Everything aches today, and it is to be expected. The rain held off on Saturday, and the temperature was good in the Mournes (not too warm, with a nice breeze), the real challenge was the state of the wet ground underfoot. In places the conditions could only really be described as a bog, with feet sinking up to a foot in depth, and shoes coming out caked in a rich, gloopy, soft mud. I took each stream crossing as an opportunity to get rid of some of the drying, caked on mud from my shoes, and the coolness of the water eased my aching feet. The organisation was first class: the route well marked, and staff at all stops were in great form, and very helpful, with cake, water and oranges galore. For me, in the ultra, the toughest part was the route from Kilbroney park to Donard park, the first marathon, as each step is a move away from the ultimate destination. It’s also about knowing that all the tough ground covered will be met on the return. Though I was running solo for most of the distance, I enjoyed the chat as I was passed, or I occasionally overtook other ultra runners. The two Dave’s deserve a special mention as I really enjoyed their company as I flew along for about an hour at their fast pace, until I realised I needed to pull back or run out of steam on the way back. From the results online it looks like they achieved an amazing time of 10 hours 30. The turn around point was a welcome stop, and time to enjoy a couple of sandwiches and extra liquid. I reduced the number of gels this year, compared with last, as I know I get fed up and nauseated over time by their sickliness. This time I made much more use of trail mix, cakes and oranges (supplied at each water stop) and flapjacks, and my stomach thanked me for it. On the return my legs were suffering and I felt very tired. Another 26 miles seemed an immense distance, so I broke the journey down into distances to the next water stops i.e. 8, 14, 17, 20, 23 miles, rewarding myself at each with some sort of treat – I was getting cravings for the salt in the cashews I’d brought. Eventually, and it felt like days later, I arrived in the forest heading towards Kilbroney park. For a short while I enjoyed the company of a friendly marathoner, over from Bristol (Carl I think). Though I soon had to let him head off, as again the pace was too much up some of the smaller inclines. The last 3 miles were a real effort, but as I finally reached the sloping grass of Kilbroney park I savoured the feeling of success, and my name being called out over the tannoy. 52 miles is a long way, over mud, rock, and through water, up and down the mountains, but its something that you will never forget. Congratulations to all who took part in the challenge, and thanks to the organisers ‘Extreme 26’ – an excellent job – but also to all the other runners and supporters for their good wishes – including the lady from Murlough AC who supplied me with Jelly Beans and a banana up the road from Fofanny dam.
There are some runners who experience running in a way that the rest of us running mortals can only but dream of. Joss Naylor, a hero of fell running is one, and until recently, another was an almost entirely unknown, Michael Randall Hickman – known by the Mexican indians, as Caballo Blanco, or the white horse. His approach to running was simple, and captured in ‘Born to Run’ (McDougall), his wisdom was simple ” think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t [care] how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.” Caballo Blanco was found, apparently asleep beside a mountain stream, though his legend will live on. Read the fully story.
The 2012 Wicklow Way Ultra (check out the excellent photos by Lindie Naughton), Saturday 24th March, began at 9:30 am in front of the Johnnie Fox pub in Glencullen, just south of Dublin, on a gloriously sunny and warm spring day. All involved were friendly and welcoming and there was plenty of light hearted banter. It wasn’t long before we were on our way on the out and back journey of 31 miles along the brutally hilly – with a total ascent of 2000 metres – Wicklow way. After the two main ascents and descents out, and almost 16 miles across trails and even planks, the halfway point was reached, with a chance to pick up additional food and drink from the waiting drop bags. Minutes later it was time to head back and face the ascents and descents in reverse this time – enjoyable long downhills became energy sapping pushes up hill. The scenery was amazing, and the Wicklow Way well signposted – though I still managed to miss a couple of sharp turns. The last 5 miles seemed to last an eternity, but with a great relief I finished back in Glencullen in 6 hours 35, and was rewarded with a warm congratulations, a cup of water and a fine, locally crafted mug. All in all an extremely friendly, and very challenging event, which I will definitely return to.
Following on from the last two year’s of the 24 hour track event, held in Belfast at the Mary Peter’s track, this year the utra endurance challenge will be based in Bangor. John O’Regan won last year’s event with a staggering (literally) run of 132 miles round the track, with Deirdre Finn clocking an incredible 112 miles – see the BBC report. This year, due to work on the Mary Peter’s track, the event will be held in Bangor on the 6th July 2012.
In 1982 Julie Moss was leading the women in the then, relatively new (began in 1978), Ironman triathlon, held in Hawaii: she was a student with limited training, and this was the first event of this type she had ever taken part in. Her finish, caught on camera, and shared across the US and beyond, rocketed the Ironman into the publics consciousness. Well worth a watch to see what guts and determination are all about after swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running 26 miles. Julie Moss
If you fancy a purpose to the long training runs at the weekend, then take a look at the Wicklow Way Ultra – 51km, 1940m climbing, and the beautiful setting of the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.
Its hard to imagine a more beautiful location for a one, or two day long run or walk. Hadrian’s wall is in the far north of England, and was begun in AD122, marking the very edge of the Roman Empire. If you are interested in running this 69 mile iconic route checkout ‘The Wall’.
The Mourne Mountain Marathon is now in its 32nd year, and takes place – obviously – in the beautiful setting of the Mourne Mountains. The event, staffed by volunteers, is an endurance and navigation event that takes over the course of two days this coming weekend. The competitors will be visiting checkpoints whilst carrying enough equipment to camp out overnight, and weight will be a key consideration. Good luck, and lets hope the weather stays fine.
On Saturday I realised just how far 52 miles really is – and if it’s not an obvious thing to say, it is a really long way.
I started the day at 3 am, eating a large bowl of porridge, and drinking both powerade, and a large mug of coffee. A friend gave us a lift in his new BMW X5, and we travelled in style down to Kilbroney park. Feeling full of anticipation we registered for the 52 mile ultra, run by 26 Extreme – the same day as the Mourne Way Marathon, Half Marathon and Challenge Walk. The crew were friendly and the 54 athletes (42 of which were to finish) – of varying abilities toed the line, and we set off. Mentally I had broken the run down into the distances to the next aid station (written on the back of my phone) – where bananas, some very nice cake, and water were available to us. This gave us, on the way out 6 miles to Leitrim lodge, 3 miles to Hen mountains, 4 miles to OTT mountain, 5 miles to Trassey track, and then a final long run to Donard park of 8 miles. On the return there was one extra stop resulting in 8 miles to Trassey track, 5 miles to OTT, 4 miles to Hen, 3 miles to Leitrim, 3 miles to Yellow water, and a final 3 miles to Rostrevor.
The first 26 miles from Rostrevor to Newcastle, were tough but manageable. We covered some extremely marshy, wet ground to the first two stops, and without realising fully our strength was being sapped as we hopped and jumped from boulder to dry patch, to grass clump. We were in great spirits, and though the ground was wet the weather was good – cool, just right with a slight breeze. I had set my watch to beep every 30 minutes, and even if I didn’t want to I took either a Torq gel (strawberry and yoghurt proved a great success) or a Mule Bar (see my other review). I drank regularly (Citrus Zero Electrolyte), and used a hydration pack, bought very cheaply from Decathlon, which proved a great success. On my feet I opted for my waterproof Inov8 Roclite 318’s, and suffered minimal blistering over the course of the day. Before we knew it we had passed Spelga, and Fofanny and our quarter way point. I felt great, almost unstoppable. My only real mistake on my route to the half way point at Donard Park was to stop at Trassey track and not fill up my hydration bladder fully: I hadn’t noticed that it had creased over, so when I topped up I probably only added a quarter of a fill. The last leg was a full 8 miles, and though the track through Tollymore was good, we were slowed by the wet crossing to Donard park, and then a final descent. By then I felt severely dehydrated, and my energy had crashed as I couldn’t face any energy gel’s without fluid. I had texted my wife to bring the bottles of powerade from the back of the car, and as we arrived at the halfway point, that was the first thing I reached for.. We opened our drop bags and I changed socks, my merino wool top, and applied duck tape to my big toe on my left foot, as it had begun to blister. After eating a couple of ham sandwiches, and pouring two bottles of powerade into my pack I felt my energy levels restored, we turned round and set off.
The return journey would be tough, physically and mentally, but as we headed out we received a big cheer from both family and friends, and from the marathoners waiting to start. We turned the corner and began a fast walk up one of the first of many hills on the return journey, before running again, trying to digest the food that we had stuffed down far too quickly. The trip back to Trassey went by fairly easily, though the food, and the running meant an urgent stop in the woods, which ultimately made me feel much better. Another refill at Trassey for water, and I dropped in a couple of electrolyte tablets. During the course of the run I believe I must have drank about 8 litres, which seemed plenty, but my toilet stops became less frequent indicating otherwise. It was after Fofanny, at the 3 quarter mark, a total of 39 miles in when I felt truly exhausted – totally spent. We made it to the road, and I walked for a while – feeling mentally and physically in a dark place. Had a not trained enough and this was the payback, or was I just never meant to perform such a feat? Either way, I just plodded on, and focussed on getting to OTT and then Hen in my own private hell. At Hen I took my first couple of ibuprofen, and whether that, or the forced intake of carbohydrated every 30 minutes, I started to feel better. Even the waterlogged ground between Hen, Leitrim and Yellow water didn’t dampen my spirits. Though all of my body ached, I now knew I would finish. We pushed on, and on, and the miles ever so slowly drifted by. We passed Yellow water and we knew we had only 3 miles to do. All three of us ran in a line for most of those final miles. By now we hardly spoke but we didn’t have to – we were going to make it. All the training, the doubts the nerves, and the last minute purchases were worth it. After a seemingly never ending few miles we were at the bottom of the long, slow hill we had ran up many hours earlier, and we entered Kilbroney park. Proudly we almost sprinted down the hill, the soft ground gentle on our pained legs. My wife, and one of our friends were there to cheer us in, along with a reasonable crowd watching the unfolding events of the day.
As the crowd cheered, we had the biggest of grins, and we knew we were home. 52 miles, over 7000 thousand feet of climbs, and we had done it, in a little over 12 hours. After standing in the ice water baths, we had hot showers, a burger and a coffee and the pain was ‘almost’ forgotten. The real pain hit the next morning when I went to get out of bed, but painkillers sorted that one. A great event, and really well run, with great support from all involved.
Check out our video taken by mobile phone
and the great official photos.