Friday 24 April 2015

Wonderland Caucus race

#88 Wonderland Caucus Race Samphire Hoe Kent

This was a Saxon Shore event that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the initial publishing of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  In keeping with the concept of a Caucus race where everyone runs at their own pace and everyone wins, this was a 6 hour timed event in Samphire Hoe which sits at the base of the white cliffs of Dover between Folkestone and Dover. It was also fancy dress encouraged.

This event actually started about 3 months ago when the medal was published online. I entered immediately and was soon joined by Brenda O'Keefe and Collette O'Hagan and soon after by Finn O'Mara. The event sold out immediately. What a threesome I had for company, one with the most marathons done by an Irish woman ever at well over 300, one the current Irish woman record holder for number of marathons done in a calendar year and one a proven winner at Ultra's globally and a 24hr specialist. Flights were booked and logistics organised. All that had to be acquired were the running outfits. Ebay , dodgy Chinese websites and charity shops were raided and up popped Glamorous Alice, The Queen of Tarts and funky leggings as well as the white rabbit with a big clock.

As the weeks went on all of the gear arrived except for the leggings and the day before they still had not arrived and there was talk of compromise and innovation. Then the morning of the trip "hey presto" they arrived from China. They were brilliant but I have to say they had a very questionable positioning of the Cheshire cat that was highlighted quickly by the Queen of Tarts.

Flights were cheap and on time and transport had been arranged and a budget hotel had been chosen. With a budget of £20 Fawlty Towers was expected.  As it turned out in Folkstone what you got was a period hotel over looking the sea with breakfast for this price. Settled in the hotel, food was needed and as is the case when you visit England Wetherspoons was sought out. I think everyone is still in shock as after handing over 5 English pounds you got in return a full meal, a pint and some change. WOW!

Morning came and breakfast was actually quite good but we were too early for the fry. It was so good in fact we stayed 10 minutes over time and were under pressure getting to the start. It was also a bit surreal having breakfast with Alice, leggings and the Queen of Tarts.

RD giving briefing 
After a few wrong turns, we arrived about 20 minutes before the start. There were about 100 in the race and everyone was in the spirit of the day and most in fancy dress. We had everything from Cats, Rabbits, Alice's, Tweedles, Mad Hatters and even the dogs had costumes. Numbers were donned and a quick race briefing from Traviss and we were off.

The weather was stunning and the location awesome surrounded by the sea and the white cliffs. For the start of the race it was warm and the wind had dropped which caused many problems for those in costume.

The race was on ~4 mile loops, some on trail and some on the sea wall. It was out and back to the "tea party" otherwise known as the aid station which had the normal array of goodies and Alice themed cakes.

Glamorous Alice
The rules were simple. Run as far as you can and finish the lap your on at 5hrs 45 mins. You could stop when you wanted by ringing a big bell. I knew from these events that most people stop after marathon distance and wasn't too worried that I had settled into about 10th place. It was tough going in the heat and costumes and throughout the laps they were being dis-guarded liberally.  I came through 3 laps in under 2 hours and felt if I could keep going I might get 9 laps in.

Queen of Tarts
Leggings and Alice mindful that they were also running Longford the next morning were pacing themselves and the Queen was in hot pursuit of me. A 4:10 marathon was followed by 5:10 50K as the laps ticked off. The weather rather than getting hotter actually cooled with a sea mist and the wind got up leaving the back portion of the run increasingly difficult. I managed to run the whole way including some tasty little hills.

With RD Traviss
And we are done
As I expected most of the field had only a marathon in mind with some registered for back to back the next day in Deal and even London on Sunday. A small number of us went over marathon distance with one guy turning in a stunning performance of 10 laps.

My 9 laps in 5:55 was good enough for third place with the Queen of tarts coming first lady and fourth overall.

At the end there was much jubilation and photos and admiration for the "Huge" brilliant medal and Goodie bag and it was off to leave Alice, leggings and the Queen back to the airport for the next
leg of their adventure.

Massive medal

I have to say I havn't had as much fun on a run in a long long time. It was a great day.

Polar stats for the day click here

Sunday 19 April 2015

EOi Clontarf

Marathon #87   Clontarf 3:57:11

This was the 7th time that I have run this course. Every time it is different as it is totally dependent on the weather or should I say wind.  So far I have a 1 in 3 record of breaking 4 hours in an event regardless of difficulty or weather but in Clontarf on this course before today it was only 16%. To say I was delighted to break 4 hrs today is an understatement.

This was my first EOI event of 2015 and my last one was on this exact course in December 2014. Today I was 49 minutes better.

It was a beautiful day in Dublin but the wind was forecast at between 15 and 20mph from the North East which meant that for mile 0-6.5 and 13.1-19.6 the wind was dead in the face apart from a brief rest-bite on one of the causeways. This wind will always slow the race down.

Early starters
109 finished 2 races on offer today. 32 in a half marathon and 77 in a full marathon. I did the full. The full was won in 2:56 by Andrew Greany with Kristy Ryan coming in as first lady.

Main start
There was an early start at 8am and a good crowd went off in breezy but nice conditions. I was in the main 9am start. The first 1/4 of the race was directly into the wind.  The tide was nearly full in which left the beach section in Dollymount quite narrow and had to be shared with lots of kite surfers and normal walkers. In particular the kite strings were everywhere and it became quite an obstacle course at times and there was more than one occasion I had to hurdle a string.  This got even worse on the second loop as the tide had come in further.

The beach itself was in the worst condition I have seen it with lots of exposed shells and stones and not a flat bit on it. Naturally it was very exposed to the wind.

I managed 55 minutes for the first 1/4 which was OK into the wind and I am normally over 1 hr at this point. It was so nice to turn and get the wind in the back.  I turned for half way in 1:53 which surprised me as I thought the second leg would have been faster with the wind. I was well down on my Brighton time at this stage (5 mins) so a sub-4 was always the goal from here.

Kristy (Ladies champ)
As I finished half way a lot of the half marathoners were finishing and it was tough to turn and go out again.  The third leg back into the wind was always going to be slower. I had found my place in the race at this stage following the Filipino boys who stayed about 1 minute ahead of me to the end. I got through the third leg in 1:01 turning at 2:54. At the turn I passed Collette who would go on to run a 5K race in Dundalk later that evening. WOW!

 This gave me 1:06 for the last leg for a sub-4. I was passed by a couple and passed a couple on the run in including Paddy Quinn who seemed to be struggling today (I never beat Paddy) but he still managed a 3:59.  I ran all the way to the finish with a last leg of 1:03 for a 3:57:11 overall finish and a 35th spot out of 77. That was good running by most in those conditions.

I was delighted when Kristy followed me in for first lady home and there was much jubilation at the finish line.

75th Momento
I got a lovely memento from EOI for my 75th marathon even though this was actually my 87th. It now has pride of place on my mantle piece.

Click here for Polar RC3 stats for the day

Sunday 12 April 2015


Marathon #86 Brighton 3:50:14

A great lucky number
I had a bad attitude going into this run. I really didn't want to like it but the event itself turned me around. It was the second biggest marathon in the UK after London and had 11000 runners all running the marathon. As with most of these big events you have to pick your number up before hand. For Brighton this is a pain in the neck and with a hot day, roadworks and traffic jams it was not a pleasant experience. But thats what it is. It was also an expensive event (~€100) and I struggle to see where all the money was spent.

Beautiful day but a stiff breeze
Due to the warm weather during the previous week the organisers has issued pollution warnings coming upto the event. In the end it was fine. All of this aside I really enjoyed the event.

VIP band from AMEX
It was 1.5hr drive to the race. Similar to Belfast the start is around 3 miles from the finish. I was a late entry and the park and ride was sold out so I decided to park at the start and walk from the finish. I managed to get within 500m from the start. In retrospect I should have brought some money and got a taxi back. But you live and learn.

The AMEX enclosure
I got there early and fortunately I am a customer of one of the sponsors so had a VIP armband and got into an enclosure that had tea and coffee on tap, water and free rub downs as well as priority baggage and luxury loos. I have to say it was a very comfortable start to the day.
Complementary rub downs

A pretty decent looking 10K was off at 8:30 and we were due at 9:15 (started by Jo Pavy). There must have been some serious prize money on offer as there were a lot of African elites there. It was eventually won in 2:10.

I spent a lot of time at the start debating whether to use a HR monitor with my new Polar RC3 GPS watch (£40 from a sale in Halfords). I decided not , as long term usage and chaffing has yet to be proven. I have to say I love the watch and out performs my Garmin (for me anyway). The only negative I have is that there is no link to Strava and we all know if its not on Strava it didn't happen.

With 11000 competitors there was a 5 wave start and it was estimated that it could take 20-30 minutes to get off the line. I was in Wave 2 and got off within a few minutes.

Big screen and celebs
The course you would have thought would be flat but it was surprisingly undulating at 750ft which is average for a marathon but could never be described as flat. Most of the climb was in the fist half.

It took a couple of miles for the crowd to thin enough to get a good pace going and I surprised myself by going through 5K in 26 minutes. I felt great and kept going. The 2nd 5K was even better and 10K was through in 51:30.

There were many, many water and Gatorade stops on the course. At 10K we eventually made it to the coast and there was a very stiff breeze coming in from the sea. It was a fair wind that kept us cool and was even in the face and back. At 10K I saw the leaders going through the 11 mile mark which was very humbling.

I came through half way in 1:47:40. I had the course measure a bit long (1/4 mile) and my official splits are little slower and officially I was 1:48. Even still this is the best first half I have had in a long time.

Apart from a few long drags and switchbacks into the town we stuck by the coast for most of the race. Being by the sea was great. The support that was on the streets was tremendous and as there were a lot of charity runners it was LOUD.

I ran the whole race pressing all the time and came through 20 miles in 2:50 and 21 miles before 3 hours. I was very pleased that to this point I was well under 9 minute miles and even some under 8.

After 20 miles this slowed to 9's but never above 10. It got pretty hot during the last 10K.

Lovely Medal 
I knew from a long way out that I was breaking 4hrs but put a real effort in to beat 3:50 and I thought I was doing it but the course was a little long. I had me coming through marathon in 3:48 but my official time is 3:50:14 despite a sprint for the line.

I can honestly say I left nothing on the course today.

The last mile was noisy and well supported and the goodie bag and medal after were all good. The 3 mile hike back to the car wasn't. I didn't see anyone I knew today.

Ellie (#1 daughter) and I enjoyed a protein overdose at Nando's on the way home . Yummmm!!!!!! 

So all in all I enjoyed my day and would consider it again.

Offical Video

Click here for Polar RC3 stats for the day

Monday 6 April 2015

Vartry 50K

Vartry  50K  4:55:07   and new PB

Ultra's where 10Ks are just aid stations

This was my second race in Wicklow and all within the space of 8 days. I was in reasonable shape after breaking 4hrs in Rathdrum the week before which was a hilly course. Vartry was a new venue and it turned out to be even hillier at >1800ft over the 31 mile course. I felt that if I ran out of my skin a sub 5 was possible and the big prize would be a Donadea guaranteed entry place.

The race was to be held on a 10 mile lap around the Vartry lakes beside Roundwood.

Private race briefing
This was part of an Ultra festival that actually started the evening before at 6pm when the 100 milers would take on 10 laps followed at 6am by the 50 milers taking on 5 laps. I knew quite a few in both races so I was following progress online all evening and first thing in the morning. I picked Kristy up early doors and we headed to Vartry getting there in plenty of time before 8am. We picked up our numbers and got our personal race briefing from Don and sucked in the atmosphere as 50 milers and some 100 milers trickled through on their numerous laps. We were to meet most of the 100 milers on the course later. Everything was in place for a marvellous day even the weather was perfect.

Around 50 toed the line for the 50K and we were off at 9am.

The course for the 50K was 3x 10.3 mile loops (slightly extended from the normal loop). We left the start area and turned left downhill towards Roundwood before turning left again towards the Vartry lakes and almost immediately crossed a bridge. A slight up hill and a sharp right turn put us on an undulating road for 2 miles. On the first loop we passed Enda and Frank who were on lap 7 of their 100 mile race. I'm sure Enda was offering free
flights for fresh legs. The boys were in great spirits. We took a sharp left and over the next 3 miles we climbed and climbed rising to around 1000ft. This was a hard bit of the course that seemed endless. It was however crowned by a well stocked aid station that was very gratefully received. I had settled into about 15th position at this stage and was pretty much running on my own. After the aid station there was a sharp left and a 3/4 mile section of nice downhill before turning sharp right onto the out
Fantastic aid stations
and back section. It was on this section that you met everyone and knew exactly were you were in the race. The road continued to drop to the lake level and we crossed a bridge to a turn around. It was then a climb all the way back to the main road at about 800ft. A sharp right turn brought us back onto the main road and another 200ft climb crested us high above Roundwood. The last 2K were nicely down hill until we joined the original route at the fist bridge. It was then a nasty climb back upto the finishing area before we lapped the park
coming through the start/finish area and another well stocked aid station. I was through the first lap in 1:32.

I also saw briefly my Donadea 50K partner Ray Cassin this time taking on the 50 mile race and Finn "Queen Of Hearts" O'Mara also in the 50 mile race. I meant to ask her how she got on with the bridges.

Coming into start/finish area
The second loop was a quiet affair as I was on my own. I met and had quick chats with Paul Brunnock, a very tired Liam Costello and a battling Maurice Olwill all in the 100 miler. The excitement was great when I caught Kristy who had stopped to run with Brenda O'Keefe in her own 100 miler (eventually came second). I was delighted as I never beat Kristy and I was able to slip by without her noticing. Joining for a section was Brian O'Kelly who himself is preparing for a sub 2:40 attempt in Boston, but was there today helping everyone out. On the run into the finish of the second lap I came across Lillian Deegan also in the 100 miler (eventual winner) and gave as much encouragement as I could. I was still running well and came through the second lap in 3:06  (21 miles). Given the hilly nature of the course this was great but I knew I would have to run the whole 3rd loop to break 5 hrs. Walking was not an option.

About 2 miles into the 3rd  loop I passed a struggling Ronan Mistiel and I was upto 13th spot and still felt OK but was visibly slowing. The up hill section was very very very long and I was delighted to get to the aid station in around 4hrs. I was still a little shy of marathon distance and knew that things would be close. Just at marathon distance a familiar sight of Marie Chapman came Hokaing past (Marie is in training for her own 100 mile attempt in May on the Thames path). I now had dropped to 15th spot and was determined to get under 5 hrs. Some great encouragement on the switch back was had from Kristy, Anto and the Kearnies (who cruelly were bedecked in Donandea gear and boy they let you know about it) and I ploughed on. I passed a 100 miler (TJ I think) on the last climb and he and his running partner were cock a hoop about nearly finishing. The last 2K was ahead and I was still
And home
running well . I passed Donna who was walking with a very weary 100 miler and I could see Frank and Enda in the distance and knew if I could catch them I would be close. They came into focus on the last bridge and I caught them on the climb (they were on lap 9). At this stage I knew I was safe and enjoyed the last 400m around the park to come in with a New PB of 4:55:07 (PB by nearly 5 mins) and the big prize of a guaranteed spot in next years national 50K in Donadea. I managed 15th overall out of 52 starters and the last under 5 hours.

We got fantastic momento's of the day. Kristy came in soon and we stayed around to see Lillian finish and Brenda start her last lap before going back home with Collette in tow.
Marie who chicked me again
The prize from Donadea

Don and the great momento

A wonderful day all round. Photos courtesy of Carol Madden, Miranda Hannon and Niamh McGoldrick

Garmin stats for the day