Sunday 18 January 2015

Ranscombe Challenge

Marathon #80  Ranscombe challenge, Kent

This was part of the race series that is held in the South East of England. It was an 8 hour timed run and you could stop when you wanted.
Start Area and Aid station

It was a long day as it was an 8 am start and I live 2 hrs away. I also picked up Marie Chapman en-route at a Gatwick hotel. 4:50 am was up time with a quick breakfast and much scraping ice off the car. It was -4 and freezing. I was on the road by 5:30 am. I had arranged to pick Marie up at 6:30 am and rocked up at 6:40 so slightly behind schedule.

We easily found Cuxton village near Rochester in the South East
RD briefing
of London and parked up in the village. It was a 1 km walk up hill to the busy start area. This was also the aid station that we would visit numerous times throughout the day. There were some portaloos there and after quickly getting the numbers and registering it was 7:55am. So we just about made it. Not everyone was so lucky and there were a few late starters.

Before pic
Both Marie and I started right at the back as we had an issue getting a satellite signal but were off at 8:01. Marie has been in better form than me recently so we agreed that she would go ahead and I would meet her at the end. She is training for the Thames Path 100 miler so needed the time on her feet. It had
Frozen trail
warmed up to -2 when we started and under bright blue skies we ran the first couple of loops on a frozen course.

The 3.8 mile loop was great. The first mile was over open track predominantly downhill. At this stage the path was rough but wide. The fist hill soon appeared and it was a long but runnable trek through a lovely forest section up to a kissing gate high on the South Downs. The gate brought us to a high open track
Marie after first loop
with panoramic views over the whole area. In the frost and cold and bright skies it was spectacular. Quickly we came to another gate and a steep downhill 400 m section that brought us to the second and more significant hill. This hill was for me pretty unrunable and got very very very muddy quickly. It was steep and crested after maybe 10 minutes effort. This was the highest part of the loop and brought us to a long windy forest downhill section. This was a lovely rest-bite and led us to a track that followed the railway. This was very narrow and lasted the guts of a mile.
Lovely forest sections and hills
When it was frozen it was ankle turning rutty running and when muddy was a claggy slog. Eventually we arrived to a short very steep downhill section which was more like a ski ramp particularly when muddy. A last long runnable hill brought us back to the 250m tarmac section and back to the aid station. 7 laps was a marathon and 8 laps was an ultra. Most people seemed to stop after 7 laps.

I managed to keep my loop time to under 45 minutes for the first 6 laps even though it was getting progressively muddier as it warmed up. But more and more of the route became claggy and less and less runnable. I was through 6 laps in 4hrs 25 mins.

Mud kicked in as the Sun came up
Ringing the bell signifies your finished
The last loop was horrendous. I spent a lot of it with a UK based MCI member Stefan originally from Dublin. Both our heads had dropped and we walked all the hills and struggled through the downhill bits.

I was absolutely delighted to finish in just over 5 hrs 30 mins (Over 1 hr for the last lap) and rang the bell to signify that I was finished.

Medal presentation from Traviss
Marie had finished well under 5 hrs and had her soup and coffee
Fantastic medal
already. I got my fantastic medal from Traviss and the great goodie bag but had to leave quickly to get home. I dropped Marie off at Gatwick en route.

It was another super event by and I look forward to the next one.

Garmin stats.

Tuesday 6 January 2015


#79  Coburg Winter Marathon    Germany/Bavaria

Permanent marathon course

Starting center
I was on some family business in Germany staying in the quaint town of Erfurt that was right in the centre of Germany.  I had noticed that about 1hr south on the Sunday was to be held the 11th running of the Coburg Winter marathon. This was the first designated marathon route in Germany and is permanently marked (including Kilometers markers every 5K) Being the winter in Germany the weather was a lottery and over the years there have been some challenging conditions.

Temperatures were forecast as low as -21 during the week and there
RD briefing
had been significant snow. Fortunately it had warmed up considerably but it was still below zero and with wind chill significantly below that. The snow had stayed and indeed it was to snow through large portions of the race.

Freezing at the start
With RD J├╝rgen Lesch
I left Erfurt around 7am for the drive to Coburg following my trusty GPS. On the 120K journey it wound its way higher and higher and traversed some of the longest road tunnels in Germany. One was approx 9km long. As we got higher, it got colder and colder, with more and more snow. Getting close to Coburg the GPS brought me down some boreens that had been untreated and it was tough
driving but eventually we ended up at the  race start in great time.

This was a free event (I'm not quite sure why) that seemed to rely on corporate sponsorship and voluntary contributions. That said, it had changing rooms with showers, well stocked aid stations with warm drinks every 7K, an option to get a bus back to the start every 7K and a fully stocked bar and food with massages at the end. Not bad for
Good practice for NP marathon

About 195 took part in this annual event and it had long been over
Huddled together
subscribed. When I arrived I was waiting around when I was paged by the race organiser. I introduced myself and he told me the local press wanted to get an interview.

Article:  Coburg Local Press Article

I guess they were fascinated by why a small, fat middle aged guy from Ireland had travelled over for the race. The RD's daughter Svenja (who had studied in the US) did translation
for me and the interview and photos were complete. After a rousing RD briefing in which I again got a mention and a round of applause we huddled outside ready for the off.

Quick selfie
Spectacular skies
I have to say I was made feel very welcome and even during the race many people chatted to me all the way round. It was way more welcoming than any other race I have done in Europe by far.

It was freezing at the start and it had started to snow. So quickly we were off.

Fantatsic aid stations
The race route wandered in and around the byways, parks, forests and villages around Coburg. It was very hilly at around 2000ft climb. At times we were running through the quaintest of German villages that was soon followed by open tundra as well as winter wonderland vistas through snow covered forests. Conditions underfoot were snowy and icy as well as muddy in the sheltered areas. I believe conditions have been worse in the past but I cant imagine mush worse.

Up the hill at 20m
I had at the last minute packed a pair of trail runners which turned out to be good and bad. Good in that they kept my feet fairly dry and gave good grip but bad in that they were new and needed breaking in. After only 5K I felt my toes rubbing on the right foot. By 10K the left foot had joined in. I knew if I stopped that would be it so I kept going. Fortunately the cold somewhat numbed the toes and it was just bearable.  After the race and even as I write this they are not a pretty sight.

The course itself was surprisingly hilly with one particular climb at around 20 miles that was huge and crested and overlooked Coburg. This was really for me a survival event making it between aid stops and was very slow. I think this was mainly because it was my 4th in the last 2 weeks and my feet were in bits from the new shoes. It was also freezing, wet, muddy and hilly.

The Garmin wasnt great today again and I finished in just under 5hrs
Fantastic forest section
And we are done

After finishing I had a coffee and a Bratwurst and got quickly into the car to warm up. By the time I got back to Erfurt I was back to normal and enjoyed a very nice night out in the town with our German hosts.

It was a great experience. With free entry , reasonable flights and hotels it was also surprisingly affordable and I would strongly recommend it.

I've added someone elses route map for illustrative purposes

Coburg route and elevation profile

Nice Gallery of photos

Thursday 1 January 2015

EAMS Belfast Lough

#78  EAMS Belfast Lough   4:43:11

This was a lovely way to finish off the year at the East Of Antrim Marathon Series (EAMS) around Belfast lough.

Waiting patiently at 5am in Clontarf
It was to be a long day that started at 4:20am when I was up and breakfasting. I was due to meet Seamus at the wind monument at 5:10am for a lift to the start. It was a beautiful crisp morning. Seamus duly arrived with Brenda who was continuing today to extend her Irish record to 74 official marathons in 2014.  We headed north with a quick sortie into Dundalk to pick up Collette who was doing her 3 hundredth and something marathon today.

I knew where we were going, and we quickly made it up to the start line in Jordanstown for 7:15am. Magically Seamus produced a full coffee making kit from the boot and we we chowed down on coffee and nutri-grain bars (nice).

Joanne Curran (after 30+ years)
At 8:15am registration opened and we got our numbers and got ready. Unfortunately it started to rain and it was a cold dank start to the day. We were lining up for the start photos when I was shocked, when a girl introduced herself to me (it doesn't happen very often). It turned out to be Joanne Curran (nee Wallace) who grew up in the same street as me and was a good friend of my sisters and whose father was one of my dads best friends. I haven't seen Joanne in well over 30 years. She looked very fit and would end up running a fantastic time.

Toasting the piper for 150th maraton
Just before the off to celebrate Ken Begg's 150th marathon his brother piped us to the start line and there was a great toast to the piper and we were off. Also today was Gillian Barnill's 100th, a 25th and even a 250th?????

The first 6.5 miles were along the tow path into the city centre. The wind was into the face. The field quickly spread out. I was taking it handy as I have run a couple over the last two weeks and I have another coming up on Sunday so there was no real time in mind. A well stocked aid station was at 6.5 miles and we swung back North East past the Oddessy, the Titanic quarter and back to the coast. This is not the most inspiring part of the run but it wasn't as
Samson and Golaith
long as I remembered. Maybe as the wind was now in the back. Just before we headed onto the Belfast Lough reserve the head of the field led by Barry Casserly started passing me. Barry would go onto to be pipped at the post, but still managed to break 3 hrs but sadly was 10 secs outside his PB.

I wound my way through all the expensive houses of Cultra and Hollywood passing loads of other runners on their way back and took a few photos until we reached the turning point which again had a well stocked aid
Gillian on her 100th
station. We then retraced our steps back. The third quarter was now into the wind and I was pushing OK and caught up with Peter the RD and Paul around Shorts and ran with them for the next few miles. A very welcome aid station awaited us just across the bridge and very soon we were back on the towpath. I decided to push on at this stage as I could see Paul Fagan in the distance. I
Peter (RD) and Paul
eventually caught him at Gideons Green which was in striking distance from home. I was delighted to cross the line in a very modest 4:43 (over 30 mins down on the last time but tougher conditions).

Fantastic marshalls
Ann Beggs had the most tasty vegetable soup at the finish line and I stayed around till everyone was home. In the mean time Lindsay drove up from Dublin and we were all ready to hit to Downpatrick for party time.

This race was great value at £20stg which included a medal and
custom Tee-Shirt (to come) and a goodie bag with a €14 Four Star Pizza voucher. Well done to everyone it was a Four Star event.

That was #38 for the year and I must calm down.

Garmin stats: