Lidl review, Crivit Pro Tri-suit

I recently received some gear to test from Lidl. Now that I am back into the full swing of things I decided to complete my review and share with you. It seems that many keen tri-athletes and adventure racers as well as lots of other athlete’s end up spending a fortune on cycling and running gear. Every now and then some good gear comes along at a good price and I was delighted to be given the chance by Aoife Clarke, from marketing in Lidl to give this tri suit a go. Check out the video below for an idea of what the gear looks like. The suit is a good fit, has good cushioning for a tri suit and is no warmer than any suit I have worn before. I have used it for 2 hour sessions on the watt bike and had no chafing issues. The Crivit Pro is definately worth a go. Look out for the sales on bike gear in Lidl and stock up while you can!

Thanks to Hugh O Neill and Club Vitae for the little video. Strange having a video taken in the gym!

Lonan back on the Watt Bike Pro. #clubvitae#lidl#sea2summit#gaelforce#takingiteasy#oranmore#galway#ironman#outsidemagazine

A post shared by Club Vitae Oranmore (@clubvitaeoranmore) on

As I ramp up my training again I hope to blog again during the week and update my latest goals and training plans. Next up is the small task of completing the Wicklow Way 127km race on the 10th of June. First of all I have a big promotion match on Saturday to look forward to with Maree Oranmore FC. We have built a great squad this year and added some great young talent. Hopefully the premier division awaits!

Next up?

A lot of people have asked me what comes next after our Irish record. It tends to be a strange time after you complete a goal. Any achievement whether it be 1km or 160km leaves you first of all with a sense of pride, while soon after you realise there is more to come. What can I push myself to do next, how will I test myself or what is my next goal, would be a few questions we might ask ourselves at such a time. As the body recovers I find myself looking at races or events in the season ahead. I have a great base now after the recent events and might as well try and keep this going. In saying that rest and recovery, light training and plenty movement is very important before jumping into anything too quickly.

At the moment I am signed up to the Wicklow Way Race 127km, the SCOTT Snowdonia trail marathon ,Kerry Way Ultra Lite and the Mourne Skyline Marathon. The first in June, second in July, third in September and the fourth in October. If I can get to the start lines in one piece I hope to do myself justice in each event.

The most exciting part of these races will be the fact that I have never taken part in any of them, sure up until last August I had never gone for more than 9 hours at any event and had never completed the marathon distance, or even tried. In saying this to be in a position to have the confidence to take on these events feels great.

The body suffered during the 26 peaks event, I recovered well but I have a touch of achilles pain and I am minding that at the moment. I played football on Tuesday thinking everything was ok. My achilles was actually fine but my hamstrings got the shock of their lives. Only 3-4 weeks without sprinting and my hamstrings had probably shortened with all the distance covered. The result in sprinting short distances was extremely sore hamstrings and this in turn has left me with backpain the last two days. Nothing some foam rolling, dynamic stretching and a bit of yoga tomorrow won’t cure.

My running life took a funny turn today as myself and Shaun were asked to go on national TV, (TV3,Ireland AM),  to speak about our adventures on the 26 peaks. Of course I am scared of TV but I also felt so lucky to be in the position to go on TV and talk about something I enjoy so much. The mountains along with the lakes are my favourite place in the world and to have scaled every high peak in Ireland is a great feeling. I encourage everyone to try some hiking in the mountains this summer, you won’t regret it.

TV appearence

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High Peaks Challenge 2017

26 peaks“So why not hike and run Ireland’s highest 26 peaks in 32 counties non stop and we may even beat an Irish record in the process.”

This was what Shaun Stewart and myself discussed late last year and we decided to give it a whack. This would be no easy task and we knew that we would both need to be physically and mentally ready for the task. A good team was the key and we were lucky enough to team up with Team Donegal Oil and the Ice Road Trekkers from Donegal. These guys along with some friends would be our backbone as we took on the mammoth challenge. We would ascend and descend over 10,000 metres, run up to 160km and drive over 1800km to reach the finish line on the top of Mount Errigal.

Image caption: The van with Shaun and his niece Cara Murphy. Thanks to Manor Motors Donegal.

The route would take us from Mweelrea in Mayo to Errigal in Donegal. The previous fastest time was 87 hours and 50 minutes. Our goal and motivation was to beat this time. We set ourselves a schedule that would see us at Errigal in around 60 hours. With an aim like this we would remain focused. We were using Kieron Gribbon’s High Peaks book as a guide throughout. This along with our own maps, GPS and, most importantly, the ViewRanger app would be our navigational aids.  This motivation along with the fact that we had chosen two charities gave us a clear goal.

My charity was Lakeview School in Galway that provides play therapy to children and is a local charity. Shaun chose Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, as his niece will be having surgery there in the coming years. The response to the event and the donations from everyone have been amazing.

The Start- Mweelrea, Mayo

On Thursday the 20th at 6am the van along with myself, Shaun and crew 1, Arthur Mcmahon and Shaun Doherty, left Louisburgh for our first peak in Mayo. Mweelrea is the highest peak in Connaught and a cracking climb overlooking the Atlantic and Killary Fjord. Our clock would start from the summit of Mweelrea at 8am and finish on the summit of Errigal, whenever that may be. Logistically things were now sorted and it was up to us and our crew to knock it into shape. Let the games begin!

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Image caption: Mweelrea Summit, ready for off!

Leaving the dropoff point at Dadreen on the Atlantic side of Mweelrea at 6.30am, we steadily hiked to the summit in just over an hour. Here we would wait until the clock started. The plan was to run down and meet our lift to the opposite side of Killary Fjord for 8.30am. The clock started and we were off, not at full tilt but we weren’t about to hang around either. The descent down to Killary was fast, steep and technical. Shaun was on the phone to Shane Young from Killary Adventure Centre and got the good word that the RIB was on the way and we would be picked up on the shoreline on arrival. I must say it was the most exciting start to a long event we could of asked for. We flew from the base of Mweelrea to the pier at Killary Adventure Centre in five minutes, ran up to the van and were on the way to Ben Baun in seconds. So far so good.

Video caption: Shane Young ripping up the Killary. No doubt we will see Shane again soon as he runs the Gaelforce events every year.

Ben Baun, Galway

After a brief journey from Killary we arrived at the start point for the epic Ben Baun climb. There was lots of local support with my family meeting us at the base and all of them spent some time on the mountain, including some of them summitting on the day.

We lept out of the van and hit for the trail. A long winding gravel road along by the upper stretches of the Kylemore River. The trail then crossed the river and we followed it to a little isolated house. From here we began the steep climb to the summit. We summitted in 52 minutes and were in really good time. We began to run down the way we came when suddenly a heavy cloud descended. We knew we had to take a left down a grassy valley to take the easiest route back and be able to run this section also. We found this and began to descend. We didn’t realise until a few minutes later at the base that we had made a massive mistake. Mistake number one was not checking our bearing on the map and GPS and mistake number two was being too eager, too early on in the challenge. A lesson learnt now but we both found out the hard way how a simple lack in judgement can cost so much. At the base we realised we were on the wrong side of the valley. We began to run around the base but ran into two more of the Bens. The only way back was up and over. We climbed the next easiest gap between two mountains and would then have a 6-7 km run back along the valley to reach the point where we originally started our ascent. Looking back on this now, it was really only a minor mistake and probably cost us 30 minutes but we would make this up at every opportunity.

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Image caption: Finally down off Ben Baun.

The run back along the valley was actually eventful. Long stretches of bog, hopping over drains and over heather. At one point Shaun was in radio contact with the team when suddenly a baby ram attacked. The ram pucked Shaun in the leg, ran past, turned and came back for another go. Shaun dodged this one, in almost more shock than the poor little ram. On the ram’s third attempt I swung my hiking pole and caught him straight on the nose. He fled across the bog, screeching as he went. On we went having a good laugh. It is funny the things that lift spirits when things have gone downhill as they had at this point.

We reached the van and were still only a few minutes off schedule. The lads spirits were high and this kept our heads up.

Arderin, Laois/Offaly

The crew decided on throwing the Laois/Offaly county high points in now rather than tracking back across the country later in the trip. We pulled up beside a boggy hill. Less than 20 minutes later we were back at the van after a quick run up the wet bog. The county high points were only metres apart. A quick snap and off we went, Co. Clare and the gorgeous Moylussa, overlooking Lough Derg awaited.

Moylussa, Clare

We arrived at Moylussa at 3.30pm and started the 10km run. Paul Tierney, a fellow ultra runner joined us en route. Thanks so much to Paul as he is currently carrying an injury. As always, it is amazing to have a local on the mountain. The route took us up some nice forest roads, along forest trails. A winding steep section near the end before a boardwalk took some effort but we were soon on the top in search of one of the two high points. A quick photo in the bog and we started off downhill. We ran back to the van fast and completed the route in just over an hour.

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Image caption: Top of Moylussa, Thanks to Paul Tierney.

Carrauntoohil, Kerry

Everyone has heard of this one, the highest peak on the island. We were steeped by the perfect conditions as we set off and even more delighted to see two friendly faces in Chris Caulfield and Linda O Connor. Both Chris and Linda have heaps of experience on Carrauntoohil; Linda having summitted twice last weekend in one day, just for the craic!

What an amazing hike. I was feeling a little woozy in the van with a bit of car sickness hanging around so couldn’t wait to be on a mountain again. We were eating on the go, fuelling on dehydrated food in hot water and trying to take on some fruit and calories before each climb. This sounds easy, but eating gets difficult when the body gets tired.

Image caption: At the bottom and at the top

There was not much time hanging around at the car and with good instruction from Chris we set off ahead before he caught us on the mountain bike. Linda soon caught us near the Devils ladder section. The hike consists of a few kilometres on the road before a tricky rocky and muddy section along a stream. From here you see the valley rising on all sides and the spectacular Carrauntoohil to the North East. The Devil’s ladder is a very steep section of boulder leading up to the final ascent at the bottom of the main cone of the mountain. We made good time on the ladder and were soon on the final ascent. This was a lung busting ascent but well worth it. No doubt the best view of the entire trip.

You can check out the videos from our climbs here.

We were the highest people in Ireland for a few minutes. The climb took us 1 hour and 15 minutes to the top and we would descend in about 45 minutes. The descent was reasonably quick apart from being extra careful on the ladder. An option to take the zig zag path was discussed but we reckoned saving the running legs for later was the smart move. At this point I was feeling reasonably good although the first few mountains had shot my quads. I actually think my quads never fully recovered from The Race a few weeks before this event. They would remain sore but not get a huge amount worse than this on the first day.  We arrived back to the team at 9.30pm, just as it got dark. Perfect timing and all going to plan. We were ahead of schedule.

Knockboy, Cork

Linda stayed as our guide for her local Knockboy Mountain. We took a quick break for a takeaway in Kenmare before heading to the mountain. The twisty roads were starting to take their toll on my system and I could only hope this would pass. Linda was a great guide. It was late and the visibility was poor in Knockboy. Linda left lights at points along the trek to be sure on the descent. The trek was heavy and boggy but we were up in no time and ran the majority of the route back to the car. A gunshot sounded on our descent and a quick work from the lads over the two way radios alerted us to some lamping going on on the bog. I later saw a car with some guys heading down the valley. They were lamping out the window and shooting at anything that moved. They could have had some mountain runners for dinner… I hopped into the car with Linda as far as Cork, which gave me a little rest and settled the stomach. I didn’t sleep much, which I really would have needed at this a stage. Galtymore was next at 2am and a long trek ahead.

Galtymore, Tipperary/Limerick

Image caption: Galtymore in the dark.

A top runner Adrian Hennessy joined us as a guide on Galtymore. Adrian said he was up the mountain hundreds of times. He had been watching our tracker all night and was waiting on the roadside to guide us to the start point and then join us for the hike. Top class guy. We left at 2.26am and arrived back to the van at 4.35am. Not a bad trek for the middle of the first night. We were starting to feel the cold a bit but the food from earlier seemed to be working. The trek here was 11km, some of which was over gravel road. It then turned into bog and heather before becoming a lot steeper toward the top. A 15 minute buster of a pull near the end saw us on top and the cairn was easily found. It was only months since I was here during the day but at night mountains are a different and far more dangerous world. A hop and a skip and off we went back down the mountain. It was good to think we only had one more hike before our first night was over. Another milestone, always needed.

Knockmealdown, Waterford

We arrived at Knockmealdown at 5.14am. It was still dark but the light would soon arrive in the sky. The weather was still very settled. From the car we were instantly climbing a steep rocky path which seemed to go on and on until the top of our first peak. The county high point was two more peaks away with some nice descending and ascending in between. It was a little demoralising to see that we were taking the longer route around to the peak. However, we decided the steep route up the side of Knockmealdown itself would not of been worth it. The sun rose and the colours across the valleys below were spectacular. I never realised Waterford was this beautiful. The bogs in April are at their best with all sorts of browns and greens as well as the gorse in full bloom. We took a quicker, much steeper and direct route down the mountain and called the team to let them know the point on the road we would hit. A total of an hour and a half on this county high point was a bit more than expected but another ticked off. A famous young man arrived as we were about to take off. Dillon Lynch, the youngest person to climb the 26 peaks in 14 months had been following us. Himself and his dad joined us for a photo and donated some money to the charity.

Image caption: Dillon Lynch and his dad, legends.

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Image caption: Knockmealdown, Waterford

Brandon hill, Kilkenny and Mt. Leinster, Wexford/Carlow

The next three counties high points were at Brandon Hill and Mount Leinster. Generally featureless mountains. The high point at Mount Leinster is home to an RTÉ mast while Brandon Hill in Kilkenny was boggy but we were up and down in 30 minutes. The aim was to get through these few quickly before the longer Lugnaquillia trek began.

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Image caption: Brandon hill Killkenny.

Lugnaquillia, Wicklow

We pulled up at Lugnaquillia to meet two endurance athletes, looking all fresh and smiley. Paul Mahon, a well known endurance racer and adventure athlete was one of our guides. Paul set up the Quest Adventure racing series and is involved in everything adventure racing. He has vast experience both at home and abroad. Our second support runner was Alan Kearney, a man I have met at numerous races and is always one for a motivational word, just the man needed at this point. Lug (short for Lugnaquillia) was a long trek but with the lads the time flew. Paul was throwing bagels and sandwiches at me and kept saying “eat, drink, sleep”. The food was very welcome and I managed to eat it, even though the last few hours in the van hadn’t helped my van sickness. The hike up towards Lug summit was a slow drag, nothing too steep but a constant gradient. It is real trail running countryside and there were plenty of hikers out and about.

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Image caption: Lug crew and me with a mouthful of bagel!

As you can see the top was covered in cloud so we didn’t take in many Wicklow views from here. We started our descent and were able to run the majority of the route back. It was great downhill running terrain but I couldn’t fully let go as we had a long way to go yet. We reached the van at 1.30pm, two hours up and down. Not bad for a 14km.

The next 5 peaks Cupidstown, Kildare, Kippure, Dublin, Carnbane East, Meath Mullaghmeen, Westmeath, Cornhill and Longford were reasonably boring to be honest. Absolutely nothing against the counties but they are not known for their mountains. Boggy runs along with some trail and forest park runs summed up these high points. If ever in Westmeath, Mullaghmeen forest is a lovely spot for a walk. There are some pretty nice views from the high point of the surrounding countryside. Longford was a classic tourist site. It was used in Glenroe and other programmes in the past. A mast is located at the top. The Dublin and Kildare sites are more TV masts and hikes along the road led to the peaks. Carnbane East was probably the coolest site of the lot. A quick sprint up a nicely cut grass hill to a tomb site and huge mound of rocks at the top. A woman was there looking at the tomb and was startled to see two guys run up, take a selfie and run away as quick again.

We changed over to crew 2 at Kippure. Denis Ferry and Leslie O Donnell took over and boy were the Ice Road Trekker boys keen. It was like a new lease of life in the van. Thanks so much to Arthur and Shaun who deserved some rest at this stage. We said our goodbyes and the boys just told us to keep her lit. Denis and Les have vast experience in Ireland and abroad. They have driven in The Andes on the world’s most dangerous road, have circumnavigated Iceland – just to name only a few of their amazing feats. Check out the link to an adventure in Alaska here.

 

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Image caption: Mount Leinster

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Image caption: Cupidstown, Kildare. Running and eating icecreams!

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Image caption: Carnbane East, looking a bit sleepy!

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Image caption: Mullaghmeen, awake after a nice forest run.

Seltanasaggart, Roscommon/Leitrim

It was Friday evening when we arrived at Seltanasaggart on the Roscommon/Leitrim border. A 6 km run was ahead of us but it was mostly on gravel road. The county high points for both Leitrim and Roscommon were hidden in a huge windpark. The turbines actually made things a bit more confusing and it took us some time to find our bearings at the top. Thanks to some good teamwork we eventually found the two piles of small rocks nicely hidden in the heather at both sites. We lost some time but didn’t put any extra distance on the legs, which is vital at this stage. The grounds around the turbines were full of rabbits and hares, definitely looking a lot more spritely on the feet than us at this stage. The second night closed in as we came down off Seltanasaggart and I was about to enter a world of pain.

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Image caption: Seltanasaggart

Truskmore, Sligo/Leitrim

On arrival at the Sligo high point starting point we were informed by Kieron Gribbon that we needed to find the Co. Leitrim high point here also. This was going to be a bit tricky as it was dark and very misty; visibility was extremely low. The motion sickness was really starting to flatten me and it was going to be a long night. I felt fine when out and about but within seconds of sitting in van I was buckled. I couldn’t eat, therefore I found it hard to sleep and, if I would vomit, it wouldn’t be long until dehydration set in. I managed to keep sipping water. A good adventure racing buddy of ours, Aidan Mc Moreland, met us for the Sligo peak and with his local knowledge and a bit of compass work in the dark we found both peaks after a bit of a soaking.

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Image caption: Sligo with Aidan.

Cuilcagh, Fermanagh

A new boardwalk has been built here after a stretch of about 2-3km on the road. This would lead us all the way to the plateau on top at Cuilcagh. The top was then a mud-bath for over a kilometre before reaching the county high point. Shaun was clever on the top and laid out spare headlights on strobe mode so we wouldn’t go wrong on the descent. I had vomited on the journey to Cuilcagh and had only managed water in the last few hours. Things were grim but my legs were still working. I knew I needed sleep soon to kill the sickness. The boardwalk was welcome underfoot after so many boggy hikes. As the boardwalk went on it got steeper and there were huge sections of steps. A pretty impressive piece of engineering it must be said. After finding the cairn on top we ran back on the boardwalk. A pretty fast descent after a long slog up the way. I found my map which I dropped on the way up as we descended. I’m deadly for dropping things!

Slieve Beagh, Monaghan

I have a feeling Shaun would rather I leave this one out. A long, long, LONG hike up across a bog, to a tiny little hump on the far side. The light arrived along the way and I managed to eat a bit of a bar and drink some water. The grouse were startled as we made our way through the thick heather. It was real hunting countryside so the bog actually suited me a bit. This definitely felt like one of the longest and most energy zapping runs of the entire trip. It was never ending. We managed to run little bits on the way back. The van, which I had come to hate at this stage, was actually a welcome sight.

Slieve Gullion, Armagh

On arrival at Slieve Gullion I was at a major low. The team decided that I needed sleep to overcome the sickness. I slept in the back of the van for 30 minutes. I woke up not having a clue where I was. Shaun’s dad, Patsy, and brother-in-law, Ronan, arrived at this point and someone handed me a ham sandwich. I sipped water and ate the sandwich as we climbed Gullion. Gullion was a gorgeous climb with real mountain trail all the way up. It was steep but well marked out. We found this in Northern Ireland. There seemed to be more maintenance and more marking on the mountains. The facilities were definitely top class. I ate almost all the sandwich and we summitted in no time at all. We were up and down in 40 minutes and left Gullion at 8.46am. I hopped in the car with Patsy and this was my saviour. I was instantly well and Ronan made me another ham sandwich using a plastic spoon in the back seat. I was on the way back. Now all I needed was a little sleep. I slept for 20 minutes before we reached Slieve Foye. The roads in the North were smoother and the chance to stretch out in the car seat was amazing.

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Image caption: Top of Gullion, after my first sleep. Only 48 hours into the event.

Slieve Foye, Louth

Slieve Foye rises from the sea at Carlingford. I think this was the one county in Ireland I had never set foot in and I have to say it was high up on the list for beauty.

The climb went straight from the village up across some sheep grazing land and was steep all the way to the top. The views were spectacular and I was finally feeling good again. My heals were sore and my quads were hating the downhill but my spirits were up, which is key. We finished the mighty Foye in 1 hour and 10 minutes. A really good effort at this point in time. An hour’s journey lay ahead and I needed sleep. I ate first of all and then slept for 40 minutes. Absolute bliss!

Donard, Down

This would be our last big boy before Errigal. I was asleep until we pulled into the carpark at the base of Donard. Donard is famous and people come from far and wide to climb here. It is mostly famous for being one of the few big mountains where your climb starts at sea level and finishes at 850metres. The course record is 53 minutes up and down, not one we were looking to beat!! A local mountain goat, Declan Magee, joined us in the car park. I was literally hopping out of the car when Declan and Shaun took off running. I had been asleep so had little idea what was happening. Denis got a fit of energy and started running with me across the car park and across the next field until I started to catch the lads. Denis patted me on the back and wished me good luck. I said I’m gonna need it to catch these two lads. I soon did catch up as the lads slowed a bit. After my first real sleep the body had shut down a bit. The Donard hike up was really tough and I had dizzy spells but kept moving throughout. The mountain was packed with hikers and passing people out along the way felt good considering what we had behind us. It was long and steep as we made our way from a forested area into the open and up along a rocky climb before turning left and facing “The Wall”! The wall was a few hundred metres of high gradient slog. People were really struggling here but we made our way up nice and steadily. A quick photo and a bite of a protein bar and we were away again. Declan knew all the locals so was stopping every few minutes. Once on the slightly less steep ground I found a wind and really enjoyed the fast running descent from here all the way back. We were up and down in less than 2 hours and felt like we were moving and on the home stretch. The plan was to really go for the next few peaks and try make up some time. Everything was still on target at this stage.

Truskan, Antrim

Truskan and Sawell were real bog slogs but we pushed through them as hard as we could. Truskan was more gradual with Sawell the Derry and Tyrone high point was  a decent climb. The views of the rolling Derry hills were really nice and the home straight was in sight. The team gave us a massive cheer as we came down off Sawell, knowing that we were nearly there. We were flying on the downhills again, especially the boggy ones.

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Image caption: Just finished the run down from Truskan , Co. Antrim

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Image caption: Heading off at Sawell

Errigal, Donegal

The one we all waited for! It was an amazing feeling to arrive at Mount Errigal to a huge crowd of supporters and realise we were nearly there. In saying that we were 4 minutes behind time and wanted to keep the clock under 61 hours. We bolted from the van and took off running.

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Image caption: The tracker after 60 hours.

A local man, Andrew Wallace, joined us, having barely managed to change in his car as we arrived. Errigal is reasonably short but steep and technical. It is a nasty mountain when you are tired but we were motivated to keep the time down. We raced to the top in 30 minutes and the clock stopped on the top at 60 hours and 35 minutes, shaving 27 hours and 15minutes off the previous record. The reception at the top was amazing. In the cold breeze and the setting sun we were met with hugs from locals and most importantly for me, Emma, Dee and Greg were there for a massive hug. I was more relieved than emotional to be honest. The emotion had hit me after Slieve Foye when I had gotten over the sickness and knew I was going to finish this challenge. The feeling now was ecstasy. Paul Doherty, a professional photographer, took lots of photos on the top and we took in the views for a while before everyone was too cold to hang around and we knew there was a crowd waiting at the base for our return. We ran down and across the bog at the bottom at full tilt! food, a celebratory beer and a huge crowd of amazing people awaited us.

26 peaks 2

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Image caption: A few photos from the summit/finish line on Mount Errigal , Donegal and more at the base.

The week since the event has been hectic with a lot of media picking up on the event. We are so thankful to everyone that has been involved and showed an interest and hope that in future more people will give this and other similar challenges a go.

Listen here to a few of our interviews!

Dermot and Dave interview from 34 minutes on the 26th of April.

Galway Bay FM post event interview from 1.35.30

 

 

 

Paris-Roubaix Challenge 2017

It all began at 2am on Friday morning and finished at 6pm on Sunday evening. In that space of time we barely stopped and relaxed but had a blast. The aim of this event was to arrive with your bike, get shipped to the start line and complete 29 sections of cobble (about 55km) and complete a total course of 172km. This should be reasonably handy, logistically, but things are never so good!

We arrived at Dublin airport, flew to Brussels, grabbed two trains, walked out of the station and straight across the road into the hotel without a glitch. David actually said, “this is way to good to be true”, and so it began!

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Our hotel in the background and I’m a few feet from the train!

We hopped on the metro which brought us close to the registration point beside the velodrome in Roubaix. We realised it would be busy but an hour later in the queue we were beginning to realise the size of the event.

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The end is somewhere in the distance!

After registration we found our bike hire stand and our bikes. The curse was still in play. My bike was a few sizes too small, as was David’s. “Ah ye will be sound”, said the dude renting bikes, just put the saddles up. Now for those that cycle you will understand, there is alot more to the bike fit than saddle height. As David said, I was like a bull. I didn’t know how I was going to ride 170km over cobblestones on this little nelly, but we had no choice. There were no more bikes to rent. We hit off in the direction of our hotel in Lille, hoping to get home, eat and sleep before a 3am start in the morning. Things are never easy. An hours cycle later we  arrived at the hotel. I enjoyed the navigation throught the streets of Lille while cycling with the phone in one hand. I walked in to ask where we could leave bikes for the hotel clerk to say there were no bikes aloud in the hotel. I asked where we could put them, to which they gave me some vague directions. To cut a long story short we bought a big lock, stripped the bikes down to nothing but the frame and brought everything up to the room for the night. The frames stayed attached to a bike rack outside the hotel. We slept for a few hours after a pre race beer (essential). On leaving the hotel, at 3.30am, there were three random bikes in the foyee. If the manager was there at that moment it would of been interesting!

Anyway following my little rant about our logistical trouble things began to pick up. Five hours after we left the hotel we were at the staggered start line pumped up by some great music and two fast, strong cups of coffee. We were off and had no clue what we were really getting ourselves into. We had of course done a 15km warm up before catching our bus. It was far easier cycle the streets in the middle of the night though.

Two selfies near the start, as if one wasn’t enough!!

The race route can be seen on the sign behind me in the next photo. It basically winds through the countryside from a town called Busigny to Roubaix, a total of 172km. The 29 cobble sections are spread out along this route as well as 5000 other cyclists.

The route and the sun is out.

The photo above was taken at our first food stop, a very welcome breakfast after 7 or 8 hours on the go. The course basically varied between lovely smooth country roads and crazy cobble and the next few photos tell the story.

It is very difficult to explain the cobbles unless you actually experience it. Anything over 2km and the arms, wrists and feet start to go numb. You try to relax but the more you relax the more risk of injury with a fall. I saw a few people come off their bikes and I have never seen so many punctures. At one stage I passed a guy with two punctures, not a happy camper. Little villages passed by and we rode through massive open countryside. The TGV train passed by in a blink of the eye and big bunches of cyclists cruised passed us in mini pelothons. We took our time and decided not to race as the experience was what we both wanted.

At our second food stop, around the 108km mark we lay down for a well earned rest while eating and stretching a bit. I quickly hopped up realising my top was getting wet and also realising we had lay in a patch of grass most likely used as a toilet in the not so distant past. David didn’t jump up so fast, saying “I don’t care, I’m too tired to care!”. He soon got up, refueled and was back in action. It was about 30km to the next aid station, including 9 sections of cobble, up to grade 4. I was getting used to things now and the body wasn’t in the same shock as earlier in the day. I stopped to strip off a few layers as it was roasting. A few groups of Irish were about on the day and one passed soon after the stop.

Pit stop

The last 30km, after our last aid station and a quick chat with a lad from dublin,  seemed long. The last section of all events feels long though as you begin to tire and think about the chance of rest and food. It felt more like 50km and I believe it was longer than 30. I was really enjoying the day though and the legs were really good. We were beginning to smash through the cobbles and the last grade 5 was good fun. I rode along the verge for most of it, sometimes only twice the width of the wheel up on the grassy edge. It was certainly a test of biking skills and some nerve. We passed some rows of campervans as well as a huge carpark of them. They were fans getting ready for the pro race the next day. The race has a massive following. If you check out the Paris Roubaix website they have some super links to footage on the course.

Approximately 9.5hours after leaving Busigny we cruised into the velodrome in roubaix for a velodrome lap. This was an experience in itself. It was a weird sensation and felt like cycling on the side of a hill. We took our time as we really didn’t fancy a fall at this stage. We were no doubt well back in the field as we had taken good breaks and were on one of the last buses to arrive in Busigny. The chance to see and take part in such an event was fantastic.

Finish line shot.

An absolutely massive thanks to David for coming up with the idea to do the event and for keeping the head up when we ran into the bike issues after registration. The bikes were super and we had no punctures all day. Thanks to Prompt CC bike rental company for their help.

I will try attach a few videos below to give everyone a bit of an idea for the cobbles. So now it is head in the game for the High Peaks Challenge FKT this day week. No rest for the wicked.

http://prod.chronorace.be/angular/results.html#/quickresults/1186579204860220/group/18914/video/MUw6MzI0MzY4NTIgMjUgNXwyTDo0NDc1NjI2NCAyNSA1fDNMOjYyMTEyNzgyIDI1IDU/2

http://prod.chronorace.be/angular/results.html#/quickresults/1186579204860220/group/18914/video/MUw6MzI0MzY4NTIgMjUgNXwyTDo0NDc1NjI2NCAyNSA1fDNMOjYyMTEyNzgyIDI1IDU/0

Our first press release for the Peaks Challenge. Thanks Team Donegal Oil for being such incredible organisers and sponsors.

https://www.donegalnow.com/features/dynamic-duo-climb-irelands-26-highest-peaks-charity/155067

Recovered and ready for off

It is over two weeks now since The Race. It has been a really interesting recovery. This race was far further than anything I have accomplished in the past, therefore the recovery was going to be different and longer. In the end I only really fully stopped for three days. My reason being that we need to keep moving, movement helping the muscles to heal faster. I gradually brought my training back and last Sunday I played a full 90minute soccer match and for the most part felt really good. So what is the key to fast recovery?

In my opinion fast recovery is down to, being fit going into the event, fuelling well during the event and post event, rest, eat and hydration are key. The day after The Race my quads were completely shot. Walking was difficult and stairs were really painful. I didn’t sleep well the night after event either. The next few days things improved rapidly and I slept at every opportunity. I was back to running slow 5-6km around town by the following week and managed lots of swimming and a little spinning on bike.  The swimming seems to be the perfect recovery activity, activation all the muscles, under no resistance. That along with one of my favourite things, sleep, I’m back to myself and ready for another challenge or two in April.

First of all myself and David from work are going to take on the Paris-Roubaix cycle as mentioned in previous posts. The link can be found by clicking above or below. This will give you a feel for the trip ahead. I will blog as we take on this adventure and keep you updated on our survival rate during this tough 172km race over cobblestone. 

http://www.sportive.com/events/paris-roubaix-challenge-2017-sportive/2017-04-08/2073/cycling

From Paris-Roubaix on the bike to Ireland on foot. The next challenge is a big one. The High Peaks Challenge FKT (fastest known time). Myself and Shaun Stewart are really looking forward to this one. There are talks of an Irish record and a possible Guinness book of records entry, but lets take it one step at a time. No doubt we are determined and we have a crew and a half behind us from a county I know for grit and determination, Donegal!

The challenge will see us and our crew of Arthur McMahon, Denis Ferry, Leslie O Donnell, Paul Doherty, Rory Kennedy and Grace Ann McGarvey, drive from one mountain base to the next, covering 26 peaks and the entire island of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The reason for 26 peaks rather than 32 is due to a few mountain peaks bordering two counties at the top.

We will be using GPS units on the mountains and all safety gear we need. Our logistical team have vehicles and road routes mapped out and we will be carrying trackers that people can follow online. There are quite a few dot watchers out there at this stage. I’m known to get a little addicted myself from time to time!

The details of our challenge, estimated times by road and then on foot will be calculated shortly and details of our charities can be found on the Facebook page or below. We are aiming to raise money for two children’s organizations. These are close to both myself and Shaun and we hope an unusual event, and such a tough event will grab peoples attention. If you follow the High Peaks Challenge Facebook page closely all details of charites and dontaions will be released there and links updated in the coming days.

The provisional links to the charities are as follows,

Lakeview School, Play Therapy Galway.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/linsey-mcnelis

Crumlin Children’s Hospital

https://www.facebook.com/CMRFCRUMLIN/

 

Race Report, The Race 2017

The question is, how do you account for a race of this time and distance in one blog post? A total of 247km over 15 hours and 21 minutes. Can I try and account for this in a single post. I will give it a shot and hopefully give those of you interested an account of one of the toughest and most amazing days of my life. What an event to be part of. All proceeds going to Gorta and all the people organising it on a voluntary basis. It really was a privilege to be involved.

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After a journey up to Donegal, accompanied by my sister Lisa, we arrived at the bike drop in Rathmullan and from there travelled to the box drop and start line in Garton Adventure Centre on the shores of Garton Lake. The organisation was superb and I had all boxes for 4 transitions and registration sorted by about 4pm. Plenty of time to settle in, get some food, attend the race briefing and get a few hours sleep before things kicked off at 5am. There was a great buzz about and everyone was in even better mood as the forecast was good for Saturday. I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep before the start. The start can be seen in the video above and the buzz is felt even in the video as we set off on our 23km road run to Ramelton for the kayak stage.

Stage 1 23km road run.

The run began at a decent pace and I found myself running with Shaun Stewart and Marty Lynch as well as another competitor early on. We were running a pace of 3.50 to 4 minutes per kilometre. This was way too fast for my intended time so within about 4km I backed off a bit and settled into a 4.25 pace for the remainder of the run. This was more comfortable but I also intended to save my legs as there was one hell of a day ahead and my intension was still to finish and wherever I found myself position wise would be. The run really had little to write home about as it was dark until the last few kilometres. I finished in 1 hour and 43 minutes and cruised into transition feeling nicely warmed up. I met Shaun as I went in the door. He was already on the way to the kayak and going well. Of course having raced and trained with Shaun and having become good friends, I was hoping the day would go really well for him and he would take the victory. I entered transition in fifth and exited in less than 3 minutes in third.

Kayak Stage 2. 15km.

I ran from transition with my paddle, buoyancy aid and backrest, grabbed a kayak, clipped on the backrest, almost slipped on the slipway and hoped into the boat to paddle away. The crowd were cheering us on with great vigor. I turned the boat towards the course and on my first stroke disaster struck! My carbon fibre paddle split in two. With disgust I through half of it away. I paddle back to shore with the other half and I roared at the marshal for a paddle and they quickly through down another one. I heard later that Shaun’s brother, Patrick, actually helped grab a paddle for me and get me going again.I had to laugh at this point of the chances of such a thing happening at the start of the paddle. My luck of course was that it happened here and not 5 miles out to sea. I got going and soon settled into a bit of rhythm. I could see Martin Lynch was only about 200 yards ahead and Shaun was almost out of sight. I was happy to push hard during this section but there was no need to go into the red. The sit on top kayaks only do a certain speed and time gained would be minimal. Energy could be more adequately spent later in the race.

The water was like glass as we paddled down the river and estuary into Lough Swilly. The tide was in our favour and the morning was close to perfect. A seal popped it’s head up between my boat and Martin’s about half way across the bay. I’d say he was unimpressed by 78 kayaks moving through his territory first thing in the morning. I decided with my luck so far it was most likely the seal would land on the front of my boat at any minute, but unfortunately it never happened. I had this experience while kayaking in New Zealand. Probably not the kind of thing that happens twice. So to this point it probably all sounds like a walk in the park. The legs and arms had a good warm up but the real race was about to start as we pulled into the Bike transition at Rathmullan. The final few paddle strokes were fun as we paddled under the pier with crowds of people looking down at us, including Lisa. I shouted up at her ” we are sucking diesel now”, which got a good laugh from a few of the locals. Out of the boat and a run up into transition for the bike.

Bike 1. 96km

I changed into cycling kit, out of pretty wet and cold kayaking gear. There were about 5 of us in transition with Shaun gone ahead and Martin soon got going. I took an extra two minutes to eat a jar of overnight oats and have a coke and some water. A good breakfast at my usual time of about 8.15am!

I came out of the transition trailer, left my box at my bike and grabbed my bike. At this point I realised there was no helmet with my bike. Disaster number two at transition number two! The marshals quickly got on the case and started searching. One of the race directors was straight in on the action and said he would sort whatever time I lost, as it was their mistake. Lisa was there and shouted that she had the car and could grab my spare helmet. Obviuosly an unsupported race but on this occasion it was not my mistake and they said go for it and get a helmet. Lisa found the helmet and 3 minutes would be deducted from my finish time. I didn’t get flustered by all this as I knew this was only the start of a long day and no point getting stressed and emotional so early on. Stick with your own plan and all will be well, start trying to race those around you at this stage and I could have a really bad day.

Once out on the road I found myself swapping and changing with Peter O Donnell, another of the local guys. We were in 4th and 5th throughout the cycle with Michael Mchugh, Martin and Shaun ahead of us. I was happy  to spin up the hills and try get some speed up on the downhills. The average speed was decent but the hills, well what can you say about this cycle. I suppose my cycling experience, apart from some multisport races, a few sportives and charity cycles and my own training really isn’t that amazing. I haven’t cycled in multi day events and since I started adventure racing in 2010, cycling has been my second sport to running. Therefore I may be corrected on this but in my experience this 96km is the hardest 96km you can do in Ireland. If anyone knows harder, give me a shout and I’ll come for a spin! Hill after hill after hill, relentless in and out of the saddle. One man said to me after the race that the hills were so bad that he couldn’t spin out his legs to shake the lactic acid as the gradient was too steep. Slow and painful on the ascent followed by teeth gritting and elbow tensing fast decents, far too fast to spin your legs out.This was the case for 4 solid hours on that first cycle. I actually feel like I enjoyed it so much more than my first experience of the area when training. Maybe I was fitter or maybe the weather played a part. When I looked up from the pain of the hills there was nothing but beauty around me. The beaches, the hills, fields full of lambs, small country cottages, everything was in it’s finest spring glory. The sun was splitting the rocks and the fluids were leaving my body faster than I could replace them. A local pulls up along side me in his car and says “this is a long one, keep her lit”, as I start the ascent of Lough Salt hill. A long long gradual climb to the finish at a steep short climb. Almost all the locals i met said “keep her lit”, a saying you hear all the time in Donegal. I decided I better take local advise and keep on pushing. The top of Lough Salt is only about 20km from the end of this stage. I thought the last 20km would be ok, I was far from correct. The climb from the valley up to muckish was relentless. My legs were beginning to burn and the hills were annoying my head. I stayed positive when I saw the sign for 130km’s gone. This meant of course that I was over half way around the course and anything positive is good when the tiredness begins to set in.

The signage throughout the course was top notch and the marshals and support at every turn in the road gave the whole race a more positive feel. The sections where you go for hours without a seeing anyone are by far the hardest. I arrived at Muckish mountain in just under 4 hours and looking at my time I was about 45 minutes ahead of my predicted race time already. A quick change of footwear, a bite to eat, some tea and a toilet break saw me in and out of transition and off up the mountain by about 12.10pm.

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Thats me at the base of the mountain.

Stage 4 Muckish 5km mountain hike.

Muckish would be my strongest section on the day but my plan was not to expend too much energy trying to go up and down fast, risk injury or burn out. This was a race to finish. I started the hike in 4th postion. The ground was soft and pretty nasty in areas. I met a lady half way up that was supporting Michael, her brother, who was up ahead of me. She was full of enthusiasm and like all the support on the day her encouragement pushed me on. I reached the top feeling strong and the legs were loving being off the bike. What a view from the top. A picnic would of been fantastic but it was time to start running. I ran the majority of the downhill, landing on my ass twice, but luckily on the slippy boggy sections further down. I passed Michael on the way down and came into transition a minute or two before him. I sat down to change for the bike and my first and only bad cramp of the day  hit on the inside of the leg. A good lesson to keep moving and probably not sit down at all if you can avoid it!

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Bike transition for stage 5 and my helmet was found.

Stage 5. 68km Bike

Stage 5 would be a total unknown stage for me. The first 10km or so were mostly downhill with some nice rest and good speed picked up. I managed to take on lots of fluids, a few gels, some coke and some cake during this section. I knew from the race profile that more hills awaited so I needed as much fuel as possible. My second jar of overnight oats and cake at the muckish transition area wouldn’t be enough to get me as far as the marathon. This bike stage is almost a blur to be honest. I was probably tiring but I do remember the climbs going into pretty remote areas, down worn country roads, though marsh and bog land, along the coast, through small villages and up more hills. The locals were out to say hi, while some of them really didn’t seem to know what we were doing there. I was of course only the third bike through the area that day.Michael passed me half way around the stage but I quickly passed him again as he had a few punctures. Somehow he managed to fix 4 punctures and arrive into the next transition only minutes behind me. Amazing you might say.. My bike was performing well until with about 5 km to go one of the cables became fraid. I couldnt change down gear but luckily I wasn’t far from transition. Once again the timing of this was in my favour. After battling the hills and the backroads the final few kilometres were also on the main road, so my gears got their first rest in hours. I arrived in transition 4 in about 2hours and 43 minutes. My total time at this point was around 11 hours, giving me plenty time to try hit my goal time of 16 hours in total.

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Garton Lake

Stage 6. 40km road and trail run.

I stayed in transition 4 for about 13 minutes, to get some decent food, some tea, soup and overnight oats into me. The volunteers were so friendly and helpful, giving us a table each, having boxes laid out and ready and offering as much tea as we wanted. I can’t thank these people enough for thier kindness at every transition. I changed, stocked up on food, grabbed an all important can of coke and started on the next stage. I was once again so happy to be on my feet, although my legs were pretty much spent at this stage. I brought my poles along as an aid, I could run and keep the weight off my knees once I had the poles. “Who’s yere man with the sticks”, was a line I heard a few times from some of the locals! As I made my way along the small road at the start of the marathon, I realised I was way overdressed. There was no breeze and the evening sun was warm. I decided to ditch my warmer long sleeve top and go with one layer, plus I had a jacket in my bag if things changed. One of the relay team guys pulled up along side me near the start and offered great words of encouragement, said i was doing so well. Another couple pulled up and told me I was an inspiration. Another family stopped and all jumped out to clap and cheer me on. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced such encouragement during a race and these people are the reason I managed to keep going.

The first 15km were on the road, gradually climbing to the start of the minors pass, a section of about 10km of trail that runs down to Garton House and along the lake. The trail then takes a turn right up over a hill though some bogland with more small lakes to one side before descending back down onto the road for the last 10km. As I did in the Race I will take this run in sections. The first as already explained was monotonous, on the road. The views were nice but the road really takes it out of you when there is little left in the legs. The trail was a welcome sight, with some downhill and I started to gain a bit of speed. I was averaging 6min/km on the road and soon brought this down to 5.30’s or so on the trail. A competitor came out of knowwhere at this point, passing me out at great speed, but withing 100metres I met him bent over getting sick on the side of the trail. Like so many others he had possibly pushed too hard and the body said no. He did manage to finish the race but lost alot of time at this point. I was still holding third for the time being with Michael, and his crew, now in sight behind me. As I made my way along the lake I could see the trout were on the evening rise and wished I could stop and drop a dry fly over them. The Moon was coming up and was huge over the hills while the sun was going down behind me. Boy was I glad I was half way through the marathon before it got dark.

I left the lake to climb the section of trail back up over the hill. I hiked the majority of this section, knowing that I still had a small lead on the group behind. I wasn’t really worried if I was passed out as I knew I was going as fast as I could and I wanted to finish and not blow up this late on. Lisa once again met me as I came off the trail and met the final road section. I would say I was at my lowest point at this stage. I was in pain. My right hamstring was sore and all my legs were screaming. My feet were good though and once I went from hiking with poles to running and back to hiking I could manage. I adopted the run the downhills and parts of the flats to hiking the uphills method. Michael passed me soon after I had met Lisa and she told me I was doing so well, was in control of my position and had only 10km to go. Lisa ran along side me for a few hundred metres and then said she needed to go to make the finish line. I laughed thinking she would have heaps of time as this was going to be the slowest 10km of my life!  The thing that saved me was that I was prepared. I had told myself in the lead up to the race that if I got this far that the last 10km would be torture.

There was no doubt it was torture but there was support out on the junctions and I had a brilliant experience in the middle of it that made me laugh and got the spirits going! As I ran through a forested section of the road I saw 6 eyes bearing downing the trail at tremendous speed. Once in view I saw that there were 3 badgers closing in on me at full tilt. The badgers ran passed my feet and on down the road as if I wasn’t there. Had I been on the trail a few days I would say I was hallucinating. There was a sight you don’t see mid race too often. But then this is a full day of adventure racing in Donegal and anything can happen. The final few kilometres on the road were sore and slow but I found myself on the home straight before I knew what was going on. I could hear the mike call out my name and the crowd cheering as I made for the line. I flashed my headlight as I crossed over and felt an amazing relief lift from my shoulders as I realised I had just finished one of the toughest 24hour races out there. All the training and all the effort came down to this. It is only now three days later that I am starting to understand what an incredible achievement it is for everyone that takes part in this race. To test yourself this way is amazing both physically and mentally.

At the finish. 15hours and 21 minutes later!

All in all the Race couldn’t of gone more to plan for me. My transitions were good, my fueling was good, I had no stomach or intestinal issues and I made the finish line. This was all I could of asked for and hopefully it will give me the confidence to try some more of these long distance events.

I have to thank Emma, my family and friends for all the support in the last few months. The training effort since Christmas has been pretty massive but the encouragement from everyone top class. A huge congrats to my training buddies Rachel Nolan and Sinead Keogh, Rachel who won the ladies race in a course record time and Sinead who came 4th. They are  incredible athletes and it has been a pleasure to train with them and make friends with them along the way.

I have to mention the battle that took place ahead of me all day. Shaun and Marty fought out to the death for the win. In the end Marty finished stronger on the marathon and Shaun came in behind him. The effort and times they put in were unreal. Both of them smashed the course record and I’ve no doubt without one pushing the other on this may not of happened. Shaun will be back to fight another day, but for now I hope he is in recovery for our High Peaks Challenge FKT in April. A far more important few days out!! .

The race stats! 4th place!

http://www.therace.ie/the-race-2017/2017-results

A few more pictures to round up The Race 2017.