Sunday, May 15, 2011

Avonbeg Beasting

Firstly, my thanks must go out to Torben for the lift out and back but more importantly, pulling into the ditch on route to the pub afterwards. Secondly, to Paul for RDing this route and to the summit marshals for getting battered by a strong north westerly and the torrents of rain that came close to the end of the day. Races don’t happen with out volunteers.

I hadn’t run since the Irish Relays the previous week. Went out and stretched the legs Thursday and I felt amazing. Up until that point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this race again. Its a bit of a monster. After that “easy” run on Thursday, I was so hyper, I had no choice but to be game on for Sunday. On Friday, I found out we were racing Saturday. These things happen!

There was a lot of trash talking on leading up to this race. I was convinced 2:30hrs was doable. Everyone else, as usual, thought I was crazy. I even through up some made up splits on how to hit 2:29hrs. I didn't believe them, but it was nice to stir it a little bit.

Race morning arrives, short spin on the bike to get breakfast, a single coffee and a bit nervous. Got our lift and we're on route to wicklow. Wicklow looked deadly. A mix of clear skys and rolling clouds of beautiful mist. Coming over the Shay Elliot pass and there is cloud on Lug. A really big dirty black cloud. I feel sick with excitement. Dropping down into the Glenmalure valley, Jeff is at the cross roads, waiting for Paul to blast through on route to revising what I thought was a stupidly unbreakable record. Then again, its not a record, its a marker than has to be beaten. Hats off to Paul (and his support team) going 7mins quicker.

Arriving at the kit check. I pull out my flask of coffee, my lunch box, jar of chocolate spread and a mug. Seeing the look of unamusment on Pauls face, I pull out my prepacked race bag. Looking up in Lug direction. I can see why he’s in no mood for fun and games today. There’s a lot at stake. Is this route too extreme? A bridge too far? Today would be the telling factor. A bit of banter on how fast it can be done.

I got a slap of reality after I inquired about waring just a singlet. Receiving a don't be stupid look the reality seeps in that it could be rough on top. Paul reckons 10mins slower given the conditions and that if I do it properly I’d probably end up doing it solo. I couldn't possibly keep up a high enough tempo by myself. I was thinking otherwise. Inside I knew Peters record was breakable. I made a few silly errors the previous year. Straight lining it to Camenabologue was not happening this year and a direct route from Mullacor to the carpark was not happening. Not for a thousand euros…. Well, maybe… I reckoned I could do it. Hell, the trash talking on boards, was I really trash talking. Hell. If I go hard I could go sub 2:30. I run my fastest times in shit conditions. Soft ground mean you can descend harder and the wind keeps you cool so you need less liquid to keep you sain. Cars move faster in the mist, so why not humans.

I was casually walking around and Paul blurts out that the reg is closing now. This was a surprise to me. It was only 10:50. I enquired why so early, apparently it was 10mins till start! Something else I didn’t read apparently. Paul goes through the pre race briefing, two marshals at two check points and if it gets gammy, their bailing. Then its over the gate for the start.

I sit at the front, 3 to the 1 and we were off. I took off at the pace I decided I’d run at. After a few hundred meters, I eased off slightly and let Gerry catch up. I asked a question about the new Lakes route… Apparently, now was not the time. I took the hint and slowly injected some pace. I pulled away and began the climb up the switch backs. Up and up and up. Looking behind me, Torben and Zoran were close, less than 5om. I kept the pace steady, keeping an eye on my heart rate. This is not a race you want to go off too hard on. Sitting it on 170, I counted down the switch backs. I'm slowly increasing the gap. If I don't drop em on the fire road, I'll get lost in the mist. Finally, I hit the forest ride. Paul Joyce had marked it nice and obvious.

Up the short ride and into the heather, I attempted to straight line it but it wasn’t happening. I jumped and bound in the heather. Making slow progress. Eventually I hit the fence and followed it along. The going was pretty shitty. She's going to be a long day. Control 1 in 24:56 (4.09km), I needed to hit 25mins to be on for 2:30. I was surprised. I didn't think I was running that hard. Oh well. I'll take it. I had a faint memory of needed 18mins to the first peak, and no idea for any of the others. One down, many more to go. I set off in the direction of the ramp. Getting to the ramp was messy. Very wet and sloppy. I couldn’t remember what the ground was like the previous year.

Heading in the direction of the ramp, Gerry passes me going back towards the control. Starting to climb the ramp, I kept it controlled. Keep the running easy. Don't kill yourself yet Cully. Long way to go. Up on top of the ramp and it was into the heather. This was energy sapping. I plugged away but was getting nowhere. After a bit, I remembered that I ended up very far right last year. I was a bit nervous so I whipped out my map and just checked my baring. All seemed ok. Climbing a bit more and I checked my compass again and it was arseways! I chose to ignore it. Then I end up at massive peat hags and got worried, this wasn’t meant to happen. I corrected my direction and I continued to climb further. Getting around the peat hag, I looked up and my eyes feel on a most awesome site. Lug, the summit covered in a dark cloud, but it appeared as if the sun was shinning on the cloud. This lit up the ridge in an almost erry glow, with the summit of Lug looking menacing. When I realised I was running in the direction of Lug, I knew something was wrong. A quick glance of the map confirmed that I was pushed by the contours. Easily fixed, as I corrected my direction and headed for the flat summit.
I summited a good 150m to the west of the cairn. I cursed myself as I took off. Paranoid that someone would have gained back time. Turning the cairn in 18:21, another 1.91km down.

Turning for Lug, I was hit smack in the face by an almighty wind. I had no choice but to put the head down and get on with in. In front of me was Lug. The summit covered in mist. It looked awesome. Climbing up the ridge, I began to catch the early starters. Catching Don and Ruth, Don tells me to catch Roisin who just summited. I couldn’t see a thing, so I put the head down and kept climbing.
As I gained height, I meet Paul J on his way down. I somehow managed to convince him to climb with me for a bit. He was climbing very easily. I realised that talking expels oxygen that would probably be better served in the legs. Paul drops off after a minute or two and wishes me luck. I continue on up the ridge.

I enter the mist. I get giddy. I love running in the mist. More races are won and lost in white out conditions. I knew that if anyone was behind me at this stage, they would have to be on their game if they wanted to stay in touch. The mist was cooling and it felt like a proper day in the mountains. Seeing the cairn slowly loom up out of the whiteness is one of my favour views on a mountain. As I reached the cairn, (15:50, 2.84km) I refolded my map and checked my direction. I didn’t want to end up down in Fentons. Out comes the compass again and its plain sailing. Coming off the summit, I let out a scream of jut sheer happiness. I was falling in style. Running downhill, flat out, in mist, only 95% sure of where your going. Massive massive adrenaline buzz. I shouted so loud, Don heard me on the far side of the mountain. Sound travels further and faster in mist!

Coming out of the mist, the North Prison comes into focus, its so sharp. Behind the Glen of Imall bursts into view as I leave the cloud cover behind me. It’s a stunning sight. Down the Cannow Ridge, no breaks, letting the legs just turn over. All the way down to the bog beside Benleagh. At this point, I decided I would enjoy my gel. The 60ml of food I had brought with me to sustain myself for up to 3hours. I pulled it out of my side pouch and peeled off the top. However, I kept pulling and was fascinated at how the entire gel wrapped had split down the side. The gel leaking out looked cool. Then with horror, I realised that my entire gel had split in two and that its contents were fast leaking everywhere. I crammed the gel into my mouth. Wrapper and all. I reckon I got about 1/3 of it. Some ended up on my face, some on my map, some on my top, some on my legs, but the majority of it over my hands. And so it began. I attempted to get the gel off me and into my mouth. For someone on the outside, this must have looked hilarious. I was pushing the descent while attempting to get as much gel off me as possible. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck.

After this period of frustration, I got on with the game at hand. However, my hands were getting sticky and annoying, so the first bog I saw (didn’t have to wait long) I crammed both my hands in in the hope of “washing” them and it worked a treat.
As I began the climb towards Camenabologue, I let my mind drift for a second. The following second, my face made friends with the ground. A sharp reminder of who was the boss. Don’t prick with the mountain. It will make you suffer.

Using up the "free energy". Behind the camera man stands Mullacor.

After a bit more running and climbing, I caught Roisin. I passed her by spectacularly by vaulting a deep ditch. I felt awesome. Then the climb started proper and I felt less awesome. For some reason, I reckoned this climb would be quick and painless. Quite the opposite! It seemed to go on for ever! After what felt like an hour, it began to level out. I saw the summit marshal leap up as if he was electrocuted. He waited, pin punch in hand, angled to minimise entry and exit. I mentioned there were 35 runners out on the course, so he knew when to abandon his position for lower ground. Punch and gone. (24:57, 4.77km)
Running off Camenabologue I took a “straighter but around route” (can be seen here: ).

The running was good and I somehow picked a motorway line through the peat hags. I will never find that line again. Crossing the river and starting the climb, I looked at my watch. 1hr33. I laughed and thought could I make it back in half an hour from my current position. Walking up Conavalla, that dream went out the window. A bit of peat hag jumping as I neared the top and I somehow landed on the line I take in Stone Cross to Lug off of the summit. No idea how, but I wasn’t complaining. This lead me straight to the cairn. Total time of 1:42:22, compared to last years’ time of 1:47:08. Split; 18:16, 2.63km

I took a pretty direct line off of Conavalla in the direction of the ridge. I ended up in peat hags. Lots and lots of peat hags. I was plugging away, up and down and up and down. I just couldn’t find the track. I was now firmly on the ridge and it was just a matter of following it back home as fast as possible. Speed was not of the essence as peak hags appeared to grow in front of my eyes. I was jumping and stepping up. This was taking way to much out of my legs. I began to get pissed off. I couldn’t find the track and it was frustrating. I just kept plugging away.
I reached the first spot height along the ridge and still no track. My legs were beginning to tire now. The climb up Lugduff reared its ugly head. I found a small track type thingy. It was all I needed. My pace instantly went up as the clawing at my ankles vanished. I knew I was tired, but I knew I was on for a good time. I wanted the record. As I passed Lugduff in 2:06 (split; 23:53, 4.24km).

I knew I would be close. This was no longer a Saturday skip in the mountains. Although I was enjoying it, there was suddenly a sense of urgency about what I was doing. Out of the blue, I appeared to get a hit of adrenaline. Having gotten the same hit a few times in the mountains, I knew it wouldn’t last long and that the big “crash” was coming soon. I upped the anti. Heading down towards the Wicklow way, I was touching 3min/k at times. I had become obsessed. I knew I was running out of energy. I had half a gel and no liquid since my crust of bread with chocolate spread at 10:45 (good pre-race nutrition advice is available free of charge if anyone wants the secrets). I was wacking out by the time I hit the marshal at the Wicklow Way (8:41, 1.97km), he offered jelly babies and water. I took some water, got my number punched, said 35… 35 runners. And was gone again. I started to hammer the climb to Mullacor, I wanted maximum usage from this “free” energy.

200m. 200 fecking meters was all I got. I hit the wall. I hit it hard. From untouchable to a cramping mess. I was feeling muscles cramp I had forgotten I had. It was most unpleasant. All of a sudden I was at the top! It ended after a meer 6:35mins (0.65km). I was expecting a 15min suffer feast. I did an about turn to head back for the Wicklow way track. My head was in mind burn. On route up Mullacor, I was thumbing the map for Camaderry and couldn't understand why nothing was right. I knew I had to be careful in the forest. Just keep my head together and don’t muck up in the forest. Down the tussocky slopes of Mullacor.

Hitting the Wicklow way track, I expected to be flying. I was nowhere near as graceful as I hoped to be. I had visions of myself gliding down it, not touching the ground at a neck breaking 2min/k.

Route Choice: 2010 (light) V 2011 (dark)

No dice. I struggled down. One foot in front of the other. In a world of hurt. Brain too tired to process the information needed to descend at break neck speeds. On hitting the fire road, it was just a matter of turning the legs over and thumbing the map. Every time my feet hit the hard road, I felt all the tiny muscles laughing at me, on the verge of cramp. I needed to hit every junction. One down. Two down. Three down. Two more ticky sections and I'm in. The open terrain is my catching feature for the tiny row of rocks that form a deathly track. Slippery when wet, the body and mind is tired. It can all go so wrong so quickly. I hit the turning circle and dance down them gingerly. Down around another switch back and down the final single track. I look at my watch. 2:35… Record is mine as long as I don’t break my neck. I bounce down and cross the line. I was pretty sure I had the record, but that wasn't confirmed until I got home.
After a bit of trash talking, I went down to Pauls van to get changed. I just sat there. I couldn't do anything. I stretched down trying to untie my laces and I cramped. The art of getting changed with cramp never far away is a mastered skill that one develops over time. One I have yet to master. Sitting in the van, cramping, the rain came, and it was heavy. My thoughts were with the summit marshals (and my flask of coffee). Waiting around, bodies begin to come in. Everyone gets down safe. A smile on Paul Nolans face.

It was 7pm before my body began to accept food. Its a fair guess to assume I pushed myself today.

Overall I am happy with my performance. It was a solo run. Fuelling up wasn’t the best and I missed a good line on Lugduff. 2 hours 25mins is so doable!
Due hear that Paul? ;)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Master and the Student

Trail? This is Proper Mountain Running!!

I was humming and hawing about this race for a while. I wasn’t sure if it would benefit me in the long run. With WOC selection so close, I didn’t want to do too much damage.

All week I was battling with myself. On Wednesday, things had reached fever pitch. I had to make a decision. So I said I wouldn’t. I wished people good luck and set myself up for an easy weekend. Wednesday night, I didn’t sleep very well. Same on Thursday. Something was nagging me. Come Friday all I could think of was Tonelagee. I had run up in a little over 20mins the previous Sunday morning, and I had suffered. I knew I wasn’t that unfit after a hard winters training. The nagging in the back of my mind reached fever pitch. I was pacing the kitchen drinking coffee from Friday lunch time on. Eventually I sorted out my kit for a run on Saturday and went Curragh direction. Before I left, I decided to throw in the hill running kit, just in case I changed my mind. On the Luas, I was listening to some music. Bashing out a bit of Iron Madian, Run to the Hills. All I could think about was Camaderry and Tonelagee. After a few stops, I had become obsessed. Nothing else entered my brain. I was mentally picking lines in the terrain, attempting to map the entire area in my head from what I saw from my run on Sunday. I had lines picked and different strategies. When I looked down at my hands, I saw that I was physically shaking. I was so pumped. I had to race. To hell with the JK, if I didn’t get a race out of my system this weekend, I risked doing a stupid big session during the week and not running well at the JK.

I sent a text PN’s direction. I began to feel nervous. He doesn’t race unless he means business. I tried to use logic, I’m almost half his age, it’ll be grand. The other side of my head was arguing the opposite. PN doesn’t race unless he intends to win. Its not the winning he cares about. He likes to hurt himself in terrain. I had no idea how strong he was at present. He can descend hard.

Race tactics were revised. Planning and plotting how to take him down. I knew he had recce’d it, this route was his baby. He wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way.

Saturday was an easy run. Kept it cool. Then the problem of a lift arose. I made a few calls. Eventually got a lift with the O’Boyles. They’d get me there at 11:30 if everything went to plan. It was slightly frustrating as I enjoy been there early but beggers can’t be choosers. When I got home and was packing the kit, Ollie came to the rescue. He was heading to the orienteering in Clarabeg, I had gotten a lift for Brian and myself. Sweet. Game on.

On starters Orders...

Sunday morning dawned early, up breakfast, coffee, the usual. Getting slightly nervous. Unsure who’d show. I was mentally prepared for a battle of attrition with Brian, Jason, Peter and championship running newbie Ian. PN would be somewhere close to the action. He’s always there. Somewhere.

Landed at the gap. Mick Hanney looked delighted I had shown. All smiles in the mountains.

Got changed and began warming up. Legs felt heavy. Always a good sign. It just means your body is begging you to not go through with the madness. My body knew what was coming. Turlough, PN, Bernard… The Usual suspects at an off roader. No sign of any of the big guns from last years championships.

This increased the tension I was feeling. PN and Turlough begin to trash talk. I knew they were talking shit, but you can never write off someone who wants it badly. I did a mini recce, running up the hill as far as the stake and attacked down the hill, I wanted to see what the ground traction was like. My logic been that if it came to a sprint finish, I’d plan on having the extra gear and the added knowledge. Taking it at race pace felt good. In fact, it felt awesome. My body had woken up. Now we really wanted to race. This was going to be the ultimate blow out session before the JK.

Everyone drops over to the start. Mick calls out the standing orders, something about steep dangerous crags… I think. I was focused on the start of the track. With a 3, 2, 1 we were gone. I reckon I had a micro second of a break in my eagerness to start climbing.

Me, PN, Turlough

Accidently I hit the front. I climbed and didn’t look back until I reached the first marshy section. PN and Turlough were with me. PN was breathing extremely heavy. He was taking the mick. Needless to say I followed suit before we both stopped playing mind games… briefly. As we climbed, the abusing began. PN was throwing out comments on the poor standard of IMRA if an orienteer is leading. PN took the lead and I sat in behind. After a while, I made an acceleration to see would they respond. They continued at the same pace. After a while, they caught back up with me. More comments on why orienteers shouldn’t lead hill races and his surprise that I was still able to run up the mountain. Turlough was breathing heavy, when PN asked his opinion, the response was one of “we’ll continue this in the carpark”. He was gone. Slightly over cooked. I enquired if he was hurting due to his heavy breathing. “I’m only faking Colm”, I responded with a cheeky comment of “so was I” before I accelerated. I pushed maybe a little bit too hard, but the burn felt good. I begin to toy with the pace. PN caught back up (“and then there was two) and went by me. I jumped onto his footsteps and followed. After a min or 2, I took over the lead climbing. He enquired about the time, 10:05 climbing time. “Oh goodie, we’re almost near the top… but the question is do I add a min or take a min for the bullshit factor?”.

Me and PN make a break for it

It was smiles all round up to this point, however, things were about to get a little more serious. The climb began to level off and the chat stopped. Across the flatish top to the cairn, PN rounds first, I yell out the climb time (16:05) and we begin the first drop.

He takes off. Time to unleash my tactic. Stick to the reccer like glue. I think recce’in is a nasty habit than I can not condone, but hey, following ain’t cheating in mountain running.

I follow him stride for stride down the muddy track. His technique is clean and efficient. I could go past him, but I need his line. After PN said it was like a mountain marathon, he couldn’t have put it better. We got down further, our paths begin to zig zag, when he zig’d, I zag’d. It was mountain running bliss. No feeling is better than cruising down a mountain effortlessly. To a non mountain runner, it looks suicidal. To those lucky enough to venture into the proper hills, it is a peaceful experience. Avg pace on the drop was 3:30min/k. It was cruising. I would have loved to see a 23 year old PN going balls to the wall down it… feck that, I would have loved to let go!!


We hit the flat and PN takes a sharp right and drops down to the lake. The orienteer inside me doesn’t let me follow directly, I stay slightly high and end up on a sheep track. Tipping along, I see him 20m to my right. My sheep track meets up with PN’s and we’re again on top of each other. Crossing the river, I look up from PN’s shoes. It looks awesome. PN dives left into the heather, I follow suit, thinking he knew of a secret sheep track. No such luck. Beautiful energy sapping heather. I follow PN until after a while a voice appears in my head. Why are you following a GEN runner in terrain. Man the f*ck up. So I picked my own lines and got a gap… and by got a gap means I went in front, slightly.

Climb climb climb climb and we’re onto the saddle. PN is running comfortably. He starts up the climb and contuines to run. I follow suit but I’m soon down to a walk. PN keeps turning the legs over. I keep walking. The gap doesn’t increase. Sweeeet. Glad to know he wasn’t going to drop me on this steep climb. I’d never live it down. I plug away and he plugs away. He looks behind a couple of times, I was going to say, don’t worry about them, we’re well clear, but it was fun seeing PN looked concerned. The climb begins to level off. I begin to get the legs turning over. I see PN’s legs not turning as fast. I need to get a little gap before the cairn, I wasn’t in the mood for a hard bloody thirsty sprint down the mountain that would take me a week to recover from. I up the pace and get over the earth bank and have opened a tiny gap (I can’t see PN’s feet if I look down). I run up to the cairn, roundabout, check my direction and begin to attack off the top. Looking to my right, I see a muddy trail of inov8’s, Walsh PB’s and Salomans. Guess that’s the accent route. That could have been a costly mistake. I take off and cruise down the mountain. I reach the top of the track and let gravity do the work. I’m tempted to lets out a loud “Weeeeeeeeeee” as I pick up speed. A few close slips but I recover well. As gravity is doing its job, falling with style, I make a mental note that I have two world ranking races next weekend. Now is not the time to break my neck, leg or ankle. If PN wants it and goes past me at speed, I won’t give chase, but he has to do it at speed. Cruising down, I past Paul (the dude with the camera) I yell out whats the gap… “10seconds”. Its enough from where I am now, I think. Down further and I pass the stake that I ran up to. A mental note revision, he ain’t passing me now, he had his chance. I hit the last corners hard, accelerating in and out, down the last drop, into the mud. I take a quick glance behind me, no one, accelerating across the mud, happy days. I wait and applauded PN across the line. Guy is an animal.

PN, taking it handy apparently(?)

End of they day, he did what he had to do and I did what I had to do. Slowly learning that I don't have to go off like a bat out of hell to get a win. A bit of tactics is always fun.

Good flush out session before the JK. Legs feel awesome. Climbing is good. Bring it on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

College Champs

Thursdays plan was a 70min run with 2x5min pick ups. I got less than 30mins until I can completely out of energy and walked back to Donore. Worrying.
Friday, did an easy 30mins with Kevin English in the park. After 30mins my legs were in bits. I struggled home on the bike. Things did not look good. They did not look good at all.

Waking up Saturday morning, I took my heart rate. It felt slow, down by 13 beats/min from the previous mornings. Slightly strange. Shrugged it off and got my fix of coffee and massive bowl of porridge with fruit, custard and large spoonful of jam. SOP's for a race. Neck another coffee and it was off on the bike to Halls to pick up the car.

Car, full of awesomeness... Ruairi, Shea and Conor... Bashing out the tunes, heading for Glendo once again. Comments of its cold, and cloudy and misty and why am I out of bed were rife. Also stating that every cyclist we past must be Peter.

After much slagging and trash talking, enter the pain machine that is Glendo! The usual hill runners were about, Peter, after cycling, Ger, DC, Cleary twins. I feared the worst so I did whats natural and grabbed a coffee. Chatted to Peter and chilled out. Eventually I convinced myself to get changed and went for a warm up with Shea and Ger.

We were all making excuses. Everyone making up some form of excuse. Shea eventually comes up "This is some crap trash talking". Dropped down off the mountain and did a few strides. Then it was just killing the 5mins till the start.

On the line. A joke about a JCB coming to flatten the mountain and we were off. I made a promise to myself to do two things. 1) Do not lead. Sit in and wait and 2) do not look at my heart rate or pace, at all, ever. So off we went. I sat on Diarmuid's shoulder. He beat me in every single XC race this winter so I wanted his scalp, I was so close at the colleges only for Niall McA to cause a shit storm.

Nice and easy off at the start

Sitting in. Noone does anything. Its just an up tempo run up the track. No one is doing anything crazy. Suddenly McCloy makes his move. I didn't even consider going with him. I knew what was on the cards. He gets 30m and the gap becomes constant.
Down the small hill and then we're into the proper climb. Two Trinity lads move to the front and put on a squeese. Peter F and John are running as a team. They climb solid. Ger, Diarmuid and I jump up onto their heels and keep the group solid. McCloy is caught and passed as we slowly climb further up the mountain. I'm feeling pretty good. Unlike last year. After 8:27 we're on the grassy mountain. Last year I hit the same spot in 8:18, after sprinting my ass off... Interesting what taking the start calmly can do for the legs.

Diarmuid gets dropped as the two trinity guys up the pace. Peter O'F goes by me and I sit in 5th. Climbing steady. I feel good but a voice in my head comes back "for f sake. What the hell are you doing?! I thought you stopped this shit. It hurts. Just walk". This was a worrying thought so early in the race. I knew my legs felt fine so I ignored the voice and kept climbing. I could hear breathing behind me. I ignored it and kept climbing.

After what felt like forever we reached the bend in the track that signaled half(ish) way. I felt ok but my mind was completely against what I was doing. I hit it in 15:19 compared to 15:44 the previous year. I reckon I'll start slower in future.

Climbing, climbing, climbing. The breathing behind me stops, the four in front continue to battle it out. I continue to climb. The gap is probably at 10-20m. No need to panic.

No more easy.. Peter O'F takes the lead

We then enter the sloppy stuff, and it gets fun. The two trinty guys, in their first mountain race make a slight mistake. One slips on the mud in the flats, while trinity runner 2 starts to show his suffering by a few short sharp words . Never, ever, ever show pain on an accent. I dig in and get a gap. Closing on Ger. On Ger's heels. Tracking his steps. Peter O'F is just in front. He walks, he's hurting. Somehow, I found myself in the top 3 closing on the summit. Ger and myself close the gap on Peter. The gap is down to nothing.

We round the cairn in 27:25, less than 10seconds between us. (29:04 last year).
Kyle screams at me to take them... similar to last year.
I automatically attack off the cairn, I don't remember making a conscious decision to attack. I just find myself flaking it down through the rough stuff. Picking my footing. Gap closed on Peter and Ger, I'm on top of them. Ger hesitates on the drop off and I'm in front.

Me, allowing gravity to do the work

I just pick my line and continue the fall. I'm not pushing yet, just turning the legs over. Letting gravity do the work. I think maybe I have the title. Then I snap back to reality. Still a long way down. Legs turn over fast, feet are sticking to the ground. Not placing a foot wrong. Over the lower summit again and onto the really nice grass. I don't feel as if I'm moving as fast as last year on this section. But it still feels great. Down and down and down. I pass Gerry and he says I have 50 yards on Ger. In my head I think, boom, thats the title. I allow a smile to myself and continue on down the slope. I'm fairly moving. It feels great. After what seems like no time at all I hit the track. As I take off down the track I steal a glance back. I want to see how much I have on Ger.

A CNOC top and a white singlet. Blind Panic!!!! Seamus and Stephan had monstered the descent. He was almost on top of me. The panic continued for a second or two before a bit of logic came to play. He looked closer than he actually was. Keep it cool.

Cleary and O'Boyle

I fall down the straights and take the corners easy. I didn't want to snot myself again. They keep coming. I lose count of the bends. I'm running scared. I drop off the last steep track section. I skip the 5th gear and jump straight into a special "Must beat Seamus at all costs" gear. I push as hard as I can up the rise, knowing that he will be hurting a lot at this point. I don't dare look back. Round one bend... Where is the god dam finish.

When I saw this photo, I'm glad I didn't look behind me

Next bend... next bend. I glance over my shoulder. I couldn't see anything, but I didn't look very hard and didn't want to chance it. I push on. I can see the house. Its so close. Drive on harder. Must not be passed on the line. Have to make sure of it. With a meter to go I raise my arms in delight. Hit stop. 14mins dead for the descent. I let myself down as softly as possible onto the ground and roll onto my back. Close my eyes and apologies to my legs. Finally. A college title with the course record.

The sit in the lake was awesome. Worrying that it felt warm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

XC End line

This weekend saw the end of the Cross Country Season 2010.
The blistering fast 8km Intercolleges!

This is usually one of the fastest most competitive XC races in the country. The colleges with the big guns are usually DCU, WIT and Jordonstown, all of which have big athletics sports scholarship programmes.

DIT on the other hand are made up of a bunch of mismatch runners, from 800m runners and tri athletes to boxers and orienteers. Team DIT is formed with the infamous sports officer "Herbie", makes a call to arms. If you have too legs and look as if you can run, congrads you've made the team! Fielding a team is usually the objective and if that happens and everyone looks tired at the finish - happy days.

As seen as every XC race I've had the mispleasure of running since Christmas has been a pile of shit, I decided to completely chill out before this one. Got up as late as possible, had a (few) casual cup (mugs) of coffee and killed time online. Getting the bus out with the Trinity club. I arrived at the event and got chatting to the usual gang before I went off to clear the head and do a few laps warm up. The legs felt pretty good. Had a few quick words with Downesy before I went on my way. It appeared to take forever for the race to come around. Finally, the call up came and we were set to rock. A few strides, got abused by Herbie, the usual. Felt good. There was a fair bit of craic with the usual DIT banter, abusing everyone.


Gun goes and we're gone! I went off at a steady pace, nothing to mental. There were a few elbows flying but nothing like last year in Cork. It was all a bit mayhamic but things calmed down fairly lively. Around the first bend and trying to find my rythem in the pack. Then I saw Durrmaid going along the inside. Having been well beaten by him in every XC race this year, and considering I was feeling pretty good I decided to go with him. The pace was feeling qucik but bariable. Got abuse from Brendan, in the mid 40's. Hoping for a top 50, this was about where I wanted to be.

Down around the next few turns and I begin to realise how many Donore guys are about the place. Max, Oisin and Daragh are giving abuse at one corner, Downesy at another, Gerry at another. I was still feeding off the adrenline. Around the turn at the far corner and I could see the leaders fairly cruising. No idea who, but they looked comfortable. Down the back straight and a blue singlet came onto my shoulder. At first I thought it was Ger, turned out to be Lee VanH. This was a suprise, mainly cause a) he was racing and b) he hadn't left me for dead yet. He went to pick up the pace, so I went with him. After a while, he slowed it down so I jumped in front and tried to push the pace instead. Coming back to the turn where all the Donore guys were and there was alot of abuse. Down the home straight and much abuse from DIT.


The second lap was much the same, steady in the mid 40's. About half way through, Niall McA went past me like a freight train, I knew it was too risky to go with him, he was going much too fast. I knew it was a sprint to try break me mentally. This fractured the group I was in. The group split and I found myself about 10m behind Duirmaid, for company I had 2 cork lads with me. We contuined at that pace. The gap staying constant. Nothing happened apart from a whole lot of suffering for the next lap. On the same section of the 3rd lap, I fell asleep and let the group ahead pull ahead slightly more. I began to chase it down. Drafting off the Cork lads, sometimes pushing the pace. The gap just wasn't moving.

Onto the final lap and my legs felt fine, my lungs however just couldn't get in enough oxygen. I was pushing. I knew I had 6 places there for the taking at least. Down the back straight I went past the two cork lads and just gave it everything. Down around the small "hill" and onto the long run in. I was flat out. I could feel myself slowing down, I had thrown the kitchen sink at the race, I had nothing left to give. The two cork guys got away from me. I was in a world of hurt. I needed more air but none was coming. From the crowd I knew there was a DCU guy chasing me hard. I was flat out and I knew I was almost home. Less than 50m left, I couldn't help but take a slight glance behind me. It was a stupid stupid mistake. I showed him I was hurting. He was moving like a freight train and caught me on the line. I was disgusted but it was the best I could do.


Looking at the results, he was the guy I dropped last year coming into the finish in Cork. What goes around, comes around. (Seeing this made me smile).

All in all I can't complain. A good race. Gave it my all and it felt like I raced well. Unlike the Novies, Inters and Seniors XC Champs.

XC is over. Hopefully my speed and aggression levels have been topped up.
Bring on the O!


Monday, February 28, 2011

Go Long, Go Strong x2

Reciently, the HPO of Irish Orienteering, Ivan Millar decided that the Irish based team members weren't getting in enough long, well planned, technical races on good maps.

This problem was solved by the Irish Long Distance Series. 3 races, on 3 maps. The terrain, standard unforgiving Irish mountain side. The planners were only to make sure that the winners time was to be around 120mins to give the runners a mental and physical challenge.

Needless to say once I heard this series was on I was delighted. Proper planned courses, on proper maps and it would be Long! not Leinster League Brown 55min winning time long, but +90mins winning time Long.

Race One was planned by Greg McCann on Gortalughany, close to Florencecourt, deep in Fermanagh country. The terrain was a mix of leg sapping heather, but also a section of burnt heather and rock that allowed runners to open up if they had the energy.
My plan for the race was to cruise around and focus on my route choice and for every control have an attackpoint.

At the start I was calm... tried to take up my map, failed due to gloves, took off gloves, pick up map and floored if off down the road... And that was to contuine. I was running strongly, not flat out, but not going easy. A mistake at control 5 through my confidence slightly, and the following controls were shaky as I tried to find my flow again.
Once I found it, I was off flooring it again. At control 16, I was on a high, and I set my eyes on a pack in front. I chased hard and caught the pack leaving the butterfly. On the last long leg, I went the track route and ran as hard as I could to drop Conor. It worked wonders as I pulled away. From control 16 onwards, I dropped 60seconds from superman. I was pretty happy with my last half, where I could open it up and kept it pretty clean.

From FermO country, we moved onto Carlingford for race 2. Carlingford is a bitch of a mountain. You think your on top of it, you let your concentration slip and bam, your lost. This insain map was combined with IOC Sprint planner Igor Stefko.

Heading up I was concerned. Mainly due to the Nat Seniors XC the day previous and the worry that my legs wouldn't work.

I set off 3mins behind Conor with the idea to put him under pressure. I started off easy, building into it. I kept it under control, making sure of the nav, as I slowly pulled in Conor. By the top of the hill, I had caught Conor, but I stuffed up the control. I was afraid to drop contours.
Head to 6, I didn't read my map at all, but I relocated close to the control. As the race progressed, I got more confident and was able to control my pace to the orienteering needed. Needless to say, the climb was more of a speed limiter.

Once we got off of the open mountain and onto the runnable stuff, I put an extra 6mins into the following runners. In the post race analysis, I was happy to be able to open up the legs after 900m of climbing and the tough race before hand.

With two races down, the only race left before the JK and Irish Champs is the LongO race on the combined map of Meelmore and Tollymore. With Ivan planning, its sure to be a technical challenge.

Can't wait!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

January Mud

January also was the month of XC.
It was interesting. The Novices, I died. The Inters, I died. The Seniors, I died. Good season :)

Below is the stuff plugged from my training log:

All Irelands Novice XC Champs.

The plan was simple. Go out easy and pick it up, come through like a train and secure a Donore Team win....

Started off easy, sitting in around 60ish. Jogged up the first hill and took the first lap casaul. After the hill on the 2nd lap I upped the pace slightly and began to pass runners at ease. By the time I had got to John again, I was in 41st and moving like a freight train picking up places. John was going mental at me as I was finally nailing a XC using sensible tactics....

Then somthing happened and it all went to shit. My legs refused to turn over, my lungs tightened up and I found it hard to breath. Keith Daly went by me and I couldn't go with him at all.

I was leaking places like a sinking ship. Last lap, I was dead on my feet, I didn't even have any fight left in me. Fergal came past me. Couldn't do a thing.

Really really disappointed. I thought I was well up for the race but I guess I'm mentally tired from exams.

The top 4 guys for Donore, Mark 7th, Ken 31st, Keith 37th and Fergal 50th finsihed 2nd team and picked up silver medals so a pat on the back to the lads. The advantage of a strong team I guess.

Full Results

Pissed off, bitter, pumped for the Nat Seniors.

With this minor mishap, I sorted the head and was up for the National Inter Champs. A hard fought mud bath. My training log is blunt and too the point.

National XC Club Champs!! :P Woop!
Go on the Donore!!

Anywho, the course was a mud bath. Never seen anything like it before in my life. Manky ouvit!

Finished up 43rd in a battle of attrition. Not really happy but came through strongly over the last two laps.

John, Keith and Ken monstered it. I suffered around and surived to get the last space on the team. Downsy was giving me dog abuse the entire way around. Gave it everything. Just wasn't strong enough.

Am now bollocked.

What I didn't say in my log was that I got home, showered, went out for a beer and spent the next 48hrs in bed except for 2 easy runs. I was still pale on Tuesday. It really was throw everything, including the kitchen sink and the adjoining pipework at it. Very pleased with it.

The next and final race was the National Seniors on Saturday. It was a 7 lap sufferfeast.
Plan was simple, go out easy and build into it. Disappointed, but not sure I could have done any more.

National Inter Clubs.
The plan was to go out easy and build into it.
So thats exactly what I did. I ended up in a bunch with Travers, Mark, Shane and Ken (all donore). We were packed around 40th, just crusing. We tipped through lap one, still in 40ish. The things began to heat up. However, I let them go and ran my own race.
I was running ok on any of the ups or downs, but once it got flat, groups would just string past me. I kept plugging away at it, counting down the laps. The all of a sudden I was on my second last lap. So I tried to push on as was the plan. Ended up racing a DSD guy over the final two laps. He got me in the end, just had more of a kick.
Bit disappointed with my run. I'm sore, but something was missing. Maybe I took it too easy or was too conservative when racing.
Lap times
2:29 (short run to the start of the main loop)
5:45, 6:01, 6:02, 6:14,
6:13, 6:18, 6:09.

Full Results
Live and learn.

With the third race, it ended the XC season, excluding the colleges in 2 weeks time.
All in all I can't complain with the haul.

Leinster Novices
Induv 18th
Club 4th (3rd Donore)
County 2nd

All Ireland Novices
Induv 66th
Club 2nd (5th Donore)

Dublin Intermediates
Induv 3rd
Club 2nd (1st Donore)

All Ireland Intermediates
Induv 43rd
Club 1st (4th Donore)
County 2nd

Inter Club Champs
Induv 64th
Club 6th (4th Donore)

The end result is that I can only run 4 XC races next year. Inter Clubs, County, Dublin and Leinster Senior. More time for the hills. Smiles all round

January. The month of Suffering

New Years!

January started off with an eventful hike up Tonelegee. The plan was to do a run with Ruairi, a bit of a mini epic. However, with conditions like this

It was decided against... Given it was well dodge!

The Art O'Neil

When ya get a call from anyone from the world of IMRA and long distance stuff you know it's gona be great!
Then when new shiny free kit is thrown into the equation it becomes even better.

The Art O'Neil is a walk that goes from Dublin Castle to Glenmalure. In recient years, it was organised as a charity walk, hybrid run or Ultra run (if your crazy like Eoin).
Word got around that I was taking part and almost as quickly people assumed (incorrectly) that I was challenging Eoin in a Nav Ultra. No dice.

On the day of the event. I got the kit sorted and headed off to Dublin Castle. On kit check duty, I allowed alot of people through that I didn't think should have started. Needless to say, Mountain Rescue gave them the go ahead. (The following morning I found one getting onto a bus pullout as she was too cold. Seamus found her and pretty much saved her sorry ass.)

I was leading a group with long term bad influence, fluffy Niall.
It was uneventful enough, excluding the zero visibilty, the 180 mistake off the first hill, the group splitting, half my group vanishing in the mist, more dropping out at the 2nd check point, having flogged themselves on the road run and the pushing people up to Arts Cross. And the mess up with tracks at the end. Lovely stuff. By the end I was pretty tired myself. I forgot what a lack of sleep was like. Good fun!

Next up were the exams. They were hell.