Tuesday, 2 June 2015

World Trail Running Championships 2015 Annecy

As always it was massively proud moment to be asked to represent Ireland at the 5th IAU World Trail Running Championships in Annecy, France. I had not raced the route before or ran with the new Irish crew so I was really looking forward to it.

The course is 85km in length with around 5000m of climbing over a mix of technical trail. Some quick sections together with some slower technical climbs and descents, many athletes agreed that the first half of the course was fast whereas the second half was more technical and obviously slower. The course was treated with some light rain the night before so things were certainly going to be muddy and interesting!

The field was looking strong and included athletes from all over the world, including France, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Sweden, UK, South Africa, Japan, Australia and Nepal.  Luis Alberto Hernando, Tom Owens, Alex Nicholls, Manuel Merillas to name but a few  of a top field would be shoulder to shoulder at the start line. The starting pace was going to be savage.

Team Ireland included Paul Tierney, Jonny Steede, Justin Maxwell and Barry Hartnett. The team were being managed by Gary McConville, Ryan Maxwell and Robbie Williams.

The race kicked off at 3.30am(!) the first few kilometres were alongside Lake Annecy and most of us went out as though we were knocking out a quick 5km park run rather than a mountain ultra! It wasn’t long before things were put to order with a slower (but still savage) climb of around 1500m over a distance of 13 KM. Having started at the back of the pack on the start line it was nice to use the climb to pass a few people and find my ‘mountain bounce’, get my breathing under control and enjoy what I love doing, which is running up a mountain.

The atmosphere was great and it was good to see athletes from all over the world, some of which I recognised from the UK, Germany and France from other competitions.

The first climb was a little difficult to judge, if you take advantage of the adrenaline and atmosphere and hit the climb too hard you’ll pay for it later, take it too slow and a lot of the field will leave you behind. My approach was to take it steady on the climb and make up a few places but take advantage of the technical descents. I spend a good amount of time in Snowdonia and felt that the technical rocky descents would be the place to push.

It wasn't long before we hit the first peak and the first checkpoint where the lads were waiting for us. I picked up a few gels, quick drink and cracked on. The descent would be a nice long 10km ride. I decided to push hard on this section sitting in 28th place I needed to push on. The descent was great, single track forest, jumping over tree routes and rocks. It was really enjoyable.

Coming around a corner I must have hit a rock as the next thing I knew I was heading at some speed towards a group of embedded rocks. I landed really hard hitting the rocks with my knee and hip and then ‘cheesegrating’ my shoulder and back along the side. I lay on the path for while in shock with the athlete just ahead asking if I was alright. I told him to crack on.

The pain kicked in and when I looked at my knee I could see the cut was real deep just under the kneecap, I could also see something inside that was as white as a starbucks coffee cup and initially thought I had broken something. I gingerly stood up and hobbled down the path, it was obvious that nothing was broken but I had it in my mind that with the amount of blood pumping out of the gash (my sock was already soaked) that it was the end of the road for me.

The pain was bearable but I was not sure what was going on it was a mix of shock, adrenaline and fear of the athletes overtaking. I tried a wee jog and although it hurt when I landed on my leg it was bearable. It was still a fair distance to any aid station (behind me or in front of me) so I decided to crack on and see how the injury felt along the way.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before I had hit the bottom of the descent  but to be honest at this stage I was confused, I wanted to push on knowing athletes were just behind me but also not sure if I could continue. The course is very much up and down so as soon as we hit the bottom of the descent (about 28km and down to an alt. of 700m) we were heading back up to around 1300m over a few kilometres. Again, I decided that as it was a climb I wouldn't be causing too much impact on the leg and it would mean I could give the leg a bit more time to settle.

I am not sure if it was the adrenaline caused by the fall but I managed to push quite hard despite the pain and was now sitting in about 23rd place passing a couple of athletes on the descent and on the second climb.

Once we hit the second climb, we hit a real sharp descent. I was gingerly running down this descent not wanting to cause more damage to my leg and afraid of falling again. The key to a good speedy descent is confidence, something which I lacked and made me a little slow and hesitant.

Thankfully I made the bottom of the descent and hit a road section which took us into the second aid station. Oddly I had managed to take a couple more places and was sitting in 21st. The support crew looked after me cleaned up my knee a little and I was off.

Straight out of the second aid station at around 45km, the excitement of it all wore off and the pain kicked in hard. I had forgotten to take some ibuprofen and I started to really struggle with the knee that was looking a little bruised and was still bleeding heavily I had also some pain in the thigh. It was fair to say I was feeling a wee bit sorry for myself.

I now had a 1200m climb which would take me to the 60km mark. It was not long up the climb when I had decided to DNF. My leg was hurting each time I lifted it. My hips and shoulder and back were screaming from the grit and crap stuck to it and I think I had also hit the wall at the same time. I had confirmed to myself that at the top of the climb I would hand myself in.

A lovely chap from Canada saw that I was done for and was having none of it. ‘C’mon Ireland’ he said. ‘My parents are from Ireland, look at my red hair!’ That gave me a wee boost but by now I was walking, head down feeling right sorry for myself.

I got to the top of the 3rd climb and saw the doctor. He gave the knee a quick look and wanted to cover it up but I told him that I’d get that done at the finish line. The English and French communication wasn’t great but considering it was only 10km to go to the next main CP and it was all downhill I decided I’d at least finish this race. I kept telling myself that I’m wearing the Irish vest and it’s a privilege to do so!

I took the long descent down the mountain with caution and dropped down to about 30th place heading into the CP. This time I was sure to take a couple of gels, an Iburprofen and hit the coke hard! I came out of the CP with 15km to go and positive that I would finish this race. A quick CP in and out meant I left in 27th place.

I don’t know whether it was a mental point having taken the Iburprofen (surely it couldn’t kick in that quick) and the coke but I felt good and strong again. I hit the final climb hard and the switchback descent harder.

It was on the final climb that I spent a few moments on top of the peak looking over the whole of Annecy and the lake. An amazing view and a reminder of why we do these events! I managed to take a few places on the last section pushing hard on the final 8-9 miles, unfortunately I had left it a little too late. I managed to cross the line in 17th place and salvaged a respectable place for the World Championships but in all honestly I felt a little disappointed with the overall performance and a missed opportunity.

One of the key lessons of course is that mountain running is not just about speed, ability to climb and descend but it’s about being able to deal with the challenges of the day, the conditions and terrain. I had perhaps been a little overly confident with my technical skills and arrogant and paid the price early on. However, it was a grand experience and great to be in such a place representing Ireland.
The team did great. We finished 13th overall with Johnny Steede coming in second for Ireland followed by Justin Maxwell who also scored. Barry Hartnet put in a hearty performance and even managed to craft two ‘o' natural’ branches into suitable poles for the course. He is certainly a guy to watch in the future. Unfortunately, Paul Tierney had to call it a day but will no doubt bounce back this race season.

A massive thanks goes out to the support crew who did an amazing job at looking after us during the race!

Twitter: @ultrarundan 

Monday, 9 September 2013

UTMB TdS 2013 Race Report

Here is my race report for the TdS 2013. It comes across as a little negative but I learnt a lot from this race. 

Please click here for the race report.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

UVU The Extremist - Dan Doherty | What running means for me

As a UVU Racing Laboratory Athlete, running is my life. It dictates my day, where I live, how I eat, when I rest, my mood and the way I see the world. Being a professional and an international ultra runner, I don’t have time for politics, Pop Idol or office chat. It’s all about the next challenge. The next mountain range.

To read on visit here

Thursday, 16 May 2013

IAU 100K European Championships – Belves Race Report

Many ultra / endurance athletes will tell you that you can push yourself a lot further than you think you can. This race was to be my first experience of this.

A few weeks after racing the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k and narrowly missing the Irish 100k record by a matter of seconds, I found myself on the 100K European Champs start line with some of the fastest 100k road runners in Europe. The course was not a usual IAU 100k course which is usually very flat – this time around we would have some short sharp hills to contend with throughout the course including a very steep 1km up to the finish line.


Ireland would be fielding two athletes – Keith Whyte (http://keithwhyteultrarunning.blogspot.co.uk/) and moi. We would be supported by a team of three - John Collins (Team Manager), Kevin Belton (Physio) and Jeff Fitzsimons (Team Support).  Logistically, this course would prove to be tough, it represented a 100k loop with aid stations every several KM or so. The first priority for the team was to secure some bikes as they would need to cycle the entire 100k route to get each aid station before us.

The priority on my list was dealing with a nagging hamstring issue which I have had for several months caused by an awkward fall on Ben Nevis (trying to avoid a plodder). The ACP had inflamed the injury but I was working hard to keep it stretched and the blood flowing. I worked with Kevin before the race to stretch it out and work on loosening the surrounding muscles. Spending all day on a plane and then coach doesn’t do a runner any favours so a very short 1mile or so run the day before also helped shake out the muscles a bit.

A wee jog

It’s rare not to get some kind of ‘drama’ before an event and my drama was a lack of water for the race. The event was held in Belves which boasts  1 Spar supermarket for the entire village. Obviously this had been absolutely destroyed by other competitors getting there before us. Time was running out and I had 4 bottles to my name and 28 or so aid stations to cater for! Thankfully, just before we were heading in for the night we visited the local camp site shop where we were staying and noticed some very small water bottles in the fridge. Result! The shop assistant was a little surprised when we told her we needed an entire case!

As usual for a 100k road race, I would have more than enough water, breaking it up every 4th aid station with some kind of sports drink but generally relying on water with Elete added. My gels would be taped to the side of the bottle for convenience.

Team Ireland

When Keith and I originally discussed race strategy we would go out with an even split with a view to potentially giving as much as possible at the end if we still had it in us. This was quickly thrown out the window when John returned from the course recce to inform us that this was not a flat course at all! Shit! Race strategy would not be conservative, keep it even on the uphills and then try and make up for that on the flats. Keep control on the downhills.

Opening Ceremony

The Race
The race would take part in Belves which is located about 200 kilometres from Bordeaux and is known for its beautiful castles which will be well represented on the race course. The race is 100km looped course that takes athletes to neighbouring town of Sarlat in the Dordognes Valley. Racers will get to see five different castles in the region.

We decided to get up at about 4.30/5am as the race started at 8. This gave me enough time to shower, cream, destroy a 9Bar, Beetroot juice and some breakfast.

We jumped onto the bus which took us to the start line. These events usually always consist of a lot of rushing about to then wait around. The event would host the top 100k road runners in Europe from 19 European countries with just under 100 athletes participating. In addition, there would be an open race which would also include some very fast runners (in particular from France) who presumably didn’t make the team.
The support team immediately got to organising the 50-60 bottles of water we had and placing them in drop bags (not an easy task) we weren’t quite sure whether we would ever see them again, but thankfully things turned out well.

Getting Ready

It wasn’t long before Keith and I shook hands with the support team and wished them well on their 100k cycle ride around the course. We stood on the start line and waited for the off. I quickly knocked back a couple of Imodium to deal with inevitable stomach issues.

The start went off well with enough space for us all to run at around our desired pace. However, it wasn’t long before we were heading downhill and both Keith and I started to inform each other that we were knocking out sub 6mm. Easy tiger.

As soon as I started running my hamstring started to present a dull ache from the top to the bottom. Not enough to affect my running pace but enough to notice and make my running not as comfortable as I would like.

We managed to get about 10 miles into the race when all of a sudden I need to make a pit stop. I dived into some cover to drop the kids off, jumped back up and slowly caught back up with Keith. It wasn’t long after that that my watch told me I had done a 7mm. I was really proud to have emptied my stomach while doing a 7mm. Surely that was a new Irish record?

As with most ultra runs the race doesn’t really start until it gets real painful for the athletes, usually around the last 3rd of the course. For me this would be about 20-30 miles in. The event was really uneventful for the first 25 miles or so, generally quite flat following the Dordogne river and passing the various castles. It was also lovely to see some local support around cheering us on.

More encouraging was that Keith and I had stuck together working on our pace keeping ourselves in check to ensure we didn’t go to fast. It was shortly after the 26m mark that the course introduced some steep inclines followed by some horrendous down hills (for such as event on tarmac). This would go on for about 15 miles or so and would see us running up hills at 8-9mm pace and coming down them at 5.20-5.30mm. This was not our desired approach and we would pay for this later!

By the time I hit the 50k mark my hamstring injury was starting to complain about the running. I shouted at the team that my leg was shot, and I would need to hit the ice spray for the next 50k! As we got into each aid station I would grab the spray, spray the hams and IT, grab my nutrition and crack on. The spray would generally reduce the pain and get me to the next aid station.

Keith was a little behind me as I believe he had to make a pit stop. It was around the 60k mark where I really had a bad patch and my legs were screaming. I stopped at the top of the hill for a very short while and waited for Keith to catch up. I thought to myself that I would keep with Keith for a long as possible and let him run on – I would not DNF but I would jog back in.

Worse than my hamstring injury were two athletes (one from Russia and one from France) who were essentially tucked neatly behind us letting us do all the work. Now, this is fine as it’s all part of the game. However, we were getting a little pissed off by the how close they were getting. I was waiting for one of the guys to clip our legs and send us flying and possibly out of the race. In addition one of the guys was in the open race and had his support on a cycle – riding right by us – this guy did not have any consideration and continuously got in our way.

Thankfully, I think this took my mind of the hamstring for a while and after a couple of tough sections we both managed to drop these athletes.

After using 3 quarters of a can of spray on my legs, I think it was having more of a mental affect than a physical one. It was something nice to look forward to at each aid station.

Keith and I managed to stick to each other for about 65k-70k or so when he hit a pit stop and I think he started to suffer from an injury. Unfortunately, I would later learn that this would be the end of Keith’s race but I am more than certain he will be back in the near future to give the Irish record a crack!

I had about 30k or so to go and I was sitting in around 18 place. My legs were screaming and I was keeping my fingers crossed that nothing would go ‘ping’ and cramp would stay away. The tough section was over and it was essentially a good section of flat. I managed to keep myself at a good pace along this section picking off places as I went along. I got some really good encouragement from the team with updates on how the guys were looking ahead. “The Russians are struggling”; “The Italians are not looking good, Dan”; “You are flying, Dan”.

These bits of encouragement gave me the incentive to crack on and see how I was doing.  At this point I went from thinking about jogging back in to the finish line to seeing how long I could keep this pace going and finish in a respectable time.

After each aid station I could see I was running well compared to the other athletes ahead. When I passed an athlete I was clearly running at a pace they could not maintain. I was waiting for each of them to keep shoulder to shoulder so as to avoid losing a place but they simply let me run past. It was at this stage that I had to ‘drop the kids off’ again. I had no time for diving into a bush but simply had to do it on the spot. I apologised to the athletes running past and also to Kevin who cycled past (I don’t think he will sleep properly again).

I managed to take a couple of places back that I lost after the quick pit stop and essentially push on through the ranks. Looking at my watch a good time was on the clocks and a possible Irish record. I didn’t know what place I was in at the 90k mark but information coming in was that I was in or just over 10th place. Good sign!

The last 10k I pushed on as hard as I could passing a few runners and continuously looking back to make sure I would not lose a place or two.

I had about 3 miles or so to go when a spectator shouted, “well done buddy only 10k to go”. WTF, was that right? I hope not!

It was at this stage I was feeling comfortable, I could not see anyone behind me and the finish line was close. I was good few minutes under the Irish record when I hit a massive incline for about a KM (shit I forgot about that!). The climb was severe enough to drop the pace around the 9-10mm mark. I was desperate, I could see the finish line was very close but the road followed a curve taking me away from the finish line and slowly bringing me back towards it. I was just under a KM when someone shouted from behind me “C’mon Dan”. It was Keith who had hitched a ride from some guy in a van. The only response I could master up was “Don’t shout at me, I’m gonna cramp!” I had been on coke for a couple of CPs and I don’t think I had enough Elete in the bottle so I had signs of cramp kicking in.

A final push and I managed to get past the line in 7.05.57 (although time says 7.06). Seconds away from the Irish record. Twice in the space of a few weeks! Tough luck.

I managed to moan at the guys for not passing me the flag to cross over the line with to then learn I came 8th in Europe and 5th in my group. Not bad for someone who was struggling at the 50k mark! I managed to squeeze in a couple of handshakes and the like to only be approached by an interpreter. “Hi, I am your interpreter, this is [x] from the Anti-Doping team. He will be supervising you until a sample is taken”. Great, it’s gonna be a long day!!

The Finish Line

Post-Race Thoughts
One thing I learnt from this race is that you can push yourself a lot further than you might think. Could I have gone under the 7 hour mark if the course was flatter? Who knows. Perhaps the hills kept my pace into check which allowed me to push on later on in the race or perhaps I was having a great race and could have put in a great time. I will never know.

The toughness of the course can perhaps be explained by looking at other results. Usually, I am at least 40 mins behind the winner. In this case I was about 12 mins behind. The winning time is usually well under 6h30. This time the winning time was 6.53. Take from that what you will, but I do feel that one of us in the Irish squad is very close to breaking the 7hr mark and coming well under this time.

Full results can be found here:

Friday, 12 April 2013

AAI Announce Irish Squad for IAU 100K European Champs

The AAI has recently announced the squad that will go over to Belves, France on 27th April to compete in the IAU 100k European Championships 2013.  The team will comprise:

Keith Whyte (runner)
John Collins (team support and manager)
Kevin Belton (team support & Physio)
Jeff Fitzsimons (team support)
Me (runner)

it is always a very proud moment and a true privilege to be asked to represent your country in an ultra event and get the opportunity to race against some of Europe's finest ultra road runners over this distance. 

At a personal level, it is no secret that I will  be looking to challenge the current Irish 100k record again standing at 7.05 after narrowly missing it by around 20 seconds in the Anglo Celtic Plate in March. 

In Perth

This course is a lot more technical than the course in Perth with some good hill sections and tricky positioned aid stations which will challenge our team. 

Keith Whyte (http://keithwhyteultrarunning.blogspot.co.uk/) who is on form at the moment will most certainly be looking to do the same. I am hoping we can both encourage and push each other to a good performance this year.

Keith Whyte
Photo: Congratulations to my Irish team mate Dan Doherty on winning the Anglo Celtic Plate today . Come on Ireland !!
At the Worlds last year

Read more here: http://www.athleticsireland.ie/content/?p=31496

Saturday, 6 April 2013

ACP - Video Montage (thingy)

A wee video montage of the weekend race :O)

Race report to follow soon...

And to answer your question about the music, see previous post!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Run Boy Run

For all those about to start the Ultra Run Season (or already started) this one is for you