Tuesday 20 March 2018

St Patricks

 #235 St Patricks Challenge  29.4 Miles 6:04:02

Ultra #72

This was the second running of this challenge hosted by EAMS from Loughshore Park to Gideons Green on a 4.2 miles loop. Do as many laps as you want as long as you are out on your last lap by 5:59:59

Normal stuff really.

The story for today was the weather. The son of The Beast From The East was due to hit with very high northerly winds. Add in a spring tide and it was promising to be a tough day.

120 took to the line. Most said in retrospect that it was the worst conditions they had ever experienced. Craig got the ball rolling with a race brief 5 mins before the start and we went to the start and already there was a gale blowing.

We started with the wind firmly in our backs for the first out section. This wind would stay with us all day. The loop was simple, leave the car park and keep to the coast. Through the village we entered the promenade which skirted Belfast lough and twisted and turned around it until we entered the turning point in Gideons Green and then we retraced our steps.

There were a few issues for the day

- regularly as we were so close to the sea and there was a heavy wind and a spring tide the waves crashing over the course were relentless. There was no avoiding them
- At times the tide came in and covered the path and there was no way round it except slosh through
- Parts of the path got flooded for long sections and alternative paths had to found on higher ground
- Just past the bridge the sea got so heavy at one stage and the waves so aggressive that the path was rerouted through a car park.
- The wind at times on the way back was so strong it was like running in treacle.

Jill back in action
What surprised me today how many people finished early. Sure it was tough but I didnt feel it that bad. I was pretty consistent running covering the 4.2 miles from anything from 44 minutes to 56 minutes. Always comfortably under any cutoff for an ultra. I was always going ultra today.

Thomas Bufendofer and Darren Sheridan were to the fore and I was surprised that both stopped at marathon distance. But then again most other did too with only 6 going ultra today well down on normal.

Finn O'Mara did absolutely brilliant going out for an 8th lap to be first lady and Craig also managed 8 laps for second (again!!!) though he had plenty of time for a 9th and he was in the lead at the time. One runner went out for 9 and easily won.

I felt a lot better today than in Shanes Castle and am now looking forward to the big one in 2 weeks time.

Stats for today

Monday 12 March 2018

Shanes Castle

#234 Shanes Castle 40.1 Miles 8:50:39

Ultra #71

OK there was no denying it this was a crap run. It wasn't helped by the weather being awful and freezing and wet all the time.

It was in the car at 4am to get north to the venue for the 7am start. I had breakfast in the car and decided to go via Belfast. It was a quick run up and I was in the car park at Shanes Castle by 6:10am in plenty of time to get my number picked up. There was a cotton T-Shirt on offer which I don't mind as I have plenty enough technical T's. I thought they could have been a bit more inventive with the design or maybe the bar had been set too high with the very high quality of the LOS T shirt last year. There was also a buff and a protein chocolate.

The facilities were Ok, a hall with a toilet block attached was HQ for the day.

Anyways 20 mins sleep in the car we were all on the start line with 6 early starters from the marathon and we were off. Now this is a Game Of Thrones film set and they were due back for filming the next week but this was no where near as commercialised with tours as Tollymore or Castleward. We had the grounds to our selves. There was a half, full and Ultra on the same 13.1 miles loop around the grounds.

We actually started the loop climbing quite steeply into the forest. Carefully over 2 cattle grids brought us to the nicest portion of the run through the forest. It was muddy enough and got muddier as the day went on. We briefly skirted the North shore of lough Neigh before crossing the river (dont know the name) on 2 spectacular bridges, one of which apparently featured in Game Of Thrones. Between the bridges there was a long drag up the hill away from the river before dropping back. Crossing the river we came to the mid course aid station which had water, jellies and a very encouraging Marshall who was there all day. Turing right now on a concrete path we wound our way through open fields with mature trees on both sides.

This eventually led to a farm crossing where we turned right and ran a small loop around some farm land before re-tracing our steps on the concrete path back to the mid-race aid station. Keeping on straight we climbed up beside the motorway. It was a long drag that took us over another cattle grid and onto tarmac which seemed to go on forever before we came to the main gate of the castle (really a big house). Exiting the grounds past another aid station, we ran along the estate on the footpath for 1.75 miles (mostly gently down hill past the sign for Milltown and the sports hub before entering the estate again by the back gate. Now on one of the main estate roads we wound our way for the last mile back to the start finish area where we were timed and there was another aid station.

The weather was very damp and cold and wore us all down as the day went on. It was 3 laps for an ultra. I came through lap 1 in 2:25 and was OK. But pretty much immediately I went out on lap 2 my right foot got very sore to the level of I was reduced to a walk (this worried the crap out of me). I nearly turned back to change my shoes but persisted. The next 5 miles were agony before it eventually eased. At this stage it was raining hard and at times we had a cold wind into the face. It was really miserable.

As I had slowed a lot it was a 2:55 second half bringing me in for marathon at 5:20 odd and I felt quite brave going out for a 3rd lap. My foot had eased at this stage but I found it difficult to run and had a slow walk/run strategy for the third lap which was painfully slow.  I was pretty much on my own for this lap and dug deep to get home for a very slow and disappointing 8:50. A full 2hsr 20mins slower than my PB be it in atrocious conditions on a much more difficult course.

There was beautiful soup at the finish line and as I was one of the last home it was pretty empty. It was good to meet up with Collette and Linda afterwards.

Medal was a generic Atlas Running medal.

I drove straight back to Dublin. I was a long day.

I considered pulling out of the Belfast/Dublin run after this run

Stats for the day.  Photo's Philip McAvoy

Friday 9 March 2018

Mega Challenge

Mega Challenge 50K 7:00:46

So storm Emma had hit and everything in Ireland had been cancelled. In the UK on the Saturday pretty much everything had been cancelled but I did manage to get a rather slow park run in at Basingstoke on their snow course.

The thaw was due however on the Sunday and the Mega Challenge was still on. This was in the Kingswood SVN course which I have run a few times. I picked up Brenda on the way early doors and we were at the venue for 7:15 well in time to check in.

The start area was a sheet of ice and as we started on the button of 8am it was a "5 4 3 2 1 Walk". I took it super easy on the first lap as the whole course was pretty much ice.

The first 400m of this course is over a trip ridden forest/damp icy muddy downhill section before turning left on decent fire roads. On the first lap it was completely frozen. For the next mile you sweep downhill to  the lowest part of the course.  It bottoms out to a long steep up hill section that is for me only walkable. Cresting a flat 800m brings us to another short steep downhill before a similar steep uphill. This eventually leads to a long long drag uphill on an open trail. Turning right back into the trees there is a rather muddy bit (slightly up hill) before turning left on another long drag up and down dale which leads onto the final climb back to the aid station. I managed the first lap in 57 minutes and tried then on to keep things under the hour. This was a 4.28 mile loop.

Through the morning the thaw came in and the ice turned to slush and eventually mud. There was over 3000ft of climb over the event and it was 6 laps for a marathon and 7 and a bit for 50K.

Tracking behind me all day was Paul Commons and Richard Glister who were preparing for next weeks 100mile effort and Nick Nicholson doing what Nick does.

Half marathon was in 2:50 and I kept a steady enough pace for the second half coming through 6 laps in 5:45  . At this stage an icy rain had been soaking us for hours. Finishing marathon distances I turned and went out again. A slightly slower last lap had me through 7 laps in 6:50 odd and an out and back had me finish 50K in around 7 hours. You would go some to get a more difficult 50K.

This was good enough for 8th overall. Brenda doing her #309'th marathon was in just before me.

Photos courtesy of Richard Glister and Paul Commons.

Stats for today


Seville 4:39:38

 I was back in the sun. Similar to 2016 I was down in Spain anyway on business both the week before and the week after. This time Linz was also dropping down for the weekend.

I flew in from Barcelona on the Friday night. It was a late flight and I got straight into a taxi. Knowing that there was a minimum taxi fair out of the airport when he threw 24:55 on the meter it was no surprise. Since the hotel was right beside the expo I knew it was only 10 minutes but this was the easiest way. The hotel was lovely and not hugely expensive but I literally was only here to sleep.

I got up earlish had a niceish breakfast and headed off to the expo. It was about 500m walk. I got there before it opened and there was a small queue. It was smaller than I remembered and I quickly got my number and goodie bag. Again there was a fantastic running jacket included instead of a T-Shirt. I didnt hang around too much and remembering the transport system from last time walked to the circular train and got the circular to St Bernardo. There I picked up the Luas which brought me through the old town to Cathedral. The htel was a further 10 minutes walk. In the meantime Linz had made her way from Dublin and we arrived at the hotel at the same time. The Hotel Cerventas was brilliant and again very reasonable. A lovely night out in the old town had me off to bed early.

Linz in town
I was up and away early on race day. A 45 minute walk had me at the stadium (I joined thousands walking there as well). I quickly left my stuff off at the baggage in the stadium and made my way to the start. I have to say I didnt have too much time standing around and I settled in beside the 4:15 pacers. Even though I knew lots of people in the race I saw noone I knew. Pretty much on time we were off.

Beauty of a hotel
I stayed with the 4:15 pacers for the first few miles then let them go. Aid stations were every 5K and there was mat timing every 5K as well. The route was actually a lot more boring that I remembered except for the last 10K. I was through 5K in under 30 mins and 10K in just under 1hr. It was a fairly pleasant day and as is the way with these types of races it was busy. Support was pretty good all along the route. I came through 20K in just over 2 hrs and half way in 2hrs 10. I then as am tending to do these days eased off and went for a walk/run strategy in the second half.

The 4:30 pacers came past at my mile 16 and I thought they were way ahead of their pace and there was a relatively small crowd with them.

The last 10K of this race is brilliant and it was also getting fairly hot. As we passed through the old town you had to have your wits about as we continually crossed tram line and mingled with tourists. But that is the way it is. As I approached the stadium, there was a steady stream of people walking back and I tried hard the last few K to get under 4:40. I was really delighted to come in about 20 secs under in the Olympic stadium which still needs a resurface.

And done
I picked up my medal, picked up the beer, oranges and goodies on the go and got my gear. After what seemed a hugly long time retracing the last 3K I was back in the old town and met up with Lindsay.

A quick bath and we were out in the town. We shared a few glasses of wine with BOK and his soon to be wife Sarah. BOK had managed a 2hre 30mins 45 secs marathon. He was in bouncy form.

I enjoyed this marathon again this year (despite being 1hr slower than the last time) and may return in the future. We were again lucky with the weather. I still cant believe I didnt meet anyone I knew.

Stats for the day

Monday 5 March 2018


Movie treble

I've been thinking about the best way to report on this treble and since they were all on the same course with pretty much the same field and pretty much in the same time it is best to report them all at once.

This was actually part of a quad but to go and see my son I decided not to run on day 4. This decision was made at the start so it ever was going to be a treble for me. Even still I intended to go Ultra every day so it was daunting enough. The race series was put on by Phoenix Running and was on the Timed event course which was 3.28 miles long and is known as the bridge course as you have to cross a relatively short but steep bridge 18 times for Ultra.

From my house this is one of the most convenient courses and I am generally there within 30 mins.

Day 1 was "The Breakfast Club" themed and registration was in the leisure center as normal. Philip and Francis had traveled over from home for the first couple of events. The highlight of my day was before the start when I got presented with my 12 marathon in 12 month medal (Average 3:44) to be the first person to receive a Global Marathon Challenge Grand Slam.

The race itself was pretty uneventful. I knocked out the 3.28 mile laps between 32 and 40 minutes.  Marathon distance was in 5:18 and easily came in for Ultra (30.5 miles ) in just under 6 hours.

It should be noted that the state of the course was very muddy in the muddy sections which was the first 1.5km and the section just over the bridge otherwise it was OK. But it was very muddy. There was a slight detour allowed on the upper path for around 800m which helped.

Day 2 Grease Lightning.

This was a deja vue day except it was a little slower.  DOMS kicked in bad today and I struggled to get any pace going.  It was also very slushy and muddy which slowed things down further. I came through marathon in 5:40 and went out again for the ultra lap. I suspect I was one of the last still left on the course today.

Day 3 Jaw Dropper

Brenda came along today for her marathon #308 and I ran a lot better today in fact I was through marathon distance quicker than day 1 in 5:13 before really slowing down on the Ultra lap coming in just over the 6 hour mark.

All in all a good race series that was perfect training for longer things to come.

Photos Philip McAvoy

Stats of the treble

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3