Athlete Profile - Ray Somers

Published in Members on 8th March 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  Since 2009.

2.      Briefly, what started you running? My two housemates back in the day did a lot of running which began to affect our social life so I took up running so as not to be left out.

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  Always Asics GT 3000, they’ve never let me down. They’ve let me commit the mortal sin of wearing brand new ones for the marathon (purchased at the marathon expo the day before) without repercussions.  I slept with them on the night before to break them in, I think Tomas Ruane wore his gel belt to bed that night so I wouldn’t feel so silly. 

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession? My lucky shorts & the Ballycotton Top 100 finishers T-shirt they got me after 5 years of trying.

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  It’s a tie between Ballycotton 10 Miles and the Streets of Galway 8k.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in? The Fields of Athenry 10k, I’ve never got to race it as long as I’ve been with the club.

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? The River Moy ½ marathon 2014, I had hoped to break 1hr 20mins for the first time but the first four miles were a disaster but I had the best race of my life for the remainder and finished in 1hr 18.44.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  I’ve had a few but the beer mile each year stands out, I’m usually at the end of the field (literally, puking!)

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  Derrybrien in the summer, it’s a great place for a quality long run followed by a dip in Loughrea Lake afterwards. The weather was always good up there, no cars just other runners and cyclists.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  Threshold training on my own was quite rewarding, often matching race times in training.

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? Group training.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  Owen Curran once sent me to the front door of Rick Mice (not his real name to protect his identity) while he tied his lacers (behind a car). I was ushered from the door by Mrs. Mice as she informed me it was their childs communion and Rick couldn’t come out today as he had to entertain relatives. She had no sooner closed the door than Mick, I mean Rick, came running from the side of the house, shorts & runners on, t-shirt in hand whispering “go,go,go”. The three of us tore across the green like schoolboys playing Knock Door Run. I had been used as bait.

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Enjoy it, if you don’t you won’t stay at it.

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? I’ve been pretty much injury free until last year when my hip started causing me a lot of grief.

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Boxercise core class.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident? I once corrected a young female runner before a race when she said she was going to do 36mins, I told her it was a 10k not an 8k assuming she was a novice to racing. She finished in 36 mins, 2 mins ahead of me. That was me put back in my box.

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Frank Burke, every time.

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you? Mick Rice, Valerie Glavin and Ruthann Sheahan have had some fantastic performances in distance running that they tend to just gloss over, the 3 of them deserve a huge amount of credit for their achievements. 

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? 10k   20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......   Distance               Time           Where                                When

5km                      16:45          Tuam                                  2014

8km                      27:55          Streets of Galway                2015

10km                    35:22          Moylough                            2014           

10 mile                 57:57          Ballycotton                          2015

Half Marathon       1:18:44       Ballina                                2014

Full Marathon       2:49:31       Dublin                                 2015

Athlete Profile - Chris Deakin

Published in Members on 1st March 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  I joined in 2013.

2.      Briefly, what started you running? Marathons. I always loved the idea of running a marathon and was amazed that anyone could run that far. 

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  Saucony Guide 9 for training and racing. 

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession? Garmin Forerunner 610, Garmin Express and Garmin Connect – couldn't do without them! Also although its not technically running gear/apparel the Nutri Ninja gets a lot of post-run use.

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  The Portumna Forest Marathon. There's something about certain races and this has it all, professionally run, relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, a forest and a good chance of some sun! The Dublin Marathon weekend is also a favourite.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  The Reggae Marathon in Jamaica. Its on in early December and would be the perfect time for a holiday. The race starts at 5:15am and the average temperature is still over 20C. Run a marathon and relax on the beach for the rest of the day. Club trip? www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKUpYUtvBq4

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? The 2016 Trim 10 Mile. A lot of hard training had gone in before it and it was a great confidence boost to see that the training is paying off. My time was 1:02:13 (but 62:13 looks better) which was a big PB over what I considered to be my previous best performance in the Craughwell 10 in 2015.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  The Run Killarney Marathon in 2013. This is a beautiful marathon course but when you throw in 28-30 degree heat it quickly turned into damage limitation. The cramps arrived very early in the race and I had to walk large chunks of it. I walked some if it with another cramper and we'd take it in turns to try and get going again, which never lasted more than a few hundred metres. Agony. I was a sweaty mess at the finish and hobbled home in 4:23. Maybe I won't go for a PB in Jamaica!

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  Its more about the people than the place.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  Probably the long Sunday runs, but Tuesday night speed is also a great session. I don't miss many Tuesdays and it gives you a great idea of how fit you are (or aren't). 

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? Before I joined Athenry AC I would definitely have said solo but now most of my training is with other people. Its so much easier to get out the door if you know you are going to have good company, especially on the long runs, or on days when the weather is against you.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  It was on a recent (very) long run with clubmates. One of them (not naming names but it rhymes with 'Sprain Scan') had worked out a road I could take to shorten the route by a couple of miles and we'd meet up on the way back to Athenry. So I took the road which quickly deteriorated into a chaotic mix of ankle deep sludge and rocks fit for farm vehicles and Land Rover Defenders only. I tip-toed my way through the Tough Mudder training course trying not to lose a shoe and unfairly cursing at the cattle in the fields on either side. I knew it was only about a mile though and it would bring me back on the roads that I knew. But about 0.7 miles in the road ended and was replaced by three gates with fields beyond. So back I went and got a second coating of sludge on my way back. Sorry cows!

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Join a club like Athenry. Everything else will fall into place after that and you'll meet friends for life.

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? Thankfully I've never had a long term or recurring injury.

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Yes, core/circuits at Athenry Physiotherapy & Performance Clinic three times a week.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident? In one of my first ever races in the Headford 8K wearing an uncalibrated Garmin with a foot pod I thought the finish line was only 100 metres away so I blasted passed about 6 or 7 people. The finish line never came though and those 6 or 7 people and more returned the favour before I finally fell over the finish line 400 metres away.

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Anyone who is in front of me with 500m to go.

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you? The recently retired Ryan Hall from the USA (he ran a half marathon in under 60 minutes ). He's only 33 so I have a feeling he might be back. Closer to home, Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock) is the real deal and its great to have him at the Fields 10K every year. There are also lots of inspirational people in the club. Obviously Jane Ann, who sets high goals, achieves them and then goes again. Jim Leahy is another one. Jim's 2015 was inspirational – he won his age category at the Connemarathon Ultra in April, finished the Portumna 100K in 7th place in June with an incredible last lap to get under 10 hours, and then he achieved the magical sub 3 hours in the Dublin Marathon in October. 

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? I'm hoping to run under 18 minutes during the 5K Series but the big one is the marathon.   20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......   Distance               Time           Where                                When

5km                      18:16          Resolution Run                    Jan 2016

8km                      30:24          Streets of Galway                Aug 2015

10km                    38:11          Kiltullagh                             Dec 2015           

10 mile                 1:02:13       Trim                                    Feb 2016

Half Marathon       1:27:13       Athlone Flatline                    Sep 2015

Full Marathon       3:09:50       Dublin                                  Oct 2015

Athlete Profile - Orla McCluskey

Published in Members on 1st March 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  Since 2012.

2.      Briefly, what started you running? Everyone around me seemed to be running, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and joined a Fit for Life group.

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  Saucony Guide.

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession?  Heart rate monitor – keeps me going when I feel like giving in, which happens often.

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  The New York Half Marathon in March, which starts in Central Park, and then on through Times Square and finishes near Wall St. Great city, flat course, and fantastic support. Closer to home, the Athlone Half Marathon in September is also a favourite.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  Adams County Marathon, Ohio, which runs through Amish farms. The countryside looks amazing, and the race begins and ends at a bakery....perfect! www.runwiththeamish.com

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? Kilkenny Olympic Triathlon 2015.My first race of that distance, I entered to see if I could do it, and I did! Not pretty or fast, but I did it.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  Limerick marathon in 2013.....cramps, cramps, cramps for the last couple of miles. Hobbling, stretching, swearing, more stretching, and bargaining with myself to keep going, I thought the finish would never come in to view. Meters from the finish line, with legs that wouldn’t cooperate, I still wasn’t sure if I would make it to the finish. 

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  Around the quiet roads near Kiltullagh, Bullaun, Raford.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  Speed sessions, and a long run on a nice day.

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? For me group training is a great motivator - I push myself harder than I would if I were training alone.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  I can’t think of anything funny or strange (although I’m sure there have been plenty), but what has been great is hearing people’s stories, shared as you run, an opportunity to get to know others better, which might otherwise not have arisen were it not for running. At this point, you might be thinking that if I’m talking that much, I’m not running hard enough......possibly true!

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Persevere. When you least feel like running, that’s when you most need to go out.

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? I’ve been lucky to avoid any serious injuries, but a stiff neck and shoulders niggle regularly. I have a list of exercises which I SHOULD be doing to a couple of times a day, BUT.....(don’t tell the physio!).

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Yes, I’m a member of Predator triathlon club, so I cycle and swim as well as run. Also, core classes every week are something I don’t like to miss.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident? There have been many digestive upsets, and hopping of walls during runs.

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Chris Deakin. However, unless he’s blindfolded, and running on one leg, I think it’s unlikely to happen. Or perhaps if I got a good (very good) head start......!

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you?Two in particular:

1.       My mother, who took up running long before I did because she wanted to run the Connemarathon Half to raise money for charity, and is now nearing her tenth Connemarathon Half this year!

2.       Martina McIntyre, a Predator colleague, whose determination, focus, and resulting triathlon achievements, have inspired me to aim for goals which I would never have considered for myself.

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? Half marathon.   20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......   Distance               Time           Where                                When

5km                       23:45          Claregalway (5k Series)        2015

10km                                

10 mile                  

Half Marathon       1:48             Athlone Flatline                    2015

Full Marathon        4:22            Dublin                                  2014

Athlete Profile - Ronan McCarthy

Published in Members on 23rd February 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  Joined May 2013, almost 3 years.

2.      Briefly, what started you running? There was a baby triathlon for charity organised in my office in April 2013, I started training for it in January 2013 and loved the running element so kept it up.

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  They are all Asics, I train in Gel Cumulus and DS Trainers. I Race in Gel Lyte 33s.

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession?  All my pairs of base layer shorts, I can’t run without them, I don’t like bits bouncing around!

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  Gaelforce probably, but Dublin Marathon is a close second.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  I’d really like to do a big mad multi-sport event, something like the Godzone Adventure Race in New Zealand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQKwF64WY5I

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? Finishing 52nd out of over 1300 competitors in Gaelforce 2014 is the one that stands out.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  The 5km turkey trot in Carnmore a few years ago that I decided to race while still drunk from the night before, after the first 300 metres I knew I was in serious trouble, it’s the worst I’ve ever felt before,during and after a race.

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  During Adventure race season It’s got to be Ryehill, it really puts you in the pain zone but it sets you up for any race ahead.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  Sprints & Hill Repeats, i'll take the short sprints at full tilt before the long stuff any day.

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? Group for the tough stuff, solo for the easy.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  A man running the 2013 Fields of Athenry 10k in flip-flops….like proper flip flops. “Are you mad?” was my question pointing to said flip flops. “Well there’s no way I’m getting my new runners wet” was the reply. I nearly fell over! Worst of all…..he finished ahead of me!

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Join a club, you’ll get everything you need to know there.

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? There’s been a few, but a torn calf ruined my year last year.

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Yes, some core. Cycling when the weather allows.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident?  I was training on one of my usual routes which was badly flooded. Car coming opposite stopped before a big flood as not to soak me going through it but instead of cautiously navigating the flood myself I stayed going full pelt and tried to run along the edge/ditch…..slipped on the ditch and took a nose dive straight in to the big flood. The 2 ladies in the car near peed themselves laughing…..i walked home in shame.

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Ray Somers or Dave Noone!!!

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you? John Treacy was my hero as a boy, I’ll never forget watching the ’84 olympic marathon with my dad.

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? I actually have designs on breaking them all this year, but mostly I’d like to go under 18:30 in a 5km. I ran 18:42 in Tuam 2 years ago but the rumours are it may have been a short course.   20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......   Distance               Time           Where                                When

5km                        18:42           Tuam                                   2014 (See question 19. This answer probably should be 19:08, Maree, 2014)

8km                        33:30           Streets of Galway                 2013

10km                      39:52           Moylough                             2014

10 mile                  1:09:59         Craughwell                           2014

Half Marathon       1:33:10        Athlone Flatline                     2014

Full Marathon        3:22:35        Dublin                                  2015

Athlete Profile - Anne Lyng

Published in Members on 23rd February 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  4 years approx

2.      Briefly, what started you running? “Back in the day” I played soccer, football and rugby and running was always part of training!

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  Asics 3000

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession?  My Garmin and HR Monitor

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  5km series and the Fields of Athenry 10km

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  Portumna Half Marathon – I plan to run it this year

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? Athlone Half Marathon in 2015 – I trained really hard for this race and my target time was 1.55.00 but I ran 1.52.15 which was a 7 min PB

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  Monivea 5km around 4 years ago. I started too fast trying to keep up with Elaine Quinn and got a stitch at 2km. I had to walk for several mins before slowly jogging the rest of the race and finished in an abysmal time!

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  Monivea Road and Kiltullagh Road. There are lots of lovely loops around Athenry!

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  Speed definitely my favourite and I enjoy the long runs also

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? Both - it depends on the type of session

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  Don’t know if this qualifies as funny or strange but…running out the Kiltullagh Road about 2 years ago Jane Ann passed in the car held her hand on the horn while hanging out the window and “roared” at me!! (sorry Jane Ann!)

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Don’t underestimate your own ability

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? Hamstring

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Yes – core and sometimes swimming and cycling

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident?  In Dangan last July taking part in a high jump competition (I am not a high jumper but I’ll try anything!). I lined up as shown and ran towards the bar but my legs wouldn’t lift off the ground! Next attempt I ran through the bar and after numerous attempts I mastered my own style of the Fosbury Flop! Everyone was so patient and helpful giving me lots of encouragement and advice it was embarrassing!

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Lorna Freeman!

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you? Sonya O’Sullivan

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? Half Marathon target time is 1.45.00   20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......   Distance               Time           Where                                When

5km                        22:47           5k Series Craughwell

8km                        39:31           Kilconieron 

10km                      49:41           Moylough

10 mile                  1:29:56         Craughwell

Half Marathon        1:52:15         Athlone

Full Marathon         0:00:00!!

Athlete Profile - Mary Kealy (Womens Club Captain 2016)

Published in Members on 18th February 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  This is my second year.

2.      Briefly, what started you running? Increased interest in fitness.

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  Mostly asics and nike.

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession?  It has to be my watch and heart rate monitor.

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  Kinvara half marathon.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  I would like to do Berlin marathon.

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in? Any race that I run nice and comfortably.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  No , but I have suffered severe calf cramping  in some of my marathons which has impaired my performance.

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  I like to train in different places especially by the sea. Preferably with a bit of Sun thrown in.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????)  I like a mixture throughout the week but long and slow can be more enjoyable on a nice day .

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training? I suppose solo , it's easier to slot it in.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  I haven't seen anything recently.

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be? Relax and enjoy .

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running? It has to be my calf cramps.

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  Yes, I do walking,  hill walking, spinning, body combat, body pump, body balance, bikram yoga, cycling and gym work.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident?  I don't recall any unless someone else can.

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  I'll say Patrick Forde.

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you? I have to say Pauline Curly is inspirational.

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year? My 8k.

20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......

5km                       : 20:14

10km                     : 42:19

10 mile                  : 69:10

Half Marathon        : 1:33:34

Full Marathon         : 3:21

Athlete Profile - Martin O'Hara (Mens Club Captain 2016)

Published in Members on 18th February 2016

1.      How long have you been an Athenry AC member?  Joined February 2010. Just over 6 years.

2.      Briefly, what started you running?  I couldn't jog, never mind run 50 meters. I was also overweight. My Daughter was 4 years old at this time. I needed to do something to get the weigth off and fitness up.  The rest is history. 

3.      What shoes do you train/race in?  I train in Mizuno Wave Inspire 11 / Saucony Ride 7. Race in Mizuno Musha.

4.      What piece of running gear/apparel is your most prized possession?  My Garmin Forerunner. Have it a long time.

5.      What is your favourite event/race of the year?  There is so many I could pick from. But Dublin City Marathon is my favourite.

6.      What event/race that you haven’t done would you most like to compete in?  London Marathon.

7.      What performance/race do you take most pride in?  Doing Portuma 50km. I turned 40 the day before the race.

8.      Is there any performance/race that you would rather forget?  Tuam stage of the 5km series in 2010. Went out to fast. I wasn't long running.  

9.      Where is your favourite place to train?  Athenry.

10.  What type of training is your “favourite”? (Speed,Tempo,Short,Long Run,Slow????) Long runs are my favourite. But I think a mixture of them is good for you.

11.  Do you prefer solo or group training?  I prefer group training. It's easier to do speed, tempo & long runs in groups.

12.  What’s the funniest/strangest thing you’ve seen or heard on a run?  Nothing.

13.  If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a newcomer to running what would it be?  Listen to your body. It's worked for me so far. Fingers crossed. 

14.  What injury has caused you the most problems since you started running?  I've had no injuries so far. just tried legs from all the long miles.

15.  Do you cross train? If yes what type?  No. But I should do.

16.  What is your most embarrassing running related incident?  None

17.  Which club member would you most like to beat in a sprint to the line?  Who do I pick. Don't mind. As long as I have a strong finish.

18.  Do you have a favourite current or past athlete that inspires you?  Eamon Coghlan.But I have to say that Jane Ann Meehan, who is the heart of the club. With her brilliant run in Dublin. She shows that hard work pays off.

19.  Which PB would you most like to break this year?  I would love to get under 3:15 for a Marathon.

20.  Can you share the following PBs with us?.......

5km                       : 19:20

8km                       : 32:53

10km                     : 40:20

10 mile                  : 67:40

Half Marathon        : 1:30:52

Full Marathon         : 3:24:06

Donadea 50km - 13th February 2016

Published in Reports on 17th February 2016

The course was 10 laps of a circuit just short of 5km, so there was about a 400m run in at the start of the race. My target had been to try and get 3:30 and I was on course for that until after 35km when a combination of the rolling course, mud(!) and cold started to take its toll. The last 10km were absolutely brutal. A few encouraging shouts from my wife and daughters at the start of the last two laps helped me round, but they were fairly slow efforts.

There was a new national record of 2:56:51 set by Gary O'Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) - who went past me like I was standing still when he lapped me. I finished 18th from 157 finishers (41 DNFs) in 3:47:27

Report: Adam Leadbetter

Ballinderreen 10km - 24th January 2016

Published in Reports on 24th January 2016

Ballinderreen 10km was originally set for the 29th November 2015 but due to flooding the race was re scheduled for Sunday 24th January 2016. Ballinderreen village is approximately 22 km south of Galway City and is a part of the townland of Ballinderreen. Baile an Doirín, means town of the little derry or little oakwood, suggesting the area may once have been more heavily forested with oak. This is a popular race due to its flat course offering an opportunity for a PB! Numbers were up slightly this year with 142 athletes taking on the single loop course. Victorious for the second year in a row GCHs Matt Bidwell took the honours in the men's race crossing the line in 32.27. Less than 30 seconds behind was Kenneth Rodgers completing the distance in 32.55. Galway City Harriers John Greaney finished 3rd again this year after achieving the same podium position in 2014. Johns time was 34.13. Athenry ACs Niall was 23rd overall in 40.18 with club mate Kieran Walsh hot on his heels in a time of 41.03 The women's race was won by Athenry ACs Deirdre Brophy, finishing her race in 41.42. In second place Dalva McPhillips was 2 mins behind clocking 43.41. Tuam ACs Anne M Hession was 3rd lady home in 44.18. Also from Athenry AC Majella Cummins finished under the hour 57.55. Congrats to all!

Results from Ballinderreen 10km are here and attached.

Report: Anne Lyng

Art O' Neill Challenge 2016

Published in Reports on 20th January 2016

A word of warning from the start. You simply can’t write a short report about this race, so if you’re not in the form for a saga, turn away now.

The Art O’ Neill has a great history to it but this will be long enough without going into that now, so you can read up on it here.

This is a race I’ve wanted to do for years but with a limit of 200 entrants each year it can be hard to get an entry. So despite a year in which I’ve ran less miles than in the previous five & was no way fit enough for it, I still couldn’t stop myself from entering this year’s lottery. (Between a massively increased workload & a non-running related back injury I simply haven’t been putting in the miles this past year)

So mid-November rolls around & Success! I’ve been drawn from the hat. I’d be lying if I said the nerves didn’t kick in. Am I mad? It’s a 33 mile race over some of the toughest terrain in the country & I don’t even know if my back will hold out. People were telling me I was daft & to put it off to another year (& in my mind I could see my physio probably roll her eyes when she heard about it). So I made a deal with myself. Compete in ‘Run the Line’ in late November, an 18mile run over the Dublin Mountains, and see how I get on. If my back held up I’d plough on with the AON, if it gave problems I’d pull out. I wasn’t worried about fitness - that could be worked on. So I arrived up to Dublin at the tail end of Storm Dessie or Ciara & endured nearly three & half hours of hell over the mountains in gale force winds & driving, freezing rain. But I loved every bit of it & never felt a single twinge in my back, so the decision was made. AON was a go go.

Fast forward six weeks & I’m again arriving in Dublin, woefully underprepared for an even longer trek over the mountains. But instead of storms to deal with, we now have the coldest night of the winter so far. It’s -5 outside & the word is that the mountains are covered in snow. I can’t help but be a little excited about this. My aim was just to finish & I’d been telling people I expected to finish in less than 10 hours but I had confided in a small few that it could be anything from 8 – 10 hours (Which was usually met with a look of complete scepticism).

The race is made up of three parts. Leg 1 is 30k, starts in Dublin Castle and is 99% road (mostly uphill) running with a small bit of cross country & finishes in Ballinagee, in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. Leg 2 brings you cross country over the first mountain pass to Oakwood & Leg 3 brings you cross country again over Table Track & down to Barravore in the Glenmalure Valley. Whilst Leg 1 is a straight forward road race, Legs 2 & 3 are point to point with a map & compass with a multitude of routes.

As the race follows in the pattern of Art’s escape, we start out at 1am (Walkers at midnight). We line up in the courtyard in Dublin Castle with a few minutes to go & its bloody freezing but the gun goes and we’re off through the streets of Dublin. It’s a bit surreal to be doing this in the middle of the night & God knows what the weekend revellers are thinking as they step out of the pubs to be nearly bowled over by a group of runners lit up like Christmas trees.

I’ve decided to go out at a nice easy training pace as there’s a long way to go & I need to save the legs, so I set off around 8.45min/mile pace. The bunch splits into three distinct groups as the speedies disappear into the distance ahead & another slower group behind. There’s about 30 in my group & I fall in with a gang of lads who turn out to be from France. We pass through Harolds Cross, past Terenure & Tempelogue & take a right hand turn to head out towards Firhouse. This is where the race starts as from here on out it’s nearly all uphill. I know from driving the route that these roads have long winding bends with gentle climbing & I start crossing over going point to point on the curves. One other lad comes with me & I’m sure everybody else is wondering what the hell we are at as we seem to be crossing over and back for no reason, but sure enough, without upping the pace we distance the French group. We pass through Rathfarnam & this is the end of the suburbs as we enter the darkness of the countryside.

We have a small drop before we hit the big stuff. I’d kept the pace steady but knew this was all about to stop. We had averaged about 50ft of climbing a mile up to now but then, as we hit gradients of over 15%, we start covering upwards of 400ft of climbing per mile. And it’s relentless, think of Ryehill, only 6 times longer. We had already picked up the tail end of the walkers who started an hour earlier but it’s hard to tell the runners from the walkers as everyone falls into a quick march.

We reach Stone Cross after 9 miles & have already covered 1000ft of climbing. This is the first of the minor roads & from the first step its like Bambi on Ice. The Yak Trax come out & they are great. Even on sheet ice you can run as normal. There’s more climbing as we cover another 600ft of elevation before we drop down past the Kilbride Army camp & cross the border into Wicklow. I’d kept up a steady run / quick march since the start of the tough climbs & had passed a good few people whilst only being passed by a small few others in the process. The downhill was a good respite & I pushed on to pass a few more before coming to the first off road section.

This was a steep downhill field which was nice & springy until we hit the frozen tractor trails. They were lethal & ankle breakers if you weren’t careful. It was only a short introduction though & a mile later we hit the roads again & crossed over the Liffey at Ballysmuttan Bridge. (Now named after Ciaran Jones, this bridge was the scene of tragedy in 2011 as an off duty Garda was swept away in floodwaters whilst helping people affected by the floods. The bridge always has a bit of a surreal feel to it as it’s decorated in wreaths & ribbons in his memory)

It had been a nice drop from 1600ft down to 740ft but as we cross the river we start climbing again until we reach Checkpoint 1 in Ballynultagh Woods at mile 18. It’s like a party in the woods with hot drinks, food, DJ, & fires going. It was also completely covered in snow so that it resembled an alpine ski village.

As soon as you stop you start getting cold so I grabbed my drop bag & jump in beside the fires. I strip off my sweaty upper layers & put on fresh thermal base layers & an extra jacket. We’re about to head up into the mountains proper, it’s going to be cold & we’ll be moving much slower. Proper gear is essential here! I ditch the road runners & put on my trusty Salomon’s & I also get out the most important gear from here on out, my map & compass. I grab a roll, some soup, fill my Camelback with water & I’m gone. Surprisingly I stayed over 20mins here, it certainly didn’t feel that long but it’d be easy to get comfy by the fire & not want to leave. Looking at the results there were 5 DNF’s at CP1. It was now 04:45am. I’d been awake for 22 hours, had covered 18 miles & knew that I hadn’t run longer than 18 miles since training for Dublin 2014. And whilst the race was more than half complete, the hard part was just beginning.

I left CP1 to a short little downhill section before we hit the bottom of Mullaghcleevaun Mountain. From here on it’s like a game of chess. We have a start & end point & how you make your way between them is up to you. Everyone plays a different move to try & gain an advantage on their competitors.

Now I had no grand notions of a getting good placing in this race but once the gun goes I can’t help but fall into race mode & my mind just works that way. Whilst you may not be anywhere near the pointy end of things you are still racing those around you. After forming the initial groupings leaving Dublin Castle I had gently moved through the field & from Stone Cross I had steadily passed people. So as I reached the true start of the cross country I looked around & could see two groups ahead of me. One group had taken the short climb to my right up Black Hill and had a 5min gap on me & one had taken the longer climb up Mullaghcleevaun and had a 10min gap on me.  Each route had their advantages & disadvantages. Black Hill had a short initial climb from where you could cut across the ridge through Billy Byrnes gap & down the Glenbride Valley. Whilst there were some defined tracks here you still have to climb up from the bottom of the valley to look for the entry point to the forest at the far end of Glenbride. The climb up Mullaghcleevaun had a long initial climb but once you were up high enough you could take a bearing & head for the forest entry & it would be mostly downhill. For me though there was still too much climbing. I had decided to cut them in half & take a direct line to the forest entry. It meant I was passing Billy Byrnes gap higher up but once over that I could keep a direct south bearing on a steady downhill. It just made for easy navigation & it was also the shortest route. The only issue was the underfoot conditions could be tough as I fight through the heather with no defined route.

It turned out though that I needn’t have worried about the heather as once we left the forest I looked up & all I could see was a sea of white reflecting off my torchlight. Everywhere had a thick covering of snow. I started my climb & realised early on that it was going to be a struggle. With every step you sank about a foot into the snow & every so often you hit a crag & could disappear up to your waist. I realised that this is the area that Maeve Noone remembers fondly from our previous recce ‘…one second he was there, the next he was gone…’ after I had disappeared into a hidden crag. The problem now was you couldn’t see anything under the snow. Whilst you could take a direct bearing because it was now a fairly smooth surface, you just never knew what was under you and every so often the snow would collapse as you hit a void.

The climb became torturous. Whilst it was no Everest we were still high & I was gasping for air (And God knows what the temperature was but it was well into the minus figures). My heart was racing & I had to stop every 10 – 15 steps to catch my breath. It became a slog to reach the pass & looking at the stats it took me 40mins to cover a mile up to the top of the pass. Once there I was at a height of 2,000ft (after dropping down to 1,250ft after CP1). When I looked around I could see a trail of head torches all over the mountain as everyone decided on their own route. I had tried to keep an eye on the two original groups as I climbed & the Black Hill group were over the gap & starting down the valley whilst the other group had just passed out of sight. One other runner had passed me in the meantime as he took a diagonal route up to higher ground.

Once over the pass my next landmark for a bearing point was the convergence of three small streams as they form a river. I wanted to hit just south of where they met which would keep me right on track for the forest entry. Although it was night time & you couldn’t see too far, you could be here during the daytime & it could be covered in fog & low cloud anyway so you need to be used to reading a map & looking for little landmarks or even listening for the stream. The problem was with so much snow I wasn’t sure if the streams would be flowing much. I keep an eye on the compass & keep heading south. It was all downhill now & was a great respite after the last climb although the pace was still relatively low due to the snow & ground conditions. Then I hear the flow of water. I stop to take a listen & realise it’s coming from underneath me. I’d hit a minor stream & it was covered over in snow & ice. I tentatively step across and instantly hear the rushing flow of the main river. Perfect, I’d hit the point just below where they meet. It’s a great confidence boost as it’s easy to start doubting your navigation. I find a safe crossing point & I’m off for the forest entry. I can see the Black Hill group below me in the valley & they seem to be following the course of the river down to the valley floor.

We’re getting lower again & the deep snow has abated but the ground is now marshy & criss-crossed with many streams as they run off Mullaghcleevaun so the pace is about 15min/mile. Ahead of me I spot what looks like a flag on a small pole & in the darkness it looks a bit like grave marker & is a bit eerie. I make my way to it & it’s a fluorescent flag on a stick. In the distance I can just about make out another one & they seem to be heading in the direct I want to go. It looks like someone has marked the route into the forest entry with flags every 100m or so & I’ve hit it bang on again. I can pick up the pace a bit as I don’t need to watch the compass now; I can just seek out the next flag & head for it. The path of the flags also have good crossing points on the various streams too so I made some good time here. I reckon these go on for about two miles & eventually I see the shadow of the forest loom ahead of me. As I spot the entry gate I realise there’s two lads just ahead of me. It must have been the group who went higher on Mullaghcleevaun earlier. They must have come down ahead of me but I didn’t see them as they never looked back so I never saw their torches. They seemed surprised to see me too & after a little conversation between them they took off at a run. Below me I could see the Black Hill group making their way up the tree line looking for the gate. I reckon I’ve put about 10mins into each group.

I enter the forest track & it’s great to be on solid ground again. The two lads ahead have a couple of hundred metres on me & are just rounding a bend ahead. I take off in pursuit but I realise I don’t have a lot of energy. I don’t fancy taking another gel yet & know I’m close to CP2 & some real food so decide to hold off. I run the downhill & flat sections but even the smallest incline has me slowing to a march. I round a bend & the two lads are much closer than I expected. They seem to be jogging until they get out of sight & then slowing. It gives me a boost & I take off after them. We hit the edge of the wood on the road to the Wicklow Gap & it’s the first sight of civilisation we’ve seen in 3 hours. We cross over the road into Oakwood & I catch up with the two lads, dibbing into CP2 just ahead of them.

I’d intended just a quick stop here for a cup of milky tea & a quick bite but the smell of the porridge quickly changed my mind. I grabbed a bowl a sat by the fire with the two lads who were from Cork. A short while later the Black Hill group arrived in & just after them my French buddies from earlier that must have made good time over the mountains. It was time to go. It’s now 7:30am. I’ve been awake for nearly 25 hours, racing for 6 ½ hours & I’ve covered 25 miles with approximately 8 miles to go.

I dibbed out with two northerners who arrived in grabbed a cup of tea & took it with them. So leaving CP2 the race was on with the French, the Northerners & the Cork lads. I tried to take off at a run but soon realised I had stiffened up too much and had to walk it off for a few minutes. Just as the hills start again I feel pleasantly unencumbered until I realise I’ve left my map back at CP2. Aarrgh. Decisions, decisions. I know the route well but also know that the route from Art’s Cross to Table Track is a complete maze. You don’t want to be caught out in conditions like this. I’m half a mile from CP2 & as I make my way back I pass the French & Cork groups plus a couple more new faces heading off on their last leg. All my hard work undone. I find my maps in one of the tents & take off again. I’ve warmed up a bit by now so I soon have them in my sights again although I’ve just added an extra mile to an already long event.

From CP2 there are again various choices of routes. You can take the route west along the Kings River to where the Glenreebrook River branches off. This will bring you through the forest & gently up to the foot of the climb to Arts Cross. It’s easy in terms of navigation as you just follow the river but I knew from a recent recce that there had been tree felling in the area & it can be tricky underfoot where that has happened. My original plan had me taking a route east where the forest road took a medium gradient to Forest Track & from there it’s a straight run down to Glenreebrook River. As I looked ahead of me the French, Cork lads & two new lads were taking a route straight up the hillside which cut back in half way along Forest track. That made my mind up for me & I take off after them. This is very steep & involves some real climbing as you need to pull yourself up the hillside with your hands. But we reach Forest Track all as one group & also just as the Northerners pass (They had taken the forest road). All level pegging again.

We all take off at a canter & I soon realise that my burst to catch everyone has me bushed. I stop to grab a caffeine gel & take a look around. It’s getting bright now & there’s no need for my head torch but across the far side of the valley, 5 miles away, I can see the line of torches still making their way over Billy Byrnes Gap. I say a silent ‘Thank God’ that that’s over for me but as I turn towards my destination the climb to Art’s Cross looms ominously in the distance.

Forest Track drops gently down to the Glenreebrook River & I’m able to keep within shouting distance of those up ahead. Everyone else heads for the river whilst I take a left beforehand & take a fence line that heads in the same direction and meets the river further up. The river winds & winds whilst the fence runs straight so it’s much shorter. I quickly overtake the two new faces whilst I realise the French & Cork lads have crossed the river & are heading on a different route altogether. I also notice a fourth group arriving up from Kings Rivers & reckon it must be the Black Hill group. They also seem to be heading for the other route. I’m not familiar with this route but I reckon it’ll bring them out near Three Lakes. This means they’re more than likely not going to Art’s Cross & my battle with them is over.

(Art’s Cross is where Art O’ Neill died & there is a cross erected in his memory. It’s located on the highest part of the course & requires a deviation from the optimal route.  The cross isn’t a Checkpoint that you have to hit whilst taking part but visiting the cross is in the spirit of the event. I’d decided beforehand that as it’s my first time I’d head for the cross. I learned afterwards that a lot of Ultras bypass it whist the guided walkers usually head for it)

I head for the bottom of the waterfall which climbs to Art’s Cross. The race brief recommends keeping to the left of the river to avoid the marshiest ground but by crossing over early I can take a more direct route. I recce’d this area a couple of weeks ago & the ground was good so I cross early & head direct for the waterfall. I’ve opened up a good 5 minute gap on the two new lads & when I hit the waterfall I’ve gained about 100ft of elevation on them. I look back & they seem to have teamed up. They have stopped by the river near where I crossed & appear to debating crossing over or heading around the long way as per the race brief. They eventually decide to cross early too & take off after me.

Ahead of me is the steep climb up to Art’s Cross. I was here a few weeks ago & managed a quick & steady climb. Today was not going to be similar. We’re up at around 1,450ft elevation & the snow coverage is getting thicker with every step. I look up & can’t see a clear path. I climb a little on the western side of the waterfall but it’s tough going & I cross the river to the eastern side to where I’ve previously climbed. It’s bloody hard & dangerous, there’s deep snow & any exposed rock is just covered in ice. It’s a steep climb & the best footing is often beside the edge but one slip there & you could fall 20ft into the river. I end up just grabbing whatever exposed heather there is & pulling myself up the climb. It’s really tough going & by the time I reach the top of the waterfall I am beat. It’s a climb of about 410ft from the bottom of the waterfall up, over a distance of about a quarter of a mile and it took me 20mins.

It’s a beautiful clear day & it’s bright out now. Looking around it’s just a sea of white & looks fantastic but I know I have a slog of about 250meters over to the cross from here & the snow is deep. I’ve come this far so there’s no turning back now.

I know where I need to go but getting there is the problem. I’m at around 2,000ft elevation & it’s deep snow. The top layer is a frozen crust and with every step you think it’s going to hold until, as you raise your back foot and all your weight goes on, you break through & sink in up to your knees. Snow shoes, not trail shoes are what’s needed. It’s even tougher than the first mountain pass & every so often you sink up to your chest & have to use the heather to haul yourself out. I spot the cross about 50m away & head for it only to sink deep again. My left hamstring goes into spasm & I’m in agony. I try to stretch it but it’s encased in snow & I struggle to move it. I eventually get out & stretch it whilst I lie in the snow. This trek to the cross has been hell. I finally get there & take a few minutes to get some salt tablets & food in. This is the highest point of the course at about 2,100ft & you can see for miles. I take a few quick photos & I remember the shout from the steward as I left CP2, ‘Don’t forget the selfie with the cross…..’. I’m not normally one for selfies but here goes…..

About a quarter mile way I can see the top of the waterfall. The two new lads have obviously had enough of the snow & bypassed the cross whilst the two northerners have just reached the top of the Waterfall. As it’s such a clear day & there’s no background noise their conversation carries across the mountain. ‘Are we heading up the cross? Hell no, are you mad?’ Everyone has clearly had enough of the snow! Interestingly I can see new groups about a half mile beyond the waterfall who must have taken the other route but they were also heading straight for Table Track.

In my head all my battles are done. I was thoroughly pissed off & exhausted after the climb up to the cross whilst everyone else seemed to avoid it. (The single set of footprints in the snow were a giveaway) All my CP2 competitors have bypassed the cross & headed straight for Table Track & with about 4 miles to go over this snowy terrain my sub-10 was looking seriously unlikely. Time to break out the chocolate! I had one bar of chocolate in case I needed a boost & now was as good a time as any. The thing was frozen bloody solid! It just wasn’t my day. Lesson learned, don’t go to the cross.

Normally from here your biggest obstacle is maze of peat hags in your way. You know you need to keep a south west bearing to hit south of Three Lakes but there is no direct route to take as you head through a maze of large peat hags, some of which are twice your height. Even though you want to go one direction you have to thread your way through the maze whilst watching the compass to make sure you’re not actually doubling back on yourself. It’s also usually covered in low cloud so even if you climbed on top of a hag to take a bearing off something, you’d have about 30 – 40ft visibility. Today you could see for miles & it was just an undulating white mass. This was good in one way as I could ditch the compass but I also knew that it was going to be a long slog through the snow.

Away in the distance I can just make out the edge of the forest that leads down to Table Track. I take off and soon fall in behind a group who have just come over the other route from CP2. They are making good headway & creating a path through the snow so the pace is surprisingly better than expected. Instead of a maze through the hags we are now walking over them & where the taller ones are we end up sliding down them like kids. On some of the larger hags we see icicles about 3ft long. In my head I’m thinking my daughter would love this & can’t help humming the tune ‘Let it go, let it go’. The group ahead of me are like Nordic cross country skiers & distance me again as we reach Table Track but as I finally leave the deep snow behind & hit the last leg home on forest road I catch one of the new lads from CP2.

From here the majority of people will take Table Track to the south of the River Avonbeg that winds a bit but from looking at the maps there was a more direct route north of the river which added in an extra bit of mountainside descending. Last throw of the dice! On paper it looked good but soon after I made the call I knew I’d made the wrong decision. I was climbing gently but the route down to the river was steep & rough. The trail of blood and guts across the snow from some recently disembowelled animal didn’t make me feel any better. About 100ft below me in the valley I could see the Nordic skiers & the new guy had well distanced me. The climb down the hillside wasn’t easy with some recent tree felling having occurred & I had to be careful not to twist an ankle.

Finally I reach the river and it feels like the home stretch at last. The track starts to climb again & as I round a bend I come across the French group. They reckon there’s about 3k left. My watch start beeping & as I look at it I see 9:**:** before the battery dies. I have no idea how close to 10 hours I was but I decide to go for it regardless. The track becomes a mass of jagged rocks & sheet ice & near impossible to run on. This goes on for about a quarter mile before the trees thin out & the icy parts ease off. I up the pace as much as I can & put big distance between me & the French but now my only target is the sub-10. The ground is terrible & I have to pick every step carefully even though I’m nearly flat out. Every step is jarring & sends stabbing pains up through my femurs & into my back. After 30+ miles my back has finally given up & is spasm.

The rocks give way to a nice forest path at last & I keep the pace up. It feels like I should nearly be there. I pass a walker who is heading in the opposite direction & ask her how long left. ‘2k’ she roars, ‘Keep Going’. 2k, WTF? I keep it going. My lungs are on fire & my back is in agony & with each step I’m roaring like a mad man with pain. I start passing more walkers now & keep asking them how long left. They roar words of encouragement but no one seems to understand what I’m asking. God knows how I sound.

It’s daft. I’m finishing this like it’s a 5k & for what? It seems to go on forever.  I know the finish line is on a river crossing which is at river level & I’m still about 30ft above it. I see smoke ahead & reckon that must be the finish. I’m gaining on the Nordic skiers again & as I round a bend to where the smoke is coming from it turns out to be campers & the gang ahead are already  rounding another bend.

I’m done, I’m beat. I stop & drop my hands to my knees gasping for air. I look around & see the tents around the next bend. I put on one last burst & there is the river. 33.5miles & 4,700ft of climbing later, home at last with 9:37:08 on the clock. I’m delighted but too damn sore to care anymore. I’m just happy it’s over. I've now been awake for 28 hours.

Chatting to people at the finish line, lads who have run it previously reckon the snow made the course nearly an hour slower so with that in mind & some course knowledge in my pocket I have a sub-8 to target next year.

Kenneth O'Hara.