Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New website address

Well, ok it's not new I've owned www.runninginkilkenny.com since 2017 but I've finally set it up correctly to work with blogger.com and this blog.

So now as well as my blog being found at http://runninginkilkenny.blogspot.com it can be found at its new address of http://www.runninginkilkenny.com

Monday, January 27, 2020


Time for me to get some structure and shift the extra lbs from Christmas, so to focus the mind of creating this structure I have another race booked for 2020!

After 9 years I'm returning to the Cork City Marathon, Cork was my first marathon back in 2011 and in hindsight, I was ill-prepared for it as I barely did enough 20mile training runs before it so this time around I'm well capable of it.

I'll likely do several other races between now and then but nothing else is booked for now.

Last week started off well with a trail run around Slievenamon, then a handy recovery run on Monday with the dog.   For Tuesday I had planned to get a lift into Kilkenny and then run the 13miles home but instead, I decided to head for an 8mile run.  While out for the 8mile run I felt good so I changed my route and finished in 11miles instead.

On Wednesday I had planned on a short run with the dog but hadn't got time in the evening so it ended up being a rest but, Thursday morning was a very slow 2miler during which I found the legs very heavy.   I had a visit booked with Sports Physio at Bodymend.ie as my legs haven't been feeling best (heavy) since the 27mile trail run two weeks back.

To cap things off on Saturday I had a few hours to kill so I opted for a long slow run on-road rather than a trail for a change. I headed up towards Co Tipperary and completed a large 17mile loop near Mullinahone. 

More rest days then I would have liked but then I didn't want to overdo it after the physio visit.

Last weeks training was

Sunday: 12.44miles @ 12:37min/mile (Trail)
Monday: 2.42miles @ 8:45min/mile
Tuesday:  11.05mile @ 8:05min/mile
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2.13miles @ 9:05min/mile
Friday: Rest
Saturday:17miles @ 12.03min/mile

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 :)