Thursday, 29 October 2009

Race 1 Winter Series (6.56km)

Rostrevor forest played host to the first race of the 26 Extreme Winter Series. This race was in Darkness starting at 7:30pm.

I arrived early and got changed and started a light warm up. Head torch on and a torch on my belt I had more than enough light. As more competitors arrived the car park soon filled up. Everyone got registered and lined up for a race briefing by Rowan. A bit of race banter on the line and everybody was raring to go. On a count of three we took off into darkness up a grassy slope and passed the cafe. We got onto the gravel path that passed the caravan site leading into rostrevor forest. As we passed the gate I remembered this being the start of a big climb many a day I had rode it on the mtb. This was a whole different story running in darkness not remembering were the end of the climb was. Head down and sucking up much needed air. The odd glance forward and it looked like no end to the climb. Just as I was about to ease off I see head torches on my right through the trees. This meant the top wasn’t far away. As I rounded the corner at the top I tried to get my breathing back to normal ready for the next climb on the tarmac road. Again in the darkness it was hard to judge the distance so I didn’t push to hard. Turning right across the bridge we started to descend a short distance. This was a good time to get breathing and a rhythm going. From here we turned left of the tarmac and followed the gravel forest track. At this point a slight mist had descended upon us. Coupled with the cover of the trees it made for very warm running. Turning right this is were the fun started. Down the badgers claw. This is single track through the trees very narrow steep sections with roots under foot making for very slippy running. I needed a lot of concentration through this section as it was treacherous under foot. At the end of the trail we turned right back onto gravel forest roads. This was mainly down hill and is were I thought I would get moving. I passed a few runners and could hear they were trying to stay with me so I pushed on catching a few more. I had remembered a hill near the end but at this point there was no way I was going to slow any. Turning right at the forestry cottages back onto the tarmac for a slight climb before turning left back onto the green and a sprint downhill across the finish line.

Slight update to my placing below. I was initially told I was 29th Really I was 26th and there was a mix up in numbers somewhere along the way. All sorted and my time amended.
Official time 00:35:39 That placed me 26th in a field of 52 entry’s. I am happy with how the first race went. I have now got a marker that I can improve on.

Next Race - Castlewellan Forest park 5th November.

Monday, 26 October 2009

26 Extreme Winter Series

The organisers of the Marathon have put together a winter running series. 2009 / 2010 Winter Race Series. This is a series of ten trail races in Rostrevor, Castlewellan and Tollymore Forests ranging in length from 6.5km to almost 13km. The exciting thing about these races is that four of them will be staged in the hours of darkness. On these race nights competitors will don their head torches and with their fellow runners will light up the trails through the forests as they take part in these unique events. The series starts with a 6.56km night run. This run takes place in Rostrevor Forest Thursday 29th October.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Big Day (Official time 04:32:33)

After a good nights sleep I wakened just before the alarm at 6am. Porridge for breakfast for added energy. The weather looked good and the sun was coming up through a sea mist. Cold and sharpe but a really fresh morning, perfect conditions for a marathon. I got my gear and headed to Portballintrae for the registration. An exciting looking start/finish area with flags and advertising lined along the car park. Registration was straight forward well organised and very fast. I got my gear on and started a light warm up. Everyone had their own routine of stretching and light running. The atmosphere was building with both competitors and spectators alike. 8:55am and we all lined up at the start flags. Rowan from extreme 26 (Event Organiser) give us a description of what lay ahead and he also thanked us all for taking part in the first Causeway Marathon. He handed over to the mayor who made a quick speech and give a blast of an air horn to signal the start of the Causeway Marathon 2009.

The Run
On the sound of the air horn we started to slowly filter under the start control. Down a small stony path and across a footbridge over the bush river. A sharpe right and onto a sandy path which lead onto a boardwalk that followed the river. We turned left and followed the causeway train tracks which run parallel to the beach at the back of the sand dunes. Turning left again we crossed the tracks and headed towards the runkerry headland. The craic was good and everyone was in good spirits. The odd joke here and there about taking in the scenery on the way out because we would be in to much pain on the way back. Later turned out to be true for some of us. Runkerry headland seemed to go past in a flash and at this point we were well and truly warmed up. At the Causeway visitor centre we turned left down the tarmac road to the causeway itself. This was a steep decent that dropped us down to sea level past the causeway stones. The first major climb of the day from the sea level to around 450ft up the Shepard’s steps. This was when the pace dropped to a walk as the steps were slippy and very steep. When I reached the top I picked up the pace again. I knew there was a slight climb along the cliff side that levelled out were I could get a breather and a drink. This was the first time I used a water bottle belt and was great to be able to drink on the run. The cliff path was in good condition even with the heavy rain the previous night. I started to get into rhythm and felt really good. A nice cool breeze from time to time really helped keep me from over heating. Headland after headland around the most amazing scenery you could ever have a marathon. A quick glance now and again was all I could take as the path was uneven and slippy in places. As we were getting into the miles we started to hit the ups and downs. A series of rocky steps down then up with the wooden steps over fences was a test of the legs even at this early stage. We passed marshals on the route giving us warnings of slippy steps or dangerous cliff edges. This just showed the professionalism of the event and attention to detail from the organisers. We passed our first water stop taking on some extra water. I passed on the opportunity of bananas and oranges at this early stage.

Dunseverick Castle marked 10k (Official time 01:01:20) with spectators cheering us on from the road side. I got a real boost seeing my girlfriend cheering me on and getting the photos for this blog. (Thanks Marga) I was feeling really good and felt I was sticking to a good pace. The terrain started to get a bit worse at this point with paths crossing through fields with cattle. With the wet weather the ground was very soft and the hoof prints in the muck made for very unsettled running. I found myself watching every step with extra caution as I didn’t want to go over on my ankle. After the fields we climbed a rocky path turning left down dunseverick road. This was a short decent past dunseverick harbour and back onto the trails. The paths from here changed from hard grassy paths to mucky trails. Around a few headlands and over fences we came to a short stony beach again I was watching my step but trying to keep a pace going. After the beach we got back onto a path that lead up some steps through a cave archway. Across some rocks onto the road at Portbradden. This was a tight climb up out of Portbradden turning left onto the main coastal road. Still climbing we got a great view of Whitepark bay and the beach to the halfway point. The road was coned off with a lane for us runners. Reaching the beach and youth hostel road we turned left again and down hill to the beach. Turning right onto the sand I stuck to a steady pace along the beach. The tide was in but thankfully the sand was firm. At the end of the beach I started meeting the front runners coming the other way. A few shouts of encouragement to them and from them to me was great and in keeping with a great atmosphere on the run. As the beach finished we crossed the rocks and over some seaweed. We had to get our feet wet as the tide was in and covering the rocks which lead to the path around the corner. A couple of steps in water up to my ankles was very refreshing and cooled my burning feet. Out onto the path we followed a sandy trail that took us into Ballintoy harbour. The halfway point was down at the end of the pier. (Official time 01:59:03) I got the waterbottle refilled and turned back along the pier.

Second Leg
With my legs still feeling good I started the homeward journey. Across the sandy path and back into the sea for a second refreshing dip for the feet. The beach run was really nice and I kept a steady pace. I passed a camera at the start of the beach road. With a quick thumbs up I got the head down for the climb out up to the main road. I had to walk at a few sections to get my breathing back to a regular rhythm. Onto the road turning right I caught up with my mate Ivan. We got into a rhythm and running together along the road section we got back to a steady pace. As we reached the end of the road it was back across the rocks at portbradden and through the Cave Archway. The steps down at the other side were very slippy so I took it easy to avoid any problems. The stony beaches and rocky paths seemed a lot harder and with tiring legs I was using a lot of mental energy to watch every step. Dunseverick Harbour and a small uphill road section give the head a break and my rhythm just pulled me up the hill. Turning right down the steps to the coastal path and back to the fields. Crossing the fields with the uneven ground was a real drain this time around. Watching my feet on every step and lifting heavier legs was a good test of what was to come. Passing Dunseverick castle again I knew this was the 10k to go marker. A long up hill section with a fence crossing up and over steep steps. This was the first time I could feel the niggling of my muscles. I knew the feeling was cramp but as I ran steady it was coming and going. I took it easy and slowed right down on the up hill sections. I got to the water stop and filled the water bottle and took a few quarters of oranges. The oranges were such a welcome to a drying mouth and got my taste buds fired up again. I got a phone call from my sister Paula who said the family were waiting at the finish line. Hearing this was good and took my mind of my sore muscles. I followed the cliff path and took it easy on the up hills and picked it up on the downs.

Hitting the 20mile mark (Official time 03:11:16) this is when it all went down hill. I came to a set of steps down that had a steep set going up at the other side. I ran down too fast I could feel the muscles tightening and as I started to climb the cramps started. I had to stop and stretch but every time I tried to carry on the legs took really bad cramps. I thought if I can just get to the top of the steps I could walk it off. I took a drink of water and suffered the pain and pulled myself to the top. Walking and stretching the cramps eased a little but I could still feel the pain in the legs. I started jogging slowly having to stop now and again and stretch the legs again to stop the cramp. This was the pattern for the rest of the journey home. Finishing my water I struggled forward. As I rounded the headland over looking the causeway I knew I had a bit of a downhill to try get a run going again. I passed many tourists that cheered me on and give me a bit of much needed encouragement. As I passed the Causeway centre I took on a lot of water and refilled my water bottle.

Around runkerry headland with jogging and walking I could see I was loosing a lot of time. I gritted my teeth and tried to push on. The legs just didn’t want to work on the uphill sections and had me walking again. The last stretch and a couple of fellow runners (Niall and I didn’t catch the girls name. I think it was Anna judging by the results sheet) caught me up. They give me a bit of boost by chatting and it took my mind of the pain in the legs. We turned right at the markers back along the boardwalk around the Bush river. Crossing the footbridge looking towards the short path to Portballintrae was a welcome sight. I put the head down and got across the finish line (Official time 04:32:33) to applause and cheers from Marga and some of the family. I was in such pain and the legs were totally exhausted. I got a bit of water and took a few deep breathes. It suddenly started to sink in that I had finished and the smile slowly returned to my face. After I had a chat with a few friends around the finish I headed back to Portstewart. I stopped at the herringpond (a natural seawater pool) I went down the steps into the icy cold water. At first it was shock and pain but I could feel the legs getting better. After a shower and some food I was feeling great but tired.

Summary: A very enjoyable event that was extremely well organised. Amazing scenery and a great course.

10k - 01:01:20
Halfway - 01:59:03
20 Miles - 03:11:16
Finish - 04:32:33

Bad Points: My lack of training, next time I will train for the event and not just leave things to the last minute.

Big Thanks
Firstly I have to thank Marga for getting up with me at 6am and cheering me on around the course. Also for the photos above. T'estimo Molt ;-)
Paula, Aideen, Sarah and Eimear. Max, Fiona, Ben and Josh for coming to the finish and cheering me across the line.

Also a massive thanks to Rowan and everyone else from 26 Extreme for Planning, organising and making this a marathon to remember. Roll on next year when I want to finish stronger.

Oh and how could I forget my wee Sister Lizi in Newzealand. Thanks Sis for all your encouragement and words of wisdom. Also all your crew out there for following the Marathon.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

What lays ahead (Photos)

Here is a link to some photos of the route we will be running.

Weather Forecast for Saturday

Saturday 10 Oct
High: 11° Low: 8°
Cloudy skies. High 11C and low 8C.
Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.
Precipitation Chance 60%

Monday, 5 October 2009

Kit Checklist

Running shoes (trail runners or ordinary runners) /Walking Boots
Hydration pack or water bottle
Energy snacks
Mobile phone in waterproof bag /container
Windproof top
Hat or Buff ®
Whistle & Space blanket (foil blanket)

Training or lack of in my case

My training started great then I suffered a back injury which got me off my feet. I lost a lot of valuable training time. I think in terms of effort though I probably did the same as I done for the Belfast Marathon and I was able to complete it.

This marathon is going to be on a whole different level though. The terrain, and the series of steep climbs, steps, beaches etc. The route is very exposed and having no shelter from the elements will prove to be an extra battle of mental and physical strength.

My main training runs were around belvoir forest, lagan valley, tow path, Mary Peters areas. All the trails I would have biked before. I also visited cavehill to get good steep runs. The thing with cavehill is it kills me to be there without a bike.

This time I had planned to train properly starting slow and building on it. All was going well and although I wasnt following a training plan I was getting the miles in. I was running off road as much as possible and using the hills as sprints. Taking a breather on the decents and slowing up so I was ready for the next hill. Is it a good method? I have no idea!

I tried to mix my training with a few evenings a week on the road bike or the XC bike. I also completed Lap the Lough 142km road cycle around lough neagh. I was thinking all running may have been a bad thing and even if only for my sanity the biking was a welcome. This is when my injury got worse 5+ hours in a tuc posistion on a road bike. I went to the physio and she done a great job in a short period of time. Was I ready to start training again? Only one way to find out. Drove to the National Trust Car Park on divis mountain and headed out up the mountain road. It wasnt a long run but it was a hill and a steep one at times. The back was fine the next day so training was back on. Only problem I was running out of time. I didnt push it and tried to ease back into the miles. With lazy weekends and other things happening I wasted more time. Three weeks from the event and a Holiday to Barcelona. I didnt lay around tho and done some good training runs in the mountains some mornings and evenings. Tough going in the heat but great to get running in such beautiful hills around the great city. Two weeks left and I do my last "big" run a half marathon on both roads and off road which took in Cavehill. Thats it then less than a week and I am resting.

Am I ready for what is going to be a great event??? Not as ready as I could be but then I never seem to stick to my plans. My new years resolution has come early I think.

The Causeway Coast Marathon

This Marathon will be an “out and back” route and will follow the paths, tracks, beaches and coastline of the Causeway Coast Way, between Portballintrae and Ballintoy Harbour - probably one of the most spectacular coastlines in the whole of the UK.
The entire route passes through magnificent coastline scenery with fine views of wide bays, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and off - shore rocks, all of which characterise the Causeway Coast, making its beauty and uniqueness world famous.
This coastline has inspired tales of giants, fairies, battles and shipwrecks – hopefully each and every competitor in this event can return home with memories and tales of this fantastic event.
The event date is Saturday 10 October 2009.
In addition to the Marathon there will also be a Half Marathon and a 10k run/walk incorporated into the route – these races, like the Marathon, will also finish in Portballintrae. There will also be a “Challenge Walk” on the day along the same route of the Causeway Coast Marathon.
The main event will see competitors race the Causeway Coast Way from Portballintrae to Ballintoy Harbour. This route is an “out and back” route, almost entirely off road, passing The Giants Causeway, Dunseverick Harbour, White Park Bay, Ballintoy Harbour before turning at the quaint Harbour and returning along the same route. The scenery on the outward and homeward legs of the event is truly spectacular.