Wicklow Way Ultra

Authors

Niall McAlinden

My Ultra

This is my first go at a race report so be nice. It started very early for me on Saturday morning. I was up at 6 to force feed myself a ton of porridge. Then got my gear ready and drove to JF’s picking up an IMRA newbie en route. We were early to arrive and registered straight away so that we could relax before the start. As always happens, we were relaxing a bit too much and in the end had a mad dash to put on running gear and pack goodies before the race start.

The atmosphere at the start was great. Lots of smiling faces (mostly nervous smiles I think) and a bit of friendly chat. Eoin ran through the race briefing, very simple really follow the yellow arrows for 22.5km then follow a bit of tape for 3km then come back to JF’s. So off we went.

Early on Eoin and Keith led the way while myself, Paul, Adrian, Ed and Martin formed a chase pack. There was some chopping and changing when we changed from Uphill to Downhill as people played to there own strengths. But it wasn’t until the climb up Djouce that the group was split. I was first one to try gain some distance on the climb but was followed all the way by Martin (Who promptly overtook me on the board walk). At Half way the order was Eoin, Keith (+30s), Martin (+4min), Me (+5min), Ed (+6min),Paul (+6min) and Adrian (+6min).

On the way back up the fire road it was great to see how the rest of the race was unfolding. Caroline looked in command of the woman’s race and was running strongly. Greg still looked very fresh and I was worried about him blasting past us later in the race. My newbie friend Quentin was still smiling and seemed in good form.

I had made the choice to try claw back some of the time Martin gained on me on the decent and by the time we reach the top of the board walk was probably 15s behind him. But on the way back down to the Dargle he managed to really pull away and that was the last I saw of him in the race. The climb from the Dargle to the right turn into what used to be some lovely forest although short was very tough but I had told myself I wouldn’t walk it. At the top there were hundreds of scouts who all politely stood to the side and gave me a massive cheer. It put a huge smile on my face (I don’t think I’ve ever had that many people cheer just for me before).

Coming down through crone the legs were starting to get sore. I was starting to regret trying to catch Martin on the climb. To make me regret it even more Ed came flying past looking like he had only run 5km before not 35. He went on to catch both Martin and Keith in the last 15km. I stopped in the car park for a quick drink and banana and then forced my legs to keep running. Along the river by the hostel was tough as I could still see Ed and realised that he was pulling away from me very quickly. As I climbed up from the river the first of the Trail runners flew past. I was very impressed with Karen Alexander who was in 5th and ended up running a time that was only 7 min slower then the record for the old course.

The road section linking Knockree with Prince Williams seat was tough as the slight incline made keeping my leg speed up very difficult. As we came to the car park I grabbed a much-needed cup of water and tried to stay running for as long as I could. I ended up walking most of the climb up Prince Williams seat, but received a lot of support from the now constant steam of Trail runners passing me out. I was hoping that Adrian and Paul weren’t about to pass me but thankfully I got to the top before they did.

It was now simply downhill all the way to the finish (or so I kept telling myself). I tried to keep my stride long and leg speed up but this was getting very tough as both legs were now cramping. When I reached the tar road I managed to tag in behind another group of trail runners. I decided to focus on finishing right behind them. After what seemed like an eternity of road (did it get longer since the way out?) I finally saw the crossroads sign and knew I was home. I finished in 5th in a time of 4:46:35. At the start I was targeting a time of 4:30 but really underestimated the toughness of the course, overall I’m happy with the way I ran and delighted that I finished.

Special thanks to Dermot and his team for putting on such a great race. I don’t know how IMRA constantly improve the quality of their races.

Caroline Reid

I’d been planning on doing the WW ultra for the last few years..the race has legendary status in our club and often gets brought up over post race pints. After months wondering would I be able for the ultra, I was delighted to be at the starting line outside Johnny Foxes. My race plan was simple (1) start slow – everyone said pace out to Ballinastoe and race back (2) at the start keep looking at the ground not to get dragged along by runners you’d normally race beside (3) keep drinking (4) take the gels (5) get to Ballinastoe in 3 hours and race back between 3 to 3.5 hours.

I really underestimated adrenilin and HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO PACE IN A RACE!!! At the start, I let the majority of ultra runners go ahead as I ran with Eamonn who chatted away and helped me relax into the race for the first mile before he got into his own groove and went on..fair play Eamonn. I could see Karen in the distance and was happy to keep her in sight. I don’t know if I drank too soon/ran too fast, but I got a stitch going down into Curtlestown....just slowed a little, had a gel and the stitch was soon forgotten.

Following the banks of Glencree river, I felt bad about running behind Karen for so long, so I thought I should go in front for a while and let Karen get in behind me. Running through Crone, it was great to get the cheers from Mary O Colmain and her helpers. This spured me on and I just kept running steady, passing Gerry who said I was 20th and third lady. I didn’t factor in ‘racing’ into my plan for the ultra so I didn’t give it much thought. I soon was running besde Taryn and we had a little chat before I put the head down again for the rest of the climb. I didn’t go mad on the downhill as I didn’t want to use up too much energy and was more relaxed when I was going uphill again. I caught up on Michael and Mary at the top of Djouce...and passed after Mary slipped on some bog. At this stage I briefly thought crap I’m first lady, but again I quickly put it to the back of my mind as I was pretty sure any of the girls who were just behind me could pass me at any time, espically on the return leg.

When I saw 2:30hrs on my watch at Ballinastoe, I got such a shock, I switched it off by mistake and didn’t notice until Crone when the time was still 2:30hrs! The ‘race’ back was always going to be hard. The head was happy to be going back, but the body was starting to get tired. The trail runners were fantastic, always so cheerful and encouraging. In my head I was chating back, but unfotunately I don’t seem to be able to verbalise so well at this stage in a race...sorry if I didn’t speak back to you, honestly in my head I thought I did : ) The return journey was funny, one person would shout at you third lady, fifth lady, even my dad said I was second lady. The field was levelled...I was safely mid bunch ultra and trail.

From here on my story gets boring. All the gels and nunns in the water started making me queezy, so I had to really slow down on the downhill into Crone. Then my legs started to feel like they were going to cramp so I had to really concentrate on how I landed my feet. By knockree, my stomach was ok but the legs were getting worse. By Curtlestown, the aid station looked wonderful but I kept the head down...black jelly babies or Frank Nightingale couldn’t break my concenration now.....there was no way to save the legs on the downhill on Prince williams and finally when I hit the road at the bridge, the old injury, my right side from the hip down gave in. For those who had to look at my grimmace over that last 1.3 miles, apologies if I turned you off running but honestly in my head I was elated...I just kept saying to myself, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. And so I wobbled into the finish...so happy, so proud, so relieved....afterwards I was told I was 12th overall and 1st lady. Now I just wanted to see all my friends finish, whether it was ultra or trail – what a merry bunch we were at the finish line (with or without Johnny Foxes pints ; )

Another fine win for Eoin Keith, what can you say about him..amazing super human! Then again, I think anyone who did the ultra also falls into the ‘pretty darn cool’ category : ) Well done everyone. I was honoured and humbled to get first lady but know on another day, depending on how things go on the day for each person, it could easily have been one of the other girls. Hopefully we’ll be all out there on the start line again next year with a few friends returning from abroad and injury to spice things up!

The next part of my race report is for newbies to ultra...everyone else stop readng now as you’ll be (a) bored or (b) think I’ve lost the plot! Over the past 3 months I’ve re-read Richard and Moires ultra race reports after every long run trying to pick up another clue to what I was doing wrong or could improve on. The next part shows the various thought processes I went through in my training – I hope you can get some pointers from my ramblings.

Last year I decided to give the ultra a miss as I didn’t have enough training due to a brief injury...on hindsight, I should have went for it last year as I was in a lot better shape : ) I was out for 10 weeks last Autumn again, not allowed to do any sport...I was allowed walk...on flat ground but no mountains, fields and ditches i.e. no orienteering : )! As the weeks went by I was seriously panicing that I was going to miss the ultra training window again, but a quick email to the ultra legend himself, Eoin Keith, who told me to go for it if i just wanted to finish it. Point 1: Don’t be obcessed with sticking to a training schedule – you don’t have to have done exacly whats on the schedule; many in the ultra did less long runs than me and some finished in front of me!

At the end of November, I was delighted to be allowed start back running with 20/30 minutes runs. Point 2: once you have a base fitness, you WILL run an ultra with 4 months training from nothing. I carefuly built up my mileage based on a basic marathon plan, ran 3 times a week with 1 long run at the weekend, long run increasing by 10% each week.

To manage my injury, I trained on my own and my runs were slow and my long runs even SLOWER! All was going well until February, when literally I ran out of enery. It was taking me longer to recover. Throughout my training I read everything I could get my hands on and knew my diet was bad, so I started keeping a food diary and concentrated on improving my diet. Point 3: WATCH YOUR DIET. This helped a bit, but the long runs were still sapping me of energy. After just one occassion when I joined my club mates for a run on the roads, I didn’t sleep for 3 nights with pains in my legs. I knew this wasn’t injury, this was a combimation of bad diet/ dehydration and/or overtraining Point 4: Pencil in some light weeks in your sedule....that weekend I had a nightmare recce from Crone to Ballinasoe and my confidence plummeted. It mentally tortured me, but I took 5 days off, mailed my support group : ) and decided to give the long run one last lash but this time I was going to try everthing I read:

(1) Outside Johnny Foxes I weighed myself before my run and when I finished 26.4 miles later in Curtlestown, I weighed myself again. I was 2lbs down and had read this meant I needed to drink another litre of fluid durning my run.

(2) That day I had already drank 1 litre of water – a massive 700mls more than I had managed on any other long run.

(3) After some previous bad experiences with gels, I decided to try the gels again, rather than the honey sandwiches, bananas and various grain bars I tried in previous weeks.

The result, I finished that day on a high – the combination of the extra fluid and gels were like rocket fuel. It was a winning comination for me - giggling to myself running around Djouce, when every other week I was having outter body expriences willing my body to keep moving. I finished the run mentally and physically alert. I knew this was as good as it got, so decided that was my last long run and I tapered/recovered and stressed for the last 3 weeks : )

Long distance running is very personal so you must check things for yourself in your training runs:

- Camelback V bumbag
- Trail runners V normal road runners
- Try different gels and/or maybe a combination of gels to see how they work together
- Test out fluids, a combination of water and water with salt tablets etc.
- Recce the race route – just one way will do! If this is not possible, try recce bits you are unsure of. There are people on the route every weekend two months before the race – just put up a forum message and someone will run it with you.
- If you can, train with someone, as this support will keep you going when training might be hard. In my case, I was too nervous of agrivating my injury to train with anyone but I’d the mutal appreciation and support group (thanks Aoife, Karen, Richard and Eamonn for all the advice – I wouldn’t have made it to the start line without ye).
- Have support on the day – its great to see friendly faces out on the route.
- Moire advised me to tape my feet – I didn’t and I’ve blisters for not listening!
- Finally there is a wealth of knowledge in IMRA – I’m no expert at ultra and have so much to learn but would be happy to help anyone if I could – just ask ; ) However there are experts, normally one to every table in the pub after each race...just pull up a chair : )

I hope the above doesn’t sound grim, but don’t think of it as training – each day I went to the mountains, I started on a high just to be there, able to run in such beauty! So stop thinking about it, just get out there, everything else will fall into place for you! Easy peasy ; )

Rene Borg

CLUB RESULT

MEN
1. Boards AC 22 (1 Eoin Keith, 10 Richard Nunan, 11 Eamonn Hodge)

Keith Heary

Having only decided 2 weeks ago to run the ultra instead of the trail, i now realise i was a bit crazy. I went for a run 2 weeks ago and ended up running 26.5 miles in 3 hours 8 mins with a few one of my training partners, this is what laid the seed for my assault on the ultra. I have to say i was looking forward to the race all the week and was eager to have a crack at an ultra, i figured if i can do a 24 hour cycling race i can surely run for 4 to 5 hours. i had planned to run 4 hours 30 minutes after carefully planning out what i should be capable of. to run 4.44 was close enough although i was left a little dissapointed with my rapid decline over the last 10km.

I really enjoyed the first half of the run and ran along chatting with Eoin Keith only to be occasionally dropped on the climbs but to reappear behind his right shoulder after each subsequent downhill section, we arrived into the turning point together and i couldnt believe how fresh i felt. The climb from the turning point to the boardwalks was a real energy sapper and took a large percentage of the energy i had left. I had to try and keep focused along the boardwalks as i could feel my mind wander, at this stage Eoin was gone out of sight and i knew Martin Francis and Ed Mcentee where somewhere back in the distance ready to pounce. I kept the pace steady all the way to the river dargle but was to make a silly mistake when i ran past the left hand turn and continued on straight past the youth hostel, something in the back of my mind told me i was gone wrong and when i eventually got back to the turn up the hill Martin Francis apperared. He warned me of the impending arrival of Mcentee as we pressed on ahead. My real downfall was prince willies where i just lost concentration as was reduced to a slow crawl as my quads felt like they where being ripped apart, i eventually got myself going at a some what laboured pace and as we hit the road for the last 1.5 mile stretch i was comfortable in the fact that i had done enough to secure 3rd place only to then see martin francis run past me as if he was only starting the race, fair play to martin i was in awe as he left me in his trail. I eventually crossed the line in 4th place and wasnt happy with my performance, but i was then made aware of the experience that the top 3 posess and will use the experience as a learning curve as i now have the experience to realise where i can make improvements, all in all 4th place is pretty ok for the first time and not bad from an 81kg former cyclist, i was shocked when i asked eoin keith on the way through crone what weight he was and he repiled 67kg, almost made me embarrassed to tell him my weight. Well done to everyone who took part and all the helpers and support all appreciated and well done to the awesome Eoin Keith and the experienced Martin Francis. would also like to say great performance from Caroline Reid in winning the ladies in an amazing time.

thanks all.............................
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