You’d be stupid to run on in that! EAMS St Patrick’s Day 6 Hour Challenge. The Great St.Patricks Storm-athon 2018

Bing goes the schedule arrival last Friday. I had reminded Dermot that I had signed up to an EAMS event on Paddys Day and tried to explain the concept. However experience has taught him that when I am gearing up for an EAMS event it is no ordinary race experience. I’ve gone from 1 lap last year of the same race to 2 loops of Knockagh and then back again for my Ultra of 3 loops of Knockagh and then finishing last year on the Back2Back Half Marathons. So when I looked at the Saturday line up where I expected to see ‘endurance run of 16 miles’ – I got the above! Felt like he finally has deemed me as a lost cause.

So what is the ‘mad race event thingy.’

6 hour challenge is pretty self explanatory. The winner is the person who runs the furthest in 6hours. But most of the normal crazies use this event to tick the long run miles off with a spectacular medal! 4.2 mile loops from Loughshore to Giddeons Green and back. And you can pull out on any lap at a minimum of just 4.2 mile. So an event for everyone of every running level.

So Siobhans theory in the run up to the event. Right 4 laps will set me up lovely mileage wise for impending marathons. But I had the usual wee voice eating away at me saying…sure if you make good pace what’s 9 more mile, afterall I’ve 6 hours to finish and I wouldn’t be imposing on anyone.

So with the blessing from the coach that if I felt strong to push on. I began getting my head in gear for 26.2. Of course my body had other ideas and decided to give into the germs in school and I got a god awful headcold so I took it easy after my 8 miler on Monday. Not getting out in the mental rain that we faced mid week meant I was well rested and ready for the task ahead.

Michael and I headed for Loughshore early on Saturday morning and with zero pressure on the event as it was all personal targets. I was feeling optimistic and had my usual 20 million time cut offs for each distance worked out. Yet pulling into Loughshore Car Park we were greeted by swaying trees and signs as waves crashed over the barrier all whilst the car swayed violently as it sat statically in the car park.

You’ve got to be kidding me! It was madness. No rain was forecast but I can tell ya this it would have been a drier race if it had been. Then again it is EAMS and these sort of conditions are standard and sometimes they do die down. We crossed everything for divine intervention to come into play before 8.30.

Craig did his pre race briefing and eventually put his angry side away as we all huddled quietly together at the bandstand awaiting further instructions. Everyone was wondering what the hell we were all doing out in this madness. But it was a morning of such hope for us all.

For the record I lead the first mile over Michael. Yes I was going too fast but I don’t care I was beating him for 1 whole mile. The wind was at my back and little did I know I was right to use it! Strava stats prove it and so does these photos lol

Anyway we headed off in a close knit bundle and as we came off the Shore Road with the wind at our backs everyone was in good spirits. Hellos to old and new friends and catching up on the craic. On lap 1 it wasnt really until we hit an oversized puddle at the foot of the embankment that we had issues. Little did we know how that ‘oversized’ puddle was going to grow over the next hour or 5!

Turning round Giddeons Green and passing 2 dodgy looking characters, with numbers attached, enjoying what was obviously the hair of the dogs back under the bridge. The wind picked up. It was resistance training of the highest order. As we retraced our steps back some had already taken to the cross country route along the embankment to avoid the growing puddle as waves began to bash the barriers and deposit salty water on the path.

Running alongside Allison who spent many a mile with me on my first trip up Knockagh last year, the wind picked up but we motored on and fought it. Getting back onto Shore Road we were given a very physical demonstration on why the first mile was so pleasant. Head wind which made it like running through peanut butter. I got half way up the path and as I saw many in front of me walking I knew I’d a long way to go and was not going to waste energy running through it. I’d make up the shortfall on the way back out again.

Brenda who was on marshalling duties guarded the bell as I hit the turning point to avoid me ringing it to signal the end. But in theory I was just getting started. Wee drink of water, a jaffa cake, a few choice words to explain how things where out on course and off we went again.

Letting the wind carry me down the shore front was a welcomed break and knew that this would be the agenda for the day. Go with the wind and make up time and when I’ve to fight it again to either drop pace or face it head on and get my power walking on.

On this lap though I spotted even the hardest of Ultra runners rerouting along the embankment and avoiding the now crashing waves which made yon oversized puddle now nearly immersing the whole path. I spotted a small track through so as I looked up and Jennifer was going along the embankment there was Siobhan navigating the very little available concrete feeling quite epic as a wave crashed over the barrier and showered me! Nothing I could do but embrace it!

On the return leg I did take to the embankment myself as that part of the course was no longer passable without a swimsuit and goggles. As the whole stretch of path was a swimming pool as high tide set in.

This time as we turned onto the Shore road we hit the wall of wind and put in the whole mile walking. We passed the runners who where heading out on lap 3 looking at ease as the wind carried them down the road but we all knew what each person was enduring. Their faces acknowledged exactly the force we were pushing through after being battered by the ever growing waves as they were headed back that way too!

A quick turn and back out again for number 3. But the hope we all had of the wind dying down and the waves with it, was washed away. Spectacular scenes greeted us back onto the Shore front as waves majestically crashed over the walls onto the runners as winds picked up. I wondered if I had ever experienced anything like it before but my dreams of another marathon where slowly washing away with each wave. I was half way through lap 3 and had openingly declared that I was calling it a day the next lap. I was soaked and had nothing to prove.

I had the voice of reason in my head and replayed an earlier conversation in the week with Dermot about it being just another day at the outside office and it wasn’t the main goal. Sense had kicked in afterall and as I lost all feeling in my thighs from the battering they’d already taken and the earlier cold in the week. I didn’t want to jeopardise what I’ve been working towards.

As we crawled through the final mile of that lap I could see that Michael had called it a day, so had Caroline and also the much appreciated hug and love from Arron who after putting in a fantastic run last week at Shanes Castle Ultra proclaiming he had finished with the course too made me feel better about calling it a day after 4 laps. So promising Michael at the turn that I was done after this lap. Jennifer and I headed back out for 1 more lap.

We headed back out with the wind at our backs and when we reached the turning point for the half marathon finishers, less than half a mile from the start line. We stood and looked at eachother. What did we have to gain from 3 more mile of salty baths and soaked feet. We were already weather beaten to within an inch of our lives. Not much was said other than feck this and we turned and headed back to draw the line at half distance.

I rang the bell and that was that. But as I saw one person in with the paramedics wrapped in a foil blanket I knew I’d made the right call. The relieved face of those who had followed suit filled the car park.

Even getting changed into dry clothes I never felt dried. My legs stung and I my hands had swollen so much. Feet where like you’d spent all day in the pool. Only thing which saved me was the can of vodka and diet coke in my hand and packet of Tayto which even at 11.20am was a perfect way to end an epic race which will go down in history as the EAMS St.Patricks Day Storm-athon 2018.

So back to Knockagh in 2 weeks…sure what else would you be doing on Easter Sunday!

Huge thank you to the marshals and paramedics who had to break out the foil blankets. Also to Thomas McKinstry for the now infamous photo of the conditions and to Elma for braving ‘ the turn’ with her camera and helping reroute us for safety!

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