Monday, August 24, 2009

Gale Force West Adventure Race

Gale Force Race

And so it begins. Standing on a beach with a bunch of other nutters, waiting for the off.
We are the second wave to go. There is a bit of banter but most people are bit tense at this point.

Away we go along the beach and up through the dunes to the tarmac road. Even at this early stage the group has strung out over quite a distance. The road takes a sharp left and continues uphill for a while. Cheering, clapping and shouts of encouragement from the next group at this point is a great buzz.
I knew that we would have to gain height but I was a little shocked to find that I was running back down to sea level.

Over a wire fence and onto the first off road hill/mountain.
Bog, running water, loose stones all combined to make this section hurt more than I would have liked at this early stage. I still managed to get some photos and another competitor offer to take my photo, fair play to him.

Here's the photo he took

A tight right calf was worrying but it seemed to go quickly as I wondered whether I was going to do the downhill on my head or on my arse. I was so glad that I have invested in cross-trainers as the surface was a greasy mix of mud, grass, rocks and water, the guys in road shoes were really having problems.

It was then onto a rough track, again the surface was shite but at least it was level (ish).
Running alongside Killary Fjord was spectacular. I managed to get some video here but it was mostly some blokes muddy legs and arse.
The track improved after a while and when a girl passed me I dropped in behind her and found that she was running at the perfect pace for me. We ended up chatting and this helped pass the last 3 or so miles of the run (thanks Debs). We also picked off plenty of other competitors on the way.

The kayak section was next, the arrival area had a timed out section in case people had to w
ait for kayaks. I made use of this to get some food and drink into me.
The kayaks were 2 man sit on tops. I partnered up with Debs for the crossing. She is a more experienced kayaker than me so she took the rear seat. Off we set across Killary Fjord.
I really had no idea what to expect from the kayak section. I had no idea how hard it would be, how long would it take or would I capsize and end up swimming.
It was much easier than I would have hoped we got into a nice rhythm straight away and sped across the water. The only disruption was from wake off a jet ski and that didn’t last long. Again we picked u
p a few places here.

Out of the water, drop the buoyancy aid and the paddle, on with the backpack and away again. Clamber up from the waters edge and onto still more bog. My shoes were full of water from getting off the kayak and stepping into the water but there was nothing to do but keep going and wonder if Gortex shoes were such a good idea after all. The run took me through bog, someones back garden and out their driveway (that was a little weird) onto the road to the Delphi centre.

I felt that I was comfortable with my running pace and I was reasonably fresh arriving at the
bike transition at Delphi.

I took my time at the bike transition, getting in some food and drink. I stuck a few gels and jellies in my pockets and started to head off, just outside the transition area I decided to stop and empty the water out of my shoes, I had a spare pair of socks in my bag, thinking of what was ahead I thought that it may be a good idea to change. As it turned out when I took my shoe off, although it was heavy and sodden, no water poured from it. I just put it back on and mounted the bike.

A pro looking chap on a decent road bike passed me just outside the Delphi Centre gate as I was taking some video. We had a bit of craic as he passed. I quickly caught up with him as I thought we may be able to work together but that went by the wayside when we hit the start of the hills and he disappeared backwards.

I had driven this section of road to Drummin twice this week, the first time without realising it was part of the Gale Force route, the second time I paid more attention.
I expected the long climb but what I didn't expect was the amount of competitors walking up the hill. I plodded steadily upwards passing plenty on the way. I taking a wild guess that this cycling stage wa
s the strongest part of the course for me.
I was dreading the downhill. It was narrow, grass up the middle, wet, covered in gravel and had a horrible drop off one side. I had visions of loosing control and crashing on it. What actually happened was that I got down without any problem, I was only passed by a few riders and I collected most of those almost immediately after the hill. I have to admit that I was delighted to have this hill behind me.
The following few miles were quite pleasant and I took several video clips and made a some phone calls, probably not the best thing to do during a "race" but I was clipping along at a good rate and feeling strong. The route hit the main road for a short while then turned left and was mostly uphill to the Croagh Patrick transition area. Again there were plenty of competitors struggling on the hills and a number of them we
re walking.

I racked the bike, dropped the helmet and went through the checkpoint, picked up a drink from stand and set off up Croagh Patrick "The Reek"

I was totally surprised to see Kevin just ahead of me, normally I see Kev at the start of a race then he disappears into the distance and that's the last I see of him until after the finish line.
I must have made up some good time on the bike.
Kev is half man half mountain goat and I managed to get some video of him descending on the loose rocks near the summit to prove it.
The options on the ascent were to head to the right away from the summit and take the less steep route to the pilgrims track or take the steeper, boggy route to the left. I opted for the more direct route
as did most other competitors.
The first section is soft, boggy and covered with heather. It is steep but soft underfoot. The fun really starts when you get on the pilgrims track. This is made up of a mixture of various sized rocks from pebbles to large stones and some dusty and extremely slippery bare sections.
I stumbled, slipped and tripped my way up, managing to stop occasionally to take video of the magnificent scenery

I eventually made it to the summit and here a strange transaction occurred. I turned into a tourist. I wandered around taking video clips and photos, I admired the view and I got some random person (non competitor) to take my photo.

This one here ---->

Islands in Clew bay in the backround

Eventually I got moving again. The descent on the pilgrims path was nuts, I don't know how some people managed to run down this without killing themselves. I slipped onto my arse on numerous occasions and was grateful not to fall head first at any point. It was easier once I got back on the heather section but I still didn't dare run until nearly back to the transition area.

I took my time getting back on the bike, it was nice to travel downhill. It was a short spin to the left turn that was the start of the track over the hill towards Westport. On way up to Croagh Patrick I had seen some of the first wave arrive at this point and immediately jump off their bikes and run the track. I figured they knew what they were doing so I did the same. While running along the track I was checking the surface. A case of "ahh fuck it I can cycle this" overcame me. Various stages of on, off and half on the bike followed. On some of the muddy sections I totally lost traction on the back wheel and pushed along one legged scooter like.

I was running one section keeping pace with a guy frantically peddling his mountain bike, he only went ahead of me when I stopped to remount my bike. As for remounting, it was a nightmare. I had swopped to toe clips for the event but the rough sole on my cross-trainers refused to slide into the clips which meant I had to try to lean down and use my hand to hold the clip. This is not really a problem on roads but I was travelling just above stalling speed all the while trying not to fall on my snot on the rocks and mud.

The downhill was too much for me - I nearly shit myself - back to running. I stepped aside to let 1 or 2 mountain bike pass, then I moved aside for another bike, a brief conversation ensued. It was something like this:

Cyclist: Thanks

Me: Jaysus, you're brave doing this on a road bike.

Cyclist: I hate running - ahh fuck, shit Ohh jaysus.

His last sentence was roared in panic as he slid sideways and weaved across the track. He did really well to stay upright, brave man.

Eventually it was out onto something that passes as a road in the west. I was nervous on the downhill bends as the road was obviously greasy and wet in parts with what looked like moss growing on it. I was slowly passed by a mountain bike here but I didn't care.

Out onto the Louisburgh to Westport road. What a brilliant moment, my wife and son were there to cheer me on. "Go on Dad, Go on Dad" A total buzz, I even managed a high five with my son as he ran along at full gallop. Good road and only a few miles to the finish - Way Hay - I went into road bike mode. As soon as I got wound up to a proper speed I lashed past that bloody mountain biker who had overtaken me a few minutes earlier - pass me would ya, take that - hard left and full pelt to Westport House.

I was alone along the last couple of miles. Small groups and individuals were dotted along the road cheering and clapping. It was great encouragement. I though I was Lance Armstrong - well without the drugs - unless yesterdays Guinness is a banned substance. Through the gates of Westport House, along the coned off path, I passed a few competitors here - not because I was flying but they were going slow - a steward flagging cyclists to slow down before a left turn, at this point I was expecting to take the left and pass over the timing mat. I was surprised to find a steward directing me to a bike transition area - Ahh shit another change to go.

Nothing different at this transition, I sort of plodded to a vacant spot on the bike rack and hooked up the bike. I started to run towards the finish line and then the vanity kicked in - bearing in mind that I don't have a head that suits a helmet - I returned to the bike and left my helmet and glasses there, must be photos at the finish line.... Sure enough after the short run on grass I was running towards the large inflated tent like structure that marked the finish line when the vanity thing kicked in again - raised arms or not, which would look better? A bit sad don't you thing. Anyway went with the arms up !!!! Crossed the line at 5.24.20 ish........

This was by far the most enjoyable event that I've been in this year. As it was my first adventure race I didn't know how to pace the stages. On reflection I could have made up time on most of the stages. I was worried about running out of steam but finished with plenty in the tank. I defiantly could have made better time if I hadn't stopped/slowed down to take videos and photos.

I'll know better for next year !!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pre Gale Force Race

I went for a run on Tuesday. My intention was to do a steady 5 mile run but I ended up doing just over 9 mile really, really slowly. I don't know why the legs wouldn't work, maybe it was the few pints of Guinness the night before - well, I am on holidays - or the tiredness from the Adidas 10 miler on Saturday or maybe the start was a little more hilly than I had realised but the old pins didn't want to move.

I was running along bohereens along by Croagh Patrick. The scenery and views were stunning. At one point I was chasing a sheep along the road - Oh Jaysus, that sounds weird - I could see the road heading up along the mountain towards a coll and got it into my head to keep going until I hit the summit. I stoped there to walk around for a while a did a little dry reaching (that's not good) before setting off for home.

Picture taken on run ---->

The last few miles home were torture.
I'm glad I got out and did the miles even if they weren't too much fun....

The plan for Wednesday was to head off for a easy 25/30 mile spin on the bike.

I awoke to the sound of rain beating on the window and howls of wind.

Once again I wondered how bleedin' mad I was.

With the exception of one 25 mile spin while on holidays in Dingle I haven't cycled more than 10 mile in one go since the Wicklow 200 in early June.

I headed out through Louisburgh and on to Delphi.

After a while the rain doesn't bother me too much but the wind, the wind is a bastard. From Louisburgh to Delphi the head wind was murder. My intention for the spin was to have an easy ride without using too much energy or hurting the legs, what happened on the way out was that I had to peddle even on the downhills.

Although the picture above doesn't do justice to the surroundings I was very aware of the beautiful area that I was cycling through.

I turned around a Delphi and headed back along the same route. The wind had dropped and the 30mph flat sections were all me !!!!!

Made it back in record time and again glad that I had made the effort to get out today....

Went to the beach PM to try some surfing but the red flags were out and we decided to leave it until another time..

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Adidas 10 Mile Race

Sometimes I wonder am I totally mad. These thoughts usually occur to me while running along some rutted, pot-holed country bohereen in torrential rain or while cycling into a headwind up a mountain, all the while dribbling snot and wondering if I’ll ever get the feeling back into my hands and feet. Then along comes a day like Saturday with the Adidas 10 mile run in the Phoenix Park.
I realise that I may be mad but so are at least 6000 other souls.
This run was the first one that I had an exact time target for – right down to the second - based on the McMillan running calculator.
So while stand in the crowd at the start I set my watch for 4 seconds per mile below my target, as little as 4 seconds per mile is, it gave me a physiological comfort zone. Just to demonstrate how thick I can sometimes be, it took me until into the third mile to realise that over 10 mile that would equate to a full 40 seconds.. Duh !!

There wasn’t the usual melee at the start and I found myself nearly 15 seconds ahead of target at the mile marker. I passed this point with my friend Kevin Birchall and fully expected not to see him again until after the finish (I did mention in a previous post that he is genetically enhanced)
At the 2 mile mark my time had pushed out to 20 seconds but I knew there were hills coming.

The weather on the day was probably a typical mix for an Irish summer. The heavy rain stopped just before the start of the race and was followed by some sunshine. At some point during the run I noticed drizzle but I'm not sure when it started or stopped. There was also one downpour, people were commenting on it afterwards but in truth I hardly noticed it. What I did notice was the sunshine, especially towards the end, I felt extremely warm and momentarily considered taking off my T shirt. For the sake of everybody in sight of me I'm glad I didn't.

By the half way point I was 5 seconds behind time and I was worried that because I had lost so much time on the hills on the first lap that the wheels would come off on the second lap.
In the next 2 miles I picked up 16 seconds that was enough to make me feel like I could finish on target, barring a total collapse.

I would like to mention the young lady in tight black shorts who seemed to be running at the perfect pace for me, I followed her for about 3 miles and if I started to drift I would close the gap to her again. She slowed on the Magazine hill and I passed her I then followed a guy in an orange t shirt. He was at the right pace but his arse wasn’t as nice.

The last 2 miles, as expected, were something of a struggle. I may have been able to shave another few seconds if I tried to get passed the groups on the narrow footpath towards the finish but it didn’t seem worth the effort.

I’m very pleased with the day. I finished under target and thoroughly enjoyed myself, well except for the pain and the rain and the hills, other than that I enjoyed myself !!!!!!!!!!

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 6


45 mins on spin bike. 3 minute blocks. 10 x 1 min pushing seated, 10 x 1 min pushing out of saddle & 10 x 1 min recovery. Balance was warm up & warm down.
The auld pins are still a little bit sore from Saturdays run. I'm not really sure why they are sore, maybe it's just old age ;-)
Brought the bike so I'll cycle home.


4 x 1200 on treadmill.
Cycle to and from work


Today was to be a non running day. I really should do some cross-training but with just over a week to go to the Gale Force Race I wanted to get in some off road miles.

I drove to a local forestry track - part of the Wicklow Way - and set off for an easy paced few miles. Although I was taking it handy the hill were steep enough to make me huff and puff.

I stopped once to take some photos. This is one of me with the windmills near Shillelagh in the backround. ----->

Just realised the windmill are really hard to see... Ahh well

A nice amount of down hill on the return, thank jaysus. Ended with just over 5 miles.


AM. 20 spin bike, easy(ish) 10 treadmill @ 14kph, 10 spin bike.

PM. Loaded up the backpack for an easy 5 miles. I had to put the brakes on after 3 miles as I was way too fast. - I've just re-read that sentence, ha ha, "way too fast" love it - I didn't want to be tired or sore for Adidas 10 mile run on Saturday. Plodded the last 2 miles home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marathon Training Week 5


Cycled home from work and then after dinner headed to the local grass track for some speed work.
My programme said I should do 10 x 400m and according to McMillan I should do them at 1.35.
Ran some warm up laps and set off for my first outdoor 400's.
After 2 laps I was wheezing like a heavy smoker.
I kept going for another few laps but my breathing was too bad to continue.
I really should have done some warm down laps but I was so pissed off that I just hopped on the bike and went home.


8k on treadmill. 38.39


35 mins on treadmill 2 x 10 @ tempo


40 mins on spin bike
9 x 1 min pushing seated, 9 x1 out of saddle & 9 x1 recovery. Balance warm up & warm down.


I was due to do 14 miles LSR but ended up doing 16 miles. The last 3 miles were the fastest but in fairness they were mostly downhill

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oh Shit I'm in Trouble

With the Gale Force race less than 3 weeks away I went out for my first off road/trail/mountain run this morning.
Kitted out with my new Salomon running shoes and a small Berghaus backpack Kevin Birchall and yours truly headed for Glendalough.

I was telling myself that my cough had cleared up- yeah right !- and that this should be a handy 16k.

Well, wasn't all that positive thinking going to get fucked up.

Wheezing through the first mile of tarmac and track should have given me a clue that all was not well. In fairness the pace was a little faster than I would normally start a training session at, but still !

By the time we were into the second mile my right calf was painfully tight and a few stretches did nothing to relieve tightness. I pushed on for another while but the calf was getting worse.
I reckoned with Gale Force and the Adidas 10 mile race so close I wasn't going to risk injury so after a quick look at the map - I should have looked a bit closer - we decided that Kev would push on over Camaderry and I would return to the car and drive around to pick him up.
I went about 1/4 mile further along the track at a jog/walk and then did an about face for the return to the car.

Picking my way through the rocks and stones I risked an occasional glance at my watch and was really surprised at how slow I was descending. Another lesson learned, don't underestimate how long it takes picking your way over rocky ground, even if it is downhill.

When the track leveled out and required less concentration I had time to ponder why my calves had caused so much trouble. I guess it is the different running style needed to negotiate steep, uneven ground.
The need to place your foot in a reasonably exact spot means that you land on the ball of your foot rather that the more heel first style of road running (note to self- check out the Chi stuff). I surmised (I'm watching too much Law and Order) that the strain and stretch put on the calf by pushing uphill from the ball of the foot caused the tightness in my calves, especially the right one (I must be leading off more with the right) and the solution: MORE TRAINING.

I went to collect Kevin from the prearranged spot - this is where I should have paid more attention to the map - I ended up waiting at a car park beyond Glenmacnass waterfall, however, I should have been on a completely different road, eventually I realised and made my way to the correct place. On a positive note because of the delay Kevin managed an extra bit of running ;-)