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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Salomon 2011

Salomon are a great team. Their staff and athletes are generous with their time, advice and support and I saw this in abundance during the year in the ways they helped Running for Pearl. Below is their end of year wrap up video and what a year it was for them. Julien Chorier won Hardrock, Ryan Sandes won the Leadville 100, Anna Frost repeated her win at The North Face 50 in San Francisco, Kilian won Western Sates 100, UTMB, Skyrunner Super Cup and most of the other events he participated in. These are just a few of the success stories and proof that what you put in to the sport is what you get out of it. I have been proud to be associated with them even if only as a footnote in the bigger scheme of things. It is a great community indeed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sobriety-One Year On.

I don't believe in being obliged to blog. I do it when I have something I want to say. I also believe that with blogs there seems to be some discussion on how personal one should get with it. I have always insisted that since its my blog I am entitled to the freedom of its content whether its a piece on Autism, someone who inspires me or an issue I want to vent about. If people don't want to read it, they should chose not read it.

I say this because this one is personal. Looking back on the past year I am filled with immense joy at some of the things that have happened to me. I am also filled with great sadness at some of the things that have occurred in my personal life. I do know one thing though and that is I am proud. The main source of my pride is obviously my children and it will forever be that way, my other and most humbling joy comes from sobriety. On December 12th just gone I reached a point I never thought I would, to not drink for a year. I am an alcoholic and make no secret of it, some people who know me directly or indirectly are aware of this and some people are surprised and occasionally shocked when they find out. It does not change who I am in the slightest, it just means that I carry this with me through life throwing caution to the wind everyday. I have to be careful because I have been sober before for up to eight months and relapsed without fanfare or ceremony. It was simple as walking past a shop, stopping and buying a can of beer and plunging myself into that downward spiral of self loathing and misery. So when my son said to me last year "Papa, why are you always drinking" with a sadness no six year old should have to bear, I knew it was time.

You see, being an addict is a double life. It is a life of lies, deceit, selfishness and greed. I went through stages of having bottles hid in cupboards, garden sheds, bathrooms and even once my infant daughters changing bag (and that is just a few in a long list) Am I proud of this? No. But by beating it and continuing to go from strength to strength everyday I am in a position to help others. I have always wanted to do that but first I had to help myself. I had convinced myself it was going to be impossible to sober up. Sobering up was for other people. STRONG PEOPLE. I was weak, I was worthless and I was not going to be missed if I sloped on down the rungs of life to the bottom. But that all changed when I decided to get my shit together. I DECIDED. That was enough, and that's all you need to do. Decide. The rest of it is planning, changing routines and going through a detox that's akin you shedding your skin like a serpent. But all of that is manageable once you know and believe that you can do it. There is a wonderful lyric from a Pearl Jam song called "Life Wasted". It goes "I faced it, a life wasted. I ain't never going back again..." That is my mantra everyday. I get emotional when I think back to the state my mind was in. The self loathing because I was too weak to beat an inanimate bottle filled with amber fluid. It was me depending on it, it didn't depend on me. But when you are sick rationality is fairly low on the pecking order. I also have been supported by some incredible people whose pride and belief in me took me those extra steps to get me there. These people should have a very good idea of who they are and some I only know through the Internet, anyway that's why we have all this technology isn't it :) Surrounding myself with like minded souls has been the key in moving on. But I have to say thank you to Charlie Engle who kicked my ass one time I slipped a few years back and got me on the road again. Also to my best friend over the past twenty years, Trev Reams. My soul brother who has encouraged me and pushed me up the hills when I was to weak to do it under my own steam. I owe you everything brother. My kids remain my most motivating factor and everyday with them is a blessing I can't believe I am privileged to have(except on the days I want to throttle them of course ;) My family back home. I love you.

I have had many comments from people in the last few months all centered around the same subject-writing a book. I have given it consideration many times before but always bailed due to many of the reasons mentioned above. Now though I think its time, I have something to say and over the next year, very gradually I will lay down the foundation of what will be a story of choosing to live and fully embracing the strength that lies within us all. Have a merry and safe Christmas. If there is something in your life you think you can't overcome, you are wrong. You CAN!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anton Krupicka--Brazil.

Anton Krupicka was recently in Brazil to promote the launch of the Minimus shoe and below is a very intimate video of his experience. One can be pretty much guaranteed insightful comments and views when it invloves Tony, either through his Running Times blog or his personal musings/race reports on his own blog. It's his stripped down reasons and approach to the sport that are that hold particular appeal to me and if you are not already aware of his tremendous impact (for the better) on trail running then I highly reccomend studying up and benefitting from his wisdom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

U.K. Gear PT 1000 Review.

Early last year, whislt in the preparation stages of my mammoth trek across Ireland I was contacted by the super kind folks at UK Gear to test out a pair of their durable PT 1000 shoes. I had heard great things about this shoe from my friend Andrew Murray who completed his epic Scotland 2 Sahara run in them and was intrigued right off the bat at their 1000 mile guarantee--a big boast indeed. The fact that both the US and UK armies are kitted out with their shoes further piqued my interest.

For those who don't know my training routines (on the outskirts of Paris) and the miles I put into the prep for Ireland I can say in brief that hundreds of miles were logged on everything from technical trail to asphalt. I knew that in order for these shoes to impress me they were not only going to have to live up to the miles but also deliver in comfort.

The first words in regards the PT's were actually uttered  by my son--"they look cool Papa". The seal of approval from a seven year old kid who is quite picky about what goes on his own feet. I agree with him as aesthetically they do look good and I would be testing the grey/red design, many runners noted that they had never come across them before so I felt pretty pleased about having unique kicks out on the trails. They were also lighter than I expected and felt sturdy without being too stiff around the uppers. This is all well and good but of course one can never tell until a few weeks in how your relationship with a pair of shoes is going to go.

My first few outings were in-at-the-deep-end 30/40km trail runs. No point in flirting, get in there and get muddy. I was pleased to find that the shoe wrapped around my foot in a snug, but not too tight hold. It's essential on rugged terrain to have that kind of fit because if you don't trust what's on your feet then your confidence suffers. I had no qualms about flying down single track switch backs and leaning into the turns as I knew the grip underneath me would hold strong. The sole of the shoe is as solid as they come, the 'Rhinopad' at the heel feels balanced and not too wide like some other trail shoes I have run in. Towards the forefoot the sole is made up of 'UK Gear Carbon Rubber', a series of small, bubble like protrusions that give great purchase on the climbs. I get the impression that the material that goes into the soles of these shoes is as closely guarded as the secret ingredient in Coca-Cola. Another great thing is the breathability and space around the toe-box area, keeping blisters at bay. The shoes held up as well on the roads as on the trails too and think that anyone looking for a high mileage, cross-over shoe should really check them out. The only suggestion or change for my mind would be the laces, I feel a notched lace that grips the eyelets would work really well here and increase on the already snug fit. I have put in 400 miles (give or take) on them and honestly...... its impressive the lack of wear in general.

I am now looking forward to taking them all the way to 1000 miles in the coming year as I begin preparation for my next Autism based challenge in 2012. I will post furhter details about that in the coming weeks and excited to work with UK Gear in the future on some exciting projects.

(On another note please sign the Autism Awareness Petition, its at the top left of the page or just click here. This petition will be the cornerstone in making changes on my next event)

(box-fresh and ready to roll)

(400 miles later)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pearl Jam Twenty.

I won't go into great detail of the emotional train wreck my life has been over the past few months but point this fact out more to explain my lack of activity and drive. A lot has happened for me on a personal level and I am using this to grow and look forward. I am currently planning a lot of things for next year and I am being helped by some formidable athletes too, also forming the skeleton of my crew for my own challenge. So, in the meantime and with the positive vibes it brings I will post a segment from the finale of Pearl Jam Twenty featuring your one and only Autism Endurance Crusader. Honoured beyond words to have been featured in a documentary that shows what a truly humble band I have been devoted to for the past twenty years. To be alongside my two best friends, The Captain and Ving, is the icing on the cake. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

i Run Paris blog post.

Tim's blog post relating to Running for Pearl. He is currently tapering for part two of the quest, the Toulouse International Marathon two weeks from Sunday. Go Bro :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking Forwards Back.

Two years ago tomorrow Running for Pearl was born. It was not the day I started the site or this blog, it was the inception of the idea on that run around the grounds of Versailles Castle on a mild September evening. Looking at what it has become now is beyond anything I could have envisioned. Marathons and half marathons have been run on every continent in the world, thousands of miles have be clocked on bikes--swims, walks and hikes up mountains have also been done. Not to mention the many, many people who have fund raised, given support and spread the word. Reputable companies have sponsored us gear and other essentials to ease the costs of keeping this thing rolling along. I have been smiling on so many occasions when I have looked through the gallery of photos on the facebook page of children with their Running for Pearl designs and paintings.

The intention I had was to run races and ultra distances to raise awareness and it did. The great joy of it now is that I no longer carry the flag alone. Yesterday was probably one of the finest examples of this as my dear friend Tim Meier ran one of the gutsiest races I have ever witnessed in person. Tim's goal he told me a few weeks back was to get a PR on his half marathon time and maybe sneak under 1:18, but when I met him at his place for an early morning coffee yesterday I could tell he was going to throw down hard. He was incredibly focused and with the intense training he had done over the past six months I had no doubts he was going to blitz the course. I won't attempt to do a race report as I know he will do a great job of it himself on his own blog but watching him climb the ranks and pick of runners over the three laps of the seven mile dirt loop was pure joy. The guy was main-lining adrenaline and as he came into the finishing chute in fourth place, five seconds behind the guy in third, with a time of 1:16:17, I was gob smacked. I knew he was good but this had just proved he is great. Below are some photos and thanks to Tim and to you all who have been the real community that are paving the way and helping the Autism cause in a pure and selfless way.

(race time)
(listening to some RATM)
(says it all really)
(Tim with coach Olivier)

(making room for lunch ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

UTMB 2011

Its been a while since the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc and it was an experience that was bittersweet for me. I must start with the declaration that I was not running in any of the four events that took place over the space of a week. In reflection my fondest and most deeply guarded memories are not of strolling around the beautiful town of Chamonix bumping into the worlds greatest athletes, but of the solitude of running/hiking up 6,000 ft towards the glaciers of Mt Blanc. Drinking from streams and watching the minuscule world shuffle along below is the purest form of contentment. I just love to be alone in the mountains, maybe its the protective barrier of remoteness that instills this calm, I don't know and were I to pare it down to the simplest interpretation it's because it's enjoyable to me. Why not then.

(Kilian wins, quelle surprise)
(Nick Clark, 3rd at WS100 and Hardrock--really nice guy)
(with friends, Jenny, Scott and Adam)
(with the Blanc family from Running for MARGO)
(Kilian-the monk)
(with Ryan Sandes--Leadville 2011 winner)
(perfect single track)
(trails by the stream)
(at 3,500 ft on my way up)
(what it's all about, Mt Blanc)
On the other hand as big a running geek, ultra running blog lover and espouse all things trail and outdoors even I will admit that it felt a bit like overkill over the weekend. The village is a mecca for trail heads and sometimes the sheer scale of publicity and sponsorship surrounding the event detracts for the seemingly spiritual nature of being at one with the mountain. I was seeing The North Face logo in my sleep for about a week after. Celebrating this mysterious and powerful mountain and binding oneself to it through exploration seems to be the common goal for most participants from top level to the mid/back of the pack runners. My fear is that there are too many cooks stirring this particular pot, I saw some real rudeness from the youngsters in "staff" t-shirts towards people a generation ahead of them. An almost arrogance or superiority, there have been so many online blogs and reports about the fact the race was delayed and how the organisers insist on sending texts with updates to the runners. Also, how detrimental to the actual mountain is all of this, thousands of people trekking, helicopters flying around, everyone looking to get the best coverage/shot etc. I love to run because I can. I can certainly see myself forgoing races in the future in order to just express myself through the art of movement. Or if it is a race maybe a little trail race starting out with its roots based in celebrating the union of like minded souls. I am not saying that the runners at the UTMB are any different than that, they are after the same thing as I am I hope. But how big can an event become before the negatives outweigh the positives? These are just my impressions and musings. The extravagance just seems to oppose the simple beauty of running and being at one with the surroundings. I would be lying if I said the race doesn't hold an attraction for me but for the foreseeable future it's not on the list of goals I want to accomplish. On a note of admiration I can say with absolute certainty that the undisputed heroes of these races are the people who take time out of their lives and away from families to take part. The people who will never come in first place and who, without sponsors or fanfare, take anywhere between 35-45 hours to make their way around the course. Two guys, Rich and Rich, come to mind that I shared a hostel room with--the start was delayed and they missed their return flights on Sunday such is their determination. It was a real honour to cheer on the likes of these folks, forget your ultra superstars (most of whom dropped out, some legitimately through falls etc, but "I didn't have it today" or "legs felt dead"--it's hundred mile race around a mountain, what did you expect--a Shiatsu?) Will I be back next year, who knows. I think a weekend when its not manic is more up my alley in order to further my appreciation for the epic beauty of the Mt Blanc Massive.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Finding Inspiration.

Having completed my first few runs last week to get back in shape--nothing more than a few easy ten k sessions on hilly trails--I have found myself unable to run this week due to being home alone with my daughter. This is no bad thing as my Achilles is still wholly unready to get back to high endurance outings. I have been busy with other things and have started to do a pretty short but intense core workout to start each day. Looking for--what seems to be an elusive job has also taken up most of my time as has applying new ABA methods to Pearls daily routine. I have found some videos online that I can draw inspiration from and keep my restless nature at bay until I get back out there for real. A trip to Chamonix to soak in the atmosphere of the UTMB at the end of the month ain't gonna hurt much either :)

Jared Campbell on the West Slabs of Olympus in the Wasatch Range

Another Olympus, this time its Kilian in Greece.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Its been five weeks since I finished my run across Ireland and there are many thoughts and lessons that will probably stay with me for some time to come.

  • The first one is acceptance, it is emotionally crippling to be in a situation where you have worked really hard but still face what seems insurmountable. Letting go of the fear and the disappointment and the anger when I got injured was both hard and easy to do. It seemed easy once I had surrendered to my fate, it only seemed difficult when I went against it and fought the inevitability. Realising that I am accountable for my decisions became the only factor in choosing to continue on a bike and I know I chose well in the end.
  • The second is fear, where there is a will there is most certainly a way. Embracing the unknown and turning uncertainty into a voyage changes everything. As long as you are moving forward, regardless of the pace, you are still moving.
  • The third is belief, if you truly believe and visualise the goal you can achieve it. A lacklustre attitude or outlook never inspired or accomplished much in this world. From day one I never doubted that I would complete the trek, it just was not something that ever crossed my brain waves. If you project an image of failure chances are it will come true.
  • The fourth is positivity, surround yourself with people you believe in and who believe in you. I have an amazing group in friends in all areas of my life from people who run to people in Autism circles to people I have never even met in person. I think that once we are accepted and respected for who we are as individuals we can fulfill our greatest potential and truly make a difference in the world.

My running has been pretty low as of late and I now find myself rebuilding again and preparing for other adventures. I wanted--at my lowest points during and after the run-- to strangle the people who said "It's all happening for a reason" or "It will make you stronger these lessons you are learning". The reason for my frustration? Because I knew these people were right. It takes a while once you step out of the eye of the storm to get some perspective. I have that now and although my bottom line feeling is one of disappointment for not completing the trek as I had planned, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Accept the things you cannot change.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mizen to Malin--Part 2.

Tuesday July 5th

The momentum has changed as has the mode of transport but the goal is still the same. I am now winding my way north towards Malin head on two wheels as opposed to two feet.

Olivia found us a physiotherapist who was prepared to meet us on the roadside and I was wasting no time in making ground to meet him. I felt a new lease of life on the bike mainly due to the fact I was not in as much physical distress as I previously had been. I am a former amateur cyclist from my teenage years back home and still clock about thirty km's a week on my bike with little Pearl on the back but had by no means trained for a four hundred km bike ride. Luckily those thoughts did not concern me at the time, just getting to the physio was the objective. I was really hammering the roads and the tail wind had me moving at an impressive pace. I pulled into Newport to find the crew talking to Niall O Donnell who had given up his own time to come and see me. I lay back in the van getting a thorough check over and got the prognosis I expected, no more running. He told me any more pressure would probably snap the Achilles and that I was to take great care even on the bike. After asking him how much we owed him for the consult he said "nothing" and then gave US money for the cause, what a guy. So with the official and professional analysis concluded we were back on the phones and Internet. I would ride another forty or so km's to Borrisokane where Olivia was stationed and we would take a break there. Diarmuid in the meantime got us two more bikes and helmets kindly donated from Velo Bike shop in Birr, these bikes would be brought to Borrisokane to meet us, my brother in law Paul would take over the driving and myself, Mick and Mark would continue as a team.

I rode hard to Borrisokane and on the arrival noticed a police car pull in behind me, I am thinking of what I have done wrong and next thing the lights are flashing. It was only when I pulled into the town that I realise it had been organised for traffic control. All criminal paranoia by the wayside I was so happy to see two new bikes, familiar faces and a hearty pub meal waiting for us at "The Yanks" when I finally took my ass off the saddle.

(arriving into Borrisokane with the fuzz on my tail)

(with Paul the police man, top fellow)

(setting off for Ferbane with police and fire brigade escorts)

The three of us ate well and finally had chance to catch our breaths and talk the day over. Our next stop was Ferbane another forty km away and where we would call it a night. I was excited as its the town where I went to school, played music and worked for many years and word had spread that we were ripping up the roads. I jumped on my spanking new Pinarello bike after a few adjustments and we were off. Paul was cruising along behind us in the van along with our convoy of flashing lights and sirens. We picked up two more riders, John and Thomas who came out to meet us and ride a little. My friend Keith who is a highly regarded physio and has worked with pro cycling teams and currently Connacht Rugby also met me on the road for a double check. Same result, no running. Hearing it from him gave a more relaxed perspective as I now knew the right decision had been made. With our gang of cyclists now at five we arrived in Cloghan where I used to live, it was the same as always, dead. A few of the locals had come out and most of my family. It was so special for me to see Dylan again and to hold him in my arms. Pearl stayed at a distance for fear of her getting upset. Hugo Loonam Motors gave us a full tank of fuel and we all had a laugh taking photos and getting ready for the last seven km of the day to Ferbane.

(Cloghan-with Hugo and the team)

By this stage it was almost seven in the evening and I had lost count of the amount of cyclists with us, my brother Sean and sister Alison were along for the ride too. About a km outside Ferbane another fire engine pulled in front of us to take me home and when I turned the corner into Ferbane I was just floored. Half the town were waiting at the soccer pitch as Diarmuid had been busy circulating emails. It was the most emotional home coming imaginable, old and new faces arriving with hugs and kind words, all so overwhelming.

(luxury spa treatment-Ferbane)

(the banner says it all)

(the boys)

So as people came and went I was lying face down on a massage table as a local guy called Cathal Devrey went to work on me. The guy has hands like the hulk and proceeded to twist and knead every part of me until I was a groaning, whimpering piece of flesh that wished I had never been born. This guy was good no doubt about it and as painful as I felt I definitely benefited a lot from his thorough work over on my body. The tally for the day was twenty one km's run and a hundred and five on the bike. After goodbyes were said we headed to my sisters place for some serious calorie consumption and a shower. We had a whole new adventure in the morning and some new faces joining Team Pearl.

Wednesday July 6th

Up early to organise routes and Mick thrusts a phone into my hand "Mally, some woman on the phone wants to do an interview with you". Thanks Mick.

After my radio rants we were Ferbane bound in the van where we picked up my best friend Trev who turned up looking like he was going to a rock gig. Photos were taken, people were hugged and I assured gathered parents that sons would be returned in one piece, next stop Athlone. We cruised quickly to Athlone to pick up Neil who took the early train from Dublin to meet us and Tommo, who had flown in from Liverpool at midnight the night before just to cycle with us. This on top of cycling John O Groats to Lands End solo just a few weeks before. Legend. Introductions were made and we now had six certifiable lunatics of various abilities on the road. I was really happy to have these close comrades alongside me and fun and jokes were in no shortage. I have to tip my hat to them all and even though some took breaks in the van when they got tired everyone rode with tremendous guts. The weather helped us along too and the sun stayed on to party with us. Heading up north was not all fun and games though, the terrain was always testing. Paul in the van was giving us updates from home and doing a stellar job of keeping the mother ship in close range at all times on the busy roads.

(Athlone, l-r Trev, Mark, Tommo, Moi, Helen (A good friend) Neil and Mick)

We made it to Longford for some snacks after riding about forty km's. Everyone seemed in good spirits and then Micks wheel decided to explode all by itself. Once we got it repaired and on the road again all went well. This was going to be the longest day and I was determined that nothing would get in the way of reaching my intended destination, the town of Ederney. Steady progress was the order of the day, some of the guys were better climbers than others but as a collective the team worked pretty well. I was concentrating on times, lunch breaks, potential problems etc as I was now responsible for more than just myself. To go from three guys living on the road for a week and having all details well planned is a lot easier than becoming seven guys in less than twelve hours and completely unplanned. The three of us had our routine dialed in where as the newer guys were still finding their place in the grand scheme of this adventure. I think the fact that our goal was Team Pearl and that a mutual respect existed made things gel so well. Our first main lunch stop was around Swanlinbar and I threw together an array of goodies from the fridge and we hunkered down, ravenous the lot of us. Our repose was brief, partly due to my insistence that we make tracks. Trev and Mick sat the rest of the day out in the van. We had a hundred and forty km's under our wheels at this point.

Mark, Neil, Tommo and I soldiered on and it started to get tough. About an hour up the road I started to feel dizzy and my vision was blurred. Twice I almost touched the wheels of the rider in front and decided I needed to stop. I got my feet elevated on an ice bucket, ice bandanna around my neck and a few gulps of carbo-pro. I sat up for a bit and sipped some Lucozade as it had worked on day one when I hit the wall. Satisfied that I felt OK we resumed the labour of pedalling. By this stage Tommo was the driving force of the group as with the freshest legs and the most cycling experience he took care of the whatever needed doing. He was a rock for the team and I was glad to have him on board. Once we got to within twenty km of Ederney we were forced to shelter on the road side for a while due to a very heavy storm. It relented a little and I grabbed some rain jackets for us all and we set of again. Mark was feeling it but with reason, along with me he had covered the most distance on a bike and had been crewing hard all week too. I stayed with him as in my times of need he had done everything for me. Neil and Tommo kept the train a moving up front. Arriving in Edernery that evening in torrential rain was tremendously self satisfying. I had ridden one hundred and eighty km's and this left me with one hundred twenty to go on the final day. However we we all soaked, starving and in need of rest. My friend Edel from Loffa (a midlands Autism aid group) had told me her folks lived in the village so Mick called her. Half an hour later seven wet looking tramps are standing in her parents house being offered cups of tea, showers and anything we needed. Siobhan and Dodie Maguire are a shining example of all that is good in people, generous and kind beyond mere words. They also gave us three beds and another one at Siobhan's sister Monica's just up the road. Some of the guys headed out for a curry but I stayed back with Mick and Paul for some home made food and a bit of banter. I took an early night, excited for the last day in the morning.

Thursday July 7th

I was up early waving my bicycle pump like a wand to get as may heads off pillows as possible. Turns out I needed it, Mark had a flat so I fixed it whilst waiting for everyone to get their game faces on. Tea was drank and we thanked the families profusely for all they had one for us. They gave us donation money also, some people are just amazing.

(leaving Ederney on the last day-pic Justin Maguire)

Rolling out was rusty to say the least and the tally of complaints ranged from Achilles grief (Trev) sore back (Neil) and grinding knees (Mick) and so on. Personally I could not get out of the saddle as behind both my kneecaps a whole lotta grinding was going on. Every oscillation was weak and thankfully a good long descent brought us into the next town. Being in Northern Ireland was also a new experience for us all on the road, riding form one town to another we were greeted with a staccato of both Irish flags and the British Union Jack. I don't think anyone of us had much to say in the way of conversation for a while, each individual deep in their own reflections of the terrible violence that has claimed so many lives over the years and caused hurt to so many families. As someone who has never lived on the other side of the 'border' I can't imagine the hurt the troubles have caused and to the people who work hard at a peaceful existence my hat is off.

I decided that to get us to Malin regular breaks and nibbles would probably work best to get us there. Every twenty to thirty km's we were stopping for M&M's, Redbull, thermolytes tabs, carbo pro and I was educating the guys on fuelling for the day, great tips handed down from the mighty coach Tess back in Canada. The terrain was a rugged, beautiful pain in the ass. Ireland does not settle into a monotonous flat stretch, ever. Riding through tree lined valleys or summiting a wind swept pass was the norm and served as a distraction from the discomfort of the mounting twinges we all felt. I was running out of steam on the hillier stretches due to constantly being unable to stand on the pedals, Tommo served as a great domestique taking me through the hills steady and sheltered. Passing Strabane we had hoped to meet my great ultra running friend Graeme but no sign of him, next time eh! Heading further towards Derry brought more traffic and bigger roads and it also meant the last major town before hitting the majestic beauty of Co Donegal.

(the day started wet.......)

(.........but soon cleared up)

Navigating Derry was not simple with its heavy traffic, roadworks and seemingly endless roundabouts. Mick and Paul were on the case in the van and we passed through without incident. Once through Derry Mick called ahead to his friend Gareth at McLaughlin's Cafe in Muff where a feast was awaiting, ten km's later we rolled in to another banquet. We had forty km's left. Here we feasted on our staple diet of sandwiches, tea and anything else caloric that we could get our grubby paws on. Table etiqutette kind of takes a sabattical in cases like this and conversation is replaced by grunts of approval normally aimed the person responsible for preparing the food. The pains of the morning had given way to a real excitment and the guys were as jazzed as I was. I could scarcely believe that we would be reaching the most northern point in the country within a couple of hours. With stomachs full we got on or trusty steeds for the final push. Once outside my friend Rachael and her fiancee Paul arrived to surprise us, they had been following our progress on the Internet and tracked us down. I was really moved they had driven a long way to share the finish with us.

(at McLaughlin's cafe in Muff)

(Rachael and Paul)

Leaving Muff we rode out along the coast and the views just killed. I mean it was epic. Lough Foyle on our right all the way up before we turned back in on the mainland and I knew from the map that this veering away from water meant it was not going to be long before the signs for Malin appeared. And lo and behold the cheer that erupted from the group when we saw the first sign was hillarious, we were pumping our fists and shouting and being like kids really.

(give me sign)

The roads began to narrow and once we reached the town on Malin we had about fifteen km's to go. Mick climbed back on his bike with his banged up knees and the circle was complete. It was a tough ride due to the terrain but it did not disappoint, the bay and the green of the hills made for an astounding back drop. Many tourists passed us in camper vans and I was very proud that we had made it so far under our own steam. My emotions were running high the closer we got, the guys rallying around me willing me on, telling me that this is what I had come for. With about two km's to go the really tough climbs started, I was dead on my butt and digging deep in the reserves to find anything to propel me along. Turning down a narrow lane I looked up to my right and saw Rachael and Paul at the top, waving and cheering: all the while I am thinking how the hell am I going to get up there. It looked steep. The guys dropped back and I went for it. Out of the saddle, a colossal, primitive push all the way from the centre of the earth, pulsing through my wheels, through my feet , my knees, my hips, my upper body, my arms, every muscle and every fibre twitching and rippling in a propulsive sequence, main-lining adrenaline. Trev stayed on my wheel and reaching the summit my emotions exploded as a thousand thoughts rushed my brain. It was three o clock. All I really remember is dropping my bike and helmet and burying my head in my hands as my friends crossed the line. We hugged, we laughed (I cried) and we stared out to sea in disbelief as we all had achieved something special and we had done it for a cause greater the individuals invloved.


(what an amazing feeling)

(team Pearl)

(epic views)

(Malin head)

There are just too many people to thank so I will save that for another day. All I can say in conclusion is that there is untapped spirit and courage in all of us. There is kindness in people that largely goes unnoticed and unrewarded in modern times. I know that the way to live life is positively and to always reach for something just out of grasp, you never know, you just might surprise yourself.



Distance covered~605 km's
200km run, 405 cycled.
Time~4 days, 8 hrs, 50 minutes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mizen to Malin 2011--Part 1.

I have not really been putting off writing this report but for various reasons life has gotten in the way. Now here I sit not knowing how to do it justice in words. I have tried repeatedly to jot down a lifetimes worth of memories--all of which were condensed into five days--and failed due to being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the experience. I have also feared that by not writing it down soon after I will lose the freshness of it and may omit a person or place that played a vital part in what transpired on the roads of Ireland. I will try to be as brief as I can and hopefully give you, the reader, an insight into crossing my home country on my Mizen to Malin run. I will break it into two parts in order not to overwhelm the reader with details, names and places. Here goes.......

Sat July 2nd.
My crew of the mighty brothers Kilgallon from Mayo--Mick and Mark, who fell under various monickers from Crew-Tang Clan to The Knights of Cydonia, arrived in the afternoon with the Mother Ship. A six berth road monster from my dear friends at Pat Horan Motors that was to be the nerve centre of our trip. All my family and a few loyal friends were there to help us pack and see us off. The road to Cork was going to be a long one and tracks needed to be made. As we were making the final few adjustments to supplies I was checking the latch on the door which was in the open position, as I was doing this Mick slammed the door on my thumb resulting in a nasty cut and likely bruising. We laughed a little at this as a throbbing thumb would probably be the least of my worries a few days down the line.
(ready for the off)

The drive down was great, I had not seen the guys in
a long time so catching up and planning the run made the time pass pretty quickly. We stopped for some very large pizzas on the way and may have over estimated our appetites as neither of us finished the beasts we had ordered. Refuelled and happy we set off again to make Mizen head by sundown, now I could write a whole other post on the amount of wrong turns we took and the jokes that were made on how could we even get to the north if we couldn't navigate Co Cork and to how everyone with a local accent didn't know directions and a young Polish girl did??? We finally made it to Goleen at 11.30 and were greeted by a very patient woman named Mary Sheehan who gave us her holiday cottage for the night and had been waiting for us for about two hours. We parked up ready for the morning and put weary but excited heads on pillows as the clock struck midnight.

Sunday July 3rd

I awoke having not slept, if that makes any sense. I was nervous and excited and fuelled by curiosity and impatience. We all roused ourselves and were in the van at 5am and travelled the few final km's down to Mizen head, the most southerly point in Ireland. I have to say that I have never witnessed anything as tranquil and mesmeric in all my life. Utter silence was punctuated only by the crashing waves against the jagged coastline. The mist that hung over us only added to the mystique. All sense of wonderment and awe soon disappeared as we had a job to do and we still had to figure out why the power points in the van had no juice and we also had zero phone reception, no phones, no Internet, nothing. Mick threw me a quick breakfast together consisting of fruit and pancakes with jam, I find it hard to eat large and then pound the roads. I eat often and light and it has worked for me in the past. I was also going to guzzling 500ml of Carbo Pro per hour which would give me about 300 calories per bottle with 50g of carbohydrate. My thermolytes tabs would take care of my sodium needs. And so with the long road ahead we embraced the adventure and each other and at 6.10am I started my run. Shitting myself.

(l-r Mick and Mark-Champions)

(6am, just before the off)

The first km or so is a winding road uphill,
one can either take this road or the steps. I chose the road to loosen up as a stair master session at this early was a bit much to be attempting. At the top of the hill Mark was waiting for me on the bike and Mick behind us in the van. This is a pattern that would be alternated each afternoon and evening and it worked for the boys and it worked for me. I felt pretty delirious starting out as the views were postcard perfect. Rolling hills of the greenest landscape imaginable. Seagulls flying through the mist and Mick blasting Pearl Jam tunes out through the window made for quite the soundtrack to the roll out. Mark and I chatted with enthusiasm and could not keep the smiles off our faces out of sheer joy and gratitude to be embarking on this challenge. After about an hour of cruising along, a BMW jeep pulls alongside us with two chirpy ladies in it. "Hey, are you Malcolm" shouts the driver. Indeed he is replies Mark and it turns out that Louise and Ann, our new buddies, had read about the trek in the local news letter and decided to get up and join me. This was just magnificent and gave us a taste of the camaraderie and team spirit that would follow us all week. So once all introductions were made they parked up and ran with me. Three had become five.

(rolling out)

(there is no where like it)

(stunning from every angle)

(Ann and Louise join me)

(Louise, Moi, Ann after 10km together)

The company was a real distraction from the ups and downs of the road as Cork is really hilly. Starting at this hour on a Sunday was also a plus as we met very few cars on the winding roads. Ann and Louise were swapping running stories with me and both worried I would be running at a blistering pace, as if. I was happy to let them lead and run ahead of me whenever I felt the effort was too much for me to sustain as I was looking at a hundred km day. The sun rose rapidly and considering how terrible Irish summers can be it felt quite hot. The girls kept well hydrated as did I and Mark was on top of my hydration and salt tabs like clock work. Mick in the mean time was phoning in road reports to friends to put on facebook as a lot of people were keen to know what was going on. After twenty km together Louise's husband pulled up to take the girls back home, they gave us not only their Sunday morning but a really generous donation too. So we said our farewells and took off again. I ran for probably another half hour before taking the first rest of the day at Durrus, thirty three km's in. The boys had me in a chair with a towel, water and a fresh t-shirt before heading in themselves for a full Irish breakfast at the local cafe. We talked to a few locals and got our laptops and Garmin charged up before chowing down on some bananas and off again.

The next part was much harder, the sun was cooking me nicely and I was taking on double the amount of fluids as Mark was putting ice bandannas around my neck to keep my core temperature down. The hills also got steeper and more winding. Coming into the next few towns felt good though as it meant one more under my belt, I was also jazzed to see Mick pulled in on the roadside with a buddy from Cork Brian 'Fletch' Fletcher who I have known for years.


Fletch was on his motor bike so agreed to zip up the road to find a nice place for our next break. He text back to let us now he had found a shady spot with a shop. Perfect. This kept my legs turning over knowing that and ice-cream and a coke were waiting, plus the chance to catch up with a buddy. It seamed like forever but we eventually made it to sixty km's and the feet were most definitely put up. Mick and Mark wasting no time in getting me relaxed and dried off. They were turning into quite the crew after just a half a day and their first time at this too. After Fletch bade us adieu he text us back to let us konw that the next major stop would be Macroom at another forty km away. That would take us to our goal and we decided to eat and put our heads down for a nap.

After an hour or so I was on the road again, I felt stiff an hot and needed to take a chill out in a stream to get my focus back. My stomach was giving me grief from all the carbo pro as I have never really used powdered drinks before, no reflection on the drink as it is an amazing product but I just did not have my hydration dialed in.


At the seventy three km mark on a pretty steep stretch I started coming undone. Mick was now on the bike at this stage and I was weaving slightly and losing focus. I stopped briefly to drink some water and continued the climb. About three quarters of the way up I just ambled over to a road sign, grabbed the pole like it was a life buoy and proceeded to projectile vomit against a wall. Is was like a geyser flowing out of me and I basically emptied myself, belched loudly, looked at Mick and told him we were making an unscheduled break. I lay in the van for about half an hour feeling fragile and afraid. The devil on my shoulder was telling me to worry and that my race was already finished. The guys were outside wondering how bad I was and I was trying hold down water with no joy. I calmed myself, re-wired my thought process and started with sips of Lucozade to get some glucose in me. Within the hour I was climbing down the steps and back on the road with a predator approach. My body felt week yes, but that's natural, it was my mind that needed the kick start and once I hit the road again I was determined and fired up. I had done a 180 degree turn by just calming down and believing in a higher purpose than just myself and the undulating road ahead. I stuck on some tunes and kept the fire lit and barely felt the clicks (as we had started calling the kilometres) pass by. At the ninety five mark it was approaching 10 .30 pm and Macroom was just up the way, we cruised in to top off day one hundred km's from where we had started. Mick made a tasty bowl of pasta and I made some fuelling changes for the following day. We found a parking space on the side of the main road (bad idea) and went to sleep, well that was the plan anyway.

Monday July 4th.

Again, very little sleep. We had taken a spot at a truck sleep stop and they let us know ALL about it during the night by blowing their horns each time one passed. Hey, you live you learn. We got stuck into breakfast and stuck into the road. A local hotel let us use their toilets and gave us two full buckets of ice and a hearty send off. I was very stiff getting started and it took at least twenty minutes for my legs to comply with the rest of my body, still it didn't take long to get to Millstreet and the half marathon stage. Mick was waiting with the most spectacular fry-up as I needed the calories and I needed to settle my stomach so I took some motillium too. The alternated strategy of one bottle of water followed by one bottle of carbo pro was working to my advantage which lifted a weight off my mind.

(my last visit to Millstreet was a Pearl jam concert in 96)

(breakfast a la Mick)

The feast put me right back on track but I needed sleep, and I got it. Almost two glorious hours of rest and I was charged to cruise on, it was also the second day of high temperatures. The boys made some calls on the road and a friend, Diarmuid, had hooked us up with someone he knew at a pub in Kanturk where more food awaited. That was the carrot I needed and made the twenty five km's ahead a little easier to bear. The road continued to to test my limbs and I was fast growing tired of the fact that I had been running for a day and a half and was still in the same county, this proved to be a psychological obstacle I haven't forgotten about to this day. Arriving in Kanturk took us to over fifty km and our next break. Boy were we spoiled. Abbie Buckley of Kelly's Bar in Kanturk had everything but a red carpet rolled out.... for three hairy, smelly guys she had never laid eyes on. She took us into her home and laid on a spread of home made broth, bread, sandwiches, deserts and a never ending tea pot. She then threw two refuse sacks of ice into a bath for me where I sat in bliss. I followed this with a shower as did Mick and Mark. She could not have done enough for us and sent us off with hugs, more fruit and food and smiles on our faces. I didn't even want to run smelling all nice and fresh but run I did. Abbie, THANK YOU.

(Abbie Buckley-Saint)

After this stop things would never be the same for me though and a few dark hours lay ahead. I was fine initially and the crew were hard at work as usual delivering a seamless flow of t-shirts, bottles and snacks. It was like an OR assistant feeding tools to a surgoen to get the operation done. But I was feeling a searing pain in the tendons of my left leg, the same irritaion that had taken me to the doc weeks earlier. This had been a real worry for me from the outset and now it was becoimng a harsh reality as I knew the pain would only intensify from here on in. At the seventy km point I was forced to stop and we had a little break on the van with a bite to eat. The swelling was glaringly obvious and with the intended goal set a ninety km's for the day it was looking unlikely, I decided that I would push on for a total of eighty instead and got back in the road at about nine o clock, hobbling. The next ten km's were pure agony and neither Advil nor anti inflammatories were going to tame it. It was quickly turning from a strictly-front-of-shin pain to an all encompassing throb. My Achilles taking a hammering on the never ending hills. For the last five km's I was power walking with Mick (who had ditched the bike to join me). Mark came out for the last kilometre and we all walked it together. Mark had also scored a great parking place just short of Killmallock with a family who gave us sandwiches, tea and a shower for Mick. I was too depressed to see or talk to anyone as I knew what tomorrow would bring. With a heavy head and in a world of pain, I hit the pillow.

Tuesday July 5th.

I awoke in a state of dread, until of course Mick told me the story of the folks who had welcomed us into thier driveway. We never even got their names but suffice to say the hospitality, donation and perspective we parted with will never be forgetten. This was a family struck by a double personal tragedy years ago and the story Mick relayed to us will always remind me to be grateful for all I have. Moving on and back to the road. I was walking at this stage. An arrhythmitic, sloppy shuffle had replaced my sride of the morning before and the further I went the worse it became. Mick was now constantly by my side and the any time I tried to run I got about a hundred metres before stopping and leaning against a wall for relief. I know all the quotes and sayings about it being just pain and its all in the mind etc. I also know the difference between stubborness and stupidity and I knew I needed a professional assessment. Stiffness, cramps and other issues I have run through in the past but this felt like nothing I had endured before. Electric shock like spasms were darting from the base of my ankle up to my knees regularly. Flexing my foot became impossible and my ankle was twice the size of its comrade. After approximately twenty one kilometres covered in just under three hours we pulled up in a place called Herbertstown, Limerick. This was two hundred km's run exactly since Mizen head and even though I had a notion in the back of my mind that my running days were over, I still hadn't admitted it to my crew, or myself for that matter. We parked up and discussed tactics. Our wonder crew on the phones back at base were Diarmuid at the Brosna Press and Olivia at Horan Motors and little did we know that behind the scenes they were calling everyone they knew trying to get a physio to us. Facebook was blowing up with support from friends who were offering to finish it as a relay or motorbike run with a Running for Pearl flag up to Malin. Moving stuff no doubt but I was still physically broken and mentally not really with it either. Finally the call came through, a physio was going to meet us in Newport, twenty five km's up the road. We were going to drive there and then back to the point where we stopped but I had a different idea. Sure that the physio was going to pull me from the road complelely I said to Mick "Give me your bike, I'll make it to Malin under my own steam, one way or the other"...... It was mid day.

Italic(my face says it all)

(what to do next?)

To be continued in part II next week.

Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.