A little bit of reading

I have a attahced a few links below that are well worth a scan through, especially for the time of year thats in it. As the autumn turns into winter we all have different goals ahead and motivation can be hard. The thoughts of running around a field in mud over our ankles for the winter, or trying to train smart as an ultrarunner or even set goals like Mr. Graham Bushe below, all give me great motivation.

Cross Country

https://www.startfitness.co.uk/blog/importance-cross-country-running/

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Castlegar AC cross country team from last weekend. Some craic. County Gold for the lads!

As i have learnt the hard way, cross country races are exceptionally gruelling. It is hard to explain unless you have taken part in one. The winner on the day was Paul Giblin (number172), noticed above for being the cleanest person in Tuam on the day. He must of somehow glided across the mud. It was an incredible team effort with myself, Sean and Damian passing the men onfront of us all on the last lap to clinch the title. Well done all involved.

The article above gives a great account of the cross country scene, the chance to be out in the conditions in the winter and enjoy the fresh air. It is amazing for strengthening you as a runner, stabilising you and even improving your stride at a time of year many take to the gym or simply stop training.

Ultrarunners post season Guide.

http://trainright.com/ultimate-post-season-guide-for-ultrarunners/

I liked this article, keeping things simple in the off season. A common mistake focused on is working too much on one or two weaknesses. It outlines how more benefit is found in training to strengthen and improve all round. I made this mistake in the past, injuring an ankle and instead of strengthening both ankles I worked too much on one side. Of course the other weakens and there is a straight forward imbalance, leading to further injuries. Training smart is key.

 

The story of Graham Bushe.

http://www.outsider.ie/wicklow-way-race-back/

This man is a legend already, only taking up running 4 years ago. He is an inspiration to many. I understand that it won’t happen that every person that takes up running can suddenly run 130km and then go back the same way and do it all again but it just shows what can be achieved. There is no doubt his mentality is the key along with a natural ability to run. I have a good friend, I won’t name you here just now, (Pascal), that has taken to running, more seriously than ever before and yesterday he got a PB in a marthon only weeks after a PB in a half marathon. He has trained extremely smart, mixing speed, distance and good rest. Once again it is his mentality, stubborness and grit that have  leapfrogged him to this point, but now he goes out to every training with a smile on his face and he loves ever minute of it.

 

Kebnekaise

It has been a pretty busy few months but I am finally back in the blogging frame of mind and hope things stay that way for the foreseeable future. Sometimes we need a break from these things and after a few years on the blog I felt it was no harm to take a brief period off. Since my last post in Wales, I have been to Sweden and Alicante on two holidays, so all in all I can’t complain much. The other end of things wasn’t so nice with our little buddie Ferris, our cat, passing away and in the mix of everything I was rear ended in a road accident. Luckily I was in one piece, however my car did take the full brunt of the collision. Anyhow enough rambling, how do you write blog posts again? I will start by a little run down on an epic adventure in the North of Sweden, 2100metre mountains and some of the best scenery in the world.

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Not far from Sweden’s highest point!

So where exactly is Kebnekaise for those of you not too sure about Sweden’s geography?

Here is a very rough ,very quick idea as to where we were!

We set out to hike 20km to the base camp of Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise mountain. We would camp here for three days and one of the days give the mountain a whack. The hike in was flat but with 15kg on our backs and a nice 10km trail run in the legs from the previous day we were all tired by the time we reached camp. Emma’s sister Frida was joining us for the trip and would be great having her part of of it all, one any Swedish hiker or nature enthusiast dreams of making. Very few people outside of Sweden, or at least in Ireland even know these kind of places exist.

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Base camp in the shelter of the woods.

We secured a spot for our tents on the first evening. We pitched them in a howling gale and realised it was a hell of a lot colder than first imagined. We had travelled as light as possible but thermal clothes and down jackets along with good rain gear were the essentials. My new Alpkit Brukit Wolfe would do all the cooking and a diet of porridge and various beans and rice mixes would have to keep the engine ticking over for the few days. I would learn that I need alot more fuel than Emma and Frida to keep myself in check and I hadn’t quite packed enough.

After a pretty average sleep on the first night we set off to trek Kebnekaise the next day. We took a wrong turn early on and ended up hiking further into the valley under the mountain. I had some form of vertigo or at least an imbalance from sleeping in a stuffy tent and was glad we decided not to go for the summit today. It turned out the weather closed in pretty badly and very few summitted that day. It was nice to get a long hike and get used to the temperature of about 7  degrees depending on wind and rain conditions. An early night in order to set off early the next morning was the plan. I actually slept fine and was feeling great the next day. Bring on the mountain.

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The view early on, not far from base camp. Things were looking up!

The hike was relentless but we got into a nice rythm and the views were more spectacular by the minute. After a 45 minute climb to the first stop I cooked up some hot water and we had a coffee and some sugar as a break.

Coffee break.

From here I told Emma and Frida I would push on as I was going a different pace and instead of enjoying every second I would turn it into a bit of a training session, typical me! I literally ran up the next two climbs, reached a snowy wet point (adding a few layers here) and then descended a few hundred metres before starting the last long climb towards the first and second summits of Kebnekaise. A few Dutch guys asked me was I not freezing as I had stripped to a tshirt and shorts. I replied no I’m ok, as long as I don’t stop! I ran into a few more hikers, one of which had taken a wrong turn with a 20kg backback and in order to get back to his original route was having to go over Kebnekaise. It wasn’t his finest moment but he was taking it in his stride with a smile! I ploughed on up past 2000 metres and was suddenly engulfed in a blizzard. I could see the summit on my GPS but I could barely see my hand. I decided to descend back once near the summit and go in serach of Emma and Frida on the trail. I could head back up with them and enjoy the rest of the day even more. Our photos from the summit are a little blurred but I will throw some into my next post. There were people wandering around in search of the exact summit. A crazy dangerous thing to be trying with no proper GPS. I could see 2100 metres on my watch and was happy we were within a few feet of the top. I knew as well that there was a shear drop to our right and now was time to head down. As we descended the rain started and it followed us all the way home. It was torrential at times but we stuck it out. I think we were on the mountain arounf 9 hours in total. I would go up in a flash again.

It was amazing to see groups of people, young, old, and all shapes and sizes enjoying the hike. It is a gruelling hike but it seems hiking is one of those sports that attracts everyone and everyone can give it a go. It was great to see a dad with a little boy tied on to his side and the boy so excited to find the top. It was also great to see the safety being used in this instance. One thing that was for certain was that people in Northern Sweden know the type of gear needed on the mountains and for the most part people were very safe.

We slept ok the final night and our hike out on tired legs was relentless, being well over 20km’s when we clocked it all.Our bags were lighter than the journey in having eaten everything but my socks. In saying this they still felt twice the weight. A sure sign of tired bodies! Back to the campervan, clean clothes and an amaing appetite for a pizza. Kebnekaise, hope to see you again some day.

This is a brief account of our adventure but another fantastic experience. I learnt the amount of food I carried was way below what my body was crving in the cold and the mountains. I drank so much water even though I really only pushed hard on one of the days. A good rain coat is essential and staying warm even more so. Bring a second and third set of wet gear for relentless rainy days. Always use dry bags, as we did, and stick to boiled foods if possible.

A couple of reindeer under the mountains

It has basically been weeks and even months of training and working, with a short break in Alicante thrown in, since this Swedish trip. I ran in a few cross country races the last couple of weekends, shear torture but fun at the same time. Only cross country runners get what I am saying here! I managed to be part of a great team on Sunday and we won a county gold and I topped that off with first place in my category (senior), only 3 weeks off my over 35 debut that is. I promise to get back into the blogging scene and hope to share my goals and plans with you all over the next few months. Next up is the Mourne Skyline MTR on the 21st of October. A 35km killer of a mountain run/scramble!!

 

Scott Snowdonia Marathon

I have had a week to reflect on my first race abroad. Hopefully I can get across in these few words, the magic of the Snowdonia mountain range. I might even persuade a few of my running mates to come along next year. I reckon it is time to start racing abroad. It seems even in North Wales there is more sunshine than in the West of Ireland.

We arrived in Llanberis, North Wales on Saturday evening, registered and had a nice evening with Emma’s friends who kindly made dinner and put us up for the night. I thought about my first proper mountain marathon which lay ahead in the morning, not really knowing how I would fair out. I was running on reasonably tired legs after the year behind me as well as the race last weekend and I would be running on unknown terrain as well.  The main thing was that I was excited and reckoned I should be able to enjoy this one as there was no pressure to place well and I could use it as a learning experience. The field would include some pro runners and some top mountain runners from up to 40 different countries. Bring on the morning.

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Llanberis in the morning, pre race.

Not only was I competing in a new type of race but Emma was also taking on her first half marathon and a mountain one at that. Emma seemed very chilled out of course and in general I didn’t feel nervous as I lined up in a crowd of around 900.

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Looking a bit drunk in the sunshine just before the start.

The Snowdonia Trail Marathon began at 9am and we sped down the road, soon taking a left up out of Llaberis. The road turned to farm road and soon we started to climb. The first climb was sharp and I started into a fast hike. As I hiked I flew away from those running around me. The terrain leveled out and then we descended down the farm track to meet a trail at the valley floor. The trail turned rocky underneath and I began to feel like I was in a trail race. We gradually climbed up through a luscious green valley with scree slopes on one side. I started to pick off a few runners onfront. They had hit off too fast up the first hill and were feeling the effects.

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Around 2.5km into the race.

Within about 6km the field was breaking up and I soon found myself in a group of about 6 runners. One guy was very strong on the flats and would take off, slowing fast when the hills arrived. The rest of us seemed close in strength and we ran five or six yards apart for miles. After the second climb we started to descend on some boggy, grassy farm land and could really let go. A lovely fast but tricky downhill brought us down and into an old slate quarry. I think it was somewhere around this point that the half and the full marathon races split. I was running as fast as I could without totally expending myself, knowing the the second half of this race would be the real killer. Snowdon itself would only arrive around 19 miles into the race.

Our little group were all together as we arrived at the second aid station around 10km into the race. A very fast gulp of water and away we went. I had a few gels and had taken one already. I planned to race all day so I wouldn’t be stopping for food. Some jellies and a few gels would suffice. The next section, from mile 6 to 11, and from there to mile 16 or so would be reasonably flat. It started with a gravel track around some amazing lakes. You may notice I am talking a bit in miles today. The reason being it is all miles over there and when it comes to marathon racing, miles are the only way to talk anyhow! It’s all the same if you ask me.

We ran along with the lakes on our left and the towering Snowdon mountain in the distance to the left as we circumnavigated it. We arrived at a farm gate and then another, and another as well as numerous stiles over walls and ditches. We made our way through farmland and eventually over some undulating hills before arriving at the third aid station. A brief stop, a few cups of water/electrolytes and away once more. The last 10km (6miles) had been fast, averaging 4 minutes 30 seconds per kilometre on my watch. These guys weren’t holding back and I intended to test myself against them.

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The Climb before the big climb!! Concentrating on the slates.

The next few kilometres were over some bogland and on muddy, rocky trail with lots of little ups and downs thrown in. It felt like real trail running. I love the technical stuff, I think it comes from all the football over the years and enjoying the tricky footwork. Way easier without the ball! The climb to Snowdon would start with a climb to Pen Y Pass and from there we would start the real ascent of Snowdon Mountain. At about 2 hours and 37 minutes I had 32km on the watch. This climb was going to be epic.

The first section to Pen Y Pass was steep in parts and this meant mostly hiking. At this stage the legs were not enjoying running uphill so the fast hike was far more effective. Our group had split before the last aid station and I had been alone now for about 10 kilometres. I had passed three guys and caught up with a fourth, but he soon edged away from me. As I climbed to the Pass and the aid station before the Snowdon climb I passed one more competitor and felt like I was moving well. I had no idea what position I was in but reckoned I had to be close to the top 20. I was blowing bubbles at the aid station and looked to my right to see the mighty Snodon stairing down at me. I really had no idea the length of the hike ahead. Get to the top was my next aim. I might even take in the view as I go.

The hike was relentless. I ran any flat or downhill, of which there were very few. It was hands on quads hiking and pushing all the way. The trail was made up mostly of slabs of rosck, hard to run on and some of the boulders were huge making the footing tricky as well. I managed to hold my place all the way and as I summited I passed two athletes right at the top. A nice little confidence booster before the 7/8 km downhill to the finish. The views of the high valleys, pristine lakes below and rocky verges along the sides of the trail were spectacular. I would love to head up on a non race day to take it all in. The only downside of the hike up were the crowds of tourists winding their way up the trail, sometimes not realising there was a race going on around them. A huge thumbs up to them all for taking on this hike though.

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This face says it all, sore on the summit of Snowdon.

I rounded the bend under a bridge for the train, which goes right to the top of Snowdon, to find the last aid station. It was all downhill from here the ladies at the aid station announced. They also said it is only 2 miles. Now I am no expert on the whole mile/kilometre thing, but my watch said just over 38km and according to the organisers it is a 44km course. I knew I had a much longer descent than just 2 miles.

The final 7km went really well. I felt fast on the downhill and even though I didn’t catch anyone I made up a few minutes on those behind and rounded the final bend into the finishing field feeling reasonably good. I crossed the line in just under four and a half hours, in 14th position overall. I was greeted by Emma, covered in scrapes from a nasty fall on the mountain. I told her she was now a fully fledged trail and mountain runner. We both had left it all out there and that is all you can ever do, in any race.

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I did smile a few seconds after this one!!

Next up, holidays to Sweden, some mountain hiking and running thrown in and a little 58km race down in County Kerry on my return.

 

Joyce County Challenge

Last weekend I took part in a local challenge. It is known as a gruelling 30km in the mountains bordering Galway and Mayo. As I made my way to the start at Finny on the banks of Lough Nafooey I realised a tough few hours were ahead. A heavy mist was hanging around in a strong south westerly wind. Conditions that rarely lift fast in the West! 

I was greeted at the community centre by race organisers or event organisers I should say as this really is a go at your own pace event. Miko and Theresa had tea and toast ready with a wake up coffee. Hikers and runners were arriving but at 6.30am Miko, Rachel, Betty, David and myself set off on the course. David Joyce is the local mountain speed merchant so I reckoned I could cling on to him and save too much navigational effort. 

We were soon on the ascent across bog and fern stricken ground towards our first checkpoint at Maamtrasna. The wind strengthened as we got higher. Myself and David headed off as a bit quicker than the others. We pushed hard, running as much as possible and fast hiking uphill. The terrain was tricky, but better than that on nearby mountains, that I am used to. It was mild, therefore we never felt cold and once we kept pushing we knew we would be fine. David has all the course records in the Joyce County and was flying towards another one. He knew the terrain well, even pointing out that we were on track as he recognized his neighbours sheep. He said he never timed himself as the conditions play too big a part. How right he was here! 

On reaching our second CP before the hike up the relentless Devilsmother mountain David’s shoe fell apart and he had to pull out. We had contoured around the last mountain and the sideways running motion had taken it’s toll.  It was a shame as I knew David would push me all day and probably finish ahead of me too. I would also have to navigate in crappy conditions. Out came the map and compass! There was no phone coverage up there and the rain was heavy at the summit’s meaning my fingers wouldn’t work on my wet phone. 

The third checkpoint would be at a van carrying some food and refreshments. I could see the van in the distance as I descended off the Devilsmother and I made a line straight for it. My adductor muscle cramped on the descent as I hopped across the bog. I stopped, stretched and drank lots of electrolytes. After a few minutes I was fine and carried on to CP3. There was a great view down the valley towards Lough Nafooey and I could imagine the final 10k as I looked back up into the clouds. I had half a ham sandwich, some tasty cake and water laden with salt before I set off again. I took a 15 minute break here knowing I was not on record breaking times or in a race situation. At the same time it was good training.

The next mountain was Bunicurreen, probably spelt wrong. It seemed like forever as I climbed up into the cloud, which soon turned to rain. The last 100m was steep and I was glad I had my poles! When I submitted I realised I was unsure of my next bearing. I knew the lake was running west to east so if I kept going east I would be fine. This worked out a treat in the end, however had I known all you had to do was follow the fence I probably would of been alot faster. As I flew along the ridgeline I came across the B walkers heading in the opposite direction. They were enjoying their day and clearly thought I was mad, running these hills alone. Their route was a shorter 20km but they all needed to be good hikers to take it on. The ridgeline took me all the way to the final descent which Miko had kindly marked out with tape.  I ran down, enjoying the descent. No matter when you take part it’s always nice to be first home of course. This always puts a spring in those tired legs. I came home in 5 hours and 15 minutes. Not my fastest moving but there was almost 2000metres of tricky ascent thrown in. 

Thanks to the organisers and well done raising money for the Galway and Mayo Hospice. 

I will be back next year for sure. I can add this to the list of all new events I have taken part in this year. I’m writing this on my way to the next adventure in Wales and hopefully a good report to come from Snowdonia. 

The course map. 

The last checkpoint, unmanned. 

I think this was the driest it got all day and my phone actually worked! 

Some welcome homemade soup and of course a medal to finish

I thought a little add on to this post would be nice, so here are some recent training photos. 

Burren Training in June

We decided to head South rather than West for training on my days off lately. The Burren is an unspoilt, unknown area to Galwegians really. The karst landscape is beautiful and undulating, therefore a perfect training ground. We kept our efforts to the Burren Way Trail, following the trail through the heart of the Burren and down the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. Our first day was mostly mountain biking with some pretty tough hike a bike sections. Steep rocky backroads and trails meant a tough physical session on our first trip.

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The terrain above was as good as it got on the first day with some much trickier technical biking around the coastal trail on the way home. I finished the day with two punctures but made it home.

Day 2 which we turned into an overnight camping trip was fun. We biked as far as the coastal Cliffs of Moher trail and then ran this hilly trail along the cliffs and back for 12km. The hills were actually steep and it is a trail I would recommend for anyone interested in a different hilly trail. The views are just amazing . It is no doubt one of the most scenic runs I have ever done.

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Running along the cliffs was exhilerating. The wind was strong on top with some exciting downhills and tough uphill drags. Emma was flyin it as well, enjoying the mountain biking as she had done very little off roading before and cruising through the trails on foot.

By the time we finished we were starving but some tasty salmon and a quinoa salad sorted that out. My new Brukit Wolf burner worked a treat and we had hot food cooked up in no time. The Burren coast has lots of free camping areas, wild camping at it’s best and most beautiful.

As you can see it was a usual irish camping trip, well wrapped up and surviving rather than camping really!

The next few weeks will include build up training towards the Snowdonia trail marathon and so far so good. I am increasing my speed training and doing a bit more strength in the gym so hopefully I will be feeling good on the 23rd.

The yellow men of the Wicklow Way

It has been a year of long distance and a good one so far. Because of this I decided to enter my first real ultra marathon. I decided with some encouragement from my training buddie Sinead Keogh and others that it was possible. I was in the best fitness in ages and this was a time to try and gather the points for the Ultra Trail Mount Blanc in 2018. The Wicklow Way race would give me 5 out of a total of 8 points needed to enter the draw.

As always it is very hard to summarise a long race into a few lines but I feel this race is due a good chat and I would love to  hear other racers views on my own account. It is clear that after an event like this everyone has had a different experience.  Finishing this race is one hell of a feat. I had no idea if I was ready for such a distance just yet.

All 54 runners met in the carpark at Marley park for a midnight start on Friday night. The rain was starting and the forecast was horrific. This was going to be a challenge. The race director warned us of extreme conditions forecast for the night in the mountains. With this said I packed an extra layer or two and all my waterproofs. I changed my plan of road runners to my best trail runners at the last minute and boy was I glad of this. We set off at midnight with my pack including all manditory kit, my poles and my head screwed on. We were off!

Unfortunately the conditions meant I couldn’t take photos, therefore words will have to suffice on this occasion. We left Marley Park and began to run up towards the Dublin hills. We would follow the yellow man signs all the way to end of the Wicklow way, 130km’s later.  The first few sections of the run were mostly on road before starting the first of many fireroads. Long gradual climbs up into the hills, over Kilmashogue mountain, where the rain was starting to increase as well as the wind at any opening in the trees. We descended down along nice technical trails onto the road again before passing close to Glencullen and back up into the hills along a fireroad. The wind began to howl and the rain was getting close to monsoon like as we ascended up to a place called Prince Williams Seat. The ascending and descending was easier than alot of hills I would be used to but the conditions were slowing everyone up. People were thrown to the sides of the paths and some sections of boardwalk were slippy with the heavy rain. I managed to get my second jacket on and was pretty cozy. I stayed with Sinead for the first 20km but decided to move on to the first checkpoint as I was worried about the cutoff time. In the end I reached CP1 after about 2 hours and 40 minutes. A quick change and an addition of a layer of waterproof pants and I was away, can of coke in hand and a nice pot of overnights oats devoured.

The big challenge after checkpoint 1 was going to be Djouce mountain. The weather had now turned into a storm, the higher you went the worse it got. I can’t exactly remember much from Djouce as I just put the head down and went for it. Get through this night and you will get through anything is all I could think. I passed heaps of people in this section as my mountain hiking skills from the past event came into play. The hillier the better for me, unfortunately alot of this course was on road and fireroads but this section over Djouce was probably my strongest leg. The rain was so heavy and the wind so strong that you couldn’t see your feet. The only way I can explain the sensation is if you have ever been in a really powerful shower. Complete monsoon like conditions. The paths were now rivers and the mountainside was just flowing. We ran in 6 inches of water for long sections at the top. The nights hard hiking and running did start a flare-up in my knee however. The injury from 2016 was at me again. I have to diagnose this yet but I think it is either my IT band or my glute that is causing pain to travel to the knee and cause inflamation. I made my way to checkpoint 2 with lots of time to spare and decided to sit, eat, fix my feet and decide if my leg was ok to go on. These decisions are really hard when tired but I had managed 51km and I reckoned I would just try to make it to the next checkpoint and reaccess things once more. The IMRA crew had rashers cooking and were delighted to help out with anything we needed. I used a good 10 minutes in transition to get myself going again and fueled up well. The next section would include alot of ascent but the bad night was over. The deer had started to appear from the woods and the birds were singing their heads off. The worst of it was over, or was it!

After leaving checkpoint two near Laragh we ran along a river before heading up a trail into the forest and back onto a fireroad to ascend up into the hills once more. This ascent went on and on and seemed like forever. The majority of the race between checkpoint two and three was along fireroads meandering the hills and leading all the way to Iron Bridge at checkpoint 3. I did go slightly off trail for a few minutes as I took the old Wicklow Way trail. The yellow man was a bit faded! Either that or I was tiring and things were blurred every now and then. I got back on track quickly once I noticed the track I was on had no footprints. I was back on the road and soon back on another fireroad up into the forest which would take us all the way to Ironbridge, including one or two steep inclines on smaller trails and a fast descent down to Ironbridge. I decided to sit, change shoes and socks, eat a sandwich and a tub of triffle at Ironbridge. I had lots of fruit laid out by the organisers and a bit of banter with the race director about my new shiny shoes I had just put on. I had orange shoes and a bright red top. I remarked that there would be no problem finding me in a ditch after this . I was about to step into the unknown of 80 plus kilometres of racing. I had almost two marathons under me in about ten and a half hours at this stage. Apart from my knee I actually felt really good. The food really picked up my spirits and in the next hour I would gain a few more places. They say this is where the race begins, for me it was an unknown and I just wanted the finish line to be my motivator. The final marathon would turn out to be the longest of my life.

As I ran up the next fireroad I felt good but was soon passed by a little guy who was just cruising and looked as happy as could be. He stopped off for a sausage sandwich soon after this, I passed him and a few hours later he passed me again. It would turn out to be Graham Bushe who was doing the course out and back, a total of 260km. Incredible fitness. I soon caught up with a guy that would end up being my saviour on the day. Liam Costello was his name, only running marathons as few years but he had 100 mile races under his belt and was taking part in this race for the 4th time. Liam only started running when he was 35 and has some amazing results including a 5th place in the Wicklow Way under him. This just shows that even when a bit older you can start running and accomplish some great things. My right knee and pretty much my whole right leg was now hurting and as we pushed towards the 100km mark I had to stop once or twice to try and ease the pain. I stuck my leg in a cattle feeding trough as well as using my buff and water to try cool off the knee. The pain wouldn’t ease until Liam produced some nurofen and within 30 minutes the pain was alot better and I managed to push on once more. The section between checkpoint 3 and 4, at the Dying Cow Pub, was by far the longest in the race. It really felt alot more than 22km and I think it took us well over 3 hours. This would of been a really tough stage mentally were it not for the help of Liam.

The Dying Cow was a great opportunity to eat and Lillian, one of the event organisers and an ultra runner herself, iced my leg and rubbed some heat into it. Pshychologically this helped alot. I ate as much as I could here and we hit off to take on the three hills, including a hill named by the race as coronory hill. This next stage was only 11km. I was fine on the uphills all day, the downhills were my main issue with the knee. The final hill on this stage at coronory hill was steep but once again not a major problem. I knew at this stage that I had a great chance of making the finish. In the end what was 16 more kilometres after 111km of racing!

The final stage felt like an age, fireroad after fireroad with steep descents and grassy trails. We made our way to the main road where we had a 5km road run/shuffle/walk to the finish. Every time the road flattened out we would jesture to one another that it was time to shuffle again. Every time a slight incline came in the road we would hike once more. And so it went on for 5km, the longest 5km of my life so far. We finally saw the sign for Clonegal and the finish line was around the corner. We gave one last push to run to the line and what a feeling. I was now an ultra runner!!

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Liam Costello just before the finish line

If I were to sum up this race I would say it was pretty epic (weather wise), not the most amazing course I have seen but definately an unbelievable race. I met accomplished ultra runners and felt like a complete novice most of the day. I probably learnt more about running and about myself than ever before and would go back to try and push up the field some time again. I finished in a time of 18 hours and 53 minutes in 18th place. Not bad for my first day over 70km. The finish line is what is important in ultra running and the placing meant very little to most. Sinead finished not long after me, an incredible accomplishment for her and once again it shows what the right training and the right mindset can achieve.

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Ultra runner!!

Next up is the Snowdonia marathon in July. Rest, rest and more rest is needed now. Am I hooked on ultra running? Probably almost hooked but for now the marathon is a long enough distance for me and hopefully the multisport races will return to the schedule soon enough.

Western Way Galway

The highlight of last week was a training session on the Western Way with my good training buddie Sinead Keogh. Sinead is taking part in the Wicklow Way Race so no better person to talk strategies with over a long run.

20170517_202449Sinead Keogh cruising on the Westrn Way.

After a long days work, starting at 4am and finishing at lunch time, I managed an hours sleep before setting off for Oughterard. The Western Way is 179 kilometres in length and someday I may take this on. It goes from Oughterard in Co. Galway to Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. Last Wednesday was more of a “time on the legs” training session. We decided to tackle 21km of the Western Way from Oughterard to the end of the boardwalk between Maam and Maamcross. We would return on the same route to Oughterard. A total of just over 41 kilometres on my garmin in the end but I didn’t count the first 500 metres walking at the start and the finish!

The full route and stats can be seen here for those interested. The course took us along the Gleann road with Lough Corrib on our right all the way. The evening was gorgeous and the anglers, enjoying the peak of the mayfly season were staying on the water a little later than usual. We would follow the road along the shoreline for 15km before a short bog run and then a few miles on the boardwalk. We met sheep, lambs, lots of flies and the odd local wondering what we were at heading out the road this time of the evening. Everyone was really friendly although one car did stop suddenly thinking we were larger than we looked. After leaving the road the boardwalk was tricky and our pace dropped considerably. Keeping in mind we were running slowly as pace was not important on such a run. I tripped and saved my fall about three times on the boardwalk, while Sinead only had one mini tumble. We were proud of our saves rather than the expected face plants. We followed the boardwalk along the river, passed some mini waterfalls and through the forestry meeting two people and their dog at one point, as surprised to see us as we were them.

As the western way meanders around the Maam Turk’s and leaves Galway it passes through an old haunt of mine on the Erriff Fishery at Aasleagh Lodge in Leenane. The Aashleagh cottages have recently been taken over by friends of mine. Joanna and Richie are setting out on an adventure of their own as they will take care of the running of the cottages and hope to attract fishermen to stay there during the fishing season and over a longer season hikers, mountain runners and adventure enthusiasts. The place is a perfect location for setting out on day trips to the Ben’s, the Turk’s, Mweelrea and various other mountains, not to mention Killary Fjord and it’s adventure centres at Delphi and Killary. The area is so beautiful and a few days holiday here ereally does take you into the wilds.

Check out the link below for all the information needed.

Aashleagh Cottages

We reached the end of the boardwalk in around 2 hours, refilled our water bottles from a local stream and turned for home as a shower rolled in across the Maam Turk’s. The rain left a nice film of water on the boardwalk, which went from trippy to slippy in seconds!

20170517_202548Coming off the boardwalk and onto the trail leading back to the Gleann Road.

The Hill of Doon is in the background of the photo above. Some of you may remember this from my training sessions last summer before the ITERA adventure race. My kayak training took place here. It was, quite ironically, also the exact location where the race finished for us, competitively at least, during that stormy night.

We began to slow a little around the 30km mark and were amazed at the amount of hills on the way back. I never realised that a seemingly flat road going one direction would be incredibly hilly in the other. Then again we had done 30km already in the middle of a weeks training. We ran all the hills, some slowly and Sinead mentioned screaming calves once or twice, but we kept moving nicely. I ate one mars bar during the run and drank nearly three bottles of water but generally felt good. Our tactical race chats were great as well as general random stories. The time flies when you run and chat. As we both said, there is no way we would run 42km alone on a Wednesday evening without good company. The topic of racing disappeared and the idea of food and getting home began as we saw the finish wasn’t far off. I mentioned soaking the legs in the Corrib before we went home and Sinead agreed it was a good plan. We arrived at the car as the light faded and popped down to the pier for a freezing soak before heading for Galway. Not a bad Wednesday evening.

As my manager said after we got promoted on Saturday. “sure your going alright, a marathon between soccer training on a Tuesday and Thursday isn’t too bad”. A massive shout out to all involved with Maree Oranmore FC on our promotion to the Premier division. What an effort by everyone. A proud day for myself and a few of the older lads as well, we have fought long and hard to get back to the top after 5 years in the first division.