Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Trekking poles and back packs

So after a few days of short runs during last week after the moonlight marathon my legs finally started to feel less heavy and I managed a comfortable 8mile run on Friday morning.

On Sunday I decided to return to the trails as I really wanted to try out the trekking poles I got at the end of December and last week I also picked up a new backpack.

The poles I picked up were the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, normally fairly steep but I managed to get a very, very good discount which means I could justify going over my initial budget of €30 for trekking poles.   

The pack I picked up was the Ultimate Direction HARDROCKER VEST 2018-2019, its an end of line backpack so I got it well over 50% off the normal price. It'll replace my Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek 2.0 Ultra pack which I picked up in Oct 2014 in prep for training for my first 100mile race.

Sunday's trail run was a 7.30am start on Slievenamon with a group of us and one of the guys even brought his dog for the 12-mile run, it was -6c but the views were lovely, just stunning.   The route was the normal 12mile circuit of Slievenamon which mainly follows fire road around the base of the mountain, some bog and some open mountain.

Conditions on the circuit were very icy and the polls saved me from at least 2 or 3 falls on my arse, overall the polls certainly made any hilly sections easier but I was curious of just what benefits I'd find on the most difficult sections.

Specifically, I wanted to test the polls on a section called "Waterworks Hill", this is a very boggy section of the trail and its always slow going as its very uneven, your feet sink and its very wet.
But without a doubt the polls made it far easier, I set a new personal record of 12:58 beating my previous best of 17:07.   Of course, there is a caveat here, this section was frozen due to the cold temperatures so the ground was hard, I'll need to give it another test under proper wet and boggy conditions.


The next  real test of the poles on the route was the section we describe as "That f**ken wall!", this is the right-hand shoulder of Slievenamon at about mile 11 of the run and its a killer of a steep climb, by far the hardest section.  I set a new record for this section of 12min 19sec, beating my previous best of 12:21 also set with polls. Without polls, my best time was 14:24 so its clear the polls have a big a benefit in making upward progress.

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
Overall, it has been a positive experience and regardless of if they are in your hands or stored at the front of the pack, I can honestly say you'd hardly notice you have them due to the low weight. They also don't bounce which means they are not annoying to carry either.

Ultimate Direction HARDROCKER VEST 2018-2019
As for the new Ultimate Direction pack, this is my second Ultimate direction pack.   I got my first Scott Jurek Ultra 2.0 pack back in October 2014 and its served me very well through hundreds of miles of training and races.

But, it does have a few issues. For starters, it has hard water bottles which aren't terribly comfortable and also as you drink your water the water sloshes around and this can get irritating while running.   Due to this, I had actually given up using the Ultimate Direction bottles in favour of reusing a normal water bottle which I'd crush down as I use the water in it, this stops it making noise.

By comparison, the Hardrocker vest comes with Ultimate Direction body bottles which are soft and shrink down as you drink your water, so this change is very much welcome.

The pack itself is much bigger then the Scott Jurek Ultra 2.0 overall,  the Scott Jurek Ultra 2.0 had a 7litre storage capacity, by comparison, the Hardrocker has 10litres. The pocket design is much better with storage for everything including a GPS (if you needed to carry one) and it also has lots of smaller pockets suitable for gels.

The pocket selection at the back is also better, the Scott Jurek Ultra 2.0 had three large pockets but the Hardrocker has three large and one small, one of the large pockets is also open so its ideal for easily getting in/out a jacket without messing about with zips.

So far I'm very happy with the pack design and hopefully, it'll get years of use to come.



Saturday, January 18, 2020

Ballyhoura Moonlight Marathon Challenge 2020 Race Report

The first race of the year and I picked a fairly challenging one!

Not only was it a marathon, but it was a trail marathon starting at 9pm and to top it off I was sick the week before it and still not 100% at the time of doing the race, so here goes with my race report.

Given the late start for the race, I took it nice and easy on Friday as I knew it was going to be a long night.     The plan was to catch a lift with Jaime, Ger and Paul to Kilfinane for the start of the race with the aim of leaving around 6pm,  sure this would mean we'd be at the start for around 7.30pm but it's better to be early rather than late to the start of the race.

Credit: MMRA - Munster Mountain Running Association
After a slight change of plan (Ger made his own way in the end), we arrived in plenty of time and very quickly the school where the event was starting/finishing began to fill up with people for the marathon and half-marathon.   It's been a good few months since I've done a marathon/ultra so it was nice to see some familiar faces and catch up with one or two people, also got to hear about some of their plans for 2020.

The start time quickly approached and before we headed out into the night there was a short briefing to cover the course, the importance of checking in halfway etc.  After a few minutes, we headed out the door and away we went.

Credit: Jp Tierney
The plan for this "race" was for it to be really a social run, meaning that myself, Ger, Paul and Jaime would plan to stick together and from the start this sort of worked.   But after 1mile in myself and Ger lost sight of Paul and Jaime and also there was a problem with a group of about 20+ who continued up the road rather than cutting up to the right into the first forest.

Heading into the wood was the first of the nights many, many climbs and instantly I could feel the effects of being ill the week before and also the lack of training but I knew things would likely even out once I'd got a bit of a workout.    

As myself and Ger ran through the wood we figured either Paul and Jaime had either gone way ahead or they had been part of the unlucky group who continued running down the road and missed the turn into the wood, we continued on through the forest and after a few miles we hit the first of the more awkward descents which involved lots and lots of mud.  Just as we hit the end of this Paul and Jaime arrived, it turned out they had been part of the unlucky group who didn't turn right into the wood.

From here on we stuck together for a few miles but as we approached mile 6 I managed to lose the group as we hit a section of the course which was a single file climb in an area called Darragh Beg, it also involved a loop of about 4miles which took in two hills, much of it single file track as well.

This section was challenging but was immense fun in parts, fog also started to roll in on these sections due to the elevation.  At around mile 9 I came across a runner who was down due to hurting their ankle, luckily for the runner there were people already looking after them.  As it turns out it would be a number of hours until they were safely off the mountain with South Eastern Mountain Rescue.

I continued on and returned to the single-file section at an area called Darragh Beg and from here on it was road from around mile 11 to mile 16. (Not ideal when you are wearing trail shoes!)

As the miles tipped by I finally arrived in at the checkpoint at mile 14 at the Ballyhoura Mountain Lodges which seemed like a nice wooded area to stay in, the requirement at the checkpoint wasn't just to run by it and pick up water etc but instead you had to ensure you signed your name so they knew you had passed through. The second I walked in I couldn't see as my glasses fogged up (the joys of glasses!) but thankfully a volunteer signed for me.  

By the time I arrived into the checkpoint all the half marathon had been through so there was next to no coke left, but I did get the last half cup full.  Even though there was no coke there was more than enough soup, sweets and anything else a person might want.

I filled up my water bottle, grabbed one or two things and headed out the door walking and eating....there is no benefit in sitting down to eat after all!

Shortly after the checkpoint as I was walking, I met up with Ray and JP who I've run a number of races with in the past, as it turns out JP was using the Ballyhoura Moonlight Marathon as training for the Wicklow Way Solo 127km race, they were making better progress than me so by the time we started to climb again I left them off.    

Just before mile 16 I began the long climb up Seefin and again the fog started to roll in, this climb continued until around mile 17.5miles and it was hard going especially with all the loose scree. Eventually, I hit the turnaround point near the summit and was fairly amazed to encounter a race steward at this section, it was fairly foggy here and the wind kept picking up now and then so it can't have been the nicest place to stand for the night.

After hitting the top I started the descent via the very, very muddy trail back into the wood, I'll admit at one point as I couldn't see anyone else or even a head torch light being reflected in the fog in front or behind me I thought I may have missed a turn.  But thankfully I didn't take any wrong turns and eventually burst out onto the fire road at the end of the mud trail!

From mile 21 to the finish around mile 27 was a mix of road, wooded areas and fields, some of the sections were particularly frustrating due to the level of mud which would cake under the shoes and make it awkward as hell to make any decent progress.    The last 2miles or so were just on road back to the finish and it felt pretty endless,

I eventually crossed the line in 05:50:12, full details can be found on my Garmin.


Overall the race was enjoyable, but I enjoyed upto mile 11 the most by far. After that, I found the road sections frustrating to run in trail shoes and the mud got to me in the later sections.

Also in hindsight I will say that given my lack of trail running and the climbs involved I would have benefitted from bringing the new trekking poles I picked up in December.   These would have likely knocked 10-15min off my time as I really found the mud slowed me down, also there were also plenty of people who were using them during the race.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A little bit of catching up!

A little bit of catching up to do on the events I've done since mid-November, so here goes.....

Stook 10mile:
Stook 10mile took place on the 17th November and I had planned to take the race relatively easy with the exception of the flying mile from mile 8-9.  I came in 54th with a time of 01:11:49 and finished the flying mile in 31st with a respectable time of 5:45.

Overall for a race where I didn't push things too much I was happy with the results.

SEMRA Long Way Round Mountain Run
Courtesy of South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association

The Long Way Round Mountain Run took place on the 23rd November and for a change, the course is a trail up the mountains near Clonmel. 

The run was a social run with a group of local trail runners so for pretty much all of the race we stuck together as a group.

For a social run, I came in 46th in a time of 1:25:30 which isn't bad considering I'm not as used to trail runs when compared to the road...they are ultimately harder!

Waterford Half Marathon:
The Waterford Half-Marathon took place on the 7th December and it was the last race of 2019 for me.

I always enjoy the Waterford half and I generally pull a decent enough time out of the bag from it, I've even set a few personal bests over the years.   Unforurntaly there were some last-minute changes with the planned course due to road works and this made for a much harder course especially in the last 3miles or so.

While I did head out with the 1:30 pacers and had sceptically planned for a new PB I dropped off the pacer group after around mile 9 and found the last few miles hard going. However, all in all I finished the half-marathon in 1:33:58
Not the PB I had hoped for but overall not a bad result considering the lack of specific training AND the harder course then expected.



Over the last few weeks, I've done some trail running up Slievenamon and kept up a decent amount of running around the Christmas period including 2x 20mile plus runs. 

After Christmas, I caught the bug that's going around which wiped out about 10 days of decent running,

So tomorrow I will be taking part in the Moonlight Marathon which kicks off at 9pm, I hope to be finished around the 5hr mark all going well.    I'd rather not be out all night after all :)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Countdown to Stook

After the ankle roll on Slievenamon and some easier runs and rest days my ankle was finally back to 100% so I decided to start the week with a nice fast 8mile, really enjoyable run and nice to finally push it after a week of easier recovery runs.

For the rest of the week I decided to start tapering off a little and did some much easier shorter runs with some rest days, for something a little different I opted for to join the South Leinster Trail Runners on a run on Friday night.
Courtesy Of Jaime Edwards

A really enjoyable run was had in the Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre as part of this group run. A good turnout as well!

Tomorrow is Stook 10mile so lets see if I can get myself a new PB for a 10mile!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The mountain of pain!

Firstly, I have some rough plans for 2020 already including doing the Dublin Marathon because I got a priority entry. So that's one event booked for starters.

However, the first event I'm planning to actually do and have also booked is the Ballyhoura Moonlight Marathon Challenge in January.

Given this is a trail marathon with 1000metres of gain I figured I better start doing some trail running so with that in mind I returned to do the Slievenamon Circuit.

I used to regularly run the Slievenamon Circuit especially before my first 100mile back in 2015, it basically follows the fire road around the base of the mountain but it is very challenging in areas and comes in at over 744metres of gain over 12miles.

So last Sunday myself and Paul decided to do the circuit, for him its no bother as he regularly runs it but for myself, it was a different story altogether given how long it was since I last ran it.
For something different Paul lent me some trekking poles to run with.

First thing first, the trekking poles made a noticeable difference and made the climbs far easier as I knocked between 1-2minutes off my best time for two of the harder sections.  I'm def planning to pick up a cheap pair of them for next time I do the circuit.

However, they didn't stop me rolling my left ankle twice, on the second roll I also fell and overall my legs took a real beating.

So due to this I ended up doing easy recover runs for the rest of the week and while they did help loosen things up my ankle still wasn't right so I decided to take Thursday and Friday as rest days to leave it finally heal up.

For now, I'm going to give the harder trail running a break and I'll start back properly once I've done the Waterford Half Marathon as its just too disruptive to my training for the legs to take the beating they've taken on Sunday.

Running this week
Sunday: 12.58miles @ 12:42min/mile
Monday: 3miles @ 8:58min/mile
Tuesday: 3.65miles @ 8:25min/mile
Wednesday: 3miles @ 7:52min/mile
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 3.35miles @ 7:27min/mile & 3miles @ 7:00min/mile

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The week of heavy legs

Took an easy week last week and no matter what the legs just felt awful heavy and the required effort for the pace I was doing was just not as expected because of this.

For the most part as the legs didn't feel right I did next to no running, however for Saturday instead of doing a LSR for 18-20miles I opted for a faster 13.1mile distance at a easy pace on a hilly route.  

The hilly route in question is Callan to Kells and back view Newtown, the Newtown road is a challenging run back but its a enjoyable route as the roads aren't very busy and I always enjoy running through Kells Castles.

Planning for a harder week next week.


Last weeks training was
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 6miles @ 7:48min/mile & 3.5miles @ 17:41min/mile
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 13.1miles @ 8:15min/mile
Sunday:Rest

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A man with a plan!

So I'm finally settling into some sort of routine after many months out of routine and its about time too! I also have some plans finally too!

Over the past few weeks I'm consistinately doing between 35-45miles per week which isn't a bad weekly total, my pace is also gradually improving and to help with that I've picked a goal for December.  I'm going to run the Waterford Half Marathon and I'm going to aim to beat my PB of 1:29.

It's perhaps a big ask and the last time I tried this last summer I managed just over 1:30.
To get an idea of how capable I am right now I did a 13.1mile distance last Monday and managed it in 1:35, not a bad time for a training run with effort. It wasn't all-out effort but I felt it none the less.

So my plan over the next few weeks is to rebuild my endurance first and then work on upping my pace, in preparation for the half marathon I also have some plans for:

17th Nov - Stook 10mile
23rd Nov - Long Way Round Mountain Run
7th Dec - Waterford Half Marathon


Is doing a mountain run of 9miles my best plan whilst training for a half marathon...properly not, but I always really enjoy the event and I like to support South East Mountain Rescue who organises the event.

Last weeks training was
Monday: 13.1miles @ 7:16min/mile pace
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 2miles @ 8:33min/mile pace
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 6miles @ 7:52min/mile
Saturday: 8miles @ 7:06min/mile
Sunday: 17miles @ 10:56min/mile

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A little run around Iceland

I've been busy as of late as I've been on holidays, for something totally different myself and Grace went on a cruise to Iceland at the start of September.

The trip was due to take in:
- Bristol, England
- Fore Islands
- Reykjavík, Iceland
- Ísafjörður, Iceland
- Akureyri, Iceland
- Seydisfjordur, Iceland

We made it to Bristol just fine but due to an incoming storm front our visit to the Faroe Islands was cancelled and instead of spending two days getting to Iceland we instead spent three days at sea with 6 metre swells which was not the most enjoyable experience as the ship was rolling a lot which didn't make for the best nights sleep!

Reykjavík, Iceland
We eventually made it to Reykjavík and took in a few sites, as we happened to be staying overnight I took the opportunity to get out early and do a 13mile run as a tour of Reykjavík.

While not a particular "pretty" city it (in comparison to many European citys) it was a lovely experience as Reykjavík has a nice network of footpaths and cycle paths around the city that aren't just next to main roads. This made the run a far, far nicer experience as the city is very heavily dependent on cars sadly.

Sun Voyager Sculpture on the sea front

View of the seafront from near the airport


Ísafjörður, Iceland
Our next stop was Ísafjörður which I also had some free time to get in a run. Ísafjörður was the furthest point up north that we went and while weather wasn't great the views and trails were really enjoyable and it was just a shame I didn't have my trail shoes and much more time to get in some of the trails.

As it turned out the trail I choose ended at one of the many tunnels around Iceland that go through mountains so I couldn't have gone any further,




Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Our last stop in Iceland was Seydisfjordur, there's not a lot in Seydisfjordur but it's still a pretty place with lots and lots of waterfalls nearby. 

I got in my final run during while I went just 100metres off the road and I discovered yet another waterfall.....if you like waterfalls Iceland is certainly the place to go!





Overall Iceland was really enjoyable and I'd love to go back and do a road trip in the future.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A little bump on the way to a routine

No sooner had I thought things were going well and I hit a slump,
Last Thursday the 22nd I went out for what should have been a 17mile LSR, however 2miles in I just wasn't feeling it and running was really an effort and the legs didn't feel right at all so I ended up walking.

Not to write the entire plan off I ended up walking from around mile 2-3 all the way to mile 11 when I finally got home,

Took two rest days after that and rolled my legs on Saturday and on Sunday morning things were starting to feel so much better and I managed a fairly respectable paced 3mile run on Sunday morning before work.

Monday was my day off and I had to get the car serviced and the timing belt done so I dropped the car to the garage and then ran the 7miles back home, saved me getting somebody to collect me and I pushed the pace on the route even though it was hillier then my usual routes!

Tuesday was back to another 7.5miles in order to collect the car from the garage, much harder when you've worked the day and your legs are tired from pushing the pace the day before.

Thursday: 11miles @ 14:18min/mile
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest
Sunday:3miles @ 7.10min/mile
Monday: 6.41miles @ 7.10min/mile
Tuesday: 7.57miles @ 7.38min/mile

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Getting back into a routine!

It's been ages and I still have some race reports to post (have to finish them!) but I figured I really need to get back into a routine with this running lark.   The past few weeks I've been fitting back into a morning run routine, its involved getting up at between 5-6am depending on my work start time but I feel better for it so its worth it.

Currently I have no races planned or booked and due to holidays and other commitments September isn't workable so I'm unable to do any of the half-marathons I'd otherwise like to do next month, I also didn't have much luck getting into the Dublin Marathon this year.   But I will still get some very different running in come September so I'm looking forward to that (more to follow on that)

The lack of a more structured running routine and lack of focus due to lack of races is very much missed so I really need to change that, not least because of put on a few lbs which I could do without.

The past few mornings have been fairly good and I even managed a 11mile run, at the weekend to shake things up a a little and to make a change from running on my own I decided to opt to join Kings River A/C on their long run last Saturday, it was certainly enjoyable to run with a group again and to run a route I hadn't done before so I'll likely join them again for future runs.

Last 7 Days Of Runs:
20th August: 8miles @ 7.27min/mile
19th August: 3miles @ 7.59min/mile & 7.4mile cycle
17th August: 11.37miles @ 9.43min/mile
15th August: 11miles @ 7.42min/mile
14th August: 5miles @ 8.40min/mile