Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The trip home

I'm here, in Ireland!! I left Columbia at 8.30 am on Saturday and made it to Dublin around 2 am EST. My flights were really good.
Despite the 4 hour layover my bag did not make it on the flight to Dublin. Filling out the forms to track the bag and get it delivered was interesting considering remembering the date was a struggle at that stage!! It ended up being delivered to my parents house before I even got there. So other than delivering some presents (which I can do later) it was more lugging it on and off a bus.

I was greeted (for the first time as in-laws...awkward but not really) by Martina's parents at the airport and went to their house. After a big welcome by Charlie, an English cocker spaniel, I went to bed for a few hours, before being spoilt for the day. I slept for pretty much a full nights sleep later that night (Irish time) so thats got me well settled into the new time zone.

Then this morning was the one appointment I was nervous about...the US embassy! It was a breeze. I had one moment of panic because they wanted my birth cert, which I didn't have, but that was a mix up. A quick interview and my visa was approved..they have really streamlined the system.  Now I'm just waiting for my passport to be couriered back on time for my flights :) I'm so relieved and happy that it went well!

A quick stop off for my small bag and I was on a bus towards home. I finally got to see my parents, brother, dogs and meet my brothers gf for the first time. Somehow I've managed not to cry once, tear ducts of steel!

I've been sampling some of the food I've been missing..mostly junk food like Club Orange (type of soda) and Tayto (cheese and onion flavored chips). I'll be the size of a house by the time I get back. No running yet since its mostly all been travelling but tomorrow I'm going to get out! Beautiful running weather here right now if its not raining.

I'm going to leave it there for now..sorry about the lack of pictures my parents internet might implode trying to upload this, never mind pictures. My instagram is on the side bar or (@kathyoconnell83) if you want to see my trip as it unfolds.

Friday, 11 December 2015

San Antonio, Texas Highlights

The Zoo
This is a old zoo and apparently one of the first to breed a white rhino. When I go to a zoo I compare everything back to the one in Dublin which has done such a great job expanding its enclosures to create a more natural environment for the animals. This one seemed small  in comparison but the animals seemed happy. The stars were the baby lions who had fun stalking their dad and playing with each other.

 We also had fun feeding the Lories. All you had to do was clean your hands, buy some nectar and go into their enclosure and these little guys went nuts. They even know how to take the lid of the nectar container!!

The Menger Hotel
Yes the hotel we stayed in is actually something people come to see. It opened in the 1800s and has a long history and a very famous guest list. I can see why.

The Riverwalk
The riverwalk was originally built to prevent flooding in parts of San Antonio. Its lined with hotels, bars and restaurants (mostly mexican or steakhouses). Its very busy and I'm sure it gets old fast  but its beautiful lit up with millions of lights for Christmas. A 40 minute boat tour is a fun way to learn some of the history behind it, we did it at night to take in the lights.

The Saga at the San Fernando Cathedral 
Charting the history of San Antonio in pictures projected onto the San Fernando Cathedral. A great way to spend 20 minutes.

El Mercado Spanish Market
The largest Mexican Market in the US. Lots of indoor and outdoor shops, restaurants...and margaritas.

The Alamo
Famous for the Mexican-American war battle here, these beautiful old buildings were originally a Spanish mission. In the main building and throughout the grounds you can see artifacts from the time of the battle.

Thursday Randomness

Procrastionation is the bane of my life. Stress makes me ignore whatever is stressing me out...which never works. Which is why I still haven't started to pack for Monday, I hate packing. However, I finally looked at my list of required visa documents and by some streak of luck I have them all. I just have to print my picture, CVS here I come!

I was entering my results from the RnR San Antonio into the Half Fanatics site and it turns out I finished in the top 25% of the field. In a race that big, its not a big deal but can I call myself a front runner?.. I'll be breaking the tape any day now ha ha

I haven't run or done any exercise this week so far. A major case of the lazies has occurred...that and I want my shoulders to loosen up. I'm also catching up on sleep, which I didn't really get in San Antonio, before I travel for 12+ hours.  Lets not go into jet lag already tired.
yes that is a 4 hour layover

Lastly, I found a 5k I could run at home (if I can get to it) on St.Stephens Day/Boxing Day. It'll be cold and flat and maybe fast..if I get to do it. So maybe RnRSA wasn't my last race of 2015!!!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Texas 2015

This is the last of my races for 2015 :( but I finished the year off happy--13 half marathons and 1 full marathon later. I've also run in 9 new states. Not a bad year! 
As I'd mentioned Martina is going to a conference in San Antonio, Texas this week and when I found out that Rock n Roll had a race there, the weekend before, I decided to go. There are so many fun looking races in Texas that I could have done but this one was just too convienant to ignore. I really had zero expectations and didn't even look at a course map. 

The weekend turned out to be a nice mini vacation and the race was really fun too. We flew into San Antonio on Saturday and checked into the Menger hotel. This was Martinas conference hotel so we decided to stay there so she wouldn't have to switch hotels once the conference started. It's really old (like 1800s) and super fancy. Funnily enough Rock n Roll offered a better discount for it than the conference...running wins! It's supposedly haunted with ghosts but I didn't see one :p 

After checking in we went to find the expo and of course I quick marched us over a mile in the wrong direction. I was so mad at myself because I knew Meb was going to be at the expo at 1pm for a half hour and I'd missed him! Turns out he stayed almost an extra hour and I kind of pleaded with the guy controlling the line to let me be the last to see him. I got to meet him and he signed my bib. This was my first encounter up close with someone famous that I admire. Turns out my fan girling makes me quiet and look scared, ha ha!  Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman were running the half but I didn't see them at all...maybe it's just as well, I'm not sure my nerves could take it.

Besides meeting Meb I got my bib and t-shirt. The t-shirts (Brooks womens cut) were tiny. Normally for women's sizes I always get a medium, some are very loose, some are a nice fit but this one can we say it was highlighting my muffin top a lot. Martina changed my tshirt for me at the race (not offered at the expo), while I was running, for a large and it gave me a small bit more room but not much. Other than that it was nice. 
The rest of the expo was large and I noticed a new vendor at this one (specifc to San Antonio)....Seaworld. I saw free sunglasses first and then walked away when I realized who was handing them out. They had two penguins there in a glass box (for how long..who knows?) and were letting everyone and their mother crowd and touch safe and not stressful for the animals, right. Sorry I hate them a lot, they are so shady!

Enough ranting...the race! The next morning the race started near the Alamodrome (sports arena). The holding area was a big open parking lot with lots of port a potties and stands with fruit and water. Leaving the hotel I had a few sips of coffee and at the start I grabbed a banana as I was hungry. Ice cream for dinner the night before was probably not the best race prep ever. The race started at 7.30am, for me really 8.30. I like when time changes work in my favor. 

The race had 32 assigned corrals (self enforced) and I was in corral 7. Right around the 2 hour pacers. I felt very stiff all week, especially my shoulders but I thought if I felt good running I'd run with them for a while. It took about 5 minutes to get across the line and Meb was there giving out high fives (and at finish). 
The weather was really nice, cold enough to run but I didn't need gloves or a hat. It took me the first couple of miles to warm up but I clung to the pacer and that got me into a rhtymn. Eventually I felt like the pacer was forgetting his job. One minute he'd run a normal pace and next thing I'd look at my watch and see 7.xx and it felt like it too (not just wacky gps). He was hitting the average time bang on for the miles but not at an even pace. I knew that would kill me so I just let him go and I trod on by myself. 

Miles 1-5 of this race are nice and flat but the middle section is hills. Including one long sucker near the zoo. I'm glad I've been including a few big hills regularly in my training runs. For the steepest section of the long one I walked but ran all the rest. The long hill was lined from bottom to top, almost half a mile, with spectators cheering at the top of their lungs and high-fiving their hands off. So it was pretty fun despite the hills. The last few miles the race flattened out again thank goodness. The hilly section gave me two very slow miles but I still felt good coming out of it and I made up my time on the back half of the course. 

I felt good through the whole race. My shoulders were tight (but they were very bad before the race) and my hamstrings tightened up but I wasn't in any pain and the pace remained easy enough throughout. The only place I ran into trouble was at the start of the last mile when I got a few stop in your tracks stomach cramps. That last cup of gatorade or the fact that I wanted to up the pace for that mile was too much. I slowed down to let my stomach calm down and was fine for the last half a mile. 
I finished in 2.02. I'm thrilled with that, a definite improvement in the last two months. I'd like to knock a few more minutes off that at a relatively easy pace before trying for a PR but I feel like I'm getting back to me. 

As usual for Rock n Roll they had a ton of drinks and food at the end. Nothing very substantial but enough to hold you over til you get a decent breakfast. I made my way through the crowds, found Martina and waited around 15 minutes for a free massage. I'd had enough of my shoulders and neck so it was worth the wait. The massage lady had a strong accent (in my head German..prob not though) and boy was she good. She kept commenting on how tight my shoulders and left hip were and asking me if I had back pain. When I said no, she said I probably should?! She was very strong, pushing so hard she was lifting me and the table at times. My entire upper back cracked as she was pushing down along my spine (into table and towards my butt), exactly what I needed and my shoulders felt better than they had all week!!
 Sadly she could only work on me for 5 minutes but I have a longer massage booked for Thursday so I'm looser before the long flight to Ireland.After that it was just the usual shower and breakfast routine before enjoying another couple of days of visiting San Antonio.

The race was very well organized. The expo was good, medal was nice and course support was great. I don't think other than running past the Alamo the course was very unique to San Antonio, if you like the novelty factor, but it is such a fun city to visit so I'd recommend this race for a fun weekend away if you like to travel.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

January plans

I've decided not to run the back to back half/25k in January that I was considering. I don't think I'll be ready in time. Although, I'm happy with how I've progressed in the last few weeks, I don't want to screw up by piling on the mileage on that weekend when I'm not ready and injuring myself. 
The decision was made the more I thought about my trip home. Realistically, I know I'm going to miss some (a lot) running and lifting for the two weeks I'm there. Its just not practical where I live to run on the roads. I'll be 100% reliant on other people (aka my brother) to get to a gym or trail and when I lived at home for a short while, before moving to the US, his dedication to being my chauffeur was patchy at best ha ha. 
This leaves me running just the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon that weekend. In good news this opens up the opportunity to do something other than run and drive on this trip. Right now my plan is to leave early on Friday, camp in Jackson MS, run Saturday morning and then drive 2-3 hours back to Alabama, hike part of Saturday and Sunday before driving the rest of the way home. I found an awesome camping spot and an opportunity to do some hiking not that far from our route home.
Not a bad view!

This will be my first experience of winter camping. I'm looking forward to the camping, not so much the cold. It won't be really really cold because we are so far south but regardless sleeping outside at this time of year is a shock to the system. We can hire some additional gear (like real sleeping bags) from the university recreation center to make it better. This will keep the whole trip to a very manageable cost compared to staying in hotels and it's an adventure. 

Has anyone else done cold weather camping? Any tips?

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Training week

I decided since there were no classes after Monday this week and there is a holiday I'd make this an easy(ish) week. I kept up my usual strength Monday, Wednesday but nixed the extra cardio Tuesday, Thursday and strength on Friday

7am BPump stiff but I got through it.
9am 40 minute walk with Boomer 

6pm 4 mile run. I drove to the downtown area and looped around the state house. On the second loop I added in 4 runs up and down the staircases at the front of the building.
Giant tree at the statehouse

9am 1 hour leg strength gym--not as intense as a class but I used it as an opportunity to up the weight.
11am 45 minutes running around the dog park like a crazy person with Boomer and his new friends then a 15 minute walk.
5pm 4 mile run with 3x800 m at HM goal pace Great run it felt really smooth and strong. 
I wanted to add another interval but some guy had been hanging out at the track for the entire time I was there (and looked like well before) not running just watching. At first I thought he was with a family that was there but they left and then as the last other runner was leaving he still hung around. It might have been completely innocence but I got a bad vibe and finished up, especially as my last lap some comments were made and I was now on my own....couldn't hear enough to know what was said. Trust your gut!!

1pm 4 miles running A quick run before rushing home to get ready for dinner at a friends house. A warm one at 70F but pleasant and part of the riverwalk across the river has reopened yipee!!

Friday rest
5pm 5 miles easy running It was also the last gamecocks game of the season so no worrying about how to time my run or go get milk for a while, yay!!  I avoided most of the madness but still I encountered a ton of very drunk people.

Tree bought and up

3pm 11 mile run being nosey I wanted to make my way to the Lake Katherine area to see what it was looking like post flooding. It took me 5.5 miles to get there. It was weird seeing the lakes there so low. Other than really bad (vomit in mouth, eugh) acid reflux,<---eat tacos post run not pre, it felt great, even with hills I felt like I could have gone longer. My average pace snuck in just under 10min/mile even though it was over 70F so I'm getting fitter.
Empty River 

Next week I'm heading to San Antonio Texas to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon there, I'm really excited to see Texas.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I apologize in advance. I feel weird taking these kinds of pictures and even weirder posting them on the internet. However, a stomach is a stomach, we all have one! 
I am officially marking my progress. I've been working out a lot for almost a month now. Running 5 days a week and either more cardio (twice) or strength training (three times) classes. Until today I felt like I'd make zero progress atheistically. I've lost 1-2 lbs, out of the 10-11 lbs I want to lose, and even that sometimes depends on the day I weight myself. 
A few weeks back (22 days to be exact--picture on top) I took a few pictures of my stomach. I don't what prompted me to do it, usually my stomach is the last place I see any results it, but I did.  Today I went back and took another set without looking at the originals and I was very surprised to see I looked different. I had more definition. I was so surprised that I took more at different angles or with more light and I wasn't tricking myself, I do look different.

As the weeks go on I'm sure I'll change more but I think if I cleaned up my diet I could do a whole lot better. I am eating healthier, now I'm at home all the time, especially during the day but in the evening if someone buys a bar of chocolate or some cookies I will binge on them.  Another thing I could do better on is drinking water. That has gone downhill since leaving work. I'm hardly drinking any water. My intake consists of tea, coffee and occasionally ginger ale.

I think picture taking might be my new favorite way of tracking my body changing. I'm so vain is playing somewhere in the distance. Don't worry I don't think I'm a super model or body builder...if only.  I'd love if my starting and progress picture could be better to start with but we all have to start (or restart) somewhere!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Training Week

I've enjoyed this week so much. Mentally I felt great, really positive aka this is the first week that I really didn't let anything get in the way of running. I've been extremely tired at times, I still ran. I ran in lashing rain and in the dark. Guess what, I don't melt in rain! Physically I feel like I've made some sort of a break through. Maybe it's because as you'll see it was light on classes but either way it was an extremely encouraging week.


My own gym membership had run out so I had to get set up through Martina. The first use of our marriage license got me a spouse card at the university which allowed me to get a new membership to the gym. They were really nice and switched my class pass over to my new acc so I wouldn't have to get a new one for the last few weeks of the semester. All had to be done during normal business hours so no class just paperwork.

7am 30 mins light cardio Another class fail. My friend couldn't meet me to swim so I decided to go to a spin was full boooo!!! I did 30 mins split between a bike and the elliptical in the main gym. Then I spent around 15 minutes stretching everything out.
10am 30 minutes walking A fifteen minute visit to the dog park where we met a gorgeous apricot colored mini poodle. Then a 30 minute walk so Boomer could get his strut on.
3pm 5 miles running a good run. My easy pace isn't getting a whole lot faster but I'm feeling stronger. If I need to pick up the pace I can do it. I even finished the last half a mile a little faster. 
A little lifting?

7am 1 hour BodyPump good class. Got some good pointers after class for my chest press since its been hard on my weak shoulder and wrist. My instructor also told me to up my weight for it because I'm strong and too light a weight is messing me up a little, what now?! I'm getting there, I can now do some push-ups on my toes, woohoo! Now to make them all that way.
3pm 4 mile run with (3x800m at goal HM pace) I felt sore starting out but I loosened up. I did a 1 mile warm up and then 800m intervals with 800m easy in between. High school kids were being coached on the track and their coach said I couldn't run at the same time so I ran on the grass around the soccer pitches. A little hard on the ankles but fun.
8am 30 mins gym cardio the yoga teacher was late again (I don't think I'll go to his class again) so I went to the gym instead. I only saw the teacher as I was leaving. Myself and classes just can't get it on this week.
4pm 3.5 miles running with Boomer Filled out my visa application it took 2 hours!! Despite filling everything out and submitting it, correctly to the best of my knowledge, I spent the entire day paralysed by the clenching your jaw type of stress. Of course I couldn't connect the logical part of my brain, that knew a run would make me feel better, with the motivational part. I went, did it and immediately the stress dialled itself back why didn't I run earlier.

12pm BodyPump I felt like a total beast in this class and it was fun. I struggled as usual on lunges and shoulders but everything else I upped the weight again. I was a little sore the next day but not paralyzed so I think I'll stick with the current weight and up it again a few weeks after Christmas.

4pm 4 miles running 1 mile warmup, 2x sub 9 min/mile, 1 mile cool down. I got lots of jeers in the post game traffic but I stared straight ahead and just ran. The last mile really was a cool down as the heavens opened and I got drenched in rain. A really nice run. It'll take a while before I'm able to run longer tempo runs but I felt strong and the pace felt good.

8 miles running I stuck to an eight mile long run again this week, mostly because I was running in the dark along the (sidewalk) road. Now that I don't have a busy trail to run on, night time running has become more like a danger sport, because despite reflectors out the wazhoo and blinking lights, cars still don't see me (I'm so fast...not) and they seem to think turn signals are optional. Rant over! 
A little Christmas lighting

On a happier note I really enjoyed this run. My ankles got a bit sore towards the end because a lot of the sidewalks are slanted, other than that I felt great the whole time. 

Next week...get my long run done early and add more miles to it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


7am Body Pump

7am 30 min swim then hot tub and coffee again. I might not like swimming with other people but it's soooo nice at least once a week to talk to someone outside my household.
4pm 4 mile run finally the sun shone. It was hovering right around 70F and 60% humidity. Not perfect running weather but a lot better than it has been recently. Boomer came along and was exhausted after.

7am BodyPump drove through heavy fog to get there which is unusual for here. Didn't want to get up but I'm glad I did. I felt really strong. Second class of increased squat weight and increased my back weight today. Time to start moving away from the baby weights now that I've had a couple of weeks to break myself into my new routine.
5pm 3.5 miles running at the track. 1 mile warm up and 3x800m (@goal, in my dreams goal, HM pace) with quarter mile recovery. Found the longer intervals harder than the shorter faster ones but it's fun to mix it up and do some different types of speed work. Tried to stick to around a 8.30 min/mile for the 800s but ended up being closer to 8.

4 miles running by myself. The river is getting closer to letting go of my running path but not yet.
6pm yoga went to my favorite class for a great stretch

By 9am I was outside trying to scrub all the crap the trees had deposited on my car in the last few weeks off. It was a bigger job than I thought and it went on until 11.30...what an arm workout.
12am Body Pump it was good struggled a bit with shoulders but everything else felt strong.
Lunch then another few hours of home workouts with cleaning up the yard, as some friends were coming to park in it for the football game.

I was meant to run but I was doing work in the morning when my Mom called me with the sad news that an old friend had died in a car crash. I hadn't spoken to her too much in the last few years, because of life and stuff, but her family were like my second one growing up. About an hour later it hit me and I spent the rest of the day in tears and cried myself into a migraine. Poor Martina came home after a week in Boston to a complete grump.

Sunday 8 mile run
Started out feeling awkward and meh, even my clothes felt off but by the end I felt good and strong. I actually got faster as the run progressed. Spent a lot of time thinking of all the people who died too soon.

Next week: Another couple of miles on my long run and 4-5 miles on Saturday as I want to build up to a longish run both Saturday and Sunday to get me ready for doubles.

Living away from home

I think a lot about how different it is to live in the US, what it would be like to move home. After 3 years it's a weird situation to think about. In some ways South Carolina feels more like home than Ireland. 
We built a home here together. In Ireland, when we first lived together Martina moved into my place. It was never truly ours. We started with nothing here and have slowly made ourselves a place we are happy to call ours. We've also grown together, moving so far from home and family changes you. We stopped second guessing things because we were worried about having to move home and accepted if we lost some stuff or money so be it...better to live life than worry. We got married and raised a puppy.
 3 years has seemed like an impossibly long time given all those things. It's been lonely but I've made some friends. Life in general is different. Even when we are both working hard it seems like there is more of a life outside work to be had.

I miss Ireland all of the time but right now thinking about actually living in Ireland seems like a black hole in my mind. When we left Ireland it had sunk into a huge economic crisis. My first year of being a postdoc there saw me taking 3 salary cuts within a year (because it was publicly funded). Everytime you turned around new charges and taxes were being added without any improvement or increases in services in return. 
Now it's recovering, pretty well, if the news is anything to go by. Still, I just don't see how we'd afford to live there while having any sort of quality of life. I just can't imagine it. That's weird, not being able to picture your life in the country where your family lives and has lived for 100s of years. Like everything else if we need to we'll do it and make it work just like we did here and the difference is we'll have friends and family to fall back on. Anyway the whole point of this is not to complain about the cost of living in Ireland, but just to recognize how very strange it is to be caught between two homes. I want to be here and there all at the same time, if only we had teleporters or could apparate!

Ultimately neither of us has any intention of living in the US long-term. Once we have kids or even before that moving to Europe will be a priority. Being closer to our parents as they get older will be a deal breaker. I'm hoping to enjoy another couple of years full of travel here and then move. I want to take with me the best aspects of life and what I've learned here (and lots of gorgeous medals) and continue it on when we leave. Since I can't imagine living in Ireland we'll probably be moving to the UK or even learning a language and moving to the continent. Our hearts will be torn between three homes, I wonder if it'll always feel like that?

Fighting back

I hate damp and mold. I once lived in a new build, that obviously wasn't let dry out enough before painting and move in. I battled damp and mold there for almost a year. The landlord didn't care but eventually I won and it dried out. 
Now I find myself fighting that battle on a smaller scale again. Two weeks on honeymoon were great but two weeks of no AC in the house, this really did a number on us. Lesson learned. I've bought dehumidifiers, I'm running the AC, freezing myself, to get the humidity in the house down and I'm cleaning everywhere and constantly washing and drying towels etc. I doubt it would have been an issue except that we had a lot of ground water and then for the last few weeks it's rained and the humidity has been sky high. Everything coming into the house including the air is wet.

It's getting much better but it's been a disgusting couple of weeks, anything that is even a little damp starts to smell. I've changed out the shower curtain (it was due anyhow but suddenly got moldy). A pair of shoes had to be binned. All the liners of the laundry baskets had to be boil washed. Even my running belt was not immune from the mold. Under my sink had obviously leaked at some point so bleach ahoy and this morning on a whim I decided to pull out and wash the floor underneath the fridge. I hate moving appliances because they are not mine and I worry about something going wrong but I'm glad I guessed it under the fridge was covered in mold. 

It's a bit like a horror movie every time I open a cabinet or pull stuff out to clean I'm worried about what I'm going to find. For now I'm going to leave this picture of my nice clean behind the fridge area to remind myself to keep deep cleaning.