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 ( 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 ( 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:

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

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Getting the Itch – Thames Trot (45ish)

It had been a while since I last raced so I had a sudden urge to enter something. A quick search online and I was on the waiting list of the Thames Trot 50.

As with most ultras thanks to a couple of last minute injuries / drop outs I managed to secure a place. My aim was to roll up, get a feel for racing again and see how the winter training was going. I had only made up my mind to race a couple of days before the race so there was no time to taper.

The event is organised by Go Beyond and they describe the race as A tranquil run along the Thames from Oxford to Henley. Ever changing scenery on the river and Red Kites frequently seen soaring overhead. One of the best way marked routes we have come across”. Great a way marked route. One for me!

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed it had dropped a little snow and rain of late and the Thames had decided to take a little more territory than usual by way of most of the towpaths – i.e. the entire “way marked” bit!

The Thames had flooded badly but amazingly Go Beyond had managed to find an alternative route at short notice. We would still run which is great but it would be around 45 miles and would involve reading the map a bit more. Game over! Too late to back out now – I would need to ‘hang’ with my fellow running companions to avoid ending up in Manchester or Scotland…

The race starts at a nice warm pub in Iffley, Oxford (which serves warm breakfast) registration, pick up a very good quality race long sleeve tee and have a pee or three. I took out my Kinvara 3 shoes from the box (yes brand new!) and slipped them on. I would strongly advise against this approach, a) because you should break your trainers in before racing; and b) 45 miles is a long way to go if they don’t fit properly. That said, I get on very well with Kinvara so I knew they would be ok for me.

Standing waiting for the start line I started to lose feeling in my fingers but thankfully it was not long before the countdown and the off.

We did intermingle with the Thames for a short period at the start on the way to Kennington. It took me all of about ¾ of a mile before I was wading up to the ankles in water followed by some marsh like terrain which nicely led us onto the road section. The key here of course is to avoid too much dirt getting into road shoes as you will inevitably get hot spots, rubbing and blisters.

It only took a mile or two before my navigational skills were spent. Rather conveniently a chap who I now know as Scott Forbes was running alongside me with a smartphone and route mapped. Excellent! We began talking and it turns out that Scott is a truly inspirational character. A serious mountain biker, I learnt he was hit by a car on his bike and was paralysed 12 months before the race! Here he was running alongside me at 6.30mm pace in his first ultra. I did explain to him on learning that this was his first ultra that this pace may be a bit too much but he certainly held on for the first 20 miles before actively deciding that dropping the pace was probably a good idea.

Another character worth a mention here is someone who was running in the Vibram fivefingers. Not sure what his name was but about 17 miles in Scott and I got a little lost in a field and it was only a minute or so before Fivefingers caught us up! He had been running at a reasonable fast click in those extremely minimalist shoes on road! We watched him for a bit and his form was superb - certainly a student out of the school of minimalism. That said, after around mile 18-19 we lost him and I think he must have started to slow down from here.

With Scott dropping the pace a little I started to worry about my navigation – this was when my luck was in again. A fella had slowly caught up with us (or was not that far behind us anyway) who I now know to be Craig Holgate. He had run this course before and knew the way (including the revised course). Rather cheekily I decided to tag along. We got chatting and it wasn’t long before I found out Craig was training to get into the English team for the Anglo Celtic Plate a race I would be running for Ireland at the end of March.

I was keen to use this race as a tester to see where I stood on the 100k front and wanted to maintain an average 6.30-6.35mm throughout the race. However, Craig explained that he was not on form at this stage and I could not get to the finish without his navigational knowledge. I resigned to the fact that I would have to hang back and be in Craig’s line of site to direct me. This is by no means a reflection on Craig - as mentioned he was not really on form and was not using this race in the same way as me.

It did however mean that I waited at each junction, roundabout or corner for Craig to shout out ‘left’ or ‘right’ or usually ‘straight on’ so I could then run a good pace until I hit another section of the route which had ‘options’ only to turn around like a dog waiting for orders from Craig. After a while this was stupid so I ran alongside Craig until the last checkpoint. To be honest, the course was ideal for 100k training. Nothing too aggressive on the hills, perhaps a couple of rolling sections but a lot of road.

Once we got to the last checkpoint and out of the forest clearing I pretty much shot off to the finish asking locals where the train station (and finish line) was. I was a little frustrated at myself as I feel that I could have ran the race a lot quicker but I only have myself to blame for being an arse and an idiot and not learning how to use a map properly.

I felt fresh at the finish line having passed the 45 miles or so in 5hrs 11mins. I certainly felt fresh and strong enough to have completed the course in well under 5hrs. But that is not really the point. The point is to get from start to finish solo in the quickest time. It is for this reason that I asked that Craig be given the same time as me as he actually deserved first place. Without his navigations skills and the fact he was kind enough to show me the way and my continuously (and what must have been annoying) attention seeking to head in the right direction I would not have finished and probably ended up in a completely different county, if not, country!

I owe Craig a beer! It will be good to race against him at the ACP where I will not need navigation around the park in Perth! J

That said, all in all, a very well organised and friendly event.  


1 Dan Doherty 529 5:11:50
2 Craig Holgate 557 5:11:50
3 Scott Forbes 505 5:40:50

Kit wise I wore the Irish flag buff, Newline tee, Newline high vis gillet, North Face Better Than Naked Shorts and the Kinvara 3 trainers. I took the Ultraspire Spry vest and Ultraspire handheld.

Nutrition, 9Bar flax and 9Bar Nutty, and despite being on a Paleo diet I also indulged in a piece of the legendary fruit cake that is offered at the CP. Do not enter without having a piece.