Sunday 25 May 2014

Clare Burren

Marathon #55. Clare Burren 4:37:21

63rd out of 170

The forecast was for rain all day as well as cold and windy. At the start no one knew what to wear and there was everything from full polar expedition gear through to GAA kit and even a sports bra and hot-pants. I went for a middle of the road long sleeve top. Good decision.

Given the nature of this challenge I had in my mind a 4:30 being a good run.

There were loads of familiar faces at the start line but as DBRC had decided to invade the UK this weekend they were conspicuous by their absence. The Cave rescue were on hand in case anyone got into a very dark place on the run.

And we were off. About 700 headed off from Ballyvaughan at 9am on a 6 mile, half marathon and full marathon challenge (170). Most were in the half.
Flash floods
 The region had been hit hard with flash floods during the week and large sections of tarmac had been washed away. Clare County Council tried hard to put in place a temporary fix, but it was tough underfoot even on the road sections at times. Never mind the Burren.

The first couple of miles were gentle on the road and just before 2 miles the 6 mile race peeled off and the rest headed into the Burren.

Up and up and up. The first big hill was runnable and spread the field out quickly. It was not unsurprisingly very stony underfoot and as we got up to 200M + above sea level, the views back over the Burren and Galway bay were just spectacular. I was surprised at the pace everyone was running up the hill.

Near the top the half marathoners peeled off for their own challenge and the marathon crested
Half splits
the hill. Phew! This brought us onto an unlikely high bog that has long since seen turf cutting. This was better than it sounds for running but had a steady head wind. After about 7 miles we hit the road again and started to descend. In front of me was Jimmy Nugent who is a bell weather for me. If I can see him I am usually running well.

After around 3 miles of steady decent still into a strong headwind, we hit the Burren again. This time steep, steep steep and up up up, and totally unrunnable for me. We eventually rose to over 250 M. It was very rough underfoot but the views were just spectacular.

Larry and Jimmy
Just in front Jimmy and Larry had done the classic  pincer movement on an unsuspecting Canadian marathon tourist (Bord failte take note). By the time we reached half way she was familiar with the price of a pint and meal for 6 in Poland, had the insiders guide to Irish defence strategy, how much a suckling calf was in the mart in Tullamore, had joined the Shane Lowey fan club and bought 2 MCI buffs and a running top. I left them at this stage giggling to myself.

I came through half way at 2:15 and felt I had run well to this point. 4:30 was impossible now. Immediately we descended. This time for 2.5 miles mostly on road. It was quad crushing stuff. This brought us right down to the coast and a very rough section just off the beach that was real ankle twisting stuff. This again seemed into the wind. We thankfully came back onto the road and had a couple of road miles but still into the wind.

We were soon going up again into the Burren. Steep again, and was soon several hundred meters above the sea. Again the views were jaw dropping and the trail was tough and muddy at times. Every time we turned a corner there was just another spectacular view.  For several miles we picked our way along a high ridge dodging suckling cattle and a herd of white horses before descending quickly back to the coast at 22 miles. Dave Brady and Adolfo flew past at this time but Adolfo had shot his bolt and
quickly fell back.  It was at this stage for the first time the rain started falling and was with us to the end.

I was still feeling OK at this stage and came in over the last few miles on the a road section quite strong taking quite a few places in the process.

I finished in 4:37 with everyone seemed at least half an hour down on usual times.

I really really really enjoyed the course and have it pencilled in already for next year. It was one of my favourite events so far and was brilliantly organised and marshalled with a perfect amount of well stocked aid stations. At the end we had a wonderful medal, T-Shirt, feed, massage and free soup and sandwiches in the local pub. Brilliant

Garmin stats

Sunday 18 May 2014

Richmond Park (London)

Marathon #54   Richmond Park Trail London  4:33:37

After the horror stories that came out of Staplestown the day before because of the heat (particularly Liam Costello) I was worried about today. It was due to be hot and all reports had it as a hilly course which was amazing but unfortunately true, even though it was inside the M25.

We certainly haven't seen warm conditions close to this in about 9 months, and we are not built for it, so today I decided to play safe (particularly after a plea from my daughter) and decided to be sensible. I had in mind a 4:30 and if I was in trouble to slow down a little. This was also my 5th marathon in 5 weeks, my 14th of 2014 and 30th for the last 12 months. I may have been a little tired.

In addition, the day before I had my first big gardening day of 2014 with 4 hedges and 2 lawns done (4 hrs). I can't believe it but I actually slept in and didn't wake till 7:30 and had to rush breakfast. Not a brilliant start to marathon day. Fortunately Richmond is only a 45 minute drive and on a Sunday morning there was no traffic and it was a late start at 9:30am. I was there plenty early, and lathered on the Sun cream.

This marathon was brilliantly organised, marshaled and was in a lovely spot. It was wholly held within the grounds of arguably the biggest urban park in Europe (bigger than Phoenix but could be argued its suburban).  It was a trail marathon that over 4 assorted loops went everywhere in the park and it was nice to run through the many herds of wild deer.

About 400 started and we were off on time at 9:30am led out bizarrely
by a Gorilla on a bike. It was already over 70 (22 C) at the start and it just got hotter and hotter with it peaking at 77 (25 C). There was virtually no wind. The first loop was 3.1 miles and mostly on road. Everyone was taking it easy (except a few elites) and there was lots of chatting. The Sunday times had just come out with its rich list that morning which seemed to dominate conversation. This quickly turned to property prices in London. A few 20 somethings beside were saying "we have to get in", "house prices will quadruple in 2 years"....  Sound familiar? So my advise to anyone with property in London is SELL now and then wait, then wait, then wait, then wait some more. You will make a fortune.

The second loop was longer and was 9 miles that took us around the whole perimeter of the park. It was pretty, but tough, with long drags (like Chesterfield avenue) and some steep climbs that most everyone was walking and did I mention it was hot. The aid stations were every 3 miles and had plenty of water and gels and assorted goodies. I have to say I cant fault the organisation and it was great value. It was no Giants Causeway or Achill for views but for a park run it is up there as my favorite.

I came through half way in 2:10 and entered now into 2x7.1 mile loops. These were all on trail and had some tough tough climbs. I have never seen as many people walk in a marathon from about 10 miles out. The heat was taking a big toll today. I stayed mid pack all the way through the race. The trails were open to the public and there were lots of walkers and mountain bikes and a lot of kids learning to ride a bike. You had to have your wits around you but there was plenty of encouragement all around the course.

I struggled particularly in the last 7 mile loop but so was everyone else and I gained around 10 places on this loop despite this.

I eventually finished at 4:33 just outside my target time but given the heat
and the hills it was a big effort today. At the end there was a great T-Shirt, a souvenir mug a great goodie bag as well a fantastic medal. I really enjoyed today and would have no hesitation recommending it and will do it again.

Garmin stats for today

Sunday 11 May 2014

EOI Howth

Marathon #53 at Howth (EOI) 4:28:50

After being royally let down by Bord Failte at the last moment for the Aurturs Trail run due to be held at the Guinness estate in Cellbridge, EOI stepped in and at the last minute and offered a free marathon around Howth to all participants.

The weather forecast was for very wet. It actually ended up nice with only a 20 minute shower around half way.

All ready to go
36 toed the line on a breezy morning in Howth all just thankful that we got a run at all. After the obligatory photo we were off. Because this was Howth and my 4th marathon in 4 weeks and 13th of 2014, I am very cognisant that my pace is not what it could be if I eased off a little. I therefore had a very realistic 4:30 in mind for this run. I also decided to go off easy for once, as ahead was 1800ft of climb on 4 punishing laps.

The field had quickly spread out when we hit the hill for the first time. I was with a small group of 3 which included Ray Cassin and the Irish running legend Larry Rigney. We were to stay together for quite a while at a very steady pace.

Ray has decided to do a fund raiser for his club by attempting the 10 in 10 in September and seems to have the complete backing of his club which in my opinion will be needed. Good luck to him and his training over the summer. This is the first time I really met Larry. Behind the smiley facade is a really interesting man. With over 200 marathons in his long running career he is living testament of how a long running career can be enjoyable. He kept me entertained with many stories of farming and running and I have to say was very good company. He is also a deceptively good runner.

Ray went for a loo break at the top of the hill second time round and Larry stopped for a cup of tea at half way (seriously). We were here in 2:08. I ran the third lap on my own coming though in 3:12. This was pretty steady.

I was in 20 miles now and very suddenly on the flattest part of the course felt knackered and walked a little. I was caught by Stephen Mullin and then Ray who pulled away through Sutton. I'd recovered somewhat by the time I got to the cemetery but had lost a lot of time at this stage. I eventually caught up with Stephen about three quarters the way up the hill and pushed on with a close eye on the watch and 4:30. When I came over the top it was 4:20 with still well over a mile left but fortunately it was all down hill to the finish in Howth village. A 7:50 last mile brought me home in 4:28:50 and reasonably happy.

Ger Copeland
There was a very nice presentation at the end from Ger Copeland (founder and race director of the EOI marathon series) for my 50th marathon. This was after he ran a 3:03 and won todays race.

Now let's start the trail marathon season.

Garmin stats for today (elevation didnt quite work today on the watch)

Monday 5 May 2014


Marathon #52      Belfast City Marathon 4:09:55

I wasn't too keen on this race as it never has been one of my favourites mainly because of the Relay runners, particularly when your tired in the latter stages. I also find the course not that interesting with 2 or 3 sections just plain boring. But I was entered and it is my home marathon (and my first) and my family were coming to support so I did it. There is a new trail marathon chalked in for November in Newcastle. That will become my new home marathon and I doubt if I will ever do this one again. It was my 6th attempt with the last one being in 2009.

It was also 10 years to the day that I did my first marathon ever (Belfast 2004) and I am glad to say I was nearly 33 minutes faster today despite being 10 minutes down at half way on my 2004 splits (The second half of Belfast 2004 was special).

Marathon legend John Frazer
Another thing I don't like about Belfast is that the finish is 2 miles from the start. Experience taught me to park at the finish and walk in which I did. It was a cold blustery morning and when I got to the city hall I met a few of the guys who were complaining about. paying £10 for parking the city centre.

I met loads of familiar faces at the start including John Frazer, marathon specialist from Crusaders who today was pacing for a friend . He was intending to go through the first half in 75 minutes (actual 74:33) as his friend was attempting sub 2:30 to be the first local runner home. He managed a 2:33 and first local runner home.
Ken Beggs , Shane Mc Craville and Batman and Robin .

PB man Gary
MCI crew
There were also lots of the MCI and DBRC crowd there. Most were having their second run out for the weekend. Either at the IMRA Ballyhoura mountain marathon (all reports was it was a dog!) or Limerick. Gary Reinhardt in particular was just off a 3:23 PB run in Limerick and would go on today to clock 3:41 today. Also there in numbers were some of the EOA crew running in fancy dress. They passed me at 5 miles and I never saw them again.

I stupidly decided to go out with the 3:45 pacers who bizzarly started ahead of the 3:30 pacers but they sorted themselves out after the first mile. The start was out the Newtonards road and back in on the Sydenham bypass (YAWN!). Not the most inspiring start to a run. It got a bit spicier when we came back into the city and headed up the Falls. You could smell the fresh paint from the new murals. It had been a long 4 days in politics on all sides.  Gary and Leslie passed me at the Falls leisure center and I slowly dropped back from the 3:45 guys around mile 10 (they were to stay together for the rest of the race). I knew at that stage it was going to be a tough day. I came through half way in 1:55 at the top of the Antrim road. The rain then started and was with us for the rest of the run.

Today I went through 2 very low periods when I nearly lost the enthusiasm to run. One was at 16 miles (when Gillian Barnill fresh of a 100K race on Saturday swept past) and the other at 19.5 miles (when the 4 hrs pacers passed me). I was drained and tired and didn't really want to go on (ever). The wind didn't help as when we turned onto the tow path at Gideons Green we were blasted into the face for the next 8 miles with little respite until we reached the Ravenhill road. Through the industrial estate at the bottom of the tow path, it must have been low tide as there was an awful smell of raw sewage for about 3 miles. This was not my best time ever running.

At this stage, I was resorting to a 1 mile run 0.1 mile walk strategy which though slow kept me moving. I was absolutely delighted when at the 23 mile mark at Ormeau bridge I got a big "high 5" and "Come on Leo" and "Go Crusaders" from the fantastic  Yvonne McCauley fresh off 3rd place on Saturdays BHAA race in Dublin and today ran 16 miles (3 stages) in the relay. This was quickly followed by my sister and her family at the gates to Ormeau park. I ran the last 2 miles without stopping catching a lot who had taken me on the Anadale embankment earlier. I sprinted the last half mile for a 4:09:55 (just 7 seconds off last weekends time in Craughwell).

I met up with the family (McVeighs and my brother Aidan) afterwards and that was real nice. But I think this is my last Belfast marathon.

Garmin stats for today