Monday 25 July 2016

Mt Lucas

#145 Mt Lucas Wind Farm  4:03:32

This was my first MCI event since LaHinch in 2014. The club has grown since then and this event formed part of a b2b in Offaly. This was also my first run in Offaly making it county 32 of my 50 county challenge.

Miserable at the start
The day was hosted by Johnny Healy and his family and ably assisted by Vincent Gutherie. It was exactly what I expected from them in terms of a slick and efficient organised race. It was also €10 and great value as it included a MCI medal.

The venue was unusual to say the least. It was in and around the Mt Lucas wind farm which was a huge facility, with many of giant wind turbines in operation. We basically had the facility to ourselves. There were three starts at 8am, 8:40am and 9am. I choose to start at 8am as I had to travel on to Galway city after before returning to Dublin.

I left Dublin early doors and it was very easy to find. Registration was straight forward and a big crowd of us waited patiently in the pouring rain for the race to start at 8am. Vincent gave us all a stiff talking to about litter and how previous MCI events had been a disgrace. Johnny then gave us instructions for the day. It would be one 7K lap followed by 7 5K laps and a bit extra to make Marathon.

Time for a jig
We were off and the route wound its way through the wind farm getting up close and personal with the giant turbines. On the first lap we took a 1km detour out and back over a couple of railway tracks before joining the 5K loop again. Conditions were wet to start but by 9am it had cleared somewhat and coats were disguarded.

I found the surface tough enough as it was rough gravel. It probably didn't help that I still had sore feet from last week. But if you stayed to the bare tracks on the gravel path it wasn't too bad. The rain made the dust settle and it stuck to back of your legs like concrete. I found it a little sticky. There were no hills to speak off and we quickly got used to the course. Mark Conlon however seemed to go off piste and he stopped me after an hour as he seemed to have gone 1 mile off course somewhere. He quickly managed to get back on track however.

I found the wind turbines very unsettling and spooky. They were very silent and towered over us. It was highly unusual.

I started off slow enough but had a good 2nd 10K to bring the half marathon up in 1:56. I held a thought for a while of a sub 4 marathon but that faded as I did later in the race. The 8:40 starters headed by Eimear Hurley started as we finished lap 1 and the 9am starters with Marie and Leslie started as we finished lap 2.
Catching up with Marie

The aid station was fabulous with plenty of water and coke and sweets and sausages. At the end there was a beautiful cup of sweet tea. Very good, and all for a €10er.

By 20 miles I was a couple of minutes off 4hrs and it stayed that way to the finish when I came in at 4:03. Satisfactory enough give the 100 mile effort earlier in the week.

All in all it was quite some time since I stopped at marathon distance and I felt the whole thing go very quickly and this report is probably not as colorful as normal.

I hung around for a while to see Tiger come in on his 100th and chat to Leslie and Marie before getting on the road to Galway.

All in all a very pleasant morning.

Photos courtesy of MCI Pro and Elma McEvoy.

Strava for today

Monday 18 July 2016

Samphire 100

Samphire Hoe endurance run 100 mile  22:27

81 on the start list. 50 finishers, 25 sub 24 hrs and 11th overall

Dawn over Dover (Photo: Dee Rand)
So how do you end up doing a 100 mile race?

This all started because of my good friends Kris, Marie, Brenda and Finn all did 100 miles/24 hr challenges over the last few years and were successful, and I wanted a to see if I could do it. I think the main enabling factor that made me think it was possible was my switch to Hoka's for the long stuff and that makes a huge difference. I hadn't a clue how to train for this but given my longest run to date being a 50k I knew that I had to really up the mileage.

Some of the more astute among you might have noticed me upping my Ultra participation in the last 6 months and this was all with this challenge in mind. I had set my goal as finishing in sub 24hrs. I felt this was realistic but knew that I had to be patient and build my schedule around this. Fortunately Kris was around, so there was no shortage of encouragement, company or inspiration. I set out my schedule so that I would peak in July.  This started with a hard winters training focusing initially on the national 50K. I then gradually upped the challenges. The Vartry 50 miler (I studied many of the 100 mile runners here) and the Connemara Ultra (both in atrocious conditions) was followed by the Fowlmead 50 and I had started using the SVN challenge events as Ultra's eventually using the full time allocated. So far so good.

Everything became an Ultra now or even back to back Ultras and the Tullroan Ultra was followed by the Forest 100K.  I was doing OK I thought and was still injury free and enjoying the really long stuff be it a little slower.

Paul Mason, Somie Back and Paul Sahota all had done 100's in the UK  and their experience and inspiration were logged. In June, I managed 5 Ultras including the most useful which was the Endura 12 hour race in Belfast as part of the national 24hr's were I managed 64 miles. Here again I went to school on Kris, Finn, Catherine, Paddy, Enda, Gary, Sharon, Anne and countless others as they achieved their 100 mile targets. In retrospect I was ready that day but I wasn't entered. Lastly I did the Somme Ultra at Samphire Hoe as a last recce. 1600 miles training and racing to date for the year had me ready and with a 10 day taper I was all set.

Kris had abandoned me for the summer but with her parents was giving massive encouragement from Australia and I was very fortunate that Finn (3 weeks after picking up a national medal at the 24hr championships with 116 miles) was also in the race and we would travel together. I knew with her vast experience that she would look after me throughout the day. I had studied all the advise from Traviss and Paul Mason, had consulted with everyone and had a strategy. The only thing I hadnt practised was night time running. I was as ready as I could be.

Samphire Hoe comes with its own challenges. It is relatively flat but there is a really tasty hill. It is completely open with no shelter at all and being beside the sea is open to the wind and 2/3rds of the race would be on concrete. The weather forecast was for warm day with a gentle breeze and a moonlit night. We would have taken that.

What actually occurred was way warmer than forecast with some telling me it was mid 20's and was very very humid the whole time. Even at night it didnt drop to beneath 16 degrees. The wind went from a gentle breeze to a brisk wind and for a time died totally in the middle of the night. There was no rain.

81 were entered but a few like Karen Summerville were long term injured so were not there. Finn and I stayed over the night before in Folkestown and spent the evening strategising and me taking note of her every last bit of advise. We arrived early and set up our own aid station. We deliberately set up a little off the course so that we would have to make a conscious decision to use it rather than make it too easy. I had long taken on board Traviss's advise of stopping at the main aid station and did not go near it all day. The irony is that there was even more stuff than normal on it (lots of baking and fudge) and Dominos pizza in the middle of the night (I had long past taking on solid food at that stage).

Photos: Mel Sturman (one of my favourite running photos)
My hydration and nutrition choices of Red-Bull, Mountain Dew, Coke , water with lots of ambrosia creamed rice, bananas, prawn cocktail Pringles with Haribo jelly babies and hi-five gels worked well. I also took S-Caps every couple of hours. I was able to eat what I wanted upto 12 hours but one very dodgy stop with too much rice and coke had me dry heaving in the middle of the reserve and I was only able to take on gels after that. But it wasn't an issue.

By 8am on Saturday we had registered, had our briefing, were setup and we were off. Along side the 100 miler there were various other 6hr/12hr and 24hr challenges. It was hot and humid from the get go and it is the only time that I actually looked forward to turning into the wind to cool down. I actually throughout the whole race preferred running into the wind.  The whole field quickly spread out. James predictably set off like a hare. We had all seen this before and we knew he would settle down and help others out. A surprise was Chris who went with James. He would live to regret that.

We plodded around in the heat and the humid conditions knocking off the 3.7 mile laps. The reserve was hot and the bit along the railway line on the way back seemed particularly dead. The concrete sea wall was hard and we all got into a rhythm. A 4:30 marathon was followed by a 5:30 50K. Finn was settled in about 10 minutes back and I was pretty much were I had expected to be in the race. 50 miles came in 9:40 and I was just shy of 100K in 12 hours. I was a little down on previous runs but conditions were tough and I still had a long way to go. Upto 100K I was still managing to run but had long since decided that I would have a run/walk strategy after 12 hours and had picked my spots on the course to execute this. Also, I found that as soon as I hit 100K I went through a real bad patch but toughed it out and came through it with much encouragement from everyone. Finn later told me I looked terrible at this stage with big black marks under my eyes.
Photos: Mel Sturman
Food and drink were OK upto now and there were no niggles. I had to take a lot more water than predicted because the heat but there was plenty available. After 12 hours the ability to eat became an issue and despite trying couldnt stomach anything solid. In an attempt to keep carbs going in I switched to gels and that seemed to work and I was OK again. May I say Mountain Dew is the bomb.

The run/walk strategy was working well and I was managing the 3.7 mile loops in well under an hour and was banking time against the 24hrs all the way. I felt very comfortable when I had an hour in hand and when I got to 1.5hrs up I knew that only injury now would stop me from achieving a sub 24hr race.

I seemed to be running at the same pace as Karen  and seen a lot of her. At one point in the reserve she had picked up a "calippo" lolly and I was tracking about 5m back. It was real "Harry met Sally" stuff that came out of her while eating it and we both agreed that this lolly at that particular time on that particular day was better than sex.

You could see the heat and humidity beginning to take its toll on others who were either dropping down in events or starting to walk early.

Night time came and it was a big unknown for me. I put the head torch on and as the temp only had dropped slightly I decided to keep running in a T-shirt. It was fine and my paranoia was unfounded. The moon came out as promised and it was a surreal and wonderful experience.  As it was now dark I hadnt a clue who anyone was anymore and stuck to a "well done" strategy as I met everyone. Bizarrely, Fiona who had joined as a pacer for the night shift seemed to recognise everyone. She must eat lots of carrots. Her encouragement was great and you could hear he coming from about 200m. Also there entertaining everyone was vanessa who must have talked and laughed and talked and laughed for the whole 24 hrs of her race.

Throughout the night I kept with the run/walk strategy and got the miles in and by the time the sun came up around 5am I was into my last few laps. It was quite interesting to see who survived and who hadnt. One of things that also worked well for me was charging my Garmin enroute and I had a novel powerpack/charging lead combo that did the job. I managed to get the whole race on the one record.

In terms of other runners I knew, most seemed to be going OK. Finn was on the same lap as me despite struggling with nutrition, Paul Mason and Philip Rand seemed to be going well and running a lot. James Bennet had speeded up again. Thankfully Chris had slowed down from his suicidal start. Clive was going steady. Karen and Elaine were both still with me, Somie looked determined. Mel was having the run of her life. Paul Rose was always just behind, Gary Wayman was struggling with an obvious injury but still moving and Greg was moving forward nicely. Enda was having problems and I seen him at one stage attempting open toe surgery and another passing me with only one shoe on the way to the paramedics (he was fine once stitched up). Pam dropped after getting to 100K and Rita just went on and on and on and on (hers imho was the performance of the day coming in as second female). Jools was going well despite being over dressed in my opinion and Kat did a valiant effort making 75 miles.

A lot of the SVN helpers are WAG's of some of the more regular runners and they came out early in the morning to walk, pace and encourage their other half's. That was really nice.

Then the wheels fell off. At 89 miles (3 laps to go) I felt the soles of my feet hurt. It felt like blisters on bruises. I could feel every pebble and stone on the route and running on the concrete was like sandpaper. It happened suddenly and on both feet and it seemed as if the whole structure of my shoes had failed. Normally Hoka's are like running on pillows. Now it was just agony. I was reduced to a walk. I knew I had enough time but I could also see the rest of the field gaining and I lost a few spots around now. I was not going to take my shoes off and decided just to tough it out. My now enforced walk strategy had me coming in around 1hr to 1hr 5 mins per lap and I got closer and closer to the finish.

Part of the system was to pick up a "St Georges" flag to tell everyone you were on your last lap. Pre-empting this I decided to bring my own flag and it caused much amusement as I headed off into my last lap with the Irish flag.  There was no end to the detail of my planning.

I had noticed that there were quite a few people in and around the same pace as me and Elaine, Karen, Paul, Philip, Clive, Finn and Enda and some others also ended up at the same time as me on their last laps. I just happened to be ahead of them but they were all running and some of them fast (Enda and Philip in particular). Small things matter at this time and I was determined not to loose 5 or 6 places in the last lap just because I was walking so I sucked it up and started to run again and managed to get quite a nice pace going (sub 10 minutes for the last mile) and by the time I came into the final straight I was well ahead to claim 11th place overall. Very soon after there was deluge of finishers and the atmosphere around the finish line was just magic.

I picked up my buckle, medal and T-Shirt and collapsed in a heap. Could I have kept going......Absolutely.

SVN had pulled off another fantastic event and all the helpers were just fantastic.

(Photo: Traviss)
We tried to get some sleep in the car but I was so high on Mountain Dew and Redbull that it was impossible . I was very nervous about driving after this event and was glad that Finn was there for the first hour. Even at that we had to stop for a coffee in a service station. That kept me awake until we got to Gatwick. Then on the 1hr journey back to Basingstoke I stopped a further 3 times to eat and get some air. I was very very happy to park up. A shower and 2 baths later I was packing again and off to get the train to Southampton Airport for the quick trip over to Dublin and then the 2.5hr bus journey to Galway. I eventually got in at 11:30 where Lindsay spoiled me rotten.

Thanks very much to Kris who's fault all of this is and to Finn for looking after me so well on the day. To Rachel and Traviss and all the helpers that was a magical experience.

I'll fill in with some photos when I get time. Its beginning to sink in.

Photos: Mel Sturman

Details of the day

Saturday 2 July 2016


100th Anniversary of the start of The Battle Of The Somme,  Samphire Hoe, Kent

6 Hr Challenge 34.65 miles  3rd out of 131 finishers

Amazing medal

This was back at the venue for the up and coming 100 mile attempt at Samphire Hoe between Dover and Folkestown at the reclaimed nature reserve made out of spill from the channel tunnel. The weather forecast was for showers and very windy. Fortunately there was little rain but it was still windy enough to need a jacket (in July). Some even had hats and gloves while other hard core guys (who no doubt forgot the jackets) were in vests. It wasn't cold.

Given the theme it was due to be a very poignant event and so it was. The planned start was exactly at the same time (7:30am) 100 years on from when the soldiers went over the top and after a nice speech by Traviss and a prayer we were set off in silence by trench whistles. You couldn't help but be moved.

The race itself was around the standard 3.85 mile loop which winded its way through the Samphire Hoe reserve before hitting the sea wall and for just over a mile we followed the wall out and the same back. There will be a slight change to the route for the 100 miler when the last twisty hill will be taken out by a further path around the periphery.
Sea Wall

From the start/finish area we climbed for around 100m before a steep small downhill hillock on rough trail  crossing a bridge. Briefly we then climbed on the only tarmac section of the course for 100m. A sharp right brought us onto a steep downhill section again on rough trail towards the railway line. A well appointed flat trail for around 400m followed the railway and led to a very steep 100m downhill section that brought us to the sea wall. The sea wall itself was wide and concrete. On the

way out the wind was firmly in the back and for around a mile it was easy running. The only difficulty was avoiding waves as they crashed over the seawall and many got soaked. Turning at the far end of the reserve you retraced your steps (this time into gale) returning back to the start finish line and the fantastic aid station. The fudge queen Jackie Hearne was on duty and Eton Mess Fudge was the favorite for today.

It has to be said Somie Back had the most amazing outfit that was
very fitting for the day and I did not think at all that the skirt was too short. What a way to celebrate your 52nd birthday!

Today it was all about the wind and 30-40 steady mph winds were directly into the face for half the lap. It meant for a very slow race with very few breaking 4 hrs for marathon distance and most way off their normal pace.

I was still on very tired legs (which was the plan) as this was my 6th Ultra in the last 28 days and the 12 hr 103K run was still well in my legs from last Saturday. But I was determined to run all 6 hours and the plan was likely to be around 9 laps.

Around 100 were in the race with many finishing early with just the usual crew going to marathon distance. It was slow and tortuous stuff and I decided to walk the small 100m very steep hill every time.  This would be my strategy in the 100 miler. Virtually everyone else was as well.

A lot here today were in for the 100 miler and using this as the last long run before and there were a few doing this as day 2 of a 4 in 4 so there seemed to be no rush in the day.

Craig and Peter from EAMS
I passed marathon distance in a very slow time (4:45) and kept going taking in 50K in 5:40 (including lots of practice walking). This gave me plenty of time to go out for one last lap finishing as nearly the last still on the course just over the 6 hrs. It was very quiet near the end.

So that is now 3 runs in Samphire Hoe and 3 times I have done 34 miles but this was by far the hardest and slowest. I do like this course unlike many others which is a good thing as I will be spending a lot of time here in 2 weeks time.

The EAMS top brass were here and I spent some time with Perter and Craig and La'Verne who seemed to really enjoy the Traviss and Rachel experience and of course the medal which was one of the best and weighing in at over 1lb in weight was a monster but very appropriate for the day that was in it.

 Strava stats for today