Friday, May 29, 2009


This day last year I was running along the Inca Trail from from the point known as Kilometre 88 to Machu Picchu.  The race started just inside the Machu Picchu National Park at the Inca ruins of Llactapa (Town on the Hillside at 2600M) and finished at what must be the most amazing finsh line for a Marathon.

Coincidentaly, this day 2 years ago I was running in the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon from Everest Base Camp (Altitude 5356M) to Namche Bazzar with Mark Pollock.
Namche Bazzar

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time to start training again.

I'm home almost a week and yet again finding it hard to start training again.  I'm well used to this feeling as it has happened so often and always when I've finished my main event of the year but I've learnt how to deal with it.  
This day 2 years ago I was trekking to Gorak Shep in the Himalaya en route to Everest Base Camp and the start of the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon with Mark Pollock.   This was the race that has tested me mentally like no other and when I returned home i was drained and found it harder than ever to get back into a training routine.

Three weeks before the Everest Marathon we both ran the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon and after returning home we immediately continued with our training routine because we knew there was another event to train for and we had a definite date so knew not training wasn't an option.
  Returning from Everest we had nothing planned for the rest of the year so there was no reason or urgency to get back into a routine.

The catalyst to get me moving again was signing up for a series of races in the Phoenix Park and then the Dublin Marathon and to help get back into a training routine I would drive to the Phoenix Park and run in a running environment.  

If you click on Mark's name you'll see the race report from the Everest Marathon along with links to Mark's other events.
The photo above was taken between Gorak Shep and Everest base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier as we took one of many breaks.  What you see is called Glacial Moraine and it was a nightmare to travel over.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here's a selection of photos from the North Face 100K

The three sisters. The race route went below and around this area.

A detailed course description. We traced the route onto our own maps.

I'm guessing this photo was taken somewhere along Narrow Neck ridge because I'm running.

This photo gives an overview of the general area we were racing in. The race started and finished in the same place so the route was basically an out and back looped course.

Course Profile

There's a few more photos available from my flickr page by clicking here. I have just started with flickr and will be adding photos from my other races over the next few days.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The North Face 100K / Race Report.

I've now had a few day's to reflect on Saturday's race and still don't know where to start.  Since running my first Ultra Marathon back in 2003 it has been my ultimate goal to run an Ultra Marathon or at least Marathon on each of the 7 Continents and now it's done.  This event was part of a greater challenge and i had planned on doing an overall grand slam report but I suppose to do The TNF 100 justice it needs a report of it's own.  

The day before the race I hooked up with some other competitors (Andrew Jordan, Tony Golden, James Owens & Gretel Fortmann) thanks to Rob that kindly agreed to transport me from Sydney to Katoomba and put me up for the weekend in a cabin which they had rented.  After a brief introduction it was like we'd know each other forever.  Arriving in good time we made our way to registration to collect our race numbers and go through the compulsory kit check before returning home with the traditional pasta & pizza.  Late to bed and early to rise for a 7am start after a pre start race briefing.

The race started quite fast with a 2K loop around the golf course which was part of the estate hosting the event.  A fast start didn't suit me but I knew that if i was too slow joining the trail I'd lose a lot of time heading towards the first checkpoint.  As expected the going was slow enough apart from the start and there were quite a few choke points as we headed towards Golden Stairs and along Federal Pass towards Narrow Neck.  The scenery was stunning as we ran through rainforest and alongside waterfalls with some very steep climbs.

The Check Point was very busy but well stocked and because I was only needing water I was able to move through very quickly.  In my bag I was carrying 2* North Face Water Bottles filled with a dry carbohydrate powder mix which I filled before moving on.  My plan was to carry 1 bottle and consume it over an hour and then swap it with the full bottle in my pack and repeat the filling process at the next Check Point.

Just when I thought the views couldn't get any better or the course more interesting I began running along a ridge at the top of Narrow Neck leading towards a vertical drop down into the valley via the Taros ladders.  There was a slight delay as it was single file going down the ladders but the steep descent at the foot of the ladders made up for lost time and soon I was on the approach to Check Point 2.  The steep descent into CP2 put some strain on my ITB and just as i was leaving CP2 my left knee started to buckle and I was reduced to a walk.  It hadn't stopped me before so I did my best to maintain the forward motion even if it was slower than I wanted.  The track started to climb again and this gave me some relief and the confidence to know that finishing was still an option, thinking on my feet I started to work out my new pace and set myself the goal of just reaching the next Check Point.

The climb got steeper as I made my way upwards onto Iron Pot Mountain before completing an out and back run along the Iron Pot Ridge.  Again the pain was more severe on the flat and then the descent started again and the pain was almost unbearable.  My movement was very slow as I made my way very slowly through the Megalong Valley  and I longed for another climb.  The climb appeared and I managed to make up some lost time but the problem was still there.  James and Gretel caught up with me and told me that Andrew had taken a fall coming down from Iron Pot Ridge and was moving very slowly having lost almost 2hrs with his injury, more bad news.
  Rob was meeting me at the next CP so i took a chance on texting him to see if he could source anti-inflammatory and pain killers.  He ran out to meet me 2K from the CP and I loaded up, we walked and talked our way in and I tried to run on the approach but couldn't.

I rested a bit longer than planned and spent some time stretching before deciding to head off again.  I took a chance on running and the pain was gone but I knew it was the drugs so I thought it best not to push it but keep moving and gain as much ground as I could before the effect wore off.  It wasn't long before I caught Gretel and James and they seemed happy but surprised to see me and understood why i didn't slow down to chat.
I was now heading towards Nellie's Glen along the Six Foot Track and an unmerciful stair climb through a rainforest, as much as i wanted the climbs earlier i was now hating them even though I knew the pain would return soon enough on the descents.  Again the views were amazing and it was hard resisting the temptation to stop and just look around.  The track led onto a road and back towards Katoomba leading along an undulating road to CP 4 at Katoomba Ovals.  It was almost night time and a head torch would be necessary when moving out as it would soon be dark.  This might have been the reason that more than one runner decided to retire.
The pain was returning so yet again I was preparing myself for a long night.  I left the CP almost immediately not bothering with the contents of my drop bag because the pace I was moving at meant i didn't need the extra fuel.

We were now in the heart of Katoomba and a very scenic part of the Blue Mountains with tourist trails going off in every direction which did help take my mind off the pain.  The route followed the Cliff top Walk towards an area known as Echo Point and then dropped steeply down into the valley via a very narrow stairway which seemed to go down forever.  As easy as it was I was hating every minute of it because I knew that I was being set up for another climb.

The bottom of the stairs led towards Leura Forest heading through Darnadelles Pass and by now it was pitch dark.  I was moving slow but steady trying to watch my footing as well as the course markings at head height.  The track was still going down and crossed a few creeks with stepping stones before a final creek without stepping stones leading to wet feet before starting a 640M climb towards CP 5.  
Bent over double I made my way onwards and upwards with palms on thighs knowing that this was the last of the serious climbs.  Almost 2 hrs later and i was still going up, I couldn't believe there was so much up on the flattest continent in the world.  Eventually  I could feel myself starting to walk upright and the wind was getting stronger so i new the summit was close.  My pace picked up again ever so slightly and soon enough I reached CP5 and the last stop before the finish.

Again I bypassed my drop bag and kept moving knowing it was only 11K to the finish.  Leaving the CP started with 1K along a road before rejoining the trail and the toughest / slowest 10K of my life.  There were so many switchback and climbs / drops it was impossible to work out the pace but I was convinced I was faster and couldn't believe it when I saw the 95K marker thinking I was almost home.  As interesting as the trail was i was wishing it over, we passed the Wentworth Falls and travelled along an Under Cliff Walk before eventually surfacing back at the edge of the Golf Course.  A series of glow sticks marked a path across the course and towards the finish and then yet again it was all over!  15hr51 after starting I crossed the finish line.  

Race Stats:  100K with 4500M of Ascent / Descent.  According to my Polar HRM I consumed 11,599Kcal over the duration of the race with an average HR of 127bpm.

My original plan had me crossing the line in 12hrs which then became 20+hrs with my injury.  All the time thinking on my feet and recalculating I was then thinking I'd make it in 14hrs which again changed to sub 15 and finally sub 16.
Thanks to all who helped along the way and a special thanks to Derek and Robbie in the Great Outdoors for ensuring I had the lightest and best kit available.  My race bag weighed less than 2Kg and included a very comprehensive list of compulsory items.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm Home.

Well the holiday is finally over and I've arrived home.  I'm now in the process of sorting out my photos and writing a race report which I expect to post within the next day or 2.  The long flight hasn't helped my ITB problem so I'm thinking about booking a massage for Friday. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

While you were sleeping.

Just back from the Blue Mountains having successfully completing the North Face 100.   This for me was the most physically demanding race yet.  I was running well up to check point 2 over an undulating course with very steep climbs and descents but my recent I T band problem came back to haunt me and i was forced to walk from CP 2 - 3 which was less than half way into the race and well before the most testing sections.  Luckily I had made enough time at the start of the race to allow me the confidence to continue at a walking pace knowing that it was still possible to finish within the allocated time.  Rob was meeting me at the next CP so I took a chance on texting him with the bad news and asking if he could source some anti inflamatories which he did.  He ran out to meet me 2K from the CP and I loaded up.  I tried to run just before reaching the CP but the pain was still there so I hobbled in.  I spent some time stretching and took a short rest and shortly after checking out I was up and running.
I tried to cover as much ground as possible before the effect wore off and kept going until the finish bypassing the next 2 Check Points.
 I'll post a full race report and some photos when I return home.  
 Thanks for all the support.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Race No: 205

Went for a lazy 7 mile run yesterday which started off as a 6Km race in the Domain called the Corporate Cup.  Rob was trying to convince me to race and although I knew it was the wrong thing to do I was very tempted.  Carried my camera which gave me the excuse to run slower and stop whenever I spotted a photo opportunity.  The route i took started with the race and i branched off in the Botanic Gardens heading towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge before heading back to my hotel via Darling Harbour.
Heart rate was nice and low unlike the interval session on Wednesday when I slightly over cooked it.

I had planned on going for a drink last night but during the walk back to my hotel I was over taken by what looked like 'The North Face Army'.  Six Americans kitted out from head to toe in NF kit including trail shoes and they didn't look like they were heading to the pub so my mind was changed.

I now have my race number and live updates should be available from TNF 100 but I'm guessing that the race will be almost over by the time you get to check it out back home.  Only 2 more sleeps to go!

For the Jet Lag.

 Up at 6am, had breakfast and went for a walk around Darling Harbour.  Met up with Rob and the meet and train group in the Domain for a 6K Fartlek session.  A good tough run and I cooled down with a 2 mile run back to my hotel via Darling Harbour.   My IT band is still a bit tight so i'll probably take it easy tomorrow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hitting the ground running!

I arrived in Sydney at 09:00am local time after 39 hrs of travelling via london and Kuala Lumpar. Check in at my hotel was not until 2pm so rather than hanging around I went for a walking tour of the surrounding area and met up with a friend from back home 'Rob Costello'. Rob was planning a lunchtime run so I decided to join him and shortly after checking into my hotel we were running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, around the Opera House and through the Domain / Botanic Gardens before returning to my hotel 6 miles later.
Tomorrow i'll be joining a meet and train group for an interval session and might even be racing a 5K on Wednesday but will take it easy on both days.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The North Face 100K

You can check out a video from last year's race by clicking here and race updates should be available by clicking here on Saturday 16th May + 10hrs.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Traveling Light

The training is more or less done and I've spent the last few days sorting out my race kit and preparing my drop bags for the various check points.  The compulsory kit list imposed by the race means i'll be carrying a lot more than I'd like to so I'm trying to travel as light as possible by selecting my compulsory items based on weight.

The green jacket in the above photo is the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie which I'm hoping will be allowed as my compulsory rain jacket with hood but as a back up I have the Montane Lite-Speed  jacket which claims to be the lightest weather resistant hooded jacket in the world.  Saving a few grams on a jacket might not sound much but when you add up all the grams saved it can make a big difference.  I've weighed all of my kit and have made a saving of over 1Kg as well as cutting down on bulk by substituting with lighter items.

I'll be wearing my trail shoes while traveling and carrying my race clothing in my carry on luggage just in case my main bag goes missing en route to Australia.  Most items can be replaced but not your race kit and especially not your racing shoes.

I remember when traveling to Jordan with Mark Pollock for the Dead Sea Ultra his bag went missing and we didn't get it back until after the race.  Luckily he had followed the wear and carry your race kit but he was missing a small tin of vaseline which was in his main bag and turned out to be irreplaceable. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Djouce Mountain

My plan for this weekend was to spend as much time as possible in the mountains concentrating on ascending / descending rather than distance while carrying my race day kit. on Saturday I went to Glendalough and did my usual run on The Spink and although my climbing was strong I felt a lot of pain in my IT band while descending so I walked the down rather than increase my chance of injury and I cut the session short. I had planned on running it 3 times by reversing the route each time and avoiding the long flat stretches.
On Sunday I went as planned to Crone Wood in Wicklow with Tony and we went for a mixed run on road, trail and mountain peaking on Djouce mountain. The attached graph from my Polar HRM shows the profile of our run and yet again I climbed strong but was very slow while descending. Shortly after arriving home I felt fully recovered but the problem is still there so maybe I should take it easy over the next few days and leave the hills until race day. It's probably better to arrive at the start line slightly undertarined rather than injured.