Have you ever watched an episode of the Simpsons or Miami Vice where the writers ran out of ideas so in the opening scene, the gang reminisces to set up a “best of” clip show? Well that’s sort of the position I’m in right now – my training plans for the Dublin marathon next Monday have been thrown a little bit off-course, owing to the man-flu/bubonic plague that has recently struck me down, leaving me with few other options.
It hasn’t been quite a full year in running but it sure seems like it. So without further ado, here’s a couple of the absolute craziest things I’ve done this year in the name of ReachOut, since I signed up at my local running club last November.
1) How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Start Running (Dec 18, 2011) One day last winter, I decided to embark on a mad adventure, having absolutely no idea what it was going to entail.
2) The Wake-Up Call – Part 1 (Jan 7, 2012) Not knowing anything about marathons, I decided the best way to get my head around it was to actually get out and do one! So I left a bottle of water at my gate, put on my tattered old runners and ran for 26 miles (about eight laps around my block.) Big mistake!
3) Bohermeen and Taming the Carb-Craving Monster (Mar 8, 2012) I couldn’t wait to get started so I set off to Bohermeen, Co. Meath for my first, and to date my only, half-marathon.
4) Go West, Young Man! (Mar 13, 2012) My first ever real marathon had no crowds, no support, no medics and just 22 other competitors – talk about a baptism of fire!
5) A Madventure on a Mountain (Apr 20, 2012) My third day out was nearly six hours of pure hell at “Ireland’s Toughest Marathon”, the Madventure in Co. Clare. We had to summit a 532m mountain twice to make it to the finish-line.
6) There were a couple of occasions that never made it into the original blog, and for good reason. In particular, I’m thinking about the time I ran the Flora Women’s mini-marathon in drag…
7) Three Marathons in Three Days (May 5-7, 2012) Exactly what it says on the tin. In Ireland, we had a long bank holiday weekend last May. Day 1 was the Ballyhoura Mountain Marathon, Day 2 was the Great Limerick Run and after an extremely long drive, Day 3 was the Belfast City Marathon.
8) Finally Breaking the 4-Hour Barrier (May 13, 2012) In Limerick I’d just missed out by a couple of minutes; running a marathon in under four hours is important monkey for a lot of runners to get off their back. It was especially unlikely in my case as it came just a week after the 3-in-3-days and due to the fact that I had a hangover and just two hours sleep from the night before…
9) Here’s another one that I originally overlooked in the race-reports. Kildare’s Le Cheile AC put on a Midnight Marathon in Leixlip last June. The key difference here, besides the fact that it was held at midnight, was that it was run on a looped track – which was about 400 metres long. If you’re struggling with the maths, that equals just over 105 laps. (June 23, 2012)
10) In at the Deep End: Running My First Ultramarathon at the Connemara 100- Miler: (Aug 11/12, 2012) An ultramarathon can technically be any length over 26.2 miles, although the most common distances are 50k, 50 miles, 100km and 100 miles. I had never run anything over the length of a regular marathon before that crazy crazy day in Connemara.
The aforementioned flu has set me back somewhat. But I still have hopes of breaking my personal best from May’s Kildare marathon when I go to Dublin next Monday. With a bit of luck, I might have another good yarn to add to the list. In the meantime, I guess all that’s left to say is that I promise to actually write a properly new post soon and sorry for the clip show!
Doing stupid things seems to be one of my more frequent habits. I’ve already written about how I ran the Connemara 100 with totally inadequate preparation. Everything’s relative of course but even while running with the good people of the 100 Club, who run almost weekly marathons, I can somehow find a way to take things over the top.
To give some background, Pat O’Keefe (who I think has run 82 marathons) told me that when he did the Connemara 100-miler a few years, he waited six weeks until his next marathon and he still didn’t think his body felt right. In the four weeks since I finished it, I squeezed in two other sub 4.30 marathons in Longford and Dingle. Alright, so they were both slower than I’d like but 4:22 and 4:29 aren’t exactly the worst times in the world either. Then last week, the walls finally came tumbling down.
It all started so well. My mate Frank McDermott was pacing 4.30 at the inaugural Sligo marathon and had gotten me a free entry. Sure, it was a long drive and an early-morning start but if you’ve been a regular reader, you’ll know that’s nothing unusual! We’d left at a nice handy pace (about 10.15 minutes a mile) and it looked like I was in for a relative doddle of a race. With Frank practically acting as my personal pacer, 4.30 hours would be a lot easier than it had been in Dingle, or so I hoped.
The previous week, I’d had a long and interesting conversation with Shane James Whitty about how my marathon times had recently been collapsing somewhat. He suggested focusing on my heart-rate (which I never normally do), training at 125bpm for recovery runs and doing 3-mile tempo runs at 145/150/155 bpm. For the events, he had suggested sticking to 8.30 minutes a mile for the first 15/16 miles. Above all else he had said not to let my heart-rate slip above 150bpm for the first 18 miles. This would leave something in the tank for the last 8.2 miles. The trick was to keep at a pace where you could keep running; whatever time would be lost from the beginning would be regained by avoiding a collapse in the latter stages. I wouldn’t be running at 8.30 minutes a mile, but my plan was to take the rest of this strategy for a test-run in Sligo.
The plan was going swimmingly until I had to pull a Paul Radcliffe (runner’s slang for a bathroom break) and Frank went on ahead. Continuing on, I picked up the pace, figuring I could catch Frank after maybe five miles. But despite busting myself trying to catch up with him, tearing down hills and going sub 10-minutes/mile on the level, he was nowhere to be seen. Then I fell.
I was tearing down a hill about 16 miles in, and slipped on a loose stone on the road, coming down hard on my knees and elbows. I was up again almost straightaway but after a few steps it was pretty clear that I couldn’t continue to run. Pat O’Keefe caught up with me after a while and walked the rest of the way with me; he’d hurt his ankle further back. Then after two miles of this, Frank caught up with us! Turns out that he’d taken a wrong turn back at a village crossroads further back and wandered five miles off the course! So the whole race to catch up had been a fool’s errand from the beginning. But by that stage, the damage was done. I never saw my official time but I have it at 5:53:23
No lasting damage was done to my knees but both hamstrings were pulled and my body wasn’t recovering like it normally does; for a few days afterwards, I was having difficulty just shuffling across the street. So it was with a heavy heart that I decided not to run in the Mooathon or the October ‘West of Ireland’ series run, both of which I was really looking forward to.
I can find other marathons to make up the promise of 20 in 2012 but nevertheless, I’ve had to re-evaluate my plans coming up to the Dublin marathon. The first part of the new plan is to go back to yoga tomorrow. Secondly, I’ll be slotting in with the marathon training group at my home club in Louth and train for a ‘personal best’ in Dublin (October 29th). For me, that would mean beating the 3:56:58 I ran in Kildare last May. It’s a big ask, but I’m hoping that with the right combination of nutrition, proper training and a six-week break from eventing, I might even hit 3:45 or 3:50. It’s been such a long, tough year and it would be really sweet to pull that off in the city that has become my second home over the last few years. That’s the dream anyway.
Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of helping out at the first in a series of ‘Being Young and Irish’ workshops. The workshops, initiated by President Michael D. Higgins, are aimed at getting young people (aged 17-26) to submit ideas on “taking charge of change” and articulating their vision of Ireland’s future. As the volunteers, we had the easy job; nearly 100 participants (the guys in the spiffy blue t-shirts) worked throughout the day to generate ideas for a charter which will be presented to senior members of government later on this year. Given my involvement with ReachOut Ireland, I was particularly pleased to see mental health consistently high on the agenda throughout the day. For more information, check out these links in The Sociable, Irish Times, The Irish Examiner as well as the Film, Fashion and Pop Culture blog. All in all, an excellent way to spend my break weekend! Next marathon is on Saturday (September 15th) in Sligo.
Featured Image from Breakingnews.ie - http://bit.ly/RXpBSC
This is the 32nd post I’ve uploaded since I started this blog. Over the last few months, some of the posts have been really difficult to write. When the other guys are chugging the post-marathon Gatorades and relaxing in their ice-baths, you’ll find me frantically trying to throw together a race-report and maybe even organise a fundraising event in time for the next race. In spite of a ton of work, I’m pretty sure I didn’t properly convey the experience of running the 100-miler in Connemara or even the Madventure or the 3-in-3, but today … no sweat! This week, the pictures are going to do the talking, and I’m just going to kick back, and maybe pop my head up from time to time to throw in a few half-assed observations and some lame picture-based humour. This week’s post is quite literally a walk in the park. It’s all about a race in the one of the most spectacular corners of the country, a place called Dingle in Co. Kerry, and if this doesn’t make you want to run a marathon in Ireland, nothing will.
It seems that whenever I go to Kerry, it’s exclusively for crazy purposes. For me, getting there requires a five-hour drive and my last visit was nearly a year ago, to climb Carauntoohill (Ireland’s tallest mountain). Co-incidentally, this was on the same weekend as the Dingle Food & Wine Festival. Having lost my wallet on the way down the mountain, I spent most of the festival wandering around Dingle while guzzling nutella straight from the jar with a spoon.
Fast-forward to this year and despite the travel requirements, a huge international crowd descended on Dingle for last Saturday’s marathon. Although I haven’t been able to find official reports, I’ve been told that somewhere around 2,300 people lined out for the half, full and ultra-marathon events (The 50-mile ultra alone attracted 60 hardy competitors) All of which made for a festive atmosphere at the start-line.
Dingle is what my Drogheda club-mate Gerard Fay calls a “real” marathon – lots of elevation (gaining roughly 1500 feet), unbelievable scenery and a great atmosphere. It takes place right at the edge of the peninsula, and the course passes bays, historic sites, famine cottages and goes up plenty of hills!
I do have one good story though; about 15 miles into the race, I met up with a runner from Cork named Barry who was running his first marathon. (Doesn’t anybody just do a nice easy course for their first marathon anymore?!) Barry was running in aid of a cancer charity and had set a goal for himself of finishing in under 4hrs30min while his friend had set a goal of 5 hours. As I hadn’t any particular plan in mind other than finishing, I decided to try and pace them. By Mile 20, it was just myself and Barry, at which point the course took a rather arbitrary turn, requiring runners to hang a left down the Emlagh East Road towards Gallarus, before reaching a traffic cone, turning around and coming back up the way we came, and continuing on. This little head-trip is immediately followed by the monster hill that everyone was telling each other about before the race (about 320 feet of a climb), followed in turn by a mile-long straight section that appears to stretch out forever, on the way back into Dingle. Barry was in a great deal of pain with cramping but managed to put in a massive effort. By the end, he was moving really well and we both ended up sprinting into Dingle, crossing the line at the same time and beating his target by about a minute. His friend crossed the line shortly afterwards, beating his own target by about twenty minutes. It was a really extraordinary display of willpower on Barry’s part and a fantastic result, especially considering it was his first marathon. For my own part, I’ve rarely gotten as much as satisfaction from a race, and was very happy to help out. Roll on Sligo!
FINAL TIME: 4:29:26
It’s coming to that time of year, when exhaustion and leg-pain give way to… more exhaustion and leg-pain, actually. September is going to be all about survival. August began with the Connemara 100-miler, followed by the Longford Marathon last Sunday (I’ll get back to that in a minute) and there are three more marathons on the cards for September – Dingle on the 1st, Sligo on the 15th and the Mooathon on the 30th. I’m not expecting to set any land-speed records on those three given the lack of recovery time. The plan, such as it is, is to get through September injury-free and then take a few weeks off before attempting to beat my PB in Dublin at the end of October. Which would be pretty sweet if it works! Incidentally I have gotten my cow costume for the Mooathon and am currently looking for someone to be the back end.
Moving swiftly on, the Longford Marathon was on last weekend. Billed as the ‘friendly marathon in the heart of Ireland,’ the event attracted a large crowd of about 800 competitors to Dublin Street for the half, full and ultra marathons, as well as a full marathon relay. It’s one of the older marathons in Ireland, initially organized in 2002 by Fr. Ciaran McGovern and Liam Fenelon – first man in Ireland to run 200 marathons and our new honorary president in the Marathon Club of Ireland. Back then, it attracted 275 runners and raised €25,000 for St. Christopher’s services. That figure has increased to €150,000 in the years since then.
Last Sunday saw yet another early start (I’m starting to think I might have a better chance of breaking 4 hours more often if I didn’t have to get up at 5am for most of these marathons!) After picking up the race-pack at St. Mel’s College, I had a few hours to spare. So naturally, I endeavored to use that time productively to prepare myself mentally for the race ahead…
Fast-forward to 11am and the start of the race. We began with a lap of the town, rendered somewhat more difficult by the fact that I already had a seven-minute mile under my belt before the start; I’d forgotten my timing-chip and had to leg it to the car-park and back to the start-line again (I guess the preparation wasn’t so great after all…).
Although in hindsight it might seem just a tad foolish, I decided to take another shot at breaking 4 hours, on the dubious basis that I usually run well the week after doing something really stupid. So after doing some quick mental arithmetic (4 hours = 240 minutes … 26.2 miles in a marathon … 240/26.2 = 9.16), I decided to attempt running consistent sub 9-minute miles for the whole thing. As you can see here, everything was going to plan for the first 14 miles. Then, as usual, an equipment failure scuppered me. This time it was the watch, which decided to stop working just after the 2 hour mark. So I was running blind, without a watch or heart-rate monitor, for most of the second half. Needless to say, this really wasn’t helping my cause.
Nonetheless, it was still looking good until late on; three hours hadn’t passed by the time we hit the 18-mile marker. But in the end, everything caught up with me. My legs weren’t properly recovered from the Connemara 100, and it was so hot that I had to run topless for most of the race, which was embarrassing for just about everybody. After about 20 miles, we hit a long hill on the way back into the last village before Longford, and the game was up. From then on, it was just about survival; I met up with a fellow Madventure alumnus called Tom along the way, as well as an American lady who had decided on a whim that she wanted to run a marathon while on holiday in Ireland (as you do) and Graham Whittaker, who ran a fantastic race to finish in the top 10 of the ultra-marathon event. Together, we helped each other on through the final stages. Finally, I ran the last mile into Longford town centre with Larry Rigney, and just for fun, decided to sprint to the finish.
So to sum up, it was an educational race; normally 4:22:39 wouldn’t be an especially difficult time for me, especially on a flat course, but I really had to work hard for it on this occasion. For the rest of the marathons in September, I’ll be happy if I can maintain my times around this sort of level, before taking a few weeks off and really pushing to beat my PB (3:56:59) in Dublin at the end of October. Of course, the best-laid plans can come undone but I’ll give myself a fighting chance. In the meantime, check another one off the list!
Finally, a big thanks to everyone in Drogheda & District AC who sponsored me over the last few weeks, much appreciated and as always, it’s all going to an amazing cause.
Good news – over the last week or so, the ‘Running for ReachOut’ campaign has gotten some media coverage and we hit something of a fundraising landmark! The Mid-Louth Independent ran a story after the Connemara 100-mile ultramarathon, which I couldn’t find a link for, but we made the front-page!
Just yesterday, a piece written by Grainne Aylward was posted by Collegetimes.ie which can be found here. Also my own post ‘In at The Deep End‘, giving the blow-by-blow of the Connemara 100, was just published on runireland.com early today.
In other news, we finally hit 50% of the fundraising target for Reach Out Ireland. The total currently stands at €2,564, the target being to raise €5,000 by the end of the year. Thanks to everyone for continuing to the support the campaign; we’re hoping to have more fundraising events in the Autumn. Just to recap – since taking up running last March, I’ve done the marathons in Connemara, Clare (Madventure), Ballyhoura Mountains, Limerick, Belfast City, Kildare, Portumna Forest, Leixlip (Midnight Marathon), Waterford, Antrim (Kennedy Kane), Killeigh, Longford and the 100-miler in Connemara, with Dingle, Sligo, Donegal (Mooathon), Dublin, two from the West of Ireland series, and the Eddie Murphy memorial marathon all still to come.
Many thanks for all the support so far; if you can donate anything at all to ReachOut, it would be hugely appreciated, here is the MyCharity page. Also, if you would like me to do some guest-blogging (or if you or anyone you know would be interested in writing about the campaign in the media) please let me know in the comments section or get in touch at email@example.com!
Oliver Clare ran his first marathon last March in Connemara. On August 11th, he returned to run his first ultramarathon at the Connemara 100-Mile Road Race. It’s all in aid of ReachOut Ireland; you can follow his progress online on Facebook and please donate to ReachOut on mycharity.ie
“Don’t even think about it,” said one of the guys. “Sure that’s nearly four marathons back-to-back!” I was having breakfast at the B&B in Dervock before the Kennedy Kane McArthur marathon, and had just announced to the room that I was thinking about running the Connemara 100-mile Road-Race. Another guy in the corner joined in “That’s right; if you’re interested in ultras, you’d want to start slowly. Do a 50k and build up to 50 milers or a 100k.” All good advice, but deep down I knew I’d already made my mind up. I wasn’t prepared. I definitely hadn’t been training with anything longer than a marathon in mind. However, the appeal of taking on the longest race in the country was difficult to shake off. In hindsight, you could say preparations were somewhat last-minute. Towards the end of July, Ray O’Connor gave me the go-ahead to participate and three days beforehand, I had a crew put together (consisting of my dad, my aunt Rosaleen, and a great physio from Ballsgrove called Brian Milne). When I met up with Frank McDermott to bring him down to Galway the day before the race, he had two sports-bags full of food … I had a sandwich and Lucozade. He said something to the effect that I’d be burning through about 10,000 calories over the next couple of days – I make sure to make a couple of grub-stops on the way to Galway!
The heat is unbearable; when we leave Dublin it was 21°C – by the time we reach Galway it had climbed up to 26°C. “If it’s like this tomorrow we’ll be in serious trouble” says Frank. I tend to agree with him, hence the twenty litres of water and the ice box in the back of the jeep. On the way, I borrow a spare Garmin off our clubmate George Livanos. Unfortunately the battery in my own is unequipped for anything longer than seven hours, and unless the plan is to cut the current record on this course in half, I’ll be requiring something with a bit more juice. After that, carbohydrates are the order of the day – one quick stop to the Ballybrit Dunnes Stores later and the jeep is stocked up on Jaffa cakes, kitkats, chocolate muffins, a dozen or so lucozades, caramel slices, bananas, muller rice yogurts, and various other bits and pieces. It’s another hour by the time we get to Clifden, Dad and Brian are already in the pre race briefing at the station house hotel.
There are a lot of familiar faces at the briefing, although a lot of it goes over my head as we arrived ten minutes late and didn’t get the race-pack with the maps. However, having done the regular Connemarathon twice before, I can appreciate it when Ray comes out with the understatement of the century, saying that there are “quite a few” hills on this course! Directions are one of my main worries; the course is unmarked and I’m a bit paranoid about taking wrong turns especially during the night-time sections. We hear a few words from Karl Henry from Operation Transformation, and then Ray comes down to give my crew and I “the talk”. He explains that this is unlike anything I’ve ever done before and that a lot of things could happen. I could get sick, hallucinate, start talking gibberish or at least make bad decisions due to the effects of the race as it wears on. That’s what the crew is there for, he explains. He tells me that he’s very pleased with the plan I set out in my email to him the previous week (28 hours – 12 for the first 50 miles, 16 for the second 50, runwalking at a ratio of 3miles on, 1/2 a mile off from the start and walking all major inclines) and tells me he has no doubt that I’ll finish it. After hearing about everything that could go wrong, I’m not so sure but I let that go!
All this while Rosaleen is way behind us – her plan is to fly in from the Olympics in London, arriving in Dublin late Friday evening before going home to Louth for gear and then coming straight over (she’ll eventually arrive at the B&B in the wee hours of the morning). After the meeting is over, Dad Brian and I retire to the Central B&B with the race-pack. It contains a smaller version of the Connemara100 handbook that we were sent in the email, with four spaces on the back to be signed when we reach each of the aid stations. The aid stations are located at Mile 28, Mile 56, Mile 68 and Mile 82. The pack also contains a large map of the route around Connemara and a sign to be taped to the back of the support vehicle saying “Caution – Runner Ahead”. At least one of the crew has to be driving behind me at all times. The pack also contains eight safety pins and two tags – one with the race number on it for the front, and one for the back saying “ultra marathon runner”. It sinks in. I’m an ultra marathon runner … sort of (still haven’t done anything yet!). One charming side-effect of the success of the Irish boxing team is that the folks in the pub directly under our room decide to celebrate until 3am. As it turns out, I’m too nervous to sleep very much anyway so I spend most of my time preparing my gear for later.
At 5am, Brian, Dad and I head off into the cool morning air, dumping all the remaining gear in the jeep before joining the great and good of the Irish ultramarathon community for breakfast at the station house (Unfortunately I didn’t see what Mick Rice was eating so I’m not in a position to reveal any trade secrets!) The tension is starting to build up in the crowd; people are throwing on their reflective jackets and taking last-minute pictures with their crews. We had to be at the start-line by 5.45am and we would start the race at 6am. Eventually, everyone makes it down to the starting line (such as it was – basically Ray was standing outside the bank on the main street with his arm outstretched!) and after ten minutes of messing around, we’re away!! One lap of Clifden, which will be repeated three times at the end of the race to make up the 100 miles, and we take off up the Westport Road.
Mile 3: My crew finally materialises out of the dark behind me. Now we’re in business, we pass a long pier at Attirowerty and I’m in good humour, sprinting for a while to keep up with Iain Shaw on the bike. “I really wouldn’t do that if I were you, still 97 miles to go!” That’s good advice! The temperature is still pretty mild with a lovely cool breeze, nowhere near 20°C yet.
Mile 9: We pass through Letterfrack after 1 hour & 48 minutes. I meet up with Marcus Howlett and decide to stick with him for a while. It’s good to have someone to run with, and we’re swapping stories although his are somewhat better than mine. I can’t imagine that my epic day in Tullamore is going to be of much interest to a guy who’s ran the Comrades 89k in South Africa. In any case, I abandon my previous plan and stick with Marcus for a while, running 20 minutes, walking 10. “Always measure by time, not distance,” he says. I nod sagely, pretending I know what I’m going on about. We reach the first landmark on the course, the church at Tullycross, after two and a half hours. We meet the incredible Gerry Forde at this point; Gerry is going for a new record for the longest distance completed by an Irish wheelchair athlete. We take the furthest right turn and carry on, but he soon catches us on the downhill into Mullaghglass!
Mile 19: 3hrs56min This is the stage where I would normally start hitting “the wall” but today it doesn’t seem to apply! Marcus and I both stop the crews at the Salrock Lake. I’ve been running flat-footedly for a while so Brian gives me a massage on my legs and ankles. It’s starting to warm up so I dip the bandana in the lake, ditch the cotton Reach Out top in favour of a lighter Drogheda AC singlet and have another lucozade. Marcus is away about half a minute before me so we hurry to finish the Deep Heat on my legs and redo the Vaseline on my feet. Getting Brian to come along was probably the best decision we ever made; I have full mobility back in my ankles straight away. Good stuff so far.
Mile 23: 4hrs54min The surroundings are starting to look familiar; we’re starting to approach the start line of the regular Connemarathon now. It’s grand and cool, around 11am and it’s nowhere near as hot as yesterday. I’ve started eating solids at this point; nothing serious – just a muffin and a couple of Jaffa cakes. We pass the Stop and Pray Church (sounds like a good idea right now…) and head onto the N59. At this point, Marcus is starting to pull away from me, I’ve been running an extra minute to catch up with him when he takes his walking breaks but I’m not able to keep up with his running pace right now.
Mile 28 – FIRST CHECKPOINT 6hrs27min – 12.27pm. Stopped at the Lough Inagh Lodge – the last two miles were the hardest stretch so far; you’re expecting it to be all over after 26 miles and then, to keep on going is a shock to the system. I meet Rosaleen at the gate, she tells me “You’re doing great, you’re doing great!” And she helps me across the cattle-grid. Brian had the massage-table setup in the dining room; he gives me a quick ten minute rub, loosens out my joints, puts the deep heat on my calves and redoes Vaseline on my feet. I update the social media stuff while lying on the table (very important!); get some fig rolls, Jaffa cakes, tea and half a banana. Rosaleen has the great idea of pouring extra electrolytes into the Lucozades, which gives me a little boost, and we’re away again! Having broken through the 28 mile barrier, it’s a new race – I feel like I just pushed the reset button. After about half a mile, the Garmin starts running of battery so we get the sellotape out of the car and tape up the portable charger to my arm. This time tomorrow, we’ll be finished……
Mile 35: 7hrs46min It’s just 13.46pm ICE-CREAM TIME! Dad’s taking a break; Rosaleen and Brian are behind me in the jeep and Rosaleen gets me an iceberger; the sun is really starting to beal down. I’m not paying attention to splits for the moment, I’m just happy to run for 20 minutes, and then walk for 10. The guys tell me we’re a bit less than 10 miles away from the Peacock Hotel, so I’m feeling good. It’s going well … so far.
Mile 39: 8hrs52min And we just passed 39.3 miles i.e. the length of the regular Connemara ultra-marathon. We pass about ten cars from Dublin in a row, just beside the lakes at Recess and Shannakeela. They all start beeping and roaring out the window at me and I start jumping up-and-down, egging them on. About twenty minutes later, I turn around and realise I’ve accidentally caused a 50 car pile-up. I pull myself up to let them by, making a mental note to retire these running shoes when this is all over.
Mile 42: We arrive at the Peacock hotel and I am in bits. Brian has the massage-table setup in the snooker room; my legs and ankles are relatively okay but the soles of my beet and badly bruised and sore. Also each one of toes has to be clicked back into place, something which is going to need to be redone several times … it’s not fun. Marcus is just leaving the hotel as I arrive; I leave after about fifteen minutes with a hamburger and a protein shake. Gerry Forde passes me as I’m polishing it off on the move, everything hurts but the craic is mighty!
Mile 50: We pass the halfway stage after 11 hours and 55 minutes, almost exactly the target we’d set at the beginning. The course takes in the regular Connemarathon loop but in reverse, so it’s very pleasant to only have to run down the ‘Hell of the West’. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to go up it at this stage!
Mile 56: SECOND CHECKPOINT - I’m finding it very difficult to keep running at this point. We arrive at the second aid station in Leenane; Finn O’Mara, who’s crewing for Gerry Forde, is kind enough to help Brian loosen out my feet and ankles. She also straps some padded cotton inserts around my feet and loosens the shoes which is a huge help (as is the spare rainproof poncho she gives me)! The night-time portion of the run is just beginning so I change into all my fluorescent gear. After about 60 miles, I make a quick phone call to my rather amazing friends Aoife and Meghan, who have always had a knack for pepping me up; their Mam opines that I’m either amazing or completely nuts. I start running again…
Mile 65: We re-enter the Inagh Valley, which I will refer to from here on as the Valley of Doom (or at the very least, Crappy Valley), for the second and last time. Marcus was telling me earlier about pulling out of the race last year at Mile 90 due to hypothermia. However, what he was saying didn’t really register with me at the time, I thought you’d just power through at that point, no matter what. Then it became very real. Dad stops the jeep and I get inside for a muffin and some Lucozade. Five minutes later, I jump out and run ten steps. Then a gust of wind hits me out of nowhere and I literally just start screaming. I’ve never had that experience before where cold causes you physical pain, it was most horrible moment of the entire race, I literally was roaring for a solid half-minute before the guys caught up with me and I threw on a tracksuit. So if you ever do the Connemara 100, you probably have that to look forward to, have fun!
Mile 68: THIRD CHECKPOINT – 18hrs 25minutes. We arrive for the second time at the Lough Innagh Lodge and I collapse into a chair in the front room. Dad and Brian guide me into the front room and lay me out on a couch. The staff is being very accommodating and nice; the food and tea comes thick and fast. We originally planned for a ten-minute stopover but it becomes clear very quickly that I need sleep. Unfortunately, I can’t lie down without cramping up so Brian has to work on my legs for most of the time I’m there. My temperature is spiking and dropping quite a lot, so the half-hour’s sleep turns into a half-hour of staring at the ceiling. Afterwards I found out that I almost got pulled out of the race at this point, which would have been more than reasonable. Fortunately, Rosaleen hadn’t come this far to quit and so persuaded the other two to keep me in. A half hour after we arrived, we’re away again – only this time Rosaleen Clare is taking over my pacing. My brain can take a break; all I need to do is keep moving forward!
Mile 70: – 20hours 46 minutes. I didn’t experience many of the promised hallucinations on this race but I swear that I saw the sign for Clifden at the end of the Innagh Valley at least four times before we actually reached it. The Valley of Doom is slightly under ten miles long and it took forever to get out of there; reaching the T-junction onto the N59 was nearly as good as reaching the finish-line itself. At this point, I started using the iPod. I don’t know what my crew thought they were signing up for, but listening to me roaring out the theme song from Grease in the middle of the night probably wasn’t what they were expecting. The boy had officially lost it….
Mile 75: 22 hours 22 minutes. At this point, I need massages fairly regularly just to keep moving. To speed up the process, Brian lays out the case that holds the massage-table on the ground behind the jeep (it’s almost the same length as my torso) and loosens out my joints right there on the road.
Mile 80: 23 hours 38 minutes. Brian has gone on ahead to get some sleep so there’ll be no more massages. We run into Morris and the lads from the 100 Marathon Club on the road into Roundstone; I’m not sure who’s more incredulous that I’m still moving, them or me! Dad gets out the jeep and walks with me for a while; at this point, I’ve got nothing left in the tank. The only “plan” is to walk each of the remaining miles in under twenty minutes and pray that we beat the cut-off, which is thirty hours.
Mile 82: FINAL CHECKPOINT! We hit the final checkpoint in Roundstone. I remembered being warned that we might run into lads out on the booze in Roundstone but fortunately, they’d all gone home at this stage!
Mile 83: Houston we have a problem! Our plans are thrown into disarray, as word comes back from Clifden that we may be over twenty miles away from the finish-line. We think the actual figure is closer to fifteen but nobody knows what’s going on, Brian drives on ahead to Clifden to find out. I ditch the tracksuit and the poncho; losing the weight of all the extra gear is a godsend. The salty air and the light from the dawn of a new day revitalises me and we set off running to Clifden. From now on, we walk the hills and eat up the miles on the level and on the downhill – Rosaleen following me with a Lucozade in one hand, a protein shake in the other.
Mile 90: 25 hours 25 minutes. A huge psychological barrier falls away as we cross 90 miles. Rosaleen and Dad are delighted and it gives me a great buzz; the route is solidly hilly from here to Clifden (“they’re annoying wee f***ers but they’re do-able!”) but it becomes apparent that unless I break both legs, I’ll beat the cut-off.
Mile 97: I meet Thomas Bubendorfer about three miles outside of Clifden; we pick up the pace again – the moving times on each mile drop right down into 12-13 minute zones. Pat O’Keefe materialises out of nowhere in the jeep with a spare PowerAde. I’ve screwed up my running line and will end up running slightly over 103 miles but it doesn’t matter; we’ve reached Clifden. All that’s left between me and my first ultramarathon finish is three one-mile “victory laps” of the town. Then we’re home and dry. At this point, I’m running everything except the very steepest uphill portion of the Main Street. I’ll have to pass by the finish-line three times before I can actually cross it; all the other runners have gathered at the finish-line and are cheering me on each time I come around.
Mile 100: We began at 6am on Saturday morning. 28 hours, 47 minutes and 43 seconds later, it’s all over. I have just about enough energy to raise my arms as I’m running over the finish-line before hitting the ground. Oddly enough, the last song offered by my iPod before it died was 500 Miles by the Proclaimers. Having finished a fraction of that distance, I can safely say that those guys are full of it! It’s been a uniquely challenging race, which I really had no right to be taking part in at all, but I’m very glad I did. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to a lot of people; firstly to Ray O’ Connor for allowing me to take part in the first place. Although my crew was put together at the last minute, it turned out to be a flawless combination of talents. Dad was brilliant in the whole area of navigation and logistics. Rosaleen has a wealth of experience in marathons and triathlons and letting her direct my pacing and nutritional intake unquestionably got me through the night-time portion of the run. And of course, without Brian Millne, I wouldn’t have even made it through the first half of the race. If I could give one single piece advice to anyone considering a race of this distance, it would be to have a physiotherapist on your support crew. It makes a world of a difference. Thanks are also due to everyone who supported me on the day and everyone who was texting me and sending me messages on Facebook/Twitter. Okay enough babbling; if you haven’t checked out Running for ReachOut on mycharity.ie, please do! The next race in the calendar is the Longford Marathon on August 26th, which will be #13 of the year. A mere 26.2 miles, should be no problem at all!
Well the crazy plan to jump straight up from 26.2 miles to 100 miles worked out in the end! I finished the Connemara 100 race in 28 hours and 47 minutes.
I’ll have the full report on this blog and on runireland.com over the next few days. Here’s me at the finish-line with my brilliant support crew – my Dad, my aunt Rosaleen and Brian Milne, my physiotherapist.
There’s a race on this weekend in the west of Ireland and it’s not just another marathon. This Saturday sees the country’s longest ultra-marathon begin at 6am, continuing through until (at the very latest) midday on Sunday. It’s in Connemara, it’s 100 miles long, and I’m going to be there. Never having done anything longer than the standard 26.2 mile marathon before, it’s going to be nothing short of miraculous if I complete this. I have a support crew put together; updates on race-day will be coming thick and fast at http://www.facebook.com/runningforreachout and http://www.twitter.com/runnin4reachout and you guys will have all the gory details in the race report next week.
Let’s do this thing.