Monday 30 July 2018

Sliabh Bawn

Back to Back at Sliabh Bawn wind farm Roscommon

Day 1 6:16
Day 2 6:06

Dont let the times fool you. I worked hard both days for this. Originally booked into the b2b 50K I dropped to the b2b marathon. Boy was I glad I did.

This was 2 days on the same course at the Sliabh Bawn windfarm that rises 253m to the highest point in Roscommon.

Day 2
HQ was the GAA club in Ballyleage where we registered, got a coffee before we started and parked. A bus then brought us the 5K or so to the windfarm. The start of the marathon was about 1 mile into the farm and start time for me on day 1 was 8am and day 2 9am.

Starting we ran straight downhill past the finish line, past the 10k start, past the half marathon start
and past the 50K start. It was approx 1 mile straight downhill. When we got the bottom of the windfarm we turned around and retraced our steps straight up past the finish area and onto the loop. It was a horrendous start with virtually all the up hill walked.

Just past the finish area we continued to climb before flattening out for 400m. Then up sharp for around 200m before a long 800m gentle downhill. All this was on very stony open gravel trail.
Lucy and Collette

On day 1 the weather was very windy and cold at the higher levels with downpours of rain on and off during the day. Day 2 was much better.

All the time we ran past the massive trubines that were wooshing around all day.

Nice medals
Turning off the main trail onto a walking trail we skirted in and out of a forest with very marshy if not swampy conditions before coming back onto the main trail and up again. This time for 800 to an aid station before truning right and more uphill to the summit and turning at the highest turbine at the wind farm called the summit (253m). The we started downhill. I struggled with my knees all day on the downhill and this had a huge affect on my time. 800m of downhill brought us to some sharp uphills for 600m to another aid station and a shimmy of downhill brought us onto softer trail through a forest section as we zig zagged our way down the mountain.
Day 1 finish , very slow

Finishing the forest section we had an out and back to a turbine before a serious uphill trek on the main trail had us turning right and the final push to the end. Gentle downhill past a few trurbines and another aid station brought us on to a bouncy newly laid bark track that was freaky underfoot and I didnt like it. Exiting this we had a short out and back before the last push back uphill to the finish area.

Laps for me seemed to be around 1:20 to 1:30 and it was tough, really tough.

There was lots of medical help all over the course and the organisers were permanently spinning around on the Quad making sure we were all OK. Even Anto added to the atmosphere with his finish line humour.

HQ on the mountain
I spent a lot of the first day with Qussey an IBMer from belfast (whom I ran with in Tollymore and Belfast 24hr in the past) but spent most of the second day by myself. This was quite a small event but the numbers were boosted by lots of 10Kers and half marathoners. There were not many in the 50K options which is half the reason why I dropped to the marathon. I also made the choice to travel to and from Dublin each day. That worked out OK.

Claire did a great job organising this and I felt safe and looked after at all times. It was a nice touch to have showers , massage and hot food both days back at HQ.

There was also a very novel interconnecting medal for the b2b.

Stats for day 1

Stats for day 2

Monday 23 July 2018

Galway Block

#247 Galway Block  5:46:22

Nice T 
This was an event that I entered quite a while ago and it was organised by Brenda G Francis and Boston Scientific. It was a charity event with all proceeds going to Enable Ireland. There was a 10K, Half marathon and Marathon around a 1 mile loop within the grounds of Boston Scientific in Ballybrit industrial estate in Galway. Yes it was running around a carpark.

It was within a mile of the apartment in Galway which was convenient and the rest were off on a weekend in Prague so I was on my own. I came down the night before with the dog, and unfortunately decided to de-ice the freezer and stuck a knife straight through a pipe. Dead freezer, great!!!!.

Finish area
Aid station
It was an early start on the Sunday so I got there at 7:30am. I had a quick presentation with Theresa Grimes with her 100 in 100 GMC medal and I checked in. All races were to go off at the same time. As well as Theresa, Don, Dee and Anne were up from Wicklow/Dublin and a few from the west of Ireland were there including Ger Donohoe and a welcome return from Valerie Galvin, and it was good to see Tony Nevin for the first time since the Dublin marathon in 2016. It was going to be a small event and I hoped that there were would be 15 finishers. Gerry Ford arrived late becasue he ran out of petrol in Gort. He didnt have time  to do the whole event.

We were walked to start which was .22 around the lap and we were off at 8am. The half marathon starting .11 ahead of us. We came through the start line and started 26 laps of effectively what was the car park.

A right turn with a slight downhill brought us to where Shielagh was stationed all day, further down an incline and we came to where John (Peter Mizi's friend) was stationed. A quick smaller car park loop was traversed before we did a 350 m out and back along the back of the car park. Back towards the main plant and a climb back to front of the building brought us to the front of the building and a last 350m straight to complete the lap. Redtag timing were there and the start/finish was under a gantry. There was an aid station with plenty of water and sweets available every lap.
Brenda and her 12 in 12

Interestingly for me Boston Scientific have just bought the old Digital plant which we ran past every loop. The last time I was here was 28 years ago.

I started off Ok at about 9:30 minute miles but that dropped off quickly after 4 or 5 laps. i am struggling to have any pace or decent stride after 10K these days. 10K was in 1hr 6 which had me through half way in just over 2hrs 30. This was going to be a long day. After the half marathon finished it got very sparse on the lap. Cezary (who got a PB) and Don were lapping with ease and both would go on to great times despite Don nearly breaking down fairly close to the finish. Mirko was in 3rd and the only other one to break 4 hrs.

Theresa and her 100 in 100
I spent some time running and chatting to Brenda and was very pleased to present here with her 12 in 12 GMC medal at the end of the event.

I tottered on following Theresa lap after lap after lap. It was fairly warm and very humid. I made a bit of an effort for the last 2 laps and came in with a very disappointing 5hrs 46. The route though actually measured came in at 1km long according to my Garmin probably because of the racing line.

At the end there was coffee and tea and sandwiches with cakes. Nice!!

I headed off to watch the golf and left them to their colour run.

Stats for today

Friday 20 July 2018


#245 Sharkrun  Hammerhead  5:55:09
#246 Sharkrun  Whitetip          5:50:45

Ice cream Van there
This was a sort of double in that I did day 1 and 3 of the Sharkrun tripple that was held at the Woosh Canoe club along the banks of the Stort River near Sawbridgeworth and Harlow in Essex.

It was forecast to be hot and humid (even very hot and very humid).

Day 1 Hammerhead

The event was about 1 1/2 hours drive away and on day one and I arrived early at 8:30. Having ran the course before I knew that I could park the car on the route and have my own little personal aid station that I would pass every 40 minutes or so.

Picking up my number and using the facilities I chatted to a few and settled in for what was going to be a hot and humid run. Knowing it was going to be hot I had put out of my mind any thoughts of doing an ultra and would quite happily settle for a marathon

That marathon would be 8 laps of the 5.27km course. Having run the course before I knew that it was flat with a couple of drags but half would be in the shade and half in the direct sun. The direct sun would be the killer. It turned out to be 28 degrees and very humid.

Standard trail
Day 2 (HOT)
Off we went at 9:30 and I started pretty good running 33 mins for the first lap and following that up with a 35 mins second lap. The temp started to rise quickly and everyone was suffering. The lap itself was as expected. The first .8 mile was on open tow path with no shade. It would be a tough section all day. Turning past the locke and over the bridge we thankfully hit shade that was with us all the way through the back half of the course. There were a couple of sharp rises before we climbed the bridge at the far end and returned again in open sunshine for last .9 mile. Cruely we had to pass the aid station before clocking up a lap. I had parked my car at this section.

The disaster struck in the middle of lap 3 with a sharp pain in my right knee. This was not the normal knee pain and it reduced me to a walk. I just couldn't get started running again. Thinking hard what it could be, I realised that I had changed the insoles in my Hoka's the night before and I was convinced this was a gait problem. I hobbled to the end of the lap and luckily had with me the old insoles. I replaced them and started on lap 4. It seemed to work and though painful was able to get back up to a jog again. With all of this messing I was through half way in 2:45.
Aid station

The second half was a hot, hard , painful slog. Fortunately I found a standpipe close to the first bridge and made sure I had a bottle with me to fill and tip over my head on each lap. I slowly counted off the laps and found myself tooing and fooing with Davo. He eventually passed me half way through the final lap and we both put on a spurt to get through the finish in under 6 hours.  We managed it easily coming home in 5hrs 55. Give I didn't really know if I was going to finish at all I was happy to get there in the end.
Loved this section

I left straight for home. Being Friday and the M25 it took close to 3hrs to get home. Not nice.

I was even more delighted to be able to line up on Sunday at day 3. This time it was forecast even hotter and it came in at 32 degrees. This time I brought a coolbox with lots of iced water and boy was I thankful for that as it was available to me every 5K or so.

It really was a deja vu from Friday except it was noticeably hotter and everyone was noticeably slower. I got the shock of my life when at half way David Brett stopped just as I came through myself, I later heard Ruth and Gary Wayman also stopped early.  This was unheard off. very few went Ultra (I think 2)

But it was very very hot and humid and tough going.
Not at finish day 2

There was an ice cream van there all day which was great.

I actually did the first two laps slower than day 1 but made up all that time in lap 3 and lap 4 and managed to come half way in 2:38 some 7 minutes faster. But similar to Friday the second half was long, hot, humid, lots of standpipes and very slow with much water tipped over my head.

The coolbox worked really well and I had chilled coke all day and I picked up 1 500 ml bottle of water for lap 8 and it was half frozen still and slowly thawed out as I went round. I made a real effort on the last half lap and came in 5 minutes faster than Friday in 5hrs 50. Hopefully that is the last of the hot hot hot running for the year.

Stats for Day 1

Stats for Day 2

Tuesday 10 July 2018


Ballina  Day 1 of their running festival

5:37:32 #244

So this was my second ROI marathon in a row after a small break. That brings me to 91 ROI marathons and approaching the milestone of 100 marathons in 2 countries as I already have England cracked. Now that will be a very small club. It was also designated as a road Marathon which brings my Road marathon total to 90. In fact, Ballina AC tell me that this is also deemed to be a Boston Qualifier.

Ireland is still in the middle of a heat wave so it was forecast hot and humid. As it turned out I consider it warm at 24 degrees but it was very very humid. That slowed down things enormously but it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been and in general was quite pleasant. Some even reported a short episode of drizzle at one stage though I never saw it.

An unusually late 12 noon start meant that we were to run through the heat of the day.

I spent the night in Galway and drove the 1hr 30 mins to Ballina. It was more than a running festival as there were loads of things happening in the town over the weekend as part of a greater festival. Ballina was a busy place. I'm not sure I have ever been there before.

I easily found my way to the very nice Ballina AC track that had only been laid in recent years and registered. At registration was my old drinking buddy Maighread (who was there for the weekend) and a plethora of the usual multi marathoners. 16 started on day 1 with the same number for day 2. It was a small event. There was a small relay event also on Day 1.

The course was a 2.4km short loop followed by 5 x 8km loops.

We started on the dot of 12 running through the gates of Ballina Castle (very nice). I settled in near the back as I didn't really know the course. We left the track and headed towards the river Moy and followed the main road beside the river into Belleek woods. The whole course was on tarmac with those sections out of the woods on open roads with traffic (though in fairness the roads were very quiet). About 800m into the woods we ran around the duck pond and wound our way out the woods. About 1km on open road brought us back to the track and the very well stocked aid station.

The longer lap brought us back into the woods but this time we went on past the duck pond and climbed steadily for about 1 mile to the woods end. Parts of this were reasonably steep but runnable if you had a mind to. At the top of the hill was another water stop. Turning left we went over some undulating
roads (but generally up) until we reached the main road after about 2k. Turning left again we ran on the main road for 400m before turning down a side road. Generally downhill now to the finish brought us back to the track.

It wasnt the best signposted course I have ever done and I was unsure on the first lap at the duck pond and also on the turn off the main road to the minor road (waited for a few behind to catch up to be sure).

Initially I was running with Maighread for  the first 5 miles but she pulled away when I had to have a toilet break. I never seen her again to the end. I did however fall in with Jimmy Nugent and Dan McCarthy for a period were Jimmy as loquacious as ever recounted how MCI originally started off. They pushed on and I settled into a run/walk strategy. As there were very few in the race only Sheila and David Brady passed me on the next lap and they headed off into the distance going steady. Ger Fay passed my on the next visit to the woods and I was left pretty much on my own. I guessed I was at the back of the field.

It was surprisingly hilly. I got a bit worried that they were going to run out of water but on lap 4 stocks were replenished and there was plenty for everyone.

Of course a couple of the fasty's lapped me (even twice) but they were far and few between with most people over 4 hrs 30.

It was only in the last mile that I saw a few ahead. It was Ger,  Jimmy and Dan (on his 24th Marathon). I caught them and we all came in together.

We got a medal and a visor as an award. Maighread and David were there to welcome us in and I didn't stay around too much as it was back to Galway.  Lovely to have a cup of tea and a sandwich as well and I love that about these small club events. There was also showers and a massage if you wanted.

It was a nice day but very few photos of the day and results are not published as of yet.

Stats for today: Note I forgot to charge my Garmin so it gave up early and only registered the first 12 miles odd.

Stone Mad

Stone Mad Ultra  8:24:44


I wanted to do this event for several reasons. The first is that it goes through Carlow and that is one of the few counties in Ireland that I havnt done. Also a few years ago I entered this event and pulled out for some reason that I couldn't remember. It was 60K and there seemed to be a reasonable cut off that should not be too much of an issue. There was also due to be a marathon and a half on during the day.

It logistically was quite complex in that you parked in Carlow ran along the Barrow Valley to   Graiguenamanagh with an out and back at the end for Ultra distance.  The whole route was along the river and canal system (with an additional out and back for the Ultra). When finished there would be a bus back to Carlow. Simples (NOT!)

Then news came through of a change of route. Because of roadworks Carlow was effectively no go. So the route would be from Graiguenamanagh and do the out and back first then run along the Barrow Valley for 13 odd miles and return to Graiguenamanagh. It actually worked out a lot simpler be it a few extra miles to get to the start line for me.  The new route still went through Carlow PHEW!

Well everything seemed well organised and it was a new crew to me that I had not came across before. They all struck me as quite young, but that was OK. Everything seemed in hand with medial support and extremely well stocked aid stations and marshals everywhere. Registration was a breeze.

The Ultra started first (by 1hr 30 mins) and we all headed off South West along the river for 4.8 miles out and 4.8 miles back. It was very pretty. In fact I loved this course that meandered along the river valley. The river was busy and interesting and there was very few people around.

Everyone seemed to go off very fast and I found myself right at the back of the pack. Normally people come back to me but today they didn't and I found my self plumb last all day.  I passed all the Ultra guys on their way back on the out and back and the leader shouted at me "are you with Crusaders??" It turned out to be Dominick Brannigan from Crusaders who is an amazing runner and he easily won the day.  Ironically Crusaders were at the head and tail of the field today.
It was hot and humid and lots of insects were there all day.

After the turn around I noticed a 4x4 following me. It was from the local river authorities and I assume with the race. It would follow very close behind me for a couple of hours and was a bit creepy But I was last and I was just hoping they would not insist I would pull out.

I got back to Graiguenamanagh after about 1hr 45 mins and effectively joined the marathon route. I had long since lost sight of anyone in front and toddled along. After the next aid station I was met with Dominick on his way back and he was quickly followed by  more ultra guys, marathon guys and half marathon guys. I couldnt tell who was who. I knew relatively few in the race. 

I was slow and turned at the 23 mile mark in roughly 5 hrs giving me a marathon time of 5:40. Everyone was fast today. The next 13 miles was run walk and I toughly enjoyed it. It really was a beautiful day. I checked with the organisers about cut offs and I was well under and when I finished was still 40 mins under. By the time I got back to village the race was being packed up but they were still at finish line and I got a nice welcome and got nice medal and T shirt and a very nice can of coke. There were showers and food still in the hall but I had to get back so thanked them and left.
Dominick winner
It was very nicely run and I would do this again but I dont know if I would be keen to be last again.

Stats for today


Explorer Marathon 5:26:47

Never have I ran an event that was so shrouded in secrecy.

I got an email in May 2017 from Phoenix Running:

"This is a confidential marathon invite from Phoenix Running to attend a very special event to be held on our Thames towpath marathon route at 9.00am on Saturday June 9th 2018 – The PHOENIX Explorer Marathon.

At this stage we can’t really say much more and we appreciate we’re asking you to commit and trust us on this one!"

I was intrigued and entered as this is my birthday weekend and I love a special event. There was not much more information that came out for this event for the rest of the year and eventually with the same obscure information was opened to the public circa Jan 2018. It sold out in 14 minutes. Amazing really.

Rik from Phoenix running began to tease everyone about what was coming and eventually it came out that the medal would be special and being manufactured by Running Imp in China and would the world record for a medal that would be awarded to the finishers. Rumours were of 8lbs and the size of a large dinner plate. Rumours abounded about the factory refusing to make any more and the real  cost of the medal, which had to be more than the event entry.

Eventually the medal was unveiled at the London Marathon expo and it did not disappoint. IT WAS HUGE!!!

Doing a Mylene
To the race itself it was to be a marathon with no option for shorter or longer and it was to be held on the westerly course at Walton. This was the 10K odd route down towards Hampton Court and back (no bridge). I like this route and its been a while since I have run it. It was the first time I have run it in the summer without puddles and mud. I picked up Brenda on the way (she got a latish entry from another competitor). Today was all about the bling.

It was a very warm day. It was 4 laps for a marathon and there were around 130 runners there for the event. It was great in particular to see Fiona McNeilis and Apryl Hammet there after their epic 145 mile journey the following week.

Paul and Apryl
I started faster than normal and was through the first lap in just over 1hr which is quite a bit faster than normal. In fact both the girls were through the half way before me. I hit the half way mark in about 2:20 and then decided to take it easy. I caught up with Fiona who was with Paul Commons and walked pretty much the 3rd lap. Paul and I pushed on and ran together up until the last 5K.

The 145 mile gang
Paul Commons is a gas man and we stopped with 5K to go for lollys and had a good old chat. Paul pushed on for the last 5K and I was slow. It was still hot and when we eventually finished we were rewarded with a truly epic piece of bling. This no doubt will be the biggest medal I will ever receive and at the time of writing is a world record.

This is the only medal that I have that comes with its own stand.

I enjoyed the day.

Stats for the day:

Monday 9 July 2018


Runner of the Lost Arc   29.5 miles  6:20:20

Saturn Running (Runnymead)

Back in the UK I decided to do this one as it was relatively close to Basingstoke. It was still roasting and humid as a warm spell engulfed the UK. It was showing 26 degrees and very humid.

This was the same day that the 145 mile Birmingham to London canal race was on and I felt all day for those that were doing this in those conditions.

I picked up Brenda on the way and we were quickly at the start line.  The carpark was £6 for the day but £3 was refunded by the organiser as it was a lot. The carpark was a good 400m away from the start area and it was quite a trek down to the rowing club. Registration was a breeze and we were quickly lined up for the early start. I only had Ultra on my mind today.

We headed off West along the Thames and I found the 1.65 miles out and 1.65 mile back route quite interesting. You passed a couple of working and busy locks, a Hotel, passed under the M25 and had a very nice covered wood section before turning at a busy pub section. The route was fairly busy with dog walkers and a lot of cyclists. There was also lots of bridges to keep you focused.

It was 8 laps for a marathon and 9 for an Ultra.

I ran most of the day by myself and I found there was enough interesting parts to break the lap into lots of small marker points. I toddled along on my own with a pretty reasonable 2:20 first half marathon before slowing badly in the heat.

Still I kept going passing lots of people I knew. I noticed Brenda was running a lot with one of the older guys who ran half naked. At one spot I came across them with him on the ground. He had the heaviest of falls.

Also at the hotel there was a very posh wedding and we no doubt photo bombed a lot of their photos.

As the day wore on and I was out on the Ultra lap it became very quiet with most finished already. Brenda decided she wanted to do Ultra and as it was a 7 hour event and we had started early there was plenty of time.

I eventually came in for 6:20 with Brenda not far behind.

I loved the medal and there was a small goodie bag. I have to say Saturn running did a great job and after feedback they will have a 50K option in all events going forward.

I will have no issue doing these events again.

Stats for the day


#240 Switchback  nr Austin Texas

Luckily I was able to take advantage of a business trip to do this race.

Cool stuff
Arriving via London I got to the hotel at 8pm the night before the race. It being a real early start the next day and it being just over an hour drive, I was up well before dawn and in the car and ate breakfast on the hoof. I headed South West out of Austin towards San Antonio for about 45 minutes before swinging right onto B roads at Dripping Springs. Things got quite narrow and even included a Ford across a small river and a close call with a deer. Eventually finding the entrance to the ranch (Flat Creek Crossing ranch) where the race was going to be held it was still dark but there was a convoy of cars at this stage. I followed the crowd which brought me straight to  the car park in a field beside the race start. As with all american races I have done it was impeccably run with many portaloos and quite a few people who had camped over night. Some even stayed without tents.

The temperature was rising and by the time I picked up my number it was already well in the 80's and humidity was rising.  I finished the breakfast that I had bought in Walmart the night before and I lined up with the 30 or so other for the early start of the marathon. It was now roasting. I had with me a hand held 500ml bottle and a neck buff soaked in water. Registration was a breeze

This is the first US event that I had been to with no national anthem but there was plenty of patriotism around with one guy carrying a massive US flag for fallen soldiers. The temperature rose to the mid 90's and stayed there all day. It was very very humid. A half marathon was due to follow us after a 30 minute wait and they pretty much caught us and passed us enroute.

The ranch
The race was 2 x 13.1 mile loops. It was called the switchback marathon as it continually switched back on itself many many many times (see course map below). Interestingly the way the ranch was laid out you often seen people running in all sorts of directions but you never actually knew where they were the course and amazingly we never crossed. After about 3 or 4 miles in I was firmly at the back of the pack and melting. I was joined by Agatha Kerr from San Antonio and we decided to stick with each other for the rest of the day. She was a fascinating lady who was just getting into the marathon/ultra scene and was due to come to the UK and Ireland on a vacation later this summer.  We chatted for many hours. I found the track very very stony and hard going and at times had a significant camber.

The aid stations were amazing with ice, fruit, savory, sweets, coke, juice and iced water available as well as anything else you could ever need and the bounciest of helpers. The course was really hilly (>2200 ft (GPS lot a lot in the forest))  and with the temp and humidity it was just a long slog. I was in no hurry and was just enjoying the company. At its highest points there were great views.

The tunnel
After aid station 3 we started to descend down towards the finish area and this was the prettiest part of the course with stretches along cliff edges and through an amazing tunnel through the rock face beside the swim hole.

The first 13.1 was in a very pedestrian 3hrs and when we went back out for the second half it was more a walk/run strategy than anything else. The heat was relentless and I was glad to see every aid station as we trecked/jogged our way round. There were lots of very strange insects and I even managed to get a quick glimpse of a snake. Did I mention the heat was relentless.

By the time we finished (~7 hours) they were packing up and Agatha and I had become firm friends and she showed me around San Antonio with The Alamo and river walk the next evening. I look forward to returning the favour when she visits the UK and Ireland over the summer. She is currently booked in for Dark Phoenix in London and the Celtic Warrior in Lilliput as well as the Rock and Roll half in Dublin. We are considering the Streets of Galway as well.

Amazingly I came second in my age group and as well a T-shirt, locally produced wooden medal I won a customer cow boy hat and $60 voucher. It was a good day.

Photos: Agatha Kerr

Stats for today