Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Clontarf half marathon

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022 | Sport

Clontarf is an area of Dublin just north of the city centre. They promise Dublin’s flattest half marathon, which after Tollymore a few weeks ago had a strong appeal.

The course goes out along the seafront before taking the wooden bridge over to Bull Island. It then goes over to the far side of the island facing onto the Irish sea and along the beach for two kilometres before heading back across the island, onto the mainland and along the coastal path towards Howth. You then turn around and re-trace your steps.

Over 3,000 people took part meaning the course was busy. Once we were back on the main land there were lots of runners coming the other way and overtaking became difficult. I was aiming for the 1:50 wave, but somehow found myself in the 1:45 wave and yet still spent the whole race overtaking people.

On the way out, the beach was lovely. There was plenty of firm sand to run on. On the way back, things were more challenging. The tide had come in and covered a lot of the sand. The wind became a strong cross-head wind and a lot of people found it so hard going that they dropped to a walk. I managed to battle on but at over two kilometres it was a hard 15 minutes!

Thankfully, we did eventually reach the bridge and back onto the mainland. The wind and tide was now throwing waves over the seafront wall so my careful attempts to keep my feet (and my hair) dry were at an end. At least we got a brief tail wind coming back across the bridge.

My official time was:

1:46:57

Officially, I didn’t care about time and just wanted to take it easy and have fun. But a part of me also wanted to make sure I was under 1:50 so that I could tell myself that if I was actually trying, I could go much faster. In the end, I was comfortably under and that was good enough for 629 out of 2,307.

Tollymore marathon

Monday, November 28th, 2022 | Sport

Tollymore is a forest park located at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle. So that’s not the Newcastle in England, nor the one that is in County Dublin, or the five others that are in the Republic of Ireland. It’s the one in County Down, Northern Ireland. There are a lot of them.

It is a pretty hilly affair. The race starts from the car park which is not too far from the river at the bottom of the valley, and then goes up the hill and down again four times. It’s not mountainous but the over 1,000 metres of evaluation gain mean there are long, steep climbs that switch back and forth. The route comes out of the vegetation several times onto the barren hilltops.

The race is available in half marathon (one loop), marathon (two loops) and ultra (three loops) formats. The first few kilometres were about people sorting out their positions as we ran in a large group before the inevitable thinning out that allows you to see the ground in front of you.

It rained most of the morning, right up until the start. I started in a buff and rain jacket but was soon too warm and packed everything away into my running pack. Despite the clouds and gloom it was comfortably warm after this. On the second lap my stomach was starting to moan so I switched out some of my nutrition for the cake on offer at the feed station.

As I reached the main road that brings you back into the finish of the lap, Elina and Venla came walking along it from Newcastle. A lovely boost to cheer me home. My official time was:

4:21:15

That was good enough for 34 out of 73. I had no time ambition going in, but was pushing for sub-4:30 towards the end. Nobody managed to run under three hours. Despite the hills, or more likely because of them, it was an incredibly beautiful event and I will probably return to the Mournes for future races.

Cabinteely parkrun

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022 | Sport

With my parents visiting, we were determined to get out and do a parkrun on Saturday. And that took some determination because it was raining heavily. More heavily then when my first parkrun in Ireland over at Fairview. And that was in the warmth of early September.

The run starts at the top of the hill by Cabinteely house and then goes down the hill and back up again for one short loop and then two longer loops. I set off quite hard as I wanted to stay warm and was soon wondering if I had overcooked it given I still have a cold. By the third lap I was ready to walk up the hill but another runner slowed down to chant encouraging words at me and then I was socially obligated to keep pushing. I managed to hold it together to the line, squeezing in at 22:59.

Brickfields parkrun

Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 | Sport

Exploring another new parkrun in Dublin. Brickfields is not too far from Rathmines and a bit smaller than Bushy: the course consists of four laps of the top part of the park. The surface is good although there are lots of leaves, and it is flat.

Howth Summit 10k

Thursday, October 20th, 2022 | Sport

Howth is a beautiful peninsula that makes up the top of Dublin bay. The Howth Summit 10k is a Gaelforce event that takes you over the top of it.

The start line and car parking is down at Howth Castle (the train station is also close at hand for those not heading straight to Tesco for the weekly shop after the race) but number collection is at the golf course further up the hill so you’ve climbed one hill before you even start 😂. It took a bit of time to find registration but it eventually turned up around the back of the building.

The route starts with a 3km climb uphill. Some of it is just steep. Other bits of it get technical. A lot of it is single-track through the woods. A few of the sections require scrambling, including one extended section that comes out of the top of the woods and gives you a beautiful view over Portmarnock.

Or at least it would if I had dared to look. It was steep and the soil and gravel were loose. Very much outside of my comfort zone so I decided it would be a bad idea to look down. Once we made it to the top I decided to take a breather and take in some of the beautiful views.

After this, things got easier. We went down for a kilometre and then back up for another kilometre, taking us to the radio mast at the very top of Howth. Completely panoramic views from here including Dublin Bay, Portmarnock, the rest of Howth, Ireland’s Eye and even Lambay Castle in the distance.

The next three kilometres took us downhill on better trail that was easier to run on. I usually lose places on the downhill but I managed to hold my own here and even go past a few people. This section takes you down from the mast all the way ho the coastline. A short road section then follows before the climb up past Howth Castle to the finish line at the Deer Park golf club.

My finish time was:

1:03:22

That was good enough for 184 out of 519 but what I am most proud of is that I took the time to stop and admire the views and pull my pace back when I wanted to. I want to enjoy races like this rather than just blast them as quickly as possible and I think allowing myself to take over an hour to do a 10k is a good step in that direction.

Bushy parkrun

Monday, October 10th, 2022 | Sport

That’s right, I’ve done Bushy parkrun! But not that Bushy parkrun. Bushy park in London is where parkrun started. Bushy park in Dublin also has a lot going for it. It has been running for four years and the course is beautiful. Along the river and through the park. It is almost all in the shade of the trees but still on good-quality tarmac paths and one “hill” that creates less elevation gain than Woodhouse Moor.

Poolbeg parkrun

Sunday, October 9th, 2022 | Sport

Another week, another new parkrun. This one in Poolbeg, which is a park in Sandymount, Dublin. Sandymount is part of Dublin Bay and the course goes along the water for quite a bit of it so the views are beautiful.

There is a single path with runners going ways so overtaking is difficult. If you want a fast time, you will want to position yourself towards the front. The website describes it as mixed surface but it is almost all tarmac or good-quality gravel.

Naas triathlon

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 | Sport

As Chrissie Wellington always says “just because you’re homeless in a foreign country, you can still do a triathlon.” She’s never said those words exactly but I think the sentiment is implied. So, being in Dublin, I signed up for the Swim Smoith Naas Triathlon, a sprint distance race that takes place at the end of September.

It’s pool-based but still includes a 750m (30-length) swim followed by a 20k bike and 5k run. I had hoped that Trinity Triathlon Club would be racing there so there would be some friendly faces but they were off doing a freshers’ week bike ride so a solo adventure it would be (with my cheering squad in the car, of course!). Registration opened at 6:30 and bib numbers were handed out in order so I was number three. I then sat in my car for a while because I couldn’t find transition. Some poor lass was wandering backwards and forwards trying to find it before eventually a crowd gathered and led the way. There was supposed to be a map in the race handbook but it had been missed off.

Most of my triathlon gear is in the UK so I had to improvise: with no race belt I had to safety pin my number to a t-shirt I could pull on after the swim. I only received one number and four safety pins. Two of which I then dropped down the side of my gear stick to disappear forever. Which meant I had to pin my number to the front with only two pins and hope for the best.

The race briefing was late, which was great because then I didn’t feel guilty about a free-race wee even though I was supposed to be on the pool deck by then. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. The start was a little chaotic. There were four people in each of the five lanes. But it was a mass start. And there are no overtaking mid-lane. I suggested we arrange ourselves in predicted swim times and this worked well. Despite the chaos, our lane marshall was lovely and I kept hearing her shout “go Chris” at the end of each lap.

I sprinted the last few lengths to get my heart rate up before emerging into the cool Irish morning air. It was freezing before the race, but luckily up to 8 degrees by the end of the swim. I didn’t have any of my fancy tri shoes so I had to sit down like a chump and tie my laces on the pair of bike shoe I did have in the country. I also pulled on some arm warmers and my race number t-shirt and was on my way. Even with all of that, I think I still went through T1 faster than some of my early races.

The bike course was reasonably flat. I came off the aero bars for a few of the hills but mostly I was able to stick it out. It was a simple out-and-back. Roads were not closed but there were garda at both ends slowing traffic (there wasn’t much) and when I stopped for a red light the marshalls instructed me to go straight through it. The road surface varied. At one point, my bike started shaking and I wondered whether I had a slow rear puncture. But then the road surface went silky smooth again and I realised that was the cause.

T2 involved more lace-tying and then I was off onto the run. This was also a simple out-and-back with very gentle hills. I didn’t have my super-shoes but my Hoka Bondis got me through. I warmed up on the run in my arm warmers and t-shirt over tri top but not to the point I was overheating. And certainly not enough for the old cup of water over the head trick at the 2.5k aid station.

Post-race goodies included a bottle of water, a banana and a t-shirt. It’s a nice technical shirt with thicker fabric on the front and back and more breathable fabric under the arms.

They didn’t hang around dismantling transition after the race. Most people still had their bikes checked in when they took the barriers away. However, it was a more relaxed event than most and there weren’t many expensive bikes in there. I’m used to being dominated by super-bikes but at this, mine was one of the higher end ones.

The race haven’t released any official results but according to my watch my time was:

1:21:37

And my splits were:

Discipline Time
SUP 17:10
T1 4:34
Bike 37:50
T2 1:40
Run 20:23

Overall, it was a fun event. A little bit more chaotic than British events but plenty of focus on safety: bikes were checked when racking, clear signage on the race course and plenty of marshalls. And all of those marshalls were very friendly. It’s a lovely way to end the season.

Avondale Forest parkrun

Monday, September 26th, 2022 | Sport

Avondale Forest is a park in County Wicklow. It is about a 20-minute drive from Ashford if you find yourself in Ashford. The course features two loops but a single lap with a slight repeat in the middle, so mostly you are running around terrain you haven’t been on before. It’s all off-road using the gravel paths. There are some hills but none of them are overly steep or long.

Corkagh parkrun

Monday, September 19th, 2022 | Sport

Corkagh is a park located in the west of Dublin. It’s a good size and the course is two loops of opposite sides so you run back up the straight you ran down initially but beyond that, there are no loops. There are frees, fields and ponds to run past so it’s all very nice.

I’m still feeling under the weather and running in my easy-pace shoes, so I was pretty happy with 22:11.