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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

 

Winter Training Continues

It is the 19th of December and at this stage, as far as racing is concerned it looks like most of 2018 will surround my luck in the draw for CCC on the 11th of January. Fingers and toes crossed. In the mean time it was time to enjoy some training and work hard as winter kicks into gear. I actually really enjoy getting a good run at training at this time of year. I think back to this time last year when I was resting up with hip issues and wondering when my training would start for The Race in March! It turned out to be quite the 2017 event wise. It just comes to show what you can achieve in a year, even if the one before wasn’t the success you had wished for. I hope to do a 2017 summary post over the Christmas and finish the year with a lash at a PB in the 10km in Athenry on the 26th as well as a duathlon on the 28th of December.

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Mountain Biking in the Burren.

My weekday training has been high intensity but boring in terms of writing here. Basically working a bit on speed and keeping strong through the winter. It has been a busy year and the legs don’t need crazy distance. The cross trainer is turning out to be a good mate, less impact on dodgy toes and great for full arm and leg workouts. The gym is a great tool all year, particularly in the winter but there is little substitute for the outdoors. I spent two weekends ago in the Burren trashing out some hilly mountain bike trails and then last Sunday I ran up and down Croagh Patrick twice. It is hard to beat the hills. I definately lacked hill training before the Mourne Marathon and paid the price. We all learn from our mistakes and I hope not to make that particular one again. As for training with friends in the hills or wherever your playground is, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. It will clear the head and you make good friends along the way.

This time of year is busy for everyone and a costly time too. The best advice I can give is keep up some short high intensity type training during the break. This of course is if you plan on keeping fitness over the break or just having a total rest period. It is different for everyone and important to do what the body feels up to.  I had a little money saved during 2017 towards races in 2018. In the last few weeks the plans have started to come together and it looks like I have a long list of events already building up. I won’t get into the details but it looks like a start with the Donadea 50km on the 10th of February, followed by a return to multi sport racing with Gaelforce Dublin the following weekend. I plan on entering a few of the duathlon national series races to work on some speed coming into Gaelforce Dublin, depending on free time to enter.  This is my motivation for the winter and I would advise getting a race or two on that calender early, if you feel you need to motivate on these dark evenings.

A little trot and a wander across the Galtee Mountain range is in store for next weekend. We might as well make the most of the 8 hours of light we have. I hope I can get a few photos along the way and make up for the grey misty Croagh Patrick last weekend!

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Goofy on top of Croagh Patrick on Sunday!

The story of the Dorset Ultra 

The Jurassic Coast. 

The Jurassic coast was the location for my next adventure with the Dorset Ultra, one of a series of races in the coastal trail series in the UK. 

The weeks leading up to this 53km Ultra trail marathon had not been ideal. An extremely low mileage count since the Mourne Marathon and no real race based training meant the only thing I had in my locker was rest and good fitness from the bike and cross trainer. Would the long year of events catch up, was my toe possibly broken or would it flare up making this am impossibly long day. There was only one way to find out and that was putting myself in that start line. Times, racing and the usual pressures were off, I had zero race nerves, felt a little nervous about my toe, but stayed positive. Emma was with me and would do the half marathon and Sinead and Owen had travelled from Ireland to take part. Myself and Owen had big plans of 3 and 4 UTMB points needed while Sinead and Emma were happy to knuckle down and run for enjoyment, or madness, who knows! 

A slightly blurry one and a gang selfie near the start.

We arrived on Friday evening and by 8 Saturday we were all ready for the off. The start was in Lulworth Cove, a classic tourist hub on the southwest coast.  It was dry, chilly but not freezing and the course was dry as a bone.

As always I will tell my story of the race, speaking to everyone else there were many ways of looking on the event. The ultra would consist of a 20km loop to the West, a 23km loop to the East, followed by a final 10km loop along the same route as the first 20. This consisted basically of running out the coast in one direction, looping back through farmland and then doing this in the other direction, taking in some stunning scenery as we went. 

Not bad eh! 

We crossed the line at 8.07am. I had promised myself I would enjoy the race, play it very safe until 25km and if toe was still attached by then I would let rip and do some racing. This meant a start mid or almost back of the pack and a slow walk up the first hill. The first of many hills, rolling hills as Shaun Stewart informed me during the year! The first 4km consisted of a few juicy climbs and some nice downhill running in between. I really held back and concentrated on warming up slowly and not pressing over 5min/km on the flats.  I was smiling, breathing easy and soaking up the coastal scenery. It really was fabulous. small fishing amd shrimping boats were heading out for the days work and looked stunning on the flat seas. The terrain was almost all hard mud trail and grass, easy to run on and not too technical. After taking on the early hills the first 20km became alot flatter rolling through farmland. I was in a group of about ten others, constantly changing positions. The other athletes were very friendly but talking was kept to a minimum as we started to concentrate on a long race ahead. I felt extremely good over the first half marathon and spent only a few seconds at a water stop as we came back through Lulworth before heading out on the very hilly second loop to the East. This is when things started to heat up. I had managed to stay comfortably in a roughly yellow zone or there abouts but was soon hitting the orange zone with the hills starting to arrive thick and fast. After leaving Lulworth a real energy zapping stretch of gravel beach came next,  before climbing around a long headland and facing into a steep 180 metre climb just beyond this. The lungs were working, no restbites now. My lack of hill training of late started to catch up on the steep downhill sections as my quads took the brunt of the effort, still very much in pain as I sit here and write! At the 28km mark I knocked back some coke and jellies and this started to bring me out of my first low. My left quad was shouting and my toe gave the odd indication of something to come, but I was 25km from home, time to race.. I had been continuosly picking off runners all day. One or two mini bunches even stopped at aid stations giving me the chance to leap frog here. I was stocked up therefore I paused long enough to re fill water and press on again. I wasn’t counting but I must of passed up to 50 people since the start but really had no clue what position I was in. Top 20 would be kinda nice, whether here to race hard or not! 

I reckon most of the Ultra race competitors found the second loop the real make or break section of the race. If it were a marathon it would be one hell of a tough one. I arrived back into Lulworth for the second time in 4 hours and 40 minutes. As you can see not my fastest trail marathon but I did have a 10km hilly course and some points to sort out on this last 10km mini loop. 

I had a great boost meeting Emma on the course as she tackled the half marathon (26km). Yes it’s true in trail running that the distances are never really measured out! I later met Owen twice on the course as he slogged through 75km ultra plus. I never passed by Sinead which meant her race was going well. 

I set off up the same hill we started on after a minute or two at the marathon finish. A few glasses of flat coke, a banana and some jellies.  Let’s kick this ten kilometres out the gap. The uphills were slow hikes but I did manage to run the downhills, even with the pain increasing in the legs. I had nobody to chase and I couldn’t see anyone behind me over a vast stretch of grassy coastline,  so I kept a steady slow shuffle all the way to the final hill. I powered up the hill as my toe began to throb. “FEIC OFF TOE” I thought, your not gonna stop this now. I ran down to the finish and gave Owen a high five as he headed out with another 30km to put in the bag. It’s a mental battle out there but Owen is experienced. I finished exhausted, but I have been worse in 2017. I never smiled as much in a race and was rarely as nerve free before hand. A finish time of 5 hours and 53 minutes wasn’t bad and 14th place overall. After some real tough races this one has warmed me to Ultra’s once again.

Most importantly all four of us finished happy and safe. I saw Emma’s finish and we were all there for Owen a few hours later as he hammered down the final hill in the dark. There was a 33% drop out in the Ultra plus so Owen’s achievement was excellent. As with all the events I take part in it is the finish that is most rewarding for everyone. I hope to post some finish photos during the week. For now here is my race tracker, courtesy of my new Suunto ambit 3 vertical watch.. An early Christmas present. I missed the first 5 kilometres but it gives you most of the route. 

Next up? The draw for CCC in Chamonix, France next year. It will shape my year if I get in but we will see how it goes! 

Massive thanks again to Emma, Sinead and Owen who made Dorset a race to remember. The races with friends are easier, can’t beat having people to chat things through pre race and most importantly the big cheers with a few pints afterwards! 

Spin it Out and Suck it Up

You may be wondering what this strange title is about? The past couple of weeks have been a bit strange with some good training, some sickness and an unusual toe injury but after some stress and anger about the timing of my injury I decided to just hop on the cross trainer and the bike, work hard and suck it up. I am lucky to be able to train at all and a minor toe injury will pass, hopefully in time for the Dorset Ultra in 11 days!

I am currently working on some mini foam rolling of my toe as well as getting physio to try to work out the problem. It means lots of time spent in the gym. I think alot of people see injury as a rest period but very often we can work on our strength and endurance as long as we don’t activate the injury more. This is my theory at the moment anyhow. I am not saying rest is a bad thing during injury, it is definately needed, but apart from the fact that I am probably addicted to exercise, it also keeps my head in the right place to get through the injury.

The days are shorter all of a sudden and training gets harder at this time of year, but with good motivation alot can be achieved in the gym and out and about at weekends. I think everyone should have a winter goal to get them through the darker, wetter days and for me this goal, for now, is the Dorset Ultramarathon.  As I mentioned before if I finish I will have my 8 points to enter the draw for the CCC Mont Blanc next year. The 5 points gained in Wicklow Way race along with my possible 3 in Dorset give me this chance. Whether my toe will allow this to happen or not is another story yet to be told.

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A recent long run in Bristol by the Avon River.

I hope that the good year of injury free racing and training along with some good cross country races of late will give me the strength to finish and even enjoy myself in Dorset. The recent Mourne race was not my greatest day out but it should of helped me, if not physically, definately mentally.

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An uphill section towards the end of a recent cross country run. Great to wear the Castlegar AC singlet.

Running and especially my recent ultrarunning adventures can be a lonely sport. The cross country and team running events are very refreshing after long hours of running trails alone. The team and club spirit on a cold and wet morning at the weekend, running through ankle deep mud and falling across the line after 8km is just amazing. Thanks to all at Castlegar ac for introducing me to this new invigorating side to the sport.

I hope to do a pre Dorset race plan blog and blog to say that my toe is ready for the off. My only consolation at the moment is that i think the rest of me is ready and if I have to hop on one toe I hope to make that finish line!