Monday 28 March 2016

Vartry 50 Mile

RAW-Vartry    50 mile    8:37:08

Beautiful Vartry Lakes
This was part of the RAW running challenge around the very scenic, very hilly 10 mile loop in and around Vartry lakes just outside Roundwood in Wicklow. It included a 100 mile, 50 mile, 50K and Marathon all with staggered start times between 6pm on Good Friday until the course closed 30 hours later at Midnight on Sat Night/Sun morning.

Finish area
Last year I did the 50K and loved it and was somewhat a little redemption for a poor showing at Donadea earlier in the year. Kris as well was taking on the 100 mile challenge which would make the whole weekend interesting.

My race was due to start at 6am on Saturday morning, but to get in the mood I turned up the night before to see the 100 milers off on their challenge. It was cold at the start but otherwise dry and they all got off without incident. In the field was Irish 100K record holder Keith White who was the red hot favourite since a fast Italian had dropped to the 50 mile race. In the womens race there were 6 running including Kris, Finn, Michelle and Gillian Barnhill as a surprise entrant. I couldnt call that one. I went home to bed.
Don the race director

Kris winner
I was back at 4:30am to register and get ready. I was pleased to
see that Kris was through half way in 9:15 and just in the lead. She came round at 60 miles and in great bouncy form and had slightly increased her lead. I had no further worries about her. She would go on to win from Finn by 30 minutes with both putting in massive PB performances and finishing in the top 10 overall.

Keith Red Hot Favourite
The rain and wind set in around 9pm on Good Friday night and was with us virtually the whole time making for horrendous running conditions.

There were around 30 entered in the 50 mile race with some going off the night before with the 100 milers and some 50Kers joining us. We were cold and saturated from the get go.

I had a plan to run hard for the first half marathon and see where that left me and how I felt. The weather really had put paid to anyone's expectations of anything. I knew the route well as had recce'd it several times over the previous weeks.

At 49.9 miles
I quickly found myself in around 7th position and finished the first loop in 1:28:50, this was the fastest that I had ever done this loop and knew that I was too fast but the plan was to run the first half marathon hard.

At the start of the 2nd loop I passed Kris leaving the aid station. She was running so smoothly we decided to leave each other alone and off I went.

Coming Thru finish
At around the half marathon Liam Costello pulled along side me and we ran together for a few miles. The half marathon split was 1:58 which was way too fast.  Around 16 miles Liam peeled off for a comfort break and I ploughed on with some mis-conceived idea that I could break 4 hrs for a marathon. The second lap was 1:28:20 which was ridiculous and I headed out on the third lap over taking Karina who had a long aid station stop. I knew that my training had me comfortable enough for 50K, but I even shocked myself when I came through marathon in 3:55. I slowed a bit and walked a hill and Liam caught me and headed off into the distance. He would take 1 hr out of me in the final 24 miles.

I still had the 50K sub 5hr target and kept a steady but somewhat slowed pace through the end of the third lap. It was a 1:37 which was mostly down to the first 6 miles which were pretty OK. One last push at the start of the fourth lap saw me come through 50K in 4:49 which was faster than the 50K last year. I was well pleased with myself and everything else was now a bonus.

Nutrition wasnt a problem and 3 Gels and some Coke saw me through the whole thing. No issues.

Cru at the finish
I of course at this stage started to suffer and ended up hiking all the hills from here in but kept running the flat and the downhill. After 33 miles Karina caught me and headed off. She would end up winning the women's race in a brilliant time. The last lap had slowed to 1:57 which didn't surprise me but I struggled on through the 5th lap of just over 2 hrs for a very respectable 8:37. The last lap hurt a lot. I however had maintained my position and finished 8th overall and most definitely age group winner.

When I turned into the finish area for the last time I got a huge cheer from Cru supporters and was delighted to get over the line and receive my medal and T.

I survived with little of no problems and was able to go out for a nice but rather stiff and painful recovery run the next day.

Brilliant event. Loved it.

Some photos courtesy of Tom Mooney.

Strava Details:

Friday 25 March 2016

Larmer Tree

Larmer Tree   Wiltshire   4:59:08

This is a white star running event held in Wiltshire/Dorset. I had run one of their events before (The Giants Head) which I absolutely loved and the attention to detail that these guys put on is extraordinary. The event was a trail marathon that was due to be very hilly. After Wednesdays Ultra I was on very tired legs so there were going to be no records broken today. Fortunately the weather forecast was pretty good and the mud that could have hampered us was not really there.

It was very very hilly though at over 2500ft climb.

RD speech
The race head quarters was the Larmer Estate that borders Wiltshire and Dorset and was a very nicely appointed estate not that far beyond Salisbury. It was only 1 hr from home and I was there early and parked up. There was plenty of toilets at the start and the registration was very efficient. There was a small exhibition that sold all kinds of goodies and had a full map of the course. Apparently the course had been re-routed 3 times during the week but as I hadn't ran it before I wouldn't notice.

There were lots of 100MC people there and quite a few who had also ran on
Carolyn (Sweeper)
Wednesday. In the estate there were a few Peacocks (Theme for the day) and a couple of very large Parrots flying around. It was a great atmosphere. I chatted to Fiona for a while before the race and lined up with everyone. After the now typical whitty RD speech where Carolyn was introduced as sweeper we were off.

Hill 1
Hill 1
I initially was surprised that the fist maybe 6 miles of the race was on road and
was predominantly downhill. I was up near the front but 1 mile in had to have a comfort break that set me back to fairly near the back of the pack. It took me to 5 miles to catch Fiona and her running partner who were training for Ultras and hiking the hills. This first 6 miles was fairly easy and we then went off road.

The first major climb came at 8 miles and was HUGE!. It was maybe 0.5 mile long and was vertical. It wasnt even close to runnable and we all scrambled up it. The views were spectacular at the top as you looked back over the valley. It was a lovely day for running. Eventually we crested and were back onto the road again. a 1 mile gentle downhill section took us to a very well stocked Aid station around 9 miles. We immediately were off road again and went through a forest undulating section with rolling hills. There was also a 20 mile race and half marathon on with staggered starts and the half marathoners at the head of their field were passing and peeling off on their route.

Paul (Vader)
I passed Paul Sahota at around 10 miles. He was running well today and faster than

usual. He would go onto run a 15 minute PB later in the week which didn't surprise me.I came through half way in 2:25 which again didnt surprise me as it had been a tough half and I was on tired legs.

Hill 2
The second half had some very long steady climbs (1-2 miles long) but nothing as severe as the first. I was very happy to run most of them. There was only one of any real significance around 22 miles. This was just after we had passed the "love Aid Station" which was full of all kinds of goodies.

More hills 
I was pretty much on 5 hr pace but had to keep pushing. Around 23 miles there was a steep "only walkable" inlcline just over a style which set my time back. I passed Ellan at this stage who was doing day 1 of an 8 in 8 and was running super considering. I also had been too-ing and Fro-ing with a couple of girls from Farham crusaders. I eventually got chatting to them and they also had ran Wednesday and were again running very well.

The last Aid station came at 24 miles and I was still on for 5 hrs. Then a last very steep incline arrived about 3/4 of a mile from the finish. Eveyone was hiking but I decided to push and ran up it. Just as well I did as I had to really push the last 800m to come in under 5 hrs. Most of those that walked the last incline missed out on a sub 5 by seconds.

Love Station
Afterwards there was free massages and a choice of 4 free hot food  opions. I had a very tasty burger. The Medal was great and featured Peacoks and I was very pleased with the day.

Very nice video of the race

Stats for today

Saturday 12 March 2016

Book Day

Book Day Challenge  6:03:30  29.5 miles

Book Day medal
2nd overall out of 101 finishers.

This was a mid week race and I had taken the day of work to do this. Logistically everything worked like clockwork but I would not do this again (this way) as there is too much risk of things going wrong (one delay would have scuppered me) that would have ended up being an expensive waste of time.

Headed off at the front
First corner (Mud hole)
5am up and dressed and a taxi to the airport. I had left all my gear in the boot of my car that was parked in Gatwick so was travelling light. It was a 7am flight and I was in the lounge at the airport in Dublin by 6am feasting on croissants and anything else I could get my hands on. Fortunately the flight was on time and took off at 7am getting into Gatwick at 8:20am. I was convinced that I had to go through passport control at Gatwick (It took 1 hr coming in from Spain last week) but I had forgotten that from Ireland you are bused to the common travel area and there is no passport control and I was straight through. After leaving the airport the long term parking bus was there in 5 mins and I was in my car and leaving the carpark by 9:00am.

Steady as she goes
The GPS had me 45 mins from Shoreham Woods and indeed I was lucky as 45 mins later I was in the car park. I now had 15 mins to change, find a toilet and make my way to the start to register. I made it with 2 minutes to spare and everything had gone well. WAY TOO TIGHT.

Traviss had been warning everyone all week that this was a hilly challenging course and it would be a swamp and bring the grippiest trail shoes you could find. Not everyone followed his advise and they regretted it enormously.  It had pissed rain for days and the course was a complete mud hole. It was also hilly at 475ft climb per lap which made 4250ft climb for a marathon.

Cardiac steps
The weather forecast had improved from "heavy rain" with light showers to "light rain" with heavy showers. As it turned out we had virtually no rain or showers. The damage however had been done and the whole loop was a big muddy quagmire. Some had come in fancy dress for book day. They lived to regret it.

Mud Mud Mud
Slow but steady
We were off.  I went off at the front of the field and was quickly passed by a few but not many of the 100 field.  It was just under a 3 mile loop with 9 loops required for a marathon. We started with a slight downhill that as it turned out was the worst part of the course. Just under the mud was many large rocks or bricks and many a soul came a cropper on this section as the day went on. It was slippy, muddy and sloshy. It was also quite steep downhill and took all your wits just to stay upright. At the bottom of the hill you turned left straight into a 200m sloshfest that was wet, muddy and puddly. This quickly led to the first decent climb that started off on a path (driest part of the course) for about 400m before crossing a muddy road and steeply climbing another 200m slippy section (this part was unrunnable for most of the day).  Cresting through a heavily wooded area we went downhill steeply for a short time before turning right along a short path. A right turn brought us to probably the muddiest section of the course for a 100m uphill section. I'm not joking when I say the puddles were knee deep if you hit them wrong. As the day went on this section became impossible. Climbing again through ankle deep mud for around 200m we turned right and had a gentle decent (through mud) through the forest to Cardiac Hill. This was a section of steep steep steps up a steep steep hill. On the first lap some tried to run it but that was a waste of time as all you could do was trudge up it (I would visit Cardiac hill 10 times). As we crested the hill we crossed an open field section before going through a kissing gate and descending again on decent trail for a few hundred meters. This ended abruptly with a sharp right turn and a 100m steep steep steep up hill section (for most it was unrunnable).  Cresting through another kissing gate we made our was down through a muddy area to a stream. Crossing the stream we climbed more steps and kept climbing for another 200m before turning right for the final section. From here it was gentle uphill to the finish. The first half can only be described as a mud hole that got worse and worse and worse as the day went on. Finally we came onto a path but kept climbing through one last kissing gate until the last 50m downhill to the start finish area.

Beautiful section
It was less than 5K but my best lap was 33 minutes and was more like 35/36 as time went on.

And home
There was a hard limit of 7hrs 10 for today and a lot of people had had enough early and finished. Others found it just too tough and finished early.  The GPS didnt pick up all the distance or elevation and I came through half marathon in 2hrs 30mins (this was slow). I kept trudging on and the laps kept coming in and the field was visibly thinning. I was on a tight deadline myself having a 18:55 flight back so knew I couldn't really go beyond 4pm. I actually felt Ok all day and as it was pretty slow felt that I could go on beyond marathon at the end of lap 9 so when that came in 5hrs 20 mins I headed out on lap 10. Only 4 would do this and noone went out for 11.

At 6:03 I finished lap 10 and called it a day. It was good enough for 2nd place overall and I would have been 7th at Marathon distance. The medal was awesome as always and I quite liked the new method that was trialled for counting laps even though wet laminated cards proved difficult for the counters.

I changed again in the car (covered in mud) and headed off to Gatwick. I parked up and found I had 30 minutes to spare so went to the lounge. I spotted a spare seat and went to sit down and low and behold was Joe O'Reilly from Crusaders sitting right beside me..... I grabbed a snack and off to the flight which got off on time. A taxi home had me home at 8:30pm and I had enough time for a shower before picking Lindsay up for work. As I said it was too tight to do again but what a day.

Click here for results

Leap Day

Leap Day Challenge  Pegwell Bay  3:55:46

Fabulous medal
This was my second event for the weekend and was on one of my favorite courses at Pegwell Bay beside the wonderful Viking ship.

There were quite a few that were on their 4th marathon of the weekend and today was a 6hr challenge so there would be quite a few that would be less than marathon distance. Pegwell was a good 2 hr drive from Basingstoke and I was going back via Gatwick so had to bring everything with me. An uneventful trip down got me there in plenty of time and I parked up on the free car park that was about 800m from the start/finish area.
Steady Steady

Unfortunately the Viking ship had been wintered so was covered in a great tarpaulin so we couldnt see the full majesty of it.

Around 120 of us headed off around Pegwell country park ~5k loop. It started with a 1km run with the wind in the back along a good path before a sharp left turn through a kissing gate and followed a narrower path along the coast. The wind was into the face for the next 2 miles and cold as we headed around the park. We exited the park at another kissing gate and headed uphill towards Cliffsend village and past the viking boat (this was the only uphill section). We turned right through the disused hover-port before crossing an open field and turning with wind in our back to retrace our steps (and meet everyone on the course) back to the start/finish area. The course was just over 5K with 8 loops being a marathon.

My spits were remarkably steady all day

lap 1  28:23
lap 2  29:39
lap 3  29:31
lap 4  29:13

This brought me through half way in 1:56:44 and I decided then not to go ultra for the day but try to eek out a sub 4. Some more steady running in the second half secured this comfortably in the end and delighted to have a 1:59 second half.

lap 5  29:08
lap 6  29:30
lap 7  29:30
lap 8  30:43

Last Lap
This brought me home in 3:55:46 when I stopped. Respect to all those today who did 4 marathons in 4 days and those who did Ultra. It is a relatively easy course and was a good day for running. As always the SVN team did a great job and the medal as always with SVN events was spectacular. This was my 47th Sub 4 as I creep closer to the mini milestone of 50.

Today I was 9th of those that finished at Marathon distance. Click here for results 

I think runs that are as uneventful as this are good runs. No injuries no drama.

I changed in the car and went straight off to Gatwick (about 1 hr drive) and I was there in plenty of time to get my flight.

Photos courtesy of Graham Ó Síodhacháin (from Longford)