East and West

The last two weeks have been busy with a race in Wicklow last weekend and a more local adventure across the Maamturk mountains yesterday. I hoped to treat both events cautiously as I try to build up to Transvulcania. In saying that the Maurice Mullins ultra was a race and I would work hard without going totally into the red if possible. The Maamturk’s was more about a good training session and I decided to enjoy the day more with friends and not get into race mode for the day.

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Maurice Mullins 50km

The Maurice Mullins started at 9.30 and myself, Sinead Keogh and John Sherry travelled up early that morning from the West. The Wicklow Way was familiar to me from the 130km race last year. Anyone that has read that particular report, (The yellow men of the Wicklow Way) on this blog, will remember my hatred of those yellow men after nearly 19 hours on my feet. The Maurice Mullins, I hoped, would blow away those cobwebs and give me a new relationship with the Wicklow hills. A few years ago I ran the half or 26km version of this course so it was reasonably familiar terrain. That race had been my furthest ever run at the time and I came 6th place. It was my introduction to trail running. Little did I know back then how hooked I would become. Just shows how we can go from 26km in 2015 to ultramarathons in 2017!

Two hundred eager runners lined up and after a cattle like corral on the road near Jonnie Foxes pub, we were off. The different colours and styles on the start line really stood out. The bags and gear in the ultrarunning world make these mass starts a sight to behold. The run would take us along the road and then onto the Wicklow way trail. We ran at a decent pace. I decided to sit in and try stay with the top ten runners, without going into the red and hopefully running the majority of the first half of the race. I won’t bore you with the fine detail but the basics of the course meant we would cover grassy trail, boardwalk, gravel road, fireroad and some more technical trail. This variation of terrain was great and I enjoyed the technical stuff the most. We had a few decent climbs, around 1800meters, including Djouce Mountain before decending to the turnaround point. We would turn and run the course the same way home. This actually wasn’t as monotonous as I expected as at this stage I started meeting people running in the opposite direction. The comradory between runners on these events is second to none. High fives and constant encouragement for everyone. By the time I was around the 40km mark the 26km race started to pass. It was about here that my good pace began to slow and the rain came down in buckets, nice and cooling actually, but it did get very slippy underfoot. Shaun Stewart came bombing past on the 26km route, finishing 4th in a great display. Great to see a good buddie when your feeling fatigued. It picks the spirit up.

By the time I had turned at the 26km mark I was sittting in 7th position and I would stay here until the finish. I slowed considerably over the last 2 climbs and even though my downhill legs felt good my uphill ones began to tire. (This sounds like I carry the spare set of legs in the bag for up and downhill?!!) This loss in pace saw me drop off the front runners a little more than I hoped but all in all 7th place was a good day out. I wasn’t there to break records and I hope that this will stand to me in the coming months.

To conclude the Wicklow Way is now in the good books again. It’s always worth giving something a second or even third chance in this case!

Yesterday saw our return to the Maamturks Challenge in local Connemara.

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A typical turks view, fantastic!

It was a welcome day on the mountains after a week of recovery training. The weather was mostly fair with some mist and wind on the summits but all in all a real cracker of an event lay ahead as we set off around 6.40am. There is no doubt for a distance of 26 kilometres, this challenge is second to none. Relentless climbing, small running sections, nasty nasty ground underfoot, rock, bog, grass, mud, water, everything but snow. The hike starts at the base of Corcog in the East and follows several peaks all the way to Leenane in the west overlooking Killary harbour. Simlar to Wicklow almost 160 people took to the mountains today, none of which were mad enough to have taken part in an ultra race the weekend before, apart from myself, Sinead and John of course. We are quickly becoming the three amigos! A good adventure racing buddie, Mike O shea joined us after we met him at the start and it was great to catch up on the mountains. Mike is an experienced racer and always one for good advice.

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Misty tops with Sinead and John

We hiked the uphills and trotted on the downhills and slightly flat sections if possible, using the hiking poles alot. My kit of the salomon bag, carbon poles, salomon speedcross runners and of course the all important Tailwind as fuel is working a treat in 2018 so far. These days out are ideal tester days and the gear is all important during endurance events.

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Another climb?!

We used viewranger, Suunto GPS watches and maps to navigate, taking no chances in the low visibility. One after the other we summitted the Turk’s, my legs feeling great throughout, bar one ankle roll, which I seem to have come through safely. Around 13km we reached the first checkpoint at the top of Mamean. From here we climbed from 250metres back up to 700 and began another section of peaks and troughs. The rocky terrain on top was dangerous so we kept the running reasonably slow. We checked in at the next few checkpoints and with about 2 hours to go the clouds almost completely lifted and the vast mountains and expanse of views opened up. Once again blowing me away with how incredible this part of the world really is. I decided to bomb on and run the last 5km or so, which included the climb of Maamturk Mor and the Col of Dispondancy. They were two hard climbs but not particularly long and I was soon flying on the downhill back towards Leenane. A few big bowls of soup awaited at the hotel and this was what really pushed me on, having reluctantly left my friends to finish without me but I did want to run and push a little extra to make the most of that last hour. I’m sure they were ok with one of the amigos needing his lunch a bit sooner than the rest.

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The clouds decided to lift.

Two great weekends were had and I feel good, despite a bit of a sore hip and ankle. This are only niggles that a day or two will sort out and with the right food and hydration this week I will be building towards Transvulcania nicely.

It has been an absolute pleasure to spend these weekends with Sinead and John. They are both inspirational and and I think the 3 of us are improving at our own levels on a constant basis. Sinead and John took 30 minutes off their time on the Turks from 2017 this year. Incredible to see people constantly improve with pure grit and determination.

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Not a bad spot

Marathon de Connemara (the MDC!)

The weekend was a cracker, and considering the busy schedule I was feeling reasonably ok at my two spinning classes tonight. The key to my training is always a big mix of activities and this has certainly been the story of the last week. Saturday was the turn of a little Marathon or 45km of running around the base of the Turks in Connemara, in the sunshine. Sinead Keogh had planned out a cracking route starting in Maam in a clockwise direction around the Western way to Leenane and back to Maam. I’ve nicknamed it Marathon de Connemara or the MDC. This could become big!  We had a group of 5 and planned to move slowly for time on the legs.

 

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Connemara

After a quick cup of coffee or tea, depending on preference, in The Mueller, we trotted off in the direction of the Turks. The first section of the run took us along a country road leading up to a trail section below Mamean. A quick change of shorts behind some trees was needed as I tested out my new shorts. Things were definately not comfortable so I went back to the old reliables. The climb up to Mamean was a nice little drag and we were all nicely warmed up by the top.

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Down from Mamean with the Ben’s mountain range in the background.

The technical running down off Mamean soon turned into road running on an undulating stretch before the Western way turns into trail once more. This boggy trail section, sometimes muddy but mostly firm under foot was my favourite section of the day. It included a section of the Western Way that I had never been on and this of course always makes things more interesting.

The craic was mighty throughout with Rachel Nolan telling us about her adventure racing craziness in Belize, a blog I will share as soon as she has it out there. This is going to be a great read for anyone. Snakes, scorpions and mosquitos only the start of the fun out there! Keep an eye on the link above for her post.

Next we met a forest trail and more familiar ground as we joined part of a Gaelforce route that would take us around to the Killary. This section was beautiful as we saw the sea for the first time and with mountains on our right, the sea on our left, some funny looking sheep and a farmer with his dog, there was always something for us to see and chat about. We ran alongside Killary Harbour on the trail and joined the road just before the village of Leenane.

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Killary Harbour from the Western Way
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Running the trail alongside Killary Harbour

A fuel stop here and we were into the last 13km of the 45. This would be all on road and tiring as the legs fatigued. The chat was still good, apart from a few minutes of silence as we tired a little. I was actually feeling so good compared to any marathon training efforts in the past and realising this long distance training is starting to pay off. Saturday felt like 4 hours and 40 minutes of fun with friends rather than tough training. This is real running.

We arrived back in Maam, walked into the river, briefly for some cold on the legs and feet and then into the pub for a big pot of tea and a toastie. Next up a small matter of a stag in Westport, which finished at about 3.30am before waking on Sunday with the plan of heading up the Reek or Croagh Patrick as I have always referred to it on the blog. As you can imagine the energy levels were a bit low but sometimes a little tired legged training is good. I power hiked up the mountain in 40 minutes and ran down, a little slower than usual in 25. The mountain seems to deteriorate with every visit, becoming harder to descend with large loose boulders and alot more people. All this said it is one hell of a view and always worth the effort.

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Clew Bay from The Reek

So that was a brief account of my weekend, feeling refreshed from the craziness and after some epic sleeping last night another week is underway. Only 5 weeks until Bristol now and looking forward to the move.

 

All Alone

There are times when we all like to be alone, however, this tends to happen quite alot when putting the hours in for adventure racing. With an unusual work schedule and everyone working and living busy lives we have to make the most of our free time. In saying this I spent six hours in the wilderness yesterday, not a very long time, but long enough to think alot. These sessions can be great for focusing the mind on both training, goals and everything in life really. It is not for everyone but for those of you out there who like to rough it, you have to give this a go.  One thing is for sure, there is an adventure playground only an hour from everyone living in Galway and it is going almost unnoticed. There are a few people out there, but apart from my mountain bike section yesterday, I never saw a soul.

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I set off by water from the Gleann shore just North West of Oughterard. A steady 6km paddle brought me to the Boardwalk at the Failmore River on the Western Way. The lake was calm and the cloud was low over the hills, making it almost eery. I decided this session would be more about putting the time in than speed, as most sessions will be this year, but in saying that I need to strenghthen in certain areas so will push harder at some points. Yesterday I decided to give the kayaking a good bash and enjoy the trek and the biking sections a little more.

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The end of the hiking section. I hiked at a good pace from my kayak to Corkog Mountain.A round trip of 14km. If you look closely at the left hand side of the photograph you will see a track in the forest where the Western Way boradwalk and my route back to kayak can be found. The majority of the hike was on boardwalk, with a very tricky and slippy ascent and descent of Corkog. I decided not to summit as the cloud was extremely low and being alone it would be a bad move to start exploring up there.

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No I didn’t kayak this piece, but it was one of the nice sights along the trekking stage. Real wilderness.

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This is an unusual sight in Connemara. Yes it is dry, but also having the support of a boardwalk while trekking over the bogs of Connemara is a strange but nice change to my usual routes. This was just before I hopped back into kayak to head back to the bike. I didn’t take any pictures of the biking stage but my mind was too concentrated on not crashing and taking on the hills to take out my phone.

My base for the day was right beside a back entrance to a great mountain biking trail called Derroura Woods. http://www.derrouramountainbikehire.com/trail.htm

This trail was a fitting end to the session, with some technical biking and some good hill climbs mixed in. There is no doubt this course is going to be a regular training ground this summer so anyone in the area feel free to get in touch and Il lead the way into this great wilderness. Camping trips are definately an option up here too, both on the islands and up the mountains.

For the real AR enthusiasts out there I presume ye are following Godzone at the moment. If so keep a keen eye on Team Sneaky Weasel Gang. Our Teammate for ITERA, Byron Munro, is on the team and they are going well. Good luck Byron and your team.

http://godzoneadventure.com/

 

2014 Summary

As we near the end of the first week of 2015 I thought I should mention a few thoughts on the year gone by. Firstly I hope this year is just as good, and I hope this blog is interesting along the way!

A quick idea of my results for the year can be seen here,

https://lonanadventurerace.wordpress.com/results/

Or by clicking on the results column above.

As you can see I raced in 10 competitive races and had some good finishes. My most rewarding races were those where I beat times from last year. Gaelforce North and Sea to Summit went really well. Connemara Rough Diamond and Dingle Adventure Race were excellent races which I made debuts in this year. The races included summitting Mount Brandon, Mount Errigal, Crough Patrick twice, Diamond Hill and a few smaller hills along the way. I climbed Carraun Touhill, Irelands highest peak, for the first time in 2014 as part of training. I have decided that the mountain running is definately my thing and I will try to do more of it in 2015.

As with any sport there are lots of ups and downs along the way. This year came with a bit of everything. I had falls on Mount Brandon in the Dingle Adventure Race and on Mount Errigal in Gaelforce North. These falls are part of the game and part of making you a better and stronger competitor, I hope ! I experienced some bad conditions, some lovely weather and amazing scenery. I met lots of great athletes and experiencing more and more comradarie along the way. Myself and Shaun Stewart shared a can of coke as we raced for first and second place up in Donegal, while a very helpful guy swapped water for a gel after I lost my bottle on the bike stage in Gaelforce West.

As always the most rewarding time, after months of hard training, is the moment we cross the finish line. It was really amazing this year to cross the line at some of the events and see my family and friends there to welcome me and show great support. They are the people that really understand how much work goes into making that finish line. Thanks dudes 🙂

Race week and Two rules

Two Simply Rules For Better Health

by Man Bicep

I get asked diet and exercise questions all day, every day…And I love it.

And what I’ve seen with these questions is that we love to overcomplicate things and focus on the details when the overall picture is still fuzzy and incomplete.

It is almost easier for us to hone in on one piece of the puzzle instead of first outlining all the basics.

We skip starting with the two most important rules and jump right into micromanaging a few very specific things.

I think we do this because it is EASY.

It is easier to focus on a few little details than it is to get the big picture in order.

For some reason it is easier to make dieting and exercising overly complicated than it is to focus on the basics.

Why this is the case?

Honestly I have no idea. It baffles me.

Because the truth of the matter is – being healthy is pretty simple.

But most likely we get stuck on the details because we want a quick fix. A simply fix. Or maybe it is because we want something to blame when we lose motivation and fail to reach our goals.

No matter what the reasoning is…We need to stop doing it.

Because really there are only two things out there you need to do to be healthy:

1. Eat whole natural foods.

2. BE ACTIVE.

Yup…two things. And really two very easy things.

You don’t need to starve yourself or deprive yourself. And you don’t need to spend hours in the gym.

You just need to eat whole natural foods and move around!

You don’t need to worry about macros, or types of protein or meal timing if your basic diet isn’t even in line.

Start with a focus on whole natural foods and then hash out the details.

Seriously….you aren’t going to draw a face starting with detailing out the nostril before you even know where the nostril fits on the face are you!?! I mean…I’m not artist but that just seems ridiculous!

Same goes for exercise. People claim all they don’t have time to workout, but what they are really saying is  “I don’t have time to spend hours in the gym like it seems I need to do to get into shape.”

And maybe that is simply their excuse to not workout because they don’t want to.

Because it is simply not the case.

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or even go to a gym to be healthy.

You just need to be active!

Heck if you even get up and stretch and move around for 5 minutes every hour or so you are off to a good start!

If you even take your puppy for a walk in the mornings and afternoons, you are being more active than most.

Just first get moving than improve your activity so that it is helping you to reach your specific goals.

Don’t feel you have to jump right into an hour-long workout 6 days a week if you aren’t even currently moving for at least 15 minutes every day.

STOP OVERCOMPLICATING THINGS AND MAKING EXCUSES!

Start with the basics…Create an outline, a solid foundation and then, once that becomes habit, start working on the details.

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I read this article and felt it was worth posting on my blog. It is a simple way of starting a healthy lifestyle that in time can lead to whatever you want it to.

As I prepare for another race and think of all the logistics, my diet, final training sessions and the race itself, I realise that all the hard work is mostly over before this one and I can now look forward to enjoying a new race (as long as I don’t trip on a root and twist ankle again!).

So this week will involve 2 gym sessions and today I did a 22k on bike and 5k on road pretty much at race pace. Nothing too time consuming and good to keep up speed race week. I will post a link of race below and a link to my spin and run today also.

http://connect.garmin.com/dashboard?cid=3477436

http://www.connemararoughdiamond.com/

One Year Today!

I hit the year mark on my blog today! Thanks everyone that has followed me and I hope to improve my blog in the year ahead!

4 days to next race, the Connemara Rough Diamond Adventure race! I will post a pre race report and gives some ideas of what to expect Saturday “as far as I know anyhow!” as soon as I can.

After a good run down in Cork on Sunday and a quick session in gym today, it will be back to the bike tomorrow and a taper until Saturday.

Mountains, Bike and Heat

A real West of Ireland training session today, apart from the weather. 25 degrees and sunshine! I decided to make the most of my day off and get a good bit of training in. I set off for the Twelve Ben mountains, 40 miles from Galway and threw the bike on the car to make sure I managed a bit on the bike today too. I arrived around 1pm, in some crazy heat but hit off with a plan to do 3 peaks and then a 30km  spin on bike from car to Clifden and back. I took a few videos as I went along and the session can be seen on Garmin link once more. The total for the hike, run and bog run finish was 9km, but man did it feel like alot more!

An evening of football is planned now, with Brazil v Mexico awaiting. First of all a dip in Galway Bay to cool down the muscles.

Enjoy the weather !!

http://youtu.be/mkwCR_Wcf04

http://youtu.be/0sm0BRjQGms

http://connect.garmin.com/dashboard