Marathon Du Mont-Blanc 2018

Published in Reports on 12th July 2018

Aoife Callan crossing finish line of marathon du mont blanc 2018

by Aoife Callan

“The Mountains are another world: they are less a part of the planet and more a separate kingdom, unusual and mysterious, where the only weapons for adventure are willpower and love”

Gaston Rébuffat “Snow and Rock “1959

Nothing can prepare you for the spectacle that is Marathon du Mont Blanc. The marathon is just one of the events that take place during the 3-day trail running festival, held in one of the Meccas of the sport; Chamonix. The festival includes a youth marathon, a 10k, 23k ,42k, 90k, a 17km night run and of course the notorious KM Vertical (3.8km). Over 10,000 runners representing 80 nationalities arrive in Chamonix for the weekend, creating an incredible atmosphere. Seeing is believing.

The little town of Chamonix has hosted the event every June since 1979, when Georges Costaz (who has himself taken part in one of the races every year since the beginning) established the festival. The events attracted some of the world’s most remarkable mountain runners; like Kilian Journet, who ran the 42k on Sunday 1st July and after returning from injury, still managed to win the race in sub-4 hours. Also running were Thibaut Baronian (who I also lined up with in the Gaelforce mountain run in March) and Sage Canaday – whose YouTube Channel I am huge fan of- to name but a few. The race had a hugely competitive field in both male & female categories, and to say I was on the start line with some of these guys is an incredible feeling.

It’s very rare to have the perfect race build up, and even more rare to have the perfect race-especially when it comes to the unknown, a course that involves 2,780m of height gain and 1,750m of decent as well as being relatively new to mountain running.  I was forewarned that nothing in Ireland will prepare you for the climbs in the Alps. Now it’s safe to say I never shy away from a challenge, but on arriving in Chamonix and just looking around at the incredible mountains surrounding me, I did feel a bit overwhelmed and a little apprehensive. Thanks to an Ultra in the Mournes at the beginning of the month, I was also going into this race with a grade 2 ankle sprain, which required an X-ray just 3 weeks previous. I hoped I wasn’t asking too much of myself this time.

As a result, I was lucky to even be on the start line. So, I went into the race wanting to embrace the experience, just to finish rather than race it, and to take in the incredible atmosphere and spectacular views with a smile; after all, I may never get the opportunity again.  Entering the race involved pre-registering in October 2017, and a lottery system was used to decide the lucky (or unlucky, depending on the way you want to look at it) participants in early November. Of course, I was one of the lucky ones!

The race started in the centre of Chamonix at 7am. The eager competitors started arriving from 6am onwards, so I got into my start position at 6.30am, learning from previous race reports that the first 6-10 km is the widest and flattest. Therefore, a good start to avoid bunching was part of my race plan. The elite athletes joined us about 10 minutes before the start for our race briefing. This involved a run-down of our mandatory kit (which all competitors had to carry to avoid a time penalty) as well as a warning about inspections, which we were told could be carried out at any of the aid stations. What I found funny was that this inspection was actually carried out at the end of the race, when I was asked to present my emergency blanket on the one day you would never have needed it- with the temperature hitting 32° in some of the valleys!

The countdown started on the clock and as 7am hit, we all headed off together to the sound of AC/DC’s Hells Bells. The buzz from the supporters was indescribable, and in that moment, I was running through the narrow streets of Chamonix, not knowing if I wanted to cry or burst out laughing.

The course winds its way up the valley over some relatively small hills for the first 10k. I started out a little too fast for my legs liking and seeing as I had very little running done in the previous 3 weeks, my legs and injured ankle felt very stiff. To be honest I felt like they went into shock, but I tried to relax as much as I could and slow things down. I learned from experience it takes me a good 8-10k to relax into a comfortable stride, so I hoped the same would happen today, or else it was going to be a very long day out.

Thankfully I did manage to relax; however, from 10k onwards the course starts to head into narrow forest paths and begins to get congested, so the pace slowed down dramatically. I reached my first pit stop as I arrived at the village of Vallocrine 18k in, which was fully stocked with an assortment of meats, local cheeses, cake, fruit (dried and fresh), jellies and water (sparkling and still), manned by very friendly and helpful volunteers. I was feeling pretty good at this stage and didn’t hang around too long at the station, so I refilled my water bottles, added my Tailwind to my water (which replaced gels as my energy source) and headed off again.  After Vallocrine is where the real climbing began. Coming out of the town I was met with supporters lining the first hill on either side, ringing Swiss cowbells and shouting “Allez, Allez, Allez Oh- Fee!!” (this is how my fans decided to pronounce my name, which was on my race number!). A lot also mistook the Irish flag to be the Italian one, so I was getting a lot of “Allez, Allez Allez Italia!!” as well! However, I was quick to correct them with “Je suis Irlandais! “(I knew my Leaving Cert French would come in handy at some stage!). After that, the crowd started to thin out and we were left to tackle the 941m climb to Aiguille des Posettes. We were greeted halfway by an aid station, and a one-man band banging out some Elvis tunes on the back of a trailer. I was still feeling pretty ok at that stage so just refilled my water. I made sure I was fully stocked, feeling the heat of the late morning starting to intensify.  

Following that, the descent began. It featured approximately 800m of extremely technical terrain, sharp rocks, tree roots, and narrow winding paths. This is when I started to fear for my ankle, the nervousness making my body tense up. Each step was vibrating up through my body, and my fear wasn’t helped when we were stopped by a marshal. We were held up as a helicopter was airlifting a runner off the mountain, which made me even more apprehensive-and worse, it created more congestion on the route down, with runners all around overtaking me at high speed. This made it hard to concentrate on simply not falling head over heels or worse, going over on my ankle again.

I was never so glad to get to the bottom. I could feel now that my knees, ankle and hips had taken a serious beating.  I hit the aid station at 30km and took a little while longer here, refilling my bottles and make sure I had enough fuel.  I was really beginning to feel the heat and so seemed everyone else. Looking around me I saw a lot of fellow runners filling their hats with water and throwing them over their heads to cool themselves down! I was delighted to have my cap to do the same thing.  I gathered myself again and headed off to the cheering and clapping of the supporters, and I have to say the crowds really made you feel like some sort of superstar. So, I tried to at least look like a superstar as I passed by!

I reached just over 31km in under 5 hours, which I was relatively pleased with. A quick glance at my watch showed an elevation gain of just over 1600m, showing I still had 1200 m to climb in the final 11k! This deflated me a little as I did secretly hope for a sub 7-hour finish, maybe even closer to 6 and a half hours in my own mind.  I knew this was just not going to happen now, as the heat was really beginning to take effect.

The last 12.5km of the course (which ended up being 43.85km by the time I stopped my watch) was mostly uphill over rocky terrain. From reading a previous race report I had learned that the course was in fact longer than the 42km so I was prepared for the little bit extra, but it still tested everything I had- both mentally and physically. The heat was relentlessly beating down, and even the most bronzed competitors were taking refuge in any shaded areas they could find. I assumed they were used to this heat but obviously not. It was hard for me not to stop too, but I decided to grind it out as I knew how difficult it would be to start going again if I did.  Any bit of stream or river we came to was like an oasis; thronged with people filling hats, bottles, anything to cool us down.

After the long climb to the last aid station at La Flegere, we were greeted with volunteers pouring water over our heads. At this stage I rang my brother Oliver, who was waiting for me at the finish along with my parents, Clara, my sister and her boyfriend. I let him know I was at around the 37km mark and that I was ok, but that I would be a lot longer than expected. I had to try my best to hold my composure on the phone to him, but the sound of a familiar voice made me lose it a bit. His stern words of encouragement made me settle again, while also making me realise how close I was now to finishing. Now more than ever I needed to hold it together.

I set off again with a buzz from some cola I had at the aid station, but this wasn’t to last long. The last few kilometres were on the incredibly narrow hiking trail leading up to La Plan Praz. At times I could hear the music getting closer, and I could feel the sense of relief. I looked across hoping I would see a finish, but instead I only saw a queue of people climbing the trails. My heart sank again- where was the finish?! My watch* hit 42 kilometres with no end in sight. I had to stay alert, as part of the last few kilometres contained dangerously steep drops as you ran around the winding narrow trails- not an easy task when you’re almost delirious from heat and fatigue.  

I reached the patches of snow at the top and thought surely the finish had to be close now, with supporters gathering either side. I started running again, and sure enough around the next corner the Salomon gantry was just ahead, with the sound of enticing drums and upbeat music thumping out.  Energy sprang back into my body and somehow, I managed to look like I had a strong finish to get in under the 8 hours – 7.57.43 being my official time, ranking 956th out of 2,300 and 90th in my age category- Female Senior.

Crossing the finish line, I was delighted to see my support crew, and judging by my mum’s embrace I think she was very happy to see me too 😊

Would I do it again? – Absolutely. However, it was the toughest race I have ever done; it took me 3 hours just to complete the final 13km, which was basically more hiking than anything else. Unfortunately, Ireland will just not prepare you for the climbs in the Alps, so if I were to get an entry again I would have to re-adjust my training, in particular more training on technical descents.

That being said, it was still the most fantastic experience, and hopefully I will get the opportunity to experience it again; at least now I will know what to expect.

*Don’t talk to me about my watch! As I finished, my watch decided to restart before it gave me a chance to save the run at all. Now any fellow runner will know of the addiction we have to our watches, so, I found myself wondering what was worse; The trials and tribulations of having actually ran the Mont Blanc Marathon, or the realisation that my watch thought I had not run it at all…

 

Foran Runs Hot in a Bitterly Cold Mullingar

Published in Reports on 18th March 2018

Mullingar half marathon 2018 with Sinead Foran

AON MULLINGAR HALF MARATHON 17/03/2018

Report: Gearoid Rohan

There was no problem getting to the front of 1,200 runners at the start line, most were huddled together for shelter as the countdown began to the attractive 10:30am start time. Weather forecast was promised to be 1°C and feel like minus 4°C with a biting wind and it didn’t disappoint.  The midlands were experiencing arctic winds which made the choice of clothing a major talking point before the Mullingar Half Marathon on St Patricks Day.

Eventually, after consulting with another club nutter decision made, drop the long-sleeved shirts and run in the singlet.

The first 7 miles were directly into the bitter headwind, making it tough going and negative splits were the order of the day to achieve a desired time.  Super organisation along the route, junctions well marshalled and many Garda traffic diversions in place to allow the run to flow with ease. The inclusion of both mile and kilometre markers somehow seemed to help pass the time a bit faster.

Just as I began to doubt the locals we chatted to before the race, when they promised a fast finishing 6 miles with a tailwind, we turned off-road and onto the scenic Royal Canal pathway which took us all the way back to Mullingar. The surface on this section, although not tared, was immaculate and ideal for tired legs so the miles tipped along at a nice rate.

Back onto the road for the last ½ km and after a few agonising short downhill turns the finish line was in sight.

Athenry AC runners to make the trip included Colin Duane, Kieran Walsh, Jane Ann Meehan (2ndLady overall) and credit to Sinead Foran who produced the run of the day, smashing the elusive 1hr 30mins for a super PB.

Big turn out from Galway club runners and our car mate Steven Carty (Craughwell AC) had a whopping 7 minute PB.

It’s a race I would highly recommend with a course that you can really attack in the 2nd half. On a calmer day I reckon finish times would have been even faster. Race entry included a generous goody bag, T-Shirt and finishers medal along with post-race food with homemade soup and when you have a good pilot at the wheel it makes short work of the trip to Mullingar.

 

Race results available here: 

https://www.myrunresults.com/events/aon_mullingar_half_marathon_2018/2523/results

Race photos and video here:

https://vimeo.com/260644723

https://flic.kr/s/aHskuKhr7F

Race facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/mullingarhalfmarathon/

 

Martin Keane skates home...

Published in Reports on 15th March 2018

Martin Keane after the 2018 Masters Cross Country...

I've been to a good few races in my time. You won't always get them nice and handy or near home. Some of them I recall include Ballybofey, Ballycotton, Raheny and Roundstone.

Last year's National Masters Cross-Country was held in Waterford, on a very cold day, so as this year's event was held in nearby Clarinbridge I had no excuse.

Sunday morning (National Masters Cross-Country on 8 February 2018 in Kilcornan, Clarinbridge, Galway) after breakfast I took a peep out the back door to be met by a Christmas card scene of everything covered in snow and I thought there'll be no sporting events today, especially Kilcornan. 

A text to one of the event 'head honchos' changed my mind as he said 'the show goes on!'

Coming up to mid-day I put a few things in the bag, including a pair of runners who'd see their last day, removed a lot of snow from the car and hit for the Kilcornan estate, less than 7 miles away, where the event was taking place. 

After arriving, I parked the car and then proceed to have a look at the course which resembled an Irish version of Pyeongchang (Winter Olympics).

It started to make a heavy shower of hail, sleet and snow and I thought, "What the hell am I doing here today!" 

After sheltering for a while I then proceeded to the HQ (at the swimming pool) to be met by a lady steward who said you're not getting in here unless you take of them mucky shoes or else put on those plastic covers which she gave me. I thought I looked like a surgeon in her hospital theatre.

Our race started at 1:30PM. At that stage 12 under-age races had been held on a course which resembled the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme, with mud ankle deep all the way around except about 50 yards where you could see traces of grass.

On the start line all the Galway M65 contingent were there: TJ, Andy, two Philips, two Martins, and myself on standby in case anyone got stuck in the mud. Thank God the race was only 4K and I, eventually, achieved what I set out: finish without falling into the muck.

No, it wasn't pleasant but I enjoyed meeting all the lads for a cuppa afterwards. Well done to all the other athletes from Athenry who braves the day and completed the course. There will be easier days in the future, trust me.

I may not be running next year but those who do I hope ye have a nice sunny day on a dry course, with maybe a bit of grass to be seen oh and not too far to travel.

Martin Keane.

P.S. Mart wasn't the only one to write about that fateful day in Kilcornan, see Frank McNally's Irishman's Diary on the day after's Irish Times.

P.P.S. Edenhill77 was also there.  See here and here.

P.P.P.S. Pure legend.  See here and here.

Frankfurt Marathon

Published in Reports on 12th November 2017

8 Go to Frankfurt​​​​​​​​ Orla Mc Cluskey
Travelling to Frankfurt this year, with a marathon to run, felt very different to arriving in the city twelve months before as a spectator. My last attempt at a marathon was several years ago, and the experience left me so traumatised that I switched to triathlons, and hadn’t revisited the distance since. Fast forward to 2017, time had passed, and I was ready to have another go. Although the training was done, in the week leading up to the race, anticipation and nervous excitement made way to just plain old nervous. When, why and how had this seemed like a good idea?

The morning of the race was subdued, with our band of runners unusually quite in advance of the off, contemplating what was ahead. Focused, freaked out, or maybe both. The race. I expected to find it tough, and it was. In no way due to the course, which is flat, but rather just because marathons are tough. A constant conversation between mind and body for 42.2km - cajoling, admonishing, and everything in between, not letting up until the finish line was in sight. And what a finish – pure theatre, and a fitting finish to a day where I felt grateful to be able, grateful to be there, and grateful to be in such good company. Thank you, Mary, Jane Ann, Esther, Donal, Dave, Gearoid, and Chris.

And speaking of company, our band of runners, how did they fare? In their own words…………

Jane Ann Meehan:
I've always loved Germany. Having spent time there while in school I've always had an attraction to it. Having ran Frankfurt in 2016 I decided to head back in 2017. I drew up a training plan and in July we started out with October PBs in mind.

There is a lot to be said for being anonymous in a big city marathon. The standard in Frankfurt is also a big attraction. With my time, I would have been third Irish home in Dublin but in Frankfurt maybe the top 30! You never have that chance to switch off... there is a constant push and unlike here where sometimes the men will protect you and shelter you... in Germany they don't like getting "chicked".

My race went well really. Apart from an unprecedented loo stop at 22km!! I won't bore anybody with a mile by mile report suffice to say... marathon running hurts. No training prepares you for those last 3 miles. Visualisation is a big part of those 3miles. Step by step. Catching person by person. Running into the Festhalle to scantily clad cheerleaders is a sight to behold. Frankfurt has been good to me.

Most importantly the friends you make along the way whilst training and racing are really what matters. Each of us have a personal goal but we all need to remember we are lucky we can do what we love and when the dust settles on the marathon season nobody cares what time you did.... you do it for yourself.

Donal Leahy:
I travelled to Frankfurt more in hope than anticipation. A very old injury I thought I had forever parted company with flared up two weeks beforehand. My taper could be more accurately described as a flatline, driven by one chance - get to the start line, give it a go and hope things held up. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. That's life. And running! There will be other days and, while the end result wasn't there for me I still enjoyed the training and, apart from the last two weeks, wouldn't change one day of it. Next year.

Chris Deakin:
The lead up to Frankfurt had gone pretty well after a couple of months of missed training earlier in the year, so I was hopeful of having another crack at a sub3 marathon. My last marathon was also in Frankfurt last year when I ran 3:05 so it was a realistic target. Sometimes though it just doesn't go right on the day. My plan was to run as slow as possible in the first half while staying close to target pace and I managed that part alright, crossing the mat at 1:30:15. The second half was a different story and Plans B and C came and went. When the guy wearing the suit passed me I knew it wasn't going to be a good day. It was a good night though, thanks to Orla, Mary, Jane Ann, Esther, Donal, Dave, Gearoid and Mojito. Looking forward to the next one already!

Esther Leahy:
My taking part in this took me a little by surprise as I thought my marathon days were well behind me. After a break of three years from any type of distance running the hunger was starting to take hold again. I had a good summer of cross training behind me with some short distance triathlon and before I realised it my running was coming good again and I seemed to be able to cope with some longer miles. I dithered with the idea of Frankfurt for some time and eventually Donal took the decision out of my hands and signed my up – ok no choice now! With my time short I tried to stay calm and just enjoy being able to run pain free.

On race day the usual nerves were abounding and with that self-doubt – did I do enough? How much is this going to hurt? Etc. etc. Frankfurt’s start is nothing short of confusing there seemed to be no apparent entry points so it was a case of spotting a gap in the barriers and forcing our way in. This led to being very far up with the very fast runners and hoping they didn’t spot the imposter. The first few miles are looped around the city and support was strong along with the wind on the day! At about 6/7 miles you head away from the city and are taken on a few dual carriageways (nothing pretty ever to see on a dual carriageway but miles are miles). This is one lovely section through a leafy boulevard, some might even call it a forest J By mile 20 or so you are back in the city and scenery is the least of your troubles and it’s dig in time and get the job done.

I stood at the start line with no real plan other than to run as far as I could as quick as I could and see what happens. Well what happened is I had a great race and the pain didn’t kick in until 23 miles and then it was dig dig dig but I got there. The finish is really rock star stuff, the last 200 metres are in the “Festhalle” with red carpet, flashing lights, confetti pouring from the sky and of course cheer leaders. No matter how tired you are this is the lift to take you home.

Job done you’d think all you’d have to do is collapse and enjoy the euphoria but no!! Frankfurt Marathon comes with a sting in the tail – for some bizarre reason (money gain no doubt) you hire the timing chip and if this is not returned you are charged €25. In order to return this, you have to remove the chip from your lace, climb two flights of stairs and deliver said chip to the stewards then there is the issue of coming back down those stairs. This utter nonsense certainly dimmed the cheer a little.

However good cheer was restored again as one by one Athenry AC met at our pre-assigned meeting spot. Within minutes of us all meeting it was laughs and good cheer all around as we each had our own tale of adventure and misadventure to tell. That good cheer lasted well into the night and getting up to face a flight home was almost as testing as the 26.2 miles the day before.

Dublin Marathon

Published in Reports on 6th November 2017

Dublin Marathon 2017 saw over 20,000 athletes take part in this year's event. The route snaked its usual path from Fitzwilliam Street, through the south city and onto the Phoenix Park, through Drimnagh, Terenure, Belfield and Ballsbridge and finishing in Merrion Square. The first wave departed at 9:00am along the 42km route. Bernard Rotich (Kenya) won the race in 2:15:53 while Nataliya Lehonkova (Ukraine) won the women's race in 2:28:58 following her victory in 2015. Ireland's Patrick Monahan took the wheelchair title in 1:49:54.
The usual strong representation of approx 40 from Athenry AC travelled to Dublin. The group comprised some seasoned marathoners and some first timers. There were a number of PB and some great times.
Tammie Corrigan ran her second Dublin marathon and achieved a 13+ minute PB.

Kenneth O'Hara ran his 5th marathon and 4th Dublin marathon and completed this year's race in 3:50. Kenneth was happy enough as he contended with a chest infection on the day. His plan is to put more time into his training and knows he can clock a more competitive time. We will be watching out for Kenneth over the next few months!

Patrick Forde writes
My report.. warts and all...Dublin No 10 in a row.. 2008 through to 2017. So that was an achievement in itself. Not too happy with the run in.. leg problems, busy with life.. a bad dose of lazyitis.. But that said I got a bit done in the lead up and made it to the start line on the Sunday morning.
The plan was 3.45. It was a realistic target based on the way I was.The race went well early on. The pace was manageable. I ran with Kenneth and we chatted away about all the members in the Club.. no one got spared..Dublin was breathtakingly beautiful especially in the park.. probably the nicest I've ever seen. On 14 miles Ken pulled back so I pushed on.. TBH I missed his company.
The "Up Athenry " shouts were brilliant. Huge crowds in the villages and nice and quite in other areas. On 20 miles at the viaduct I started to feel pain. I knew I was going too good and it was pay back time. Experience told me to re-evaluate or I wouldn't finish.
I pulled back big time and found the last 5 miles hard going. It was brilliant to see the family on Mile 26. Even after many years of running it's still a very emotional moment to see family and friends as I finish. 3.49 crossing the line.. not what I was looking for but by no means a disaster.
As always the support from AAC members out on the road was very encouraging. Thank you to all of you and I hope some day to do likewise. This is a fantastic club made of a motly crew of mad people that love to do one thing ..run... long may that continue.
Patrick Forde

Pb for me..3.25.56..slowly but surely
David O'Sullivan,

Brian Somers writes...
I ran my second Marathon on October 29th (the other was Dublin in 2013) and am glad to say I ran a six minute PB coming in at 3 hours, 12 min, 2 seconds. My goal was to knock four or five minutes off my previous attempt so I am rather pleased with the result. I only really started to do Marathon specific training from around September 10th (I briefly attempted the Hanson Plan in August but dropped it as it was too difficult to go from 3 days to 6 days a week running!) so overall I am happy to "pull it out of the fire " a bit and do better than my previous attempt. I have to admit I was slightly nervous of the unknown last few miles but although I did feel tired thankfully I did not totally crumble.

My shorter distance times indicate I can possibly go a bit faster so I am hoping to get the time (and kop on!) to fully see through a Marathon plan and see what can happen! Once again wearing the Colours of Athenry AC made the experience amazing, and it was a Privilege to run alongside some fantastic colleagues, the bit of banter before the race felt like we were going off to do a handy 5 k as opposed to the DCM! The support from the Club around the route was also amazing, nothing like seeing a few familiar faces to make you straighten yourself up a little.
Brian Somers

Kieran Walsh
I got 3:19:46. It was my second marathon and gained about 16 mins on the first one so it was a new pb.

I ran Dublin and had it tough the whole way. I had a problem with shoes from early on and then suffered cramp which scuppered my chances of getting a category medal. Finished 6th of 43 in 70-74 age group and 10906th out of 15891 overall I think.
Martin Keane

Peadar Nugent
I completed my 38th DCM on 29th October, accompanied for the 7th year by Maire Treasa Beatty, in 5:33:57. This was almost five minutes slower than last year, but very satisfying nonetheless. Valerie was with the two of us for the first 20 miles, at which stage she moved ahead to finish with Michael Glynn, four minutes faster than MTB and me.

Congrats and well done to all!

'Run Like The Wind Road Races results

Published in Reports on 3rd November 2017

Corrib AC hosted a very successful set of "road" races around the Galway Wind Farm (Seecon East) outside Oughterard on Saturday, 28 October 2017 (the day before the '17 DCM).  It is a unique location.  The starty/finish line was extremely close to one of the gigantic turbines.  It was certainly very eerie being so close to something so big, which was also moving quite quickly on what felt like a very calm day, which was pretty fogg.

Full result is attached.

John O'Connor's albums are here, here and here.

Galway Clinic Streets of Galway 2017

Published in Reports on 14th August 2017

2017 saw the 32nd year of the Streets of Galway road race. Just over 50 from the club joined another 2,450 athletes to run the very familiar 8km loop around the streets of Galway. This race is well know for its great local support and this year was no different as supports were interspersed along the route to encourage the athletes along the way! The weather was very pleasant for the supporters but the athletes found it warm! The now traditional wind was also reported along the prom for the last leg of the race. Kevin Maunsell was victorious with almost a photo finish required between himself and Freddie Keron Sittuk. While there was clear daylight in the women's race when Siobhan O'Doherty took gold for her second consecutive year.
First Athenry AC members home were the Meehans! David finishing in 40th position clocking 28:25 with Jane Ann finishing just over 1 min behind in 29:45 while taking 4th place.

Results
Men
Kevin Maunsell (Clonmel AC) 23:44
Freddie Keron Sittuk (Raheny) 23:45
Hugh Armstrong (Ballian) 24:07

Women
Siobhan O'Doherty (Borrisokane) 27:43
Caroline Crowley (Crusaders) 29:04
Nicola Duncan (GCH) 29:23

Results http://www.redtagtiming.com/results/SoG2017.pdf

Rogaine 2017 (Not the hair oil!)

Published in Reports on 26th June 2017

You’ve never been truly lost until you’ve been dropped in the middle of a mountain range with a map, compass & a list of numbers as your only directions home. BUT, if this sounds like fun to you then Rogaine is the sport you want. Basically long distance orienteering, the name of the game is to score as many points as possible by hitting grid reference control points within a specified time cut off. The person with the most points at the end wins.

So this year I entered the Rogaine 2017 - 6 hour event which was being held (somewhere) in the Wicklow Mountain National Park. We were told to buy the East West Map for Lugnaquilla & Glendalough, so we knew the course would be somewhere within that area and a couple of weeks before race day the tone for the race was set when the race start & base camp location was issued as a set of grid reference co-ordinates: O077001 (Wicklow Gap).

Whilst I’ve some limited experience on mountains & have entered races before with some level of map & compass work required, this level of navigation (with no GPS back up allowed) was a new departure for me & I was really looking forward to it. I was confident in my map reading skills but I didn’t really have anything concrete to back up my confidence yet, so I had no idea how the event was going to go. The aim for the day was to finish within the 6hr cut off with points on the board. For every minute you finish over the 6 hours you are docked 100 points so a 10 min delay could wipe out your whole score (and it happens).

So I rock up to base camp for kit check early on Sunday morning & the weather couldn’t be worse for this type of event. Low cloud, mist & fog. Whilst I don’t mind running in any weather, for navigation it’s not great as you can’t sight any landmarks. I was going to need my wits about me! There was about 60 of us in the 6 hour event across 35 teams (I was a team of 1) whilst the 24hour event was already 18 hours in (a whole different type of madness), so we were all due to finish at 2pm.

8.00am rolled around & the race starts with everyone being handed an envelope with a list of 19no grid reference coordinates. It’s up to ourselves to plot the coordinates on our map & plot a route ourselves. This is the most important part of the whole event, get this wrong & you’re not going to hit any controls. I plot them out & thankfully double check everything as I had two marked wrong (This surprisingly took a half hour but it seemed to be the case for most people). Due to the weather conditions I want to omit as much open mountain as possible. In that situation you are totally dependent on your map & compass and with cloud down around your knees there’s nothing to sight off & it’s easy to go wrong.

Looking over the control locations I immediately decide to omit some of the most east & west outliers. One of the westernmost controls is located at Three Lakes near Conavalla Mountain (734m). I know this area from the Art O Neill race & it is a maze of 10 foot tall peat hags which are near impossible to negotiate in low cloud. I reckon I could lose plenty of time up there. The easternmost control is located in Laragh, five miles distant. Whilst the distance didn’t faze me & I could pick up other controls along the way, the constant five mile climb from Laragh to the Wicklow Gap didn’t appeal to me. With all controls worth an equal 100 points there was no benefit to hitting these far flung controls. (In the 24hr event the harder controls can be worth up to 400 points)

I decide to take a clockwise loop around base camp picking up the closer controls. The route would allow me use a lot of natural features such as streams & forests as guides, would omit a lot of open mountain & I’d never be too far away from base camp if I needed to chase time.

Control 1 at Turlough Hill (681m) (Irelands only pumped water storage power station) was probably the easiest on the course & most people went for it. It allowed us use the ESB service road to the top of the mountain & get some early points on the board. After this though it was using the map proper. I’m well able to read a map & know the difference on a map between a path / track / trail / road / service road etc. What I wasn’t used to was how each of these items were represented in real life (What’s a track / trail etc on the ground?). After the first control I easily lost about 15 minutes where I started to doubt myself & I had a bit of back and forth on various trails. I eventually settled into it & got a feel for the ‘on the ground’ conditions and headed for my second control.

There’s something eerie about standing on a what’s effectively a cliff edge looking down into a sea of cloud & thinking, I don’t know what’s down there but that’s where I have to go. The sign beside me stating ‘Beware edge & rock falls’ didn’t beef up my confidence much. But I knew if I went over, the natural contours would draw me down to the stream below which I could follow to the control, so off I went. Luckily enough I soon broke through the cloud line & I could pick up the stream easily enough. I followed it down to the valley floor and bar a detour around a large marsh on the low point of the valley floor I was able to follow this to the control area. It’s an amazing place, surrounded on three sides by mountains with a forested valley in front. The only sign of life I see are the herds of wild deer who are watching me from the distance. I continue along the stream & pick up the next control easily on the forest edge. It’s a confidence boost as it allows me to have faith in my navigation skills. 200 points on the board.

The next control is across the Wicklow Gap road. I know I can follow the stream out to it so continue on. The terrain is constantly changing from marsh, to forest, to boulder fields & each one has its own tests. At one point I give up on the land & decide to just use the stream (which has now grown to a small river). It’s just below knee height & is grand for wading through but it’s definitely easier than the felled forest either side. I come to a thick forest & there is no definitive track. There are a few small trails, the type you often see when you’re out walking in the woods & think to yourself ‘I wonder where they go’ but never bother to find out. Well I had no choice but to find out. It’s amazing how dark it can get under the tree canopy & I feel like a small child exploring the woods but it’s allowing me to follow the stream so I'm happy to explore. I eventually come to a bridge at a Coillte service road which I know I can follow to the main road. I also know there’s ancient walking route called St Kevin’s Way around here which would save me some time. I spot it and am delighted to see they’ve just built new boardwalks along it. Some people don’t like using these but after the past few miles I’ve had, they feel like heaven. I follow the trail to Annalecka Bridge, cross over the road into the forest beyond and pick up the next control easily enough at a forest trail end. 300 points on the board.

To get to the next point I can go back down the hill to the main road & take a new entrance into the woods, but this means dropping down from 450m elevation to 350m & I would then have to climb back up to 600m. I want to try & eliminate the climbing if possible to save the legs & energy so I decide against that route. My location is right at the edge of the map & it looks like the track I’m on might intersect with the track I want to be on but it’s off the edge of the map & I’m not sure. I decide to try it & head off but after a few hundred meters the track turns in the opposite direction I wanted so I bailed on it (Looking at the online map later I should have trusted my instincts as it looped around to meet it). I still don’t want to go all the way back to the road so I decide to cut through the forest (never an easy decision). It drops off into a small valley so I can see what’s ahead of me. The first half is old felled forest whilst the far side of the stream is newly planted forest (3 – 4 years old). I manage the first part ok (even though it’s about chest high grass) as I picked up a few deer trails & cross the stream easily enough. The new forest on the opposite side consists of approximately 8ft high pines trees & I spot a fire break (a line of about a 6ft gap between trees) which runs vertically uphill, generally in the direction I want to go. For some reason this just dead ends half way up & there is no clear way through. I have no choice but to make my own way through (Not as easy as it seems). Very soon I resemble Wile E Coyote after he’s run into a cactus, I have pine needles sticking into me everywhere. I can’t see in front of me, I can’t see behind me, the ground cover is atrocious & I end up upside down with my head in the ditch at least twice. I have no choice but to use the compass to make sure I’m heading east but you just have to go where the trees will let you at times. I come to a tall ridge in front of me & haul myself up & nearly cry with joy when I see I’m on the track. I’m on a large turnabout too for Coillte trucks so I can pinpoint exactly the spot on the map & it’s perfect. I follow it downhill to a stream from where I have a long but easy to follow trail uphill to the next control. 400 on the board.

From here I know it’s going to be tougher. I’m on the edge of the forest with Tonaglee Mountain (817m) in front of me. I’m now heading out into open mountain & will be compass dependent for the next while. I have two choices. I can climb up to the pass between Tonaglee & Lough Outer or I can contour around Tonaglee on the same level & bypass the mountain. The mountain pass means another 250m of climbing from where I am and through intermittent breaks in the cloud I can see quite a way up along some very tough terrain & don’t spot the top. It’s an easy decision, I’m going round. It adds on a nice bit of distance but it should be quicker. As I head off from the control I meet a team of lads coming the other way, one just looks at me & says ‘Jaysus, this is some slog’, I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling it.

Contouring around a mountain can be a pain. Your ankles can take a beating due to the constant strain from the angle plus your natural instinct when you come to an obstacle is to go around it on the downside so if you’re not careful you can start losing elevation very easily. So every so often I’d try to climb a bit when I saw a nice easy, clear section. During one of these I look up and about 30ft in front of me is a large stag. I reckon he’s about 8ft tall & due to the cloud all I can make out is his black outline. It’s creepy looking but he has no interest in me & saunters off into the mist. (Once they hear you coming you’re fine, it’s when you startle them you can have trouble). The terrain on this section is tough. There are a lot of large boulder fields where you really have to mind your footing or you could snap a leg easily in a hole. After what seems like an age I feel like I should be coming around the outer edge of the mountain but my compass still reads as heading south, I think I should be heading east but that would bring me straight up the mountain. I keep going south along the same level & slowly but surely I start to turn (at least the compass tells me I’m turning anyway, I can’t really tell with the cloud). As if by magic the clouds part & I have a view for miles below me. I realise the leeside of the mountain was sheltered from the wind and was covered in mist & cloud whilst the windward side was clear & I could now see where I was going for the first time in the day (after 4 hours). I look down below me & was disappointed that about a mile distant, but directly in line with me, is the base camp. I thought I was way further along on the mountain but that’s the perils of open mountain navigation, it’s very hard to gauge the ground you are covering. It at least gives me my location though & I can pick up the speed (well a little bit anyway) as I know now where I need to go.

I come round the far side of Tonaglee & have a good view beyond. I can see the general location of two more controls & reckon I’ll get to these before I have to turn back (One about a half mile distance, the next about 1.5 miles). The first is on a rock outcrop of one of Tonaglee’s lower steps. It’s at about 580m elevation so is slightly below me & looks like an easy route over. The terrain is deceptive though & I stupidly end up dropping down about 100m to a stream crossing before having to climb back up. This loses me time & on top of that my legs are telling me they’ve now had enough. I’m starting to get spasms in a lot of places & don’t think I’ll hold out much longer. I get to the ridge & after a loop of the area pick up the control. 500 on the board.

Big decision time. I have just over 1 ½ hours left & I can see in the distance the next control location at Aska Lake. Do I have the legs to get me there & back in time as there is also a control just south of here which I’m going to pick up anyway on the way back. With my legs being the deciding factor I cut my losses & ignore Aska Lake and I head directly south for what will be by last control. The downhill is painful, with each step I’m getting spasms. I’ve long since run out of water but I have a feeling the leg cramps are more to do with fitness rather than dehydration.

After a long painful descent I eventually hit the Wicklow Gap road which I have to cross. It’s the first bit of solid ground I’ve come across in 2 ½ hours & it feels great. I take a few minutes to stretch out the legs before crossing over into the marsh on the opposite side where there’s a control somewhere just a few hundred meters off the road on fairly open, marshy ground. The note with the grid reference states ‘Boulder’ so with much better visibility I reckon it should be easy to spot but after looping around a bit I hit a service road & I’ve found I had gone too far southeast. I backtrack towards base camp and I see another runner heading the opposite direction, he lets a roar that ‘it’s near the tailings pile’ and sure enough in the distance I see a tailings heap with a large boulder beside it. I get there & they’ve done a good job of hiding the control in the middle of three boulders. 600 on the board.

After an argument with some briars I make it back to the main road where I have 5.05 on the clock. I’ve covered 15 miles already & there’s just over one uphill mile to base camp. I know if I head back now I’ll be very early but I don’t think I can manage to hit another control & get back under the cut off time so off I go. I have the luxury of knowing I’m well within the cut off & can take it easy as I don’t think I could run much at this stage.

Job done & target hit of points on the board and under the cut off at 5.19. A lot of time left but not enough to do anything with. I had no illusions that 600 points would be competitive but I was happy. Looking at the results I was comfortably mid table in joint 17th position, not bad for a first timer. The winner, amazingly, hit 15 controls & still finished with 17mins to spare. On that terrain that is a phenomenal performance. Looking at the results, nine teams missed the cut off with two teams scoring -6800 as they were 1 ¼ hours late (Someone obviously got lost).

Looking back I think I missed out on two easy controls. The first through bad decisions after control 1 where I should have followed a trail up to Tomaneena Mountain before going over the cliff edge but I was still getting to grips with the maps at that stage & didn’t realise it was so close. The next was Aska Lake towards the end. With 40 minutes left on the clock it was possibly doable. But who knows?

A great event in a fantastic location & hosted by all volunteers. A big shout of thanks to Paul Mahon (Who has to be a bit sadistic to set up that course) & his crew.

Galway 5km Series - The Final Leg Athenry

Published in Reports on 31st May 2017

Tonight 690 athletes gathered at the start line in Athenry for the final leg of the 2017 Galway 5km series. Approx 22 clubs were represented. Close to 80 donned the Athenry AC colours of maroon and white. Athletes reported conditions were very warm and many welcomed the downhill approach to the finish line! Fabian Mangan was the first member of the club home. Fabian finished in 25th place overall while clocking 18:00. Deirdre Brophy was the first Athenry woman home and she crossed the line in 19:11. Throughout the series there has been a number of athletes who achieved PB's in most of the races. Well done to you! And so the 5km series is done and dusted for another 12 months! Hope to see you all again next year!

Men's Results
Michael O'Connor GCH 15:57
Ben Ryan 16:37 (finished 2nd in Galway, Craughwell)
Neil O'Leary GCH 16:41 (finished 2nd in Claregalway)

Women's Results
Barbara Dunne GCH 18:14 (won Claregalway & 2nd in Craughwell)
Grainne Ni Uallachain GCH 18:19 (finished 2nd in Galway and Caltra and 3rd in Craughwell)
Caron Ryan 18:22 (won Loughrea)

Wheelchair Category
Shauna Bocquet Craughwell AC 15:05 (PB) and won the race!

Results
http://www.redtagtiming.com/results/Galway5kmSeries2017_6_Athenry.pdf

Photos on our FB page Athenry AC