Tag: mourne mountains

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/

MAC Does Hill & Dale 2017

The Series race reports – to be added to weekly after each race

Hill and Dale, Race 10, The Meels

The Thursday evening tradition of Hill and Dale continues. This week it was race 10, the penultimate gallop for the MAC Mountain goats this series. It was just a little matter of 3.5 miles and 1800 feet of elevation between the start and the finish. With the route requiring an ascent of both Meelmore then Meelbeg from a starting position on the Trassey Road. I have always found it strange that ‘The Meels’ themselves offer their own quintessential Irish charm. In that Meelmore (Big Meel) is lower than Meelbeg (Little Meel) by no less than twenty five feet, discuss.

We welcomed bigger numbers back to the mountains this week with over 180 toeing the line. The impending heatwave promised by Barra Best had still not landed fully in the Mournes by then however we welcomed nine members to the race including Colm Devlin and Judith Robinson who are the only MACs to have completed all races so far. It was Stephen Cassidy who crossed the line to take the accolade for first MAC home. Coming in 88th place, he clocked a 45.09. He was soon followed by Declan McCormick fresh from his assault on the Mourne Way Marathon five days earlier. For someone who doesn’t know why he is continually turning up to each race, it is clear that not so deep down, he is beginning to really love the mountains.

There is a tale to tell of the next two across the line. After such camaraderie at Donard, Laura Lynch and Colm Devlin battled it out at the top of Meelmore. During the descent they both took different routes. As they flew down the side of the mountain it was the agile form of Laura who took first MAC lady home and just under 40 seconds advantage over Colm. I wonder has she let him forget it yet? Colm clocked an impressive 49.42.

Dave Fulcher, also fresh from his return to marathon life last weekend, tackled the Meels with gusto alongside the relentless figure of Judith Robinson who yet again tackled another route, giving everything she had. They finished in 52.52 and 53.20 respectfully.

Without a doubt, Liam Smyth does do the best mid-race pictures. As we were all treated to the reality of life mid-race during Hill & Dale courtesy of Liam, he finished in 55.37. We also welcomed back Andy Spence to the series and he held his own and took advantage of the fast finish to cross the line in 57 dead. A huge well done to Lorna, new to the series this year, she has come out time and time again and tackled new challenges and never once faltered in her performance taking proceedings home for Murlough in 59.51.

Afterwards, Colm took great pride in accompanying everyone back to Greenans for the post race refreshments. As people praised the spread as being “one of the best,” Colm reminded them that they were eating in Kilcoo and there was no better place!

This week we are all a bit emotional as we approach the last race of the series, Race 11- Drinnahilly, what will we do on a Thursday night now?  Moving to a Friday night this week and as always entry is a donation towards the two chosen charities this year, Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and Mourne Hertiage Trust. The series presentation will take place afterwards in O’Hares.

Hill & Dale Race 9 Loughshannagh

The weather wasn’t kind to the Mournes last week as the rain poured and filled the undergrowth of Loughshannagh for Thursday’s Hill & Dale. Notoriously the most challenging race of the series and it also being a NIMRA ‘short race’ added to the occasion.

 With numbers beginning to dwindle as some sense begins to return to the mountain running community now that they have completed the required amount of races for their spot prize. Others turned up just because they love a good mudbath up the mountains.

After Donard, the just over 4 mile route this year took and anticlockwise direction Carn as the first peak followed by a steep descent into the Mournes beach at Loughshannagh and onto Ott for a quick finish. 

There were only 2 MAC who were brave enough to take on the Challange along with the 156 others. With the MWM  featuring as a race to complete this weekend, many of our mountain goats sat this one out.

 Colm Devlin on course for a series full house donned his well crafted buff hat to take on the race. For the ladies Judith Robinson stepped up to the Challange together showing that there is nothing to fear from a wee jont out with Hill & Dales finest.

Colm put in a fantastic second half to cross the line in 1.10 minus the full face mask he is infamous for wearing at such mudslide events. Judith, equally mucked to the eyeballs put in a vallient effort to finish in 1.20. 

Hill & Dale Race 8 Millstone

So race 8 takes us back to Donard Park. 

If there was ever an advertisement for the bipolar nature of the weather in Northern Ireland, this years Hill and Dale series would be it. Last week the sun couldn’t shine any more, this week it was wet, miserable and in line with the rise of local sales of Jungle Formula, the midgies where out in force.

10 MAC took to the start line, some to make up the race numbers to 6, some to complete their score card and others because well…they just love a wee mountain.

In the shadows of Slieve Donard lies Millstone. Towering over the Granite Trial and home to nesting Buzzards. There where a few health and safety concerns after sightings and attacks from the resident Buzzards. However opting not to reroute this year the runners motored on up and back down again to what I can say was the best finish of the series so far. Just when you think people have nothing more to give, they pull out spectacular finishes, none more so than the immense finish by Newcastle ACs John O’Higgins.

As bodies were like ants crawling across the ridge and looking like they were tumbling down the side of the mountain, it was Mourne Runners William McKee that took the race win. 

For MAC, OC Young was first home as he stormed across the line in 41st place in 47.15. He was followed by Eddie Murnin who has now openingly admitted to enjoying the mountains and clocked a great time of 51.50.

A fantastic finish by Stephen Cassidy saw him take 91st place and tick another race off the list for this series in 53.05. Declan McCormick who managed to turn up with his vest on the right way round and his number in the right place continued his ‘I’ve no idea why I am doing this’  campaign and finished in 57.13. 

Colm Devlin continues to rack up a full house of races this series and gained himself an ‘airborne’ photo as he finished with style in 58.25.

Dave Fulcher also continues to put in strong performances mid week as well as at a plethora of local events at the weekend finishing in 1.02.

We also welcomed back Michael Neeson to the series as he gets back on track. Smiling the whole way to the finish, maybe a smile of loving life or one of relief or a mixture of both, he clocked 1.04 and another 1 down.

Nicola Mathers was first lady home for MAC. Although she looked like she had had a mud bath by the time she finished, it was actually a whole extended family of midgies that covered her and not dirt. She crossed the line in 1.05. 

Fionnuala Simmons is living for Drinahilly so she can hang up her mudclaws (for another year) and wear her hard earned H&D gilet with pride. In order to do so she took on Millstone and made great time on the descent as it seemed like the ground came up to meet her feet. She completed the course in 1.06. Judith Robinson, again took to the line after a busy weekend of running. She encouraged and came home 10 seconds behind Fionnuala to finish proceedings for MAC.

Next week there is no telling what the weather has in store but either way the crew from Newcastle AC will be at Loughshannagh at 6.30 checking your kit and offering a fresh mountain challange for all the mountain goats.

Hill & Dale Race 7 Slieve Moughanmore

This week we returned to the heart of the Mournes for Moughanmore, a Hill and Dale stalwart that has taken a few years off. An out and back affair with runners passing over Pigeon and then onto the summit of Moughanmore and back again. With some legs weary after the Donard Race 5 days earlier, other legs where raring to go. Unlike the bipolar weather conditions endured the previous Saturday where all kit was essential to cope with the changing conditions, the addition of Factor 50 was added for this race as temperatures soared into the mid 20 and we had guaranteed blue skies and sunshine for the whole event. 
Measuring 3.25 mile and 1560 feet of a climb, 205 runners toed the line and in amongst them were 11 MAC members. Leading the charge home in 42nd place was Kieran Young, finding his groove again back in the mountains clocking 40.26. He was the first of five runners in the club to make the top 100 in the event, the clubs biggest top 100 finish this series. Hugh pushed hard and took 67th place, sporting his new sunglasses bought specifically for running. Looking like a smaller version of the Terminator, he crossed the line in 42.57.
Sean Armstrong stayed hot on Hugh’s heels over the first climb much to the shock of the Coach when the photos emerged after the event. Sean took an admirable 81st place in a fantastic time of 44.59. He was soon followed by Stephen Cassidy who returned to the series and took 85th place in 45.35. Declan Mc Cormick, after braving Donard and upgrading to the full marathon at Mourne Way, must have been feeling invincible as he cruised home in 90th place in 46.20.
Colm Devlin proved his worth by even turning up to the race after a hot, humid and tough race the night before at the Bann 10k. After facing the sweltering conditions the previous night, he did it all again with a few bigger hills thrown in for good measure finishing in 48.48. Gerard Rowe and Dave Fulcher were next home in 50.33 and 53.57 both finding the heat adding to the challenges of the course. 
Judith Robinson was the first MAC lady home. Back on her home mountain turf, Judith dug deep to come home in 57.22. It was a series return for Liam Smyth, it was great to have him back in the mix and he completed the course in 58.51. Lorna Fitzpatrick completed the MAC proceedings for the day in 1.02 keeping her focus and drive with a quick return leg.
Next week we return to Newcastle for the Millstone. With warning signs out about Buzzards around the Granite Trail area, runners may be prepared to tackle more than a few 100 feet in elevation!

Hill & Dale Race 6, Donard

Marking the half way point in the H&D series was the infamous, Donard Race. This year due to it being an IMRA trials event, participants had to take on a different route, avoiding the Black Stairs and heading to the summit over the Saddle. The public walking route offers tricky challenges of its own, with the granite steps to the saddle posing hazardous to the average walker, never mind the seasoned mountain runner passing two fold as one goes up and one comes down, at speed.
It was a race of four seasons. It started out a glorious race as 258 runners toed the line on Main Street Newcastle. The streets where lined by family, friends, club mates and tourists who where amazed that these runners where about to run up “that big mountain, up there.” In amongst the mix where 12 of MACs finest Mountain Goats, of course lead by Kieran Young who had a score to settle with Donard after his last trip up.

With the summit clearly visible in the distance, it was looking like yet again it was going to be a scorcher of a day. However as runners began the main accent up past the Ice House, the clouds started to set in. It wasn’t long before the blue skies where replaced by heavy grey clouds which brought with it hail that you would expect on a stormy January afternoon, not the last week in May. This made for an even trickier decent than normal as footwear choice could have made the normal ground feel like ice beneath them. It didn’t deter an on form Zak Hanna from taking a home win as he cruised home to victory under the hour in 59.24, closely followed by William McKee in 1.01.

Leading his troops home was Kieran Young who was first home for MAC. Proud of all the Donard first timers and the fact his positive and slightly unhinged influence may have been the cause of many of them embarking on the Hill & Dale series this year, Kieran crossed the line in 1.20, putting to bed any hard feelings he had after his last race up Donard a few months back.

Eddie Murnin continues to amaze everyone as he made himself look like he has been running mountains for years instead of a few weeks. Even the hail that stung when it hit you didn’t deter him from crossing the line in 1.24. Another mountain newbie, Declan McCormick, who still wonders why he is lining up every week, pulled out a blinder of a decent in 37minutes to finish in 1.32. Proving that he has nailed his downhill technique or that he closed his eyes and hoped for the best as he made his way through the rocky terrain of the forest.

Turning up to the race in her Flip Flops, to ensure an automatic win in the MAC “Tourist spotting” game was our leading MAC lady, Laura Lynch, she did thankfully opt for a change of tyres for the actual race. Going from strength to strength, Laura kept her focus and with promise of her beautiful cupcakes at the end she powered home to continue her rein as first MAC lady home in 1.38. Joining Laura at the finish was Colm Devlin, who on reaching the summit together claimed “we are at the top together, we will finish together” And together they stayed to the bitter end. Laura was grateful for the experienced company and the craic was mighty even if the descent ahead was daunting. A true example of MAC teamwork at its finest

Again the race of pairs continued as race veteran Dave Fulcher coached first timer Fionnuala Simmons down the mountain for them to cross in 1.47. Next home was Nicola Mathers although not new to the series, it was the first time she was tackling the Donard race. Standing at the foot of Donard after the race she said “I will never look at that mountain the same again” knowing she had conquered it in 1.51.

Judith Robinson, armed with her glasses this race, enjoyed the climb to the summit which towers 850m above sea level. Seeing clearly on accent was not the story for the way down as the glasses where popped on the head and experience took her down the mountain in 1.54. Sean Looby, always fond of a great race picture smiled for every camera on the way up. His return to the series post marathon was marked with a 1.58 finish. Coming in under the two hour mark, Sean did say that the marathon was an easier challenge which highlighted the 6.5 mile tricky route and bi-polar weather conditions that runners had to endure on the day.

Making a return to the series and competitive running, Andy Spence crossed in the line in 2.09. It was the now regular H&D pairing of Colette McBride and “The Butcher” that swept around the final corner of O’Hares car park to finish in 2.16. It never ceases to amaze me that Colette enjoys every step of every race, putting faith in her own abilities and never being daunted by the challenge ahead. An inspiration and bench mark for other runners not just in Murlough but further afield that taking the plunge into the unknown at H&D isn’t actually as scary as it looks, after all the mountain can only go up so far and what goes up, has to definitely come back down again.

In five days time, its time to pull on the Mudclaws again as we head back to the heart of the Mournes for Moughanmore. If legs have recovered remember to bring your number and a full kit inspection will be in place, if you are to learn anything from Donard, it is that in the mountain, you need to prepared for everything changing in a matter of minutes.

Hill & Dale Race 5, Rocky

Thanks to Paul Fegan for the photo.

We’ve had Slieve Martin and Slieve Binnian, so to the rookie Hill and Daler, “Rocky” didn’t seem like too bad an idea, having conquered just one peak, a race, in the previous weeks. However it’s actually the Rocky Horseshoe by name and encompasses four peaks which show off the Mournes from the opposite side from last week.

As the cooler weather began to set in on Thursday evening, the 225 runners where given a break from the midgets for a change and conditions where perfect with little wind and great visibility. This race also offered spectators the opportunity to see runners at almost every part of the course and the clear evening allowed for you to see runners making their way along Altnataggart, Pearse Castle, Tournamrock and finally the summit of Rocky and down.

The course allowed for a fast start and finish, that’s if you had anything left after the previous 3 mile and it was clear the competition between McKee and Hanna was fierce as they merged onto the track to climb Altnataggart, shoulder to shoulder. It was a treat for those watching on as they were treated to runners hurtling themselves down the side of Rocky back onto the track, having to make a quick decision to find the best line down. McKee gave everything he had to ensure victory was his after the smart winning tactics from Hanna last week was evidently still raw in his mind.

MAC came out in force yet again and it was Eddie Murnin who was the first MAC to be spotted coming down Rocky with Hugh Oram hot on his tail. At 43.45 and 43.51 respectfully, the two men quite literally emptied the tank and made up places on the final 200m. It is also to be noted that Hugh, who hasn’t tackled Rocky in seven years, was able to boast about a 3 minute pb and proves the Coach is just like a fine wine, as his performances improve as the years go by.

Next to come hurtling down the mountain in 46.28 was the ever agile Stephen Cassidy, as he had every foot placement on point throughout the final descent to secure a top 100 place. He was closely followed by Sean Armstrong in 46. 44 who picked an excellent line down Rocky to arrive alive and smiling at the finish. It seemed that the MAC runners came in pairs on Thursday, Declan Mc Cormick and Colm Devlin followed next in 48.20 and 48.40. The pair were being hunted down by the ever impressive Laura Lynch as she held onto her crown as first MAC lady home in 49.01.

Gerard Rowe, like a mountain pro, clocked a 53.47 and just behind him, Nicola Mathers, who was assured by the fact that she had survived this race in previous years, tackled the descent with ease to come home in 55.49. Judith Robinson took on some of her favourite peaks in this race and clocked a 57.25.

Just over the hour, we welcomed Lorna Fitzpatrick and Sarah McKay safely across the line. Continuing to tackle the unknown and improving race on race, the hills are definitely building in the legs of these ladies and the Hill and Dale force is definitely strong within these two.

As high vis became evident on the mountain, in amongst them was Colette McBride bringing the race proceedings to an end for the evening. Colette, surrounded by the legendary Butcher and The Prophet himself, offered her thanks for the support, encouragement and of course craic had with the men as she made her way across the 4 peaks. She was quick to point out that without them, she would probably still be up there. A testament to the organisation and marshalling of the series and also a warning to both men, Colette is ready to take on Donard next week.

With the midway point in the series nearly upon us, we take this Thursday off to prepare for the highlight of the series as runners take on Slieve Donard on Saturday at 2pm. This year with Donard being a IMRA trial for the European and World Mountain Running Championships and as a first round of the Irish Mountain Running Championships, we expect a considerable field of elite athletes toeing the line in hope to be selected to represent their country alongside our own MAC Mountain Goats who will be out in force to tackle the biggest mountain in NI.

 

 

 

Hill & Dale Race 4, Binnian to the Top

All roads lead to Slieve Binnian on Thursday night for the infamous Binnian To The Top, Hill and Dale Race. Race 4 of the series seen over 250 runners take to the start line at Willies Field. A route which took you up a gradual climb along a gravel path to the foot of the mountain with a hundred metres of respite before you climbed over the Quarry and headed up along the wall, was not to finish at the Stile which was in sight on the accent. As the lungs burned and you had seriously questioned your sanity, the route took runners over the stile and left up to between the first Tor, finishing with spectacular views over the middle of the Mournes. 

Now don’t be fooled by the pictures, with the evening sun setting over Rostrevor, the climb up Binnian was all in the shade with a wind that would cut you in two. Runners scrambled for position at the start knowing it would be tough or taking your own life into your hands to try to pass runners on the climb. It was Newcastle ACs, Zak Hanna who made the break just before the stile as William McKee and him fought to the bitter end for first position.

On arriving across the finish line you were greeted with the very reason many people do the Binnian Race – the view. As beyond the finish line the wind that had whistled across the final accent was non-existent and basking in the evening sun, runners who had given everything took in the views of the valley and the middle Mournes.

It was the familiar face of our officer in command, Kieran Young that was first across the line in 32ndplace in 28.10, over a minute quicker than last year. He may have his sights set on Engeria 24 in July, but he is still MACs top Mountain Goat.

However, three days, post sub 4 marathon at Belfast, it was Eddie Murnin who was the next MAC home. With the attitude of “I’m going to give it a go” Eddie scaled the side of Binnian with relative ease and came across the line in 30.40 and 75th place.

It was the award winning off road runner of the year who was next to pop up on the summit of Binnian. Sean Armstrong took 86th place in 31.19 and was soon followed by Hugh Oram in 32.05. Declan McCormick narrowly missed out on a top 100 place however to finish in 33.40 for a man new to the series was admirable.

Colm Devlin didn’t just stop at the finish line in 34.10, straight after the race he was seen on top of the Tor looking down at the runners still to come and fully embracing the 360 degree views. Gerard Rowe and Stephen Cassaidy came in next as the sun began to set. Laura Lynch powered up the final accent to maintain her winning streak as first MAC lady home in 35.47.

She was followed by both Michael Neeson and Michael Power in 37.10 and 37.45 respectfully. I am sure team support was aplenty between Nicola Mathers  and Judith Robinson as they climbed the final few granite rocks to finish 11 seconds apart in 39.59 and 40.10.

The now Hill and Dale regulars who are training hard for the Mourne Way Marathon, Sarah McKay and Colette McBride, reached the summit unscathed. Both ladies have proven that mountain races are a battle of the mind and if you believe you can, you will. With fantastic times of 45.43 and 47.56, they are ones to watch as their confidence grows.

Lorna Fitzpatrick, who threw herself in the deep end last week at Slieve Martin come out again this week and closed proceedings for the evening with a huge smile, probably of relief, in 48.51. Also a huge welcome to the two honoury MAC members Fiona Kenna from Star of the Sea and Padraig o Connor Balbriggan Road Runners who braved Binnian under the leadership of our OC.

The MAC Mountain Goat contingent continues to grow and it was heard on the descent that “Those Murlough are everywhere.” Well what else would you be doing with your Thursday night? Next week Race 5 takes us to other end of the Mournes to Leitrim Lodge for Rocky. Remember as always, don’t forget your number and to have all essential kit with you.

Hill & Dale Race 3, Slieve Martin

You know when you are surrounded by special people. These are a whole new level of special people. Those who think a Thursday night is best spent running up and down mountains, defying death pretty much. I’m still to get the reason why people love to do this but I tell you this, I love watching it.

This week we headed for the first open mountain race of the 2017 series. A calm evening which didn’t feel as warm as an April evening should, mad people, I mean athlete’s, gathered at the foot of Slieve Martin in Kilbroney Forest Park. Amongst those ready to embrace it where the MAC mountain goats without their fearless leader.

249 runners took to the start line and as usual on time they set off at 7.30 for what I heard be described as a brutal race incorporating 4.25 mile, over 1700 ft and the first taste of open mountain.

The first half mile told the story. As the field of runners lead by Willie McKee took on the first climb the air of ‘why am I doing this’ filled the forest. They had started and they where going to finish. As the field left the forest and on to the final climb to the top of mountain it was Hugh who was leading the troops.

The descent was to be tricky and the fear of putting one foot wrong, did become a reality for a few. Yet for those in the club new to the series, they embraced it and cursed it all at the same time. In the absence of our officer in command who is saving himself for his favourite mountain next week, Coach Hugh was first MAC across the line in 93rd place in 46.53. He was followed by the smiling Sean Armstrong who on the last stretch of the race was loving life back in the mountains in 47.50.

In quick succession we welcomed Colm Devlin, Gerard Rowe and the first MAC lady home, Laura Lynch all in the 51st minute. Newcomer to the series this week, Declan McCormick was next to cross the line in 52.28 who was totally perplexed by the fancy dancey vest pins supplied on the day.

Michael Neeson made it 3 in a row with a 52.30 with Dave Fulcher and Michael Power taking it home for the boys in 54.10 and 54.55 respectively.

Judith Robinson embraced the descent after a tough climb and clocked an impressive 55.30. Nicola Mathers, who was disappointed that she didn’t get to take all her kit with her on the run but nonetheless delighted to finally have the coveted MAC jacket in the right size, colour and trim, crossed the line in 57.09.

A story could be told about Fionnuala Simon’s race that’s for sure. Missing a turn off, her and 2 other runners veered off track and without a reliable human sat nav like the club’s own Caitriona Carr who masterminded her way round 3 different cheer points at London last week, found themselves at the other end of Kilbroney. However even with that slight scenic detour she clocked a 1.03 and is delighted to see she continues her series run of 3/3.

Sarah McKay continues to impress as she crossed the line in 1.06 on her first open mountain experience. Lorna Fitzpatrick was embracing her first Hill and Dale experience and really did choose the hardest race as her first. It didn’t deter her though and she pushed through to finish in 1.07.

Collette McBride was sure to keep on going and had earned that post race cocktail sausage coming home in 1.13 to bring the evening to a close.

So next week it is not a case of what goes up, must come down. Race 4 will see runners take in the only way is up Binnian Race. Of course you will have to come back down but you are not required to run as it doesn’t count.
Hill & Dale Race 2, Tollymore

On Thursday, focus returned to the second race of the Hill and Dale series in our own backyard of Tollymore Forest Park. It doesn’t matter how many times you run around Tollymore, there is always a hill that you have chosen to forget existed until you are half way up it and cursing your great idea to follow this route.

The 4.5 mile course known as the Monument Route, differed slightly from last year but requests prior to the race from the coach himself to have the clubs new defib on hand was worrying regarding what shape some of the runners where going to cross the line.

For MAC there were many to brave the challenge of the second race, seen more as a warm up before hitting the open mountain next week at Slieve Martin. We welcomed back 11 of last week’s ‘victims’ and added in Collette Mc Bride, Michael Grant and Michel Power to the mix.

As the race set off which can only be compared to a stampeded of wildebeests. The thud upon the ground vibrated right around Tollymore as 278 runners jostled for position.

As runners went beyond the Boundary Wall they welcomed knowing that after 2.6 mile it was all downhill from there minus that hill at the end that many have erased from their memories from previous years.

It was the familiar outline of Kieran Young who was the first to approach the final hill for MAC in 39.48. Delighted to know that after this, the next 10 weeks he enters into his comfort zone where I am sure he will retain the glory of beating the now yellow and red clad Kenny.

Not far behind was Hugh Oram in 40.16, who chased his rivals up the hill displaying flawless hill technique to make a few places up on the final push.

Eddie Murnin took the race easy with his impending marathon but still came in strong in 40.50. With all three men coming in the top 100.

Sean Armstrong continues to quietly work his way up the standings in 42.34, with Colm Devlin not far behind in amongst one of his favourite training grounds in 44.05.

Michael Neeson return this week continuing to question his sanity on why he got himself mixed up in the series. However with an impressive 45.42, there is nowhere else he should be.

Dave Fulcher and  Michael Power took the race in their stride finishing in 48.29 and 49.08 respectfully.

It was the determined running of Laura Lynch that brought it home for the MAC ladies in 46.41 retaining her title as first MAC lady. She was followed by Fionnuala Simons in 51.09 and Judith Robinson in 51.49 who kept within a comfortable distance of each other throughout the race. The girls made perfect markers for Michael Grant as he embraced H&D for the first time claiming that the climb isn’t the problem, it’s the downhill, crossing the line in 52.45.

Also returning after their maiden voyage last week was Sarah Mc Kay who although fully aware now of what lay ahead was a lot more relaxed and smiled through the exhaustion as she came up the last hill in 58.08.

It was the relieved face of Collette Mc Bride who after last year’s final assault on the series finished proceedings for MAC on the night in 1.01.

Next week we head for the open mountain at Slieve Martin in Rostrevor. Runners please remember to bring along your numbers and mandatory kit – its not optional, its essential.

 

Hill and Dale Race 1, Castlewellan

13.04.17 MAC Group Photo

Thursday saw the return of the ever growing and popular Hill & Dale series.  A race series masterminded by neighbouring club Newcastle A.C. who not only know how to entice some of our members to their dark side but also know how to put together a gruelling and unconventional route for runners of the adventurous kind, maximising the stunning backdrops of the forests and mountains of South Down. 

As anticipation for the event mounted amongst the MAC virtual clubroom, it seemed that there were to be many new faces to take their maiden voyage round a Hill and Dale course in addition to our hard core and ever faithful mountain runners. 

With Race 1 being within the grounds of Castlewellan Forest Park it was showcased as one of the ‘easier’ routes of the series. When we say easier, that translates to 5.2 mile encompassing 3 hills that amounted to over 1000ft. Definitely not for the faint hearted but Team MAC fielded 14 members including 4 H&D first timers in Eddie Murnin, Michael Neeson, Fionnuala Simmons and Sarah Mc Kay.

It was the continuing formidable form of Hugh Oram that was the first MAC across the line in 42.31. Needless to say Hugh embraced those hills and added to his 2017 collection of personal bests and a top 75 finish for the Coach.  

It was the H&D newbie, Eddie Murnin who powered his way up the Castle hill next in 44.10. Proving that he is just great at everything, it seems, a proactive post race recruitment drive from fellow team mates was rife trying to commandeer him for mad mountain expeditions, in realising his mountain goat potential. 

Kieran Young, still carrying an injury from last weekend’s Donard race, gritted his teeth and showed why he is regarded as our Hill and Dale Officer In Command getting across the line in 45.05.

Next, we welcomed our Hill and Dale veterans across the line with Sean Armstrong, Colm Devlin, Sean Looby and Gerard Rowe pulling off fantastic performances to show that they have no fear at all even when they know what lies in front of them isn’t the easiest of miles.

Laura Lynch stood out throughout the race at all points and with that, was the first of the MAC ladies home. Digging deep on the hills and gaining ground at every opportunity to finish in 51.39, Laura’s return to impressive form continues to produce yet another stunning performance off the back of a 10k personal best in Hilltown.

New comer Michael Neeson showed great promise after the pre race nerves settled, to come home in a 51.51 and was followed by Dave Fulcher in 53.14.

However the rarely heard phrase around any trail race of ‘I really enjoyed that’ was said by one Nicola “I don’t know if I’m fit to run until I do” Mathers only 4 days post Paris Marathon. It seemed she was fit to run after all as she pulled on her freshly washed vest and put in an unwavering and what she obviously thought was an enjoyable race to come home in 53.16.

Fionnuala Simmons showing great promise on the hills on her first attempt at Hill and Dale with a strong finish up the final hill in 53.35. Judith Robinson was relentless on the climb to Slievenaslat making up several places on the assent. Testament to the potential she has for the future open mountain races in the series, definitely one to watch.

It was the sheer determination of Sarah McKay that captured the essence of the Hill and Dale series. New to the series, Sarah has had her sights set on doing a H&D race for a few months now. Not unnerved by the quick pace set from the off, Sarah stuck to her own plan and pace, putting faith in her training. She finished the race to rapturous applause from the Team as she took on the final hill in what was a journey that was more a battle in the head than in the legs and resulted in a commendable 1.02 finish. A great show from MAC both in the field and supporting.

Tomorrow (Thursday) we will be at Tollymore Forest Park for Race 2 of the series. All race details can be found on the Newcastle A.C. website. 

 

Hi ho, hi ho,  it’s up the mountain we go

Hi ho, hi ho,  it’s up the mountain we go

OK so next quest is the Christmas Cracker. 

Run by neighbouring club Newcastle AC, the route is nothing short of challenging.  Each year the route changes and spans anything from 8 to 10 miles. 

That’s alright if on road but since its Christmas, it’s a bit of Craic and sure we’ve plenty of hills on our doorstep they might as well throw in Slieve Na Slat and some muck too. I imagine this may be on par with Causeway Coast and as a Christmas Cracker Virgin I say this might just be the death of me.

Also the great thing about this race is the fact you do it in pairs! So who else fits the bill other than similarily mental running buddy extrodinare, Caitriona who I am desperate to get off the bench and back out there doing crazy things with me.

So the only way to train for this is really to embrace the hills. I’m still trying this embracing concept. In fairness I like hills and mountains and have walked too many of them the past few years. However I just don’t think I’m cut out to run up them. 
Though when has that ever stopped me from doing something?

So a Saturday night chat with Caitriona resulted in us deciding that instead of going round the lake to break her in again…we’d go up Slieve Na Slat. Sure it’s only 220m elevation. Not a patch on Donard or the likes more of a hill.

So as I woke on Sunday morning and looked outside, a heavy frost had descended upon  Castlewellan and it was starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Though the clear blue skies meant that on a hill you’re sure to get great views so in a bid to take advantage of the weather and get back up where I am happiest the time was set and at 10.30 Caitriona was there ready to rock n roll.
Layered up and ready for a few hours passing a Sunday morning. We headed for the hills. It had been brought to my attention that Caitriona had never been up SlievenaSlat so I was looking forward to the stark realisation of what exactly the cracker was asking of us as we began the short but steep climb to the top.

It wasn’t long before her face was as picture. Each corner brought another even steeper hill and even though I’ve been up it a hundred times it never gets any easier. 

Though as the tough bit was over and more stunning views came into full view, she began to see the reason why it’s worth it.

It was like a winter wonderland. The trees where thick with ice and as the ground began to thaw you could hear the leaves crunching and crackling. Icicles fell like rain drops and as you looked up beyond the trees there was a low mist engulfing the foot of the mountains as they towered above the white fields surrounded by cleat blue sky.
That’s it right there. That’s the feeling I love. Nothing beats being up the mountain..fact. Standing there, there was no denying the existance of a God. There was no way this can all coincidently occur at the same time. 

The walk was finished with all wee tour round the hills and down into the Cyprus Pond finishing the lake. 

I returned home less than 2 hours later; refreshed, content and realising I’ve a hell of a lot of work to do for the Cracker in 5 weeks. 

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

Would Be Wiser Eating Grass

It could be said that some runners would have been wiser eating grass than running on Saturday morning. With rain coming from every direction and Silent Valley resembling a bad day in Mordor, the hardcore runners took to the start line of Born 2 Runs, Dambusters Half Marathon whilst the fair weather runners rolled over in their beds.

Let’s face it, I made a point of running through every storm that the alphabet threw at me this year. Even running like a mad woman through the burst banks of the lake and the floods running down the mountains. So I’m not one to fear the wind and rain but I do detest beginning a run in the rain. 

You see the issue with this race was simple. It was in the middle of the Mourne Mountains. The part of the land that has a weather climate all to itself.  So if it’s sunny and lovely at sea level you can bet your ass it’s lashing rain and gale force winds up the mountain. 

As Michael drove up the Slievenaman Road towards Silent Valley the clouds began to decend upon us. It felt like a trip to a race during the winter series not in the middle of August. Yet after collecting our registration packs the mist lifted and hopes grew that it might actually dry up. 

Dambusters is not your average half marathon.  Some would say that it would count towards more like 15/16 miles in your legs than 13. It offers elevation of over 1000ft over multi terrain in what is essentially the heart of the Mournes. 

The elevation map

We boarded buses to the start line that was 3 mile outside of the park. I was full of mixed emotions. I have proven that I can run 13 mile, I don’t mind a few good hills, I love the mountains abeit walking them but I was doing this on a day that holds some strong memories for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up emotionally.

I did have Michael to one side of me and Caitriona to the other. I was sporting some fantastic bling on my shoes also that Caitriona had got made for me for inspiration for Dublin. She couldn’t have nailed it any better. 

Caitriona was gearing up for her second half marathon which she was gently convinced to do as I owed her money and thought I’d put it to good use and sign her up. I thought after Lisburn she learnt her lesson to not listen to me but seems not and she was along for the ride again.

As the runners embraced the steady climb up the Carrigenagh Road, the rain began to pour. It was a small field of 200 runners so it didn’t take long for Caitriona and I to own the back of the pack. You see the thing about doing any distance is to run your own race. Being able to ignore those in front of you speeding off, ignoring the cars, medical team or police behind you crawling along slowly and have the self believe in your legs to make the distance is what you need to succeed. And boy do Caitriona and I know how to do that and do it well. 

After a mile we gradually split from eachother. I was determined to make it to Silent Valley without stopping to walk. I knew there was at least 300ft of a gradual climb to there so took it slow and made it within my time frame. Yet I spotted a familiar body in the distance. It would have been too much of a coincidence for two people to be wearing exactly the same gear, it was Micheal.

I have serious respect for anyone to drop out of a race. They’ve paid the money, geared themselves up for the race and took to the line. He wasn’t the first body I’d seen drop out, even in this race. Someone barely made 1 mile. But to know it’s just not worth putting your body through everything and accepting a DNF, I’ve the upmost respect. 

When I reached him I knew he’d already debated carrying on with me and decided even that would be a bad idea and he called it quits and saved his knee from any further injury. To say I was gutted was an understatement with DCM 10 weeks away, I hope it’s something that doesn’t hinder training for him or I’ll have to listen to him the WHOLE way round. The plan was suppose to be; do the marathon to get away from eachother!

Anyway, I carried on and reached the reservoir where I was greeted by fellow MAC Clare on marshalling duties, cue photo above. It was clear that the 10k was about to kick off so I needed to get up the path to the dam as far as I could before being flanked by the 10kers. As I progressed, the leaders of the HM passed me and support was aplenty either way from me to them and them to me. Strangely a few of the faces where familiar ones from Cookstown and also some of the MAC crew showing off that they’d already been up and down the hill I still had to face. They weren’t really showing off..I was just jealous they’d a big hill under their belt already.

I spotted the tree. A lonely tree that sits on a corner like the middle of a roundabout. I knew around the corner I was going to be faced with “that hill” the hill I had familiarised myself with a few weeks ago. I kept the head up and set my sights on the foot of Ben Crom Dam. The water was gushing out of it with all its might and as refreshed faces made their way back down the hill after surviving the climb and enjoying the water station at the top…I wanted to be like them. So digging in, I got to the top and reached what was essentially the half way point of the race.

The next 3 mile was pebble dashed by all types of rain. Rain from the left, rain from the right. Rain that came at you and rain that jumped up off the ground. The surrounding and usually dynamic landscape was immersed in mist and the rain rolled down the valley. 

The hope of a tailwind never appeared and at 9 mile I looked to my right to see people running across the mountain. That couldn’t be right! I knew the end was trail but a mountain? I reached into my hydration belt and pulled out the gel.  My normal powerbar sweets where not going to cut it at this point. As I turned and broke away from the 10k, a much needed hug from Clare at that point helped me pull my emotions together to tackle the end. 

I ran across the front of the Reservoir I spotted Brendan on the final stretch of his 10th half marathon and he was making great time. It was like his high five had special powers and I entered the forest with gusto.  

To be honest I felt like a fairy lost in the glen. I was very alone but comfortably so. You could hear rain drops fall from the trees and your feet crunching on the path. I was nearly ready to put a complaint on my list when I saw the water station packing up and you know how I feel about that, luckily they where able to muster together a glass for me and remind them that I wasn’t last so to hang on.

The next mile passed by and I kept saying to myself I’ve only a lap of the lake to go so motor on. However mile 11 happened, a mountain happened at mile 11. In the approach to the climb, I was met by organiser Jane bracing horrendous rain, which by now I didn’t even notice anymore, she coached me along the straight to the foot of the hill and I took on that hill like my life depended on it. One thing about this climb was…what went up, definitely was going to coming back down. Through a track that was essentially 1 big puddle I knew if I just kept steady I’d come in well below my 3hr aim. 

Down the mountain I came and onto the flat again. I could see the finish line downhill and waved at what was clearly Michael and some other MAC folk waiting for me. That’s one thing I can say about the club. They know to hang about for you to finish and cheer you home.

The last km was fIlled with pure relief. I seen the 13 mile sign and then the finish line. I knew I had the sprint finish in me and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I glanced at my watch to see a 2hr 44. 2 minutes faster than Lisburn and only 2 minutes slower than Cookstown on what was a desperate and challanging course. I was delighted.

Not far behind me, Caitriona graced the front of the Dam and came across the line with a smile plastered right across her face with a half pb!  What an achievement.

What was even more of an achievement was that we didn’t come last either…ok we where 3rd and 2nd last respectively but that still isn’t last…give me a cheer!! Wohoo!

Soaked right through to our knickers, we celebrated with Brendan on a series full house. We took our sodden feet to the car and headed for the hot tub and showers at the Burrendale. 

My feet where wrinkly, the blister on my hand had the top layer of skin peel off and my sock line separated the clean skin from the dirty skin. But I felt so badass. Definitely running in the rain makes a race twice as great to finish.

So for now, I’ll sit and admire the medal…a very nice one with the mountains and the Dam on it and remember everything that was thrown at me during that race. Ok I did cry twice during the race but I was working through the thoughts in my head that plagued me from 4 years previous. I remembered that the same determination and belief that I acted on that day got me through a challanging part of my life, is in fact the same determination and belief that got me through that race- seems it’s something that I’m sure is embedded in me now. 

There is no challange too big, not a complete life upheaval, not a half marathon in questionable conditions and landscapes or a full marathon.

10 weeks to go…

Murlough AC. ..MAC the smiliest club in the country

Thank you to Mervyn Mc Keown for the fantastic action shot mid race. Looking for the race pictures is my favourite post race ritual www.mysportsphoto.uk

And to Clare Murnin for enduring all that rain and providing the mugshots of all the Mac team in the collage above


Catch yourself on Siobhan!

Catch yourself on Siobhan!

I woke up this morning to get up for my usual 7am Wednesday morning session at The Burrendale with Shane. The alarm went at 6.20am and it was like an outer body experience. The voice in my head was floating above me telling me that I needed to catch myself on. I was not fit for it.

The voice was right, I had really pushed the boundaries last week and my body was about to give up. So I reluctantly messaged Shane to say I was broken and resorted to feeling sorry for myself and reflecting on why it was taking me so long to recover after Cookstown half when I bounced back after Lisburn half.

So on reflection this is how last week went…

Sunday 24th July – Active Financial Newry and Mourne Womens Mini Marathon

You can read about the race here. I went out to PB and done so at every distance minus the 30sec I couldn’t find to make it a 10k pb. So I had mentally and physically pushed myself to my limits on a course that was very challenging.

Monday 25th July

I wish I could remember what I had done that day as I’m definitely sure I wasn’t at the gym, or out running as my Garmin would have picked that up. So I am going to settle on drinking tea (probably at Moiras), being on facebook and snapchat whilst the kids where at Summer Scheme. So essentially a rest day.

Tuesday 26th July

Ahhh what a cracker day was had. Set off after dropping the kids at Summer Scheme with my lunch in the backpack and away I went with Lauren to check out the Dambusters route. I was still a bit sore and achey from Sunday but no running was involved, it was refreshing as Lauren had busted herself at the gym too so we were a right state between us. We walked all the way up to Ben Crom dam and assessed strategies for the race and how to best deal with it on the day. As well as how lovely a route it is going to be as long as the rain stays away. We covered about 9 mile that day, obviously there was the usual craic and banter along side our solutions to world problems.

That evening I was in with Patricia McGrady to get a sports massage and boy does she know how to work those nasty lumps and bumps. I have decided to put her in the same category of Shane, Dermot and all other PTs, job satisfaction comes from pushing people to their limits. But totally worth it for the client! ( I get it, its just unpleasant at times)

Wednesday 27th July

Wednesday was my session at the gym with Shane, with various squats, lunges, intervals, weights and comparing notes on training plans. I just always know that after death hour with Shane, I will suffer the next two days.

Thursday 28th July

I hadn’t planned to, but I ended up at Dermots final session with MAC. I was only going to stay for the warm up and do a lap of the lake, but I stayed on as I didn’t want to leave someone on their own in a pair and although I felt like I was going to die at several points of the session, I learnt a lot and dare I say, enjoyed it.

Friday 29th July

I knew I should have been resting at this point for Sunday. However opening the curtains on Friday morning the sky had Friday Funday written all over it. So Lauren and I done the usual, picked a spot with no plan in mind other than to keep going until we run out of path.

For all the blue skies and endless views, there was a cloud following me on that hike up from Letirim Lodge. Lauren is leaving for London next month to do her PGCE. I am bloody delighted for her don’t get me wrong, we worked hard for this, but I lose a great friend who would happily get lost with me in the mountains at a moments notice. Not that easy to do when she’s across the water. So when we reached the end of the path, high on a hill with the most beautiful views I have encountered yet, I sat and cried. Little did Lauren know when she was taking this picture of me that behind the sunglasses I was crying.

Saturday 30th July

I did rest!

Sunday 31st Cookstown Half Marathon

You’ll find all the details on the events of Cookstown half here. I had pushed myself to a 4 minute PB and obviously 13.1 mile takes a lot out of you.

So…

Yeah I know, I know. I have over done it. Its not like I have the body of a super athlete who would laugh at the fact I am beat out after last weeks events which probably look like a walk in the park to them. Last week was pretty intense, with the CHM hanging over me all week and the various things I got myself into no wonder this morning I couldn’t motivate myself.

In true fashion as I’ve come to expect and respect, I got the brutal, honest and with love telling off from Selena to remind me that I need to give myself time to recover, to recharge and to stop “running” on half empty. So I’ll listen to her and I will take a few more days to fully recover. Then I will be a better runner all round as I’m fully ready to run. Also I guess the fact I am sporting a lovely cold sore too also points to the fact I need to chill.

So taking this all on board… my house is really clean now.

Where I do most the blog writing. .but today not surrounded by mess

 

 

 

 

 

Binnian Bitches

Binnian Bitches

So Binnian. ..A mountain I’ve wanted to get up now for a few months.

It has also been a long time since Lauren and I set off on a mountain adventure. Life just got in the way so sitting painting the fence yesterday evening it dawned on me that I fancies a wee trip up the mountain…Cue snapchat to Lauren at 7pm “Binnian?” And from there an adventure was born.

Within 10mins we where in The Bug with an additional passenger in the form of our now Ozzy family member Rachel who because she lives at the otherside of the world got to finally be an active part of Siobhan Stories. I know it’s been a life long dream!

Having never been up Binnian before I was excited as I heard the views where the best in the Mournes and a hands and knees type of climb. 

Literally as we entered into Newcastle, Lauren said it’d be great to have a wee drink up the mountain so Rachel jumped out of the car and ran in and bought 3 cans of Magners. 

As we hesitantly approached the road to the car park a bit of the Lion King soundtrack in the back round got the excitement going. We did pull the car in to make sure we were on the right road to “bunnon” as the other driver called it. And within minutes we were on the ascent. 

Even as we bagan the path the views where fabulous 

Looking out towards the back of Donard and Commeadgh, you really couldn’t beat it. However we looked at the task ahead…It looked a long way up. But as always just focus on the next 5 steps ahead. 

It had more of a path than I had thought, I was expecting another trip like Boggy Bernagh and guessing the route. I also had the panic in the back of my mind that sunset was on its way and the one thing that scares me more than mist on the mountain is darkness.  So it was an onwards and upwards sort of hike.

Great laughs where had and action shots taken to prove to the world that Rachel was climbing a mountain . 

A few wee stops for water,gathering thoughts and tricking our legs into thinking we’d finished when there was still a bit more to go. Lauren, forever the optimist, was always looking at how we had only so much to go and me with pretty much ruined legs from Shore 10k the night before was thinking this wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had. But in true TOB style we took it slow and steady and made it.

In the last 20 metres, I found a lease of life and ran the end. Telling myself I will never make a hill and daler as my legs where busted about half way up. I guess the trick with doing mountains is never to look up at the summit. Keep telling yourself you will get there and each step is a step closer. 

As I came around the corner I caught sight of “that view” Silent Valley, the heart of the Mournes and right over to Donard, I even got to curse Bernagh, the mountain where there is no love lost between us.

  And as we sat and took in the view those 3 cans of well earned Magners where a refreshing treat at the top 

But sadly our time at the top was short. It was now nearly 9pm and we could see the rain rolling in over the mountains and sunset would come within the hour. So we took the drink with us and headed down.

When I say down, I mean we couldn’t see anything infront of us as the misty rain had caught up and our only navigation was to aim down and hope we find the wall. The wall will always get you home.  

I do panic in the mist and Lauren is well aware of my hatred for it. BUT I can be grateful that we actually got to enjoy the view, something I usually don’t get the joy to do as the mountains hate me. 

The mixture of knowing we where heading down and no more climbing involved, paired with a wee drink made the descent some craic. We did find the wall and shortly after it started, the rain did ease off and give us the beautiful views back.

No need to right the world’s wrongs this time. More chat of the good aul times and what we could remember given that at the best of times we were all in some shape back then. 

Both Rachel and I had had our feet submerged in the boggy parts of the mountain on the ascent. However Lauren was to get a soaking of her own as we neared the end by slipping on a rock through a deep puddle and having both feet soaked to the core.  I swear a perfect end to a perfect hike…put a dampener on her optimism.

So what did I learn from Binnian;

Best views of the Mournes by far

It does have an excuse for a path

Morning hikes require Avonmore, evening hikes…Definitely Magners.

Nothing beats an unplanned spare of the moment adventure

Hikes are always awesome when done with friends

Finally. ..I wish Rachel didn’t live in Oz as we’ve so many more mountains to climb but glad we had her for this one! One is better than none

 

Facing the fear

Facing the fear

I’m a self proclaimed back runner, I run for leisure and not speed. Well I’m sure if I could run faster I definitely would but for now I’m happy in my skin doing the pace I am.

I have had an irrational fear of small races basically because I always check the previous years times to see where I would end up. Most the time I’d end up last. So taking on Shore 10k on Monday night was a mental challange for me to over come more so than a physical one.

There is no doubt I can run 10k, flip I managed a half marathon 3 weeks ago. However it is fighting the fear of small races and coming last kind of puts you off.

Monday marked Day 1 of Marathon training for Dublin Marathon and I decided I should face the fear.

Afterall I’d promised Selena I’d visit her in her new house and it was in a part of the country that I’d never ventured to so was a win win. Michael had a last minute head stagger to do the race and off we went.

It was a lovely summers evening and it looked like they had pulled in a sizable crowd in comparison to last year. Yet when you look around and see the vast array of club colours about you know there was going to be very few “amatures” like myself. But I was there and if it took me for ever, so be it.

As always the support of Murlough pre race was fantastic. Although I was anything from 10 -30 minutes slowere than them everyone wished me well and made me feel no less than them. 

The race got underway and within half a km the group of just under 90 participants took off. I’ll be honest by 1k I asked the marshall if there was anyone behind me as I began to see people disappear into the distance. Thankfully he replied there was so my aim was not to let them catch up. 

I plodded on and at 3k took a bad cramp.in my leg. I managed to shake it off but feared it had eaten into my time and flow. At that point I ditched the headphones and just ran for the view. 

As a back runner its a completely different race. You have the medics follow you the whole race, you have cheers from the marshalls wondering if they can leave their posts and the support around the course sometimes feels like pity. I try to keep up the craic and banter with anyone on the course and this meant even taking the hand out of the police motorbike crew on route. 

I don’t think people realise that I don’t require pity. Yes I may be 5 minutes behind the next person but this time last year I wasn’t even running. This time last week I was only coming back to running post op and my first 10k ever took me 1hr28mins so I am improving and know my own abilities.

 It was a beautiful run and I suppose if I was focused on actual racing and being fast I’d have missed out on some absolutely stunning views. 

By 8k I had the mental block lifted that the end was in sight. I spotted a murlough vest on the horizon coming towards me and it was Sean. He was running back to his wife who must have been behind me. Absolutely delighted someone else comes back for their significant other.

As I came down the last hill onto the main street I spotted Selena in the distance. If there’s one thing I love about being part of the club is the team spirit. Now I’ll be honest I’m not sure what it’s like for the front runners but for me there’s always plenty of love. I had picked up my pace knowing that I’d only to run the length of the street but boy is it a long street.  

It went on forever but crowds cheered and Selena kept me in great spirit. Michael joined the entourage at the pub where I arrived to cheers from the tipsy men. 

But I was no sooner coming down the street and behind me I heard the sirens of the police motorbike. ..He was getting even probably for my comments around the course. So literally I got a police escort down the road and also caught on camera too. 

Seeing the flags of the end in the near distance meant I kicked a bit too soon but still with Selena and Michael at my side I kept on and even registered a km pb for my final km. Wherever that came from. 

Crossing the line my legs bagan to give in. Once I stopped they both seized and even hobbling on my toes wasn’t helping.

After the prize giving, I walked up the road with Selena and Joanne…who actually was the first lady home. So the race selfie goes like this… first lady home, middle lady home and me…Nearly last lady home (3rd last to be exact) lol

So I didn’t come last last, just nearly last. I done a good enough time in 1hr 11. I’ve to get myself gathered now for Sea 2 Sky on Friday. 5k climb for a 5k downhill. This should be fun

What a weekend of triumph for my wee legs

Summer has come to Ireland this week and boy how the sun makes you want to move.
I’ve had a pretty active week as it was, between a session with Shane at the gym where he found my breaking point, running up the local mountain, kicking ass in spin and running home afterwards followed by a Friday Funday around the hills of Tollymore with Lauren.

Let’s face it…I deserved a rest day. But did I? Of course not. I had the mountains calling me and I was going. What was going to be a trip out with my mother in law ended up as a day adventure with Michael.

His mum preferred to stay about the house and mind the kids, letting us get out for a few hours leaving us off about 10mile away from home and a mountain range between us and home.
Although there was a huge downhill road home we obviously opted for the more scenic and mountainous route. With 3 peaks ranging from 550m elevation to 700m to be scaled and conquered we set off ready to take it on.
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It was literally 3 mountains in 3 hours. What went up, definitely came down. The views however were so breathtaking and the sun shone down on us. Thankfully I’d broken out the sun cream earlier that day so only minor areas of redness on completion.

I could feel every muscle including my heart crying out for a rest as I went up each mountain. Thing is, anyone can do the Mournes. It’s about picking the right route and just taking your time. We passed two couples on our assent of Meelbeg and I wouldn’t be surprised if they where well into their 60s. Taking a break every 10metres to regroup and continue on. Obviously they were well versed in climbing as their gear was all top notch and there was me out in my Brooks (first time this year braving trainers up the mountain) and best of sports direct gym gear. But it had been dry enough and as long as I wasn’t planning on fell running I was going to be ok.

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So if that wasn’t enough for my body to endure for one weekend. On waking on Sunday (kids had a sleep over at grannys) we decided to attempt a long run.

Picking a route beyond the park is always interesting especially when you have no idea how long it will take for you to break. So setting off with the hope of 10mile with various side routes to take if we felt tired.

Well 10mile came and went and we hit home shortly after 11 mile.

When both watches beeped at 10mile I stopped and done a funky dance in the middle of the road.  It was ok…It was a country road with no one else on it so I was saved.

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A new 10mile and 15k pb so absolutely buzzing considering I had had a grueling hike the day before. This body can and will make it to the end of a half marathon. 30 days and counting.

My wee legs are looking forward to a rest that’s for sure.

Moving through the Mournes

I do look forward to Friday Funday every week.

It doesn’t even need to be a Friday…Any day during the week when I am able to get out into the fresh air, leave the headphones behind and enjoy righting the world’s wrongs with Lauren.

Our weekly adventures have had us encounter some near death experiences,  lead way to many awe inspiring ideas and of course the added bonus of spending time in amongst the fantastic landscape that is where we live.

It is a fantastic feeling to stand on Newcastle Promenade and look up to the mountains and say ” I’ve been there and there and there and there” we’ve worked our way up and down the mountains and across them, into the trails and woods that surround them and  beyond.

Ok we’ve been chased by deer, braved the elements and near got stranded as the tide came in but hey its all in a days craic.

This week we took ourselves to the other end of the mountains. Rostrevor is at the far end of the Mournes where they begin. The mountains span roughly 26 miles to Newcastle.

It’s not a place I’ve ventured to much. Let’s face it I was in Kilborney Park for the first time in January when I done a 10k. So was up for checking it out.

I have never encountered such a huge hill. I swear I would have felt safer walking up it than driving it. The car slowly pulled it’s middle class ass up the hill in first and I just hoped to god anyone coming down remembered to follow the one way signs! The laughs and giggles of the two of us as the car climbed.  It was soon becoming evident that this week’s Friday Funday wasn’t going to be about excerise but solely the adventure.

The view of the car park brought relief however even when the car should have been free wheeling it protested at us.

A short 5 minute walk straight uphill lay ahead. I could feel Thursdays circuits class burning in my thighs and being on my toes was the only way I was going to make it. There on the hill stood a big lump of rock, also known as Cloughmore Stone.

For once the views across Carlingford Lough into the Cooley Mountains where clear and you could take in the breathtaking views right as far as Warrenpoint.  It was beautiful and definitely on my list of places to take the kids this summer.

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It wasn’t long before we were back down again and back in the car for what was a downhill haven for the car that worked so hard to get up the hill.

We decided to take the scenic route home and scope out the other possible routes for Friday Funday. Well who’d have guessed we’d bump into Santa and his Reindeers. Santa’s Cottage is on the road and daily the man who plays santa walks the Reindeers.  It was a lovely sight to see on an April morning and nice to be so close to such beautiful creatures.

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So concludes this week’s installment of Friday Funday.

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Good Runs and Bad Runs

The body is a funny thing…

One day you can be totally on fire, everything falling into place and running is a gift you embrace and love. Fast forward 24hrs you feel like you’re running through peanut butter with legs of lead and each footstep is a struggle both mentally and physically and you wonder why you haven’t turned around to go home.

This week…that was me.
Yesterday I had a beautiful run around the route I clocked my first 10k distance. It’s a special route to me. Unbelievably scenic as it goes along the promenade and then after a climb through a woods it sweeps around the foot of the Mournes and along towards Tollymore and back into Newcastle.

I had tentatively agreed with myself on leaving the house I was going to do 10k. After dropping my gear off in the gym, as I’m still bathroomless, one of the personal trainers asked about my plans for the morning as I was missing his class. I promised I’d present my garmin on my return to prove I’d done it and he challange me to a ridiculous finish time which I ignored.

So I set off and everything felt good. The early spring sun shone down on me and the glistening heights of Slieve Donard where clear and towering over the town. As I turned off the promenade I knew my head was going to take its usual 4-6k mental fight of take a walk. Nowadays I challange myself to do runs without stopping to walk and not be worried about pace and was doing so well until I met mega hill 1. I managed half of it but had to walk. Let’s face it I was never going to make it and had the same issue with mega hill 2. However I remember the days I didn’t even attempt the hill so it’s improvement.

As I hit 6k I was well and truly enjoying the run knowing that I was heading back in the direction of the end. I wasn’t at race pace but I was comfortable and the cross country route home smelt of spring tinged with the scent of muck spreading. As I entered 9k I decided to push myself and clocked a fastest km.

I  loved everything about the run and was on a high all day…however today was not going to mirror the day before.

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The strava stats 5th April

I usually try not to run on consecutive days however Michael had an appointment at the dentist and I had to pass 45 mins so I could have the car. I set off starting at the promenade and had outlined a rough 5k route.

1 word…Headwind
Every corner I turned – there it was. It was stalking me. No matter where I ran be it along built up area and park land the wind appeared. Not once did I get a tailwind to help me.

I struggled,  I felt sore and I wished I’d taken the car key and just have got a hot drink and sat playing on my phone in the car.
I enjoy much of it and the clouds agreed with me,  as their angry, dark grey mist engulfed the mountains which only a day earlier glistened.

My heart sank when he phoned to say he’d be a bit longer than planned and I had to add a bit into the run to cover the time. My route was so erratic that even a mum on the school run said “seen you out running this morning, every corner I turned, there you were” it was her “you’re doing so well” comment that helped pick me up as even whilst I felt I was dying and looked like a womble, other people where acknowledging that I was out there and trying.

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The view from the 2k mark on the bad run overlooking Murlough Bay

So good run vs bad run..I think there is only one thing to learn …

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