10 days to the CCC

What do I do training wise, taper wise now? Will I risk injury by training more? Have I lost some fitness on holidays? Have I raced too much this year already? Am I perfectly ready for it? These are the questions to be answered carrying on from my post the other day.

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One more Swedish memory!

The key with any race, but particularly one you have had to qualify for and be lucky enough to be successful in a draw for, is to make the start line in one piece. I could try putting pressure on my training for a few days, as it is still 10 days away but I have decided to try and be a bit smarter. I ran on Sunday with an hour of hill repeats,(mainly to practice with my poles. I was lucky I did as one of the poles was stiff and needs attention). On Monday we went for  a little kayak on the River Avon, yesterday I did a bike and core session and today I will go for a short run in the evening. This still leaves me 10 days short of race day. My general plan is to keep things as normal as possible, eating properly, training daily (but a lot less than normal) and from Sunday on, race prep and more rest.

Of course at this stage I won’t get any fitter or stronger but the key is to stay loose and feel strong. I feel that since Snowdonia in mid July I have trained very carefully and am more rested than I was prior to that race. At least that should be the case, fingers crossed.

So what are my goals for next week?

As discussed the number one goal is to stand on the line, two is to enjoy the race and three is to finish. On top of this I would like to push myself for the top 100 and I will only really know mid race if I will be capable of this or better. I am not putting big pressure on myself. After all there is over 6000 metres of ascent and only once in my life have I ran further than 100km. Sure it is only 2 and a half marathons in the Alps! This said I am gaining experience in every race and feel mentally ready for this one. There will be major up and down periods in the race but as I always say, if you focus on the good times, you will battle through the bad, knowing there are more good ones to come. Might sound a bit on the silly side but in ultramarathon running positivity can be the difference.

I don’t really intend to set split times along the course. This might put too much pressure on and I would rather pace myself according to feel. The one thing I intend to do is start with a good climb in the first 5km and get a reasonably nice position early on. I have been informed that if you go out very slowly the bottlenecks on the narrow trails will increase and this can cause you to slacken off your own pace. I have also experienced getting considerably cold in these situations in the past.

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CCC Course Profile

The most exciting part of this event is the fact that this will be my first ever race in the Alps, not to mention a pretty prestigious one at that. I will see lots of the pro runners and will have the opportunity to follow all the races, including supporting Shaun Stewart on his TDS 120km race on Wednesday and watching the UTMB 170km race on Saturday, the day after the CCC. To make matters even more exciting Emma will be there as well as Sinead and Kieron (my well known running buddies) and a chance of my folks showing up in their campervan too I’ve heard. I must race in amazing places in Europe more often!

https://utmbmontblanc.com/photos/contenus/parcours_profils/2018/CCCcarte2018.jpg
CCC 101km course, Courmayeur to Chamonix, (Italy-Switerland-France)

So I hope to check in here again later in the week or early next week for a final pre race post. In the meantime it is back to the Bristol job hunt and time to start gathering race kit from all corners of the house.

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Maverick Inov8 X Series Exmoor

It is quite the name for a race and a mouthful at times so I will just refer to it as the Maverick as I describe last Saturday’s race to you. This mountainous or hilly coastal marathon would start from Caffyns Farm, near Lynton in the Exmoor national park and meander its way along a very hilly coastal route, veering back along some river and farmland valleys before finishing at the farm where our campsite was located. An absolutely brilliant thought on arrival to think that you would camp at the start line and finish at the camper the next afternoon.

We arrived on Friday night and camped within 100 metres of the start line and registration which would take place first thing in the morning. The numbers were small enough for the first outing of this particular race. Looking at the course I knew it was going to be a gruelling race with hills throughout. The ascent at about 1880 metres and the same in descent. Emma was taking part in a 15km route and there was a 21km route as well, all starting at the same time and place with the others heading off the marathon route to head for home earlier. This would be a little confusing for the first hour of the race with half marathon and 15km speed runners running with the front marathoners. As I mentioned in previous posts I intended to use this and Snowdonia in July as build up races towards CCC. They are a lot shorter but if I push that bit faster and not to the complete limit they should stand to me well come the end of August.

 

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Coastal section near Lynmouth

 

A little extra motivation at the start was knowing that I would build up another 2 UTMB points if I finished this one, maybe not significant now, but you never know when they might be handy. I hoped it would attract a few good runners to the race as well. Race briefing was nice and brief, of all things, and at 9.05am we were off. The run took off fast as always with one dude, there is bound to be one, taking off at 90mph. We took a left out of the farm aiming towards the coast and the next few kilometres was fast and downhill. Grassy fields and downhill are fun but these quickly led to trickier trails of hard mud through some forestry. A nasty little climb early on started to spread the field a bit and I sat a bit behind the leaders to get myself warmed up. It didn’t take long before I passed that speedy front runner from the start-line. There were a few ahead of me as we came over the first hill and descended to Lynmouth, a lovely town by the sea, at about 7km. The 15km route went straight on while the rest took a left along the coast and up a steep trail with some nice little switchbacks. There were about 6 or 7 runners ahead of me but I knew a few of these would be shorter course runners. The next few kilometres were fabulous as we climbed a little and then ran along the edge of the rolling hills, massive views of the sea below but concentration was key on some narrow trails, running at a decent speed for the marathon distance.

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Another 4km in and the half marathoner’s took a right towards home and the rest of us took a left continuing to hug the coast. The trail turned tricky with some fast downhill and bumpy ground underfoot. Basically holes all over the place in the grass. A little bit like a field that the cows were let into while wet and then it dries up leaving holes everywhere. So after holding my breadth running these downhills, we were led along the coast and into a really technical rocky section along the cliff edge, certain death on the left and hopeful falling ground on the right. The trail meandered along before heading inland a bit and into a big long uphill on a side road. I started to catch the guy on front of me on the uphill and as I fast hiked he was trying to run. We reached the top of the road section and returned onto the trail once more. The guy ahead was running most of the hills and I knew there was a chance this would catch him. I continued to hike the majority of the hills and within 15 minutes I passed him on a downhill. Long distance experience and patience starting to pay off maybe. What I didn’t yet realise was that the two guys I could see rounding a headland about 1km ahead were 1st and 2nd and I had just popped into 3rd place.

At about 15km after a quick water stop the trail joined a section of the Coastal path we had trained on a few weeks ago. Knowing the route is massive and locals always have an advantage. This short section was the only place in the race where I was comfortable to speed up and slow down knowing what was around the next bend. A few short up hills, a few speedy short down hills and ducking my way along the trail under some low lying branches followed until the blue race markers told me to take a right. The next 15 minutes was a constant steep climb up the side of a grassy hill. I knew if I stuck to my solid hiking pace up this hill it would leave a good few behind me with work to do and hoped maybe one of the two ahead might tire as the race went into it’s second half. I was happy with my hike up that hill but when I started running on the flat at the top I could feel it’s effects.

 

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A nice gradual descent.

 

The terrain turned into farmland and long flat fields for a short period before descending along a fence on a narrow trail towards the next checkpoint, as the rain started to come down. A lovely sight for a melting Irish lad. The light mist cooled me down and as I thought how lovely it was I forgot all about the fact that rain wets the ground and ended up on my ass in the ditch laughing at myself. The checkpoint at 26km came along soon. I didn’t stop at all as I had a good stash of water and a few gels if needed. I had filled my bottle with Tailwind at the last water station so knew I was good for grub for the time being. I confidently ran past the guy with the water and of up the trail only to realise I probably should of taken the left trail. I quickly shouted to the guy who said , “yes left, left, and wipe that sweat from you brow”. Well said I thought, can’t beat something amusing on a day where you end up racing some quiet countryside alone. The gaps turned out so big between runners that I never saw another runner between 12km and the finish.

 

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Watching my steps a bit closer now!

 

The next 11km of the course were spectacular as the hard mud trail wound it’s way along the side of the hills, throwing in a few lumps to slow me down as well as a good strong wind. The wind, however, was mostly a tailwind and I felt lucky once or twice as it pushed me up and over the hills. The trail descended at around 28km towards a river and I followed the river for what seemed a good distance. The ground here was flat and runnable at a good pace. I wasn’t beating speed records but I was running at around 4.40 minutes per kilometre most of the time. The river was crystal clear and I almost stopped to chat to a fisherman, keen to know what he might be after in a nice fishing spot below a waterfall. I thought, for once I better keep moving, I had second place to catch.

 

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At the end of the River section, around 34km.

 

It is always a huge motivator if you’re in a good position in a race. You have something to fight for as well as an even better prize up ahead. I realised I hadn’t seen my competitors up ahead on the long open sections and most likely wouldn’t catch them. My friend at the last checkpoint had told me I was in third, as did a cameraman soon after, so I had something strong to hold on to for the last 16km. This would prove so important as the final 10km of the race turned into a real uphill struggle. I don’t mean that I was completely out on my feet but I mean, literally it was all hills. There were three biggish climbs and in between lots of small ones. This was all perfect for my style of race, but as you know, a marathon is a marathon and when you throw in 1800 metres of up into it you are going to tire towards the end, especially if a good portion of the climbs are in the final quarter of the race. This is how it feels when the legs are tired of course. I managed to hike (at a slower pace than previously) up the rest of these hills and continued to run downhill quite fast, Transvulcania paying off here I reckon. The final long uphill was on a paved road, not something a trail runner enjoys at the end of a race, but in fairness it did make the course a real cracker in terms of variation. With 3km to go the kilometre markers started saying only 3km until you are a Maverick. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but sure it was something to take my mind off the pain. I never laid eyes on 2nd place but finished the race pretty strongly in 4 hours and 1 minute to be met by Emma at the line. She had completed the 15km and looks forward to giving the Snowdonia half a go once again next month.

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Just across the line
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Moments later with a finish line beer (I thought was lemonade!)

The rain started again so we quickly returned to ‘The Mueller’ and set up camp for the night.

You can’t beat some downtime after a long run. I was thrilled to get a podium place of course and hope to push on from here and try to improve on last years place in Snowdonia, enjoying what is a classic race at the same time. Thanks to the Maverick Race crew for a brilliantly laid out course with good water stops. The event was a bit dampened by the wind and rain at the finish line but with such a good location I hope to be back again some day.

https://www.resultsbase.net/event/4340/results

 

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Now I’m a Maverick!!

 

 

2018, What lies ahead

I am not quite sure how to top 2017 or where 2018 will take me in terms of this blog. It is a great way for me to follow my own training and racing as well as life in general. I also hope some of my followers are gaining something, if only small, from my posts. It was a nice end to 2017 or start to 2018 really to receive a nice reward from Highpoint Ireland. This link shows the accomplishments of the people that entered their stats into the High Point of the year competition. I used these results more to see the results of the stats that Kieron Gribbon put together and realise what was achieved in 2017. Nearly 21000 metres of ascent in Ireland in 2017 will no doubt be hard to top in 2018, but where there is a challenge there are always possibilities.

I think it is very important to mention that without running mates and family it would be near impossible to ever achieve these goals. Shaun Stewart, if I can mention him again, had an amazing year in 2017. He finished a great year with the birth of his son Joey (future Irish ultrarunning champion no doubt!). He gave me the push to go for the CCC trail race in 2018. Without the likes of Shaun and all the other people connected to my racing there is no way I would keep up the effort. We all need good friends like this to encourage and give us the confidence to challenge ourselves even more. I was so lucky in the draw for CCC and realise that so many more hadn’t the same kind of luck. Because of this I will give the race all I can and surround my other racing around this race for the year.

Check out Highpoint Ireland on Twitter and Facebook for more links to Kieron Gribbons growing site.

I recovered from some form of a flu after Christmas and have launched back into training nicely in the last two weeks. We managed a double hit on Moylussa, the highest point in Co. Clare and some running in Portumna Forest Park last weekend on a two night road trip in the new camper. My camper will be referred to as, The Mueller, from now on. A very fitting name after our little cat Ferris Mueller who passed away during 2017. He was a full on adventurer and that is what I want this van to be.

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‘The Mueller’ at Moylussa, overlooking Lough Derg.

Midweek training has been made up of plenty watt biking, some interval running with the club, a few long runs and plenty gym time. I have averaged around 10 hours a week the last two weeks and hope to ramp that up a little for the next two weeks. First up is the Donadea 50km trail run in Kildare on the 10th of February, followed far too closely by Gaelforce Dublin on the 17th.

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There I am on the boardwalk near the top of Moylussa. Happy out!

The real question is What Lies Ahead in 2018? Well here is a taster for what I know for now and I may add to this a little as the year rolls on. Surrounding these events I hope to do some multisport races and a few more long runs.

As you can see there is a decent gap after Transvulcania and that will be partly due to the fact that I am moving to the UK in May. Then I want to train hard for the summer leading up to the CCC. Snowdonia will be a nice warm up marathon to see where I am mid summer.

A few more photos, thanks to Emma, from last weekend.

The list above really gives a clear idea of my goals, but all in all I want to stay fit and healthy, injury free and enjoy the move to the UK in 2018. It is a new challenge and one that I can’t wait to begin. No doubt we will return to Ireland but from May onwards my blog will start to venture around the UK. For the time being you will have to put up with lots more West of Ireland adventures.

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!

Cold week off

As is often the case at the end of February in Ireland, cold weather dominates. This week, however, was alot sunnier than the last few months and with having some time off work I decided to get outside and cover some ground. I started the week with some mountain biking and finshed it today with a good spin on the kayak. It has been nice to train differently with the tendon issue hampering my running. I did a total of 5 hours kayaking over two outings on Lough Corrib. Today was a tougher session as I only covered 13km in two and a half hours. I managaed to cover 16km in the same time on Tuesday. This is an interesting observation of how both condiditons and current really slow you down on the water. It is the most peaceful type of training compared with the road biking where you are always so alert with traffic. I even managed to fish a little as I went along, although I think the fish were looking at me a little funny, wondering why I would venture out in such cold. The air and water temperatures are still around 5 degrees and with the wind it can be chilly out there

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My paddle today on the vast open Lower lake of Lough Corrib

Most of my mountain biking session was on the road on Monday with little time to make it out to the hills or offroad. I hope to do this a bit more over the next few weekends and even get a night session or two in soon. I am slowly building up my distance on the bike and kayak, with the hope I will be back running next week. This has been my longest period out of running in years, but I am sure I will have built up a new hunger when I return.

Mountain biking on Monday evening. The first sign of sunshine in months!

Check out info on our  team IKAT and upcoming events here.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011329301734

And to follow the race events more closely check out this page,

https://www.facebook.com/groups/iterarace/

I will post in some detail as to our training ideas and my own thoughts on this new adventure really soon. For now I am still trying to get my head around the madness that is to come.

 

 

A scary word, injury

I spoke last week about fear and how we experience the fear of failure. Fear of injury is another experience all athletes have. So, the question is, is it all in our heads? Well to be honest this is not in my head, it is in my right leg and it doesn’t feel like fear!

I have been training well the last two weeks but running has been awful. I managed to play some football but prolonged running is causing something at the back of my knee to flare up, stopping me completely in my tracks. It may be some tendonitis, an overused muscle or many more things. I will have physio again tomorrow to figure out the issue. I trained at a good intensity, staying away from running all week and after 2.5km of slow running yesterday it flared up again. Anyone have any ideas or experience this before? I am probably in need of a rest. I haven’t been killing myself training but there comes a time when the body says slow down and I feel this is mine. A few days doing very little is probably the best tonic.

I have experienced lots of injuries, especially while playing football over the years, so this is nothing major to worry about. I also think that every injury tellsus more about how we work, how to treat an injury and it will also pinpoint weaknesses that may need extra attention.

Here is a shot out on the bog yesterday, in the middle of a snow shower. It was a nice morning on the bog with the dogs. It was also most likely a factor in causing my leg to flare up again, as the ground was extra soft. This is a typical West of Ireland, January shot though. We might see the sun again soon, you never know !

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As for my recent training, it has looked something like this,

https://connect.garmin.com/calendar

The answer to my question above lies in the training calender, I may need to rest up more !!

Stormy Run

Unfortunately I had no camera as only an underwater one would work tonight. I couldn’t listen to the storm any more and just had to stretch the legs. I threw on the running gear in layers, adding a high vis gilet and off I went in storm Desmond. A red alert was out for the west telling us to stay indoors. I knew if I stuck to the streets and returned via the prom I would avoid the headwind for a certain amount of the spin.

All I can say is, next time there is a storm and you are on safe enough ground, go for it. I did a 10km loop and have rarely enjoyed a run as much. I had the streets to myself , never saw a single person on the prom and hit some crazy pace on the last 3km with a tailwind. The first few kilometres were fine trotting around the streets before hitting a head wind and teaming rain for the next few kilometres. This was fun as it wasn’t cold and my gear was great. Road running or not I swear by the Salomon s-lab fell runners I have in slippy wet conditions. They are nice cruising machines !

The last few kilometres were crazy. I sped along with a tailwind lifting me every now and then. No doubt the strongest wind I’ve ever experienced while running. I knew however that the tide was out so the prom was safe for a while.

These are the runs where that extra effort is so worthwhile. The rain is gone tomorrow for part of the day so more running might just be a plan. Maybe time to hit the hills.

 

Is Nutrition a key 

Well this really is a question we could spend an eternity on. Everyone is talking about nutrition these days. I have always had a decent diet but I did, for the most part, make a big effort in the last year and a half. It has paid off in my times and progress but how much really is this due to diet? The honest answer is I really can’t prove one way or the other. What I can say, however, is that my recovery time is way down and my energy levels are good.

So what have I changed in the last year that is working ? 

My diet is now roughly 60% vegetarian, 30% fish and 10% meat. To many this seems crazy for someone training 6 times and 10 hours a week but why not? I get all the nutrients and energy from the veg and fish and probably a lot more than I previously got eating more meat. 

Next up is the additions and subtractions to my old ways! I have stopped eating pasta, potatoes, chicken, red meat (small portions and odd steak every now and then) and replaced these with more fish, halloumi cheese, quinoa, buckwheat and lentils. Instead of just porridge I add two eggs, chia seeds, sesame seeds, peanut butter and honey. Instead of eating bread/ sandwiches I eat rivita, crackers, cheese and have leftover dinners and avocado for lunch. I will be honest I still love bread but now I eat seeded and brown and rarely white. I love chocolate but now I eat dark chocolate in orange or sea salt flavours. 

These are only a few examples of changes but they actually are tastier. I enjoy my food more now and the processed foods are becoming a thing of the past. 

Nutrition is not my area of expertise but I have learnt from others and I really believe anyone can improve their health and fitness by tweaking even one or two meals a day. 

Next week I want to throw in some thoughts on race nutrition pre and post events. It may be very different to what you have heard. For a start carb loading is a load of … 

January, the mixed up month !

It really is a strange month. A month of weather, mostly bad, not to mention the real Irish winter. That being said I have found it a good month to build up a little more, and I reckon even improve on fitness. It has been a seriously mixed bag of training though. Football, running the streets, trail and hills, cycling in the gym, cycling on the turbo trainer and a little strength work thrown in there somewhere. So as you can see there has been very little planning to my sessions. I think this can sometimes be a good thing as training plans can get very boring after long periods plodding your way through them. This is an idea of the last week in my training schedule.

http://connect.garmin.com/calendar

I have plans to enter a few mountain races in late February, March and April. These all involve weekends away but hopefully it will all stand to me when the adventure racing season starts up again. My longer bike sessions of late seem to be going well and a few long spins over the next month will be very beneficial. I will dust down the GoPro camera and start blogging more as the season kicks into gear. I spotted the daffodils poking their heads up today and the evenings are noticably longer so that gloomy season is almost behind us. Those of you that have stuck to the January training schedule, now is the time to up your game and hit things even harder as the fun season approaches!

Rain, Wind and Rain = January

As my blogging would have been a little on the boring side, I decided to hold back on the blog a little of late.  Training has been good apart but I have been confined to alot of indoor training and lets be honest it really isn’t that exciting. I really believe we can all benefit from training indoors and if that weather really is crazy, don’t just skip training because of it !

This is the current weather in my part of the world. Ireland is under that rain somewhere and Hurricane Rachel is just off our shores, Storm force 11 and 12 winds forecast with gust up to 150km/hr possible.

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Thankfully tonight is my rest night. I had a good hour long physio session after training last night so the rest is welcomed anyhow!

The last weeks training is summarised in the link below. The Garmin site has been acting up and my watch is not downloading properly, but it gives an idea of latest efforts.

http://connect.garmin.com/modern/calendar