Friday, 26 November 2010

Race 4 Winter series (10km)

Race 4 Tollymore 10km
Thursday 25th November

While out on the bike on Sunday I had a bit of a coming together with a pavement. I landed heavily on my hip. It was inevitable it would be the same side I injured in a motorbike crash in May. I took a light jog at lunch time on Wednesday to see if I was o.k. to run on Thursday night. Running on the roads at a slow pace my leg felt o.k. Sore afterwards but I didn’t feel it was too bad to miss race 4.

I arrived early and had a “warm up” It was difficult in the cold evening to get anywhere near warm. Conditions were windy, rain and temperatures dropping down to near freezing. It did stop raining during the race and when we got moving it was a lovely night for a run. Event HQ was set up on the green below the main car park. The music was playing as the 54 competitors warmed up on the tracks and the green at the HQ. Race briefing from Ian was short and to the point as he didn’t want to keep us hanging about in the cold. 2 laps on fire roads with one big climb up a grassy hill just before the finish line.

I started well and despite a slight pain in my hip I felt I was o.k. That was until I had past the Mountain centre and started to descend. The pressure on the hip at race pace was just too much. With every stride I could feel it getting worse. After Parnell Bridge I slowed a lot. Trying to vary the way I landed on the left side. Nothing seemed to ease the pain and I took the decision to pull up after one lap. I have other races coming up soon and want to fully recover rather than do permanent damage.

The course was brilliant and I was very disappointed not to be able to continue. The section along the river was tight and twisty. The fire roads were solid and easy under foot. The grassy hill was steep and soft under foot but not to long. Some seemed to take it in their stride while others slowed to a crawl tackling this section.

Another trio from Newcastle AC took to the podium with 1st Deon McNeilly, 2nd Eamon McCrickard and 3rd Brendan Quail. Well done to them and all who took part.

Next race is a return to Castlewellan for a similar loop around the Lake course. Thursday 2nd December.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Race 3 Winter Series (10km)

Race 3 Castlewellan 10km
Thursday 18th November

The weather has been terrible over the last few days. It had been raining most of the day but thankfully the afternoon had started to dry up. The drive to Castlewellan was a nightmare. Motorway traffic jams out of Belfast then drivers deciding to brake at every puddle. Despite the drive I got there at 6:30pm early enough to get a good warm up and a chat to Rowan and Ian.

There were some new faces and first timers. Questions being asked about the route, if there was any hills etc. The buzz of excitement was building around the lake car park as the start loomed closer. 26Extreme DJ was on hand with music that made the warm up area look and sound more like a disco with people bouncing to the beat. The music seemed to make people a lot more relaxed. There were so many smiling faces for a cold November Night. We got a race briefing from Ian and headed for the start line.

We lined up with our backs to the castle for the start. We would be running clockwise around the lake. It was a fairly flat course with one climb at the far end of the lake. The trail surface at the start was smooth gravel. This was very wet with puddles all along the lake side. The start was fast and a big group at the front kept the pace quick along the flat trail on the banks of the lake. I decided to run things different in this race. I would start middle of the group and hope to pick up positions rather than loose them in the second lap. I quickly got into a good rhythm speed and breathing seemed good. At the end of the lake the path lead onto fire road and we started to climb. As we turned right it got a bit steeper. I think it felt steeper because the surface was very soft. The fire road had a new surface of gravel. The heavy rain had pushed the gravel to the right side with the water running down the left. The left was a harder surface but this meant getting the feet even wetter. The right was energy sapping and after twice turning on my ankle I decided to run on the left. The climb wasn’t to long and once at the top there was a descent that had to be taken with caution. The heavy wind had branches and leaves on the fire road this coupled with the wet weather made the surface very soft and slippery. The run along this side of the lake seemed to pass quickly. I was in a group of about 7 along this side. The pace kept high with everyone running well and jockeying for position. We left the fire road and onto a tarmac path to cross the line 1 lap completed 00:22:29

I was feeling good going into the second lap and picked up the pace. I passed a few runners along this section giving me a boost. This was definitely a better feeling than getting passed when I was tiring. On the first part of the hill I seemed to fly passed one guy. “keep er lit” he shouted, which I did. I rounded the corner staying to the left of the fire road and up the harder wetter side. I was going well but could feel I was slowing. At the top I felt I had gone as quickly as I had the first lap which was encouraging rather than loosing too much time on the hill. As I tried to get the breathing calmed again after the hill I heard a runner catch up with me. “Not far to go keep it going, your doing well” he said. Not far to go is a great sound to hear when running. I was aware of more runners not to far behind me and my goal was to finish in front of them all. I didn’t want anyone passing me. I picked up the pace again and pushed hard along the lake. When we joined the tarmac path I give it one last push crossing the line and completing this lap 00:23:05

I finished in 32nd with an overall time of 00:45:34
Another great run with 68 competitors taking part. Thanks again to Rowan and Ian @26extreme, Champion Chip Ireland timing, all the helpers and the DJ for lifting the spirits at the warm up are. It’s wonderful what a bit of loud music can do for the mood.

See you all in Tollymore for Race 4 Thursday 25th November

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Race 1 Winter Series (10km)

Race 1 Stormont 10km
Thursday 4th November

I arrived at the already very busy car park at 7pm. There was a great atmosphere and a lot of new faces from last years series. The 26extreme team had everything set up and ready. The event HQ was a big tent with all the usual suspects making registration a fast process. I got my chip and number and headed off for a warm up. Thankfully the rain had stopped and it was a really mild night. When I finished my warm up I went to hear the race briefing.
Ian welcomed everyone to the 2nd 26extreme Winter Series Race 1. He told us the course which was a clockwise lap of the trails around stormont estate. The loop was 5km and we would do this twice. The trails were mainly hard packed gravel through trees with one section on the tarmac road running down the hill. Ian let us know there would be marshals on hand but all junctions would be tapped of and to just stick to the paths. We gathered at the start line and the race was underway.

I was around the front and sat with the lead group as we left the start line. We crossed the road at the main gates to stormont and into the trees at the other side. The trail was very wet with puddles dotted around the flatter sections. The trail surface was hard packed gravel with only a few soft sections where water had been laying. This section was proper dark but everyone’s head torches lit the place up well. The trail took us along the left side of the grounds climbing all the time. There was a few sharp hills along this side and it had already started to open the pack. I eased up a bit because all the advice I had given others about not getting caught up in the fast pace at the start had only hit home to myself. I was doing just that looking at the front runners pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I started to run my own race and let the lead group go. Lets be honest I was never going to sit with them for the race let alone this lap. Crossing the road at the side entrance we rejoined the trail and headed up to the top bridge. Finally a good descent to get the breathing back and try and open the legs up a bit. We followed the trail down to the road turning left onto the tarmac. Rowan from 26extreme was out on the course giving everyone a cheer at this point. There was a short climb to the roundabout then a right turn and down the main road. UBERDOG magazine was on hand with some words of encouragement and also taking photos of us as we passed. A wave to the legend that is Robert from Uberdog and down the hill I went. The pace picked up again on the down hill. Good light and the descent made this section fast for most. We crossed the road and joined the trail again heading into the right of the grounds. This took us out along side the football pitches and back through another dark wooded section to the start finish. 1 Lap complete 00:20:59mins.

Ian from 26extreme was also cheering everyone at the halfway point and taking photos as we passed the chip timing station. I got a few words of encouragement from a mate who had come down to see the race which helped me pick up the pace again. I pushed on feeling o.k. apart from my breathing. My legs felt o.k. and I didn’t feel tired at this point. The hill this time did feel a lot longer. I knew I wasn’t as quick as I had done the first lap but I didn’t want to ease up. The closer to the top of the hill I could hear a few people catch me as I had slowed right down. Rounding the bridge for the second time I knew I had to make up some lost ground. I got my head back sucking in as much air as I could and took off down the hill. I had my eyes closed as the light from the head torch reflected off the moisture from my breath making it really hard to see. I knew the path was straight and just kept going taking the odd look to see if I was still on course. Thankfully I was o.k. coming out of the trees and onto the road section. I passed a few people that had passed me on the climb and kept a steady pace going into the last wooded section. There was a few more in my sights and I tried to push on to get passed them before the trail narrowed. Some I got passed some I didn’t as everyone was pushing for the line. Rounding the last corner three abreast we took off for the line. One passed me and I managed to stay ahead of the other guy. Second lap was a much slower 00:23:35mins with a total time of 00:44:34mins. A fair bit of my PB for 10km but a tougher course than I had anticipated.

Thanks to Rowan and Ian at 26extreme for another excellent event. The new course was good and as always the organisation was top class. Thanks also to Surf Mountain for the discount vouchers and also Uberdog Magazine for covering the event and for supplying the photos above.

Next round is Thursday 11th November in Killbroney forest park, Rostrevor.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Causeway Coast Half Marathon

Causeway Coast
Saturday 2nd October 2010

Race morning the sky is blue and sun is shinning. There is a slight breeze but nothing to worry about at this stage. The atmosphere at the Race HQ in Portballintrae was great. The athletes, families and general public chatted in anticipation of the start of the race. When I say start I mean start of our race the Half Marathon. The Ultra Marathon was already well underway having started just after 7am on Portstewart strand. The Marathon also had just set off and with more competitors arriving to register for the half and 10k events the place was a hive of activity.

I haven’t been running too much this year. Most runs have been slow short distance runs. I wasn’t going to take part in the event through lack of training. When I heard the closing date I decided I would at least do the half. There is just something about this event that you can’t say no to. The location and route speak for itself with some of the best scenery in the world. The organisation and team behind the event is another reason for picking this event. With 26extreme you always know you are going to have a well organised event. Having taken part in the full marathon last year I did have a bit of sadness at not doing it again this year.

The Half Marathon.
We all boarded the busses and travelled over to larrybane headland. The half started in the old disused quarry below the National trust car park. We all jogged down to the quarry and had a bit of a stretch and warm up. Some Marathon runners and Ultra runners were coming through at this stage and I tried to shout as much encouragement as I could. I know just how much of a boost it can give to hear a few shouts. I met a friend who was running the Ultra and he was in good form and seemed to be going well. As he headed of to complete the last 13 miles of the 39 I began to think I am in no position to complain about pain or suffering during the half. It was added motivation for me to push on having witnessed the men and woman competing in the ultra. A great achievement for all involved.

Ian got us all lined up for the start at the back of the quarry. With a brief course description and a Mr Motivator style group cheer to see us off the half was underway. We started through the quarry and up a concrete lane turning right along the top of the quarry sides onto a single track. This was a small grassy path that would take us to ballintoy harbour. The start was fast as many of us wanted to get off the single track and any steps or gates that might hold up the pack. The track was wider than anticipated and passing was easy if it was needed. One small gate at the end of the trail could have been a potential to slow things down but thankfully the group I was in all got through without slowing down. A short road section down hill to the harbour then back onto single track. I was keeping a steady pace and already well warmed up despite the breeze on the open headland. Less than a mile in and I had to take off the windstopper jacket. I kept moving as I tied it around my waist. Also the water bottle in my back pocket got discarded into the first bin I seen. Stupid idea taking it in the back pockets and one I won’t make again.

The tide was out far enough to make a dry path across to whitepark bay strand. Last year I crossed the same section on the outward journey and the way home up to my knees in water. It was refreshing having ran 13 miles but I am glad I was dry just starting this time. The beach crossing was very soft much softer than I remember it last year. Or maybe it was a case of being already warmed up last year. I pushed on regardless and just got the head down. The end of the beach had a rocky section that took us over to the trail at portbradden. This was a slight change on last year and meant we didn’t have to run the road section. I think this addition was a much better option and made it much more of the off road event that attracts us competitors. Maybe not to everyone’s liking but definitely to mine. After portbradden there is a lovely section of single track through the cave and then some trick rocky sections an eye on the ground at all times made for a safe crossing. We had a few steps to cross and a rocky beach that lead to Duseverick Harbour. Through the harbour and then a very short uphill road section turning right over some steps back onto the single track trails. This section was grassy but still caution had to be taken. The ground is grazed by cattle and with hoof prints in the grass it was challenging at times. I felt really good and tried to keep the pace fast. I could see a wet section ahead and instead of slowing I jumped across it. I landed a bit awkward as my foot sank into a mucky hole. I twisted my ankle and could feel a bit of pain but just kept pushing on. I eventually ran the pain off and really glad I continued rather than stopping to see if I had damaged anything.

We passed Dunseverick Castle and continued around the trail to the cliff paths that lead to the causeway. The trail from this point is very smooth with the exception of a few rocky parts. This was the time to push if I could push at all. I was keeping a good pace and faster than I had done in any training run. With this in mind I didn’t want to push to hard and cramp or burn up. The headlands were passing by, topping one I could see we were at Portmoon the location of the 10k Start. There was a water station and tent in the field. I felt I didn’t need any water at this stage so pushed on. Another set of steps over the fence and onto the cliff paths again. I knew we had a lot of up and down sections and the series of steps that took us around the causeway headlands. On I pushed with some very strong headwinds on the open higher sections. I was loving the scenery, running well and taking in as much as I could without slowing. The steps were definitely a lot easier than this stage last year. I was running up the steps without easing to much and pushing on downhill sections. I got to the steps that caused me so much bother last year and just breezed up them. I did start to feel the legs tighten at this stage. I kept thinking of the ultra runners and how my pain would be nothing in comparison. The causeway stones were in sight and with only Runkerry headland and portballintrae beach left I could feel the end was close. I took on a few glasses of water and some jelly sweets at the visitor centre. Some shouts of encouragement from the tourists were a nice boost for me and I picked up the pace again. Runkerry Headland was breezy in places but knowing the finish was so close I just got the head down and kept battering on. The trail at runkerry seemed to go past in a flash and soon I was into the sandhills at the back of portballintrae beach.

The railway line at the back of the beach was the final stretch. There is a smooth surfaced path that follows the railway lines. I was giving it legs on this and could really feel it to. A right turn onto the sandy trail then the boardwalk that lead to Bush River bridge. Crossing the bridge I give it one last push up to the finish line. I finished in 1hour 55mins and felt great.

Again the Race HQ was buzzing with stories of competitor’s good points and bad points. The good points definitely out weigh the bad points and for that reason this will definitely be an annual event on my calendar. A big congratulations must go to all who took part but specially to the Ultra runners on what truly was an amazing effort.

A video from Andy Yoong showing the Causeway Marathon 2010

Causeway Coast Marathon from Andy Yoong on Vimeo.

Big thanks to 26Extreme, The National Trust and all the helpers on the day.