Northern Sweden

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Sunset at Hallan

The last few weeks were spent travelling to the US for a wedding and from there straight to Sweden for a few weeks holiday. The picture above probably says it all. It was no doubt one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen and apparently nothing like those in the few weeks before we arrived. This was out at, Hallan, a little seaside summer house on an island.  We went fishing, swimming, spent lots time in the sauna and during the day hit the mainland for a run or two. We even made our own yoga/gym in the woods near the house, just to stay moving while eating more than usual, which was nice. We ate perch, caught fresh during the day and enjoyed all the usual Swedish dishes as well as the all important Fika once a day. Coffee, but coffee Swedish style. They really make the best coffee in the world. I have been turned! A massive thanks to Emma’s folks, Runar and Lotta, for being the greatest hosts and we really enjoy spending time with them. We had some fun picking blueberries and finding mushrooms while on a cloudberry hunt. All part of the Swedish adventure.

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Dinner time! At least I managed to cook the veg.

The weather was excellent the first few days and it wasn’t until my return from a nice 24km run on the mainland that the rain arrived. I got a nice soaking but it was good getting a few miles in after a week or two of very low mileage. This being said I needed the break and I worked on strength most days making sure I am strong and healthy with the big one just around the corner.

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More Fishing !

It is hard to stop me fishing in Sweden. The views, the crystal clear waters and the prospect of some great fish make it a unique place to spend time.

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Fishing Saxnas, Dry fly for Grayling.

Our next stop was a 4 hour drive north to a little cabin by the Vindel River, more commonly known as Vindelalven in Swedish. I won’t go into detail but in order to make River status in Sweden you have to be pretty bloody big. This river is a tributary of the Ume River and the Vindel itself is 445km long. There are so many Swedish rivers of this length and longer it is hard to get your head around the amount of water and then the vast mountains where these rivers find their source. Many of the rivers originate in the mountains in Northern Norway winding their way all the way to the sea along the Swedish coast.

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Result, dinner served.

I would stick to fishing the area just on front of the cabin and had some great fun catching lots of grayling and one trout over the few days. After a few days by the river the mountains were calling so off to the Kungsleden we went to recci some of this famous trail for a bigger trip hopefully in the next year or two.

We drove North to a little town called Ammarnas, famous for trout and grayling fishing as well as being a stop off for skiers and hikers on the Kungsleden. Here we parked up and started our hike towards Servestugan.

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Well marked Kungsleden, start at Ammarnas.

This section of the Kungsleden is the last section if travelling North to South and is called the Ammarnas-Hemavan section. You could start in Hemavan and hike the entire trail, south to north as well, 450km north to Abisko. In general the times given to hike on the Kungsleden are generous as most people hike with 15kg plus on their backs. We only had about 7kg so we were able to power hike and make the 26km in 6 hours which was good going. The elevation turned out a lot easier than I expected, the Irish and English, not to mention the recent hills on La Palma being huge mountains compared to this hike. We topped out at around 1100 metres and would spend the night at around 600metres. There are of course massive mountains in this range but our hike was one of the more forgiving in terms of elevation. The panoramic views were incredible, vast wilderness as far as the eye could see, once the rain lifted that was.

On our final descent towards our stay for the night we met a heard of reindeer, coming closer than usual according to Emma. They made a U shaped journey around us as we stood and admired these fabulous animals. The vastness of these mountain ranges means you rarely get this close to the animals so we felt lucky with our encounter. We didn’t manage to spot a moose or meet a bear on this occasion! There is a short clip including our reindeer encounter in the video at the end of this post.

Our return hike was less interesting with long sections of boardwalk in the woods. The woods were quiet and beautiful for the first hour but after a while I wished for a little change in the view. Finally I was rewarded with this.

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Return hike to Ammarnas

And this was the view looking back up along the lake we had hiked along coming from Servestugan back to Ammarnas. Emma looking fresh as could be after hiking over 11 hours in the two days. We arrived back to the car in the early afternoon giving us most of the day to make our way back to Umea. It was sad to say goodbye to the Swedish mountains for possibly a year again. Some day we will spend more time up there in the vast clean landscape of the North.

So after three weeks of fun it’s back to job searching and then there is the small matter of the CCC in exactly two weeks to the day. What do I do training wise, taper wise now? Will I risk injury by training more? Have I lost some fitness on holidays? Have I raced too much this year already? Am I perfectly ready for it? These are the questions to be answered in my next post early next week. I’ve some thinking to do on the matter!!

 

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Race Report, SCOTT Snowdonia Trail Marathon 2018

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Llanberis, Snowdonia, Wales

It was back to Snowdonia last weekend for a repeat of 2017 and the hope of another great race on an amazing course. We travelled up on Saturday early in time to get a nice spot by the lake in Llanberis for a swim and a long barbeque. The day was a long one with an early start in Bristol as well as a short nights sleep. Not the greatest race prep but I really enjoyed the day, met up with some local friends and some Irish buddies over to take part in the race. We enjoyed the chill time either side of the hard work.

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Inside the first 10km, cruising..

As already posted last week, I explained how hard this race is, but also how I had enjoyed my 2017 experience and was really chuffed to finish in 14th overall. This year would be much drier on the course and a bit hotter, around 21 degrees but all in all I had a race plan to try and beat my 2017 time and see where I was. So here goes!!

The course is basically made up of a decent hill to start and an incredibly decent hill to finish, that being Snowdon Mountain. With this in mind I decided to try to take on the first hill without quite going into the red and then maintain a steady pace for the flatter sections before giving Snowdon a good lash. Smash, bang, wollop, this all went a bit pear-shaped to say the least!

I can remember one of the first checks of my watch was at the 10km mark and I realised I had gone up over and down the first hill in 50 minutes. Too fast? Well maybe too fast but time would tell. I felt strong but had I gone off my original track of not going too hard. I was in 10th position or thereabouts, far too high up, in hindsight, at this stage as my strength would come in the latter stages if I raced smart. I was running with my usual Tailwind in my water bottles and had decided to carry enough water and jellies to last me until the mountain. I think my nutrition was working but something started to go wrong around the 17km mark when my whole body became more tired than it should be. The terrain early on is reasonably technical with a slog to the top of the first hill and then a fast descent as far as the first checkpoint. At this point you hit a gravel trail and follow it around a lake, through forestry trail until arriving in a little village and the next checkpoint. It was towards the end of this section I started to think I had gone a bit hard early on. Now it totally remains to be seen whether this was the case, did I just have a bad day, or have I raced and trained too much in the last 6 months? Who really knows, maybe I wasn’t enjoying the race as much as I should and when you stop enjoying yourself it really can go very wrong. I met a fellow runner and we discussed briefly how we felt pretty crap. We both decided that the next time we felt good we would enjoy that moment, as long as it lasted!

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Start of climb to Pen Y Pass, Snowdon base.

Outside of this developing tiredness and realising this was going to be one of those really tough days, when it just wasn’t all in my tank, I did take in some of the amazing views. The countryside all around me was just buzzing, not to mention those vast mountains looking over us all day. The earth was totally scorched from the dry spell, in comparison to a wet, lush green course in 2017. It is an incredible route and one to savour, no matter how sore you are. Around the 21km mark we started to meet the ultra runners, on the 61km course and I thought to myself how I have become an ultrarunner in the last year. What I have accomplished in the last year and the mileage I have put in, sure I am bound to have a bad mountain marathon every now and then. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and just get on with it. It is all preparation for France in August and you are a lucky person to be in the position to run in the top 20 of any marathon”. This was me talking to myself throughout. Anyone that runs long distance has these constant conversations with themselves. It is all about coming out on top in a positive way. It is way too easy to get bogged down and think negatively when things go wrong.

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End of Snowdon Climb at around 995metres

I arrived at the base of Snowdon climb in 2 hours and 45 minutes, 32km into the race and 8 minutes ahead of last years time. This was a boost to my morale considering I had been passed by up to 10 runners and was feeling spent. I would lose some of this time before the finish, mainly because the first half of Snowdon was awful. I couldn’t get my legs going on the climb, sometimes almost stopping. The second half improved as I chewed on some jellies, barely able to swallow, but gradually the legs began to move. I finished the climb in a stronger fashion and began to descend out of the mist in what was a long 8km decent on tired legs. I admired the train tracks on my left, thinking a train ride down wouldn’t be the worst thing right now.

It may seem funny to people who have read my race reports, that this post is such a downer, after some really good races this year, especially that it was a mere 44km race. The thing about the shorter distances, when you get into long distance running, is that you go harder and the body takes a different type of beating. I was clever in recent races such as Transvulcania and the Maurice Mullins ultra in my race strategies. This time around I got things a little wrong, maybe not on the day, but definitely a mixture of race prep and my actually attack on the day. I truly believe that it is never until you are out there that you have an idea how your day will go. If prepared to the last it can still unwind with the drop of a hat. The body and even more so the mind have their own ideas planned for you and sometimes you just need to go with the flow.

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Descent off Snowdon, the finish in sight.

As you can see my spirits were lifted as I came off Snowdon, briefly halted by some awful stomach cramps, random but they came and went. I managed to gain a place or two on the way down and finished the 43.7km in 4.27.40, about a minute and a half faster than 2017 and in 18th place. I was actually 3rd in the over 35 category but we won’t dwell on that one. In my book it was one of the worst performances this year but in saying that, when you race badly and still finish in a good position, in one piece and ahead of a previous time things must be going pretty well. I often thought when coaching football that if we could play badly and still scrape a good result it was the sign of a really good team, so lets hope the same applies to my running!

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A smile of delight and relief at the line.

I met Emma soon after crossing the line and she had taken time off her previous half marathon from last year as well, so all in all a good day. The rest of the gang all finished the race, not a scratch to be seen and we enjoyed a swim and a nice feast with a few pints in Caernarfon in the evening. All I can say is bring on next year. Maybe throw my name in for the Ultra?!

Below is a brief clip from my very average go pro footage during the race. This gives you an idea how I felt, not sounding the most positive at times but these are the days that count in the long term. Get through the tough ones and the rest is a piece of cake!

 

And last but not least, the course overview thanks to Suunto.

 

 

Training Thoughts

I decided to write down some thoughts on my training and share with you. You can place the following headings in any order. Mine are probably in this order but it varies. All these headings are combined with a goal at the end to keep the motivation levels high.

  1. Enjoyment
  2. Hills
  3. Mileage
  4. Sleep
  5. Hydration and Nutrition
  6. Strength, Cross Training and Bike

These are my 6 main headings for any weeks training. I vary my training and listen to my body and mind as best I can. Looking at my training over the past few years I would say things have gone well, I have been relatively injury free, have finished every race I have started and I train roughly 10 hours a week. This time may go up to 20 or down to 5 on certain weeks between racing but in general I use about 10-15 as my baseline. I reckon quality training rather than quantity of training works best for me. Some people prefer big mileage but in my experience you will gain most of this in races. This is not saying that you only do a long run of 10km a week when preparing for an ultramarathon but you can run a strong half marathon distance in training on the weekend meaning you can train again on Monday. Is there any point running 50 or 60km on the weekend and not being able to move until Wednesday the next week? There is little benefit in the long term in training that way.
1.Enjoyment

Yes this has to be number one. All  runners, whether pro or recreational, have days when they don’t enjoy their training. In my experience if I have a day like this I will take two days off, hop on the bike, go to the gym,do some yoga or do very little training at all. The benefits are amazing because when you go back running you realise this is what I love and you’re usually revived to go again. Sometimes the best thing in the world is a break if you are someone that trains on a regular basis. I get that feeling of why am I not training or I haven’t trained in two whole days, am I getting unfit? This is a normal feeling and usually when I head back out on a run I suddenly have that passion for it again and I have no fatigue in the legs.
On your long runs knock back the speed, run comfortably and slowly and take in the surroundings, run the trails, forests, hills and mountains. Make this sport a lifestyle where you can get fit through having fun. Then during the week do a half hour speed session and another on your local hill and break yourself in half to get fitter and faster. This may not sound like enjoyment but you will enjoy the longer slower runs and the rest of life too if you are fit and healthy.
2. Hills
Yes hills are my number two! I love hills, you go up and up and can hardly breath and then you sprint down like a goat with a jaguar on it’s ass. Can’t beat them. Some have steps, some are long and undulating, some are stony and some grassy like ice. Most people hate them but once I train on hills, I see benefits. I have raced before on mountains on untrained legs when it came to the uphill and downhill and paid the price. You have to do hills to run races in the hills. It may sound simple but people think if they can run a marathon on the flat they will be fine in the mountains. The other angle to this is that those that want to run a marathon on the flat or the road can benefit from gaining strength and speed by running the hills.
On my usual week I hope to get two hill repeat session in during the week and then a long hilly trail run on the weekend. This is all life really gives in terms of time anyhow. Aside from this I will run a speed session and a tempo run on the road or trail midweek as well.
Hill Session 1
Pick a hill nearby, maybe about 2-4km from the house as a warmup jog. A short steep hill of no more than 200 metres in length. Start by running the hill as fast as you can, even if only walking pace. Then gradually add in a rep or two a week plus more speed and before long you will see results. I tend to run my short hill repeat workout early in the week, doing 5 to 10 repeats on the hill with 90 secs off between reps. You need to run up so that at the top you cannot breath or speak and after 90 seconds you run back down the hill as fast and controlled as you can. At the bottom take about 30 seconds break and then repeat. It’s mighty !!
Hill Session 2
Find a different hill to your early week session. This may be on a Thursday giving yourself a little bit of a break before the weekend, depending on how you feel.
This should be a longer more gradual hill and you will repeat the same session as above except that you will run a more controlled, race pace up and down the hill. If you use heart rate I would say about 80% is perfect. I have recently stopped using heartrate as I feel I can listen to my body more without it. It is very beneficial but not to me in my current training.
Hill Session 3
This is your day out on race like terrain. As a mountain, fell or ultrarunner you need to spend time in the mountains. Drive their and head out on the trails or up the side of your local mountain and have the craic ( as we say in Ireland) Make it a long one, a reasonably slow one and practice hiking uphill as well as running the more technical ground.

3. Mileage
I won’t dwell on this but you do need to put mileage in the legs. Whether it is for a 5km or 200km event you need to know your abilities and strengths. I am a low enough mileage runner, only running 50km or thereabouts most weeks with exceptions to that rule but in general I vary my training too much to run any further. It works for me. It is about being confident in your own training and what I write here might be a guide to someone at some stage.
4. Sleep
Possibly the most important of all in my opinion. You have to recover. If you don’t get the recovery the training is fruitless. Your muscles need this time to rebuild and it is an injury prevention method. Many people overlook sleep and in my view it is massive. I like to try sleep 8 hours a night and if you can get those few hours before midnight in all the better. I have started running more in the mornings of late but this means an early night. Otherwise I am running on tired legs and tired mind which is a recipe for disaster.
5. Hydration and Nutrition

Once again I repeat- “what works for you is best” However, I will throw in a few of my tips from experience over the last few years.
These ideas for training are pretty much the same as when racing. You need to use hydration and food in your training the same as you will on race day. It improves your systems ability to ingest what feels best.

Before Race
Ask yourself- What do you normally eat?
Pre race nutrition and hydration for me is a daily life routine of good food. It is not about what you eat the day or the week before a race. Carb loading to me is complete waffle. I don’t want to throw a pile of pasta into my belly the night before a race after not touching pasta for a month. Don’t shock the system. Maybe eat a little bit more than you usually do, but of the same foods. Stick to as much protein and fat as you can and eat vegetables forever more.
I wont go into the types of foods here but will in a post in the upcoming days.
During Race
We are all going to be racing different distances at our own paces, however I have a few ideas that have worked well for me in recent times.
An example of this can be seen in my Transvulcania race post. The key to it all has been Tailwind. This fantastic product with some sugar, electrolytes and containing 200 calories can be both your food and drink for almost any distance. I will take two to three bottles containing Tailwind, as well as maybe 3 gels and then eat some fruit and jellies at aid stations as I feel I need them. The number one is Hydration during a race, with more sugar as you get towards the pointy end of the race for that last push.
After Race
Post training or racing it is mostly about protein and rehydration. Make sure to take on as much fluids as you can and get a protein shake or a good portion of protein in you food in as soon as you can. Remember the muscles need this to recover and you will be a lot sorer the following day if you are lazy with food and water post race.
6. Strength, cross training and the bike.

As runners these are all for injury prevention. I do some multisport racing so I like to get out on the bike a few times a week, however I think it is so beneficial to everyone to throw in a strength class or two or just spend a few hours in your week exercising in a different way to running. You will get stronger and the legs are getting a welcome break.
Your running form improves with a strong core and you can run faster for longer once all the muscle, especially in the hips, glutes and back are solid and flexible.

Scott Snowdonia Marathon

Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon is on next Sunday week, the 15th of July. I thought a quick re hash of the race would be nice both for myself and others interested in my take on last years race. a super event.

Lonan O'Farrell

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…

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Nutty Oat Cookies Recipe

Yes the moment has arrived. I know everyone has been glued to their phones awaiting the promised recipe after my post yesterday. See below for pure and utter tastyness.

Ingredients 

  • 200ml peanut butter
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 200ml gluten free rolled oats
  • 50 gram chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
  2. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the baking powder, oats and salt.
  4. Add dry mixture to wet and beat until combined.
  5. Add the chocolate.
  6. Roll bits of dough into golf ball sized balls and place them on a cooking paper.
  7. Bake at 220 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until centre is cooked through.

Enjoy the results.

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They are a welcome treat after a tough training or even as a snack along the way. When a little moist they really work with a coffee or if your a tea person I’d recommend a nice cup of Barry’s tea! My favourite about 30 minutes after a session. There are plenty options to vary things of course, adding a little protein powder for the post run hit or another addition of your choice. They beat those extra sugary foods we might crave after exercise.

 

Hot Beacons

The Brecon Beacon National Park was our destination last weekend and in 28 degrees of heat it was sure to be a testing weekend for running but a perfect one for camping.

 

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Toasting in the hills.

 

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in south Wales, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park. At 886 metres above sea-level, it is a fine mountain and spans along a group of mountains all with unique long spurs reaching out for miles. I hope to get a chance to head up there next time.  To the mountain runner the area is a dream with vast expanses of running ground down off the peaks on one side and good hard climbs on the other. You can also travel along from peak to peak along cliff like edges. The trails are technical but grassy and fun to run in parts as well.

 

 

The second furthest peak in the video above, of Fan Y Llia peak was our destination on day two. After a few steep climbs and long running in between we completed a 21km out and back run. The climbs were short and steep with over 1300 metres in total. This all on tired legs from a similar long hot run on Saturday in another section of the Brecon range. Training on tired legs is important at times, being aware to be careful of injury but at the same time simulating the racing feeling.

 

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Typical Brecon view, on a good day.

 

Saturdays run was possibly hotter with the sun never hiding from us in the vast open countryside you can see above. With over 1000 metres of vertical we were nicely wrecked by the end but some good Swedish coffee (with lots of double cream) and homemade cookies we replenished quickly! Recipe to follow tomorrow…

 

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Nutty oat cookies and Swedish coffee with just a wee bit of cream!

 

The Brecon Beacons are only an hour and a half away from Bristol and with endless opportunities to train here I will be back a lot. This back to back training on similar ground to Snowdonia should stand to me on Sunday week as I take on the Scott Snowdonia Marathon for the second year in a row. Last year I finished a happy 14th overall, so lets hope I can have a similarly good and even improved performance this time around. I have trained early morning, knocked out some good hill repeats and even managed a few trips out on the bike over the last few weeks, all in the heat, so it should stand to me.

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The weekend was greatly enhanced with more camping in “The Mueller” and in finding some secluded spots with our own private waterfall for a post race cool down, you couldn’t ask for much more, except maybe a little more water in the waterfall. It has been pretty much dry since April!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maverick Inov8 X Series Exmoor

It is quite the name for a race and a mouthful at times so I will just refer to it as the Maverick as I describe last Saturday’s race to you. This mountainous or hilly coastal marathon would start from Caffyns Farm, near Lynton in the Exmoor national park and meander its way along a very hilly coastal route, veering back along some river and farmland valleys before finishing at the farm where our campsite was located. An absolutely brilliant thought on arrival to think that you would camp at the start line and finish at the camper the next afternoon.

We arrived on Friday night and camped within 100 metres of the start line and registration which would take place first thing in the morning. The numbers were small enough for the first outing of this particular race. Looking at the course I knew it was going to be a gruelling race with hills throughout. The ascent at about 1880 metres and the same in descent. Emma was taking part in a 15km route and there was a 21km route as well, all starting at the same time and place with the others heading off the marathon route to head for home earlier. This would be a little confusing for the first hour of the race with half marathon and 15km speed runners running with the front marathoners. As I mentioned in previous posts I intended to use this and Snowdonia in July as build up races towards CCC. They are a lot shorter but if I push that bit faster and not to the complete limit they should stand to me well come the end of August.

 

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Coastal section near Lynmouth

 

A little extra motivation at the start was knowing that I would build up another 2 UTMB points if I finished this one, maybe not significant now, but you never know when they might be handy. I hoped it would attract a few good runners to the race as well. Race briefing was nice and brief, of all things, and at 9.05am we were off. The run took off fast as always with one dude, there is bound to be one, taking off at 90mph. We took a left out of the farm aiming towards the coast and the next few kilometres was fast and downhill. Grassy fields and downhill are fun but these quickly led to trickier trails of hard mud through some forestry. A nasty little climb early on started to spread the field a bit and I sat a bit behind the leaders to get myself warmed up. It didn’t take long before I passed that speedy front runner from the start-line. There were a few ahead of me as we came over the first hill and descended to Lynmouth, a lovely town by the sea, at about 7km. The 15km route went straight on while the rest took a left along the coast and up a steep trail with some nice little switchbacks. There were about 6 or 7 runners ahead of me but I knew a few of these would be shorter course runners. The next few kilometres were fabulous as we climbed a little and then ran along the edge of the rolling hills, massive views of the sea below but concentration was key on some narrow trails, running at a decent speed for the marathon distance.

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Another 4km in and the half marathoner’s took a right towards home and the rest of us took a left continuing to hug the coast. The trail turned tricky with some fast downhill and bumpy ground underfoot. Basically holes all over the place in the grass. A little bit like a field that the cows were let into while wet and then it dries up leaving holes everywhere. So after holding my breadth running these downhills, we were led along the coast and into a really technical rocky section along the cliff edge, certain death on the left and hopeful falling ground on the right. The trail meandered along before heading inland a bit and into a big long uphill on a side road. I started to catch the guy on front of me on the uphill and as I fast hiked he was trying to run. We reached the top of the road section and returned onto the trail once more. The guy ahead was running most of the hills and I knew there was a chance this would catch him. I continued to hike the majority of the hills and within 15 minutes I passed him on a downhill. Long distance experience and patience starting to pay off maybe. What I didn’t yet realise was that the two guys I could see rounding a headland about 1km ahead were 1st and 2nd and I had just popped into 3rd place.

At about 15km after a quick water stop the trail joined a section of the Coastal path we had trained on a few weeks ago. Knowing the route is massive and locals always have an advantage. This short section was the only place in the race where I was comfortable to speed up and slow down knowing what was around the next bend. A few short up hills, a few speedy short down hills and ducking my way along the trail under some low lying branches followed until the blue race markers told me to take a right. The next 15 minutes was a constant steep climb up the side of a grassy hill. I knew if I stuck to my solid hiking pace up this hill it would leave a good few behind me with work to do and hoped maybe one of the two ahead might tire as the race went into it’s second half. I was happy with my hike up that hill but when I started running on the flat at the top I could feel it’s effects.

 

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A nice gradual descent.

 

The terrain turned into farmland and long flat fields for a short period before descending along a fence on a narrow trail towards the next checkpoint, as the rain started to come down. A lovely sight for a melting Irish lad. The light mist cooled me down and as I thought how lovely it was I forgot all about the fact that rain wets the ground and ended up on my ass in the ditch laughing at myself. The checkpoint at 26km came along soon. I didn’t stop at all as I had a good stash of water and a few gels if needed. I had filled my bottle with Tailwind at the last water station so knew I was good for grub for the time being. I confidently ran past the guy with the water and of up the trail only to realise I probably should of taken the left trail. I quickly shouted to the guy who said , “yes left, left, and wipe that sweat from you brow”. Well said I thought, can’t beat something amusing on a day where you end up racing some quiet countryside alone. The gaps turned out so big between runners that I never saw another runner between 12km and the finish.

 

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Watching my steps a bit closer now!

 

The next 11km of the course were spectacular as the hard mud trail wound it’s way along the side of the hills, throwing in a few lumps to slow me down as well as a good strong wind. The wind, however, was mostly a tailwind and I felt lucky once or twice as it pushed me up and over the hills. The trail descended at around 28km towards a river and I followed the river for what seemed a good distance. The ground here was flat and runnable at a good pace. I wasn’t beating speed records but I was running at around 4.40 minutes per kilometre most of the time. The river was crystal clear and I almost stopped to chat to a fisherman, keen to know what he might be after in a nice fishing spot below a waterfall. I thought, for once I better keep moving, I had second place to catch.

 

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At the end of the River section, around 34km.

 

It is always a huge motivator if you’re in a good position in a race. You have something to fight for as well as an even better prize up ahead. I realised I hadn’t seen my competitors up ahead on the long open sections and most likely wouldn’t catch them. My friend at the last checkpoint had told me I was in third, as did a cameraman soon after, so I had something strong to hold on to for the last 16km. This would prove so important as the final 10km of the race turned into a real uphill struggle. I don’t mean that I was completely out on my feet but I mean, literally it was all hills. There were three biggish climbs and in between lots of small ones. This was all perfect for my style of race, but as you know, a marathon is a marathon and when you throw in 1800 metres of up into it you are going to tire towards the end, especially if a good portion of the climbs are in the final quarter of the race. This is how it feels when the legs are tired of course. I managed to hike (at a slower pace than previously) up the rest of these hills and continued to run downhill quite fast, Transvulcania paying off here I reckon. The final long uphill was on a paved road, not something a trail runner enjoys at the end of a race, but in fairness it did make the course a real cracker in terms of variation. With 3km to go the kilometre markers started saying only 3km until you are a Maverick. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but sure it was something to take my mind off the pain. I never laid eyes on 2nd place but finished the race pretty strongly in 4 hours and 1 minute to be met by Emma at the line. She had completed the 15km and looks forward to giving the Snowdonia half a go once again next month.

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Just across the line
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Moments later with a finish line beer (I thought was lemonade!)

The rain started again so we quickly returned to ‘The Mueller’ and set up camp for the night.

You can’t beat some downtime after a long run. I was thrilled to get a podium place of course and hope to push on from here and try to improve on last years place in Snowdonia, enjoying what is a classic race at the same time. Thanks to the Maverick Race crew for a brilliantly laid out course with good water stops. The event was a bit dampened by the wind and rain at the finish line but with such a good location I hope to be back again some day.

https://www.resultsbase.net/event/4340/results

 

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Now I’m a Maverick!!