Monday, 19 December 2011

O'Regan and Keith Make Outsider - People of the Year List

It's great to see that fellow Irish Ultra Running Internationals, John O'Regan and Eoin Keith have made the Outsider - People of the Year List for 2011 for some great performances this year. A great end to the year for ultra running from Ireland.

You can read more about it here 

Also check out John's blog here 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Post Season Conditioning

It's been a while since I have thrown a blog together so I thought I would talk a bit about what I do during the quiet period following the end of the race season.

Top of the Black Mountains
For me the end of the season was the World 100k Champs in September. After that race it was about conditioning for the start of the next season which is looking to start around April next year with the World 100k in Italy.

The nice thing about this part of the year is you can really enjoy your running, no pressure on focusing for a specific race but simply get out there and run. I was down to race in the Snowdon Marathon but cancelled that to do some serious 'time on feet' training and not worry about racing.

The past 4 weeks I ran just under 500 miles which looked like this:

Week 1
Mon - 17 m
Tue - 17m
Wed - 17m
Thur - 10m
Fri - 30.1
Sat - 17m
Sun - Long Run - 37.2m (South Downs)
Total: 145m

Week 2

Mon - 7 m
Tue - 14m
Wed - 10m
Thur - 10m
Fri - 6.2
Sat - Long Run - 67 m (South Downs from Winchester to Hove)
Sun - 7 
Total: 111m

Week 3
Mon - 7 m
Tue - 14m
Wed - 17m
Thur - 7m
Fri - Long Run - 52.5 (South Downs run with Terry Conway - great lad - check out his blog here
Sat - 7m
Sun - 17m 
Total: 122m

Week 4

Mon - 15.5 m
Tue - 17m
Wed - 10m
Thur - 18m
Fri - Rest
Sat - Long Run 1 - 38.2 m (Brecon Beacons with Barry Murray - any nutrition issues, he is your man - check out his website
Sun - Long Run 2 - 21m (Black Mountains with Barry Murray)
Total: 120m

Barry Murray
Essentially the training is based on doing around 2 hours running during each working day (split into 2 sessions) trying to fit in a couple of 10mile tempos during the week, with a good long run at the weekend on hills, mountains and trails. In addition to this I wanted to focus on week back to back ultra long runs. For me it's about the miles, in that it's about time on my feet, running on tired legs and learning how my body reacts to long hours of running and dealing with complications (bad periods).

Next, I will continue with this kind of mileage and will be looking to run again with Terry focusing on some night running along the downs (all night) again to practice running in the cold, feeling tired and without natural light. Of course this is great training for 100m runs. 

Oh an a wee race on the Brecon Beacons on 3 December is on the cards.

Can you spot me running down the hill?
Really enjoying running at the moment running with some guys who have great talent and share the same level of passion for this game!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

100K World and European Champs - Race Report

Arriving in Holland

Saturday 10th September I travelled to The Netherlands to meet my Irish team mates, John O’Regan, Chris O’ Neill, Keith Whyte, John Byrne and Martin Rea. We were accompanied by our support crew, John Belton who would help us at the aid stations and provide some physio and Sarah Syron who has been vital at the Irish aid stations over the past few international events.

Keith, John B, John O' R, Marty, Chris and me

I had heard that The Netherlands was flat, but I didn’t realise it was FLAT. I mean not 1 hill, not even a ‘mound’. Being a keen trail runner living here would be my worst nightmare! Thankfully we were here to run 100k as fast as we could on road, so the conditions were perfect. Holland is a peculiar place in that everything looks very much the same, lots of green fields, trees and very, very long straight roads.

We stocked up with some serious train grub (biscuits, pastries, sweets and other crap) and jumped on the train with a vague idea of where we wanted to go.

“Tickets please”, says the nice Dutch ticket inspector to me,

“There you go Mr ticket inspector man”, I say

“But what are you playing at you foolish young man? This is a weekend ticket” says the bemused looking ticket inspector,

“What do you mean”, I say

“Well its Thursday” he says.

Brillaint! We had bought a weekend ticket on a Thursday! What’s that about? After the ticket inspector realised that I was probably not the sharpest tool in the box, he kindly agreed to turn that ticket into a day ticket. This was to mark the start of a humongous cock-up of travelling in The Netherlands for the Irish Team (and for many other teams!)

Athletes’ Village

We finally got to our station destination to be greeted by the local hoodies. We jumped in to a small minibus which took us to Winschosten where we quickly signed in with the race officials. This is the first time I had seen the start of the course as this would be where we start on the Saturday. Shortly after, we made our way towards the Athletes’ Village which was some 30 minutes + from the start line.

I love the sounds of the words “Athletes’ Village”, firstly it’s the first time I have thought of myself as an ‘athlete’, which is nice, and secondly it’s a whole village full of athletes that are obsessed with running as much, if not more, than I am.

I checked into our room which I shared with Keith Whyte and we quickly separated the beds which were for some reason placed side by side. This would avoid any awkward ‘moments’ later on! Each room has its own small living room, toilet and shower, bedroom and kitchen. The kitchen had one of those boil on a stove kettles which I liked. It kind of reminded me of the American TV series ‘The Waltons’. “Hey John Boy, ye fancy a cup of Starbucks Via coffee?” Maybe not.

On a serious note, it was vital for us to have access to hot water as we both drink at least 5 cups of coffee an hour. No coffee. No run!

As soon as we got settled in it was time to walk over to the main building to pick up some munch. Various teams were now coming in by minibus and a bit of kit envy started to creep in for me. The Italians, French, Norwegians and many Western European countries have some serious national kits. Gore, Nike, Puma. They also seemed to have several pairs of each piece of kit each. Hmmm – we need to work on that one!

Getting Supplies – The Long Walk

The next morning, we woke up for breakfast which presented a selection of spreads and breads, yoghurt, granola and the all important coffee. For some reason there was also a plate of cucumber. Cucumber? Random choice for a breakfast menu…

Breakfast time

We plodded down to the local supermarket which was still about a 15 minute walk. Backpacks a ready we were going to do some major stocking up of water and small bottles to carry on the course.

We arrived at the shop to be greeted by half of Team GB smiling and the other half not so happy. The shop had run out of water. It was easy to guess who just purchased the last bottles. Hmm, so it was another 10 minute walk to find another local shop which thankfully had plenty of stock (although we did crank up the pace a bit just in case another team got to the shop and destroyed the water rations!)

So, we bought several 2 litre bottles of water each and several smaller bottles that would be suitable for carrying on the course. All in all we were carrying some heavy bags - not ideal the day before a race. We took a left at this road, a right at that road, straight down here and then over there, followed by a right at the round a bout and we had reached our destination. Lost. LOST!!!

We had already been walking for some time by now and with the added weight this was not helping. My IT band had flared up and I was experiencing pain in my knee. Not funny. We decided to stop and try and work out where the hell we were. We asked someone if they knew she knew where the Athletes’ Village was or at lest a direction. Apparently, it was 10k in the opposite direction that we were walking. 10K? No way!

We laughed it off. This mad woman must have misunderstood. Surely. How the hell did we get lost by more than 10k in the wrong direction?  I got the trusted BlackBerry out which confirmed that we were some way away from our destination. “Taxi”….  We were in the middle of nowhere, what were we going to do? For some reason, we even questioned the GPS technology and thought about heading in the same direction we were heading which would have only taken us further away.

We decided to trust the BlackBerry which eventually got us home. God knows how far we actually walked that day with extremely heavy bags, but it did take a few hours door to door! The thing with Holland is everything is so neat and straight and it all looks the same. You walk from one road on to another and you could pretty much be on the same path. It was like something out of the Labyrinth. The interesting thing about that episode was that I was shattered. I am not used to walking 10k+. Running, sure. Walking, well that that is a different thing altogether and my legs were trashed. I must have come in looking like I had just run the 100k! I needed John to take a look at my legs.

As soon as we got in, Chris and I booked ourselves in with a session with John Belton who went to town on our legs. John played around with my hips a bit to give them a bit more movement and reduced the inflammation in my IT band (which I am presuming was also causing the pain in my knee). On hindsight without this session I think the next day would have turned completely differently.

What a day. I thought a pre-race day was supposed to be relaxed on the couch. It still hadn’t finished, we still had the Opening Ceremony to do!

The Opening Ceremony

We hitched a lift to Winchosten and watched some local entertainment for a bit, dancers, a town cryer, and some other bits and pieces, followed by each country parading its flag and then a walk through the town centre.

Each country was called out in alphabetical order. “Ierland” (ahh that’s us), John Byrne was team captain so he held the flag. We were supposed to walk as a team through the crowds but we hung back a bit watching John walk into the crowd on his own. His sixth sense must have felt that no one was behind him as he turned to see us 20 yards behind him cackling away. Like children I tell ye.

We walked though Winchosten past the shops and crowds of people lined all the way though the town centre. It was nice and everyone was enthusiastic. I just wanted to get to bed and get cracking.

Nutrition and Aid Stations – Make up your mind man!

Once back at the Athletes’ village I realised that I had yet to work out my nutrition and hydration strategy for the next morning. Hmm. There would be an aid station a few hundred metres from the start and then another just short of 5k. So I needed enough nutrition on me to last 5k. Easy!

In front of me I had several Clif Blox, Elite, Pulsin Energy Bombs, Gu (various flavours) and Nakd bars, plenty of water and a couple of sports drinks. Now. How is this going to work? I taped some Bloxs to 4 water bottles and a Gu and a Nakd bars to several others. I then had some other bits and pieces (flat coke, jelly babies etc) which I would keep at aid station 1 for sugar emergencies! The first 10k I would not need anything, I would then pick up a Blox and Elite water at the first aid station once I had finished the first loop and basically alternate nutrition at each station to get a good mixture of ‘natural’ nutrition followed by something a bit more like sports gel / Gu.

I made that sound easy in the previous paragraph but it took a long time to work that out. Putting bottles and nutrition on the floor and pretending to run through aid station 2 on 4th loop and asking “what will I need”. I think I made it a little overcomplicated, but it kind of worked until I ran out of stuff about 70k in.

Braking the 7 hour mark

This would be my second 100k race (my first being the ACP in March this year). 100k could arguably be one of the most difficult distances in that it is usually on the road, is at an odd distance (62 miles), and is usually run at a good pace. Nutrition and hydration is extremely important and the intensity remains high throughout (perhaps compared to a 100m trail which has varied pace, elevation and terrain). Not to mention the relentless stomping the asphalt.

We were up at 6.30am for breakfast. I had a quick coffee, tried to ‘empty myself’ (twice!). Knock back some breakfast (fruit bread and bagel with peanut butter) and it wasn’t long before we were on the coach heading back to Wischosten.

It wasn’t long before we were all shoulder to shoulder at the start line. I was 6-7 people deep into the crowd and most certainly didn’t want to get sucked in to the front line pace which would be some going. The first 10k would very much be a warm-up / touchy feel of the course.


The guys from our team know the guys in Team GB quite well (Allen Smalls, Craig Stuart, Grant Jeans and Martin Mathews) who we know from the Anglo Celtic Plate or on the UK circuit. I think it was fair to say that many of the GB team were looking for a sub 7hr 100k as well as a few of us in the Irish team (all of which are more than capable). Allen is an extremely good ultra runner, very strong and has a lot of experience. Craig and Grant also showed great form in Perth at this year’s Anglo Celtic Plate. It was going to be a good’n.

The gun went off and we all started the motion which would continue for a long time. One foot in front of the other, many, many, many times over. Pounding that tarmac for hours on end. At this level, many people ask ‘what time you gonna do it in?’ However, for me it’s always about respecting this sport. The first question is not really about time but about finishing. 62 miles is a hell of a long way and deserves a lot of respect. Irrespective of fitness, training and mental state, it’s always about finishing. One poor decision or a bad hair day will see a “DNF” on your card.

The first 5k went by with a bit of a buzz, people chatting and so on. John Byrne and I pulled up alongside Allen and Martin and we began chatting immedietly noticing how bloody hot and humid it was. For those who live in the UK and Ireland this was essentially a 10 degrees increase in temperature and humidity like nothing we had experienced this year. I, for certain, was not prepared for this heat or the humidity. Hydration was going to be vital today.

Team Ireland and Team GB

That said, I felt ok so pushed the pace a little as I wanted to hit each lap around 41 mins which, if held, would bring me under the 7 hour mark. I was therefore happy to see that I passed the first 10k in just over 41 minutes. Now all I had to do was maintain this pace for another 9 laps! How tough could that be? Pah!

It took a loop or two to get used to and recognise the course and get my bearings on where roughly I was in the 10k circuit (albeit there were KM marks). As already mentioned, the landscape of Holland is flat. I think the total elevation of the course was about 1metre and that was probably jumping over a couple of curbs! That said, the roads were closed for us so it was essentially traffic free and the locals most certainly made an effort for the event.


Each of the long roads we passed through saw the residents deck out their road. I recall 1 road being completely covered in orange bits and pieces with loads of pictures of previous runners of the event. National flags flying along the roads and the residents sitting outside having a few drinks and the most adventurous throwing some shrimps on the barby. Kids stood in the street handing out wet sponges and ran alongside the runners waiting for them to drop the sponge immediately picking it up to make ready for the next exhausted and over heated runner!

Spongy Spongy

Music was blowing out of house stereo systems and I am sure I saw one dude on his front lawn with some decks, giving it the large on the wheels of steel, Dutch styley. All in all very much like a festival atmosphere and very much welcomed by the runners - anything to take the mind off the task at hand and the slowly encroaching pain in the legs, arms, stomach and eventually total body consumption.


Part of the loop comes back on itself where you pass a traditional looking windmill and is probably about 6-7KM in. This was a good point to check on the other guys. I could see that Chris was only 20 or so seconds behind me followed by John Byrne. Looking good.

Anyway, I knew something was odd when only a couple of laps in I had overtaken both Craig and Grant who were having problems and fighting their own battles. It was a shame to see these guys having a bad day as they should have certainly been at the front! I put my head down and ploughed on trying to maintain a consistent pace, focus on taking in water, sponging myself down, going through the routine of cooling down my back, my throat, then over the top of my head. I then wiped the salt off my face and arms to feel fresh. I must have done this at least 50 times during the race.

John B

It was when was coming in to lap 5, running past the aid station that I saw Keith sitting there. He had dropped out. I was totally surprised as Keith is most certainly one of our stronger runners. I very much rate Keith as an ultra runner and it was very difficult for me to see him at the aid station. But you only need to look at the DNF list and the quality of athletes that didn’t finish the race or came in well past their capable time to show how unexpected and therefore tough the conditions were. For some reason I was lucky on the day and my body seemed to hold up. I do think it’s a matter of luck as on a different day my body may have reacted totally differently.

John O' Regan

Coming back around I could see that Marty had called it a day at the 50k mark and was sitting at our aid station. Marty had suffered with problems with his calf muscles and the thought of having to run another 50k would be something else.

I run at a very odd pace. I always do. I always end up running very much alone in races as I don’t seem to share a common pace with people, whether I am behind or ahead, it’s usually never in line with. Sure, I spent a short period running with a couple of guys form the U.S., some Japanese guys (who could only grunt when I spoke to them as they knew very little English) but yet very humble runners. I passed a couple of South Africans who looked very fast and at one time I was running alongside Daniel Oralek, which was surprising. Although, I must admit it wasn’t for long! It took him a wee while to work out why I was emphasising his name “Ahh Daniel”. He gave me an odd look, and it was only when he was running behind me for a few seconds that presumably he saw my race number with my name on. “Ahh Daniel” he smiled in reply. Good lad.

Now, I did exactly what I didn’t want to do. Something which I did in the ACP. And that was hitting a rather shitty bad period from 60k. Looking at my splits, I managed to maintain a solid 40 / 41 minutes for 60k. If I could maintain this pace for another 4 loops, I would be in shout for a comfortable sub-7 hour 100k. A dream come true. It was half way around loop 6 that I needed a poo. I couldn’t wait. I had to dive in a wooded area squat and do my thing. This was when cramp kicked in on my left leg. It was bad. I was mid flow and had to balance on 1 leg so I could straighten out the cramp in the other. It kind of went down hill from here. I don’t know whether it was fatigue, loss of focus of nutrition / hydration,  the fear that cramp would come in with vengeance or a mix of all of these, but my average pace dropped down to 44 minutes.

Running past the various aid stations at the 5k mark, I could se Ellie Greenwood sitting down. Ellie is a proper trooper and one of the best ultra runners in the world. She looked like she was suffering but from reading her blog she got up and cracked on up to the 90k mark. Amazing!

I dropped into the aid station asked John for some electrolytes, took in some water and stretched my legs. WTF – I can’t be spending this much time in the aid station. IN AND OUT.

Coming around at loop 7 ish (I think) I saw John Byrne sitting down at the aid station. Jeez, this is our best 100k runner! Now let me tell you about what makes a true ultra runner. Determination, endurance and willpower. John had apparently come in to the aid station looking like death. Bad day. Fine. Many other runners had the same issue. But John sits down probably feeling pretty bad to stop. Composes himself and pushes on with some distance still to knock out. John didn’t come close to his capable time but certainly showed some serious spirit on that course.

The last two laps I struggled quite badly. I would get a bout of cramp every KM where I would be running with a ‘straight leg’ stretched out looking like some clown. This in turn probably slowed me down. The fear of having major cramp issues so close to the end was very much on my mind. I kept the pace I was now running as it didn't seem to agitate it too much. Just get over that line a couple more times!

It wasn’t long before I was running past the finish line for the 9th time. Last lap. It didn’t matter what happened now, I was going to finish. I took in the surroundings one last time as I had forgotten what was going on for the past few laps. I picked up the flag at the half way point, only to realise that I had to run with it for 5k! Peaked a bit too soon.

A final run past the windmill, a few more sponges and 2k to go. I hadn’t come close to the time I wanted but certainly the proudest moment of my running career was running the last few hundred metres with the flag being cheered on by the crowds. Job done.

Here are my splits. You can see the struggled for the last few loops:

Split 1 - 00:41:43
Split 2 - 00:41:05
Split 3 - 00:40:47
Split 4 - 00:40:22
Split 5 - 00:40:44
Split 6 - 00:41:36
Split 7 - 00:44:16
Split 8 - 00:45:03
Split 9 - 00:46:59
Split 10 - 00:45:36

Personal Results – 7hours 8 mins

European Championships – 8th
World Championships – 14th

Team Results Ireland23 hours 03 mins

European Championships – 5th
World Championships – 7th

Full results can be found here

I just want to get home

Sunday morning. Feeling alright. I know I have run 100k but my legs are not that bad. I got up especially early. A quick coach ride, a couple hours on a train, an hour flight and I’m home. Job done. YEAH RIGHT.

Due to a major thunderstorm the night before a part of our route had been knocked out. We were on the train for a couple of stops and then we were stranded on the a station. Only a couple of people at this stage but slowly train by train the teams and locals started to build up on the station. Lots of people stopping at this stations and not many heading in the other direction. The direction towards the airport! The train would stop at our station and then head back to where we started.

It wasn’t long before our patience wore thin yet nobody knew what the hell was going on. Then some kid said, “ya this goes to the airport”. We all rushed on the train, cmon I only have 6 hours to get my plane!

It wasn’t long before we realised that this wasn’t going to the airport but would take us back to where we stated. Everyone off.

Some security guard was on the platform, hounded by hundreds of people. Not knowing a thing. We had already been on the platform for a long time. “Ya I am still deciding whether to sort out coaches or a train”. He did realise that everyone on this platform had a plane to catch. He was on a SERIOUS chill.

Eventually, a train turns up. It would take us 40 mins or so down the route in the right direction but we would need to get off. Great. We jump on that train it stops at its destination, we jump off that train onto a train that will take us to the airport. Great. A few stops down the line the train is on a chill. An announcement is made and we need to jump on another train. This one will definitely take us to the airport. Great. Eventually we get there.

I bolt it to the BA check in to be told I had missed the plane. F-ing brilliant. “Sorry sir you will need to buy a new ticket”!!! I buy a new ticket and check in. Sorry sir, the plane is currently delayed by an hour and a half. WHAT THE HELL. JUST GET ME HOME. NOW!

After a very long day of travelling (nearly 12 hours!) I get into Heathrow. Meet Anjali and we drive home. Well actually we hit the M25. Yup you guessed it a arsing traffic jam!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Quick Update on IAU 100k World Championships and 100K European Championships

Team Ireland at first aid station

Just a quick update on the World and European Championships. It was a very hot and humid day which made running conditions over 62 miles quite tough for the athletes. Full race report to follow but results are:

Team Ireland 7th overall

I came in at 7hours 8mins which put me in 14th place in World Championships and 8th in European Championships.

A great day, very enjoyable and tough (which is what it's all about) great to be part of Team Ireland and to run in the same race with the likes of Michael Wardian, Ellie Greenwood, Allen Smalls and Daniel Orelak.

At the finish (photo by Raymond Pretat)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Irish Squad for IAU World and European 100KM Championships

The IAU 100km World Championships and European Championships 100km will take place on 10th September in Winschoten, The Netherlands.

The Irish Team will be:

Martin Rea
John O'Regan
John Byrne (Captain)
Keith Whyte
Chris O' Neill
Daniel Doherty

The team will be looked after by:

John Collins (Manager)
Tony Brennan
Sarah Syron
John Belton
Tom Hunt

So, now just the taper!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Video on UTMB

If you ever wondered about the benefits of ultra running or in fact running the UTMB then Check this vid ;) 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Greenlight – Round the Rock 48 – Race Report

I had been looking forward to the Round the Rock 48 for some time. It was 5 weeks before the 100km World Championships and would be a good excuse for a break away from the UK mainland and at the same time a good race / training for the Worlds.

Before you read this long winded race report, check out the race organiser’s website here - Click on their Facebook and Twitter links to keep updated on the next event. You know you want to!


The race is based in Jersey which is one of Channel Islands off the coast of France. It’s a beautiful place boasting golden sandy beaches, turquoise sea, stunning cliffs and plenty of historic forts and the like (either from England defending the island from France, France defending the island from England or the Nazis defending the island from the World!).

One of the key attractions to this race is that it takes you quite literally along the coastline of the entire island which means that you get to see some stunning views, looking over some of the best bays the island has to offer.

The course comprises about 12 miles or so on tarmac / road with the rest being forest, light trail and about 20+ miles of cliff paths stretching along most of the exposed north coast of the island.

The checkpoints and route can be broken down as follows:

  1. Start > Steam Clock, St Helier to St Catherines – 11 miles mainly on road and quite flat;

  1. CP1> St. Catherines to La Fontaine – 23 cumulative miles on hilly tarmac, hitting Rozel which then takes us onto cliff path;

  1. CP2> La Fontaine to Grosnez – 30 cumulative miles cliff paths, hilly. Short road sections;

  1. CP3> Beauport to La Fregate – 48 cumulative miles on sandy beaches, cliff paths and final part on tarmac.

The route roughly follows the popular walk that many locals follow the ‘ITEX Walk’ which can be found here

The race was marked out with red and white tape dotted along the route. Despite getting partially lost a couple of times (through no fault of the course or the organisers) the route was quite easy to follow. If in doubt, always make sure the sea is on your right! Fair enough – should be simple!

Depending on how fast or slow you ran, runners could take advantage of running on the sandy bays provided the tide was out!

Nutrition & Hydration

As with all my races I always have more nutrition than I probably need as it’s better to have too much than not enough! The race is self supported, so although the organisers provided water, bananas, coke and some sweets, runners were expected to provide their own nutrition for the day.

There were 4 checkpoints along the route at roughly around 10 miles apart. I could work out that getting to the first CP would take about 70 minutes as it was mainly on road, and the second CP would be another 70-80 minutes. The toughest part would be the longer run along the cliff paths in the north which will take a bit longer given the terrain and ascent.

As a last minute decision (i.e. the morning of the run) I decided I would take a 700ml bottle, my Elite electrolyte add in squeezey bottle ( and 2 gels for the first 23 miles (taking me to CP2).

At CP 2 I would then pick up my Salomon pack where I had cliff bars, gels and a Nakd Bar and some water with Nuun tablets. PLENTY of nutrition and electrolytes and I certainly wouldn’t need it all.

In fact, I consumed in total:

Start to CP1 - 500ml water (with Elite)
CP1 to CP2 - 500ml water (with Elite) and 1 gel
CP2 to CP3 1Nakd Bar, 1 gel, 500ml water (Nuun)
CP3 to CP4 – 1 Banana, 1 gels, 750ml water (Elite), Small cup of flat coke
CP4 to Finish – 1 gel and 500ml water (elite).

Looking at my nutrition and hydration, I backed out of filling my bladder pack (1.5 litres) and only put in 500ml – 750ml to keep the weight down. This did mean that I was without water for the last couple of miles before each CP which is never a good tactic. It did get a little warmer later on in the day, but if the day got any hotter, I would have certainly found myself in a lot of trouble. It is never worth taking risks on hydration and in hindsight I was very lucky. Silly move!

So that’s my nutrition, let’s talk about the race!

The Race

The race briefing was the night before which was essentially Digby running us through safety issues, a detailed explanation of the course (with a massive map on the wall) and information on the course terrain and what to expect.

I mentioned to Digby that the CP open times were slightly a little later than expected and I would miss them. Without hesitation Digby and the other guys agreed to open the CP a little earlier for me! Thank you to all the guys that did this as the water and human contact was much needed. Again, another example of how great the ultra running community is.

I met a local, Bryce Alford who was using the run as training for the Berlin Marathon he had entered in a few weeks time. He would run up to CP2 before retiring. This guy seemed to love to talk about running so we agreed to run together for the first couple of CPs. Great stuff. Nothing better than running with a local in a local race!

The alarm went off 4am Saturday morning and I already had all my kit prepared the night before, including water in kettle, energy drinks mixed, shoelaces undone etc.  A quick shower, a spray of magnesium on the legs, and a cup of coffee and I was ready to think about the day.

My breakfast was a raisin and cinnamon bagel, with peanut butter and honey, washed down with coffee and energy drink.

A 15 minutes stroll along the coastal line took me into the main city and by the Steam Clock. It’s great to hang about before a race, watching people’s various routines, whether that be eating, stretching, catching up with running buddies, or simply sitting in a corner on your own thinking about the task ahead.

It’s also interesting to see the various approaches people take to ultra running. Compression calfs or no compression calfs? Road shoes or trail shoes? Hand bottle or bladder packs? Gel or solids?

Leanne Rive (female winner) came up to me as she was surprised to see an Inishowen A.C. singlet in such a far away place, being Irish. I think she was equally surprised to hear an English accent!

Just before the start I met up with Bryce and we agreed that a 7.15 minute mile would be a good pace for the first 12 miles or so before we naturally dropped the pace along the cliff paths. Sounds like a plan!

5.58am and we are all waiting at the start line. We are assured that the Steam Clock will blow a horn (or make a noise) at 6am which is our cue that the race had started. 6am and dead silence. Lol. It looks like the council had decided not to make such a noise at 6am on a Saturday. Oh well. “3”, “2”, “1” and we’re off.

Bryce and I ran at the front at a good pace. The cool thing about the first 12 miles or so is that we were escorted by the police.  This certainly had its advantage as a) we didn’t have to worry about the cars (as parts were running on the road); and b) we didn’t have to worry about navigation at this stage. The problem is that it can also set the pace a bit! We were happily chatting along while running, talking about ultras, Bryce’s record he held for 24 hour running on a treadmill and our general love for running (while running! Brilliant)…

“what we doing”,
“about 6.20 minute mile”…
“hmmm that’s a bit fast. Let ‘s slow it down 

»  5 minutes later,

« What we doing now ?»
“About 6. 5 minute miles…”.

Now, there are two schools of thought on this. Some say leave some fuel in the tank especially for later in the race and maintain a steady pace and if you have something left push yourself in the second half. Running too fast at the start will slow you down at the end. Whereas, some say, you are going to naturally slow down over time, so why not give it some while you can? Me? I think it depends. If you are going to push it at a start of a race, you need to ensure you have your nutrition and hydration right, you know the terrain and elevation and where to push and when not, and feel comfortable / confident that your training will allow you to maintain a good pace throughout. I think it’s also key to know that you are going to have bad periods during the run (or several during an ultra) and accept that it will happen. The key is to keep calm and figure out why – is it my pace? Should I slow down? Do I need more electrolytes? Am I dehydrated?  Have I eaten enough? Has the terrain got harder? Has the temperature increased / decreased? Or am I just having a bad day!?

Back to the race, so we rolled in to check point 1 at St Catherine’s in 69 minutes, probably 5 or 10 minutes faster than we expected, but we were feeling comfortable, there was light rain, keeping us cool, and the CP offered much needed water. I quickly filled up my bottle adding Elite and a quick pee in the public toilet (local police were still escorting at this time ;)) and we were off.

It wasn’t long before we were hitting the beautiful harbour area with Gorey Castle on top of the rock. This was the sign that we were to come off the road and move into more rural areas of the course. The first few miles were around country lanes and farms and a couple of fields before we hit the start of the cliff paths. The fun was about to start!

I pushed up some of the hills quite hard and Bryce decided to keep to a steady pace (good decision given he was running a marathon in a few weeks) so I was running alone along the cliff paths. It was time to pay attention to the route markings to make sure I stay on route!

Well would you ‘Adam and Eve’ it, Bryce found me half way along the route looking confused. “Bryce” I shouted, “should I carry on or take the road?”. Unfortunately, there was only one tape at the junction area and I could not see another indicating which path to take. It must have been removed! That said, common sense would have suggested that I carry on along the trail path and avoid the road (this being a trail ultra and all!). Bryce confirmed it was straight on so I pushed onwards knowing that if there is a fork - always take the right. Cheers Bryce.

Again, I pushed on quite hard on the uphills and downhills, there was over 1000 metres of ascent over the course, mainly up and down some studded steps, so there was a lot to play with. Thankfully I managed to get to CP 2 without getting lost and relying on Bryce again.

[Bryce – if you are reading this. Thanks for the company and good luck with your race in a few weeks. Let me know how you get on.]

It was a great feeling to come into CP2 at La Fontaine, the support was great, friendly and very helpful. I dropped my bottle and picked up my Salomon pack. A quick munch on a Nakd bar and I was off. A short stint on the road and we were back on the coastal trail. Now, because the route is a common walking route, the hills are set up with stairs to assist with the up and downs. These stairs actually made life more difficult as they had metal studs in them and were at an odd distance apart which made the stride very long. Over time this definitely took it out on my legs.

The next section would take me to Grosnez with plenty of undulating hills to climb, some exposed areas and beautiful views. I managed to keep to a steady pace. This was the perfect section to dig in, think about life and enjoy the terrain. I quickly ran out of water and started to struggle a little but not to the extent that I noticeably slowed down too much. This was the last section of cliff path before the terrain got a bit easier so my focus was on getting to the next CP without too much hassle. I was enjoying myself so much the views over the north coast of Jersey and the generally reasonably good weather made the miles fly past. Happy days. It wasn’t long before I was hitting the next CP and getting some flat coke down me!

I spent WAY too much time at this CP, at least 3-4 minutes trying to get my hydration sorted. For some reason I was struggling with my bladder pack getting the damn thing closed and getting off. After a brief struggle I was packed and gone. The support crew were great always keen to help and get some food and water down me. This was essentially the last section of the run, a few miles of trail, a couple of short road sections and then, if I was lucky and the tide was out, a final run to the finish along the sandy beaches of St Aubin’s Bay.

It was along this route that I got properly lost. Shortly after the CP I came across a fork where one section led down to St Brelade’s Bay and the other turned off to the left. I could see some red and white strip markers at the junction but no where else.

“Excuse me, if I take these steps all the way down to the bay (and there were a lot of them), will this keep me on the ITEX walk route?”,

“Yes mate, go down the stairs, along the bay and you should see a path”.

I ran all the way down to the bottom of the stairs, hit the bay and was presented with ROCK. No path, no way out. Hmmm. Wrong way. After a massive struggle all the way back up the stairs, I ran past the couple who were as geographically embarrassed as me and gave them a little glare. It cost me a good few minutes. The funny side of it is if I had bothered to look a little further up the left hand turning, I would have seen a nice bright red and white marker flapping in the wind calling out at me!  I must admit I did panic when running up the stairs thinking that second place could be running past me and I would not know. This is a race after all, right?

Back on track, and it was nice to know that most of the route would now be flat or even better downhill. Running at a fast pace down the hills (sub 6 minute mile) to make up for the rather slow slog across cliff path, I could see St Aubin’s Bay in the distance and St Hellier where the finish line was. This gave me a bit of a lift.

I noticed that an ITV crew was following me. They would drive alongside for a bit, then drive a couple of hundred metres ahead to get a few seconds of me running past. I would also like to thank them as I was slightly of track but not off course and they guided me back on route.

I hit the promenade along St Aubin and then decided to brave it and hit the sandy beaches as the tide was out. I could see the finish line which was still a good mile and some away but I was enjoying running along the beach trying to miss the waves coming in as I had managed to keep my feet dry to this stage. I must have run about 3 quarters of a mile when I decided that this was not helping my case at all, it was slowing me down a lot and taking it out on my legs. I jumped back up to the promenade and pushed as hard as I could to get to the finish which was located by a café (which was in the shape of an upside down boat!). It was a great feeling to break that tape and come in at 6 hours and 15 minutes.

Straight after the finish it was time to pick up a medal (Gold if completed under 8 hours, silver if completed under 10, and bronze if completed under 12), a T-Shirt and an interview with ITV. As you know from my previous race report, I am not the best when it comes to being interviewed! You can see for yourself – see the ITV broadcast here:

The first 3 were as follows:

1st  Daniel Doherty – 6 hrs 15mins
2nd Michael Charlton – 7 hrs
3rd Andy Macaskill – 7hrs 4 mins


1st Leanne Rive – 7hrs 49 mins
2nd Alice Constance – 7hrs 58 mins
3rd Nicola Lockhart – 7 hrs 59 mins


This was a great ultra run, well organised, especially for an inaugural event. Is it tough? Well, any route can be tough depending on how hard you push yourself. It is certainly challenging. Thankfully the ultra running gods were looking after us on the day, but it could certainly be quite an aggressive course, there are some exposed areas in the north which if windy and rainy could make life a lot more difficult, and if hot could make hydration more challenging.

This is definitely one for the beginner to ultra running and certainly for someone who wants to make the step up to the 50m mark. But it’s also one for the more experienced runner who may want to try and break the 6 hour mark which I know can be achieved. That’s why I’ll be back next year to hit the sub 6 hour :O). See you there.

After party

The awards ceremony was later in the day at about 6.30 pm in The Yacht Club, or the Royal Yacht (I forget its name) but the organisers had reserved a room, which was really nice. I enjoyed my 1 pint of Guinness which I allow myself after an event, relaxed and enjoyed the prize giving.

The prizes were supplied by Fit2Function who supply Inov-8 products so it was great to see a load of Inov-8 stuff being given out as prizes for the top 3 and various spot prizes. Brilliant!


Adidas Shorts
Inishowen A.C Vest
Saucony Kinvara Trainers
Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Vest Pack

Pics to follow.