Tuesday 25 July 2017


Achill Back to Back

Day 1 5:47:13
Day 2 5:52:32

Cork Screw Hill
I had not been able to run all week due to work and my sore knee so was going to rock up to this event event and take it easy. I in no way had recovered from the Spitfire Scramble and was on tired everything.

Grainnes castle
Rather than go Achill on Friday night I decided to split the journey and stayed over in Galway on Friday. The weather on Friday was terrible and it was a tough enough drive to Galway in the rain. It rained all night and even though I had the intention of going to the parade in Eyre Sq on Fri night, as it was still lashing rain I decided on a early night.

Far side of Cork Screw
Luckily Karl Randall had been onto me which forced me to check the start area which was different that I was assuming.

I was up at 5am reckoning that I could make the early start and set off for Achill. A quiet journey got me there for 7:30 which was in plenty of time to checkin and get ready. It was a modest field with many doing 4 days in a row with some even trying 4 ultras. There was an early start for marathon and Ultra and the half and main start was at 9am.

By 8am we were off and started on a new portion of the course that was straight downhill before sweeping
Top of Cork Screw hill
left skirting Dooega village and climbing steadily for about 1 mile until we joined the course route that I was familiar with. By the time I reached the up hill I realised that I had forgot sun cream, gels , but more importantly I had forgotten my knee brace. Immediately I pulled back and decided not to risk anything and walk all the hills which was about half of the course. The sun came up and it was warm. We were also running the course the other way around so ended up hiking up the Cork screw hill. The course was even more spectacular than I remembered.

With Kevin
I was slow and just managed to keep ahead of Lucy Foley (who went on to be first lady in the b2b). Walking the hills and taking plenty of water was the order of the day. We were still on the old route right upto mile 11 and my knee was killing me. Lucy took me at this point and disappeared. Cruelly, the change in course had meant quite a few extra hills and generated >1700ft of climb over marathon distance. I came through half way in 2:28 and managed to get my knee brace on. Initially it didn't seem to help but eventually I didn't notice my knee so it seemed to work.

En-route, I of course came past the lovely Hill family from new Jersey and got the obligatory selfie with Kevin. What an athlete!!!!

It was really really warm on the second half and I was generally on my own and had no incentive to speed up and therefore slowed down. I huffed and puffed my round to a 5:47 full marathon and was delighted to stop. Some soup in the pub and I hung around until virtually everyone was in and it was off to the hotel.  Brenda Francis was celebrating her 75th and a very sweet speech and presentation was given by her friend Jenny.

There was an amazing Mayo themed T-Shirt and a very unique original Donna McLoughling hand painted coaster as the memento for the day. Jill McCann and Neil McSorley seemed to have a great day be it on a quad and the ever present Derek came in with Dave
hiding from Midgies
later in the heat. Dave then flaked out on the bench for half an hour topping up his tan. It was a lovely atmosphere. I have no idea what happened in the half marathon and I felt for the 10 or so who went out for a 3rd lap for a 40 mile ultra.

With Karl
A big feed and a few pints and a night with the Elvis impersonator had me off to bed early enough.

Up early, I was back at the start line just after 7. Now the midges are out
at 7 in Achill, and anyone who was there between 7 and 8 can attest to the swarm of midges that engulfed Lavells hotel and ate the livin bejaysus out of everyone. The only place to hide was indoors. Today was a smaller affair with around 20 in the marathon. Fortunately it is listed on the UK marathon club website so it counted anyways. It was due to be hot again today and I had the head burnt off me the day before, but of course it was due to be the same today and no sun cream again.
Brenda's 75th

coming into finish
Karl Randall turned up, back running after his op and after I told him I was planning on a 6hr run he said he would stay with me as he didn't really want to run on his own just yet. Thankfully Donna got us going at 8am and we ran away from the midges even though as I write this 2 days later I am still scratching like mad. Karl's wife Trish and son were on the course cheering us on.

Karl and I settled into a slow and steady walk the hills strategy. Collette settled in just behind us and we
towed her along for most of the day. Again the course was spectacular and I am glad that Karl picked this event rather than some others around. The same as yesterday it was warm. There were plenty of water stops on the course with sweets , water, coke and orange juice. There was also plenty of cars roaming around with water. We were well looked after.

And home
Peter Ferris and Geraldine Crawley had a great run today and there were few new comers and the pace overall was pedestrian to say the least, but it was the last day of a long week, it was hot and it was hilly. But what a triumph of an event.

Today we got the most gorgeous hand made broochy thing from Donna with the logo of the race embedded. In fact the course was littered with art masterpieces....

I just love this event and it is still my favorite course.

Photos: The Galway Cow,  Trish Randall, Maryse Mackessey, Alan Murphy

There is also a large selection of photos and views from The Galway Cow who was there


Stats for day 1

Stats for day 2

Monday 17 July 2017

Spitfire Challenge

Spitfire Challenge 24hr   101K

This was my 100th UK based Marathon and Ultra (64 marathons, 36 Ultras)

14th solo overall (out of 43) and 11th solo male (out of 31). Only 3 made 100 miles.

I entered this event mainly as Sean and Brenda were going and they would be looking after me in terms of camping and driving. Unfortunately that didn't work out due to illness in the family so I attended alone. I decided not to camp and my daughter found me an unbelievable hotel fairly close to the venue. So I was going to base myself out of my car and use the facilities the organisers were setting up for solo runners. I was also nervous enough about driving after, as it was a 2.5 hr drive.

This was a relay event for 2-8 person teams and also a solo event. So very similar to Endure 24 which is the only thing that I can compare this with. That was an extremely high bar.

To start off with this was a smaller event. With 700 runners total it

was less than 25% the size of Endure so expectations were not that high. Camping was free and most everyone was camping. Onsite there were plenty of portaloos and a shuttle to offsite showering facilities. There was also a solo camping area that bordered the finish and most solo's were setup here. Unfortunately, as I didn't have a tent I was not allowed in this area. In retrospect I should have parked at the top of the field at the 4 mile mark, along the route,  and would have had access to my car there a few feet from the course.  As it was, it was quite a walk off the course when I needed it (and I did).

Also onsite was a burger van with most people looking after themselves with BBQ's etc. Apparently this was less food facilities than last year, but it was a different start finish location. I arrived at around 9:30 am and quickly registered (nice T-Shirts).  The timing chip was ankle based and fine. Timing in general was great and I heard no complaints all day, and the main marquee had team positions permanently on display and individual look up if you wanted. It was very good. Also onsite was a physio tent you could book massages at and very visible medical (that was all good). Apparently security was also upped and I heard of no incidents.

I was on 2 weeks holiday from work, and had just spent 1 week in Crete with virtually no running at all. Every time I tried my knee was playing up so I had no idea what was going to happen. I advil'ed it, I volderol'ed it, I Bio-freezed it and had 2 knee braces on. It was fine upto 50 miles but did hurt the last few hours.

At 12 noon we were off. Being a smaller event it quickly thinned out. The course itself was a figure of 8, 5.7 mile loop that returned to the main campsite at 4 miles. It was relatively straight forward with the first 2 miles a gentle climb on tarmac and decent trails before sweeping into a wood section. There were few trip hazards but I heard of no-one getting into difficulty. Mile 3 was mostly over an open heathland (that I managed to get lost on in the middle of the night). Mile 4 was interesting and seemed short as we skirted a wood and a lake before returning to the campsite. Mile 5 seemed long as we trecked through another park on good trails before the only significant climb on the course (Maybe 600m) that rose to reveal fantastic views over London and what a sunset. The last .7 mile was a downhill celebration back to the finish area. There was no doubt it was a much easier course than Endure.

One of my main problems (nothing to do with the organisation) was that I normally know quite a few people at events and sometimes the whole field. But at this one the only person I knew was Anna Hatton. We met briefly at the start (30 secs) as she was running late, and again at her 100K mark (again 30 secs) and I felt very alone the rest of the race. Its amazing that as long as you know people on the course they seem to be with you all the time. I didn't like it. Anna went on to run >90 miles and took second lady.

Lap 1 was 1 hr 3 mins, which was way too fast and I slowed down after that. I was steady enough, though slow, through the first 8 hours and was well down on my PB but still well within 100 mile pace. It was quite warm and very very humid and I was taking on a lot of water. Later I became the main course for every mosquito in the South Of England and despite bangles and bracelets and jungle/Jungle I got eaten alive. The organisers supplied a couple of very large 1000ltr boxes of water at the start area that I used liberally. There was also a water only aid station at 2.5 miles that I stopped at every time. The marshals were very friendly and gave much encouragement. I was struggling but doing Ok right up to dark. I had to goto the car at this stage to change, as my back had chaffed bad and was bleeding (second time with the new Cru gear!). Unfortunately on the way back to the course I noticed I left my head torch in the car and had to go back and get it. From here on in, I pretty much went off food and couldn't even look at it.  I have to say sunset over London was absolutely spectacular and seemed to last forever.

Even though pacing was not allowed there seemed to be a lax attitude to it with lots of bikes on the course with runners and one guy in the solo event having 2 pacers alternating with him quite openly. I didn't like that.

Now my biggest gripe for this race, which is fixable, was the position of the solo aid table. 1) It was uncovered and lucky it didnt rain. 2) It was right in the main change over point for relay runners. I literally had to barge my way in and out every time that I used it (every lap). Relay runners were also using it, and on several occasions I noticed people just helping themselves to my stuff. I have given this feedback to the organisers. It can be fixed by moving it with a gazebo to the other side of the track or earlier or later on the start/finish straight or if solo's be allowed to base their cars out of the solo area, or solo cars base themselves at the top of the field at the 4 mile point.

Back to the race: I also slowed badly at this point and was walking way too much and losing time. I think I decided around 45 miles that 100 miles was not going to happen. I therefore reset my sights on 75 miles or the very least 100K. After 50 miles I went off liquids as well which I new was not good and there were several occasions that I felt tottery and an increased number of people were asking me if I was OK. I therefore decided to stop running and walk for a while to see if I could shake it off. When this happens in these events its good night Irene and so it was. I came through lap 10 and was hurting bad and had long decided that lap 11 and 100K (63 miles) was all that I was going to do. I met Anna at this stage who was in great form and thought she was in 2nd place. I encouraged her to go and and off she went.

One consideration I had was the 2.5hr drive home and given I couldn't run I knew I had to stop. My Garmin had long given up and I actually have no idea of how long I took (results not published yet) but I know it was just dawn and there was still a significant amount of time on the clock.

As I came round to 11 laps and 63 miles I finished. I went into the main marquee and sat for while. I took off my chip and handed it in. Unfortunately the medals hadn't been delivered onsite so I had to go home empty handed. It is promised in the post so lets see. That was very disappointing. (Edit: It arrived within a week)

I left site immediately and given it was very early there was virtually no traffic. I managed to stay awake OK and was home showered and in bed by 7am.

Stats for today   (Only first 58 miles on Garmin)

Thursday 6 July 2017

Belfast 24hr

Belfast 24hr   44.3 miles

So this was the world championships and I had bagged myself a place in the open race that was run alongside the main world championships. I also had paid £15 to enter the World Masters championships. I knew this was a waste of money but did it anyway.

It was actually less than three weeks since the Endure 24 (100 miles in 25 hrs) and a subsequent ultra and hilly marathon that same week. In reality, I was in no way recovered. But I decided to turn up and do my best and experience a world championships. I was travelling on my own with no crew as I knew that as soon as I was done I would be heading home.

I stayed at my mums house the night before and left early to setup in Victoria park in Belfast.  This was the same venue as last year and there was lots that needed to improve from last year. Fortunately a lot was, with for example,  the course was now  closed to the public and all in all facilities were much better. Timing was an issue last year and unfortunately it was even worse this year with the screen that showed runners how many laps they had completed seemingly down more than it was up.

The first person I met was Lillian who was there crewing for a Belgian couple. She immediately offered her area for me and it was perfect right beside Finn and Pat and close to the MCI marquee and right beside Ryan and the Ballemena runners.. I was among lots of friends. I quickly checked in and immediately moved my car to what I perceived a safer area close to Syndam train station (but who really knows in East Belfast in July). I setup quickly and was ready to go. I knew lots in the open race and a few in the international section as well so being on my own was no issue.

Ed Smith gave a functionary race brief at 11:45 which was simple and fine.

Time moved quickly and in no time it was nearly 12:00 and the start. I walked to the start with Collette who was running in the FO65 section. When I heard that her main competition Ann Bath (who was there) had pulled out through injury, I knew she was going to have a special day. The Fillipino team with Rex, Rolando and Mylene (all regulars) was there and excited doesnt describe them. Mylene's husband Pete offered their aid station for anything we needed which was great.

We lined up behind the international athletes and we were off on the button of 12.

The field was peppered with world champions, national champions and record holders of note including the Badwater 100 record holder and trans america record holder. The current world record holder from Poland would go onto beat her own record today. The womens USA and Poland teams had an epic battle and ended up less than 1km apart at the end of 24 hrs. It was brilliant just being part of it.

Super Collette
I was quite surprised at the lack of early pace by most of the field and 8 minute miles or slower seemed to be the norm. I however started off at 10-11 minute miles. The weather was super for running and apart for a drizzle for a few hours in the afternoon conditions were good. I quickly got used to being lapped but that was expected. I kept up this steady pace for the first half marathon which I thought to be honest was too fast and pulled back a little. I didnt spend much time in the aid stations and though laboured felt Ok.

It was great to see some supporters (who I pretended were there just for me but were really there to witness everything). Paul Rodgers from Newcastle was there and we had a brief chat as he soaked it all in. My brother Aidan turned up as did Joe Quinn and Lynda from EDAC. I had a chat to them all enroute.
Giving out
The biggest party however was with Philip, Jill, Susan, Carmel and Neil  who had the BBQ on the go and the Vodka and coke was flowing. I even partook of a burger just before dusk (thanks philip but it did lead to a 22 minute mile). This was after their double marathon over the weekend.

On the course I came through marathon in a slow time and to be honest wasnt really feeling it. I thought I would last to 50K and call it a day. A lot of people seemed to be struggling but equally some were going great including Finn and Collette. Pat pulled out early with PF. I was joking on the way round with Paddy Rowe that I wouldnt finish until he did and he kept going and going.

Anne Jenning was going fantastically well and got through 120K in record time but she went down hill rapidly after that and pulled up. Sharon Wilders also pottered around for 90 odd miles which more than exceeded her expectations. Lito whom I ran and chatted with for a while also kept going and going (not quite sure how he finished up). Denis Keane running in Vibrams had a great start but struggled the last 40 miles but managed a strong finish for circa 110 miles.

50K came and went and my next goal was 36 miles.There was lots of encouragement from everyone not least the international athletes with Lousise giving out encouragement to everyone. Catherine seemed to be struggling but would go onto run well. The Philippines team kept on going and national records were set. Thomas from Austria who I meet often running in the evenings around Dublin also gave lots of encouragement.

36 miles came and went and next up was 39.3 mark which again was reached. Lillian was encouraging me to at least try for 50 and off I went. I was however slowing and doing an increased amount of walking. Fairly quickly the surface caught up with me and my quad started hurting. This seemed to be a common complaint and I hobbled around for a few laps but was unable to run on it. I was 10 hrs in at this stage and losing a lot of ground and was just about on 100 mile pace but I knew in my heart of hearts it wasn't going to happen. So after 43 laps and 44.3 miles I handed my chip in and finished. Even when writing this in a beach bar in Crete I have no regrets as I was only going to hurt more and have to walk for 14 hrs and that would not have been fun and I have recovered quickly since and getting ready for the next adventure

One amusing thing that happened when I finished was I went looking for my medal. They seemed to have gone missing and I was dispatched to a far tent on the course where I found them hidden unguarded in a tent..

Finn went on to comfortably finish 100 miles as did Helena Dornan. But performance of the day went to Collette who didnt have to do what she did to secure the gold medal but kept going with a smile on her face for all 24 hrs to win the world FO65 world title (I am so proud of her) and bagging > 90 miles in the process a personal best by close on 50 miles. Amazing really.

I picked up a nice jacket and buff and left very soon after with around half way gone and headed back to Dublin.

The surface claimed a lot of victims but those that survived it managed amazing things. It was a pity about the timing which let down what was otherwise a fantastic event. If we didnt need reminding how tough our sport was, 2 runners ended up in hospital but I am glad to report both are now home.

Im not sure I would go back though if the event was held in this venue again. The surface is too hard.

Photos:  Aidan Lundy, Gary O'Daly, Galway Cow,  Paul Rodgers

Stats for today.