Saturday 27 June 2015

Giants Head

#97  Giants Head 5:13:27

And I was happy with that time.

Now that is Hilly
114th overall out of approx 300.

I had heard a lot about this marathon. Not least as it had been voted by Runners World as the No.1 Marathon in 2014 and also Brenda, Collette, Eimear and Olivia had visited it last year and had wonderful things to say about it.

They left their mark last year
I was however under no illusion as to how tough it was going to be. It was all off road and had over 3400ft of elevation in 10 significant climbs. Add to that temperatures upto 23 degrees and high humidity. It was going to be a monster.

It had long sold out and I was lucky enough to get in. This is my first White Star Running event and I have to say it will not be my last. I loved it.

Sydling St Nicholas (the host village) was in very very rural Dorset and one of the things I loved about this race was the whole community seemed to get involved in the event. The atmosphere before, during and after was quite magical.

Magic no 97
It was a 1:45 min drive to Sydling and as I always do in rural England I get a laugh out of place names. Today quaintly you had to go through Puddletown and Piddlehilton (via Piddle Lane) en route.

A lot of people had camped the night before and food and entertainment had been laid on by the locals. Registration was a breeze and they even allocated me Bib no 97 for Marathon no 97 (cool).

The Atmosphere was brilliant and around 300 lined up for the race briefing at 8:20.  We even had a marriage proposal during the race briefing.

Horn to start
A lady with a hunting horn on a horse sent us on our way.  First thing I saw was a drone above our heads that videoed the start:

Drone video of the start

We immediately went off road and within a km hit the first hill. It
wasn't runnable for the vast majority of the field and we got into a familiar forced march routine.  Once crested we had a lovely run down though open country side. I knew there was 10 climbs in total but I lost count very quickly and they all merged into one. After 3km I heard a bell in the distance as I got closer it was the famous "naked farmer in the bath" and this year he was ringing a bell and wishing everyone good morning. It was surreal.
Naked Farmer in the bath

Up and down we went with some nice runs along the crests of hills with panoramic views over the Dorset country side. Then after about 7 miles you could see on the side of an adjacent hill the Cern Giant (a huge chalk drawing cut into the hill). This is the logo of the race and a major local attraction. We ran around the Giant for around 2 miles.

It was an absolutely stunning run with very very well stocked aid stations every 3 miles or so. I also ran with my own water bottle. I was glad I did as in the second half of the race it got very hot and it just about sustained me between aid stations. I could tell I was de-hydrating fast as there was a constant stream of sweat coming from my running hat. This slowed to a drip and then dried up. I was de-hydrated.
Cern Giant

Beautiful vistas
At approx 10 miles I noticed about half the field running back straight at me. They had all gone the wrong the way with everyone following the leader like lemmings. I suspect those at the front had gone as much as 1.5 miles extra. I duly turned around and after about 10 minutes running was back on the right track. I had the race measure long because of this at 27.47 miles. 

I by now had found my place in the race and managed to gain only a couple of places over the last 15 miles. It was lovely tough running but very enjoyable with the up hills and the downhills merging into each other. There was a very long portion that was quite technical and involved running in a narrow rut bordering a barley field for a couple of miles that was tough and quite dangerous.

The aid station at 20 miles was named the "love station" and because of the proposal earlier it had pink champagne and strawberries as well as cider and a plethora of other goodies. They really were good.

At the finish
And home
I thought at one stage that a sub 5 hr run was possible and I even came in on marathon distance at 4:59:59 but I was still someway short of the finish. In fact just after full marathon distance I came across another aid station which didn't bode well. This led to a steep downhill which inevitable lead to a steep uphill which fortunately was the last of the day. Once crested it was a downhill run to the finish back in the village. There was a big big crowd picnicking at the finish and the all cheered every runner in.

Lots of goodies
Cool medal
A cool medal featuring the Cern Giant together with a muff and T-shirt (also featuring the giant) were handed out at the finish as
well as as much cider as you could drink.

Apparently next years medal will have a spinney bit.

An Ice Cream van was at hand and at the athletes village there was BBQ on the go.  Later that night there was to a barn dance for those staying over. I had to high tail it home so was sorry to leave early.

All in all it was a brilliant day.

More photos here

Polar stats for today

Sunday 21 June 2015

Le Cheile Midnight Track Mararthon

#96 Le Cheile Midnight Track marathon  3:52:13

Race briefing
I thought this was a great idea. A midnight track marathon on the longest day of the year. This was also part of a double as Le Cheile AC also hosted their summer trail Royal Canal marathon the next day. A lot of people were doing the double with some even trying a treble with Donegal on Sunday. One was enough for me and it being a track and the middle of the night were enough firsts.

I have to say I was as at odds with myself all day Friday not really knowing what to do for preparation. What I know in retrospect was NO chili chicken and noodles for lunch under the guise of carb loading. I ate crap all day and kept awake on Red Bull. It was not the best of preparation.

Started by The Kildare Rose
I picked up Kris en-route (she was trying the double) and arrived on time at 11:20. The early starters were out from 8pm and some had even finished before the main field started at 12:01am. Everything was setup with Precision Timing having erected a timing gantry over lane 7/8 and they would provide the automatic lap count. It would be 96 laps measured on the inside of lane 7.

Ready to go
A quick race briefing and a photo op with the Kildare Rose. She herself started the race and we were off.  The track quickly got full as everyone quickly found their place. Lane 7 was the racing lane with lane 8 being the over taking lane.

I settled into quite a quick pace and came through 10K in under 50 minutes. I immediately had to use the on track facilities and as I peeled off I noticed Kristy on my shoulder and she was going well. Within 2 more laps I was back in the facilities. I was not well. This is very unlike me and as soon as I got back on the track I had to slow. I would go on to visit the facilities 3 more times during the race and became very de-hydrated. It being quite a warm night and VERY humid did not help. Fortunately there was an aid station every 400m and I took on a lot of water. I wasn't enjoying this.

I came through half way in 1:53. I hadn't a clue where I was in the race and Precision timing from time to time shouted out how many laps you had done. The ambient light wasn't enough to read the GPS so I generally ignored it.

Clocking off the laps
Round and round we went.

As I approached the mid 80's in laps I knew that I would be very close to 4 hrs if I kept at this pace. Jack Healy had managed to start unlapping me so I knew I was slowing. I therefore decided to put in a really hard last 12 laps and took off. I lapped Jack again and managed to keep the pace going. I was getting more and more confident of a sub 4 finish. I asked a few times how many laps I had left but left before they could tell me. With 1 lap to go I came through the finish line to a shout "Leo has finished".  Within seconds there was a medal around my neck. I queried that I thought I had one lap left. This was duly checked in the main control center and it was confirmed that I had a lap left. I gave the medal back and took off again. One more lap and I was through in 3:52:13 and got the now deserved medal. Kris came in within seconds (also doing an extra lap) but her time of 3:53 belies a true 3:51 due to her own lap count query (I'll give her that victory). Her friend Clodagh had turned up to cheer us on and take her off for a few hours sleep before the next one at 1pm which she would go onto win.
And we are done (4am)

The main portacabin had hot tea coffee and goodies and there seemed to be a crowd bedding down for the night.

A lot of people like this form of running and Le Cheile AC organised it well. But its not for me. Maybe if I had of been a little less ill I might have enjoyed it more. But tonight was not that night.

Photos courtesy of James Shelly

I eventually came 23rd out of 50 finishers. Race results

Polar stats for today

Monday 15 June 2015

Portumna Forest 50K

#95  Portumna Forest 50K   4:33:52  (New PB)

New PB  
This was my third time doing this race and I loved the previous outings. I was entered into the 50K for the second time the main reason being that it was an early start. The weather forecast for the day was perfect at about 10-14 degrees and dry with light winds.
Waiting for start

Great atmosphere
Staying overnight in Galway it was a relatively short hop to the start line on Saturday morning. Kris Ryan and I made the journey and met up with Andrea Talpo from Crusaders at the start. We arrived at 6:20am and registered. There wasnt much time for messing around and all the usual guys were there ready for the 50K and 100K that was due off at 7am. The half marathon would join us at 9am and the marathon at 12 noon. Hopefully we would all be finished before the marathon even started.

After studying the form (particularly in my age group). I knew that I had to run a sub 4:40 to have even a chance of a age group position and had that as a focus for the day. Given that this is a 15 minute PB that certainly was a decent challenge. I also had a plan for Kristy to break 4:30 which was basically stay with me util 15 miles and then slowly pull ahead similar to recent races.
We are off

The Plan in action
After a start line gantry malfunction we got off shortly after 7am. The first couple of k were busy as the field sorted itself out. My plan had us going through each early lap in 26 minutes. Lap one was under 25 and Kristy was on my tail. Conditions were perfect and apart from a couple of 100 meter section beyond the marina the under foot conditions were good. After 8K Kristy and I had a chat and both agreed that we were going too fast and should slow down. We obviously ignored our own advise as we came through lap 2 together in 50 minutes.

30K in 
Things were similar through lap 3 and lap 4. At the half marathon point we were through in 1:46 about 4 minutes ahead of schedule. Disaster struck me as my shoe lace came undone just in front of eventual 100K winner Brenda and I had to stop to fix it. Kristy was now on her own 2 miles earlier than the plan. Fortunately on the out and back section I could monitor progress and she continued to lap about 30 secs faster than me so the plan was still on.

The only real difficulty to overcome all day was when the half marathon started at 9am at the park entrance and we hit them just as they joined the main route. You then have to navigate your way pretty much through the whole field until you find your place in the race again. This takes time and effort which is reflected particularly in the lap 5 time which was off by 1 minute. I was still doing well however at this stage and came through half way in 2:10 some 20 minutes faster than the national champs in Donadea. There was a great atmosphere and buzz about the whole day.

I was slowing but Kristy was still doing fantastic and I could see her progress on every lap. She was in third place overall at this stage and looked in no difficulty.

The marathon distance was reached half way through lap 9 and I was there in 3:44. Kristy had managed a 3:38 (spot on her marathon PB) and I previously had passed Andrea just as he did his which was in 3:25. This was just about what I had predicted for him.

Andrea, Kris and I at the end
The last 8K of these races are tough and its something just to keep running. I at this stage had slowed to 30 minute laps but knew that I was well under my PB and if I could just keep it together a 4:40 was on the cards or even a 4:35.  I eventually managed a sprint finish for a 4:33:52 (Gun time) which amazingly was 22 minutes better than my previous PB and some 48 minutes better than Donadea. I was chuffed. As I crossed the line Kristy was there. She had managed a 26 minute last lap to nearly catch the girl in font of her but smashed her own PB by 23 minutes for a 4:20 and 3rd place over all. Meanwhile Andrea who had no idea where he was in the race was shocked to discover his 4:03 was good enough for 4th spot. I love it when a plan comes together. Looking at the results I believe I won the MV50 category by 6 minutes which means I win a running prize for the first time ever (Free entry to next year)

It was a great day all round. Kristy and I headed back to Galway and ended up in the G hotel having Cocktails with herself overlooking Galway bay. It was a lovely day.

I also discovered that my new neighbour in Galway had done the Rock and Roll Marathon in Madrid in 2012 in 4:13....  Hmmmmm.. A new recruit maybe.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Malone and Carol Madden  (thanks).

Click here for Polar RC3 stats for the day

Saturday 6 June 2015

Viking Coastal

#94  Viking Coastal Marathon Kent

Reculver castle

This was part of the Saxon-Shore race series which I now officially love. All the races are in Kent which is about 2hrs away from the house, which is just about commutable on the day. Today's race started at 7am which meant a very early start.

The race was the Clontarf of the South of England on a very exposed coastal out and back course (with no beach section). The difficulty is totally dependent on the weather. Today we had an absolutely stunning day (upto 19 degrees) with a very stiff upto 20mph wind sweeping down the course.

Viking Coastal Trail
Start area
The course itself I have to say was pretty bland with not much to see to take the mind off things. It basically followed the sea from Minnis Bay to Reculver Castle just outside Birchington, nr Margate along the marked Viking Trail. It consisted of 4 x 5.27km out and backs to make up marathon distance. So we became very familiar with the route. Unusually you could see the castle (turn around point) from the far end of the course no matter when you looked up.

The 100 mc was well represented today with 1000 marathon man Brian Mills there and a couple of big names like Danny Kay also taking part. There were lots of "Blue and Yellow" shirts.

It was a sunny day so Sun Screen was mandatory though I seen a
few who forgot and they suffered. The wind however kept everyone cool and it was very strong into the face on legs 1,3,5 and 7. Similar to Clontarf this made it difficult enough even though there was zero elevation on the course.

Beautiful day
Todays race was part of a back to back with a lot returning Sunday to try it all again.

I was up at 3:45am (seriously) for the 2hr drive to the start. It was uneventful and I arrived at 6:15am in plenty of time. Most others were there early as well. There was a 100 celebration today (Joe Hawkins) and Paul Sahota let everyone know it was also his 98th (tomorrow being 99). He ran by himself today strangely.

At 7am we were off. Immediately I knew that Derry last week had a bigger toll on me that I had hoped and there was nothing in the legs. I decided since it was 5.27km out and backs it would be good practice for next week in Portumna so decided to try and do all the out and backs in under 30 minutes. The odd laps were tougher as the wind was dead in the face.

The field of 100 spread out quickly and was all over the course. One guy really seamed to be going for it and developed a big lead through 15 miles. Then he seamed to spectacularly blow up and walked the rest. I settled in around 20th spot and kept my place in the race from early.

It was a pretty uneventful race as I knocked off the laps. Firstly into the wind and then with the wind. The splits were 27:44,27:50,29:04,28:15,29:55,29:44,32:16,30:32  , So even though I slowed a little it wasn't too bad and these were all well over 5K. Same again next week in Portumna will be Ok.

Fantastic Medal
I was delighted to come in well under 4hrs on a tough enough day and hopefully the extra days rest before Portumna will pay dividends. I ended up in 21st spot.

As usual there was a fantastic medal and goodie bag and I even got to join the Saxon-Shore 100 mile club today having run in excess of 100 miles with them. What a good idea.

I was done and dusted by 11am and back in the house in time for lunch.

Results here:

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Monday 1 June 2015

Walled City

#93 Walled City Marathon, Derry

The Bogside from the walls

I loved this race last year and had entered it very early. Fortunately my good friend Joe lives right on the marathon route and had plenty of space so I stayed with him. I went up the day before and collected my number. I noticed there was the facility to pick up your number on the day in the hall at the Everglades so I will keep that in mind for the future. Either way I had a lovely evening catching up with Joe and having again my now favorite meal of Pulled Pork Burrito from Wetherspoons. There was a nice old atmosphere around Derry City the night before.

This is always a worry for Lundy's
I was up early and breakfasted before leaving the car in the car park at the finish line and getting the shuttle bus to the start. Different than last year the bus dropped off 1km short of the start and it was a long enough walk to the Everglades.

The weather forecast was not good with 25-40mph Westerly winds forecast and showers. The wind was to be the challenge today. As usual there were many familiar faces at the start with Roger and Jack making it over from from the 100mc club to celebrate Rich Holmes 500th marathon. Rich was there with the no 500 bib. I congratulated him and met loads of people and spent an hour chatting and taking photos. Martin Mc Guinness was there to start proceedings and we were off.

Rich Homes at 500
Almost immediately I found myself in the 3:30 pace group of around 20 with Dipak and one other leading the way. The first 2.5 miles was heading into the wind and I tucked in. Recently my first 10K has been at 3:30 pace so I decided to try and stick with Dipak as long as I could. Turning at 2.5 miles we had a bit of restbite from the wind as we turned with it slightly helping. Through 5K in 24:30 was spot on. We made our way east towards the City crossing the bridge for the first time. There was a collective groan from everyone as we hit the bridge and got the full force of the wind in the face. The next 5 miles would be the toughest bit of the marathon as it was up hill and into a very stiff breeze.

In the waterside

passing Joe
We came through 10K in 49:15 and it was hold on time. There was a great atmosphere in the city center where most of the supporters had congregated as they could see the race 5 times within a few hundred meters. We hit the hill which was a 2 mile drag up. I stayed with the pacers until about two thirds the way up and gradually lost touch. By the time we got to the top I was 100m back. We turned sharp left onto a 2 mile undulating section that was still into the wind and kept going. At 10 miles I was through in 1:19 which was a couple of minutes ahead of normal. A big lad from Folyle valley AC came past and said I think we can catch the pacing group. We turned left again and this time down hill and the wind now from the side. I tucked in behind yer man and he dragged me back to Dipak and by 11 miles I was safely tucked into the middle of the group. The next few miles are lovely along a path beside the Foyle. The wind was firmly helping. We came through half way in 1:44:14 and I was in 211th place. This was 3 minutes up than normal. I
lashing rain in the Waterside
decided I would try and hang on for as long as possible. At 15 miles we were back in the city and crossed the Foyle for the second time. I was just about hanging onto the pacers coat tails. I knew however that there was another 2 mile drag starting here through the Waterside and I slowly started to slip back.

By the time I passed Joe at 16.5miles I was 100m back but still well ahead of plan. At this time the heavens had opened and it lashed for about 10 minutes. At last we got to the top of the hill and had a lovely downhill section with the wind in the back for about half a mile. We turned left onto the greenway beside the Foyle and hit back towards town. The wind was dead in the face as we wound our way towards the city.  We came through a nice park and in front of us was the peace bridge. I could see the 3:30 pacers already on the bridge and I was a couple of minutes down and visibly slowing. This was the 20 mile mark which I came though in 2:41 which was about 4 minutes up on Newry. The wind was brutal on the bridge but the welcome from the supporters on the far side was awesome. It helped that we had our names on our bibs and they all shouted your name. We turned right at the bridge and headed along the Foyle into the industrial and park section of the race. I didnt mind this section too much this year and for a couple of miles just kept plodding and it was over. It was very very quiet though.

All done
But soon it was over and we were back in he city. A quick loop
Celebrating with Leslie
and we were in the Bogside and at mile 25. The rest of the race from here is a carnival.  At the end of the Bogside you turn left and head up Fahan St which is just awesome as the crowds gather and the atmosphere is great. Its steep though and I was delighted to run it all. Through the gates of Derry we go and its pretty much downhill to the finish and its fast. I knew at this stage 3:40 was a possibility and I made a big big effort taking around 7 places in the last half mile. A great sprint to the finish brought me  through in 3:38:20 and 226th place and 16th in my age group.  This was only the 7th time I have dipped under 3:40 and it ended up being my 5th fastest run. If I lost any time today it was between 16 and 20 miles and I was very happy with the finish. That is something to work on.  The bling as always was great and there was a nice Goodie bag and plenty of water at the finish. It was a good day.

Again Derry proved one of my favourites and is in my opinion the best Irish City Marathon outside of Dublin.

photos courtesy of Joe McEvoy

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