right position and don't lift off the ground. I try my best to make sure I have the best form as possible, I watch videos on my phone beforehand and read little instructions I have and make sure to constantly look in the mirror to make sure my back is straight and to check myself out obviously. My next post will be about all the proper forms and the different articles and diagrams that I have collected to make sure you know you're doing the exercises right.

Regardless of all this, I have big plans concerning my role in health and fitness in the coming months. I plan on doing my personal training cert within the next year. I have half of the money saved for it and once I start the job I can start working on the other half. I can't wait to have a client or two, it's always something I've wanted to do. The PT cert is only the beginning though, I want to get the masters in Public Health, maybe in England, and continue on with as many courses to improve my knowledge as possible. For now though I'm just trying to live a little while still remaining pretty fit. I have nothing definite in the pipeline but it's still a huge priority in my life to remain strong and healthy. I've said it before that I want to race a half marathon and to be honest I had hoped I would have had it done by now! But the next race I'd like to do is a halfer anyway so when I'm up in Belfast and settled and training regularly I'll start looking for a race I can take part in and blog about because that's what I really love doing. I'm going to look for a magazine or website that I could submit work to soon, would be very nice to get published. Christ, this was much much longer than anticipated! I felt I needed to explain my absence and hopefully I did so! I have loads of plans for this blog and for myself. I have literally hundreds of ideas and half written posts that I need to get cracking on. Anyway thanks for continuing to read and I will be blogging much more regularly and I will write about lots of wonderful things that won't bore the arse of ya!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Alcohol and Exercise: The Boozin' Blues.

I have a huge love/hate relationship with alcohol. But what do you do when you're 22, enjoy socializing and drinking but also want to stay in shape and continue running? It is quite literally my catch 22. As the years have passed, gone has my 18 year old indestructable self who could down a bottle of wine, have a few whiskeys in a bar and polish it all off with some shots at a shit club. The older I get and the more I want to maintain both my physical and mental health, the more I realise this sort of behaviour just isn't feasible, nor desirable. But life happens and so does drinking. 

Alcohol and exercise do not mix. Kinda like the new Tayto cheese and onion chocolate bar, christ. You don't have to be a scientist to know that alcohol has detrimental effects on the body, especially in relation to exercise. It limits your performance capacity, increases your risk of injury and decreases the amount of amino acids and glucose in your muscles which effects energy supply and the metabolic process during exercise. Not to mention it makes you fat. Alcohol supplies empty calories, meaning it has absolutely no nutritional value. It has almost the same amount of calories per gram as fat. The body cannot store alcohol so it is burned as fuel straight away and because of this all other metabolic processes such as the absorption of nutrients and fat burning are interrupted. I know I know, I must be so much fun at parties. When I drink I really enjoy it, I love being with my friends, having a laugh and meeting new people but in the past year or so I've realised that the undesirable effects that alcohol have on me and my exercise routine are sometimes simply not worth it. 

When I go on a bender, be it at the weekend or at a festival, or even midweek cos I have nothing better to be at, I feel the effects from anything from one day to a week. It's pretty miserable and I regret ever drinking so much in the first place. What I get so frustrated about is that I do it again anyway. This obviously has a huge impact on how much I exercise. The day after drinking is immediately ruled out so I can curl up in the foetal position, stuff burgers in my face, get flashbacks from the night before and wish I was never born. Most people might be feeling pretty normal the next day and would be able for a run or a gym session but usually I still feel pretty lousy and lacking energy which would mean I would skip any exercise for another day. That is 2-3 full potential exercise days lost forever that I could have used to better myself; run an extra kilometre, lift heavier or even simply plonk myself on a cross trainer for an hour. They say the key to staying fit and strong is consistency but this sort of feeble and highly counterproductive attempt at staying fit will simply not get me to my ultimate goal. So, what have I done about it?

Now I have to give myself some props, I have really cut back on drinking in the last year or so. I now regularly drive to the pub, have a few coffees and the craic and head home. When you realise that you can have just as much fun without alcohol, going out sober becomes a lot more enjoyable. It's also pretty liberating. We all depend on alcohol far too much as a social lubricant and when you start heading out and socializing sober it becomes easier every time. A lot of people say they could never go out without drinking, but in my opinion if you can't head out with your friends sober, then you should probably get better friends. The aforementioned "benders" are currently a very rare occurrence, happening maybe once a month. Before deciding to go out and drink I ask myself if me drinking alcohol will make me have a better time, or just make me think I'm having a better time. If it's the latter, I usually don't drink. Alcohol, in my opinion, should be used to enhance a situation, not create a situation. The hardest thing that I've been doing recently after I've been drinking is forcing myself to go to the gym the day after the hangover. Last week I was sat in my gym gear for 2 hours before I worked up the courage to head out the door. I'm not going to pretend that I felt better when I got to the gym because I didn't. I didn't feel particularly better during or after either if I'm being honest but knowing I actually went made me feel better and created the positivity that I needed to continue heading for the rest of the week.

As you can see, I'm not taking an oath of alcohol abstinence and I won't be becoming a teetotaller any time soon but I think it's important to be aware of how much we drink, and more importantly why we drink. If you're wondering why you can't budge that last stone or shave that minute off your best time, maybe it's time to look at your alcohol consumption. I can see now that my life without the habitual weekend binges is far more productive, I'm happier, healthier and my fitness has improved because of it. It's these small little changes that can make the world of difference with regards to your fitness goals. Your body is the result of the choices you make.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Well done! I hate you.

People love to see other people fail. It's an inherent human flaw that I have seen resurface again and again. Us Irish are renowned for being begrudging towards the success of our family and friends. I don't know why this is, I'm usually genuinely happy when a family member or friend achieves something, tries something new and pretty much feels happy about any advancement in their life. In fact, I like to encourage this behaviour. But I find this feeling isn't always mutual.

I see it all the time. You try something new and there will always be someone who won't be happy about it for some reason or another. You change up your diet a little and someone is telling you why it's unhealthy. You try a new exercise or just even start going to the gym a little more and bam, people think you're overdoing it. It boils down to the fact that people feel uncomfortable with you changing who you are, because it challenges who they are. People don't like feeling like their life choices are wrong, immoral or unhealthy so when you decide to make a positive change in your life, people for some reason take it as a personal attack on their choices.

People find comfort in complacency and this is where I feel the most uncomfortable. I constantly crave the evolution of who I am and what I envision for myself. The scariest thing for me is to let myself drop into this zone of complacency, the place I am currently orbiting. It's comfy here, I get to live rent free, get my dinner cooked for me every night and I can watch TV all day if I want to. What's not to love? I'm wasting time. Time I could use to do all the things I want to do; train for a half-marathon, get a job, travel, finally get that elusive six-pack, meet new people, the list in endless. And yeah I'm looking for a job and continuing to keep up the fitness but I'm not actually getting anywhere because I haven't set myself any concrete goals. There is quite literally nothing stopping me from achieving all these things and yet I haven't done one yet. It's time to get my ass in gear and in gear it shall get. Thankfully, I have a whole bunch of supportive friends and family members who support me whatever I choose to do but there will always be those begrudging folks who don't want to see anyone do well. Be it a fitness goal, a career goal or a just a small lifestyle change, don't pay any heed to people who are negative about your choices - fuck em.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hell and Back Apollo Race Review

Pain. All consuming pain. 

It has been two days since I competed in the Hell and Back Apollo race in Belmont estate and the nightmare experience is still fresh and constantly replaying in my head... and my muscles. A few hours after the race, as I was consuming as much beer and pizza as humanly possible, I was feeling pretty damn good, smug even, that I didn't have one ache or pain and could walk or even run with ease. Oh, how wrong and ignorant I was. I currently resemble an arthritic 80 year old trying to lumber out of bed and going up or down stairs is simply out of the question! I look like I've been in a pretty tumultuous fight with all my cuts and bruises and the camomile lotion slathered all over my legs to calm the grass and nettle induced itching makes me look a bit disease-ridden. All in the name of fun eh?!

Richard, Dean, Stephen and Me. Team Above Average Fitness after we finished!

My first thoughts while getting the convenient shuttle bus from the car park to the site was man I don't remember it being this far away last time, until my friend pointed out it was on a completely different farm than the race in January. I'm not so astute. Mid-way through the journey the friendly driver halted the bus and unexpectedly hopped out to buy some strawberries from a vendor at the side of the road. It gave the whole bus a good chuckle and created the positive and friendly atmosphere that was present throughout the entire day. The first thing I was surprised at was just how organised and clean everything was. I was running at 1:15pm in the orange wave so was expecting the place to be packed with people by the time I arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the walled garden area was big enough to hold everyone comfortably without feeling crowded and yet small enough to establish a certain level of intimacy between competitors. It felt like a festival arena with the stage and happy people lying in the sun, except instead of drinking cans of dutch gold, energy drinks and power bars were the fuel of preference. Everything was within easy reach and all the buildings were clearly signposted to avoid any confusion. The changing rooms were absolutely fantastic, the space was huge and dry and those door flap things at the entrance were clearly the invention of a genius. They were in stark contrast to the small, stoney and drafty buildings we had to get changed in in January! It was just black plastic covering the opening to the changing rooms and they would just flap wildly in the wind for all to sneek a peek at your nips! The showers were another fabulous addition that weren't available when I ran in January, they were colder than the ice baths but no complaints here! The lines went quickly and it was nice to just wash off the bulk of the mud before changing into warm clothes.

I have a somewhat intense fascination with watching people, like yesterday morning for example, at 8am as I was trudging down Grafton street in the rain with my kit bag slung over my shoulder and my stylish Dunnes Stores bag filled with my rank kit from the race the day before. My mind was completely taken off the fact that every step I took made the bags feel heavier on my already obliterated muscles because I was too busy watching people. Everyone was looking in the one direction and carried very disinterested expressions on their faces. A very normal way to feel and appear on a dreary wet Monday morning commute. Whereas, my head was going in every direction, like a puppy you keep teasing with a ball, left right left right, all so I could watch as many people as possible. With this little hobby of mine I tend to take in a lot of details about the people around me and my surroundings so when I was confronted with the amount of people in the walled garden my poor eyes barely had time to focus on anything because they were in a frenzy! While gorging on this visual feast my eyes landed on a group of army men not so far away. One was smoking a cigarette, which I always find so odd because it seems so counter-intuitive to have one just before a race! My brother was quick to chime in that these guys do this type of training every week and they're essentially hard as f**k so it'll be a walk in the park for them. I knew from looking at them that they were a great bunch of lads, all sitting on the grass laughing and talking. My suspicions were true when the whole way throughout the course there was a helping hand extended to me at various obstacles and on the other end was a smiling man happy to help in his army gear! They stayed around the obstacles that they knew people would need a hand with, like getting out of the river and getting over the walls. They were true gentlemen and possessed team spirit in abundance!

Found a picture of the Army lads in question,
just look at em, great bunch!

I would literally have to be blind to not see all the men who were walking around topless. I would like to say thank you on behalf of my eyes and I think I had to pop them back into their sockets a few times but kudos to you guys, I really, really liked what I saw. The stewards that were dotted about the course were also a great source of entertainment, encouragement and help! I would like to be friends with the girl who was shouting "THIS ISN'T THE WOMEN'S MINI-MARATHON!" at the very beginning. A huge thanks to the steward who gave me a boost on one of the obstacles at the end because there was no one else about to help, he got his hands filthy from my runners and had to deal with my muddy ass in his face, a real prince! As I was making my way through the slithering little forest trails where every tentative foot you placed on the slippy ground had the potential of landing you on your face, there was one woman in purple who was shouting encouragement at everyone. Didn't matter who you were she was gonna encourage you! It's these people who embody what events like this are all about, camaraderie. It's this feeling of alliance that make people feel a part of something, where everyone is connected and it creates a sense of belonging. If everyone was out to get the best possible time and were trying to undermine and overtake people constantly, it wouldn't be the same and these events wouldn't be as popular as they are. I doubt you'd strip bare ass naked and start wiping the mud out of every orifice if you were put in a shed a week ago with a few hundred women and men you didn't know but share the same experience like running a gruelling 12km obstacle course and we're all best naked friends.

I'm not going to re-hash all the obstacles as I'm pretty sure we all remember them in all too graphic detail! The obstacles were so well thought out, devilishly evil and meticulously planned and executed. I can only imagine how long it took to create them! I don't know if you have ever watched or read the Hunger Games trilogy but it felt like I was taking part in one. It seemed like I was never running for too long before I came to a new obstacle, be it a small log you had to climb over or a steep hill you had to abseil down with a rope. It was such a creative use of land where you were constantly interacting with it in ways in which I doubt any of us have done since childhood. The most fun I had was sliding down the pipe face first into mud and jumping into the river and swimming across, screw the ropes, I'm well hard. The ones I wasn't too mad on was the snipers and the electrical shocks which I'm sure is fairly self explanatory. I think they gave a great edge to the race but I don't think they were totally necessary, I think getting shot at once or twice was fine but the third and fourth rounds really did hurt and no matter how fast you ran you were still shot because the shooters were stationary and aiming the gun at the path that you had to run on. I don't mind pain, but I'd rather it be self inflicted by my clumsy self than by someone shooting at me! I don't think I will ever forget the electric shocks, I was shocked three times and they were horrible, all my muscles tensed up and whenever I was shocked I ended up paralysed on the spot which brought the onslaught of "RUN! JUST RUN!". People might not have minded this too much but I hated it, I have always hated shocks, like I said in a post before, I won't even go on a trampoline on a hot day for fear I get a tiny one and I won't close car doors by the edge, only the glass, in case I get a shock. I was tempted to say I had a plate in my hip or something to get out of it but I am no pussy. Speaking of pussies, I did witness some cheating throughout the course, at one point, I saw three people skip the entire uphill section at the bottom of the sugar loaf, they just went under the tape, skipping a good 2-3km. This was definitely the hardest part of the course in my opinion and seeing them skip it made me slightly mad, you won't get anywhere in life by skipping the hard parts. If you're going to enter into the an event called Hell and Back you should know what you're signing up for and skipping parts is pretty disrespectful to the thousands of others who sucked it up and did it, but more importantly you're just letting yourself down. On a more positive note, I think the slide that you slid down in order to finish was brilliant, I love slides and I can't think of a better way to end a race! I did grate the arse off myself on the mat at the bottom but I didn't mind! The course was a perfect mix of torture and fun, I don't think anything was too impossible and it felt like a huge awesome playground that we all got to explore for the very first time.

These events create an environment in which it is okay to let loose, get dirty and not give one flying f**k about what you look like, being by far one of the most liberating things I think you can do. I think doing events like these really bring people together and more importantly gives you something to talk about and be proud ofNo Mary, we don't care about how your baby can now suck its own toes and sorry Paul, but we're sick of hearing that your engine light has been on for 2 months and Getting out there, challenging yourself, experiencing new things and meeting new people are essential in this nine to five way of life that comes with being a responsible adult. It keeps life interesting and breaks the dreary routine people can find themselves in! I know I'm not quite a responsible adult just yet but I hope no matter how old I get or how invested I get in my job, that I will always take the time out to partake in amazing events such as the Hell and Back. As my team mate said:  "You would spend the same if not more on a night out and have less fun than we did, plus you feel great after it (apart from the pains) mentally knowing it was good for you." All in all, this event was the most exhilarating fun I have had in a very long time, yes it was tough, but I enjoyed the challenge. Everything was planned with precision and nothing was overlooked, making the process of getting to and partaking in the race effortless for the participants, apart from actually doing the race obviously! All our needs were taken into account, from the parking facilities, the shuttle bus, the woman giving out pins, to the changing rooms and the showers! I thought the venue was extremely well planned out and it was a huge contributing factor to the positive atmosphere of the event. All the staff were really friendly and helpful and I cannot commend them enough for their supportive and encouraging attitudes. They're really onto something here, those Hell and Back folk, I have a feeling this is only going to get bigger, better and more hellish and I plan on hopefully being a part of every single one!

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has been reading about my Hell and Back journey so far and to Kieran Ryan, from Alive Outside, for giving me the opportunity to bring my blog to a wider audience. In my next post I'll go over my results, how I feel I did and what I would improve on training wise!

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hell and Back Apollo Race tips and Final Chance Workout!

TWO DAYS UNTIL THE RACE. In case you forgot.

So race day is looming and anxiety is high! This post will hopefully calm your nerves if you're worrying about the race! I've been receiving a few emails from people who are worried their training isn't sufficient and they're worried about whether or not they will be able to complete the course. These feelings are completely normal, as with any event that is based upon our physical prowess, it is human nature to doubt ourselves when we have to prove ourselves. I mean when has anyone ever went into an exam and thought "wow I am actually over-prepared for this!". It simply doesn't happen!

Some comic relief from the serious tone of this blog post

There comes a certain point, as with everything you do, that you have to accept the effort you've put into it and work with what you got. It's easy to say "I should have done this and that more" but that negativity won't get you through the race. I always doubt myself before, during and after a race. This process of thinking doesn't do me any favours and can completely ruin the experience. It's only when I look back that I think okay I actually did pretty good and I can appreciate my efforts. This race will be different and although, yes, I do wish I had done more, I won't let myself think negatively and I am going to try and do my best with the training and hard work that I have put in so far. I want you to do the same! As cliché as it sounds, just believe in yourself and trust that the effort and training that you have put in thus far will get you through the race.

Hell and Back is just as much a metal feat as it is a physical one. There is a reason we don't know what the obstacles are going to be! It's all a mind-fuck. It would ruin the magic if we knew exactly what we're in for, even though it's all we want right now! Half the fun is running up to an obstacle and figuring out what the hell you have to do! What I found when I did the Hell and Back Trojan in January was that the hardest obstacles were not physically difficult, but mentally difficult. Yeah, it's tough hauling yourself over bales of hay and trudging yourself through mud on your elbows and knees but the toughest things were mentally preparing myself to plunge my whole body under water and summing up the courage to run through electrified rags. So, if you're worried about the physical element of the race, don't waste your energy! Yeah, it's going to be tough obviously, but it is designed to be completed and every level of fitness can accomplish it!

Race Tips

1. Calm your tits. Worrying won't help you complete the race, just relax and do your best.
2. Fairly obvious, but arrive early. It's nice to soak in the atmosphere and get your bearings.
3. Get a good nights sleep the night before.
4. Wear appropriate clothing. Here's my blog post on what clothing I recommend to wear.
5. Drink lots of water the day before and on the day.
6. Run slowly at the start.
7. Be nice and help people! See someone struggling with an obstacle? Give em a hand! You'll appreciate all the help you can get when you're stuck! Someone in front moving too slow? Suck it up!
8. Bring a towel and lots of warm clothes. You're more than likely gonna feel like your skin is gonna shake off you're that cold so make sure you have a dry set of clothes to throw on you straight after you run.
9. ENJOY YOURSELF. There's no point in getting caught up in times and being competitive, just embrace the experience and try not to take anything too seriously!
10. Get really drunk afterwards cos you deserve it damn it.

Last Chance Workout

Yep, I just used a Biggest Loser phrase and I don't care. This week I tried to make up for my past sins and I ran one 5km, one 7km and I did a 3km sprinting session. I was going to do a 10/15km run but I figured that might be too much if I was to do a 12km at the end of the week so just went with some short fast runs instead. I did two weight sessions on top of this and currently can't lift my arms above my head without wincing. It was plank, mountain climbers, pushups and situps galore this week! I was going to go to the gym again today but my knee is twinging so I decided to leave it! I have pretty dodgy knees and if I overdo it even slightly I can be out of training for weeks! This is how I've learned to listen to my body the hard way! In my last blog post I discussed how my love of running has decreased because I've been finding it difficult to actually run lately. I went to the doctor the other day with a different issue but mentioned how I was finding my breathing rather laboured and it turns out I have exercise induced asthma. I've had asthma all my life and it is very manageable but in the last few weeks I have found it is present much more often and it is what has been making my runs so difficult. It is kind of a kick in the face but it won't stop me and it just means I need to take my inhaler along with me on runs and that the beginning of my runs and workouts are going to be a bit more difficult until the asthma lifts, which is usually after 15-20 minutes. It is a relief to actually know why I've been finding running so difficult lately, I just figured I was having normal breathlessness after exertion because I was losing my fitness or something which in hindsight is pretty ridiculous. Silly Sarah head. So that is the training conclusion for Hell and Back! I really hope I inspired or helped anyone who has been reading my training as I've went along! 

I want to wish everyone the best of luck in the Apollo Race this weekend and I know everyone will do amazing! I guarantee you will surprise yourself and don't forget to dig deep when you're feeling the burn! I will be running the race on Sunday in the orange wave so look out for me if you're running then too! I will hopefully have my summary of the race up at the beginning of next week! 

All the best and good luck! 

Here is how pained I look when I'm asked to pose for a picture
minutes after completing the Hell and Back race in January, such a babe