Tuesday, 26 July 2011

John O' Regan Blasts Through 24Hr

Irish International Ultra Runner and team mate John O' Regan has recently set a new Irish 24 hour track record of 132 miles gaining him Irish Champion.

Deirdre Finn was the first lady clocking 112 miles.

Visit John's blog here

Saturday, 16 July 2011

IAU Trail World Championships 2011 – Race Report


I think it’s the excitement of participating in a World Championships for Ireland that’s to blame, but if you are interested enough to read this you may want to grab a cup of tea and a ham sandwich as I may have gone on a bit here.

You can check out the various pics for this event here:

The World Champs is an individual and team event for both men and women. It’s part of the International Association of Ultrarunner’s race calendar. In essence each team can have up to 6 athletes with only the top 3 scoring. Elite athletes from every populated continent of the world attended with over 120 athletes from athletic federations ranging from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain and the USA.

France and Italy brought some extremely talented runners to the game, including the current World Champion from France, Thomas Lorblanchet.

The Irish team comprised Keith Whyte, Paul Tierney, Barry Murray, Thomas Maguire, team captain, John Byrne and yours truly. Experienced ultra runners, Eoin Keith and John O’Regan would also run in the Irish vests but in the individual event. The lifeline of the Irish team, namely, the support crew, included Tony Brennan, John Collins and friends and families of the athletes.

Tony, John, John, Barry, Keith, Paul, me & Eoin.
Team mascots Neel and Ryan

The event was organised and hosted by Ultra Running Ireland (www.ultrarunningireland.com/) and directed by the experienced ultra runner, Richard Donovan. The event website can be found here http://www.runconnemara.com/. You will find a picture of my mug prancing about on the homepage!

A new experience for me was the presence of a t.v. crew. A helicopter started to hover over us from the start line and follow us around the course, including some guys with large cameras on the ground. These guys were amazingly fit as they managed to haul a massive camera while keeping up with us around the course. The event was filmed for broadcast on Channel 4, Eurosport, Setanta and a host of other international channels and will be shown in the coming weeks. The event surpasses the guaranteed international coverage of any other athletics event in Ireland this year. In addition, official London 2012 Olympic photographer, Mike King, travelled from the UK to photograph us as well as journalists from France and Italy. You can catch a trailer of the t.v. coverage here:

The Area

Connemara is a spectacularly beautiful area in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland. The event was operated in the area of Connemara National Park and its surrounding environs starting at the world famous Kylemore Abbey and finishing in the nearby village of Letterfrack.

Kylemore Abbey

The Irish team camped up in Letterfrack in a place called The Old Monestry Hostel. To say it has character and is some funky shit is a bit of an understatement. It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film. I won’t try and explain it in this blog as I won’t do it justice, suffice to say that you need to see it to believe it. However, it was a very comfortable place and I managed to play my cards right  by bringing Anj and the boy as we had our own room. The stories coming from the shared accommodation with the rest of the guys and the national snoring competition going on, didn’t really appeal. Anyway, check out the hostel’s webpage here http://oldmonasteryhostel.com/.

Letterfrack was a lovely little village with pubs, a café (which made lovely home made bread), and a supermarket which seemed to stock EVERYTHING. I went into the supermarket on several occasions, not particularly interested in buying anything but simply to browse. A bit weird I know!

Anyway, we were essentially based right by the entrance of the Connemara National Park which is where the race would take us around. A large marquee was set up in the area to host the opening ceremony and munch (which was excellent) with Diamond Hill always lurking in the background as a reminder of what we were about to do…

The Course

A diagram of the course can be found here:

The Course

In short, athletes covered a total distance of 70km on a course that encompassed mountains, grassland trails, compacted gravel trails, old roads, new roads, hard packed trails, bog, loose rock trails and open countryside. The course was tough and suits those athletes that are used to running on hard terrain for about 40 to 50 miles. To quote my Irish team mate on a conversation he had around the bog section:

USA Runner: "In the States we don’t call this a trail.... This is a Goddamn field".
Paul Tierney: “You’re in Ireland now buddy”.


By way of a description of the course, the race starts at Kylemore Abbey and runs on a short road section before hitting the entrance to the Connemara National Park. Athletes start to climb towards Diamond Hill (but its not what you would usually define as a ‘hill’) which reaches a height of 442 metres. Diamond Hill truly offers some great panoramic views of the Park.

Views of the Bens from Diamond Hill

Top of Diamond Hill looking down at the Abbey.
The starting point.

Once athletes have descended Diamond Hill we run back into Letterfrack village to hit CP1 and then return for a second session up and down Diamond Hill! On the second decent we then take off deeper in the trail. The course takes us 26KM out initially through old road, hard pack trail, bog, forest and then up and down Benbaun mountain which reaches a height of 729 metres. Once we have descended Benbaun it’s a good 9k hard run to the half way point, only to turn around and do it all over again, including a steeper climb up Benbaun.

Here is some profile information of the course:

Profile of Terrain


Trail Type
Kylemore Abbey

Woodland Trail
0 - 1.2
Woodland Trail

Paved Road
1.2 - 5
Paved Road

Compacted Gravel
5 - 19
Compacted Gravel

Grassland Trail
19 - 20.5
Grassland Trail

Disused / Decaying Road
20.5 - 25
Disused / Decaying Road

Bogland Trail
25 - 27.5
Bogland Trail

Loose Rock Trail
27.5 - 32
Compacted Gravel

Hard Packed Trail
32 - 39
Mountain Trail

Mountain Trail
39 - 41.6
Loose Rock Trail

41.6 - 47.6
Hard Packed Trail

47.6 - 50.2
Loose Rock Trail

49.6 - 56.6
Mountain Trail

56.6 - 61.1
Compacted Gravel

61.1 - 63.6
Bogland Trail

63.6 - 68.1
Disused / Decaying Road

68.1 - 69.6
Grassland Trail

69.6 - 70.3
Compacted Gravel

Marquee (Connemara West Centre, Letterfrack)

Opening ceremony

Friday was the opening ceremony.  I had only recceed the final part of the course, so suggested to Keith that we go check out Diamond Hill that day. Probably not the best way of resting the day before your World Championship debut, but I needed to know the terrain which I knew ultimately be of benefit. We would hit DH within the first several KM of the race, so I needed to know what was to come. So Keith, Eoin and myself took a gentle run up and over Diamond Hill. And of course, by gentle we were running at sub 6mm down the side of the mountain. All in all we did about 5.5 miles at a good pace. In hindsight I am pleased we did that recce.

Lads relaxing at Opening Ceremony

So, the Opening Ceremony is where the teams meet up and have some afternoon munch and check out who has the best kit and which team is the leanest. Looking around, I felt like a cheat and that I shouldn’t be there. There are some guys you can just look at and think “shit he looks quick”. Well, as you can expect at the World Champs, EVERYONE looked like that. Of course, experience has now shown me that ‘looking fit / quick’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of putting the Irish green tracksuit on and spending the day with your team mates, all of which are as much if not more committed and enthusiastic towards ultra running as I am.  It’s a runner’s dream. Everything is about running, the talk, the beer, the kit. Love it!

Team Review of Course

The day became more official and the reality of what we were about to do came home mid afternoon. Each country was called out by the IAU Director, Nadeem Khan its national team coming to the front carrying their flag while the other teams cheered on. Great sportsmanship. We were the host country and were therefore called out last to a massive applause and cheering from the crowd.  All 8 of us led by our ‘child mascot’ (a kid from the local school) walked to the front of the stage for a photo session. Great stuff and a really good feeling. We returned to our tables leaving John Byrne (team captain) to stand at the front holding the flag.

Rather embarrassingly, I couldn’t work out why Germany was called out so early as it was in alphabetical order. Feeling like a bit (well a lot) of a doughnut, Tony pointed out Germany is in fact “Deutschland”. Oh dear! It was going to be a very long weekend…

Shortly after that finished, the event was official declared ‘open’ and all the teams ran (and I mean ran) to the tables for the pasta party! After a seriously large munch-up with the guys we all retired to our den to prepare for the morning. The mood change a bit, the night was closing in and there was only a sleep before we started the run.

Interviews! I have never been an interviewee before and if I have learnt anything from this weekend is that I can’t give an interview to save my life. Eoin who was interviewed by (presumably) the TV crew must have been there for a good 20 mins+ possibly talking about his exploits and his thoughts as an experienced ultra runner. Me? Shite. “Think before you speak”. Yeah right. I could tell by the interviewers face, that my answers to his questions (which I can’t really remember) were far from satisfactory. I will be VERY surprised to see any of my interviews in the film. It was over very quickly!

Final Prep

The race started at 7am on the Saturday morning, so it was going to be an early night as I like to be awake at least a couple of hours before the start to give me enough time to let my breakfast digest a bit. From experience, if I have eaten too much for breakfast a good couple of hours will reduce the impact on my running performance and avoid feeling too bloated.

The night before the race we had to drop off our various bags of nutrition and hydration for the various checkpoints. There were 6 CPs in total. In short, I packed:

  1. CP1 – 10oz Nathan bottle with water and Elite Electrolytes, a banana, Gels, Cliff Bar and Jelly Beans;
  2. CP2 – Salomon S-Lab Advanced Pack – With half the bladder filled with Nuun water, Cliff Bars and Jelly Beans;
  3. CP3 – 10oz NB bottle and 1 gel;
  4. CP4 - Salomon S-Lab Advanced Pack – refilled; and
  5. CP5 – 10oz Nathan bottle and 1 gel.

I didn’t intend to use half of this nutrition but wanted to ensure I had a good selection of food depending on how I felt at the time. I would also keep a small bag of jelly beans and jelly babies in my back pocket as reserve just in case!

Once my kit was sorted, I spent some time with Anj and the boy and got my head down for the night.  It was at this stage that I think I really appreciated sleeping with the mrs and not the team dorm which was probably quite noisy with the snoring. I tend to sleep quite well the night before the race so appreciated not having the snoring to deal with.

The alarm kicked off at 5am, I left Anj and Neel sleeping, dropped into the shower then sprayed some magnesium on the lags. I sorted myself out with some Maxifuel Viper Active which I would sip for about an hour and helped myself to some lovely home made bread from the hostel, a cinnamon and raisin bagel with peanut butter and 2 cups of coffee.

Tactics, Start Line Abbey to CP1 Letterfrack

If you are looking for inspiration on running tactics and techniques unfortunately you are reading the wrong blog. I don’t really spend much time pondering over running. My approach is to run and run as hard as I can. In my mind it’s all about working hard in training. If you train hard and you are and feel fit, it will pay off. I run as hard as I can based on my experience and knowledge of my physical capabilities over a particular terrain and/or over a particular distance.

So it wasn’t long before I was catching a lift with Tony to the start line at the Abbey where everyone was getting ready for the start. I must have had a least 2 pees every 10 minutes. It was interesting to see how various people warm up. Some just stand there, some do static stretching (hmmm) while others look like they are competing in 100 metre finals. Very interesting. My approach is to do some active stretching, i.e. swinging legs back and forth and side to side, drink a little water and pose for a few team photos.

Team Photo before start. Barry is prepping.

Barry called us to the front of the line (being host nation), Richard started the countdown, the filming helicopter flew over the lake opposite the start of the line, a quick “5,4,3,2,1” (or was it “10, 9, 8….”) and we were off. The pace was quick. Very quick. The first couple of miles would be on road which would lead us from the Abbey to Letterfrack and up into the National Park. I knew this stage would be fast and I knew I would push the pace a little so I had to accept this was how I would run (despite advice to keep it steady). Unfortunately, I often get carried away in the moment and run with the ‘pack’.

At this stage the body had a shock to the system as it usually takes me a mile or 2 to warm up before I hit anything like the pace we were doing. I am not entirely sure what the pace was because we were not allowed to use GPS technology (as it is essentially a simulated pacer) but it must have been around the 6mm if not sub 6mm. It’s very difficult not to get caught up in the excitement at this stage and run way beyond your limitations forgetting about the course ahead. That said, I could see that I was running along side Allen Smalls (from Team GB) and team mate Barry, so we were all in the same boat. I could also see Stuart Mills (Lakeland 100 2010 winner) running for Team GB at the front running like it’s a 10k. I knew this was his approach to many of these events, so it didn’t alarm me too much.

Check out a video of the start line here:

It wasn’t long before team mates Keith and John Byrne caught up with me. Speed over long distance is what John is about and you could see he was way within his comfort zone at this speed and on road. A few km in and we started the ascent up to the base of Diamond Hill. I found this part one of the most difficult sections of the course – we had just come off the road at a fair click and the body was trying to maintain that pace over a gradual incline that goes on for at least 1 if not 2 KM. I started to worry quite a bit at this stage as my body was protesting at the incline and pace and we were only a couple of K in, we hadn’t even hit Diamond Hill yet and we still had to go up and down it twice!

Climb up to Diamond Hill in distance

Since the off I had being dying for a pee, but I was not prepared to stop and lose ground, rhythm or placing so I had to pee on the run. I have managed to get this to an art in training and carried on running up the hill while taking a pee. Thankfully for the other competitors the headwind wasn’t that strong (if there was any at all) so there were no light showers for them! I welcomed the start of Diamond Hill as the pace dropped off due to the steep climb and the fact that the competitors were still very close to each other, creating a line to the top of the hill.

Early Stages!

After a good steady climb to the top of DH over large slab forming stepping stones and loose granite we got to the interesting bit; the downhill section. Apparently, due to the recent rain the slabs and rocks were quite wet and Diamond Hill took its fair share of casualties on the day. However, the uphill proved to be quite nice on the foot as it is essentially a pile of stepping stones leading to the top. No such luck for the competitors on the downhill which was very much loose rock, wet grass and other ‘stuff’. But this is where I am at my most comfortable and I tend to disregard any thoughts for personal safety. I let gravity take its course and flew down the hill with no particular pattern other than fast and hard. It’s when you run like this that you can actually feel the impact and stress that running has on your body. I could feel each step vibrate through my body from the heel right up. But hey ho, it’s all about the run, and at this stage I managed to overtake about 4-5 competitors and would do so again on the next descent.

Half Way Up Diamond Hill

There is a steep downhill section followed by a slow descent back down to the Letterfrack village and CP1. Job done.

CP1 Letterfrack to CP2

A quick run down to the bottom of the park and into Letterfrack I was greeted by Tony presented a variety of nutrition options I had packed for CP1. I decided to take a banana, a gel and the 10oz water bottle. This would be sufficient for the next 16-17km of bog, trail and road. I knew there was a stream mid way along the route so I could take in more water if needed.

I was in and out of the CP in a matter of seconds back into the steady climb up to the base of DH up and over for a second time before turning left towards a large mast (which I knew we would pass from the recce and was the beacon of the bogs). I was still feeling quite strong at this stage and gave it just as much coming down DH and the following slow descent towards where we would veer off into the main trail. With the speed that I was coming down the hill some of the competitors kindly stood aside to let me through but only because I don’t think I was capable of stopping and it would have ended in tears for the both of us.

It was at the bottom of DH that I caught up with Stuart Mills and some other runners for a quick chat. It was a very quick chat, because Stuart stepped up the gears a little and would slowly set a distance between us over the next several miles. We ran through a couple of fields and over a small stream and then we hit an old road section that would essentially take us up to the antenna beacon thing. This was a real slog, my legs were a little battered from the downhill section and felt very heavy, this would be a slow ascent up to the beacon, followed by the infamous ‘bog section’. I was wearing the Inov-8 285s and they are not that great for hard pack trail / road and makes running a little more difficult. That said they would prove invaluable for the latter part of the course. I dug in and slowly got to the beacon pretty much staying in the same position, I also managed to keep Stuart Mills not too far ahead of me at this stage. We hit a very steep hill leading to the beacon and then a sharp left and a slow downhill in the bog section.

Now, I was asked by the interviewer how best to get through bogs. My answer? “Fast”. Hmm easier said than done! From the previous recce I knew a reasonable good line down the hill to stay away from the deep stuff and I knew there was a ditch half way down the hill where it was very much pot luck as to whether you needed to swim that section or not! The ditch is too wide and too deep to jump over and avoid and you could see that it was a deep, smeggy bog. I took my chances and jumped. A feeling of weightlessness came over me as I realised that I was in bog up to my chest. This is no exaggeration. Still I welcomed the brief rest and the cooling down. I grasped a clump of grass ahead of me to pull myself out and get cracking on with the job. I am sure there could still be some shorter runners still in there somewhere! Unfortunately, my water bottle also went under with me which gave the water a tangy taste. I also took this brief interruption as an opportunity to down my gel. The next few KM would be reasonably fast and would take us to CP2. All this excitement and I had only covered around 28 KMs with Benbaun mountain (x 2) to come!

The bogs slowly disappeared leading us back on to the dusty trail and neatly in to CP2.

CP2 Just before the Bens to CP3 Just before Kylemore Lough

One thing I have learnt in my brief career in ultra running is not to be taken away with the warm, alluring comfort of a CP. It shouldn’t be seen as a place to stop. It’s the devil’s work. The devil wants to add time to your race, it wants to comfort you, offer you a seat, a cup of tea and perhaps a slab of chocolate. “Put your feet up and slip on these warm comfy slippers” I hear him say (presuming his a male). But no. You can’t allow this. Don’t even hit the CP. I saw John Collins ahead who saw me coming down the trail. I raised by hand in acknowledgement and we very neatly and quickly swapped the 10oz bottle for the Salomon pack. Lovely. F1 pit stops would be proud. Thanks John.

Immedietly I am feeling better knowing I am kitted out for the journey for the up and down of Benbaun. I have plenty of water with Nuun. Loads of grub and a lovely fitting pack. The next mile is bliss – essentially boasting some hard pack trail, streams and forest area. Probably something more fitting for our US friends and those who are used to this kind of terrain. It’s certainly a key point for those to work on their pace and get around this section as quick as possible as the rest of the section will be very, very slow.

Coming out of the forest we were again hit with some boggy terrain which would take us up to the foot of Benbaun. This was a slow section as it was uphill and very wet underfoot a mix of walking and running was the approach. The problem with uphill bog is that it’s really tough on the legs and knowing some major scrambling was forthcoming, I had to be careful to conserve the thighs and IT Bands. This boggy section was accompanied by thick tuffs of grass which caused me to lift my legs a lot higher – I often misjudged this and ended up stumbling forward and feeling exhausted. I could see the other athlete struggling with the same problem so it did provide some comfort. By this time I was soaked to the bone and didn’t really care about conserving my appearance or comfort, it was just a matter of getting from a to b as quick as possible and out of the boggy section! I would watch the other athletes careful, I would run when they ran and walk when they walked, thereby keeping the same distance.

Now the problem with the Bens is that there are many ‘blind summits’ so when you think you are at the top of the mountain, you are actually miles off. This is one. Upon hitting the bottom of Benbaun it was a very slow hands on knees climb to the top. The terrain changed as you progressed up the mountain. First it was wet grass which made it difficult to stay upright, followed by granite, scree and other loose or fixed rock. That said, I knew this was the perfect time to sort my very sorry life out. Drink plenty of water, electrolyte up, get an entire Cliff Bar down me and jog on.

Well, it wasn’t too long (40 mins or so?) before I had hit the top and was now faced with the descent. Shocking stuff. First of all the downhill was so steep that it could not be tackled standing up. It was essentially a matter of sitting on your arse and sliding down until you hit a rock. This was followed by a run on the loose rocks with each step causing a mini avalanche of debris on the athletes below or on me from above. The rocks were a fair size and continuously hit my ankles causing bruising.

Benbaun (Twelve Bens)
Benbaun (Part of Twelve Bens)
The final section of the descent down to local farmland was rutted grass. The descent was still heavy enough that gravity dictated my speed. I must have fell over several times, in some cases my legs folding so hard as I fell that my leg muscles essentially hit each other at such speed and force that it bounced me back up to a the standing position! That was a first. I must have fell over in every position, forwards, backwards, sideways doing acrobats that even the Irish Olympic gymnast team could take some pointers on! The words that came out of my mouth at this section were special “WTF” and “Oh Shit” being 2 common expletives!

To put things into perspective, athletes had already run 30KM up and down Diamond Hill, through a large boggy section and it was a good 30-40 minute slog up Benbaun. Only another 40KM to go. Hitting the bottom of the other side of Benbaun it was a jump over a couple of streams and a steady downhill on loose rock path to CP3.

CP3 Kylemore Lough to CP4 Kylemore Lough

Paul Looking Very Comfortable On Tough Terrain

This was the final section of going out on the course. Essentially I hit CP3 dropping off my Salomon pack for a refresh and picked up a water bottle and gel for a reasonably quick 9K flat part of the course. This part is comparably flat initially starting on rocky road, hitting boggy grass and back onto a reasonable flat and firm path taking me to the end of Kylemore Lough, a quick run over the mat and a return loop back to the CP. This was a great opportunity to put the current state of play into perspective. I was lucky enough to see the French and Italian guys in the lead who were passing in the opposite direction moving back towards Benbaun. By the time I had hit the run towards Kylemore Lough these guys were essentially a mile and half / 2 miles ahead. Roughly about 10-15 minutes at this stage. Amazing stuff. A wee bit afterwards, I could see that Stuart Mills was at least 1km or so ahead, we exchanged pleasantries as we passed each other and ploughed on.

Thomas Running Strong

I pushed as hard as I could on this section as it was flat and would make up for the time lost on climbing Benbaun and time I will lose going back over. Returning on my way back along Kylemore Lough towards CP4 it was great to see that Paul and Eoin were not far behind me looking strong and more than comfortable. I gave Paul a high five and could see that a couple of the GB guys just behind them. I knew that this is where they would certainly make up ground as they are very strong at long distances at a good pace. It was also great to see John, Thomas and Barry running strong not too far behind the rest of us.

Kylemore Lough

A few hundred metres before I hit CP4 I could see that fellow team mate Keith Whyte had stopped and was looking in a bad way. I was absolutely devastated for Keith. I have run with Keith a few time over the past few weeks and knew him to be a very strong runner over this kind of terrain – he is in great shape and very strong. Unfortunately, the day was not to be his as he had problems with his nutrition / stomach which forced him to stop. Knowing how hard Keith trains for the team, I felt extremely sorry for him. I checked he was ok and shot on. It will be great to see Keith back on his feet in the World 100k Champs in September. Check out his race report here.

So, only after a 9k run, it was back to CP4 (Originally CP3 on the way out).

CP4 Kylemore Lough to CP5 Just After the Bens

I picked up my refreshed Salomon pack from the CP only to be presented with the undulating track that leads us over a stream and back on to the bottom of Benbaun. Just before I hit Benbaun I caught up with the Nepalese runner who is world class. At this stage I was thinking that either I am running way too fast or he is in trouble. It turns out that he was struggling with some blisters on his feet. I must say though that it was amazing to run alongside this guy. Always smiling, such a humble and modest guy and athlete. He is everything that ultra running is about. Anyway, before I get too emotional on this point, it was absolutely amazing to watch him climb Benbaun again. I would be plodding up the mountain, look down at my feet and look back up and this guy would have progressed another 10 metres ahead. Shocking to see the ease this guy took on Benbaun. That said, I took advantage of his experience by following his direct path to the top (which I was presuming was the easiest / quickest).

John O'Regan and John Collins. John C was major support at CP

Half way up the climb I met a German runner sitting down with some serious cramp issues. I checked he was ok and pushed as hard as I could to make some distance between us. The ascent was such that if you tried to stand up you would actually start to fall backwards. It was essentially a matter of pushing hands on knees or at one stage on all fours climbing like an animal. The descent was not much easier! Hitting the top of Benbaun we had a lovely view of the valley before refocusing and running as hard as we could down the side. By now my legs were shot and rather than pushing down the hill it was more of an effort to slow myself as I was being pushed down the side. Weakness in my legs really slowed me down here, my legs were too weak to handle the impact of going down too hard and too soar to slow myself. It was a struggle to keep upright but I managed to get down to the bottom of the mountain only to be faced with a gradual incline on boggy grass. Although this section dropped us down to a fast walk on the way out, it was good enough to run at a fair click on the way back, the tough bit was remaining upright and avoiding the overly boggy section. It was around here that I was running shoulder to shoulder with the German athlete who had sorted out his cramp and was now flying.

Straight out of the bog section, the hard trail was certainly most welcome. I downed a few jelly beans as I was a wee bit hungry and pushed hard with the German guy as we knew that the CP was close. At this stage I had run out of water and was flagging a bit, thankfully a fast flowing stream was a couple of KM or so down the track so I stopped here to take in a decent amount of water, cool myself down and crack on. The German athlete had managed to put a bit of distance between us with me messing about in the stream. That said, I felt a lot better after the rehydration and managed to catch up with him just as we came into CP 5. The final CP!

CP5 after the Bens to Finish Line

I made contact with John at a distance who thankfully saw me, handed over the 10oz bottle and a gel and I was off. I managed to lose the other runners at this stage, who were topping up at the CP. I knew that there was only a few KM to the end and felt that I didn’t need much from this CP. It will all be over soon.

Having Fun on the Trail

Essentially, the final part is about on old road and the large bog section. This is where balls are against the wall and you have to give it everything you have. A couple of K in Julian Rendall from the GB team steamed past me like he was running a 10k. This was about 62KM in! During this time and the finish line he managed to put 3 minutes between us. Great running.

The final tough part was the bog section but this time uphill! I thought we would all be walk / running this section, but no. Led by Julian, the German athlete and I had decided to push hard on this section and run the entire stage. I was conscious this time not to disappear down a large bog. I watched where Julian was stepping and followed his path.  The German guy was just behind me but overtook mid way up. It wasn’t long before I was running with a camera man pointing a large camera in my face jogging along taking a film of ‘the final struggle. Just for entertainment value it should make it in the film!

Back up towards the TV beacon the rest was all downhill or flat.  I took this opportunity to push a bit harder and caught up with the German athlete. We ran alongside each other chatting away at a reasonable pace. It wasn’t long before we saw the 65k mark. 5k to go!!! By now Julian was out of site and heading home. Seeing the final countdown, gave me a massive boost and I pushed as hard as I could slowly putting a bit of distance between myself and the German guy. For the final section we essentially swapped places at least 5 or 6 times before I saw Tony who gave me the nod that we had 1k to go. Right, I threw my wattle bottle and ran as hard as I could. 1k!

Last Few K with German Athlete on my back
(Thanks to Tom Hunt for Photo)

The last 1k was probably the most enjoyable part of my running career to date. The Irish Army guys who were acting as CP guides knew my name and cheered me on and as I entered Letterfrack I was received back into the village with a massive applause being the first Irish guy in. I was so happy. I came in at 7 hours 19 mins. 17th place. Not too bad!

Final Steps

A kiss and hug from the mrs – great stuff. Seconds later, the interviewer is in my face asking questions. Question: “Did you give it everything?” Answer: “I gave it 99% not sure what I did with the other 1%”. The only tthought in my head was WTF does that mean!? No idea.


Uh Ho - Question Time!

Results and Recovery

You can check out the final results with splits here

A massive congratulations to the French and Italian teams who performed exceptionally well. They have certainly set my expectations of where I need to be in the next 12-18 months and the training required to get to a similar level to come close to challenge these guys.

Barry Carrying the Flag into the Finish. Great Stuff

Check out other team mates blogs here:

A massive thank you to the support crew and of course Anj and Neel who had to spend another long weekend being dragged about as part of my running exploits!

Recovery is going well. I took Sunday off as a rest day (although I took a very slow walk back up Diamond Hill for some photos) and then back into my usual training regime on Tuesday running twice a day – Looking to log about 100 miles or so this week.

What’s next? I have the Race Around the Rock (48 miler) around Jersey in August followed by the 100k World Champs – no rest for the wicked!