The Waterford Half Marathon

The Waterford Half Marathon was the penultimate race of the year, the PB day, the last race of the season and I had big plans.

I was nervous and couldn’t get to sleep that night. Although I knew it didn’t matter and that adrenaline would get me through the race anyway, it was something I didn’t need to be worrying about.

I was quite in the car on the way to the race but was satisfied with the thought of the season being over in what I hoped would be another 1:25 hours of racing.

The feeling on the start line was heavy. A small man from a club I didn’t recognise spoke to me as I was doing the obligatory last minute warm up.

“This your first one?”, he asked.

I tell him it’s my second but that I hope to break the 1:30 mark.

“Just go with the race” he said “there will be plenty more races to worry about your time”, he nods.

I thanked him and wished him luck.

The countdown begins and we are off. A downhill start sets the tone of the race. We bomb down the hill at a 3:47km pace. A stupid pace for someone who hopes to run 21kms but I was ‘going with the flow’.

 

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The first km; All praise belongs to the photographer

My legs felt good for the first three kilometres, then I noticed a hint of fatigue beginning to creep in.

That feeling of utter helplessness and panic descended, even though I was running hard and hitting 4:30km pace I couldn’t keep up with the 1:30 hour pacer.

At around 5km we were running through an industrial estate. With nothing to keep my mind off the panic, I had a little pep talk with myself. I began to embrace the fact I was hurting and I knew that no matter what happened from here on in, it was going to hurt and it was going to be my best effort in my current circumstances.

The only problem was I had told everyone what my goal had been. I did this to add pressure that would hopefully translate to performance on the day. While it didn’t make me reach my goal, it sure helped over the last 3km.

The course was horribly boring for the most part. Main roads, industrial estates and then more main roads. There was one back road which was semi scenic, although the county council had decided to fill the pot holes with loose gravel earlier that week, which believe me, my Asics Gel DS Racers 11 didn’t absorb.

img_3011Three times I had to stop during this race. That is three more than any other race I’ve ever been in. This race kicked my ass. The first time was a quick toilet stop, the second happened on the crest of the hill that conveniently arrived at approximately mile 11.

This hill was the straw that nearly broke my back. Running up it on shattered quads that had taken the beaten of downhill for the last 10 miles really was a shock to the system. I seized up and had to stop for a breather.

The third time was a weakness of character in the sense that I was going to just give up about 2km from the finish. I had to push on even though I had hit the wall completely. I could feel every step and it hurt… a lot.

Coming onto the home stretch was genuinely one of the happiest moments in my life. I could see the finish although my legs had finish 2kms ago.

waterford-halfComing over the line was such a relief. I didn’t collapse but I came damn close.

I learned to really respect the distance that day. Even though it was the pace that killed me.

I believed I could get away with running it at a 10km pace. I learned my lesson but I’ll be back again.

Check out the Strava segment here; https://www.strava.com/activities/792162679

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Run the Line 2016

Run the Line was my favourite event from this season for a lot of reasons but mostly because I slowed down and just enjoyed running.

This as a concept is easy to grasp. However, this race came a week before my target race of the year, the Waterford Half Marathon. I had been getting into the mind set for weeks; run fast and run hard was my adopted motto.

The day of the race arrived and I picked it because it was tough and technical and I knew I would have to take it slow. 13km of steep ascents and twisting downhill trials… the perfect challenge.

The weather was cold but dry and we set off ten minutes after the 26km race from the parking lot of a pub located at the bottom of the Wicklow/Dublin mountains.

I began slow at a 6/km pace which felt weird, although inspired confidence into me as my legs felt strong.

img_2985I was glad I wore leggings as the initial ascent was plagued by thorns and the occasional nettle. It was a small trail where we all were forced into single file.

I spent most of my time looking at the feet in front of me so not to clip their heel.

The ascent was beautiful; small trails that occasionally opened into a vast woodland where I had to be on the lookout for not only low lying branches but tree stomps and roots.

This style of racing was enjoyable. Although training in the trails for six weeks before hand, I had only run one other trail race before this so I took my time and became aware of the surrounding sights.

Once at the top of the trails it opened into a dirt road for about 2km before heading into the steepest part of the run which brought us up to the peak. We ran through bog like trails before finding our footing on a generously sized walkway that took us right up to the rock pile on the very top of the mountain.

Descending has always been a weakness in my running technique. I just can’t seem to open up the legs and hips and let them completely carry me. My cadence is slow compared to most that were running past me and I felt clunky.

 

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Photos by actionphotography.ie

Although, before I knew it I was at 9km and feeling good. Descending allowed my legs to rest up a little from the ascend which was a nice contrast from road races where your legs are under pressure for the whole race.

Despite not being good at descending I enjoyed it. The level of concentration added a new dimension to the challenge at foot and fully engaged me. I presume it is the same effect as climbing Croagh Patrick bare footed.

Trial running is defiantly a new lease of life for any runner who is looking for a little more adventure. The Wicklow and Dublin mountains was a great venue and made this race memorable. The view was great, the challenge greater and the people and volunteers were encouraging and good fun.

 

Check out the Strava segments here; https://www.strava.com/activities/786170204

Tour De France facts

This year’s Tour De France was as dramatic as world class cycling gets. With Chris Froome successfully defending his title again and Irish man Dan Martin securing a top 10 finish.

  1. In 1989, famous cyclist Greg LeMonde won the Tour with 35 shotgun bullets in his body. This was as a result of a hunting accident two years before.
  2. Four riders have died while competing in the Tour. Fabio Casartelli crashed on a decent at 88km/h. Tom Simpson died of a heart attack while attempting to climb the infamous Alpe d’Huez in 1967. In 1935  Francisco Cepeda died after suffering a crash into a revine and Adolphe Heliere passed away after drowning on a rest day.
  3. The oldest stage winner was Firmin Lambot in 1922. He was 36 years old.
  4. The youngest stage winner Henri Cornet in 1904. He was 19 years old.
  5. The average amount of calories used by a rider per day is 5,900 calories. The average man only needs 2,500 calories.
  6. The heaviest rider in the Tour was 97kg. This accolade goes to Swedish rider Magnus Backstedt. This quite large when compared to most riders weighing in at 60-70kg.
  7. 13,000 Gendarmes (French Police) conver the Tour every year. They even came to Yorkshire in 2013 to cover the race. (The Tour started in England in 2013)
  8. Throughout the three weeks of the race, more than 790 bicycle tyres are used by the riders.
  9. The overall winner will receive a prize of €450,000. This will usually be split between the other riders in the team.

The 2014 tour was 2,276 miles long; the longest route was recorded in 1926 at 3,570 miles. 42,000 bottles were used by the teams in this year’s Tour. Over the course of the Tour, riders will sweat enough to flush a toilet 39 times. So, now do you think cycling has earned the title of the toughest sport in the world?

Asics ‘Beat the Sun’

The race around the Sun

On the 21st of June each year, 48 athletes from all parts of the globe take part in an epic race around Mont Blanc. ‘Asics Beat the Sun’ is organised by Laurent Ardito and is infamously referred to as the toughest race in the world.

The race started in Chamonix last June at 5.42 am. Six athletes stood at the starting line just as the sun began to rise. The race’s objective is to run around Mont Blanc before the sun sets. The race starts and finishes in Chamonix.

Each runner will run two of the twelve stages and have 15 hours 41 minutes to get through 140.1km of running, spanning three different countries.

As this year marks the third year of the race it was decided that the course was to be run in reverse.

There are 8 teams. Team Europe North, Team Europe South, Team Europe Central, Team Americas 1, Team Americas 2, Team East Asia, Team Asia Pacific and Team Africa. The teams are comprised of three amateurs and three experts. This year, the amateurs were selected from over 30,000 applications.

This year’s race was regarded as the toughest one yet. Not just in terms of length, but it saw the athletes hitting huge altitudes, so far up that they had to wade through snow.

For many of the athletes, this was their first time seeing snow.

It was a dramatic race. By stage 5, the two Asian teams were out of contention and the lead team was twenty minutes behind the sun.

The weather conditions became so treacherous that stage seven, the stage that would require harnesses and climbing axes, was cancelled last minute. Instead a slightly less dangerous route was chosen to take its place.

Coming in at 20.34, Team Europe North finished in first place with GB’s Matty Hynes leading the team home. They beat the sun by 51 minutes, and the next team by 40 minutes.

Europe South was next with twelve minutes to spare followed by Europe Central who were six minutes’ shy of beating the sun.

One year I would love to run the parts of the route they followed. Maybe not as part of the race but part of a holiday.  These guys really are inspirational and I really recommend you watch the video on YouTube.