Dorset Ultra Plus race report 2018

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The Jurassic coast as the rain leared.

The return to the Jurassic coast for the second outing in the Dorset Endurance Life Ultra race would be a different experience to last year. We knew this before the race even started, with a wet week and a very wet day forecast, this was going to be one of those outings. I knew that I have always been good racing in the rain, not suffering from the cold and actually I think I enjoy it more than most. I decided pre race that I would once again have a reasonably relaxed week in the lead up to the event and on the day a top 10 finish or even a push for the podium would be possible. Myself and Emma travelled down and met the Irish gang in Dorset. Nine of us would race from 10k to 74k races the following morning and an air of excitement as well as some nerves was evident as we sat around for a cuppa on Friday night.

I woke up around 6am Saturday and as forecasted the weather was horrendous. Wind and rain battered the house as we cooked the scrambled eggs. Bring it on!!

Myself, Sinead, Owen and Pol, all part of the Chamonix gang from August would give the ultraplus a rattle, with Emma, Noreen and Paschal ripping up the half marathon, Aoife giving the marathon a rattle and Sharon would run the 10km in a pair of walking boots. All serious feats in different ways. The main thing I hoped was that everyone would have fun and cross the line in one piece. It was going to be slippy and treacherous out there.

After registration the race would kick off some time just after 8. We huddled behind a tent and almost missed the start as they moved it from last year’s location to near  the registration tent. Of course in our relaxed state we were almost late on the morning and missed almost all the race briefing. We did get the idea in passing that the course would be altered due to the conditions. Not what I wanted to hear. It actually turned out that it was altered in a huge way and led to a very different race that expected. More of this later.

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A typical coastal shot.

We were off. I have to say I had looked forward to this race ever since the CCC and with my training going well I expected I could perform and dig deep for a decent time. I decided to bunker in somewhere in the top 20 and take on the first few climbs with a cool head, stay out of the red for as long as possible and feel my way into the race. This is becoming a theme in my ultra running! Only 5km into the race I began to realise that the course alterations were massive. We took on two early climbs but then the trail led to farmers fields, mud and puddles and worst of all, FLAT. I had basically spent the entire last two months doing hill repeats for these short sharp hills. Now I would have to run at least 55km’s of this 75km race on almost flat ground. A completely different turnover of the legs, a different style of running and not to mention the conditions underfoot. One thought came into my head, ‘forget it, you are here now, you are strong and racing’. I soon found myself running with a guy of very similar speed and we started up some great conversations. Adam Gamble was his name and a super runner he was. It turned out we ended up running the entire race together. Adam, like myself had expected more hills, he was a 17 minute 5k runner and around 36 minute 10k runner, had completed the CCC and had plenty notches in his ultra running belt. All similar levels to myself so we decided to work with each other, encouraging the other when things were low and see how the day went.

At around 15km the lead ladies in the ultra caught us. They were doing the 55km course and were motoring. Becky and Bonnie were there names and Becky would stay with myself and Adam for a good chunk of the race. Both of them bit by bit catching my accent and wondering if they would go home sounding a bit Irish!

We completed the first 20km in about 2 hours and realised we would do that loop later on as well as half of it again to finish the race. That was after tackling which looked like a much hillier 24km ahead. We descended into Lulworth, grabbed some water, filled bottles with Tailwind and away we went to start the next section. This 24km was much hillier, following a decent amount of the course from 2017. WE skipped the beach section and one section of the coastal path but would run a few of the big hills on the coast as well. I was dying for hills at this stage and it wasn’t until nearly 25km that we started to hit a few. Of course I felt myself here and powered up the hills, barely breaking a sweat on one or two of them. Adam and Becky were going well too and we started to get a nice pace between the three of us. We descended one of the final hills and took a left away from the coast and across some farmers fields. The mud was relentless. Sticky mud, caking to the bottom of your runners, making your feet as heavy as led but we continued to have fun and a good laugh in seeing who could gather the most mud on their runners! The ploughed field went on and on and up a nice incline before we hit a ridge trail and took a left to start the 10km or so back to Lulworth, most of which was on the cliff ridges with one long climb on the road mixed in. This is where it all went PEAR shaped!

As the 3 of us followed the markers along the ridge, joining the trail we had come up on we realised the trail was following the fence. This would be our downfall. We kept going and began to meet lots of the ultra plus, ultra, marathon and half marathon runners coming in the opposite direction. We hopped a stile and began to descend a long descent that we had come up earlier on. As I ran I was delighted to see Owen and Sinead and flew by as they said, ‘you sure your not gone wrong’. In my haste I thought they were joking and we continued to run. Almost at the bottom of the hill now and I started to wonder and look around, looking for arrow markers. We decided we had gone wrong. I let out an incredible amount of disgust, at myself, in the most gracious of language before gathering my thoughts a little. We could descend to the bottom of the hill and try rejoin the trail inland but we felt we should do the course properly and go back to find where we went wrong. After ascending the hill we eventually found the point where we went off route. There was a gate 30 metres to the right of the trail and an arrow further back on the trail we had missed due to following the fence. There was no X on the stile we had hopped and therefore we had kept on going. Definitely our own fault but the arrows on the course were poor and I have better proof of this a little later.

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Not far from the point of almost no return!

As you can see from the photo the conditions didn’t help our chances of seeing the small signs, no excuse for going wrong, but at the same time the strong winds led to moments where we all dropped the heads. The rain had eased at this stage and as you can see I had my jacket off and was enjoying the cooling effect that had.

So after rejoining the actual route we knew that for Becky her chance of top 3 ladies in the ultra was probably over and we knew that myself and Adam had been very much pushing the top 5 if not already in the top 5 before things went arie. As you can see from the next photo, we continued to have fun, this taken only 10 minutes after we rejoined the trail. We had met a group of little kids along the trail and all high fived us. Some of them so tiny we barely reached down to high five as we passed.

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Having the craic!

 

This photo was taken on the final climb before a roughly 6 kilometre run back to Lulworth. A quick refuel, grab some dry buffs from the drop bag and on we went. Becky was just ahead and stayed there until she turned for home on the ultra as myself and Adam continued to slide our way back around the 20km section of mostly flat but undulating course. The trails were now very wet and the mud was slippier and thicker than before with hundreds of athletes running in the different events all day. Both myself and Adam hit lows during this 20km, but as promised earlier on we talked each other through these lows. How incredible is a sport where you can meet someone for the first time and end up helping them through hard times and making a friendship all in an 8 hour period.

There was little to report on this section as we were a bit slow on the way out to the 10km turning point. It took us close to an hour and a half and the following 10k around an hour. This was of course still good running with 60km in the legs, including our 4.5km detour earlier on! The second 10km was particularly fast in parts (helped by my religious can of coke on ultra race day!) and we began to feel really strong again. During this particular section of the race there is a trail through the forest. At one point you come to a T junction and turn right. The sign here was telling us to turn left and head to the beach. I touched the sign and it spun around. The staples had come loose and a person or the wind had hit the sign. This just goes to show how easy it is to go wrong when you rely on course markers. I am not blaming the organisers as in these races the conditions/weather are the biggest issue and they did have to change the course at the last minute as well. My biggest worry in the long term is that these races lose popularity due to cutting corners on food, medals, tshirts and the likes. A lot of people come to enjoy the finish line banter, the soup or cake, together in celebration. There was little of this to be seen in Lulworth I’m afraid (rant over, now back to the race).

We arrived back to Lulworth for the penultimate time at about 3.45pm and decided we would really try to smash out the last 10km.  Back up the steep hill out of the cove for the last time we went, knowing the route like the back of our hands at this stage. We really began to move. The ground seemed to be drying in the wind and the mud began to harden a little. Let’s finish this in style. My legs started to come back to life and  I was flying the downhill sections again.

An hour later we were descending once again to the finish line. We crossed the line in unison and let a couple of goat like roars out while doing so! Emma was there, having finished the half and as always it was amazing to see her. That incredible finish line moment is always worth it, even if there was very little to see or do at this particular finish line. A protein bar and a photo and we were sent on our way.

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Yellow the colour of the day! 

On crossing the line we had no idea where we were placed. The computer print out soon saw us in 10th and 11th place, on the same time of course, but we were delighted. We added 30 minutes to the course with our route but still managed a top 10 time in 8 hours and 53 minutes. Taking our mistake out of the equation, we were very much in the mix for top 5. This was definitely a good example of a type of teamwork. It would of been a really really long day on this course alone. The views were limited to gaps in the mist and the ground was poor underfoot. The banter and craic made the day fun and I thank both Adam and Becky for this. Becky ended up fourth lady which was super considering the detour.

Lastly well done to the gang, everyone giving it their all on a day to remember. I’ll probably be back next year! Why not, I now work just up the road.

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Alpacas on tour!! 

Thanks again to Tailwind for their amazing fuel for the day and here are the results.

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Autumn turns to Winter

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Lough Corrib in November, one of the nicest places in the world.

I recently travelled back to Ireland in ‘The Mueller’ for a few days and between this and a few weeks of constant interviewing and job applications, I haven’t mustered up the time to blog. This said, my training has been reasonably good in the lead up to Dorset UltraPlus, next Saturday week!

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Leigh Woods, regular stomping ground in Bristol.

I spent time doing hill repeats around the Bristol trails and we spent a weekend trail running in the South of Wales along the coastal path in Gower. Another fabulous UK running destination. A 50km running weekend in Gower was the highlight of the past few weeks with some nice photos to tell the story.

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Gower coast.
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Terrain change mid run.
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Autumn in Gower.
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Gower, South Wales.

So my training ramped up in the few busy weeks and I found myself a good job, starting in December, but more on this later.

I decided to really mix things up over the last few months. After a race like the CCC we have no idea how the body will react. Rest, good food and rehab seemed to bring me back pretty quickly and I decided to keep 2018 rolling. I don’t really believe in long breaks from training. We all need a week or a few weeks sometimes but as I said before, winter is for becoming stronger and focusing for the year ahead.

A cross country race, a 10k on the road, long hilly trail runs (a few up to 30km), hill repeat after hill repeat and then some turbo sessions thrown in the mix, kept me busy of late. With all this in the bag I am feeling good in preparation for Dorset.  I was a little down on both my 10 kilometre and cross country times, but I put this down to maybe some season fatigue as well as holding back just a little for the bigger race. The only issue here is that in the past, when feeling good, I have been less successful. Therefore, I have decided to take Dorset in my stride, enjoy it as I did last year and hopefully make the finish of what is a gruelling 74 kilometres of hilly coastal trails. Sure if there is a podium place up for grabs I might give it a go as well!  The massive boost this year is that a huge group are travelling from Ireland, pretty much all on the word from us second timers that this race is amazing! Fingers crossed for the weather.

I had some training plans for the last 12 weeks since the CCC all ready for off. As per usual I veered away pretty quickly from these as life wasn’t playing ball. So instead I trained when I could and I have logged everything in a spreadsheet which will be produced after Dorset. I will be able to explain whether it worked or not at this stage. The lack of mileage, increase in hill work and variety of training will confuse many, but it is my way of keeping things interesting. I have been using Tailwind in most of my training session, keeping the body used to a regular racing fuel. Lets hope it continues to serve me well. Check out Shaun Stewart’s seasonal report here on his amazing year and how Tailwind helped him in the final burst to the finish. My fond memories of Sea to Summit came flooding back as I watched the footage of him crossing the line in 1st place. The end of what was a phenomenal year. Lets hope I get to race with and against Shaun in 2019. Exciting times ahead.

Both myself and Shaun were lucky enough to recently get involved with Uglowsports as Ambassadors for 2019. Plenty to follow on this but for now check out their site here. There is something here for everyone running for the winter. Hopefully I will be kitted out by Uglowsport for races in 2019.

Cross Country and Winter Rehab

With only one race left in 2018 (Dorset Ultraplus, 74km, on the 1st of December), I see this winter as a great chance, not only to get fitter and stronger on the bike, but also a chance to correct some injury issues still hanging on from 2018. The main issue was my knee pain during the recent CCC, relating to IT band syndrome.

I have started a few different strength and stability routines such as this IT band Rehab.

There are days where rehab is boring and seems pointless when you don’t feel injured. Like so many of you I just want to go out and take on a good run or gym session, whatever gives you the buzz. A 20 minute session with a resistance band, a few weights or just a body weight session will stand to you in the long run. Figure out or let your physio figure out the issue and then focus on it. This is not to say that you let other things slip, it is just a matter of gaining from the winter ahead. Lots of people start their program in January. To me every month is as important. Why start something new in the darkest, wettest month, when you can start it right now.

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Sticking as a team in Cross countries, County Silver in the bag.

I have been sticking, roughly to my training plan, while racing a really tough 8km Cross Country back home. It was a great feeling to be involved in a team silver medal at county level.

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What a team, Castlegar AC, Cross country Counties in Tuam 2018

The next few weeks will be busy with interviews coming thick and fast. Given this schedule, I will train when I can, play some football and get a run or two in with the club. However, winter rehab and strength will be number.

 


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Check out my little piece in Kayathlon.ie. (Page 48-61). A big thank you for the inclusion goes to Greg Dillon of Kayathlon. It is great to see an adventure magazine growing in strength.

Check out my latest workout music with Kastane on Spotify by Alan Walsh. I found it great for watt bike, cross trainer or threadmill sessions. Have a listen HERE.

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.