Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Wall Duathlon

The Wall Duathlon 
Sometimes I should listen to my body!!

Thursday I got recurring back pain that had me walking hunched like an old man.  Because it had eased a bit on friday I decided I would still give the race ago.  Saturday morning and the pain was still pretty bad but armed with deepheat and ibuprofen it was on.

The weather gods were on our side a beautiful day in the mournes clear blue skies and a perfect race temperature.  We arrived at silent valley reservoir for the registration and our dibber (electronic timing chip which we dib at checkpoints) The bike transition was at the side of the dam wall.  With the bikes racked we all walked down the steep slope to the foot of the dam.  With everyone stopping half way down Ian shouts "we dont do easy", promting us to move right to the bottom of the sloping green.  Ian give us the race briefing on the course and it was time to start.  A roar went up from everyone and we climbed the slope around Rowan.  Striking pains in my back I would see how the run faired before deciding if I will continue.

The run was a 3km clockwise lap of the nature trails on the far side of the reservoir.  I was running at a consistant pace and everything apart from the back felt good.  I got to transition and didnt think twice about grabbing the shoes, helmet, stuffing my trail shoes into my pack and dragging a leg over the bike.  Hunched on the bike I took off down hill to exit the silent valley park.  First up hill and out of the saddle felt a little better than in the saddle, so I just got  the head down and kept going.  The ibuprofen didnt seem to be doing much but the legs felt ok.  The head road was a series of rolling hills steep climbs and steep descents.  Stone walls spread through the countryside hemmed in the green fields in a patchwork like landscape.  The sun was in our faces and it was hard to see in places.  I had a few near misses with cars on blind corners.  the other issue was gravel on corners.  Twice I almost lost the front wheel tipping into corners.  I wasnt pedaling well at all slow on the ups and couldnt put enough power in to get going on the downs.  I was moving though and that was the main thing.  My mate Barry came storming past and joined a group in front.  I couldnt get onto any group and joined the newcastle road and pedaled this section on my own.

Turning into donard carpark I dibbed and racked the bike, kicked off the bike shoes and pulled on the trail shoes.  Drink of water and an ibuprofen to try do something for the pain.  The run followed the river path through donard forest and up onto glen river path.  The first section is through the trees on a very rough path.  Roots of trees rocks and stones littered the root. The shelter from the trees give a nice bit of cover to cool down a bit.  I was jogging slowly and walking the steeper sections.  As I got out of the forest I could see the route ahead lined with walkers and other competitors.  It was hard to gauge who was who and how far ahead some people where.  Although still in beautiful sunshine the temperature dropped the higher we climbed.  Plenty of encouragement from walkers saying it was a tough enough walk let alone run. The climb wasnt getting any easier as wee got onto the steep section below the saddle.  

I met a couple of DH bikers ready to blast down the trail.  Asked if I could borrow the bike for the way down one replied "if you carry it up".  I can barely get myself up!!  Just under the saddle I met the first place runner on his way down.  He was skipping down the stones like a mountain goat.  Shortly after that second and third place in at a similar pace.  I shouted to keep er lit and got myhead down determained to get to the top... Sometime today.  I got to the dibber on the steps crossing the wall and up the last climb.  This bit was tough as I could see more and more on the way down.  I kept going trying to stretch out my back but the pain was there regardless of what way I moved.  I kept thinking I could make up time on the descent so keep at it.  Finally at the top I dibbed and took a minute to get my breath, took a few pics and down I went.

I moved slightly to the right of the steps and onto the softer mountain for the descent.  Down was starting to feel worse than going up.  With every foot I planted a sharp pain was shooting up my back and down my legs.  I wasnt going as fast as I had hoped but still moving.  I dibbed at the saddle and back onto the stone steps.  No avoiding them this time and the pain increased. I just kept moving best I could.  As I reached the flatter section I tried to pick up the pace.  The pain wasnt any better but it wasnt any worse. I thought better going quicker to get down than being in the same pain going slow.  It was on reaching the river trail I took the first fall.  I stepped onto the rock and my foot shot out in front landing me on my arse.  

 I gathered myself and tried to be more careful jumping from rock to rock and hopping over the roots.  Then just when I was getting a good rythym I went again stepping off a rock to drop down to another my foot slipped and I landed right on the tail bone the exact spot the pain is worst.  It took my breath for a second but knowing I was nearly at the bottom I limped on.  It was now I thought about pulling the plug with the pain I was in. I didnt think I could pedal.  I ran to the transition telling myself if I could get the leg over the bike I would give it a go.  I took a bit of water and an ibuprofen had a laugh with Rowan.  Or I should say Rowan laughed at me.  Shoes changed and helmet on this was it could I get on the bike.

I got the leg over the bike, into the pedals and onto the road.  Pedaling was worse than running it felt like what ever was causing the pain was being rubbed together.  I kept going at a steady 15mph out through bryansford and the climbing began.  It would be a long climb from here to spelga dam.  I was keeping a steady 15mph even when climbing.  It was getting warm again on the bike with a very calm day,  only a very slight headwind.  The real climb started as I turned onto the slievenaman road.  I slowed to about 10mph but could see the flag at the fofanny dam check point.  At the check point I took a few cups of water and tried to eat a bit of cake but it was far too dry.  I got back onto the road and got into the steepest part of the climb.  With the legs feeling ok I got out of the saddle and tried to push to the top.  It was a struggle but the sight of spelga dam told me it was almost all down hill from here.  As the road flattened I took a large drink from the water bottle hoping the high 5 would give me a bit of a boost.  I looked down and could see the speed was 25mph on the flat.  I dont know how I was keeping this pace but even on the slight incline it only dropped to 20mph.  At the top of the descent I took a last drink and got the head down.  45MPH without peddaling and with a hydration pack on my back gives you an idea of the descent.  Normally this would be a time for relaxing and recovery but the pain I was in it was hard to hang onto the bike.  Every bump in the road was like a knife in my back.

I turned into silent valley park and met a few runners just heading out on the run.  I got to the transition and almost fell off the bike.  As I stretched out I took the decision to call it a day.  I could have struggled on around the run but didnt want to get half way round then need to be taken off the mountain.  I am dissapointed to have to stop before completing the route but surprised I got as far as I did. 

The route was stunning circling and summiting the mournes.  The weather was perfect the mournes where glowing a golden colour and the craic at the finish line was mighty.  I have never seen so many people looking so broken at the finish line.  Smiling and joking but broken and busted.  Just how you should look after a 26extreme event.

Great event once again by 26extreme, all the marshalls, the med team, sound function DJteam and everyone who helped.  

Friday, 5 October 2012

Causeway Coast Half Marathon

Causeway Coast Half Marathon 2012
29th September 2012

I have not been running much this year.  5 days before the Causeway marathon the buzz from friends who had entered was enough to make me take the plunge and get entered.  I have never left it to the last day before entering I normally enter early with a great training plan in mind, then on the day of the event wonder why I hadn't trained.  This turned out to be a similar approach with regards the training side of things but because it was so last minute I didn't put any pressure on myself to do well.   A few fast 10k's here and there was enough in my mind to get me around the 13.2mile course.  I was well aware that it is a tough course with plenty of challenging terrain and climbing.  I was going to run at a steady pace and then ease into my stride and enjoy the run.  No looking at my watch, no crazy fast paced start or no racing early on!!

I am a great planner, analyse what my goals are, think about the best possible way of achieving them, memorise my plan of attack, then on the start line FORGET everything I have just said above!  I came here with no real goal in mind but one thing I wasn't going to do was race hard.  I didn't think I had the legs and to be honest I was doing this for the enjoyment and a bit of training for the wall duathlon in a couple of weeks.  

The atmosphere at these events is always very special.  All kinds of athletes, friends, family, people running for a laugh, people running for charity and some serious runners.  That's what I love about this event no one is out of place and everyone seems to be there to enjoy it.  The start of the half is in Larrybane Quarry near the famous carrick a rede rope bridge.  The quarry is down a steep hill which we run up at the start. Turn around a hairpin at the top onto a grassy path. This leads along the top of the quarry walls across to Ballintoy Church.

On the bus ride over to the start I talked about the route with friends.  I remembered the last time I done the half it got congested at one of the first gates.  With this in mind I decided I was going at it from the start just to get a bit of free space.  No racing eh? That lasted a long time.  I jokingly said I would be first out of the quarry to the first corner.  

Ian Cummings (26 extreme) give everyone the last minute instructions and it was time to start.  A few words from the mayor of the area, a roar from the crowd and the race was underway.  I got the head down skipped my way across the quarry and shortened my stride going up the hill.  I was true to my word leading around the first corner.  On the grassy path I kept the pace high without pushing too hard.  I had a quick look back and could see already a gap between the top 20 and the rest of the field.  My head was saying now is the time to ease into my pace and slow it down but I was feeling good and kept at it.  We got to the gate that caused the congestion previous years.  Through it without slowing and onto a downhill road section.  Again I decided not to ease up as I was feeling good.  We ran past the harbour and headed for the sandy trail that lead to whitepark bay.  I knew the reason why I was feeling good was it was so early in the race and I had to save something for later. 

Whitepark bay was as beautiful as ever,  a very strong head wind made it a tough crossing.  As always any time I seen a runner with a marathon or Ultra colours I give them a clap and a few words of encouragement.  I got in behind a few runners and thought I would use them to draft.  It helped a bit even if it was just in the mind.  They didn't seem to like this and altered their pace so I went around them to give them a break.  They didn't seem to get the concept and raced passed me again so I pulled across to the side to run by myself.  At the end of the beach I had been passed by a few people.  I think this was part down to me clowning around for the cameras.  When we reached the rocky section a lot of the runners had slowed right down on the rocks.  This is the parts I love about the off road runs so skipped up along the biggest rocks taking a harder but more direct line passing most of the others again.    

At portbradden we had a slight detour due to a landslide on the coastal trail.  Instead of following the salmon fishery trail through the hole in the rock, we had to run up the road.  I got the head down and pushed on passing a few ultra runners.  I normally only carry a few gels on a half marathon but for some reason I had a bag of tangfastics in my back pocket.  These where really spoiling a good run bouncing around in a pocket I thought was much tighter.  I would ditch them at the next bin then I seen the friendly face of Johnathon crazylegs Jones marshaling on the road.  I whipped out the packet and launched them to him. "Enjoy" I shouted to which he replied "Cheers I am hungry"  Turning into another farm lane we would follow this down to dunseverick harbour.  A few fields to cross then the biggest muddy section I have ever seen on a race like this.  I bounded through the mud lucky to keep my shoes on.
We crossed over the gate passing dunseverick harbour. As we got back onto the road, I started to tramp my feet to try get rid of some of the mud from earlier. I had a good laugh with another runner who talked about buying the lightest shoes he could find in the shop only to pick up half of his body weight on one shoe.  Thankfully by the time we got to the top of the road the most of the mud had gone.  We left the road and back onto the coastal trail.  

This is one of the most spectacular sections of coastline in the world.  To run through it just makes you feel alive.  The wind howling and the waves crashing on the cliffs below really makes it one of the best settings for a race you could ever have.  I was fairly comfortable at this stage and eased off a bit enjoying the scenery.  It was one of those days you had to watch your step.  The wind was strong and the wrong move up here could be the last.  I looked at the scenary and thought how good I was feeling and had a good smile to myself.  The trail followed the coast around to Dunseverick castle where there was some Marshall's with water.  I took on some water and on I ran.  

I knew the next section had a lot of climbing and descending.  As we climbed the wind got stronger.  A few coves provided some sheltered and gave us I nice break from the wind. After dropping down a set of steps and climbing another we were hit by a massive breeze.  A few runners in front of me on rounding the corner took a few steps back it was that strong.  I let out a roar "Yeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa" I put my head down tried to get as low as I could and picked up the tempo.  This continued over each high point of the cliffs with a sheltered bit in between but usually meant there where steps to climb.  Most of the steps people walked to get a breather.  

I had a good chat with one of the ultra runners who seemed in great shape so far into the race.  He said the pain was there but he was in the zone and blocking it out.  He was trying to beat 7 hours so I left him do his own thing and continued at my own pace.  Near the causeway stones there was another water station.  I grabbed another cup of water and and slowly jogged down the busy path to the visitor centre.  Half way down Craig the ultra runner flew past me like he was in the 10k  I knew he was going well but I was also slowing too much.  I picked up the pace again for the runkerry headland.  Looking across to Portballintray I knew I was close to the end but the legs where getting tired and heavy.  Had I pushed to hard at the start? Probably but I was going to keep it going tired and sore as I was. 

After passing runkerry house I knew it was a flat section back to the finish.  The sand hills on the beach made it fairly sheltered.  As I pushed on I started to get very warm.  My legs felt strong perhaps a bit heavy but no sign of cramp or strains.  The last push for the finish took us around the bush river board walk.  This section was very warm with the shelter from the large sand hills. I had my head down looking at the planks from the board walk.  A combination of the heat and the shapes passing my eyes I got light headed and could feel how tired I was.  I got the head up and started to take a few deep breaths as I ran.  Across the bridge over the bush and one last climb to the packed finish line.  I had a strong enough race despite the lack of training.  The only time I really felt it was from runkerry across to the finish.  Finishes generally are the time you feel tired but I normally have enough for a good sprint finish.  I didn't have anything for the finish line this time leaving it all out there. A great atmosphere as always to finish these events with the sound DJ's blasting out the beats for the finishers. 

Finishing the race slightly under 2 hours was a shock to me.  I knew I was going fairly well but never felt I was pushing too hard apart from the very start. The smile says it all I love this race!!  If I can keep at it I will be back for the full marathon next year or who knows maybe the ultra...  one day.

Another great event from  

Next up for me is The Wall Duathlon 75km in the mournes.