2014 Connemara Ultra 100

Guest post by ultra-runner Paul Brunnock, after Connemara Ultra 100, August 9th, 2014.

I have just spent the last while reading the comments and support sent my way before, during and after the CNM100 on 9th August, 2014 and to say I am overwhelmed is the understatement of the year. Many thanks to everyone. Every comment and message means so much. I don’t really do race reports but with so many people taking the time to support me and my crew I thought it might be a good time to put down some highlights.
Ray O’ Connor is responsible; it’s all his fault! Huge thanks to Ray, Angela, Iain, Niall, Ken and the rest of the Connemara 100 team for the work organising this race and for letting me be part of the family. I thought a lot about Ray in the last 15 miles of the race and it was mostly bad but what he has achieved here is amazing and this race is an absolute gem.
Due to injuries and old age I could not train for this race the way I would like so it really boiled down to 3 runs in the week , 2 cycles and 2 swims. I want to thank Tried and Tested Dungarvan Triathlon Club for all the help support and encouragement throughout. Likewise , thanks to Dungarvan Cycling Club for their support and training, especially the lads in Group 3 Sunday morning spins. Thanks to Marathon Club Ireland for all their help too; a fantastic club and wonderful people.
Of course it’s no secret my number 1 club is West Waterford AC and nothing gives me greater pride than wearing that singlet on lonely roads up and down the country. Don’t forget Ray McConnell was running 100 milers when the sport was in its infancy and in Raivis Zakis and Anthony Whelan we have two of the best ultra runners in the country. Thanks to everyone in the club that always gets behind me; all the people I run with week in week out, Mark Cliffe for his super fast WWAC t-shirt, Linda Garcia for her arm warmers but I don’t think she knows I have them and John Coleman for a variety of equipment. Special thanks to James Veale for super advice on all things running related and more, fantastic support, encouragement and all the rest. He’s a one off and a great man to have in your corner.
The man with the unenviable task then of fixing me up when I break down is Cian O’ Conchuir and I owe him a lot. Anyone who has tried to keep an old rusty motor on the road having failed its NCT multiple times knows what I mean. He also throws in the bit of sports psychology for good measure!
So the race started at 6:00am Saturday morning and I was thrilled to be there on the start line. My crew had everything in place and I had no worries as far as that part of the race was concerned. If you look at the picture of us at the start we are not your typical race start photo. I think Paddy observed that most of us looked as if we could do with a sandwich! One of the exceptions to that maybe being Don Hannon who is a strong and powerful athlete. Add to that the true grit, bottle and talent of the man and you have about as good an ultra athlete as you could find anywhere. When I met Don on Sunday morning he looked fresh enough to go again and, I’d say, would have needed very little encouragement to lace up the runners and get the bandana out!
It was a big thrill to be able to say that I was in the same race as Aoife O’ Donnell , the first Irish female finisher of the 135 mile Badwater Ultra. I didn’t get the chance to congratulate Aoife in person but I am in awe of her achievement and very inspired by her. There too was Gerry Duffy, top endurance athlete , whom up to a short while ago I had only known from his books. My brother Johnny was once introduced over the PA to about 2000 Sean Kelly Tour cyclists something along the lines of ‘Here comes Johnny Brunnock , the nicest fella you could meet!’ to huge applause of agreement. Well Gerry is one of those ‘fellas’ too and I hope we get to share the roads many more times over the years. Also there were athletes I have not really met yet but whom I greatly respect and admire from seeing them in races I have been competing in and following their results like George Webb and Maurice Whitty.
Seconds before the start and I shook hands with Vasiliy Neumerzhiskiy , a true legend, and we wished each other good luck. Vasiliy, in 2011, gave me one of the greatest pieces of running advice I have received and it has saved me many times since. It was in Portumna 100k and he was finishing what would be a win and a course record. I was at about 75k. Vasiliy came back to me on the path and said something like ‘Keep your hands down. We’re running 100k, not 5k!’. It works!
Highlight of the morning was to see Billy Holden take off at 6 minute mile pace. I can’t say what Billy was thinking but I imagined he was laying down a marker , telling the Connemara course that he wasn’t afraid and go ahead and throw what you can at me. It was brave and foolhardy and wonderful and I loved it. I think Billy is what Bob Hilliard would call a ‘real deal rock and rolla!’
The first part of the run was uneventful as it should be. We found our rhythm and I ran with Peter and Colum. Then I ran with an athlete from Dublin and his brother but sadly it was not to be his day this time. He ran with courage and good humour and I hope he gets to come back to CNM100 again. Just before Checkpoint 1 (28 miles) I got a bad pain in my right hip and I thought the day might be done. But Sue gave me a talking to along the lines of ‘There’s nothing wrong with you!’ and that seemed to fix that. Then I ran to Checkpoint 2(55 miles) and enjoyed the scenery along the way. Somewhere there I passed Tom Reynolds and we spoke for a minute and he seemed in good form too. Aoife and George were stopped here as well and I left before them. So I ran to CP3(67 miles) all the while my crew doing an amazing job and I really doing very little. People often ask how do you run these distances and I’m not sure! It may seem like a contradiction but you have to concentrate carefully on every little thing that’s happening in the body and around but, at the same time, zone out so you don’t notice time, distance or discomfort. I’m only learning. Next came CP4(82 miles) and I ran straight through but the wheels were starting to creak. The next 18 miles took about 4hrs45min. My running friends can work that out for yourselves! I had to walk 3 miles approximately and then managed to get running again with 12 to go and ran all the way in to the finish. My crew at this stage were phenomenal and that doesn’t do them justice at all.
During this time George passed me running like a young fella! Tom came by moving smoothly and gave me much needed encouragement which I really appreciated. Alina Brown was the last person to come by and she is plainly a serious athlete. I have to look her up on DUV Marathon Statistic! I was pleased for them that they were running so well at this late stage but I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions and another talking to was required!
On the laps of the town I met Billy again. I thought he was walking back to his hotel for a well earned rest but when I realised he was still on the course finishing his race he climbed up even further in my estimation. To put down a day as he had and keep going just says it all about the calibre of the man. I have no doubt he will be back to throw down the gauntlet again.
Of course the finish came. It always does. I just wait for that time when I know I will see Ray with his hand out stretched. It’s a simple enough thing. We shake hands. He might say ‘Well done’ and I might say ‘Thanks Ray. Great race’. Something like that. I don’t remember. This moment doesn’t need words.
When the dust settled I heard the fantastic news that Brian Ankers had joined an elite group; athletes who have won CNM100. There are but 3. In 2012 it was an honour for me to get to run the race when Mick Rice won his 4th. I am always trying to put Mick’s tips into practice since I first heard of him when I went to the Connemara International Ultra 2008. Last year it was Grellan McGrath, a fabulous runner. Grellan sent me a message of encouragement Friday night which gave me a great lift and really sent me on my way Saturday morning. And now Brian. For me this says it all. Brian is a runner like you and I , fitting training around work, family and life in general; an ordinary bloke who has done the extraordinary, 100 miles in 15hrs48min. I couldn’t be happier for him. The winner of CNM100 2014 is my friend, Brian Ankers.
It was very nice to collect our prizes on Sunday and meet everyone once more. Ray kept tugging at the emotions and I found myself close to tears many times. It was worse than Saturday that way! I had only one more thing to do and that was get a photo with a true Connemara legend. Maciej Sawicki has completed this race 6 times, getting faster and faster each time. He is one fantastic athlete and ‘sound out’ on top of it all. If I had missed the chance for the photo I would have had to go back in 2015! Thankfully I nabbed him before everyone scattered and that picture will take pride of place on my mantle piece and in my memories for a long time.

Paul 567 together with supporting cast: , Sue & Liam

Paul 567 together with supporting cast: , Paddy, Sharon, Sue & Liam


FAQ!!!
There are some questions that people always ask me about the long runs and these answers might be of interest to someone!

What do you eat during the run?
That’s easy. I eat crackers with butter and jam, bite size pastries stuffed with cheese and tomato (Sue’s recipe), boiled salted potatoes and a kind of soupy pasta (Sue’s recipe again). I use Power Bar gels( maybe 8 in 100 miles) and I drink water, flat Coke and maybe an electrolyte drink (Zym or Nunn). I now use S Cap salt tablets too since they have become a bit easier to source. Sue has a system and a few weeks before whatever run she will make me compile a rota of whatever I will eat and when. Then on the day I simply eat, swallow or drink anything my trusted crew hand to me. They sometimes have to get stern with me if I look like I might refuse something but reminding me that I did the rota in the first place usually does the trick!

Do you stop?
My strategy is to try not to stop being a firm believer in ‘relentless forward progress’. Many runners choose to stop and then they can run much faster than me in between. I simply can’t run fast! On Saturday in 21hrs37min I stopped for about 10 minutes and walked for 3 miles. The rest was a funny kind of running!

Do you go to the toilet?
Let’s maintain a little bit of mystery! All I will say is ultra runners are tough but we are human!

And ,lastly, most frequently asked, why?
Not as easy to answer. Big part is the people. Like my friend Frank McDermott. Frank and I can run 30, 40 or 50 miles together and you wonder where it went. I might not be always in the thick of the conversation or making a racket at the post race party but I love being around these people and for as long as they put up with me I will stick at it. Partly it’s to see if can it be done. Then, can I do it? And then ,what will happen to me if I do it? And I suppose mostly it’s because I like running. I like the feeling when my foot hits the ground and the noise that makes. I like the wind and the rain, the heat and the cold, the sun , the clouds and shadows, the leaves on the trees, the water and the grass and the air going in and out of my mouth and down into my lungs. When you run 100miles you know you’re alive.

I have to finish by thanking my crew. They are amazing. Liam and I have run so many miles together and we can nearly communicate intuitively. He knows when I’m suffering. Sharon, so sweet and kind ,and yet stern enough not to let me away with anything. Paddy helped me no end to get back running after a lay off in 2009 and his easy going, no panic approach is just what’s needed. Money can’t buy you a crew like this and ,thankfully, I don’t have to because they are just simply my friends and my family.
Thanks to my kids Moylan, Megan, Rory and Daithi for their patience and love. Thanks to Sue’s kids Yasemin and Yeliz (and Lloyd!) for supporting me all the way.
Love and thanks always to my sisters and brothers Joanne, Elaine, Johnny and Paddy for supporting me in so many different ways in all the mad things I might do (and my nieces and nephews for their fabulous video!). Special thanks to Mum and Dad for everything. I know you would have loved to have been at this one but don’t worry there will be plenty more jolly jaunts for us to go on.
And the last word…thank you Sue. Frank might joke with me sometimes and say ‘I’d have beaten you today Paul if you didn’t have Sue!’ Well , the truth is if I didn’t have Sue I wouldn’t be there at all in so many ways. You are my one and only.

Running Review

As the 2014 summer running comes close to a finish, I thought it might be a good idea to create a summary of events. This makes it easier to look back on earlier races, rather than searching back through the posts. It is located as a separate PAGE on the homescreen, and here’s the link to it. The PAGE will be updated as events are completed and a post has been uploaded.

I have organised it along the following lines;

1. The 11 races in the Ger Wyley summer series

2. Other running races

3. Duathlon / triathlon events.

PS. I’ve been thinking recently. It’s something that happens every now and then! I have received very positive feedback on my recent blogging here on Spring Forward. It occurs to me that there are definitely others out there who are interested in recording their thoughts following an event. I would be very happy to create a GUEST space here on my blog. What would you need to do? Well, I’ve got my way of doing a report, but you’ve got your way! Why not surprise me & my readers? You can contact me via twitter / facebook or a message here, or simply email me at runbikespringforward@gmail.com

Not sure that you want to? Well, that’s ok. However, I can be reasonably sure that you’ll be delighted if you do decide to take the plunge..

 

Dungarvan Triathlon

Saturday June 28th, 2014

Another wonderful day on the sunny south east! Saturday June 28th, 2014 will go down as a red-letter day in Dungarvan sporting annals as the local Tried & Tested Triathlon Club held its inaugural Dungarvan Triathlon at the beautiful Clonea beach. The sun shone brightly, and calm sea conditions brought a huge sigh of relief to the organising committee and competitors alike. This was my first triathlon. To be sure, I was not alone as there were 42 club members taking on the challenge for the first time. We had trained well, under the watchful eye of experienced triathletes. We had taken on board all the hundreds of tips and tricks. We had, in short, been tried and tested.

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Beautiful Clonea

I arrived just after 8.30am, to find that the place was buzzing. As we racked our bikes, prepared our gear and double-checked everything, there was plenty time to relax and chat. For me, this was a great way to calm the little floating butterflies. However, as briefing time approached, we turned slightly inward and the banter lessened. I went for a short jog on the beach with Paddy, very short really. I was happy just to walk back at my leisure to get into my wetsuit. Following our safety briefing by Dave, we walked to the far end of Clonea beach and entered the water for a few minutes of acclimatisation. I remembered the advice: use this time wisely. Warm up, swim for 10 / 20 seconds, stand, stretch, relax, repeat. No time for chatting now. This was it! Months of training just for this moment. I had decided to swim on the right edge of the group, as there was a slight tailwind and current in my favour. Overall, my swim went well. We were in the expert hands of 22 kayakers. For the first time I noticed that my breathing was better, and I was able to swim longer sections with my head in the water. I did take my little sculling breaks on my back every now and then, and was pleasantly surprised that when I passed the final buoy at 600 metres I was not as tired as in previous training swims. The final stretch back to the beach was easier, and I was focused entirely on the Powerbar flags at the water edge. Finally, after 27 minutes or so I emerged. The photo shows how much it took out of me, but in fact, I recovered quickly for the bike section.

Section 1; 750 metre swim

Section 1; 750 metre swim

This being my strongest sport, I pushed as hard as possible into a very slight headwind to Stradbally. I eased into it to Ballinroad roundabout, and increased the effort near Garranbane. The climb to Ballyvoile hurt me, and the heat was intense. From there to the quarry after the river Tay I was able to recover a bit, knowing that the part of the course where it’s easiest to lose time is from the Tay bridge to the turning point at Five-Cross-Roads. And therefore, I was thrilled to see that the course was slightly shortened for safety reasons. The return to Clonea was fast, with a lovely tailwind, and I pushed very hard. Unfortunately at the Crooked Bridge near Ballinroad there were two cars in my path. In all fairness, they had nowhere to go as they had cyclists ahead. I eased off through the chicane, and pushed on hard to the roundabout. Here too, the same situation. I was a bit cheesed off, but looking back now, it gave me  just a very short breathing space to prepare myself for an all-out assault on the final flat section to Clonea.

At Ballyvoile

At Ballyvoile

My transition to the run was quick. But the run itself was not! I had very little left, and plodded around slowly. The spectators and marshals along the route kept me going, and as it turned out, only one competitor passed me. My brother Ray was at the 400-to-go point, and as I passed he gave his usual advice. “Don’t have a lame finish! Go HARD”. So I did…and I was glad I did! I raced it. The huge crowd for the last 100 metres was really special, as I heard my name shouted over and over by unknown unseens! I did indulge at about 20 metres to the line as I clapped over my head…and finished with a sprint. Tried & tested. Passed!

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Immediately after, I met up with many many fellow club members and marshals. We shared stories and high-fives. We waited to cheer home other club members. We sipped, munched and chatted. Triathletes all! Joey in Clonea Leisure Centre offered me a bed, but a stint in the jacuzzi followed by a long cold shower brought me back to life, and again as we lingered in the warm sunshine, posing for remembrance photos, I enjoyed Ivor’s delicious ice-cream.

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Couldn’t have managed without my biggest supporter

The presentations took place shortly after, again in blazing sunshine, and as I cycled slowly back home, I was able to take it all in. Later that evening, we enjoyed a great get-together at the Moorings in Dungarvan, as we listened to the playback over and over again, until such time as voices became slightly blurred and the effort of the day seemed to take its toll.
No matter, roll on 2015.

Details on Strava

Details on Strava

Tried & Tested Triathlon Club is in its infancy. Founded in 2012, this was its first hosting event. And what a super show it put on! Serious kudos to all involved, especially Dave, race director for the day.  Actually, that does him a disservice because he has worked tirelessly in this role since last Autumn. I recall cycling with Dave back in early spring, and what struck me was his determination to ensure that this new club would cater equally for the few on the top of the charts, for the many mid-table members and for the back-of-the-pack stars. Chapeau Dave! Your determination and vision brought 42 new members into triathlonland.
I want to thank all the club members who helped out. One competitor mentioned that there were nearly as many marshals as athletes. Their support and encouragement was immense! Finally, I want to say a very big thank you to two wonderful coaches….Ann in Clonea Leisure Centre and Natalie. Ann got me started in mid-December. Three lessons, then she told me to go and practice what she taught me! It took me until mid-January to swim a length of the pool, and I never looked back after that. Natalie taught a weekly lesson right through the spring. She coaxed, encouraged, pushed and guided me and many others. But here’s the thing: I specifically remember one session back in March when I was close to packing it in. Natalie had the insight to just leave me alone and muddle my way through my doubts! By early June, although my swimming stamina was still missing, I KNEW deep down that I would complete my first triathlon.
Tried & Tested. PASSED.

Finally, finally: I thought it was very fitting that Tried & Tested Triathlon club made to make a financial contribution to Dungarvan Bay and Helvick Head RNLI Fundraising Branch.

Our efforts also help others

Our efforts also help others

For a selection of event photos check here. Also theres a complete set of event albums here.

So, what comes next? Lots of cycling in July and August as I prepare for Endurance Challenge 2068. I will be cycling the nine counties of Ulster and the six of Munster over five days in mid-August.

Monday 11th: Armagh Town to Derry City.
Via: Banbridge, Antrim.
Distance: 174km or 7-8 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Tuesday 12th: Derry City to Enniskillen.
Via: Strabane, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon.
Distance: 139km or 6-7 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Wednesday 13th: Enniskillen to Armagh.
Via: Cavan, Castleblayney.
Distance: 124km or 6.5-7.5 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Sunday 17th: Cork City to Limerick City.
Via: Killarney.
Distance: 172km or 8-9 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Monday 18th: Limerick City to Cork City.
Via: O’Briens Bridge, Cahir, Lismore
Distance: 209km or 8-9 hours
To view a map of this route click here.

Post update coming soon. Watch this space…

Questions:
For triatltetes out there, what are your memories of your first one?
Did you compete at the Dungarvan Triathlon? Want to share your experience?
Why is an important day called a “red-letter-day”?

Dungarvan Triathlon Gallery: June 28th, 2014

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He’s got the Edge: winner, Chris Mintern

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Note: BIG RED SIGN !!!

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Ready, steady, GO

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Dungarvan Triathlon Club

Want to see all the photos? Check it out at Dungarvan Triathlon Flickr Photos

Click here to return to my account of My First Triathlon

The Big “C”

There was a time not too long ago in Ireland when the word Cancer was not mentioned out loud. The shortened “Big C” was the phrase used my so many. Thinking about it now, I’m struck by the fact that “BIG” was included. Definitely, it is a BIG disease; for certain it was magnified even further in our society because it was the BIG untreatable in most cases, and surely it developed a larger-than-life meaning for many who suffered and for those who watched loved-ones crumble from health to death.

Today, things are different. Different, but in some ways the same. Even though it is now talked about more freely and because the prognosis for many forms of cancer is so much better, there is still a terror attached to this disease. However, as a society we are becoming more accustomed to challenging our terrors. I have no doubt that a significant aspect of this change is due to our increased understanding of the role of science, and our strong belief that we do possess the means to find the necessary solutions. In this regard, RESEARCH is the key. It’s not just me saying that. We live in times where we now understand that, while it is critical that we provide services for those who have cancer and for their carers, it is equally critical that we focus on our attempts to treat the causes and not the symptoms.

I noticed a link recently to National Breast Cancer Research Institute. They do great work. In fact, recently three members of Dungarvan Cycling Club (Emma, Anthony & Beanie) completed Race The Rás, together with hundreds more, to raise funds for and awareness of breast cancer research.

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National Breast Cancer Research Institute. Key words: AWARENESS and RESEARCH

And with that in mind, I turn my thoughts back to Endurance Challenge.  As my preparations for August’s Endurance Challenge 2068 begin in earnest, I thought I’d share my profile with my readers. Having met with Niall at the recent Comeragh Tour in Ballymacarbery, I shared with him my commitment to blog the event. Several days later, following a phone call, I was nominated as a “participant of interest” (god, just imagine……..a retired oul school-teacher!) and I submitted the profile below. The purpose is to help in promoting the event and to encourage others to sign up to take part.

This is a REAL challenge to raise funds for REAL cancer RESEARCH

This is a REAL challenge to raise funds for REAL cancer RESEARCH

PRESS RELEASE

My name is Pádraig de Búrca, from County Waterford. I will be at the start line in Armagh in August, and I urge you to consider joining with me (for this section or others of your choosing )and hundreds of others, in our efforts to raise much-needed funds for Breakthrough Cancer Research.
I took to cycling in 1999 after several injuries playing badminton. I am a member and former secretary, PRO and chairman of Dungarvan Cycling Club. While I am competitive, my true enjoyment comes from the many sportives I’ve done. My favourite, of course has to be the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford, but my seven Wicklow 200’s, Mizen-to-Malin and Alpe d’Huez rank very highly also.
I usually run during the autumn / winter, and recently graduated to several half-marathons. I run (towards the back of the pack) with West Waterford AC. This year I decided to keep both my cycling and running going side-by-side, and when I joined my local Tried & Tested Triathlon Club, I learned to swim in order to take part in their inaugural local triathlon. As soon as this is completed, my focus will shift back to the bike and I will be researching old and new challenges in the run-up to my three-day Tour of Ulster (August 11-13). Definitely on my list is the Tour of Meath in July, and the Tour of Kildare, together with longer spins with my local clubs.
I am a retired primary school principal teacher. When I retired, I had decided not to commit myself to any new ventures for a full six months. I did have some requests, because people know that I work hard when I do make a commitment. Almost to the day, when my six-month moratorium was completed, I spotted a Facebook post about Endurance Cycling 2068. It sat on the back burner for a few weeks, and then I decided to register. Why this one? Well, I will be cycling in memory of my brother-in-law Jim, who died last February. I am thinking that it will be an emotional time for me.
I also made a decision recently to keep an active blog about this event, my training, together with a mish-mash of other bits & pieces. I’d love you to follow me for updates. More importantly, I’d love if you would consider participating in any section of the challenge. You’re not a runner or a cyclist? Well, why not consider organising an event? The good people back in the Midleton office will be only too happy to advise. Sure, if it comes to it, so will I…
It’s likely that many readers have or have had some experience of cancer in their family. This is my opportunity to make a big commitment to a big cause. Finally, I feel that I will get from it more than I give. So could you! Check it at Endurance challenge 2068. As Mrs. Doyle says….go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…
Go on! Join with us.
Please feel free to make a donation however small to my JustGiving page or MyCharity.ie

Are you a Twitterer? Follow me @deburcapadraig

ENDS

 

I would be very interested in hearing from others who have registered for this event.

Are you a cyclist / runner? Have you or your family been affected by cancer?

 

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FINALLY, if you notice any typos here, please let me know so that I can fix & update.