Sunday 28 December 2014

EOI Clontarf

Marathon #77   EOI Clontarf  4:46:00

Main start at 9am
This was a low key end of year marathon that was put on Free Of Charge by the EOI management as a thank you for the very successful year that EOI have had.

It was a very cold start at the wind monument and there seemed to be a very early start for some people but the main field went off at 9am. The wind was from the south and cold and helped somewhat on the way out and into the face on the way back.

Kristy and Me
I started with the main field. Also there today was Brenda doing her 72nd of the year and lots of the old EOI favorites. Gary was RD for the day and even through it was supposed to be a self sufficient run there was 4 aid stations enroute. Also there was Kristy Ryan from Crusaders doing her 18th marathon and 3rd in 3 weeks.

About 30 went off in the main field. I settled in at the back as all the quick runners were started at this time. I ran the first half with Ray and Frank whom I have shared many a race with this year and we were at around an easy 4:30 pace.  The beach was in as good a nick as I have seen it and it was a very pleasant run. We turned at
Kristy at 15 miles
1/4 way in 1:05 and at the turn in 2:12. I dropped a bit off the back mainly I think because I was knackered and slowed throughout the rest of the race which I ran on my own. Meeting the many runners coming against me was great and as usual there was great banter.

3/4 way turn was in 3:25 and I limped home to a very slow 4:46 and I have to say was absolutely freezing.

50m from the finish
The Garmin has seemed to have given up totally and the history refused to transfer to the computer and is lost. So I cant rely on that any more.

Receiving Award from EOI Chief Ger 
One big milestone for today was I have now clocked over 1000 miles racing in 2014.

next and last race for 2014 will be in Belfast on New Years Eve. I also received my 50 marathon trophy from Ger Copeland from EOI marathons. Its now proudly on my mantle piece.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Portsmouth Trail

Marathon #76  Portsmouth Coastal Trail Marathon


This was an interesting marathon as it had been voted in the top 10 in the UK and was the closest marathon to Christmas. The weather forecast was dry but would be very very windy with a westerly. As it was an out and back marathon it would help on the way out and be direct in the face for most of the way back.

As it turned out it was as bad as I was expecting.

It was an 8:45am start and you could pick up your number on the morning. Both Dave Brady and Brenda O'Keefe were there, extending their Irish records for most marathons run in a calendar year. It would be Dave's 101st and Brenda's 71st. Brenda has 3 more planned in 2014 and Dave 2 (maybe 3).

I picked up my number in the Pyramid Leisure center with 1800 others. This was a big crowd given a lot of the race was on a tight single track trail with "kissing gates" and pinch points. Brenda managed to get an early start and was gone by 8:15. I met with Dave before hand and we both had the same expectations of a 4:30 given it was a trail and windy.

We gathered on the prom and followed the pipe band to the start which was 800m down the prom. Very quickly we were off. Immediately my Garmin started playing up. Starting at a 9:15 comfortable

Dave at the start
pace with the wind helping we ran the first 2 miles on the prom. Street furniture was an issue here with several accidents noted. We then turned right onto the coast on a narrow trail which led to the first beach. This was very tight getting onto the beach and we
Waiting to get on the beach
were queued for a couple of minutes waiting to get on. The beach was shingle and soft and hard to run on. Fortunately it didn't last long but was followed quickly by another. At this stage we were single file on the coastal cycle path and it was very stony and at times muddy. Road shoes where just about Ok for the race but were on the edge at times.

We were stuck at a kissing gate for several minutes.

The aid stations were very well stocked with Gel's, Jaffa cakes, sweets, Jelly beans and mulled wine. I had a long conversation with coach Cottle at the Crusaders Christmas party earlier in the week and agreed that it was important to enjoy these marathons after some dodgy experiences at le marathon De Medoc where wine and oysters should have been consumed. I took full advantage of the aid stations. I came through 10K in approx 1hr and we skirted the M27 for quite a while at this stage.

After a very open marsh trail we crossed the bridge to Hayling Island and again stuck to the coast. The race was still busy throughout and it soon got busier as we started to meet runners coming back on the "out-and-back" route.  Surprisingly we turned at approx 12 miles and hit half way on the way back. I came through half way in 2:08, which was Ok on a trail.

Brenda finishing 71 for 2014
Dave finishing 101 for 2014
The wind started to bite on the way back and Dave caught me at 16 miles and disappeared across the bridge onto the mainland. We traipsed into the wind through the marsh re-tracing our steps.

At 22 miles I spotted Dave again in front of me and passed, expecting him to follow. He would end up 4 minutes behind.

All done
It turned out because of the tide they didn't bring us back onto the
beach on the way back but through a housing estate before returning to the prom. I was pleased that I ran the whole race and managed to make it back to the Pyramid Leisure center in 4:29:11. I was pleased with this given it was a trail and there was a lot of waiting in the early part of the race at the pinch points and relatively windy.

Garmin stats (Note Garmin didnt work too well. Just as well its Christmas (hint)).

Friday 5 December 2014

Quad Dipsea

Marathon #75  and Ultra #4 Quad Dipsea  (28.4 miles) nr San Francisco with 9200ft of climb


9200 ft of climb

This was on my bucket list since I started running and never in a million years did I think that I would ever make the startline never mind finish. It was definitely the hardest thing that I have ever done.

Mill Valley to Stinson Beach
The Dispea trail itself is one of the oldest, if not the oldest trail in the US with handicap races happening on it since the 1930's. It is a 7.1 mile trail from Mill valley in Marin over several significant climbs via the national monument Muir Woods to Stinson beach. This 7.1m leg has approx 2500ft of climb.

For the Quad Dipsea you run the Dipsea trail twice the normal way and twice in reverse for a total of 28.4 miles.

I was lucky enough in 2004 to run the annual handicap race and at that time I was running 45 min 10K's and
well marked.
did a 1hr 20 on this course.

My strategy today was to hike the uphill and run the downhill with a plan for 1:30, 1:40, 1:50 and 2hrs splits.  There were 2hr, 4hr, 6:15hr and 8:30hr hard cut offs on the run.

300 were signed up and 271 started. There was an attrition rate of 10% with only 90% finishing which was normal enough for this race.

687 steps
The weather forecast was awful and given that in the 30 years of running this race it had only rained 4 times this was not good. The night before around 4 inches of rain fell which really muddied up some of the steep parts (particularly bad for the descents). I choose to run in road shoes. Trail would have been a better choice.

We started at 9am and within 100 yards we hit the 687 steps for the
Weather was not good
first time. The field was bunched so you had to walk them, there was no choice. This brought us high above Mill Valley and we kept climbing up through some houses and a ranch. So far so good. The trail then plunges steeply for another mile into the Muir Woods which a national monument full of the massive Red Wood Sequoia trees. As soon as we entered the woods we then followed the long (several miles) steep up hill section called Dynamite. This was steep , slippy and very technical. It was hike-able at best and went up and up and up and up.  Eventually we crested at a section of the trail called Cardiac
best part of the trail
where the first aid station was. This was at the highest part of the course and was a relief every time to get to it. The cloud hadnt lifted and we ran in dark, cold and dank conditions through most of this. From what I remember the views were nice if there was no cloud.

From Cardiac we ran on a nice bit of trail along a section called the hogs back before entering the tree line at the rain forest. This was wet and muddy and at times very steep down. There were trip hazards everywhere. This led quickly to Steep Ravine which had numerous carved steep steps which were slippy and dangerous. After safely navigating these the trail opened out with one last steep uphill section for 400m called insult before a quick desecent down to the turn around point at Stinson beach and the second aid station. I came in on the first leg at 1:41 some 11 minutes down on plan but still 19 minutes ahead of the cut off.

The return leg was tough with Steep Ravine steps in reverse and the climb back to Cardiac being long and
tiring. I eventually made my way back to Mill Valley in 1:55. I was now 26 minutes down but 24 minutes ahead of the cut off. It was great to see the race unfold as you passed the leaders and indeed everyone on each leg. The trail slowly deteriorated throughout the day and the whole thing got tougher and tougher.

John and I just finished
I came through the third leg in 2:07 and the fourth in 2:10 for a total of 7:55 , well under the 8:30 cut off and delighted to have finished the hardest thing that I have ever done. The DOMS kicked in almost immediately and I couldnt walk right until the following Thursday. I dont normally suffer from DOMS at all. That was a shock.

I received my MCI 75 medal from John Catts the RD and am looking
75 MCI medal
forward now to the next 25.

Amazingly my Garmin lasted the whole day but seemed to measure the course quite a bit short which it wasn't. In fact there seems to be a lot wrong with the Garmin stats but its a record.

Video of 1/4 of the race and no short cuts allowed. Reverse and then do it again

Garmin stats

Sunday 23 November 2014

Walton Upon Thames

Marathon #74 Walton Upon Thames,  Phoenix riverside marathon 4:43:13

Today was all about finishing and not getting injured and I wasn't too worried about the time. I am going big for my 75th state side next week.

This was the first event that was run by Phoenix Runners from Walton Upon Thames (within the M25 in London). Phoenix runners has been setup by the legend of marathon running Rik Vercoe who boasts a hell of a marathon and ultra CV .

Weir Pub
Walton Upon Thames was very convenient and 37 minutes brought me door to door and event HQ at the Weir pub was very easy to find. I picked up my number in the pub. The marathon was off at 9am and a half marathon was off at 9:15.

As we were on the Thames there was even some who rocked up to the start on their boat (Classy).

The weather forecast was awful and by the time we arrived it was pouring rain. I was huddled with everyone around the pub and heard two people chatting. One relatively young guy was saying he was off to the US to run across
the US, just to tick that box. He may however break his trip and come back to the UK to do 14 marathons in 7 days. In fact if he timed things right he could "knock out" 48 marathons in 29 days in May. Lindsay would be proud of me as I quickly stepped away. It turned out this was Rob Young who is running a marathon every single day for a year and he runs it in a kilt (This looked to get incredibly heavy as the race progressed).

The course was a 5.25km out and back along the tow path. So that would be 4 laps for the marathon. 

At 9am we were off (fairly big crowd). Immediately the problems for the day were obvious. As it had
Waterlogged course
rained for days and as it was currently raining the tow path was waterlogged at best with I would say most of it under water. Getting around the massive puddles proved difficult and by the way back on the first lap everyone was just sloshing straight through them. Trying to avoid them was a mud fest. Some were quite deep and above the shoe.

There were two aid stations at the turnarounds so there was plenty of help and water.

With such a close  course you could watch everyone in the race and encouragement was great.

I clocked just over 2:05 for the first half, running steady. I was paranoid about getting injured and got a big wake up call when I hit a root and went over on my ankle at 4km. But I was able to run it off.
All done with Rik Verco

The rain and puddles and the mud got worse and worse as we went on and I slowed a bit on the second half to come in on 4:43:13. I got a lovely medal from Rik who gave a big shout out to Eimear
and Collette (how many people do you know???).

Garmin gave up today at 4:11

Sunday 16 November 2014


Marathon #73  Tollymore Trail Marathon   4:48:01

4200ft of climb mostly in the rain

Ireland rightly is thought off as having some of the best golf clubs in the world. Portmarnock, Royal Co Down, Portrush, Old course Ballybunion plus many more rightly take their place in the top 100 in the world. I have done a few trail marathons in Ireland, UK and the US and its trail marathons like Causeway coast and Clare-Burren stand up well with the best. I'll add Tollymore to this list. Coincidentally the route had views over the Royal County Down in places

26 extreme did a fantastic job setting up a tough marathon within the bounds of Tollymore forest park which sits on the foothills of the Mournes. It was perfect in terms of route (2 loops of 13.1 miles) and organisation (very well marshaled and marked) and really challenging because of the long hill climbs. Sections along the fast flowing river were great and the downhills were a joy. The aid stations were frequent and well stocked.

This was the first marathon that I have run in my home county Down and one I will come back too. In total there was 4200ft of climb and the hilliest marathon I have ever done. My goal for today was 5 hrs (being realistic).

The weekend started with a quandary. Lindsay was taking the car
Rain absolutely tipping down
to go off to Mullingar for an Autism conference for research and networking for her new web game to raise the awareness of Autism. This meant I had a choice of train or bus home and rely on lifts or hire a car. I was shocked when on the Budget hire car website the price of a small car was €15 for a day and €16 for 2 including unlimited miles and insurance. So off to the airport I went on Friday and picked up a car for the weekend and a quick hour and half later I was home. I stayed with my sister for the night. The rain just lashed down all night and I didn't get a wink. I was up, breakfasted and off to Tollymore early arriving well on time for 9am.

Ken Beggs
After picking up my number I hid in the car for 45 minutes as the rain tipped down. Closer to the off time I went to the start line. I just wore a compression top and crusaders vest while most others were kitted out for the north pole. My decision turned out perfect as it was actually very mild despite the rain. I met loads of East Of Antrim guys and Lillian from DBRC who were all huddling at the start. Also there was Eilis Connery (second lady home) and Anthony O'Reilly who
Eilis and Anthony
shared my 50th run in England. Around 80 took part in the marathon following 50 that were off in the Ultra (start 8am) and followed later in the day by a half and a 10K (around 500 in total).

huddled at the start
We started in pouring rain with the first 3 miles gently meandering deep into the forest until we reached the Shimna river which was in full flow and looked and sounded fantastic. We followed the river upstream until we reached the first small climb. This was runnable first time round and after cresting we soon dropped back to the river again. Then came the first climb. I came across some East Down runners on the hill and was joined by Lillian Deegan whom I finished Dublin with. We stayed together for the next 18 miles chatting and enjoying the run. I think on the first lap I gave the hills too much respect and walked more than I should. They were long and steep but probably
At the Shimna river
Some EDAC on the first big climb
Lillian and I just finished
runnable. We crested the first hill and had a lovely 3 mile downhill section that brought us back to the other bank of the Shimna. This led us to the
bottom of the second climb which was tough and very long. This wasnt runnable for me and I hiked up with Lillian. I was very glad to get to the top but we now had a fantastic view of the mountains and eventually Newcastle with the Slieve Donard and The
Nearly home
Royal County Down golf club in the distance. After cresting it was a lovely mostly downhill run back to the river and the finish to lap 1. We came across in 2:14 which I was pretty pleased with as this meant that sub 5 hrs (goal time) was more than doable.

We headed off on the second lap and it was still raining. Naturally
With Colette and Lillian 
this was a little tougher and a bit more walking but still thoroughly enjoyable. Lillian was feeling strong and pushed on at the second big hill and ran away from 5 of us.  I was fading bad in the last mile and lost 5 places and was delighted to come in still running at 4:48:01.

A fantastic medal awaited me and a lovely burger and cup of
Fantastic medal
coffee. It was one of the best events ever and Im so glad I have done it.

My Garmin gave up after 4 hrs today and the photos are not great because of water in the lens.

Next up Walton Upon Thames in London next weekend.

Beautiful shot video of the day (above)

Garmin trail route

Tuesday 28 October 2014


Marathon 72   Dublin  4:31:38

Outside of New York and London this is the best supported marathon I have experienced. The build up for this race had been going on for months. My club Crusaders have had a huge marathon group that has been training since early July under the eye of Coach Cottle and had put forward something like over 60 runners for this race. Even though I have been unable to train with them this year I have passed and chatted to them most Tuesdays and Thursdays on my recovery runs. The excitement on-line and with them was palpable. 

Along side the runners there was also many plans afoot for the famous Crusaders roving support to be out and about. They are truly awesome and the period from mile 23 onwards was incredible with Beggars Bush just being special.

This was my 8th consecutive weekend running marathons and to be honest I was feeling a little tired and under prepared as I only had managed to get out for one recovery run since Amsterdam last Sunday. It was also my 40th marathon over the last 12 months. I think this will be my peak as I haven't entered so many for the rest of the year. But I am very happy for this to be a peak.

The weekend started early on Saturday with a trip to the exhibition in the RDS. There seemed to be a different registration process from previous years and there were massive queues for registration and it took an age. But after that was safely negotiated and the goodie bag was picked up (which wasn't bad) I had a good look around the exhibition. It is a good show, way better than some of the supposed bigger marathons. I met loads of running friends and browsed for a good hour before heading home to rest.

Sunday was to be an easy day so Linz and I headed to Glendalough for the morning. I thought I would drop in for a coffee at the Bike and Hike coffee dock in Roundwood but I had missed the season as its now shut to April. I did learn however that infamous Ultra runners Don and Donna have been hatching a plan with RTE for a 2 part documentary of them taking part in the biggest ultras in the world in 2015. Sponsorship I am sure would be appreciated.

MCI at the start
Monday morning came and I was meticulous with my preparation.
Beet Shots (no mouthwash) and porridge with Chia seeds set the groundwork and I was off early to meet up with Ronan Higgins from Tullamore Harriers before the start. We made our way to government buildings for a few photos before dropping the bags off and making our way to the start. Everything worked like clockwork and it was a mild morning.

Bob training for MDS
I was out of position immediately as I was in the sub 3:50 area and my goal time was 4:30. I therefore positioned myself to the back of wave 1. This was a great strategy as I ran on empty roads right through to the phoenix park. I may do this again in the future. I quickly came across Bob Manson from Crusaders who was also on a back to back from Amsterdam and was in full MDS training gear. He is off to New York immediately after for the run there next weekend.

The new route was very odd and I found the long drag up through the park particularly long and then up up and up some more through the Castleknock gates. The support was just brilliant and luckily for the supporters it was a great day for watching. After cresting, the run down back into the park was nice as was the park itself. We were then back on the old route but some 1.5 miles further into the run that I was used to. This time-shift messed with my head all day. At mile 10 Brian Ankers and Ronaldo Espina brought there 3:50 pacing group past me. I went through half way in 2:02. This was 6 minutes up on last week and I felt OK.

At Mile 16 Olwyn Dunne and Barry Casserly brought their massive 4 hr group past me. My initial plan was to go with this group but I was out of position from the start so couldn't.

High Fives at Beggars Bush
And we are home
I started slowing bad and at Mile 20 just passed Milltown (thank goodness I had just passed Kate Murray from Crusaders roving support) when my diesel engine finally gave up and I struggled badly from here to UCD. It was only that Lillian Deegan and I were swapping places that kept me going. At UCD I gave a big shout to Lillian that we only had 3 miles left and we headed off in formation. By Tesco at the Merrion gates we had regained ourselves and perked up by Joe Dunne and his support equipment malfunction we ran together for the last couple of miles. 

The last couple of miles were absolutely brilliant. Rather than continuing onto Trinity we swung left at Slatterys pub and ran past Beggars Bush to the finish. The Crusaders had encamped themselves at the Beggars Bush pub and we got a great welcome. At this stage we spotted Lucy Foley who was on her 100th marathon and Clodagh Kelly on her 2nd in a month and caught them up. Also in the distance we spotted Bob Hilliard and caught him up as well. The last 800m were way better than the previous finish and Lillian, Bob and I finished together and I managed to get Lucy finishing her 100th just after. It was great.

Another one done
The medal and goodie bag and Tee were duly picked up and it was off to meet Linz and Crusaders and a lot of my running buddies for well deserved pints before home.

I'm taking a couple of weeks off now to prepare for my onslaught on Marathons 73,74 and 75 which will be at the Quad Dipsea in San Francisco over thanksgiving.  Quad Dispsea

Garmin Stats for today

Monday 20 October 2014


Marathon #71  Amsterdam   4:28:24

Ready to go
It is the World Broadband Forum time in Amsterdam and I had managed again to blag a speaking gig which much helps in financing a running trip. Unlike last year I was injury free so was up for this marathon. Unlike previous years this was also my 39th marathon or longer in the last 12 months and as a direct result I have slowed significantly but that is just the way. It was also my 7th weekend in a row running. I was really looking forward to this one as I have had an office in Amsterdam for the last 10 years and been there every few months for a long time. I love the city and its parks and canals and culture. This would be my 3rd Gold label IIAF standard race this year. This status is only granted to a maximum of 30 races globally a year. Surely this would be a good one.

finding my way at the expo
It was an early start on a 6am flight out of Dublin. At the airport I ran into Bob Manson from Crusaders who was doing the first of three big city marathons on consecutive weekends in Amsterdam, Dublin and New York. This all in  preparation for the MDS next year. Bob is a great runner so I knew he would do well. Everything was on time. I was staying at an airport hotel so decided to see if I could offload my baggage early before going and registering for the race. Luckily they had some spare rooms and were able to check me in immediately at 8am (result). 3 hours later I woke up.

I knew Amsterdam pretty well (particularly its transport system) and headed off. The Olympic Stadium was walkable distance from Amsterdam Zuid or you could change to the Metro and get marginally closer via one of its stations. 20 minutes later I was there. The exhibition was a lot smaller than I expected and I quickly picked up my bib and Tee. Recently I ran out of gels so would wait and pick some up at the expo. I was shocked to find that only clothing and shoes and limited accessories were on sale. No gels or anything like that. So I would have to run tomorrow with no gels, something I wasn't that comfortable with.

Busy in Dam Sq
I headed into town for a while. There was the normal autumnal fun fare in Dam Square and there was a huge dance festival on in town which made it absolutely packed. It was a beautiful day and one of those balmy European evenings. A very pleasant day all together. It was off to bed early.

The race started at 9:30 and I had arranged to meet some people at 8:30 at the bib 10000
Some familiar faces
baggage drop. I was shocked to find when I got there that this concept didn't exist and it was a matter of randomly walking up and down hoping to bump into people. Luckily I happened to run into Lucy Foley who was running her 99th marathon. We also met some of the Fil-Irish (Namely Mike Gonda). More of Mike later. The toilet situation was disgraceful with not even close to enough toilets. I had to wait
Ultimate relaxation from the FIl-Irish
till on the course in my own time (not good). I took a quick look inside the stands of the stadium.  More of the Fil-Irish were caught asleep inside, relaxing before the start (nice to see you Celso and friends). I then entered the main stadium ready for the start. It was spectacular in the stadium but it really was bedlam with toilets again being a big issue.

We were off. The start was great with 200m on the track before exiting onto the streets. The next 41km were not great. Unfortunately the course designers didn't bring the route
In the Stadium
into old Amsterdam at all, and we only skirted the canals for a few km. The race seemed to be very out and back with us passing each other quite a few times en-route. There were also a lot of tram tracks to avoid and I seen a few miss their footing. The only landmark of note that we came across was the Rijksmeseum tunnel which was cool.

From about 12K to 25K we were taken along an out and back on the Amstel river. I know that we passed by some beautiful parks on this route but didn't see them. For example we ran along the outside of the fantastic Amstel Park with its many many public sculptures and its famous "midget golf" course. That would have been more interesting.

The weather though forecast hot was actually OK with a reasonable breeze around.

The rest of the route pretty much retraced our way back to the stadium. Gels for me became a problem from half way. AA gels were
Tok Tok time
given out at 30K and 38K (which was a waste of time).  These did however help, and my last 5K was my fastest.I met Mike Gonda again at the 40km mark. He was running strong and we had a quick chat and even got a shaky photo in.

And we are home
As far as my run went it was pretty uneventful. I had a "technical break" during the first 5K and a  very very slow first half of the marathon coming through in 2:08 (well down on recent runs). But I came back stronger in the second half. I was very vigilant of sponsored runners in sponge suits. But as the marathon was sponsored by a consultancy firm I guess they havn't invented a fancy dress running outfit for a tosser yet so I was safe.

The marathon really only came to life as we entered the Stadium again for the finish. It was special and I came in with my fastest last 2Km to finish in 4:28:24. Pretty slow really. I am definitely taking a week off after Dublin next weekend.

Overall apart from the start and the finish I was disappointed overall with this marathon. It didn't live up to the Gold Label status and the route did not show off Amsterdam as much as it should. It was still relatively affordable and easy to get into and flights and accommodation was reasonable. But not for me again.

The finish was the best part of the day

Garmin Stats