Wednesday 14 November 2018

2018 Westport Sea2Summit

It’s a great event…it must be one of the biggest in the country. I was just looking at the results there and there were 431 who started the longer event “Supreme”. There were 28 more on the “Supreme Short Course” whatever that was, and a whopping 1668 on the shorter “Spirit” event, so that’s well over 2000 early November…a great boost for Westport tourism! Just slightly more than half of the spirit were male..18 pages of results for male and 16 for female. In the Supreme, there were 65 women which is about 1 in 7.  This female participation was a standout feature compared to most events I’ve been on. Great to see!

Anyway, two other members of the M&M Cycling Club made the trip with me - Redmond and Kieran - both recent veterans of our sortie to Malaga for some cycling in the sunshine. Kieran also did the Dublin marathon two weeks ago, delighted with his time of 3:57. He was about 4:15 in Limerick in May, so the extra summer training paid off!

Kieran collected us on Friday evening with his three bike carrier on his towbar and we set off after a horrendously rainy day into the West. We arrived and registered. I bought the mandatory safety kit for €10  - a foil blanket, a whistle, a heavy bleed bandage, and a Powerbar. That with a mobile phone, hat and jacket made up the required kit. I’m new to this mountaineering! I’ll bring me new whistle with me next time I go up a hill! Thankfully none of this was called into duty!
Off to the harbour next to park the bikes – a bit chaotic with lots of cars, bikes, people, darkness, rain, wind! A couple of poor creatures were going to stay out all night in that weather to do security on the 2000x1000 = €2m worth of bikes!

Now for the hostel….a strange experience. .. for €35  it was cheapish…but not too cheerful! The strange French receptionist wanted to put two of us in one room and one in another. We were accepting our lot and quietly asked if the place was full and she said no. So we asked if we could maybe stay in the same room and she said yes. Weird!  There was a kitchen/dining area, so we asked could we get cooking the porridge there around 7 and she said no….doesn’t open till 8…and no…it’ll be locked! Bit peeved about the brekkie situation we went to Centra and got an oddball bag of food and drink…ham, cheese, rolls, bars, bananas, water, OJ, pasta, ready oats, yoghurt, hard-boiled eggs… a right feast.  Found a Chinese restaurant and tucked into some pre-race-fuel. Two beers for me but the lads were on a serious mission and stayed pure! No fear of the food going off overnight at the hostel, seeing as there was no heat in the room! Hats on and off to bed after a long wardrobe session wondering what to wear for the race.

Morning! … Scoffed the breakfast about 6:30 in the room, beneath the  “No eating in rooms” sign. More checking of weather forecasts which seemed to be getting better and less clothing was deemed necessary. Off to the hotel for the start line, relaxed in the lobby for 10 mins and out for the race brief and then we were off soon after Redmond’s couple of dance steps to “Move like Jagger”….he can’t!  The man on the mike told us we had got a lucky break…there was a window of fine sunny calm weather for the next few hours with very little chance of rain! Sweet!

We were off in Wave 2 of 3 – the intermediates. Red had initially signed up months ago for Advanced wave and Kieran had gone for Beginner, but then we thought about it and decided Intermediate would be the most suitable. I think the fact that the lads changed waves seems to have messed up their timings…The times are correct but their positioning is way off.

We stayed together more or less for the first 4k run to the harbour along a greenway. I knew this was a marathon not a sprint, so sauntered along at a jogging pace. The site of Croagh Patrick looming 800m into the sky in the distance tempered any impulse to go fast. 21 mins for 4k. Hopped on the bike…the decision had been made by me and Kieran that the cycling shoes were staying in the car, while Redmond was going for a shoe-changing and carrying strategy. The bike felt great and I put the hammer down and did the short flat 8km spin to the Croagh Patrick car park. I passed by loads of people on the way…same reports from the other two lads….I was going nicely averaging easily over 30kph. Drafting was legal so I had been hoping to fall in with a group, but, there was just a different standard of rider (and bikes!) out there….I just kept whooshing by them! That’s a pretty positive feeling, but the better riders were all way ahead in the Advanced wave!

Next up… the main challenge….”The Reek” its known. 764m altitude. I jogged out of the car park and up the first bit of a tarmac’ed hill, then a nice set of steps. That was it then for jogging and tried to settle into a brisk walk, along with everyone around me. All in good spirits, laughing and joking..beautiful morning to be going up the hill! It took just under an hour to reach the church at the top, and it was a tough hour. I certainly lost time on the majority here….I stopped for breath two or three times, quick glance at the scenery, then pushed on. It was just like climbing stairs to the top of a skyscraper. It’s a steep first section, a shallower middle section and a steep final section – the cone – over very loose rock. Kieran caught up with me early on, we had a fairly quick chat but then he was a few steps ahead and then gone!

After about 20 minutes of climbing the first two competitors came scrambling down the hill side-by-side. They were some sight – I’ll never forget it - they were flying ….surfing through the rocks, with stones spraying up around them. It looked impossible that they weren’t breaking their ankles and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Hard to judge how fast they were going…maybe about what you’d see in a typical 5km race. I think I caught them at a particularly strange section of underfoot conditions. When I went down that way myself an hour later, the rocks were loose and gave way under me, and I went through surprisingly quickly over that small section.

Pic here of the lead two guys on their way up.

Back to the climb….same old trudge, got to the top, touched the church and turned straight around after a just a few seconds admiring the view.  Passed Redmond on his way up and he had enough time to tell me he had lost his phone on the mountain.  Just a few minutes later he passed me on the descent…much more like a goat than I was. The missing phone turned up later in his backpack. The descent was hard and not really enjoyable in any way. The ligaments at the back of my left knee had got very sore and I couldn’t really bend that knee. When I got off the cone section on to flatter ground I tried to jog, but the left leg was like a dead weight…it just wouldn’t function like a normal leg, so I left if to the right leg to do all the ninja jumping and weaving while the left was like a pirate’s stump! I got through the final steeper part of the descent, with people passing me all the time.

However….back to the bike! Felt good and felt at home on two wheels!

Pic of T2

I proceeded to tear up the road on the flat section but met a guy walking the other way with his bike on his shoulders. I asked if he needed anything but didn’t really catch his reply… …I turned around offering him tubes but he said no…the bike was knackered! Ah well…unlucky! The route turned left off the main Louisburgh road onto a boreen towards what they call the Maum climb. First a 100m ascent at about 6-8%, …Not too bad but testing enough…I knew it was coming so just enjoyed it. Then a descent and a left turn, flattish for a little while, then the real tester…a series of short sharp ramps.

The event website had mentioned 25% in places, and I think this first ramp was what they were talking about. Very short though…maybe 50m long…Timed the gear change and had it in the very generous 32 teeth at the back and 34 at the front. (That rental bike in Spain only had 28 and how I missed those 4 extra teeth!)  I got over that ramp while others dismounted and I took a certain pleasure in this and made it my mission to see this climb through. There was some advice the night before at registration that you might be better off walking up some of these ramps to save the legs, and fine advice I’m sure it was, but the blood was up and I wasn’t having any of it!

After this, the terrain was very “natural” for a few km..i.e. the road building process didn’t involve any earthworks…so up and down whatever lumps were in the way. A few were very sharp. The peak appeared, and this was the biggest challenge of all the ramps…Maybe 200m long..probably about 10-15%. I got over it by pacing the effort and it was a good feeling going over the top…marshals were handing out Wagon Wheel s, which were great!

The altitude at the top was 220m, and then on to the very fast and twisty descent. It flattened out a bit, then I settled into a rhythm and finally got into a group of three to take turns in the wind. This broke up but then found another lad from Donegal who was going very well and we paced each other for a few km. He dropped me when we hit a hill though, so back on my own. Most of the way back to Westport was great fun with good high speeds on lovely roads with a slight descent.. and passing riders all the way! Perfect!

However, there was one more run to do and my left knee just didn’t want to bend! I dragged the leg along for the first 2km before I finally felt things loosen up and I was able to feel like I was jogging again! I felt much better and a woman told me my buddy was just ahead…i.e. Kieran with the same club gear! I thought I saw him ahead and tried to track him down, but there was no acceleration available! Anyway, the jersey turned out not to be him and he was waiting happily at the finish line.

It was a very nice finish in the town centre with loads of people and hoop-la!

I felt grand crossing the line and got the oul medal and we waited a couple of minutes for Redmond to finish.  I think we all felt great and got the group photo and into the tent for some soup, bread and chicken/pasta stew. Great grub! We sat there for 15 mins taking it all in and taking a load off the legs.

Finally back to the hostel and tried to have a shower. The code on the door to the rooms and shower area had been changed overnight. The nice man in reception said no..why don’t you go across the road there to the leisure centre? We had asked the night before and the French one had said it would be OK. Not to worry, a gang of merry bearded young men on a stag party went in a minute later and we went in after them and cleaned ourselves up!

Bike pickup and off to Charlestown on a diversion to put Redmond on a bus to Dublin and ultimately Anfield (another story!). Me and Kieran dropped in on his parents in Curry and got well fed and watered. Home at 8:30 and asleep on the armchair by the fire moments later!

A great day!

S2S Supreme Course Race format
  • 4k run
  • 8k cycle
  • 5k Mountain run (Croagh Patrick) at half distance(2.5k) and at bottom (5k)
  • 35k cycle hilly cycle at (14K) and end of cycle
  • 4k run with sea run (depending on tide times).
  • Total distance 56km
Here's my Strava log for the day...I just logged the whole thing as a run! 

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Climbing Great Gully Ridge

Great Gully Ridge on Ben Leagh from walk in
On the nasty gorse sinkhole walk out we bumped into a lad who asked what I did on the top pitch, did I do the crack with the piton? I described to him. gesturing with my hands, taking the first crack, getting in a good #3 nut, stepping up into this barn-door bridge-ish feet with my left-hand, bottom fingers turned sideways, slotted under a hidden crack and my right arm pulling on an edge, moving my left foot up a bit and then moving my left hand up expecting an edge but only finding slopers...not enough for me to hold and jump my right hand up...climbing as we know it!

A perfect day! The couple of mistakes I made were inconsequential in the end. The plan was to meet at the car park for Baravore Valley at 8.30. I had not organised buying an OS map for the area and had the WhatsApp directions from a friend in my head "turn right into Glenmalure having travelled down the Old Military Road from Laragh". I left 10 minutes later than planned and arrived in Laragh at 8.30, as I came in I saw a brown sign for the old military road kind of half going to the right outside the Glendalough Green cafe. I pulled up and asked the waitress, who was just starting to say "we don't have...", was that the Old Military Road, pointing to the right. She said "Yes, thanks a million", no doubt relieved I was not jonesing for coffee, as she gripped her first smoke.

So I headed up the road, passing the first big lay-by after a few minutes where there were some cars stationed and I could see tents in the trees. The road kept going and going, a couple of hikers, more campers, a cyclist - a perfect road for that. Another 10 minutes and there was a lad at the back of his car with the hatch up, I rolled up and popped the question. "You are on the wrong road mate, this goes to the Sally Gap, head back down to the crossroad, turn right back into Laragh, past Lynhams, then turn right and follow the Glenmalure sign". Military road my ass, 30 minutes lost.

Glenmalure is a u-shaped glacial valley in the Wicklow Mountains in eastern Ireland, 250m higher than Glendalough, with this being the one road leading in or out, I turned right at the Drumgoff crossroads, with Glenmalure Lodge on the left, and took the road to the end where the Baravore Car Park was unexpectedly large. We left the car park at 9.40 having figured we walked up past the hostel. The warden was out in the garden and we queried about accessing Great Gully Ridge? "Keep on going, head up to the left, there are 2 lads ahead of ye", he called out, as we kept moving. This was useful when a couple of minutes later the road swung to the left with a path going on ahead.

So warm already, a guaranteed cracker of a day under the precious high-pressure spell. As we walked in the unsealed road into the heart of the Fraughan Rock Glen, another name for the valley, Colm told us about Michael Dwyer, who was a captain in the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798. The area around us was a stronghold for rebels against the British due to its remoteness and inaccessibility but also relative closeness to Dublin. He held out for years in the hills with the British attempting to deny him shelter by severely punishing those suspected of harbouring his men. They assigned thousands of troops to Wicklow, and built a series of barracks as well as the aforementioned military road! Eventually, a deal was made but the British reneged on an agreement to give him safe passage to America and he spent 18 months in Kilmainham jail before he was sent to Australia as an unsentenced exile in 1805. However, he was stripped of his free settler status and transported to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). In 1808 the Governor of New South Wales ordered that Michael Dwyer's freedom was reinstated. Amazingly, Michael Dwyer was later to become Chief of Police (1813–1820) at Liverpool, New South Wales.

As the road progressed into the valley it became more and more obvious that our route was up in the right corner, a relief with the left side in shade somewhat. It's marked  Baravore Upper in the guide. As the unsealed road ended it was clear we need to cross the rough ground towards the base of the ridge, there was a slab with some water trickling down it that's better to cross lower than higher. We were at the base of the route at 11.00.

The route is HS, 4 pitches of 4a,3c,4b,4a and is described as 140m long on the route wiki. The system for grading traditionally protected climbs in Ireland is the traditional, two-part British \ Irish grade, a combination of the adjectival and technical grades. From the BMC site: "The adjectival grade [HS - Hard Severe] is the first part of the grade, and attempts to give a sense of the overall difficulty of a climb. This will be influenced by many aspects, including seriousness, sustaindness, technical difficulty, exposure, strenuousness, rock quality, and any other less tangible aspects which lend difficulty to a pitch. The second part of the grade, the technical grade [4a, 4b], is there to give an indication of the hardest move to be found on the route, irrespective of how many of them there might be, how strenuous it is, or how frightened you are when you do it." Comparing this to the USA where they have a single grade, the route is 5.6 from my experience.

David Flanagan's book Rock climbing in Ireland has a topo of the route and he has made these available: longer topocloser topo. We used the former for route finding:
Dave Flanagan's Topo
I lead all the pitches, bringing 2 ropes, with Colm coming second cleaning the gear and Dave following third bringing the backpack. We only used one of the ropes for leading\belaying. I did clip one or 2 pieces into the 2nd rope to protect Dave when there was some traversing and he was being belayed on that rope. I ran out the 2nd pitch but still needed a 3rd scrambling pitch to set up a belay at the grassy wall described for the last pitch.

Tom on 2nd pitch

As we moved up the wall Art's Lough came more into view and the gorgeous weather made the thought of swimming across it all the more appealing.

Art's Lough from Great Gully Ridge
Taking snaps along the route got me thinking of a problem I never had climbing in the 90s and the first half of the naughties, what's a solution for carrying a camera phone when climbing? For multi-pitches, I used a small camera bag in the past clipped to my rack, but the camera always had a strap. Maybe a phone loop is an answer?

Dave & Colm on route
Dave Flanagan's 2012 blog on the route, describes three cruxes which are spot on, the first being literally at the start. I agree there is plenty of gear for all the cruxes. The exposure on the last pitch is outstanding and I wished it just kept going but it ended all too soon when another perfect belay spot materialised. There was about another 50m scramble up some grass, if you were to contine to the ridge top.

Colm found the abseil chain, I double-fishermaned the two ropes together and tossed them towards the narrow grassy gully. I ended up coming down a clean buttress, which must be the headwall area, it has a couple of 20m star VSs (D-for-Dog & Z-Backwards), which looked about right from abing down. The 50m rope barely got to the gully on the stretch. The orange rope would not pull! No tricks would get it loose. So it was out with my prusik to self-belay climbing up the corner. The 4 pm sun was catching us now and without a head scarf under my helmet, the sweat was literally streaming in rivers into my eyes, as I bridged up, with the sun block burning them as a result. I had to keep my eyes closed tight and trust those feet, feeling the prusik inching up. It's always great to have a reference and mine was The Maiden in Boulder's Flatirons in 1995 and having to "Kill the fear" and jumar with prusiks up a hanging free rope in the dark in order to free what ended up being a knot jammed on the other side of the lip. This time, it was easier, I reached a grassy bank and was able to traverse over to where I was above a point I passed between on the 2nd  pitch where I knew there was another abseil point. I figured the rope had to pull from there and it did with some effort.

Great Gully Ridge looking down route
So talking to the lad we met walking out, I pulled out of my climbing gestures and said, yep, I backed off and climbed the crack with the old piton in it! It was exposed but felt very solid in comparison to the first crack 😀 The lads said most people go that way! Reading the UK Climbing log, one climber says the first crack is a VS finish, which feels about right for my rusty climbing skills, a good edge for liebacking he says...hmmm, not sure about that part! This lad still had another 15 minutes slog to the base, he had two women with him and he was leading having done the route a few time before. He was going to walk down via the head of the glen near the watercourse. It was 6.30 and he had a solid 4 hours of light left, you can't beat Irish summer evenings!

We were out of water! Colm gave me the last 10ml when I got down after the abseil saga. I was well thirsty after all that! My reference was a summer day in Eldorado Canyon with Matt, perhaps my favourite crag to climb in the world, getting down and driving to a gas station and drinking a straight bottle of Gatorade! I think this was worse! On the ridge, we had spotted the 2 climbers ahead of us cutting directly from the base to the road and we followed suite. Clearly, there is no path through and with the vegetation at a mid-summer high, it was not possible to avoid sinkhole drops in the gorse. Not an escape to the road to remember, most definitely climb with all your gear and walk out via the watercourse after you top out on the ridge and walk down to where it drops into the valley. Next time I would also walk in the same way we did, taking the road to the end.

Gorse walk-out marked - it does not look so bad from a height!
We called into the hostel desperate for water - it's pretty much is a simple Mountain Hut, with no running water or electricity. We could hear the Avonbeg River flowing at the back of the hostel and see their stack of 5L Bottles in the kitchen. The volunteer wardens very kindly brought us out some glasses, I drank 5 straight. They told us the hostel is now open in the summer months and every weekend through the year, staffed by volunteers.

The hostel was originally built as a hunting lodge and key historical Irish figures have spent time there, Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne and her son Sean McBride, a founding member of Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Of course, Maud Gonne was W.B. Yeats's Muse, so Yeats also visited. J.M Synge owned the estate at one point and he wrote a play which was set in the house. It also hosted Irish presidents Eamon De Valera and Erskine Childers. It was donated to An Oige in 1955. The climbers ahead of us had stayed at the hostel the night before, an ideal choice for getting a proper early start on the route.

The Glenmalure Lodge was a perfect stop before the 2-hour drive home and this was my order for myself! A new reference point for thirst!

Friday 23 June 2017

Mizen to Malin 2017

Night 1: Leg 1: Mizen to Schull

Day 1: Leg 2 Schull to Tralee

Kevin 12:21

Kevin 00:22

Tough enough day today. 140km to Tralee. 5.5 hours saddle time, but over 8 hours from start to finish. Lovely weather, lovely scenery. Two significant climbs, Caha pass and molls gap, but each of those is not steep and fairly steady. Just long. While 6 of us did a longer spin two weekends ago, we all felt grand after it. Made us all think we were sorted. But, same guys, me included, have fairly sore tired legs after today...not good!

Not a whole lot of craic after dinner tonight... Lots off to bed early, those that stayed were pretty quiet.

175km planned tomorrow to get to Galway, so it's new territory there. Must go to bed!

Day 2: Leg 3: Tralee to Galway

Kevin 08:06 

Heading out soon, heading for the ferry!

Kevin 16:05
Galway bay
Kevin 16.10 

Gorgeous... That cycle from Lahinch to here in Kinvara [inland] was one of the best ever...

Conor 22:09

Good day today. Left Tralee at 8:30 and were well on target for the ferry at Tarbert at 10:30. A puncture for one of the two lads with disc brakes meant it had to be fixed so we barely made it. Got off at Killimer and headed for Cooraclare and to Quilty. It was Wild Atlantic Way to Lahinch from there with a good breeze behind us. Lunch was at one of the lad's mother's house. We were of again by 2:00 and made our way through mid-Clare, Ennistymon, Kilfinora, etc to end up in Kinvara by 4:00. Time for a pint and we rolled out of there to Kilcolgan. From there it was a bit of a grind to Galway city and we arrived here at 5:40. 

Another big day awaits tomorrow!!

Preparation... And...nutrition! 😲

Day 3: Leg 4: Galway to Bundoran

Conor 20.10

Day 4: Leg 5: Bundoran to Malin

Conor 09:20
Getting there...

A few brief comments on yesterday's final stage. Kevin will have a different perspective as he is a fit as could be. 

The grand plan was to be in the road for 7:00 so that we would be finished by 3:00 - it didn't work out that way. The start was delayed to try and avoid rain but we were all fairly wet by the time we got to Donegal town. Barnesmore Gap was a grind but beautiful, even in poor enough weather. After the descent to Stranorlar and Ballybofey, the tone was set for the rest of the day as long drags started to feature - a killer after three long days (unless you are Kevin). In fact Kevin matched one of the Athlone dudes, Michael, whenever he felt like it. 

Ballybofey to Letterkenny was the worst of the weather so lunch at 10:45 was very welcome. Most lads did a near complete change of gear, especially top layers. Having that option highlighted the value of a support vehicle. From there to Buncrana was enjoyable as spirits were good. After coffee and the purchase of slabs of beer it was time to push on, on into a beautiful bog-land wilderness to Carndonagh. Sharon's sister, Michelle, gave us the lights as she passed us on the way to a call-out and Kevin had a lovely welcome from Maire and John McGeoghegan in Carndonagh who waited on the street to see us. 

The last leg was really scenic as the sun came out for us. We rolled along the coast before turning inland and up (some more) short steep ramps. Once we were within 5km we could see the tower at the headland so we pushed on in great spirits. One final push was needed to cover the last 500m as the road climbed steeply to the finish line at 4:20. I'm glad it wasn't a climb that I knew about as it was, at a guess, over 10% with a few bends at 15%. 

Cue great celebrations and relief and silly photos as we could finally say that the job was done. 
It sounds silly, but the return journey framed the achievement for me. I broke each day down into segments and tried to avoid the thoughts of long daily distances. It took a long time to get home and that's what made me realise, "Christ, this was a huge undertaking!" I got to bed at 2:30 but really glad to have knocked it off. I'm sore today, but the memories will live forever and the legs will be fine tomorrow.

The last few minutes of Mizen to Malin captured on Adrian's GoPro here! What a relief to get up that last steep little hill and see the painted "Start/Finish" on the ground! Kudos to all the team!

That's the elation at knocking it off! Bloody great day!
678 km, c. 5,500 m of vertical ascent.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 2017

Amstel Gold sportive 
15 April 2017 
150km and 1,600m of climbing 
15,000 particpants 

Back from the Amstel, I survived, Kevin thrived. He was something else.

 Saturday didn't dawn well as gloomy early morning light was dappled with sporadic raindrops on the windows. The so-called Amstel Gold breakfast was inadequate, I doubt if it would have fortified a doggy for sitting in a window, let alone a body facing 7 hours or more on the saddle. We collected rented bikes from a warehouse and pedaled down to register. With all of that done, we rolled out at 9:30 in chilly, misty conditions.

The severity of the challenge became apparent as heavier showers punctuated the mist. With many parts of the route trailing through open upland meadows there was no shelter from a sometimes gusting but always present wind. The first foodstop came after 49 km, it was in a field that wouldn't look out of place in the ploughing championships. It was a low point as we stood around shivering while Redmond Burke fixed his second puncture. We literally had to get going before the cold paralysed is but some 30 mins later Redmond was fixing his third puncture. He eventually resolved the puncture trilogy and after we had completed two really good, even climbs we all met up again at the point where the borders of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet. This social occasion included coffee, chips and Paul Quinlan warming his feet while trying to dry his socks at a very swanky open fire.

At that stage, with 82 km completed and a descent ahead I was feeling more optimistic. Little did I know that the sight of heaven and the finish was to require a further purgatory as short, jagged climbs with average gradient of 8% and ramps of double that signposted the closing 50 km. Kevin didn't put a foot down while I cracked and crumbled on three of them. In truth only one was a source of later reproach as I just can't do beyond 10%. Meanwhile Kevin crowned his day by passing multitudes in the Keutenberg, (the steepest hill in the Netherlands, average of 11% which begins with 22%.

We eventually came down into Valkenburg and swung left on to the iconic Cauberg hill, one last km at 7% with 12% shortly after it commenced. I was out on my feet but stayed in the saddle and ground it out. The last 1800m of flat was pure relief and a place that seemed so far away for so much of the day. After a quick beer we solved a transport issue by having some of us cycle back to Maastricht. I didn't care, it was a level road, one of the few I had been on that day.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Athlone Flatline Half marathon 2016

The last two years I have gone with the 1.45 pacer and lasted half way through the bog, to about the 9 or 10k mark, keeping the pacing balloon within sight. But the last half and especially the last quarter I have slowed and suffered. Those year's I had a modest 240k training done in the preceding 3 months but this year I had done just 160k, 70% or previous, but I was hoping having gone to the gym twice a week since November - for the first tine in my life - would stand to me!

There I was at the start and I met a lad I was planning on seeing but had not arranged, another Tom C, right by the 1.50 balloon. Tom was going out with them and see how he got on, ideal, the gun went and I set off, after a little bit I noticed Tom a stride ahead and I joined him. We got around some runners and into open space, I spotted the pace balloon ahead, grand. The Endomondo lady on my phone said 5.04kph for the first k and then 4.45kph for the 2nd, why were they going so fast? Checking the app as I write -which I have used to track my running for all my half marathon training the last few years - I set a PB for 3 miles at 23min 24 sec. Not my plan! The ks continued at just over 5min\k pace and at about 7k I asked someone why the 1.50 pacers were going so hard, I was told it was the 1.45! Bollocks - game plan out the window.

Of course, I felt pretty decent and started dreaming of breaking the 1.45 and surely 1.50 was in the bag to give me a PB. I got to 10k just over 50min, not too far off my 10k best made in my only running of that as a singular event. I was still 3 telephone poles off the 1.45 pacing balloon. Looking at Endomono afterwards, I did a PB for 1 hour - 11.88k. Coming out on the main road was at 13k and then there was a slight downhill for 2k before tucking back into the bog road. I targeted the road, but the pace was dropping down to 5.17kph at 12 - I can recover this. I hit the main road and where are the family, who've always been at the finish line the previous 2 years and I never saw them cause I was too far gone. This time, they are viewing from here and the finish. Looks like they've stationed themselves well up the road. 14k. 5.20kph. Where are they? I wave in the distance at the wrong group.  Ahh, there they are! Great, cheers, nice buzz. "Jimmy is winning" I hear Cadhla fade in the distance. Memories of doing the Athlone Olympic tri 5 years before when it still ran and cycling this road at 30kph with Malie having made a poster and out at the top of our old estate. But that is only a memory as I write, as I run I am not able to think of anything.

Almost immediately after I pass them I feel myself dropping and slowly punters pass. They pass in the car on the way to the finish line and I am helpless. I tuck back into the bog. At this point last year I had a stitch, this year I chugged 600ml 2.5 hours before the race, 150ml 25 min before, 70-100ml (1 gulp is about 30ml) at the water stops at 3m, 6m and 10+m. I felt different, I knew I was stronger this time. But damn, I could not run faster, 16k, 5.33. 5k left and I just can't run faster, I want to stop. This is so bloody hard, why am I doing this? Never do this again. People are stopping and walking. I want to stop too. Whatever you do, don't stop lad. 18k, 5.59kph, I've felt myself go backwards, punters have been passing me and it's continuing. The road turns back in from the bog, will it ever end, 20k, 6.11kph. Last turn home straight, keep an eye out for the family, this time, Gawd damn it. There's Malie, there they are, awesome. She has her hand out, she wants to finish with me, great, I put my hand out but don't turn and make sure she grabs it and the moment is gone. 50m, I can sprint this, go, take 3 lads, just at the line I break it with some lad. I turn and it's Tom C, I have pipped him at the line, he shakes my hand.

Meters passed the line I sit down and don't move for 20min I think. Laura passes over the chocolate milk, I take the one for Tom C as well, where is he, I wonder when he'll come in, I must go down to the runner's exit and look for him. Can you find me a blanket, the shivers kick in, Laura has one brought from home, the ambulance lads's unwrapped this other one. Tony can you get me another cup of coke. I get up what seems like 20min later and am unsteady.

Eventually, I bump into Tom C, I've stashed his milk in Christine's bag after having it under my blanket all that time. He reminds me I pipped him on the line, I had blanked that. Tom C had won the M60 last year and beat his time by 7 or 8 minutes this year but a Trim AC runner came in at 1.39 and a Ballina AC runner at 1.41, leaving his title in tatters but he still had a podium finish! The results were posted on the fence, we finished 404 and 405th, me 1sec ahead in 1.53.48. Check out my "sic sprint" to finish (barely moving): 

So a couple of minutes slower than last year. I have realised that there are no shortcuts in this game to the long road miles. Also, next time I'm going with the 1.50s pacer mos def! I also discovered a recovery secret - a 45min power nap in the afternoon :-)

It was the 5th running of the flatline, a brilliantly organised and run event which takes a lof of effort from the committee.

Friday 16 September 2016

Meacan Déarg

Carrot Ridge, Gleann Eighneach, Binn an Choire, Connemara,
370m Diff
Sunday 17 July 2016

So I picked up Matt at 8.30 in his hotel in Athlone, later than ideal but a good compromise with him just having arrived from Chicago the day before; we met Colm at 9.30 in Galway city. With a coffee stop and finding literally the only parking spot on the Recess Kylemore road we left the car at 11.30. We hiked in via sheep trails, following the river into Gleann Eighneach, having to cross this before hiking up to the hidden base of Carrot Ridge - a tough ascent carrying packs.

Matt insisted on hiking in flip flops (one of his trade marks) and one strap spit before reaching the base with him finishing in bare feet. I got a big shock when i opened my bag and found no climbing shoes, seeing them in my head in the side pocket of my climbing gear bag in my room where I swapped bags to a 45L :-(

We started up the route at 1.30 carrying 2 packs and with me and Matt swapping leads, Colm was in the middle tied into a 60m and 50m to Matt and myself respectively. The grade was run out Diff (5.3, maybe some 5.4) and I managed to lead fine in boots.

We had the whole valley to ourselves, it was incredibly peacefully up there with a distant sound of the river Inagh and the endless sheep. We ate lunch on a wonderful ledge up at the top of pitch 6 before the rain came in. We couldn't see the road or any signs of civilisation, proper remote, I haven't experienced much if any of that in Ireland.

The climb was 370m, climbing,ie says, on lovely quartzite and after 8 pitches the last 100m was a gorgeous 100m clean rock scramble. It's so special being high on rock after a step hike into the base. On the route there was an amazing view of Seventh Heaven (HS) to the west against the skyline (see this topo), a 8 pitch route with plenty of 30m 4b run out I'm told. I'll be dreaming about it!

We topped out at 5.30 with the last hour-ish in rain, the rain, which had finally blown in from the west, was not too bad and didn't ruin things. Then we had a nasty descent down a scree slope \ moving boulders. Matt hiked down in his climbing shoes down to the flat before switching to the ripped flip flop. With a bum knee flaring up for Matt it was close to 8 by the time we were all back to the car. Epic. Great to be alive.

Named Meacan Buí, Colm's brother, who lives in the Gaeltacht, told him that means parsnip and it should have been called Meacan Déarg!
I highly recommend this amazing mountain experience at our doorstep here in Ireland.

Friday 11 December 2015

Lynam Lecture & Medal 2015 - Ines Papert

Last night at the Edmund Burke Lecture theatre in Trinity College Dublin, Ines Papert got presented with the Joss Lynam Medal for 2015 by the Mountaineering council of Ireland, see their review of the night.

The Lynam medal was first awarded in 2011 and here is the complete lst of winners.

Ines Papert's account of her first ascent completed on Mount Asgard in Baffin Island was fascinating and included a 60k walk-in with intense river crossings.

She got into paragliding as she hates walking down. An excellent multimedia presentation. Gift.

Subscribe via FeedBurner