Gaelforce Dublin Report

Race start
Gaelforce Dublin start

It had been almost a year since ‘The Race’ in Donegal. Hard to believe it and even harder to believe, despite all the races and events I hadn’t taken part in a multi sport race since. My training certainly wasn’t race specific and with Donadea 50k still in the legs I knew I was in for a slog. There was no prior warning as to what the Dublin hills are like though! Nasty little buggers!

I knew the field of athletes was strong and that it would be quick from the off. This would be the case throughout. I arrived to registration with Lisa, my sister as support and met up with some more guys from the West as well as a few well known racers from the last few years. My friend Dave was taking part in his first ever multi sport race and had used a training plan of mine to train up. I had everything crossed for him in hope he would enjoy it and do well.

The start was at 9.30 on the dot, all extremely well organised by the gaelforce crew. They were excellent throughout. We sprinted around the first kilometre and I hoped to hang on to the lead group as we headed out on the bike. It was soon everyone for themselves as the hills came thick and fast. The hills turned into farm tracks and there was no option but to run with the bike or be certain of a puncture. I was sitting in about 6th at this point, only about 7k into the race but almost all at close to max heart rate. The hills continued with a brief fast downhill section after out second off-road section which was nicely flooded in parts. I realised now how much I missed these adventure type races. Mud from head to toe!

Following a fast downhill we turned into the entrance for the reservoir and reached the bike drop before a short kilometre run to the kayaks. I was up to fourth at this stage and sitting on thirds tail. Here I would stay around the loop on the reservoir before exiting the kayak with a completely numb ass. The water was an icy 2degrees and the sit on top kayaks take plenty on board. It must of been 2k into the run before I had any feeling back in the glutes!

Almost at the end of mountain run section.

I settled into the run, briefly moving into 3rd place but realising I had very little in the legs. I felt like I had about 30km ran and legs would only go one pace. I ran the uphill with Matt who was doing, The Race, in a few weeks and was keen to hear all about it, between breaths that was. We climbed for 2km running slowly but steadily as well. The leaders were about 3 minutes ahead by the time we turned to descend back towards the reservoir and the final bike stage. I felt better on the downhill and was delighted to see Dave was cruising around the top 40 and we high fived as I flaked down the hill. Matt was strong and left me for dead on the run, proving I had little in me. I managed to put in a decent effort on the final bike. It included a nasty long climb, literally lung busting all the way, in and out if the saddle the whole time. Following this was a wicked descent, which I was loving until I came into a bad bend too quickly. Slow motion took over as my back wheel lost traction. I ended up slowimg a bit but not enough and before I knew it myself and the bike were somewhere between a barb wire fence and a big tree. My right calf muscle instantly cramped and I let a roar of annoyance out of me. All very good language of course. I hopped back on knowing any ground I made up was now gone and it was a matter of holding 4th to the finish. I flew down into Tallaght and the finish, broke two red lights, clipped a guard that was marshalling a roundabout and bombed down the home straight happy to know the finish was close. I dropped the bike and ran around Shamrock Rovers home ground to finish the 49km course in 2 hours 31 minutes. A happy chappy.

Dave finished in 43rd overall, a phenomenal effort for a first timer and even though he wasn’t ready to hear it, I told him he had a future at this malarchy !!

Thanks to all involved in the organising of the event and to Lisa for her top support as always.

Next up is Transvulcania in May. There will be plenty challenges and training days before then!

Donadea 50km, round and round we go

I arrived in Donadea Forest Park at 8am on Saturday morning. There was a heavy mist but spirits were high. Sinead arrived shortly after but her chest infection meant she was a non runner today. I registered and met a few friendly faces along the way. This was once again a run into the unknown for me. The race consisted of 10 laps around a reasonably flat 5km course. The ground was wet but hard with mostly gravel through the forest walking trail.

There were approximately 230 runners signed up and thanks to the race director we had 5 hours to become a Donadea 50km finisher. Anyone after this goes down as dnf (did not finish). The race kicked off bang on ten o clock and straight away the pace was high. Irish champion Gary O Hanlon took off at 17 minute per 5km pace and would hold this throughout. Off with ya, but fair play to ya! I decided soon into the first lap that pacing was impossible due to the GPS dropping continuously in the forest. I would run the whole race on heart rate. Around 150 to 155 throughout, my max being 172. This method was a first as well.

My plan was to run 4.45 min per/km pace for as long as possible but as often happens I changed my plans a lap in. I had to run off feel and heart rate and decided to try run a reasonably fast marathon and then see what was left. Sinead was a terrific help waiting at the start of each loop with water containing Tailwind and a few bits of fruit.

The course started at Donadea castle and once through the finishing shoot, which we would run through 10 times, it looped it’s way around the small forest for 5km. The first kilometre brought us passed a small lake before turning right into the forest, jumping over or running through what became known as the water jump. Just before the 2km mark we had two small gradual hills to run up and over. These were my favourite part, even though they got harder every time around. The course from 2km on scurried it’s way through the forest with nothing too exciting to report. I soon got to know each marshall’s face and I used them as my markers rather than the kilometre marks. I looked forward to seeing them for the last time even though they were such friendly people throughout.

I ran the first 5 loops all in about 22 minutes a piece. This was a nice pace but way faster than I had intended. I decided that this wasn’t really a ‘goal’ race but more a fact finding mission. Could I run on the flat? How long could I maintain this pace following no specific training? Was I mentally prepared for a looped course for the first time ever?

I think I found all my answers and realise I have potential to be good at this but am undecided if it floats my boat like the mountains do!

As the race progressed I slowed down, in fairness I knew this would happen. At about 33km, in my 7th loop I started to feel it. The backs of my legs tightened and my toe issues were annoying me on and off. This all said I went through the marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes or there abouts. The 5 kilometres after the marathon were horrendous as I dropped a good few positions and slowed to a crap pace. I ran through to start my last lap and said to myself to suck things up and finish strong. To blow up at that stage would of been a sickener.

I ran over the finish line in 3 hours and 55 minutes, 5 minutes faster than my target but also knowing I ran a silly race by anyone’s standards. I went out too fast, almost blew up and had planned yo rely on pacing off watch too much. This all said I still reckon these early season races are a time to try new things, experiment and test yourself like you normally wouldn’t. I learnt that presently I have the ability to run a fast marathon, I can run on the flat and could specially train for it and that loops are manageable mentally. Now all I have to do is recover in the next four days before Galeforce Dublin on Saturday !!

As you can see above I  finished 24th overall, 7th in my category of senior male but of course I should of been in over 35 age group and then would of finished 2nd in that category! None of this matters too much but it’s always nice to know you did well.

The magic of sunny Donegal

Horn head near the start of our run

In the barron North West lies probably Ireland’s most fabulous county.  This may be debatable among plenty people but in my opinion on a good day it is very hard to beat Donegal. Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend two days training with my good friend Shaun. I know for many of you that read the blog you have seen my posts and heard me gloat about Donegal before, however last weekend really topped it off for me.

Highest point on our coastal run near Horn Head

On Saturday we ran for two hours through forest, coastal trail, bog, beach, road, (covering 19km, 916 metres ascent, 229metres highest point) and stopping regularly for a photo along the way. It really was a completely epic run. Hugging the cliff tops most of the way we ran at a good clip, almost turning our run into intervals. The wind howled through the crevasses in the cliffs and funnelled through the gaps in the trail that led out across the North Atlantic. We saw waterfalls blowing back up in the air and got soaked while stopping to catch this on camera. I got soaked and Shaun failed to get a photo!

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Grunty the seal

As we ran we were suddenly spooked by movement on the beach. We saw a gorgeous seal cub, possible separated from it’s mother. It made it’s way to some rock pools and with a few grunts told us to leave it’s territory. I hope the little seal makes it through. These coastlines are a harsh climate for even the toughest of animals. We stopped beside a cliff face and watch the gulls as they performed acrobatics trying to land on the cliff. They swooped in, missed their landing and would continue to swoop using the wind and their skill until they could land safely on the cliff edge. Just to think people complain about traffic on the way home. I would take it over the possibility of death by smashing into a cliff face.

One of many beautiful inlets we discovered

We made our way down off the cliffs and onto a beach. A cracking beach near Dunfanaghy with sanddunes spread along it’s entirety. We hopped across some rocks and as I went to land on the beach I lost my footing on both legs and ended up ass down in a stream. Hilarious considering all the nasty terrain we had just covered. I had fallen off a rock and onto the beach from about 6 inches high!! Shaun had a great laugh. There was a cave at the source of the stream I had fallen into. During our little excursion into the cave Shaun found a bone, possibly a dolphin or a whale. I tucked it in my pack and Shaun said a friend of his will ID it for him at some stage. Always nice to have a little find on a trail run.

Sunday was an even sunnier day, with the showers disappearing and a frosty night, the sky was blue and the bikes were calling. We went for a 55km spin out to Rosguil Point and back. This was part of ‘The race’ course last year and the memories flooded back. We had done this route on a training day last year when I had bonked and really hadn’t taken it in properly until this Sunday.

Rosguil point views

The cycle was hilly and a great workout. We slowed up on a few possible icy patches where the road was still sheltered but most of the time we kept pushing on and finished the 55km in around 2 hours. It really is a meca for cycling, no doubt the hilliest cycling in Ireland. Every time I come back I realise I am not half the cyclist I could be. The hills will make sure to let me know.

Decent views?

This trip, however short to Donegal, reminds me that wherever life takes me in the coming years I will no doubt come back to this great part of Ireland to train and enjoy myself. Hopefully this good feeling of enjoying training will lead me into the race in Donadea on Saturday in a good frame of mind. A 50km over 5km loops may not be as scenic as the cliffs at Horn Head but no doubt these images will be in my mind as the pain kicks in on race day.

Croagh Patrick never gets easy

A fun ascent on the quiet side of this great mountain.

Apologies for the poor phone footage above but the weather was stormy. We made the unanimous decision to go to an easily followed track last weekend. We decided on Croagh Patrick and to make the most of a stormier day. Rachel Nolan brought along some of her training buddies. Scott, Deirdre and Frank were great fun and we pushed up Croagh Patrick as fast as the legs would go. I felt pretty good considering a heavy training week before hand and was on the summit in less than 38 minutes. We went down the trail to the West, a more gradual mountain trail than the worn, overused trail in the north side from Murrisk. The day was mild, windy, with cloud on top, but overall it was safe. The video above gives an idea of the wind and the ascent on the less familiar western side. Once up and over and down the far side I doubled back to lengthen my time on legs and went up and down in just over an hour to arrive back to the camper, The Mueller, very tired but satisfied with a good training and a fun day out. It was great to run with this gang, a real hardy bunch. Hopefully we will spend some longer days on the mountains in the future.



Croagh Patrick in the mist.

2018, What lies ahead

I am not quite sure how to top 2017 or where 2018 will take me in terms of this blog. It is a great way for me to follow my own training and racing as well as life in general. I also hope some of my followers are gaining something, if only small, from my posts. It was a nice end to 2017 or start to 2018 really to receive a nice reward from Highpoint Ireland. This link shows the accomplishments of the people that entered their stats into the High Point of the year competition. I used these results more to see the results of the stats that Kieron Gribbon put together and realise what was achieved in 2017. Nearly 21000 metres of ascent in Ireland in 2017 will no doubt be hard to top in 2018, but where there is a challenge there are always possibilities.

I think it is very important to mention that without running mates and family it would be near impossible to ever achieve these goals. Shaun Stewart, if I can mention him again, had an amazing year in 2017. He finished a great year with the birth of his son Joey (future Irish ultrarunning champion no doubt!). He gave me the push to go for the CCC trail race in 2018. Without the likes of Shaun and all the other people connected to my racing there is no way I would keep up the effort. We all need good friends like this to encourage and give us the confidence to challenge ourselves even more. I was so lucky in the draw for CCC and realise that so many more hadn’t the same kind of luck. Because of this I will give the race all I can and surround my other racing around this race for the year.

Check out Highpoint Ireland on Twitter and Facebook for more links to Kieron Gribbons growing site.

I recovered from some form of a flu after Christmas and have launched back into training nicely in the last two weeks. We managed a double hit on Moylussa, the highest point in Co. Clare and some running in Portumna Forest Park last weekend on a two night road trip in the new camper. My camper will be referred to as, The Mueller, from now on. A very fitting name after our little cat Ferris Mueller who passed away during 2017. He was a full on adventurer and that is what I want this van to be.


‘The Mueller’ at Moylussa, overlooking Lough Derg.

Midweek training has been made up of plenty watt biking, some interval running with the club, a few long runs and plenty gym time. I have averaged around 10 hours a week the last two weeks and hope to ramp that up a little for the next two weeks. First up is the Donadea 50km trail run in Kildare on the 10th of February, followed far too closely by Gaelforce Dublin on the 17th.


There I am on the boardwalk near the top of Moylussa. Happy out!

The real question is What Lies Ahead in 2018? Well here is a taster for what I know for now and I may add to this a little as the year rolls on. Surrounding these events I hope to do some multisport races and a few more long runs.

As you can see there is a decent gap after Transvulcania and that will be partly due to the fact that I am moving to the UK in May. Then I want to train hard for the summer leading up to the CCC. Snowdonia will be a nice warm up marathon to see where I am mid summer.

A few more photos, thanks to Emma, from last weekend.

The list above really gives a clear idea of my goals, but all in all I want to stay fit and healthy, injury free and enjoy the move to the UK in 2018. It is a new challenge and one that I can’t wait to begin. No doubt we will return to Ireland but from May onwards my blog will start to venture around the UK. For the time being you will have to put up with lots more West of Ireland adventures.

2017 in one

As storm Eleanor howls in the chimney and I recover from a nasty cold I thought it time for a yearly recap. 

Nice to remember 2017

Race and training wise it really was a good year. My blog has detailed accounts of all the races so this is just a brief summary. I pushed myself to the limit, completing challenges and races I had never even consider a year or two ago. 2016 had been a year marked with injury and picking myself up after the disappointment of the Itera adventure race.

With this in mind I wanted 2017 to go well and started it off with two months of decent training before The Race in Donegal in March. A fourth place finish here in a time of 15 hours and 20 minutes really boosted my confidence to push on. 

David and I after Paris roubaix

A trip to France and Belgium to take on the Paris-Roubaix cycling challenge was next up. It was a bone shaker with an atmosphere. We really enjoyed the day out. 

Myself and Shaun on top of Errigal, the final peak.

Next up was the real high point of the year as myself and Shaun Stewart broke the Irish record for the Fastest Known Time over all 32 county peaks. This challenge really put me to the pin of my collar, running and hiking 160 km with over 10000 metres of vertical in 60 hours and 35minutes. It will be a hard one to follow in 2018 but we are scheming already! 

How i stood up for the photo I will never know!

With the thoughts of CCC qualification points I signed up to the Wicklow way race. 130km later I was lying on the ground unable to move after a painful almost 19 hours. My leg injury from 2016 flaring up badly and testing my mental side for at least half the event. If I ever see a yellow man again !!  

Jurassic coast here we come.

I finally secured my points in Dorset in December with a good 14th place finish in the Ultra. Thanks to my training buddie Sinead who was instrumental in finding a race for the points when my Kerry trip was cut short in a car accident. 
The summer was a mixed bag of training and enjoying trips to Sweden and the UK.  A high point was climbing Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise.  Before this myself and Emma ran in Snowdonia where I finished 14th in the trail marathon and have signed up for 2018 already. A cracking event to look forward to. 

Castlegar Cross Country team.

I started running cross country in the Autumn and ran a few races with the club. I think we medaled in nearly every event and there is no doubt the cross country is a serious way to improve your running strength. A county team medal as well as a bronze county medal topped it off nicely. It is just a shame it isn’t a longer season of cross country races. It has been such fun training and racing with the gang at Castlegar ac.

Gloomy, relentless Mourne Mountain’s.

The Mourne Skyline Marathon was an insane event to say the least. With little time in the hills in the weeks leading up to the race, it nearly did beat me. I had to strain every last bit of will power that day. This is not a race for the faint hearted. An incredible 3500 metres of ascent over only 35km.  Let’s be having ya next year! 

So it is was an incredible year, a successful one, with one first place on the Joyce country challenge, but it was a year to test myself and learn about endurance.

The distance raced in 2017 was 892km, 320 of which was on the bike. So all in all not crazy mileage in races but the training around these was intense with a marathon in training midweek one week and plenty long hours on the hills and roads of the West. I dont really have a yearly mileage as I changed technology a few times. I hope to have more accurate stats this year with my new Suunto Vertical ambit 3 watch. I know there are a few stat heads following the blog so watch this space!

Thanks to all that followed through my fun and pain this year and here’s to a healthy 2018 ahead.

Christmas in the West

I was home for Christmas this year and besides now having a dose of the flu and being pretty rattled by it, I did manage some fun training over the mini break. We completed our annual crossing of the Galtee Mountain range on the 23rd. We were so lucky with a cracking days weather, running more than half the 24km route and enjoying the company of friends along the way.

Galtee mountains. 

Eight of us took on the mountains and everyone enjoyed a ridiculously mild and sunny day for this time of year. The hike includes some steep little sections with a peak height of 909metres on top of Galtymore, one of our 26 peaks back in April! The last time I was there was around 2.30am in the morning. I must say the views and the legs felt a lot better this time. Thanks especially to Rachel Nolan for running the second half with me.
So with some decent training of late I took on the Fields of Athenry 10k on Stephens day. I could feel my throat wasn’t right and I had had sniffles since the Galtees but thought a good run might clear me out. In hindsight I was wrong. In saying this I equalled my pb with a 36.41 finishing time and was happy considering not feeling great. It was fantastic to see over 1000 people running on Boxing day. My last race of a busy year and glad to be able for it, just about.

Running in the club colours. 

Working together we snatched our top 50 jerseys! 

Myself and Sean McDermott paced it out together to the finish. Hopefully I will give this course a go feeling fully fit some day.

Only 12 sleeps to the UTMB draw date. This will define my training for 2018 in many ways. Hopefully some of you can cross those fingers and toes for me on the 11th!

A quick 2017 summary to follow around New Years. I’m not sure where to start and finish that one, but these few sick days will give me time to think.

Galtee’s in the sunshine. 

It’s not a bad spot when the sun shines.