Tag: 26 extreme

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

High on a Hill – The Mourne Walking Festival 2017

So with Derry Marathon now confined to the memory bank, it was time to find myself again for a few weeks before launching into another marathon training phase.

Not one to stick with the mundane, I set myself a challenge on a whole new level. The Mourne Walking Festival. Lets face it, I love the mountains, I’ll never run in them but I do love getting lost in my thoughts as I trek my way over them, never walking the same step twice.

It might sound a bit odd that I would take myself off on a walking festival- sure is it not for retired people? WRONG! I arrived to be greeted by those who like me just wanted to get up the mountains. People from all over the country, from across the water in England, Belgium, Germany and even as far afield as the US.  It was very multicultural and with that came the mutual respect for everyones beliefs, values and a common goal to enjoy the experience.

Being my first walking festival I was feeling very out of my comfort zone surrounded by people I didn’t know and no idea what lay ahead in the coming days.

Day 1- Spelga over the Mourne Way to Rostrevor.

So after a cracker few weeks weather’s.. .the weather gods decided it would be perfect to open the heavens and let it rain.

Standing at Spelga it was minging. But the Mourne Way was calling and with a spring in my step I was off. It wasn’t long before I found myself surrounded by those who were my pace and unlike running, I was in the lead group.

  I am convinced that I couldn’t even get that wet in the shower. However the craic was mighty, the stories and journeys of those out enroute where interesting and as we came down of Rocky (the mountain that I had a few weeks earlier watched runners catapult themselves down) I knew the track ahead well having run it a few times, including in pitch black at the 26 Extreme 10k Night Race in January. 


With it being a mixed ability group we stuck together between the guides. But day one was done and that evening I had the best shower ever! 

Day 2 Carricklittle Annalong to Ott car park, Slievenaman Road.

So this was the big Challange of the weekend. Right across the heart of the Mournes from one end to the other. There was going to be some big climbs but as always I kept in mind what goes up must come down.

Day 2 started with seeing all those drier versions of the people I had spent the previous day with. The sun had come out and knowing the route I couldn’t wait to get to Binnian and look over the middle of the Mournes. By far my favourite mountain ever.

We set off and as the first hour passed the group split up into those who where out to walk and those who where out to walk and take in the views and photo’s. A natural split in the group was welcomed and as we sat on the side of Binnian overlooking Ben Crom eating lunch, I felt that mountain moment set upon me. I relaxed, I felt calm and counted myself lucky to be apart of this festival. I love how the mountains are able to do that to your mind.

Discovering the actual way down from Binnian to Ben Crom was a tick on my list of things I wanted to figure out but the descent was short lived as we began the ascent back up at the other side of the Dam on the approach to Doan. 

Over marshland we went, navigating the bog cotton, hidden trenches and rivers we arrived in what I would say is the heart of the mournes as we where surrounded by the main mountains associated with the Mournes. On the climb to Loughshannagh the sky was clear and the rain from the previous day had left the ground green and glowing. 

Adding on an additional 2 peaks to the original route was welcomed by me as we climbed Carn and Ott before descending onto the Slievenaman Road. 

Growing up at the other end of the the Slievenaman Road it made me think about why it took me so long to get up the mountains in the first place. Maybe having them as your back garden I took them for granted but finishing that day I knew that I’d be back on that route again soon. 

The walk was finished off with a cool bottle of locally brewed beer with thanks to Mourne Mountains Brewery.  Perfect end to the day.

Day 3 The Rostrevor end of the Mournes

There was a choice to go for as multi peak walk on the Sunday but I had enjoyed the weekend so much and with an impending half marathon in 5 days I opted for the moderate walk and this time I had brought along Michael for company.

Lesson learned…never take someone with fresh legs with you on the last day of a walking festival. He was motoring up the tracks and cross country mountains with ease and although my legs where still hanging in rightly. I was glad when he finally took the pace back and realised it wasn’t a race and more an experience. 

With some members of the group recovering from the blister ball the night before and others who had been by my side for the past few days. 

As we made our way from Ballintur to Knockshee across the skyline we could see Slieve Martin in the distance. Again another hill and Dale classic where I wondered what lay beyond Fiddlers Green that had runners looking so ruined on the way back down. Although the weather wasn’t as nice as the previous day, the ground was still tight and as we went up and over many smaller hills and mountains it was let’s say, refreshing. 

With views out into Carlingford Lough to one side and the whole collection of the Mournes to the other. We could see the Tors of Binnian, the scene of the previous days adventure. And across the way Slieve Gullion poked out from behind the Cooley mountains. 

As we descended down past Cloughmore stone and into Kilbroney I was saddened that after nearly 5000ft in elevation gain and over 20hours out in the mountains that the weekend was coming to a close. 

Of course we finished the day off with another cool one and toasted a successful weekend where new places where visited, new friends made and where I saw through a challenge which was not only tough going  but enlightening and restored peace in my mind and body. 

Remember that time is ticking on the chance to vote for me in the Dublin Rock n Run Idol competition. As always scroll to the bottom and vote for Siobhan Grant!

http://www.runrocknroll.com/dublin/rock-idol/

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Half Marathon…12 hours notice, sure why not!

OK, I’ve made some really rash decisions in my time. This week I was determined not to run other than my 10 mile on Sunday. We had both consciously decided after a mad few weekends in the running world, that it was time we had a weekend off and spent it relaxing.

In theory it was a good plan. The kids had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon so would pan out well overall. Ok I will admit that I had the fear of missing out because the club was running a bus to Carlingford Half but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been chasing my tail the past few weeks and I knew my limits, so I thought!

Tuesday saw Caitriona offer Michael a place in the half, although he hasn’t been dying to run much since Last One Standing, he reluctantly took the number, thanks to Gavin and said he’d think about it. So a plan was made, we’d drive down with the kids, he’d run and I’d entertain them, the Grant cheer squad as such. However things took a change on Friday afternoon.

Checking my phone at lunch time and one of the girls in the club wasn’t going to make it for the Half. I was tempted, I don’t like things going to waste. I’ve great memories of Carlingford 10k last year when I pb’d by 6 minutes in the 10k after an abysmal performance at Castlewellan the week before, also a last minute decision to run that the night before too. So it seemed like it was an omen.

I threw the idea past the all knowing powers that be in Dermot. Where he pointed out that my attitude of “I don’t know if I could be bothered” was the wrong one and highlighting for doing 3 mile more than my planned 10, I’d get a medal- very logical. So as I worked through to the end of the day, guilt consumed me, I’d not done much since my 16 miler on Sunday and group on Monday so I was behind alright. Apparently I’d thank him afterwards for the encouragement to run it.

I waited until after school to call Michael. His reply to “I fancy Carlingford” was short and sweet “That isn’t the plan Siobhan.” The problem – what would we do with the kids. So it wasn’t until after 7 that it became a viable option for me to run the race.

I must have been absolutely mad. Who runs a half marathon with just over 12 hours notice?  There was no way I would be able to push myself the way I did at DUNE. I also had the fear that I’d feel sick again, like DUNE. I hadn’t drank as much water as I normally would have in the days before a race, however I had the miles in the legs, that wasn’t an issue and I’m stubborn so I was going for a run and not a race.

I’ve come a long way in a year. I thought back to last year and the fact it was Michaels first half, also Tara, Thomas and Jackies. I was in awe at what they achieved that day, with 10k being my biggest distance. Yet here I was a year later, willy nilly going for 13 miles as if it was a walk around the lake. I have definitely lost the plot. Throwback to Carlingford is here

I think it came as a shock to some of the MAC crew to see me kitted out for the run after I’d made it clear I wasn’t running on several occasions in the past few weeks. But there I was with 17 other MAC about to get stuck in. I stood at the start and as the count down began it dawned on me, shit I’m about to run a half marathon. I think the girls didn’t know what to think other than laugh at my light blub moment.

So off we set and with the course slightly altered this year at the beginning it still merged onto the same rolling hills into the Louth countryside. It was a busy first few miles but by mile 3 the pack had settled down and I was comfortable within my own space. Mile 4 saw the heavens open and after the rain of days gone by, there was a chance that it wouldn’t stop. I had the best of craic with the Ormeau Runners contingent as they passed by me in a sea of bright green t-shirts. Always a pleasure to spend a few miles with one or ten of them and great to see Janet out pounding the roads after her LOS performance only 2 weeks ago.

By 5 mile I’d fallen in with Andrea from OR, she was having a tough race and was debating calling it a day. For her it was just a bad combination of the world being a complete ass and giving her a bad run and her head giving up. So for 3 mile we ran side by side and got through the half way mark safely and headed for the shoreline. With passing marshals, Andrea found herself coming round and determined to make it to the end. I was delighted to see this and as she found her rhythm again around mile 10 and we skipped through the best puddle ever, she took off and I watched her push to the finish.

But my happiness was short lived, I had smashed the first 10 mile in perfect time to come in where I wanted. And the lesson to be learned from my rash decision began to punish me. It started at my ankle and began creeping up my leg, cramp. It was a given that it was going to happen. There’s only so much a gel or 2 can do for you when there’s a lack of water in the body, so there is was mile 11, having to walk.

Looking at my watch I knew I was capable of coming in on the low 2.40s but my leg wouldn’t let me. The head wind of last years race was no where to be seen today and in near perfect conditions I couldn’t utilise them. Not one to give up, I chatted with those out on course who where plodding along. By mile 12 the end was in sight, but its a damn long mile when you are in agony. Reaching the last km I decided to make a stab at not looking like I was dead as I came round to the finish. Turning the corner for the last 300m was Jennifer, a vision in blue and the screams of Paula as they willed me home.

I found my final last wind and put in a strong finish even though I wanted to die. On the corner stood some of the MAC crew who came back to cheer me home which was just fabulous. Crossing the line to the familiar 26 Extreme faces and a bonus Twix bar was fantastic. I met Andrea as she made her way back to her bus, looking relieved. Also got a much appreciated hug from Janet which was well needed after that.

So yeah, not the best run with time coming in at 2.52, and I have a million excuses. I have acknowledged them, however no point complaining or dwelling on it. Drawing the line now and eyes move to the next race in 2 weeks at Larne for my first long guide running experience.

I was delighted to see on returning home that Mr “you’ll thank me afterwards” won the 10k. Some staggeringly impressive PBs in the club from Hugh, Declan and Clare. Paula completed her 50th half marathon also and everyone put in strong runs. Guess Michael and I must have been the only ones up to all hours last night watching the election results whilst everyone had an early night as everyone else did great and we both had awful runs.

But 13 mile in the bag and a very nice medal for the collection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Sure what else would you be doing on a Friday night?

Exactly. ..I can think of 20 million other things I could have been doing with bath, jammies and a wee drink in front of the TV top of my list of potential options.

Caitriona and Siobhan on another whirlwind adventure

But no… another ‘great idea’ unveiled itself and low and behold there was Caitriona and I out in our brightest of bright, lining up with not only the other mad hatters of the MAC Machine but 500 others to take on the 26 Extreme, Mourne Way 10k, Night Edition race.

The mad eejits of Murlough AC with smiles through fear of the unknown 

It was reassuring to know as we lined up for our packs that everyone was thinking the same thing. Why? Why? Why? Did we really think this would be a good idea 2 months ago? But all forms of hi vis and head lamps where aplenty and it was again an unseasonably mild January evening. 

With glow sticks in hand which I have to say was very exciting indeed as we relived the night’s out in the 90s. We headed to the buses that where to transport us to the start line by Santa’s Cottage.

I was secretly hoping that Ian and the guys at 26 Extreme could have talked ‘santa’ into lighting up his cottage for us however not this year…maybe next time.

Spirits where high and as the MAC crew comendered the back of the bus like school kids on a field trip everyone was in good spirits. (I don’t know why none of us took a picture of that)

Driving up the pitch dark road, the grandeur of some of the houses in and around Kilbroney became very apparent. Also the question of their lack of blinds to leave something to the imagination for those passing, did come up. 

As you looked down the bus there was many a creative way to wear the glow sticks. From the normal round your wrist and around shoe laces to being braided into your hair and as Kate described it…ponytails that looked like a game of Kerplunk. 

As we filtered off buses and to the start line, the many torches lit up the night and all the hi vis clothing along with it including Caitrionas sight for sore eyes jacket. It also was very clear to spot those who had done Dublin Marathon  with their head torches courtesy of the goodie bag. I was very grateful for mine that’s for sure.

Caitriona lighting up the night

Lining up we bumped into many familiar faces and it was the face of Newry City Runner, Jennifer Mc Ateer that was to stick by Caitriona and myself to help turn this race into an experience full of craic and laughs whilst we spent 10k righting the world’s wrongs.
I knew to enjoy the first 1km as it was going to pretty much be the only tarmac we would be running on. However I’d too many layers on and the jacket ended up round the waist pretty quickly. As we entered into Leitrim Lodge the rough terrain was the start of 2 miles of challanging terrain under foot.  

However putting aside the terrain, what could be experienced by the eyes was majestic. Ahead and behind was just lines of lights and his vis. I wasn’t too familiar with the route as I marshalled last year at the MWM so putting faith in Jennifers ample experience of what lay ahead was reassuring.

Photo courtsey of Macscape Photography

There are so many things I loved along the way. The fact it was just us runners. No cars,  not many people about, just us plodding along. The sight of the people in front lighting the way. The team work of everyone ensuring that lumps, bumps and stumps where highlighted down the line. The night time views of the lights below. And of course the infamous 26 Extreme cake at the half way point. Which to be fair just transported me back to mile 9 of Causeway Coast in Sept when it was like the lamb of God. Good times.

The pictures just dont do it justice

Pace was steady minus the second mile where we had to be that bit more careful. However it was Friday night and let’s face it we had all had a tough week at work so treated it like as an opportunity to destress, laugh and take a few pictures. 

It was definitely a course of what goes up, does come down. And boy did it come down very quickly.  I had totally lost my bearings but following the lights ahead I had no fear that I was going to be lost indefinitely at any stage.

Finally I hit a familiar track from the ladies mini marathon/b2r Kilbroney 10k and loved the fact that I knew it was all downhill from there. 

As the sound of 96 classic by JX- There’s Nothing I Won’t Do, blasted out in the distance, we knew the finish line was near. As we turned the corner to the finish I was soon mobbed by Jennifer on the line quite literally.  Caitriona did add that it was a hilarious scene as we both scrambled for the finish line. Times showed we finished exactly the same time. Much to our amusement. 

Happy post race smiles 

What started off as a ‘what the hell were we thinking’ sort if evening, ended as a ‘when can we do it again’ night.

Flawless the whole way, from pack collection to buses, the route was well marked and marshalled leading to an upbeat and smooth operating finish line. Well done 26 Extreme, logistical nightmare turned into the perfect dream by your team. 
On another note though…Caitrionas jacket that she picked up in Primark was a hit. Literally a sight for sore eyes every time I turned around to talk to her. However she did say she’s glad the jacket stopped me from turning round as my torch was too bright. So moral of the story when night running is just keep looking straight ahead unless you’re watching out for the blue lady in Tollymore, the headless horseman in Castlewellan or Michael Mc Kenna in general.

Always beware when Kenny is about!

MAC on Tour

MAC on Tour

I suppose when you think about it, most of my “days out” this year have been to go to races. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m still getting out. So when Michael McKenna threw the idea of a bus run to the Causeway Coast out there a few months back, I wasn’t long ensuring I’d be on it.

After what has been an iffy few weeks in marathon training, I’d been warned how dangerous this route was and to be careful, well essentially I was told not to do it. But really how bad could it be? 

Hmm. …

So bus picked us up at 8am and that began the 2 hour trip to the scenic North Coast. 26 Extreme, who organise this race have the tagline “we don’t do easy” and it is this foundation that they pride themselves on. So with worries from competitors about high winds and bad weather they were basically told to pull up their big girl pants and horse her on.

With a glass of bubbles on the bus at 9.30 as second breakfast, we arrived in Portbalintrae. The sky looked moody and as team MAC dandered to the start line minus super runner McKenna doing a few mile before the race, the fear of what lay ahead began to sink in. 

Numbers collected and got ourselves sorted, we where soon on the bus to the start line. The thoughts of the previous race information highlighting what to do ie do what the Marshall says or you’ll get seriously injured or die. Played through my mind. Did they really have to be so dramatic..as the race progressed it became very apparent that they weren’t telling lies.
 

 With the majority of Team Mac opting for the half marathon we braved the cliff edge for a group photo. We were soon on the road, well questionable gravel uphill before turning onto a grass path. I knew I had to be careful and from the off I stuck with Caitriona. We were in this together and after promising her I wouldn’t run off and leave her, or take her at the finish line all was going well for the first 2 mile.

Mac half marathon machines to quote Joe McMahon

A few hold ups at the stiles allowed for race picture taking but nothing too dangerous or challanging in the beginning. Settling in we both turned to eachother saying well if we keep this pace up we’d be flying. Hmm mm

I laughed off a comment from an Ultra runner that we’d need our swimming gear around the corner. He wasn’t too far wrong. The tide was in and we had to go into the water. I’ve heard many people say they where up to their knees in the water, for short asses like me I was up to my knickers! 
Leaving the water to run a mile on the beach where I was treated to a sandblasting/exfoliation treatment from the wind and the sand was far from enjoyable. As we reached the rocks the heavens opened and let’s face it, it was the really wet big rain. At 3 mile in, I was hoping that this was the worst of the course. How wrong was I. Even after the rocks, I could have easily killed myself as I was about to run into a chain I didn’t see and Caitriona thankfully steered me clear.

The ground had been cut up by all the previous runners and because it was so soft and wet it wasn’t long before I was on my ass. It happened in slow motion, I had flash backs from falling up Bernagh in the snow back in March as I hit the ground. Thankfully my extra “padding” had taken the brunt of the fall and I was able to carry on, with a bruised ego and mucky shorts.

The rain continued to fall and at the first feed stop the haribo where swimming in water. All this water meant I had to pee so following the race instructions I avoided wild weeing and used the toilet instead. 

Plodding on we began to feel like we where getting somewhere. However the next 6 miles where to be the most brutal experience of my life. Between steps,stiles, more steps, slipping, steps, sliding, steps and guess what more steps. I managed to stay primarily on my feet falling only 1 more time and bashing my shoulder. And as for the stiles, short legs Siobhan could barely get her leg over some of them and would have been better crawling under them. 

Mid race selfie

The views where stunning after the rain cleared up and although I was holding onto the fence for dear life as we progressed, I began to enjoy it as the thought of how much worse could this get, kept you going.  

Just past Ballintoy Harbour

Conversation was plentiful, not only between Caitriona and myself but with the other participants. We were in amongst the marathoners, the 10k and the Ultra runners. Everyone feeling exactly the same, even if we where all drown rats covered in muck. 

Caitriona’s Geography left a lot to be desired and as we came above the Giants Causeway her reaction was priceless.

 “Is that it?” Yip just a lump of oddly shaped rock. I’m sure if we were at sea level she’d realise the columns are quite big and for a geologist, quite fascinating. And also that is not Scotland over there!

The feed station at just after 9 mile had the world’s best cake. We had been going 3 hours at this point and I’m sure anything would have tasted good, but the cake was immense. 

The cake must have had magical powers. As from there we were able to actually run at pace and I felt like I was finally breaking in. The end was near and it was just a matter of making it in 1 piece. With 1 tricky decent at 11 mile, we were soon on the railway track.

I didn’t care anymore and ran straight through the puddles. Caitriona wasn’t impressed by my excessive dancing in the puddles as I was splashing her whilst I prance like an eejit. So my singing and dancing at Lisburn Half drove her away and then my puddle dancing at Causeway may result in me not having someone to run with ever again . 

As we came across the board walk pitching the GR8 club race to fellow runners as a ‘Smaller version of Causeway Coast.’ We could see what looked like the support crew on the hill. 

One last hill and as I got to the top, I was delighted to take Caitriona by the hand and cross the line with her. True to my word,we done it together, right to the bitter end.

Final hill to the finish

With a quick trip to the bus to make it to Portrush for dinner, I tried my best to wash the muck off me with baby wipes and change my clothes. A beautiful dinner and a well deserved drink was had whist everyone tried to come to terms with what we had just put ourselves through. 

The bus journey home was to be fun. We had a “few” drinks to make the journey home that bit more easier on the sore bodies, purely medicinal. There was plenty of ice for not only drink but for an ice bath..thanks Brendan! 

We got off in Newcastle and headed to the Donard Bar for a few sociables whilst not in transit. Craic was mighty and was a perfect end to the day.

A big shout out to the team of supporters who came along and kept us full of positive thoughts and were there to support us during the race and also at the bar. 

However I know I’d have never made it through this race injury free without Caitriona. She worried more about where my feet where going than hers. She kept me sane and in craic throughout the race. We technically verbally wrote this blog at 8 mile. She chased me up every hill shouting to “drive drive drive” but best of all I was delighted to see that she beat me, it’s been a long time coming and for the results to have her name before mine was a poetic finish to the race. 2 seconds is 2 seconds. 

My poor trainers this morning

In the aftermath of the race, for about 10 minutes, I was never doing this race again. However today, with my broken body, sore shoulder and fresh hope that the sun might shine on the North Coast someday, I’m looking forward to next year’s “Away” race. It can’t get any worse than yesterday…can it?