Day 219 – Gaelforce Dry Run

Posted: August 27, 2012 in August
Tags: , , , , ,

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, one of my A races for this year is Gaelforce West. Wanting to do GFW is what started me doing all this running lark in the first place, and though I really enjoyed the race last year, and I was delighted to finish it, my over riding feeling was one of “could do better”. My belief that I had prepared myself sufficiently for the race, and in particular for Croagh Patrick (which I had semi-dismissed as just a big hill) was shattered on its rock strewn slopes and it very nearly got the better of me. If it wasn’t for the emergency can of coke and ham sandwich provided by my informal support crew I dread to think what sort of state I would have been in for the last part of the race.

So, with all that in mind, and with only twelve days to go to GFW 2012, I set out to do a dry run which admittedly was once again lacking in anything resembling Croagh Patrick, but had a principle aim of seeing how I was going to manage my nutrition and effort. I’ve never really raced using gels before – I grabbed one as an emergency measure towards the end of the Belfast Marathon and I used one at Race to Glory – but seeing as I was going to be out on the course at GFW for getting on for six hours I decided that they’d be the best option this time out. The GFW course is broken down as follows:

1 Stage 1: Beach, Trail and Road Run
You will get mucky and wet on the trail run.
2 Stage 2: Kayaking across Killary Harbour 
Your feet will get wet unless you are very very careful!!
3 Stage 3: Trail and Road Run
This section is running through a bog. You are definitely going to get mucky and wet.
4 Stage 4: Cycling 
There are steep sections involved in this route. When descending the steep hills please do so slowly so as to avoid an accident. There are sharp corners and small country roads on the route.
5 Stage 5: Mountain Run/Hike 
Croagh Patrick – the top section of this mountain has a lot of loose stones so please take care when on this section. There is a cut off time on the Reek – if you do not reach the transition here by 14.30, you will not be allowed to ascend and you will be short coursed back to Westport.
6 Stage 6: Cycling 
Always obey the rules of the road. There is an off road trail section that is 2 km long here. Once you come off this there is a steep downhill section on a small road. Please take care on this section and watch out for traffic and fellow competitors.You will cycle on to the end of Westport quay where you will drop you bike and jog to the finish

I don’t have access to a Reek, and I wasn’t planning on doing a kayak stage, but my plan was to do a 32km cycle, followed by a 20+km run around the woods, wearing exactly the same gear I was going to be wearing for GFW, using the same kit, same gels, drinks etc. and also not using my Sansa Clip (not allowed in the race).

The bike section was pretty unremarkable. The route is relatively flat, flatter than what I’ll be doing for GFW anyway, and really just served to get some time in and to practice getting gels into me on the move, which I think I might need a bit more practice at as I ended up with some slightly sticky hands and handlebars. I took (ate/drank/?) my gel with about fifteen minutes left on the bike leg and then ate half a Powerbar, em, bar, which was essentially just a Snickers with added biscuit. I came into transition then (once more, the back of my house), changed my shoes, finished off my Powerade, then stuffed the other half of my Powerbar, em, bar into me and started running.

By the time I’d passed the Credit Union (about 200m) my legs were feeling fine, which can be credited I think to doing quite a few brick sessions, or at least going for a little run almost every time I get back from a cycle. Up into the woods  and straight away I settled into an easy rhythm, trying to make sure that my pace was a couple of minutes slower a lap than normal. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too warm and apart from a bit of tightness in various spots in my left leg I felt great. The woods were as busy as I’d ever seen them with tons of people out taking advantage of the good weather while we had it so every couple of minutes I was passing people, giving me a chance to work on my various running nods and salutes.

The first lap went by in 21:34, which was a little bit quicker than I wanted to go but I was keeping my heart rate right where I wanted (between 150bpm and 160). The second lap was a smidgeon slower but again my heart rate was staying nice and steady. By this stage most of the people I’d passed (some of them a couple of times, one couple three times) had left, which was a bit of a relief as I was really running out of ways to greet people or at least acknowledge them. By the third lap I’m not even sure if there were other people there as I’d really zoned out by this stage. Halfway round the second lap I had another gel, which was a little easier to consume on the run but still left me with horrible sticky fingers.

I’m not sure what other people think about when they run for longer distances or periods of time. I know a lot of people who are just starting running say they get bored and wonder how you deal with it as the distances get longer. Personally I don’t really think about anything. At all. Sometimes I’ll get a phrase stuck in my head and I end up just repeating it over and over, with slight variations, for kilometres at a time. Other times I’m just running and thinking, in the very loosest sense, about my breathing. Maybe that’s why I like running so much. I really, really struggle to clear my head at any other time and can often be quite neurotic about things, just running them over and over in my head, working through a million and one different eventualities and resolutions and responses. When I run long enough though there’s none of that, just peace and serenity (like my dad I’m a big fan of serenity).

Before I knew it laps three and four were done and everything was still going swimmingly. My feet were a little bit hot and sore but apart from that I felt fine. My pace had dropped a little, but so had my heart rate so effort expended was still roughly the same. As usual when I was coming towards the end of a run and still feeling good I started to think about going further, especially as I’d only taken my last gel at the start of the fourth lap, but told myself to be sensible. I was less than two weeks out from one of my biggest races of the year, there was no point in jeopardising that for the sake of a few extra kilometres. I finished the lap and turned left out of the woods, heading for home.

Just as I did that, despite the fact that the sun was still shining brightly, it started to rain. A little drizzle at first before getting quite heavy within the space of a couple of minutes. That really got me thinking about running further as I wanted to have myself prepared for the eventuality of it being miserable on the day of GFW but I wasn’t that far from home now and I’d passed 22km, which was right about what I wanted to do. Any longer and I’d be risking wearing or breaking stuff down that wouldn’t be recovered in time for the race. I got home not long after that and within two seconds realised going any longer would have been a really bad idea. As soon as I stopped I was sore, tired and hungry but absolutely delighted with the day’s work. Less than two weeks to go and I was in a far, far better place than this time last year and (hopefully) on course to knock an hour off last year’s time.


Bike: 32.56km – 1:09:06

Run: 23.10km – 2:17:05



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