Why the hell am I doing this?

Posted: January 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Why indeed? Well, first a little background. This time last year I was possibly the unhealthiest, and certainly the fattest, I’d ever been in my life. I’d never been skinny, or even anything like it, but at least every now and then I’d flirt with fitness for a little while by going to the gym or doing kick-boxing or jiu-jitsu or something, though usually only for a few weeks. What I suppose really managed to keep my weight in check though was probably my long standing vegetarianism. However, in February of 2010, after fifteen or so years of Quorn, carrots, goat’s cheese tartlets and/or penne arribiata on the odd occasion we went out for dinner, I realised that I wasn’t quite as bothered as I once was about animals and whether or not they ended up on my plate. Certainly not enough to deprive myself of the whole plethora of sandwich fillings that could be available to me, not to mention having more than one option when I went out to eat, so I started to eat meat again. With a vengeance.

A whole new world of tasty treats opened up before me and I was determined to try all of them. Combined with a sedentary job and lifestyle, not to mention a routine of a bottle or two of wine every night and the accompanying snacks and it wasn’t too long before I was pushing the limits of what could legitimately be described as ‘big boned’ and was fast approaching ‘cuddly’. It wasn’t an overnight transformation but over time the weight was creeping  ever upwards. In November of 2010 I took voluntary redundancy from my job of fourteen years so I now had both the time and the financial wherewithal to indulge my new hobby, if indeed eating a lot of meat could be classed as a hobby.

Eating out, constant takeaways, more wine, more snacks, the usual splurging over Christmas. All of these combined to add to my ever burgeoning belly but after a family skiing holiday to Italy, where I resembled a giant luminous snowball just rolling around the slopes, I realised that maybe this had gone a little too far and perhaps I should do something about it. However, I’m nothing if not a world class procrastinator so I decided to put it off until after my birthday in February. I agreed at that point though to enter the Phoenix Park 10k with my good wife Brid, scheduled for the middle of April, which at least gave me something to aim for, and more importantly a deadline.

After a final splurge for my birthday, at which point I weighed 95.5kg (15st 3lbs), I bought myself a pair of runners, some enormous t-shirts and shorts, and began the long hard road to something approaching fitness. I also did what I usually did and bought myself some books on the subject, firstly, and I have to say, most importantly, Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. Here was the story of a man in his early thirties who had grown tired of his sedentary, comfortable, corporate lifestyle, had something of an epiphany, and just started to run. And run, and run, and run. He ran marathons, ultramarathons – 50 milers, 100 milers, races over mountains, through the desert, through Death Valley. I had no idea it was possible to run this far but here was someone who, high school and college athletics background aside, was not in a dissimilar position to myself and he was doing all sorts of crazy races that I could barely imagine.

The year previously I had entertained notions of entering Gaelforce West, an adventure race in the west of Ireland, but it had never got past being anything more than just that, a notion. Now however I was inspired, and not to mention a little delusional considering I could barely manage more than a couple of kilometres at this point, so I decided to actually enter Gaelforce. I had the Phoenix Park 10k in April, and Gaelforce was in August, so I entered some more races, one each for May, June and July, getting progressively longer and more difficult, which would hopefully result in me arriving at the start line in Westport on the 20th of August in sufficiently good physical condition that I could run, cycle and kayak for a combined total of 67km.

Despite some stumbles along the way – tearing my calf not long after the 10k in April, making an absolute balls of my fuel and nutrition strategy for Race2Glory and being reduced to a virtual crawl just three kilometres from the end – I did indeed make it. And not long after Gaelforce, despite a vastly reduced training regime even I managed my first marathon. So what next? After initially planning on taking part on my first ultramarathon this year I changed tack somewhat after realising that it clashed with the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Looking for a different, but equally difficult, challenge I decided I’d enter my first triathlon. Quite conveniently Ireland’s biggest triathlon takes place every year just down the road from me in Athy, Co Kildare, so after a quick look at their website I decided to take the plunge. Following the same process which had served me so well the previous year I disengaged brain, ignoring the sensible/cowardly part of me which had stopped me from doing anything like this for so long, and enterd the longest race they had, the Double Olympic – a 3km swim, 80km cycle and 20km run.

There’s one slight problem here in that I can’t really swim, but leaving that aside for a moment here I am, a little less than five months away from plunging into the river Barrow, and I’ve decided that it’s not quite enough of a challenge. Inspired once more by a crazy guy who just couldn’t stop running, in this case Gerry Duffy who ran thirty two marathons in thirty two days, one in each county of Ireland, and remembering an article I read in Runner’s World on the way to the Amsterdam marathon about a guy who ran every single day for a year, I’ve decided that this year, the year of my first triathlon, I’m going to run, swim or cycle every single day this year.

Or at least try.

No Easy Way Out

 

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