Monday 17 August 2015


Quadrathon Day 3 & 4  Inishowen Donegal

Mamore 4:02:32
Muff  4:49:30

Mamore Gap

This was a deferred entry from last year and I could have done without doing these races but I was there so I did them. It was only my second Back to Back and the last one was horrific. I was staying with a friend of mine Joe in Derry. I arrived lateish on Friday evening into the Waterside. Joe happens to be the doctor to Derry City soccer team and Derry City were playing league leaders Dundalk united at the Brandywell. We were just on-time for the match. Being part of the set-up at the Brandywell and with Joe, I was welcomed in and treated very well with full access to the ground and great vantage points and even cups of tea on tap. Dundalk won 2 nil in a travesty of refereeing decisions. Never the less as the team are sponsored by a well know Pizza outfit carbo loading for the next day was sorted so it wasn't a compete waste.

Getting on the bus
A couple of pints followed the game and we were off to bed early. I was up at 6 and breakfasted and at the pickup point at 7:15am in Buncrana. Shortly after I arrived others soon came. Most had already done 2 marathons and were understandable a bit weary. Early conversations were of Hoka's and the way they easily wear down. By 8am we were on the bus and heading to the start in Culdaff further up the peninsula. Joe later told me he has a holiday home in Culdaff which may be handy in the future. I picked up my race pack and we were ready to go.

There was 104 running today in the marathon with 3 starts depending on expected finish times. There was also a half marathon. The many start times worked well as it meant that no one was out there too long on their own. Steve McGowan was easily in the lead in the over all standings and was there raring to go. It was drizzly and cold at the start and the weather forecast was mixed. This is exactly what we got and had periods of great sunshine followed by rain bouncing off the road.

Beautiful Scenery
After a quick and humorous race briefing we were off at 9am. Steve McGowan immediately disappeared.  I settled quickly into about 15th spot in around 8 minute miles. The first portion of today's race was quite undulating but perfectly runnable. There was a fairly strong South West wind in the face and as it was a point to point it was steady in the face all day. I was through the first half 1:53 and was going OK given it was a tough enough first half. At this stage I was well settled into the race. The second half had the famous Mamore Gap climb in it which is described in the course description as elevator like and it was.

We started catching the early starters around mile 14 and the half marathon leaders came past us soon after. At mile 16.5 the climb to Mamore Gap started. It was over 1.2 miles and rose around 750ft. I wouldn't call it the worse climb I have ever done but it was tight enough and totally un runnable for me. Some did try. The views were spectacular and this section of the course was up there with Achill and Connemara.  From my stats below my per mile time slowed to 13.5 mins per mile over this hill and didnt gain any on the downhill. This meant the hill cost around 9-10 mins overall.
Up the hill

Eventually we crested and had the very steep decent for the next couple of miles. This was dangerous stuff and I held back quite a bit fearing injury.

Down the hill
We were catching lots of people at this stage and I got a great shout out from Lynda Cunningham and her sister running for East Down AC and Murlough respectively. I ran very steady for the rest of the race hoping beyond hope that I would break 4 hrs but as I got closer and closer it became clear that I was just going to miss out and despite trying came in at 4:02:32 for 16th place overall. There was around 1800ft of climb today which is equivalent to Howth (but concentrated mostly in one section). So I was happy enough with this time. There was a great feed of soup and Sandwiches before I headed back to Derry City for the night.

Why Alpaca?
The big unanswered question of the day was "why was there a herd of Alpaca in the middle of Inishowen"?

The less said about the next few hours the better. Suffice to say is that Stella "Wife Beater" Artois, Guinness and marathon running are poor bedfellows.

The next morning I got up early (very hungover) and made it to
Redcastle early enough for the bus to the start in Buncrana. I had lulled myself into a false sense of security that I wasn't too bad. It was only when we started  just after 9 that I realised how bad I was. I sweated salty Guinness for the first half of the race. My first few miles were slow at > 10 min miles and I was firmly at the back of the pack. Today was a mistake even turning up. I managed to run to half way but it was 2:17 and I really struggled from here on. It was quite a flat fast course and the rest of the field were having a fast day. The second half was run/walk/run all the way and it got hot, very hot and I had forgotten my gels. There was nothing good about this. The race wondered
getting some advise from Mr Beggs
from Buncranna through Burnfoot then via Muff before ending at the Redcastle Hotel.
Enjoying the afters

In my opinion, the course itself was one of the most uninteresting I have ever run. It was mostly in the hard shoulder of busy roads with traffic whizzing past. The hard shoulder itself at times was very broken up and tough enough to run in.

I struggled on to a finish of 4:49 and came in 64th out of 110 but it felt worse than that. I was delighted to get over the line and pick up my medal. There was lovely showers at the end and the race organisers had put on a buffet dinner for everyone. It was fantastic.

Disappointing course 4
I left and drove home very sorry for myself. But I will be back it was a fantastic event, world class in places (IMO disappointing day 4 course) but well organised overall and of course bling of the year.

Photo's courtesy of Elma McEvoy and Donna Owens

Polar stats for Mamore

Polar stats for Muff

Wednesday 5 August 2015

East Of Ireland (Howth)

Howth  4:15:30

5:30 registration
 I dislike Howth but it was the only option for the EOI running festival as the Clontarf course is out of action due to drainage works.  So against my better judgement I did it.

The prize
Race Briefing
This is part of an extraordinary event where there are any combinations of 10 in 5, 5 in 5, single day marathons and 5 in 5 Ultras, plus half's and 10K's all on the 6.5 mile Howth loop. In the morning, at 6 am, it is anti clockwise around the island with 4 very long drags up to the summit. In the afternoon, at 2 pm, it is clockwise around the island with 4 shorter (1 mile) steep unrunnable ascents to the summit.

I took on day 1. A 6am start on the anticlockwise route with 31 others in the marathon with 5
others taking on the Ultra which is approx 50K.

After a short race briefing at 5:50am we started from the Abbey Tavern. As we were too early for the toilets to be open I was forced into an immediate pit stop at the first opportunity. This put me plum last leaving Howth village.

Fully stocked aid station and Marshall's
The weather was very blustery, overcast and warm though it did get sunny later in the race. There was one very well stocked aid station outside of the Abbey Tavern.

Most of the 10 in 10ers and 5 in 5ers were taking it very handy as it was a long week. Ger Copeland had other ideas and was taking every advantage and was stamping his authority by blitzing the course. As I write this he as easily won the first 3 marathons all sub 3:40.

Similarly in the ~50K ultra which included a 4.5 mile out and back section at the end of the marathon, our
Ironman Champion Rolando Espana had little trouble winning the Ultra in an impressive 4:29. After his 5 Ultras this week he caps it off with a 70.3 Ironman in Dublin on Sunday. Phew!

Ger: Champ in waiting
Ironman Champ
The hill was endless, starting just past the church in Sutton and climbing up past the graveyard. Every crest was followed by a section to get your breath and then it was up again and again. Eventually it peaked beside the "The Summit" sign opposite the Summit pub. Then started the quad bashing steep descent into Howth village where you were joined by traffic from the church on. It took about 11 minutes to reach the village on the down hill. The village got progressively busier as the day went on.

At the top of the hill first time round Gary O'Daly came along side me. Unfortunately a persistent leg injury had flared up only 2 miles in and he was distraught about having to abandon his 5 in 5 attempt that was the focus of his year. He wasn't even able to run down the hill. He retired after the first loop. Its amazing what some pain killers will do as he was back on the start line in the afternoon and finished the day and is still in the race.

And Home
I ran the first few laps with Eric Hewston who was looking very slim and was in the 5 in 5. We were running at a very even pace but at conversational level (except for when we hit the hill). We lost each other a few times but were still together at the bottom of the hill 4th time round. Eric went on to run a 4:18 taking it easy on the hill on the last lap. We dutifully followed one of our Italian visitors all day who finished in 4:13 just ahead of us.
  • Lap 1:  1:03
  • Lap 2:  1:04
  • Lap 3:  1:04
  • Lap 4   1:04

I managed to run the whole way including up the hill the forth time. In the 5 times I have done this course this was the third fastest but well off my CB of 3:50.

Everyone including those in the 10 in 5 seemed to have a good first run with everyone easily coming under the 6 hr cuttoff with most comfortable under 5 hrs (except Gary of course).

4:15 was acceptable on this course without killing myself but it still rates as one of the most difficult road courses in the country and remains my least favourite. I returned in the afternoon to help out for the afternoon race.

At the finish there was the most delicious cheese and garlic pasta for everyone in the Tavern and that kept everyone refuelled for the second half of the day.

Polar stats for today