Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mangerton and my first 5K race.

View to Torc at the start

Happy Ruby
Elegant Crohane
Today I decided to head to Kerry and have a nice hillwalking with Ruby. The day was a little cloudy but showed promise and was pleasantly warm with little wind. My legs were still a little tired from the marathon a few days ago and I reckoned that this would be just the tonic I needed and be the perfect warm down. Driving back the cloud base was at about 2000ft but by the time we started it was up at about 2500ft and patches of blue sky were beginning to appear. I set a gentle pace and enjoyed getting the blood flowing through the muscles again. The normally sodden and mucky trail was pleasingly dry and the profusion of wildflowers enhanced my already buoyant mood. Ruby of course was in her element and was darting here and there following all the new scents that only she could detect. Her joy at just being out and about was uplifting and I have to say that its a pity that it is so difficult to find places where it is OK to take a dog.
The Horses Glen
Don't you hate it when the hills get crowded
The view towards the Black Valley
The walk was a real pleasure and thankfully my legs were good. Pleasant sunshine and little wind made the round a pleasure. We stopped for a bite to eat on Stoompa and continued easily around onto Mangerton. All the while the views get better and better. We crossed the arete between the Horses Glen and The Devils Punchbowl and walked up Mangerton North. This vantage gives fantastic views across to the Black Valley. Easily down and into Killarney for a coffee.

I got home about 5pm and I then made a snap decision to head to Cork City and enter a 5K race. I had never run a race like this before and I wasn't sure what to expect. There was a huge turnout and the 8pm start was delayed for 10minutes. When the horn sounded the mayhem began. Everybody was ducking and diving and jostling for position and room to run. I was as guilty as anybody and I ran as hard as I dared for the first mile. After about half a mile things loosened out and I was pleased with how I was feeling. As we passed the one mile marker there was a guy shouting the time and it was six minutes 38 seconds. I kept up the pace as best I could and I must say I was glad that the run was so short. The finish line arrived and I timed it at 20minutes 28seconds. I was very happy and I have already resolved to enter more of these sprints and try and get under 20 minutes. This event is also great value as it was only 8€ to enter and we got tea and sandwiches after plus a 20% voucher for a local sports shop. Result.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Burren Marathon Challenge

Camping Heaven
Glamorous Petra
On the 26th of May I ran my first marathon. This was held in the Burren in County Clare and based in the lovely little village of Ballyvaughan. I had run the Fanore half marathon last August and enjoyed it immensely so I knew what to expect terrain wise but was not sure how I would react to the distance involved in the full marathon. Ambrose Flynn told me that a friend of his Petra Toralova needed a drive to the race so I arranged to meet her in Limerick. I set off on Friday afternoon on a glorious sunny day and collected Petra and headed for the same camping spot I discovered last year. It is a wonderful spot by the sea in rugged and wild surroundings. We spent some time chatting and exploring our surroundings and after a bite to eat we retired to our tents early to ensure we got as much sleep as possible before the race. Petra was doing the Half marathon. Both events were starting at the same time 9am, so we set our alarms for 06.15. A decent nights sleep ensued.


A stiff breeze meant there was a chill in the air when we rose the following morning. I had as big a breakfast as I dare to ensure I would have a good store of energy for the long run ahead. We broke camp and set off for Ballyvaughan at 07.20. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the day promised to be a hot one despite the breeze. We were in good time and initially there didn't seem to be many about. We were directed to our parking and once sorted we returned to the start to register. People were pouring in and we saw that in total there was an entry of over 1000. Over 500 entries for the Half marathon and over 200 for the Full marathon. Soon enough the start approached and the DJ did his stuff and by the off we were buzzing.

Beautiful cottage in Ballyvaughan
The first few miles were along the road and provided a nice gentle start. Then we turned left onto a rough track and we gradually climbed out onto open hillside, and the wonderful expansive views of the unique landscape that is the Burren were a constant and pleasing distraction from the effort. Soon the junction where the half marathon separated from the route of the full one arrived. I was very briefly tempted to swing onto the shorter route but stayed on course. I was actually enjoying myself. I tried not to think too much about how far I had to go and instead concentrated on my surroundings and how I was feeling. A steep pull on to the hill behind Fanore gave way to one of the highlights of the route. A long run along the plateau afforded one uninterrupted views across the sea to the Aran Islands. A long gentle descent on the road followed and we arrived in Fanore and the sixteen mile mark.
Petra after her run

I earned that
 I was still feeling OK but when we went off road again and turned into the wind things started to feel tough. We crossed the road and the ground again became steeper so I had to walk for a short while. The track soon became a "green road" and this contoured around and above Black Head and was so beautiful that it distracted me from the rigours of the run and made the section from 19miles to 22miles very bearable. Then came the final section on the road. I guess you could say I hit the wall. I felt like time slowed and the mile markers seemed to take forever to come. After I passed the 24mile marker I had to walk a few times but this felt just as difficult so I shuffled on. Eventually I could see the finish and Petra was there and she ran the last hundred meters with me cheering and clapping. I got a great reception at the finish and I think I was actually quite emotional. I had done it, and even though I was exhausted I was elated as well. I didn't know whether to sit or stand and walk about so I did a bit of both. Petra fussed about me and distracted me from my aches. Pretty soon I was reasonably recovered and I walked back to the car and had a wash and got changed.

I finished in 3 hours 50 minutes and was in 15th place. I was delighted and astonished. I'm not sure whether I will do another one but you never know. It was also a delight to meet Petra. Her radiant smile and personality certainly added to the experience. I'm sure we will have other adventures in the future.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Climbing in the Gap of Dunloe and going to W.A.R

My lead goes from the bottom left up to the centre and then straight up the face.
Recently myself and Frank, decided to head to the Gap of Dunloe to do a spot of rock climbing. The weather forecast was iffy so it was a real pleasure to discover a cloudless sky and no wind. A great day was in prospect. On days such as this there is no finer place to spend a few hours than the Gap. There is a wide range of routes here from the relatively simple to multi pitch brutes well into the Es. The relatively easy is where both Frank and I ply our trade. We decided on Bohane as our crag of choice. This is easy to access and offers several routes at the HS and VS standard with some harder options thrown in. It is a short climb to the base of the rock and I was surprised to find that we appeared to be the only climbers in the whole of the Gap. Soon we were at the base of the crag and I decided to jump straight in and lead the first climb. Perhaps a little foolish as I hadn't exactly been climbing at all of late. I set my sights on First Comes First Served a 15 mtr VS that is easily protected. I huffed and puffed but finally made the final moves to the top. It had been a fair while since I had led any serious rock routes so it felt tougher than perhaps it should but I enjoyed it none the less and it set us up for the rest of the day.
Frank abbing down the face.

We enjoyed a great day in warm sunshine and climbed another six or seven routes, all top roped. We were both very pleased with how we climbed, for although the rustiness was obvious we felt better than we had expected and when we were done we resolved to go rock climbing whenever we could. The following week we went to the crag by the road called Brennans Leap. Here again we enjoyed a very good day on all quite difficult routes up to HVS. All top roped again but we felt we needed to practice before we led some more. I did spot a couple of routes that I intend to lead the next time I am there. Both at VS so not setting the world alight but they will do me. Watch this space. One aside was on our last climb there I managed to give my ribs a good bang. They didn't come against me when we went up to Rescue Rock for a final few climbs that afternoon but the following few days they grew quite painful and I feared I had done some damage but thankfully they improved towards the following weekend which was just as well as I was entered for the Wicklow Adventure Race on Saturday 14th April.

Wicklow Adventure Race (WAR),

I had been running a fair bit and getting on the bike occasionally so I was reasonably confident that I would have the stamina for what is billed as one of the toughest adventure races in the country. At 73k long with two hill runs and three cycling sections it certainly lived up to its billing. I headed up to Glendalough with James Moore on the Friday afternoon and we stayed in the excellent local hostel. We were fascinated by the sight of a guy practicing changing his tubes for in excess of 200minutes into the gathering gloom. He professed himself pleased that his time was now under seven minutes. Dedicated or what. A decent nights sleep followed but when we awoke the morning of the race we were greeted with a blustery cold morning and thunder and lightning lending and ominous soundtrack to our breakfast. Thankfully the storm did not last long and by the time we were gathering for the start things had improved considerably. Still there was a chill in the breeze and the sight of snow on the hill tops ensured that we donned all our running kit before the start. We were in the third wave as it would have been somewhat pretentious to call ourselves experts. James was at something of a disadvantage as he has been really busy since the arrival of his baby son Elliot last Autumn and so his training had suffered but he is nothing if not determined and he was as eager as me for the off.

The first section was a 10k hill run over Spink mountain. It started off zig zagging up a forest track before joining a well made trail on mostly railway sleepers. It took a while to trust that these weren't slippy but once confidence was gained they allowed for rapid movement over the boggy ground. There followed a technical on a rough stony trail back to the bike changeover. I was very pleased with how the run went and I reckon I was about third in my wave.
I had tinkered with the idea of changing the pedals on my bike from cleats to basket types. This would have negated the necessity to change shoes at each interchange from hill running to the bike section. This meant I lost a fair bit of time at the changeovers and over the course of the event I reckon I lost in excess of 10 minutes.
Anyway the first bike section was OK with a very gradual climb on good roads before a swift decent to the next stage on the Kayak. Here I didn't bother changing shoes and ran in the cleats the few hundred meters to the water where I paired up with a young fella for the two kilometers. He was not a great help as by the time we had rowed three hundred meters he was complaining that his back was aching and he spent most of the rest of the section laying flat on the Kayak. A few pairs overtook us but when we reached the shore I said goodbye and ran back to the bike.
I'm having fun...honest
The  swift descent to the lake meant that the return on the bike was steeply uphill. Cold was now a bit of a problem, especially after the initial climb and moving swiftly over open country meant the full effects of the chill breeze was felt. Soon enough the punishing climb up to the start of the second hill run up Djouce Mountain arrived. This was a bit of a ball breaker and I had to hop off the bike and walk for 50meters to surmount a particularly steep spot. I was very glad to get off the bike but again considerable time was lost trying to fit cold wet feet into the running shoes. On the plus side the day was now lovely. Chilly yes but blue skies ensured that the countryside was being seen at its best. A long flat traverse around the mountain meant I was able to keep running until the gradual climb to the broad boggy summit. I was feeling the strain by now but at the top we joined a well made trail of sleepers again and soon I was moving nicely on the return leg to the bike.
Again the problem of changing footwear and I was off on the final cycle. This was the longest section that passed over the Sally Gap and then a long descent to the final section. The pull over the Gap was tough on my weary legs but the descent went fine although I tried to push a good gear and therefore was tiring. Eventually the final changeover arrived and now all I was faced with was a run of just three kilometers to the finish. Gosh it was tough. I had to stop and walk several times and frankly I thought it would never end. I was exhausted as I crossed the finish. I  was cold and hungry yet nevertheless very pleased with my effort. I finished in a little less than 5 hours and came 67th. The long hot shower afterwards was heaven and went some way to reviving me. Well done to James who also finished well. I think we will both be back.

Rock Climbing.
Dingle climbing wall

High on Howling Ridge VDiff

Frank and myself have continued to get on rock whenever we can. We have had a couple of great days in the Gap of Dunloe and had a lovely day climbing Howling Ridge on Carrauntoohil. Here are a few pics from those days.