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.

 

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Gaelforce Dublin Report

Race start
Gaelforce Dublin start

It had been almost a year since ‘The Race’ in Donegal. Hard to believe it and even harder to believe, despite all the races and events I hadn’t taken part in a multi sport race since. My training certainly wasn’t race specific and with Donadea 50k still in the legs I knew I was in for a slog. There was no prior warning as to what the Dublin hills are like though! Nasty little buggers!

I knew the field of athletes was strong and that it would be quick from the off. This would be the case throughout. I arrived to registration with Lisa, my sister as support and met up with some more guys from the West as well as a few well known racers from the last few years. My friend Dave was taking part in his first ever multi sport race and had used a training plan of mine to train up. I had everything crossed for him in hope he would enjoy it and do well.

The start was at 9.30 on the dot, all extremely well organised by the gaelforce crew. They were excellent throughout. We sprinted around the first kilometre and I hoped to hang on to the lead group as we headed out on the bike. It was soon everyone for themselves as the hills came thick and fast. The hills turned into farm tracks and there was no option but to run with the bike or be certain of a puncture. I was sitting in about 6th at this point, only about 7k into the race but almost all at close to max heart rate. The hills continued with a brief fast downhill section after out second off-road section which was nicely flooded in parts. I realised now how much I missed these adventure type races. Mud from head to toe!

Following a fast downhill we turned into the entrance for the reservoir and reached the bike drop before a short kilometre run to the kayaks. I was up to fourth at this stage and sitting on thirds tail. Here I would stay around the loop on the reservoir before exiting the kayak with a completely numb ass. The water was an icy 2degrees and the sit on top kayaks take plenty on board. It must of been 2k into the run before I had any feeling back in the glutes!

Almost at the end of mountain run section.

I settled into the run, briefly moving into 3rd place but realising I had very little in the legs. I felt like I had about 30km ran and legs would only go one pace. I ran the uphill with Matt who was doing, The Race, in a few weeks and was keen to hear all about it, between breaths that was. We climbed for 2km running slowly but steadily as well. The leaders were about 3 minutes ahead by the time we turned to descend back towards the reservoir and the final bike stage. I felt better on the downhill and was delighted to see Dave was cruising around the top 40 and we high fived as I flaked down the hill. Matt was strong and left me for dead on the run, proving I had little in me. I managed to put in a decent effort on the final bike. It included a nasty long climb, literally lung busting all the way, in and out if the saddle the whole time. Following this was a wicked descent, which I was loving until I came into a bad bend too quickly. Slow motion took over as my back wheel lost traction. I ended up slowimg a bit but not enough and before I knew it myself and the bike were somewhere between a barb wire fence and a big tree. My right calf muscle instantly cramped and I let a roar of annoyance out of me. All very good language of course. I hopped back on knowing any ground I made up was now gone and it was a matter of holding 4th to the finish. I flew down into Tallaght and the finish, broke two red lights, clipped a guard that was marshalling a roundabout and bombed down the home straight happy to know the finish was close. I dropped the bike and ran around Shamrock Rovers home ground to finish the 49km course in 2 hours 31 minutes. A happy chappy.

Dave finished in 43rd overall, a phenomenal effort for a first timer and even though he wasn’t ready to hear it, I told him he had a future at this malarchy !!

Thanks to all involved in the organising of the event and to Lisa for her top support as always.

Next up is Transvulcania in May. There will be plenty challenges and training days before then!

Winter Training Continues

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

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Mountain Biking in the Burren.

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

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

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

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Goofy on top of Croagh Patrick on Sunday!

First Race of 2015, Gaelforce Sky Run 20km.

A little breeze on top of the hill!

Finally my 2015 posting will start to ramp up in the next few weeks. Please excuse any spelling mistakes as my cat is either on my lap or on the keyboard as I type!

Due to adverse weather including snow melt and storm force winds the course today was altered. We were now due to run a 10km loop twice taking in a 350metre climb on a boggy hill both times. I have to say of all the races I have taken part in this one was shaping up to be seriously tough. Gael to storm force winds with a driving mist and the ground was so soft and slippy that trail runners seemed more like slippers.

I decided after a strange week, busy at work and a head cold that this was going to be more of a really hard training session than a competitive race for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be at full fitness but that this race would stand to me later in season, It was strangely enough my first ever mountain running race, which wasn’t part of an adventure race. I’m still a greenhorn really !

At 9am we hit the trail after a 2 km warm up. I felt ok and stayed with the lead group for the majority of the first lap. I could tell there were some great runners here today though. After around 2km we hit some really boggy ground with one of the group taking a tumble, and I could swear he disappeared in the mud for a few seconds. I was to find out how this felt a little later . We managed to wade through this section and reach the base of the mountain. It is only 350 ish metres but it is slippy,very very soft in parts and steep, fun and painful. At the summit the gael force winds hit with a bang and as we descended the wind was so strong you had to lean into it to balance even a bit. I had a slip or two on the descent but managed to catch the lead group at the bottom. At the dib station at the bottom my dibber didn’t work and by time it did 5 guys had screeched away in the distance. A hard blow but I settled into my ” training” mode and decided to push myself and not worry about others for a while.

The second lap was similar, surprise there, a bit harder as I tired and I fell about 5 times. The falls were fine as the ground was so soft. A few guys passed me in the last 2km but all in all I felt good on the mountain and felt I lost most time on the road/trail sections. Some work to do here maybe. I haven’t seen the full results yet but I was definately somewhere in top 10. Not bad considering I haven’t really got into mountain training mode yet this year.

I would highly recommend this course, even for a training route and hope to come back fit and ready next year. Nice to have the first of 2015 under the belt.  Now for sleep !

https://www.facebook.com/GaelforceEvents

Pushing it on the bike as ankle improves.

Training has been a little different of last with alot of work on the bike. This has mainly been due to my ankle issues but all in all I hope it improves my biking a little. I ran for 20 minutes on monday and for 30 minutes today and felt good so I seem to be on the mend. Many thanks to my physio who has helped out in the last few weeks. My goal now is to be ready to run the Gaelforce sky run on the 7th of March.

Here are a few youtube clips I have used in recent turbo trainer sessions. I think I am starting to feel the benefit of these tough workouts.

https://connect.garmin.com/calendar

I recently got a tip off of a really good podcast, the link can be found here.

http://stopchasingpain.podbean.com/

The podcast by Andrew Read is well worth a listen. He goes back to humans routes and the reasons we are built the way we are, and the reasons we are built to run.

On the bike

Due to my annoying ankle I decided to do minimal running the last few days and do some decent work on the bike. I think things are going to plan and I am starting to enjoy the bike a bit again. All tri-athletes and adventure racers tend to have a sport they enjoy more than the others. For me it is running and I have always needed to work more at the bike while maintaining all round fitness to plod my way through the kayaking. My advice when you are struggling with a discipline is to try to change up the training a lot. A good example of this is to go for a long slow cycle, then a short fast one, and the next session hit the gym for a bit of spinning. The worst thing with hard training is monotony therefore variation is key. I have attached the link to my recent training sessions. Unfortunately my garmin seems to be constantly acting up so I am down to manual imput. A lot less exciting if you like your stats!

http://connect.garmin.com/calendar

I have a couple of races lined up over the next few months. mostly sticking to running and mountain races for pre season. Here are a few links to these events.

Annacurra mountain run, Wicklow

https://www.imra.ie/events/view/id/1220

Gaelforce Sky Run

http://gaelforceevents.com/en/gaelforce-mountain-run

Wicklow way trail

https://www.imra.ie/events/view/id/1222

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 🙂

Gaelforce West, here we come !

A long logistical day today, with registration and bike drop off along with lots of traffic and distance to contend with. Compared to some of those travelling from all corners of the country I can’t complain with this one though. All in all I am feeling good, a little tired but good. I will be up at 3am to head for Westport and catch the bus to the start line.
All I want tomorrow is an improvement on 2013 race, and wherever I finish will be fair after that. The weather looks decent, my training has gone well so fingers crossed for a good day.
Pre race formguide featured on MSAI website today.
Try not to mix me up with the othe O’ Farrell featured in report!
To finish I am posting last years times and splits so hopefully this time tomorrow there will be a few minutes shaved off.
 
 
Course: Gael Force  
Time Taken: 03:45:51  
Start Wave: 1  
Location Leg Total
Kayak Start 00:57:47 00:57:47
Kayak End 00:07:02 01:04:49
Bike Start 00:14:40 01:19:29
Foot of Mtn 01:15:24 02:34:53
Summit 00:30:30 03:05:23
Foot of Mtn 00:12:22 03:17:45
Finish 00:28:06 03:45:51
   
     
     
     
     
     
     

Injuries and Motivation for next Big challenge

As I put together my training plan for the next four weeks in the lead up to Gaelforce West I have stumbled on a few good articles. Il stick the links below!

I have been struggling over the last week to fall back into my training regime and along side this I have a hip pain that keeps on niggling. Was it from over doing it before Gaelforce North race or is it something else? The usual questions that flow through your mind during an injury. The good side of things is that I can still use the bike and short runs seem to be ok for now. It may pass in a few days with the right stretching and foam roller also. Alot of this is curtailed with crazy working hours over the last while and very little chance to get any routine. But there is never an excuse to train, just get up and go every chance!

For now I am going to stick a training plan together and complete it as best I can. I always think training plans are a guideline. anyone that can complete one exactly is doing well.

I have started with a brick session on Tuesday, a good gym session yesterday and the plan is for a low intensity run this evening before work. That should get me going and hopefully motivated to really give it a lash.

Any tips from those of you out there for hip exercises would be welcome. It seems to be my hip flexor but a pain that worsens with distance on a run.

http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/workout-of-the-week-fast-finish_12161

http://triathlon.competitor.com/2014/06/training/one-hour-workout-angela-naeths-power-hour_100419

http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/walk-breaks-for-faster-running?cid=social_20140709_27472726

 

 

Gaelforce North 2nd Place 2014

Race Report Gaelforce 2014

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Finally a chance to get to the blogging again. Sorry folks for the lack of updates over the past week. It’s been a busy one to say the least. Training went really well with two touch brick sessions early in week and then with work busy I had a break from training Wednesday to Friday before the race kicked off Saturday morning.

So the question is where do I start! A fourth place finish in tough wet and windy conditions in 2013 meant I knew I would be in with a shout of the top three this year if things went well and of course depending on the oposition in the field. Preparation is key and last week wasn’t the best, I have been working 12 and 13 hour shifts, some at night and some during the day and juggling a bit of sleep and training in. All in all however I was feeling strong and ready to give it everything.

On Friday evening, Emma and I made the long journey to Letterkenny to register , drop off bike at transition and find our B&B in a little village close to the bus pick up for the morning. A stunning part of the country and the B&B was really nice with fantastically helpful owners. It turns out it is only three weeks open. I’ll post a link later in case anyone fancies a trip North!

The race consists of a 15km trail run, 2km kayak, 25km bike, Mount Errigal climb,18km bike including off road section, and finishes with a 1km beach run. 64km in total.

At 7am I hopped on the bus to take us to the start line. After a quick toilet stop, a sprint/warmup to the start line and a few minutes of being served up as midge food the hooter sounded and we were off! The first 4km is a fast downhill section and I quickly slotted into 2nd place and tried to find my rythm. The pace was fast but I felt relatively comfortable and maintained about a 20-30 second gap on the man ahead for the entire 15k. We averaged 3.10 minutes per kilometer for the downhill section and later settled into 3.45’s and 3.50’s . An incredible run past lakes, mountains, a castle, and up over the hills through bog before descending to Garton Lake where the kayak stage took place. I completed the 15km bang on the hour mark and felt good as I splashed out into the lake to jump onto the kayak, hot on the heels of the man ahead. Shaun is a great adventure racer and I knew I had my work cut out to catch the local hero! After an easy kayak section I was closer and as I headed to the bike transition I felt in better condition than I had a year ago at this stage. I caught Shaun within a few minutes on the bike and we agreed to help eachother over the bike stage. This turned out a good tactic and even though I had to put up with constant cheers of “go Shaun go” it was the best decision for us both. We reached the foot of the mountain stage in 47mins. I hopped off the bike and to my embarrassment took a right instead of a left, tried to turn quickly and landed face first on the gravel. A nice start to the mountain run or what ! As always the mountain is energy zapping and tough as hell but we summitted together in 27minutes and the descent began. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at this stage. I knew it but I couldn’t get it out of my head. My fall in the Dingle race 3 weeks ago was still fresh in my mind. I made the worst mistake of thinking too much and within a minute of the descent I fell again, landing on both knees. Another sore one and Shaun, after asking if I was ok, gained nearly 50 metres on me. I dusted myself down once more and decided it is now or never, stop thinking about things and get on with it. I completed the descent in 11 minutes and passed Shaun at the bottom of mountain. I later heard the views were amazing from the top! Back on the bike again and the final section awaited. Shaun was back with me at this stage and we attacked the off road section together. At this stage Shaun had a little more nerve and attacked the second half of the offroad with real gusto. I lost a few seconds on him which would prove the difference in a few minutes time. I kept him in my sights as we blew the last 10km of the race apart. I could see him cross the line 40 seconds ahead of me. I finished in 3.14 hours, 19 minutes faster than last year. Apart from extreme pain all over my body, I felt fantastic. All that training does pay off and there is no better feeling than crossing that line knowing you have beaten yourself once more !

http://www.gaelforceevents.com/north/en/event_info/2014_results.html

More photos to follow later and a few interesting links and plans for the next few weeks..

One of my friends Kevin and his mates, completed their first ever race yesterday all in aid of a charity for diabetes. Link here for anyone interested. Well done to ye all. https://www.facebook.com/4040diabetes?fref=ts

Garmin results for race ( on running mode so average pace off during bike sections ! )http://connect.garmin.com/dashboard?cid=10152689

A fantastic place to stay for Gaelforce North – https://www.facebook.com/pages/StMarys-BBAnagaireIreland/654683971235502