Thursday, 13 November 2014


Anybody following my facebook posts over the past few months will have noticed that my training for next weeks World 100km Championships has been going very well.But over the last week or so I've become a little apprehensive about my chances of running well next week. Ive been looking back over my old training diaries and more specifically the lead up to when I ran 7.03 in Belgium last year.
In the lead up to the Night of Flanders in Belgium last year I completed 24 hours of long runs in an 8 week phase averaging 7.20mm. This year in prep for Doha I have done a total of 32hours of long runs with an average pace of 6.28mm. Ive also done 3 times as much hill training and speed sessions.
This is all down to the expert guidance of my new coach Howard Nippert who has not just given more structure to my training but has always been there to offer wise word when things havent been going so well. His experience at both competing and coaching at this level has been invaluable to me and I have learned so much since we began working together earlier this year.
So technically on paper I am in better shape now than I was when I set the national 100k record last year.

So you might be asking yourself,what am I so worried about ???

Up until last week training was going great but after one of my Sunday long runs I felt a little sorer than usual. I thought nothing of it and continued as normal with my next few days training on Monday and Tuesday but by Wednesday  I knew something wasnt right.
I made my way to A&E in Galway clinic and was sent for an MRI with pain in the hip flexor and groin/adductor on the right side. My worst fear was I had torn something.
Results of MRI showed a grade 1 strain to the right adductor which would explain the pain I was feeling. The doctor said intensive physio 'could' have me right in time for the worlds but unfortunately the MRI also showed that I suffered a stress fracture to my right iliac bone(back of the pelvis)!!
F**ck !!!!
I was told that I may be able to resolve the adductor strain in time but he could not recommend me racing 100km on a stress fracture. I left hospital feeling totally distraught and gutted. All the months of trying to overcome osteoporosis and finally getting back to running. Then 12 weeks of intense training only for my dreams to be crushed once again.

I'd worked too hard to just give up and take the doctors advice. The stress fracture was there alright but it wasn't causing me pain. My pain was coming from a strained adductor muscle. Obviously because of the stress fracture the surrounding muscles were working overtime to stabilise the joints.
I decided to meet with my physio Leon Raath and weigh up my options.
We agreed to do daily physio sessions to improve the hip flexor and adductor strain and also apply ultra sound to the site of the stress fracture. I've been able to continue with my training and I'm lucky that I am in taper mode so the training mileage has dropped significantly.
The last 10 days Leon has been doing dry needling,ultra sound,elecro-therapy and deep tissue massage.
So far no problem with the bones and the muscle strains seem to be improving also.

I fly out to Doha on Sunday and that is all because of the tireless work and expert hands of Leon Raath. Leon has got me back on the road again and I am  now running relatively pain free again.
Whether or not my iliac bone stands up to the demands of racing 100k next Friday is another story,but I have the training done and I feel good.

A few months back my coach Howard said to me that "we were gonna get fit and ready for the World champs or get hurt trying".

I've been selected to represent my country at the highest level and opportunities like that don't come along everyday.

I have every confidence in my training and when I stand on that start line I will be ready to give 110% for the green vest.

Of course along the way I have received massive support from my sponsors.
Ozone Health and Fitness allow me the use of their top class facilities which have been very beneficial for heat training. Kinetica fuel all my workouts and aid recovery with their excellent range of sports nutrition. UVU my kit sponsors and Skechers both keep me kitted out in the best of gear and footwear. Leon Raath from Physiozone is the reason I get to run in a World Championships next week. Without the continued support of these guys and of course my family and close friends things would have been alot more difficult for me so I am greatly appreciative for they're support and genorosity.

Seven months ago I remember lying in bed for 3 days,unable to walk,crippled by the pain of osteoporosis.In the weeks and months after I doubted I would ever run again.If you want something bad enough you will move heaven and earth to make your dreams become reality.

Next Friday I get to represent my country in the sport I love and race against the the greatest ultra runners in the world.
It's an opportunity I intend to grasp with both hands and do Ireland proud !

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The road to Doha!

Since I last posted a few weeks ago I had done a few runs and was feeling ok but not fully right! I pushed through the pain barrier until I got to the stage where I had to stop all exercise completely. Even walking became painful. I knew there was something else going on.....not another injury to add to my already disabling condition !?
I was due a 2 week break from work which would be an ideal opportunity to get to the bottom of this injury. Little did I know it would take separate visits to 4 different hospitals around the country.
First stop was the limerick clinic for an MRI of the hip / pelvis. This revealed 'intense osteitis pubis'.
Bone marrow odema or in other words inflammation around the pubic bone.
According to the radiologists report this would be greatly improved by a cortisone injection into the pubic symphysis.....only the problem with this is steroid injections,while they sort the inflammation they also weaken the bones.
So do I take the injection to become pain free,while risking to further weaken my bones and worsen my osteoporosis ??

Next stop was euromedic clinic in dundrum,Dublin for an emergency consultation with professor O Brien(my treating consultant for the osteoporosis). I received a phone call the previous evening from the professor informing me to attend the clinic to discuss an irregularity in my blood tests.
When I arrived in dundrum fasting from the previous day I was then sent to St Vincent's hospital for urgent bloods.
On my return to see the professor I asked her whether it would be advisable for me to get a steroid injection to clear up my injury and the ramifications it could have on the osteoporosis. Steroid injections are one of the main causes of osteoporosis so for her to give her consent to something like this would go against everything she stands for!

I needed to weigh up the pros and cons and consulted various specialists in the area. The overwhelming response I got was that the inflammation I had in the pubic symphysis needed to be reduced and steroid injection was the best method. One injection would do very minimal damage to the bones and the advantages of the injection would by far outweigh the possible side effects to the bones.

I thought long and hard and finally came to the decision to get the injection.

Next stop was the Galway clinic....

My instructions after the injection where to rest for one week. After that when I was pain free it would be time to strengthen the core area while beginning to resume light training.
It's now over a month since the injection and I'm back running 4 weeks and the pain in my pubic bone is completely gone!
Along with the training I'm supplementing with a lot of core work thanks to my Physio Leon Raath who has guided me through a thorough rehab plan.
Weekly treatments from Leon are giving me great relief and the core exercises are adding a lot of strength to previously weakened muscles.
My coach Howard Nippert has also been a great help and has steadily re introduced me to training again. One of the advantages of having a coach is being able to bounce ideas and questions off. After the injection it would have been very tempting for me to go back training again gung-ho but Howard has very carefully managed my condition and ensured that my return to sport has been gradual but smooth. Howard himself who knows full well the torment of facing career threatening injuries has first hand experience of coming out the other side and achieving great things,none less than his fifth place finish at the world 100k and multiple American national titles,so that gives me great hope and
motivation to win my own battle and come out the other end even stronger.

It's just less than 14 weeks to the World 100k in Doha and I am fit and ready to begin my training plan specific to this race.
I have the qualifying time in the bag so it's just a matter of waiting to see if I will be selected??

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Since being diagnosed with Osteoporosis last month I have received amazing support from family,friends and fellow athletes alike,which has helped me tremendously to come to terms with something so unexpected.
Because of this I have decided that I will post weekly updates on my progress back to competition.If this helps others out there going through the same situation it will be worth sharing my good days and bad days here as I do everything that I need to do to get fit and healthy again.
Having already achieved the World 100km qualifying time last June in Belgium my target is to get back to full fitness and get selected on the Irish team.
So D-Day is November 21st in Doha,Qatar and the first steps on this road are....... walking!!

                                                               Week 1 of Rehab

After being referred to physiotherapist Richard Shortall by IOS (Irish osteoporosis society) he devised a route back to exercise for me which involved walking for at least 1 hour per day provided I was pain free in doing so. Weight bearing activities are a great way of strengthening bones and increasing bone density. Running long distances is a great way of keeping bones strong and healthy,but unfortunately mine are very weak and running these distances will only increase the risk of  fractures to the hip and spine which are the worst affected areas. Skipping and star jumps were also part of my daily routine along with a gluten free diet.The first few days were pretty sore but it eventually eased and after around a week I was now walking 1-1.5 hours comfortably.
I continued this for a couple more weeks,and as the weeks progressed I became more anxious to get back running.
Now was the time to be sensible and be patient.It will take time and cannot be rushed. Thats what the doctors and physios kept saying.
I was out for a walk last Sunday week and I managed 10km which was somewhat of a milestone for me,but all I could think about was how pathetic that was! This time 12 months ago I was setting a national record for running 100km and now all I could manage was a pathetic 10 km walk.  WTF !!!

I persisted with the walking til last weekend I asked the physiotherapist if I could try some running.
He agreed to allow me to introduce 10 minute segments of running during my walks,and provided I was achieving this pain free I could add 10 minutes per day.
Today I ran for 50 minutes and the only pain I experienced was embarassment from being so unfit !!
But I gotta start somewhere.At the moment I'm managing to run short distances slowly without any great pain,but at the same time I don't feel strong. I need to remind myself that structurally I am not as solid as I once was,and it will take time to rebuild.

The running/walking will continue for another few weeks when hopefully I will be able to get back to doing something which resembles 'training'.

So thats my story so far. I'm a long way from where I want to be but I'm on the right road.


Saturday, 31 May 2014


So it's been a while since my last blog post,I said I would give you all a little insight in to what I have been up to.......

After pulling from the Euro's at the 45 mile mark due to injury I recovered pretty quickly and focused my attention on another 100km,which was to be the 'Night of Flanders 100km in Torhout Belgium.
I knew I was in good shape for the Euro's and injury prevented me from achieving my goal.This is why I sought out this particular race only 8 weeks later as my 'Irish Record Attempt' at 100km.
Richard Donovan made it all possible along with the ever reliable John Collins on support duties.
Long story short I just had one of those days that you only ever dream of. Hard training,good luck and very intelligent support crew made for the best 7 hours 3 minutes and 53 seconds of my sporting life !!

After this I took a nice family break with the missus and kids and then a week later it was off to the beautiful West Cork village of Courtmacsherry for a very scenic 36 miler. I managed to get the win and got one of the best welcomes you will ever get anywhere.I have since met many great friends in West Cork,which I now call my second home.Without naming too many names I do feel I have to mention one particular individual for his genorosity,friendship and support........ Thank you Bob Hilliard
This year Bob has named the event after me!!! To say I am honoured is a complete  understatement.
This years event on July 19th will also have a 10k and 18 miler along with the 36 mile ultra,and I would highly recommend it (obviously!!).

So what have I been doing since last July I hear you ask ??

Short answer is not alot !!

Over the past year I have been having alot of trouble with various injuries. I would get a couple of months of decent training in and then breakdown with another injury,and then another and another and so on.
It all finally came to a head in early march when I put a joint in my back out for no apparent reason. I was unable to walk for days and when I finally did manage to get about it was with great pain.Once this subsided after a couple of months it was the turn of my pelvis.

I knew something wasn't right! There was more going on with my body than I knew. I couldn't run a mile without having to turn back with a crippling pain!

Over the last fortnight after tests and scans I have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Anybody who is unfamiliar with this condition,osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease which decreases bone mass density. In other words your bones become more 'honeycomb' and more prone to fracturing very easily.I always associated osteoporosis with elderly women and was in shock when I got the news.In truth it is more common in women over the age of 50 although it can occur at any age. There are a lot of varying factors which contribute to its developement,such as age,diet,exercise etc.....
A simple DEXA bone scan will determine whether you have it or not and also your risk of developing the condition. I would highly recommend fellow athletes to get themselves checked. I've found mine before it got too serious. Even though we all like to think because we can run long distances we are invincible to these sort of conditions,it's not always so straight forward.

On a personal note I will be out of action for a while and my sole aim at the moment is to get myself healthy again.When I have achieved this my sole purpose will be to get back competing against the best ultra runners in the world again.

Have a read of this if you get a chance