Monday 20 March 2017

St Patricks

#179  St Patricks Challenge , Whiteabbey   5:58:50   33.8 miles

This was the first 6hr challenge event hosted in Ireland. It was organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series on a coastal route along Belfast lough starting in Whiteabbey just north of Belfast.

The event started in the Lough shore caravan parkand went south along the lough shore until you hit Gideons Green (for those that know the Belfast marathon route this is the third relay hand over point) before retracing its steps back to the caravan park. It was a 4.2 mile circuit.

 I was lucky enough to be at the genesis of this event when Peter and Craig visited the Battle of the Somme 6hr challenge event in Kent at the start of last summer and were so taken with the format that the St Patricks Day challenge was born . I love this format as it is so inclusive from the 5K fun runner to the very serious Ultra runner. All are welcome, all finish and come away with a medal and a finish time regardless of distance covered.

As is customary for these 6hr challenges the medal was awesome. This is sure to be a favorite event around the holiday going forward.

I picked up Kris early doors in Dublin (5:45 am) for the trip north. Unfortunately, Kris had a training incident during the week which has stopped her running at the moment but she was entered, had promised the medal to her dad and wanted to come. But sensibly she decided that she would walk. Never the less she managed 4 laps for 16.8 miles despite the issue. She will be back to full strength in no time.

We arrived in good time to pick up the numbers and laminated lap counter from the registration area. We then followed instructions and parked up in Whiteabbey and walked back to the start. Despite the instructions very few seemed to park where they were told and stayed in the car park. Fortunately the weather was pants and the car park didn't get over full. The weather forecast was for rain all day and at the start it was more like a polar expedition than a spring race with coats, ponchos, hats and gloves everywhere and all were huddled like penguins in the bandstand as we waited patiently for the start.

The race briefing done and we headed the few yards to the start and we were off. I started pretty near the back as the intention for me was always 8 laps. In my head I had a 2:10 half, 4:30 mara and go out on my 8th lap around 5hrs 15. Fairly quickly the field spread out.

The loop itself was a very simple out and back. Exiting the Caravan park we traversed the short promenade in Whiteabbey as far as the Wooden Pergola before turning onto the coastal path at he poop shaped statue. We then followed the coastal path until we hit Gideons Green where we did a small clockwise loop before retracing our steps back to the start finish area. We got our laminated lap counter cards clipped and either stopped by ringing the bell or went out on another loop. You had to be out on your last lap by 5hrs 30 mins. There was also a marathon distance measured which involved an additional 0.5 mile out and back after lap 6. So pretty simple.
Poor Shaun

The weather itself was extraordinary with a very poor start and first couple of hours brightening to a beautiful afternoon that could even be described as warm. Thankfully the whole day got a lot more pleasant as the weather improved.

The start video

Most of  the regular EAMS crowd was there plus a lot of first timers as the entry had been much extended from normal EAMS events to accommodate the popularity of the event. Around 150 took part. At one point I felt a big deja vu from Last One Standing as there seemed to be exactly the same crowd there as was in Castleward including Sammy Daye. There was much talk of LOS as well as those looking forward to the Energia 24 worlds that is coming to Belfast on July 1st.

I knew many in the event who were all running well, except Shaun who inexplicably stopped after 3 laps looking very sorry for himself.  Seamus, Susan , Eimear and Philip were there getting in another marathon and Kathleen and David Brady seemed to be having a complete blast all the way round. It was great to see Teresa Taffe there as a leprechaun and all the village people were there as well as many others in St Paddy days gear. Jill continued here unbelievable run of events and Barry Shanks did a very swift 8 laps. DBRC were well represented with Karen despite shin splits putting in a strong Ultra performance and Anne managing to get 9 laps in (she is so ready for a 24 hr event). Dino also ran very strong with 10 laps just one behind the eventual winner and Anthony had his normal strong day out. Dee Boland training for the Shore track 24hr had a very steady 8 laps on top of a high mileage week and the ever young Helena Dornan topped another >140 mile week with a steady ultra. Gillian coming back from illness also put a strong marathon performance in with Gary.

Special mention to Linda Cunningham and Jonny Lindsay who managed ultra today.

My own race was fairly uneventful. Half came in 2:05 and marathon around 4:25 just on plan. I then went through a bad patch on lap 7 but picked up on lap 8 for a strong finish and just crept under the 6hr mark for my 8 laps in 5:58:50. Thus completing Ultra no 41 on my 100th completely different course.
Brightened up

At the finish area there was Guinness, a wonderful medal, crisps, chocolate and coke.

As is normal with EAMS events organisation was flawless with many marshals on the course. Water and isotonic drinks were everywhere. First aid and access to the race directors if needed was also good and I felt safe and well looked after.

The aid station was great and everyone embraced the whole event format fantastically and there was a great atmosphere at the end.

Photos today from EAMS photographers and Philip/Elma McEvoy and Donna Owens, Denise Graham Alley, Aaron Johnston , Sarah Allen

Strava Stats for today

Monday 13 March 2017

Larmer Tree

Larmer Tree Marathon 5:23:46
Hilly Hilly Hilly
This is one of White Star Running's signature events run around the depths of rural Dorset and Wiltshire. HQ is Larmer Tree Gardens with all the facilities that you would need for such an event (except showers).

The weather all week had been wet and hit and miss and the forecast was for rain. Given thie weeks rain there was lots and lots of mud but fortunately the rain stayed away for the most part during the race except for the odd smattering.

The race was effectively one big loop with only one short section traversed twice.

Its hard to explain how difficult this marathon is. Estimates for the climb go from 2500ft to 3500ft (I think closer to 3000ft). It has lots of long long drags as well as some vertical short hills. Conditions under foot were generally awful with mud being pervasive and if you were not running around it you were sticking in it. Compared to last year (2016) conditions were much more difficult. Results showed that everyone was 1hr to 1hr 30 mins slower than a normal marathon.

Costas and Brenda
I picked up Brenda at 6:30am and an uneventful journey (in the lashing rain) got us to HQ for 8am. A quick registration and loo break (in the many portaloos) and we were pretty much straight on the start line. It was such a different crowd than at the London/Kent races but there were still quite a few familiar faces. The Twins Theresa and Julia, who are seeking entry into the Guinness book of world records for twin running were just off the back of the Thames Meander the day before, as was Costas. Emine was there as was Carolyn who had the job of sweeper today. Jeremy Fuber was there and it was great to catch up with Anna Hatton after a long time.

After the race briefing by Andy Palmer we were off. I remembered that the first 8.5 miles were relatively easy but I obviously mis-remembered, as there were 3 or maybe 4 climbs that I had forgotten about. The mud hit us immediately in the first couple of miles and it was a sign of things to come. The only road section on the course is also early in and around the village of Farnam. Even with these relatively good starting conditions compared to the rest of the race I just about scraped 6 miles in the first hour.

Derry's own Fiona and Kasia
This initial part was effectively a loop back to the start area and we came past the large monument that you can see from the start finish area. We then headed on a couple of miles that we would return on later on the race. The mud was awful. Then at 8.5 miles the first big hill hit. Its difficult to explain how steep this was but Brenda's nails still have not recovered from digging into the earth for grip (it didnt help she had road shoes on). This lasted for approx 3/4 of a mile before cresting and a nice 1 mile section of downhill brought us to an aid station and 10 miles. The aid stations themselves were either just water or fully stocked and were every 5K.  The rest of the race was on muddy undulating trails.

Half way came at 2:31 and I was 6 minutes down on last year but conditions were much worse. An aid station appeared at 14 miles and a few around me dropped out. This was just before a 1.3 mile long drag up hill that most of the course around me was walking. Last year I remembered I ran most of this hill but this year the legs were not there.

This pattern of long sweeping downhills and long long drags up hill continued. In particular we seemed to go up forever on a narrow very muddy section which was difficult to stand up on never mind go forward. 20 miles came on a fairly open up hill section and this was a prelude to the love station. This of course was just as I went the wrong way at one particular very muddy junction and luckily Jerry Fuber was there to call me back. At the love station there was shots, beer, cakes, sweets and kisses.  Sadly leaving this behind the last 6 miles had 3 significant climbs (all walked) and one very very steep slippy downhill. I met Fiona Mc Neilis on the last aid station she had picked up Kasia and they were running strong and just ahead of me. I made a big effort on the last climb back to the monument taking many places and stretched it in over the last 400m.

Click here for the The Love Station Video  Courtesy of Rob Hannam

It wasnt my fastest time ever but never the less glad to get home.

Hot food was the reward and I joined Kasia and Fiona with my burger for a debrief after.

I really have forgotten how difficult these types of hilly muddy trail races are:

Photos Anna Hatton, Kasia Lubowiecka, Alister Rae, Rob Hannam

Strava Stats for today

Sunday 5 March 2017


University of Limerick b2b

Day 1:  4:25:51
Day 2:  4:42:49

Day 1
As part of continued training for some long events I decided to do the MCI B2B at the University of Limerick. Being run by the Marathon Club you always get a good turn out and there were more than 140 turned up for the 2 starts (80 at the 8am start and 60 at the 9am start) on Day 1. I choose the 9am start as I was travelling down from Dublin. As it turned out I nearly made the 8am start and saw them off as I arrived.

Derek Mackessy was the race director. I have to say MCI looks to
be in good shape at the moment with some very dedicated and professional committee members and those that help run the race also doing a very professional job. I am confident that it will go from strength to strength from this point on. You can also see that they are investing in their members as they now have full chip timing with the results online almost instantaneously. Vincent tells me that when the new website is complete these results will go on the site again almost instantaneously as well. Its a big jump forward. I was also pleased to see that one of the ideas that I put forward in writing to the AGM (apparently with others) has been implemented and no longer do members subsidise non-members at races with the new pricing structure. I think everyone is happy with this.

The A team
Today facilities were superb with access to the University Boat house with its toilets and room with
Aid Station
kitchen facilities. I have to say however whoever started cooking sausages before the 9am start was evil as I would have quite happily stayed and scoffed the lot. 

There was also a half marathon on today.

At 9am I started with the course being a short out and back followed by 5 5 mile odd laps around the campus. I initially thought it was going to be a road marathon but there was a little too much trail to make it so. The loop itself started on a portion of the main Limerick marathon route (quite county road) but in reverse. After about 3/4 mile you turned left and climbed towards the the main campus entrance. Entering the campus you traversed the cycle paths before
crossing the central bridge. I also recognised this section from the main Limerick marathon. In and out around a few of the buildings and we crossed the pedestrian bridge in the middle of the campus (also on the main marathon route). A short climb briefly brought us out of the campus before a lovely downhill through the university business faculty brought us back in through some rather nice student accommodation to the river tow path. Following the tow path this time under the bridges brought us back to the boat house and the start finish area.
Day 2 briefing

There was a fully stocked aid station with sweets, plenty of water in 250ml sports top bottles, coke, gels and bananas.  Getting through the campus was easy with all road crossing having pedestrian crossings (and on day 2 marshals) and I never broke stride once. It was 5 big loops for a very accurate marathon distance.  Also onsite was an ambulance and I felt very safe and well looked after. I heard no complaints from anyone about anything (except the sausages obviously).

Suspected sausage cookers
I decided to push it a little at the start to see how my training had been going and came through 10K in 54 mins and half marathon in 1:58.  I was with John Chapman and Jimmy Kelly for a lot of the first half and despite being warned by Derek about the Limerick Park run also being on the course at the same time,  I had a head stagger and headed off on the park run course at one point. John, Jimmy and even Dave Brady all shouted at me to come back.

After half way, I then backed off a lot as I was also intending to run on Day 2.

There, and running well was Don and Karina from trail heads and also Anne Jennings who was coming back from injury and put in a stonking sub 4 effort. The usual's Collette, Seamus, Philip, Kathleen and Eimear (Mrs Hurley) were also there and running well. The newest 100er Sheila was there and Paul Comerford (thanks Shaun) though injured was getting his 100 medal. Also there was Susan Dixon (Leo's mum), but because of a bad back had decided not to run. Jill McCann was amazingly running (both days) even after running 3 last weekend in Ballina and also LOS the weekend before. There was also a big crowd from Kerry and the Wexford
Donna, Francie and Michael
marathon club was well represented.

Round and round we went. I had a very slow 4th lap that coincided with a lot of the 8am guys finishing but I decided to put a bit of effort on the final lap which was duly completed in 55 mins for a 4:25 finish.

The kitchen was in full swing and Coffee, buns, sandwiches were plentyful. It was great to catch up with Donna and Francie after (both had done a 3:37, amazing) and hopefully they can organise to do some of the runs we have planned over the next few months.
8am starters day 2

One of the bizarre things today was lost & found picked up some used womens undergarments abandoned at the finish line and the owner is asked to contact Vinnie.

I headed back to Dublin on Sat night to return on Sunday morning (2hrs 15mins each way). On the drive back on Sunday morning Met Eireann  had put out a yellow weather warning with 115 km/hr winds predicted. To add to misery, it also lashed rain all the way down. Around 60 got off  in a break in the weather. It however didn't last with heavy downpours regularly dumped on the field throughout the morning. This led to tough conditions in very wet gear with the towpath sections got really muddied and sticky.

Jill , Gary (and me)
Naturally being day 2 of a b2b I was pretty stiff and went out steady with half way coming in a sore 2:20.  All day, I had a good old too and fro with Jill McCann and Gary Connolly and late in the race with only a mile and half to go decided to put a big effort in and took over Sonic the Hedgehog and Jill and Gary with a 9 minute last mile to record an even split 4:42 and my fastest mile of the day. The race itself was pretty uneventful with everyone struggling in the conditions and it being day 2.
Day 2 (end of lap 4)

In summary it was a great value event with €40 getting you 2 accurately measured events with full AAI licenses, free parking, a pretty course, a fully stocked aid station and chip timing. Before the event there was tea and coffee and after a feed that would choke a horse and great shower
Yes, Kathleen is bending down
facilities and a medal each day. The onsite St Johns ambulance was highly visible and the RD was everywhere looking after everyone. There was no complaints.

This has to be the best value events around. Well done Derek and well done MCI.

Photos  Mary Mockett & Theresa Grimes & Philip Mcevoy

Stats for the weekend

Day 1

Day 2