Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Malin to Mizen – Establishing the truth

EDIT - Just to be totally clear the opinions and interpretation of events below are entirely mine (Andrew McDonagh; amcdonagh(at)flexability.ie) and was written by me without reference to anyone else. I take 100% responsibility for the following text...

Is it really a year since M2M? I have to say it doesn’t feel like it! It’s been a great year for me personally and professionally. Among other things I learned to ski, managed to expand the company I own internationally, established a running website and broke three hours in a marathon for the first time. But head and shoulders above everything else are the few days on the road from Donegal to Cork; the most infuriating, frustrating, exhilarating and satisfying few days I think I have ever spent.

By now it’s a matter of public record that GWR rejected our record application. There seemed to be some flim flam over exactly why, but it essentially boiled down to their opinion that they could not award a record where there was active controversy. The fact that the “controversy” was ill informed and based on third party hearsay didn’t seem to matter. As long as there was “controversy” there could be no record. Frankly I found it baffling – akin to teaching Creationism alongside Evolution but there you go, it’s their club so they set the rules. And a piece of paper makes absolutely no difference to me. I saw Jo run from one end of the country to the other faster than anyone else ever has and that’s good enough for me.

So why – a year later – am I back here?

Well the Internet is chock full of lone cranks ranting and raving in dusty and unvisited corners and what they think shouldn’t matter to anyone. But in our case it seems that the M2M run attracted the attention of a Mr Richard Donovan and – in my opinion – he and the URI wanted the attempt to fail from the beginning. I don’t know if he takes satisfaction from helping deny Jo the record after her heroic efforts (and incidentally slinging enough mud to hinder the fundraising activities of the charity) but the “commentary” on the URI website has been updated pretty frequently though so you can draw your own conclusions.

My legal advice was that we had grounds for action but frankly why bother? The fundraising was over so there was nothing to gain from further publicity so our theory was that if we ignored him then his page would quietly sink into oblivion. However he continues to bounce up and down in the corner demanding that we look at him and listen to his opinions. And he has continued to write about me. Frequently.

So here it is – the factual account of what actually happened on a sunny day in May on a lonely stretch of rarely run road…

Ultra Running Ireland and their claims of jurisdiction

As we were driving up to Donegal, less than 24 hours from starting the event we had a phone call from GWR. They told us that they had received a call from someone claiming to be from the national governing body for point to point distance running in Ireland insisting that GWR had no right to award a record without the URI sanctioning it. Jo and I had previous dealings with Richard and that was the reason we decided to seek a GWR. Knowing he was trying to muscle in on adjudication was bad news.

In a nutshell Richard held the record we were attempting to break. He had certified this record through the governing body he chairs (the URI). The inner workings of the URI are hard to fathom as membership is closed – you must have represented Ireland at least twice at Ultra distance in order to be granted full membership. And Irish Ultra Runners are selected by the URI, under the direction of… Richard Donovan. Incidentally Richard makes at least part of his living from staging ultra running events in Ireland. Standard distance events need to be certified by the AAI for them to be official. Ultra events on the other hand need to be certified by the URI. So Richard has responsibility for sanctioning his own races. And of course processing the applications for certification from his direct commercial rivals.

Now we had flagged up weeks in advance and in a very public way that we were going to be making this attempt and that we were going to be doing so under the auspices of GWR. URI were well aware of our plans but rather than contacting us to indicate that they felt they should have a hand in certification or passing on their certification standards they waited until the day before the event. And even then they approached GWR rather than us.

Now GWR contacted the global governing body (the IAU) who in turn directed them to the URI. Later on a representative of the URI was to publically claim that the IAU told GWR to talk to URI – the impression conveyed was that GWR had proactively contacted the URI to discuss the run and URIs right to certify it, giving a sheen of respectability to their effort to claim authority over the run. In my opinion URI and Richard were adept at taking a situation and presenting it in a manner that showed them to the best possible advantage – something we simply couldn’t compete with in the middle of the event.

In actual fact the URIs claims of authority were totally empty. URI had no right to sanction a record. What makes me so sure? Well I know nothing about these things but I am pretty sure that Norman Wilson, the Vice President of IAU and the Chair of the IAU Records Committee knows what he is talking about. So I asked him in an email if the IAU had any dealing with long distance point to point record keeping (being from the UK the example of Lands End to John O’Groats, their equivalent of M2M was used). His answer is illuminating:

For records such as Lands End to John O Groats in the UK the Guinness book of records would inform you of the rules for this type of record .National records and IAU World best performances and World age best performance for standard distances can be find on the IAU Website under statistics dated 21/02/10.For 100km road this would be ratified by the IAAF

So the head of records at the IAU – the global governing body – pointed me to the GWR for a point to point record. But the URI – sanctioned locally by the IAU – reckon that they do sanction records. So Richard – the guy who holds the record remember – is claiming that he has the right to decide if we have broken his record or not based on his mandate from the governing body to do something that the governing body say they don’t do! Confused yet?!

The Maguire Incident

Oh if only I could turn back time so that I could pay a bit more attention in map reading lessons during my Inter Cert Geography!

Crewing a point to point Ultra is a huge navigational challenge. On one hand you are working on a scale you are familiar with – distances of 100km a day or whatever involve standard routing of town A then town B. But because you are moving at running speed your actual navigation of that route is on a micro scale – you are literally planning from tree to tree and lamppost to lamppost. And – as an inexperienced crew member – I will admit that I dropped the ball. We were on a long straight road heading towards Swanlibar. On the map the road looked very simple so I hopped into the camper to get the next set of feeds for Jo. She caught up with me sooner than I had expected and yelled in the window for directions as she ran past. Keep straight on to Swanlibar!” I called back.

Except it wasn’t straight on. A short distance up the road there was a Y junction that had a triangle of rough land dividing it (see the grab from Google Maps with the GPS plot). It was clearly a junction and the left fork was sign-posted Swanlibar. Having been told to head for there Jo took the left fork, running down towards the apex of the triangle. Getting there it was pretty clear she was now no longer running straight on, even though she was (without knowing it) still on the right route.

Would have, could have, should have. If only. Why didn’t?

Easy to be wise after the event – I should have been sharper on the maps. Jo could have stopped and waited at that point. A hundred and one things could have been differently done. But they weren’t.

Jo turned at the apex and ran back up the other side of the triangle, on the wrong road where she continued on for a few hundred metres before we caught up with her.

Now the GWR rules are very clear. An athlete can leave the route at any time and be driven back to it again but they must cover the entire point to point on foot with no gaps and the clock stays running at all times, irrespective of if the athlete is on the course or not. Indeed this is common in many long distance events – track runners in 24 hour races can leave the track for toilet breaks for example. So when we caught up with Jo she jumped in the camper to be driven back to the junction, just as we drove her back to the course every morning.

The sudden panic we had when Steff pulled back into traffic was that the GPS watch might lose it’s signal – a moving vehicle, under a roof and boxes of crap above the seat could all block the satellite signal it needed. Rather than throw Jo out and make her return on foot I was given the watch and I ran it back. Jo was driven to the junction where she walked back to the point she had deviated from the point to point route and waited for me. I ran up, handed over the watch and away she went.


Except the claim from URI is that I ran a “considerable” distance on the point to point route! For a start Jo went no more than 600m on the wrong course so there was never a considerable distance in the first place – I ran no more than a few hundred metres in total. And Jo stood and waited for me at the junction, the point where she left the course – I handed her the watch and I got back in the van. I DID NOT RUN A SINGLE STEP ON THE POINT TO POINT COURSE WEARING THE GPS WATCH IN PLACE OF JO!! I keep hearing about evidence from Richard. I’d love to know what it is because there must have been a rift in the space time continuum if he has evidence of my cheating! So Richard Donovan and the URI please make publically available whatever “evidence” you claim you have. It can’t be photographs of me on the M2M route because I wasn’t on it (although we all know by now that I was running off the route). It can’t be video and for the same reasons. Maybe the URI – without my knowledge – recorded the conversation between Thomas, Steff and I. If so then release it but in full and unedited. There can be no evidence of cheating because there was no cheating.

Why would I cheat?

Yes I am labouring a point but it’s taken me a year to write this so bear with me!

Why would I cheat? An athlete taking steroids to get into the Olympics has an obvious motive. The saddo who cuts a couple of miles off his marathon route is motivated by claiming a time they couldn’t achieve honestly. Even the coaches who supply doping products to athletes have clear motives (money, fame). If you were cynical and didn’t know Jo you could assume she had a motive to cheat – after all it would be her name on the cert and she would collect the plaudits. As it happens I think she would have dropped dead on the course before cheat but that’s another days discussion.

But me? What would I stand to gain from running chunks of the course for Jo?

For a start I’m a marathon runner not an Ultra runner. Back to back long distance runs would have destroyed me physically (that’s why I had the bike). And for what? I have known Jo for years but she’s an acquaintance rather than a close friend. We have met a few times and run in a couple of the same events (sometimes without knowing it!) but we are not close friends – we have never been to each other’s homes for example. So what would I have to gain from systematically cheating on her behalf?

In fact if anything it was in my interests to keep the run honest – my wife is an employee of the charity that benefitted from the run. Any negative publicity would have the capacity to reflect badly on her, potentially harming her career and in extremes costing her her job. Remember that the fundraising was in full swing and getting the record would have no impact on the amount raised. As I am self employed the potential cost to me of cheating was also enormous – if clients thought I would cheat on a running event how could they trust me to bill them accurately? And while the run was of huge importance to Jo would she risk a high profile academic career just to get a piece of paper for her wall?

Occams razor is a great concept. Take two competing theories that explain a set of observations and whichever is simplest, whichever requires the fewest assumptions, is the best theory.

So would my wife lay her career on the line and risk her charities reputation (including it’s ability to fundraise and receive continued government support) and would I risk my legs and reputation to gain a certificate and some fleeting glory for someone we don’t know that well?

Or was the URI witness just mistaken in what he thought he saw?

Meeting the URI man who said he wasn’t from URI and subsequent communications

I was handing over a food bag to Jo when the man I later learned was Thomas Maguire approached me. He introduced himself and was at pains to point out that he was “there for himself and no-one else” and he asked a legitimate question – why was I running with the watch while Jo was in the van?

I vaguely recognised Mr Maguire’s name but couldn’t place him so – assuming he was a random runner who I wouldn’t be able to contact again – I attempted to explain what had happened. This was despite the fact that I hadn’t discussed the episode with Jo so had no clear understanding of the route she had run around the junction. I explained to Thomas about the navigational error, said that I wore the watch to measure the distance off route we were and that any errors would be of no consequence as the distances involved were so short and Jo was covering the whole thing on foot so even though she had gone 600m or whatever off the track there would be no concern over her doing the full distance. In truth I was tired, stressed and operating on minimal sleep and limited information so I doubt very much that I made an awful lot of sense.

But here is the important thing. Thomas was at the time totally satisfied with my explanation. How do I know that? Well he told me so. And why should you take my word for that? Well you don’t need to. Because Steff asked Thomas to fill in a GWR witness form in support of our application. I interrupted and said that might put him in a difficult position but he disagreed and completed the form for us, including his name, email address and contact numbers (I can publish it but haven’t simply as his personal details are there, if this account is disputed though I will have to do so to prove that I am telling the truth). It is interesting that in the URI version of the story this became Thomas signing a piece of paper to verify his identity! Even more usefully at the time Thomas – an international standard ultra runner himself – gave a huge amount of very useful technical advice on how we as crew could manage Jo, particularly in light of the unusually hot weather.

Now if he had seen obvious cheating and if he had been unhappy with my explanation would he have completed a witness form and helped us with advice? Or was he happy with the explanation he had heard in the context of what he had seen and decided that we had done nothing wrong? Again think of Occams Razor…

And how did the URI react to this when it was passed up the line? Well Richard didn’t get in touch – instead Eoin Keith did. Do you think that the governing body informed us they suspected a breach of the rules and would be in touch after the event to investigate? Did they call or email and say they had heard we had an issue and what had happened, what was our side of the story? Or did they instead demand that we drop the event immediately? Sadly yes they assumed guilt from an unsubstantiated third party account without ever asking us what had happened. To my mind the real motivation for the lack of a proper enquiry or following of established sports disciplinary procedures became clear when Eoin suggested that if we were to drop our attempt at breaking his Chairman’s record with immediate effect and say it was a technical error then they would remove all reference to the attempt from their website. Yes I know, if you watched enough American cop programs you would interpret that as blackmail but I am convinced it was offered with the purest of motives…

The warm down

The content is still up on the URI website and Richard continues to send emails that someone with a thinner skin than mine could find upsetting. In them he continues insisting that he will sue me and everyone and anyone else who publically disagrees with him. For example my new website published an article on how to use online resources to research races and – literally within hours – I had an angry mail from him. One of many in fact, including some with his legendary sign off “yours in litigious anticipation”! I think it might be supposed to be threatening rather than pompous and faintly ridiculous but there you go. And he has also re-written the article on his website a couple of times and has even put a fairly awful photo of me! You would have thought that he would have better and more constructive things to do with his time than faff about sending those sorts of emails but there you go.

As for me I’m still rushed off my feet and trying to fit in a bit of running. I have been told I have a solid case for legal action but the reasons I didn’t before haven’t gone away – after all why raise the profile of someone whose sole contribution is always negative? Am I just as bad as him if I launch action against the likes of Eoin and Thomas? I have a bit of time yet to decide; a part of me wants to simply to put him in his place but it’s probably more hassle than it’s worth. And this article gave me a chance to close this chapter once and for all, to tell my story in a way I haven’t been able to.

So that’s it! Now you know what really happened and I have finally had a chance to counter the allegations and tell the truth about both that day and all of the associated shenanigans. It’s something I have been meaning to do for a while so it’s nice to tick it off the list. Now if only I was able to do all my other outstanding tasks (Steff tells me our bedroom needs a coat of paint…)

Monday, May 31, 2010

No sleep 'til Mizen!

The dust is now starting to settle on what was an amazing adventure for Jo and her crew. I worked it out that in a period of 144 hours, we had about 18 hours sleep! I didn't seem to notice how tired I was at the time and I think I am still catching up now.

As a non runner it was a totally unique experience for me to be part of the support crew. I drove the Campervan, prepared Jo's food, drink and meds, spoke to the media, liaised with support runners and worried continually about Jo and her feet.

We met some amazing people along the way - staff in hotels, massage therapists, witnesses along the route and especially the support cyclists and runners. They were very generous with their time and energy and made me laugh. It was clear that many of them were in awe of Jo and the challenge she was undertaking - as we all were. Jo was so focused in spite of her obvious pain.

We were fortunate enough to have much of what we needed for the trip provided by sponsors. Jo went through about 50 or so Lucozade Sports drinks, several Nuun tablets to replace her electrolytes, several packs of Physicool to cool and treat her poor feet, lots of fig rolls, ham and jam sandwiches - the campervan really did serve as her mobile base camp and for that we are extremely grateful to Vanderlust.

In the last 48 hours, when we were really working against the clock and Jo must have been running on less than empty, the pressure was really on. The event went through the night with the end goal finally in sight. I cannot describe the feeling, as just a crew member, of getting to Mizen Head. Half elated and half wiped out. We had to go through a site safety briefing and wear a hard hat, glasses and hi viz vests before being led out to where the bridge once was - it had been demolished and was now a construction site. We made our way across scaffolding 45 metres above sea level. Over 3 foot girders and under 3 foot girders, down planks, up planks - at the time I had no concept of how high up we were or that there was just rocks and sea below. There were 99 steps down and a winding pathway before the final few steps to the beacon. Jo must have thought the end would never come! Don't forget she had to retrace this route on the way back - except the 99 steps were now up!

For any of you who haven't been, Mizen Head has the most amazing view and the visitors centre(we had to revisit from Limerick last weekend due to the bike being left behind - long story) was fabulous, especially for kids. They couldn't have been more helpful.

The event had great media coverage, especially from the Irish speaking press, the Carers Association really have benefited both from the money raised - thank you if you donated, and from enhancing it's profile.

Would I do it again? Not this year, but I have ideas for next year!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We did it!!!

We set out with an very, very aggressive target. And when the weather was with us on the first day that target looked achievable. But who would have predicted a heatwave in Ireland in May?! The heat played havoc with Jo's feet and there were times when I wondered how she did it (usually when Niall was using his trusty campaign knife to hack away the excess flesh from the blisters before....well I'm sure you get the picture and don't need me to carry on!)

We ended up settling into a routine - Jo would go as far as she could and we'd then take her into the campervan and get her off her feet. First priority was always to cool her feet down (I had never used Physicool before but my God did it work!) and she often napped with the bandages on. After that was blister care and taping of the feet before she strapped up the trainers and ran on.

I see that our last proper update ended just North of Kilmallock. I'll try and give a rough highlight of the last - insane - branch of the journey from memory (Jo has all of the GPS data).

We stayed at the amazing Deebert Park Hotel - the thing that made the Deebert Park special was just how out of their way they went to make Jo feel special - even to the extent of the owner running Jo's shower for her! Not that we enjoyed what the hotel had to offer for long - we arrived at 11pm, ate, wrote up what we could, made our plans and went to bed between 1 and 2 before getting up at 4:00 ready to hit the road out again...

I had received a message through Boards that someone wanted to see us off. Can't be possible I figured - not at that time. But there was "Rainbowdrop" to say hello and good luck in the lobby despite having an exam at 10:30!

We had to detour for diesel for the van on the way to the drop point but got going again with a plan to stop when...

Well we didn't really plan to stop properly again until Mizen. We were going to run through the night, for 48 hours straight to claw back our lost time. A plan that only the chronically sleep deprived could consider to be sane.

There were some great highlights early on in the day - Jo running into Kilmalock to find all the local schoolchildren lining the street and chanting her name is a sight I'll never forget. We ploughed on all day with just breaks called as needed - 5 minutes here, an hour there. Once more we were joined by great support at various times - Andy, I never did fall off that bike for you! - and they made all the difference. Emmet, Juliet, Lisa, Sinead, Andy you really helped take Jo's mind off the pain.

A special mention though to Ger, the man who sorted out the Pearl Izumi gear for us. What a gent - up at the crack of silly o'clock and covered a huge distance with unfailing charm, wit and good grace. A great guy to have around and he still owes me a pint!

All the towns are blurring into one now but when we were joined by Andy and Juliet Jo was feeling hungry and with very specific cravings so Andy and I set set off on a mad hunt through the town for... a chipper! We must have looked totally demented, two lads in running gear belting through the town before skidding to a halt at a kebab shop. We dived in and waited for the chips then hopped out and legged it back, bag of chips in hand! I have no idea what people watching us must have thought was going on...

Into the dusk and the camper van was parked for two hours while Jo slept. It then stayed behind while Ray O'Connor drove down from Galway, allowed his beautiful BMW 6 series to be trashed as a support vehicle while he drove behind Jo through the night. He then left us before 7am to return to Galway and start a days work. How constructive the meetings were after that, who knows?!

At this stage we took over with the van and I replaced Niall to accompany Jo for a short stretch of the road. It was amazing - we jogged along at a gentle pace, walked the uphills and chatted away. I had a vision that this is what our future holds - when we are in our 80s that's exactly what we'll all still be doing, plodding along and talking rubbish. Stunning scenery but narrow roads with complex navigation were raising thier own challenges now and the hills were sometimes quite sharp. Jimmy (Niall's Dad) and Don deserve special mention on plotting the route and in particular Jimmy did a great jo of getting us through there safely.

Despite the pain he was clearly in himself it soon became clear that Jo needed Niall with her and it became increasingly clear that we would not only come home inside Jane's time (see below, Jane Porter ran M2M previously and so had set the marker to beat) but we could well come home faster than the best time reported anywhere by anyone for M2M.

The last few kilometres were excruciating. Watching someone endure so much pain at close quarters and knowing that you could end it instantly by telling them to stop but knowing that the right thing for them to do was to force themselves on, is difficult. Ultra running is all about endurance and we saw Jo enduring some ferocious agony as she closed in. The Ordinance Survey came up trumps by reporting out accurate distances between the various towns and if Jo could only sustain the pace we'd be on target. In truth there were times where we just hoped for her to be able to stay upright never mind mobile.

And of course the bridge to the lighthouse is currently down for repairs. Which is a polite way of saying that it's been entirely demolished and a temporary scaffolding bridge is now in place and so the lighthouse is sealed off to visitors and tourists.

Would this destroy the attempt? Defeated at the last hurdle?


Enda - Site Engineer for Carillion who are managing the project stayed behind. Poor Jo had to stand while she had a site safety briefing (I believe I am safe to say that is a first for a M2M record attempt) before she donned a hard hat and safety glasses and was led away.

They hadn't joked about the bridge - we have photos of it but it was an obstacle course. Not that Jo would let that stop her. Over it, around the path and onto the lighthouse itself.

Her time?

5 days, 13 hours, 44 minutes and 45 seconds*

A new fastest time for crossing Ireland on foot, male or female.

Now doesn't that feel good to say!

* (pending review of the GPS data and verification)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Brief update...

95 km done today and stopped north of Killmalock (I wasn't with Jo at the end so exact point I don't know at this point).

Full report later but we are making one last heroic effort, we'll probably be in Kilmalock around 9 - 10 and if anyone from anywhere is around please please please come and watch. The moral boost we get from support is unreal and we need independent witness to complete the book of evidence for GWR.

I'm pretty confident that the next 48 hours are going to be the most intense of Jo's life. Do you want to be part of it?

A word from Niall...

Ok the personal report from today. Just my ramblings.

We got up and headed to the start and Joanne and I along with Sinead on a bike pushed
out some nice miles. We were met by Sarah who also was on a bike and it all went well
till the sun came up. It got even hotter than yesterday. High twenties and at one stage
it hit 30 deg in Athlone we think. Long before Athlone we had issues with the heat so Jo
stopped in Ballymahon between Longford and Athlone for a nap.

After the nap all went well for awhile

The feet were in a bad way from the pounding and all the blisters and the started
getting worse, a trend that my rusty knife and I arrested. I am not sure how much more
of this heat we can actually take. If we had wanted heat then we would have planned to
run in July. I have a lovely photo of the underside of Joannes runners with so much
tarmac attached to the sole that they started to resemble the road. All from a little
heat this weekend.

As the day wore on and we wore out, I went off to recon the route through Athlone by
bike. I made it back to meet the first carload of Cork people to turn up. My father had
decide it was time to show his face and I didn't pre warn our victim (ahem) athlete. It
gave a much needed boost and she was then joined by a couple of Army marathon runners
(Pat/ Jimmy and Tom) who took turns keeping Joanne company. I was wrecked and needed the
support and I left Steff and Andrew the job of training in the newbies.

By now we had made it to the other side of Athlone and the second Cork carload arrived.
Don, Lisa and clan had landed and spent a few hours treating Joanne like royalty.
Complete with a golf umbrella over her head. Everyone who arrived today brought
something to the game. And we needed it.

After making it as far as Doon we had to call it a day. 'Only' 70km done today. I never
thought that would sound bad (ONLY). We are now around 290km into the run and we are
already a day or more down (slower). Any harder in this heat would have resulted in a
premature end to Joanne's run.

Now the plan is to survive! Pure and simple. Hold the feet together and make it home.
After today we had a Carer's fund raising do. The line of well wishers picked up
spirits, people who genuinely needed this money to support others, helping them to care
was a huge boost.

Something as simple as a child realizing nothing is impossible or looking at a big map
of Ireland. Seeing not the long road but sections of roads traveled, identified by the
strangers that surrounded you, picks up the lone runner's spirits. You would be
surprised how the little things count.

Onward and downward.

PS: Sorry for not updating facebook or answering text messages. It is just so much
effort keeping it together as the support team that I just can't get around to you all.
I will try though. I have passed on all the wishes to Joanne.

M2M - Day 3

Do you know where the hottest place in Ireland was yesterday? I was told it was Athlone with a sweltering 30 degrees.

Guess where we were running yesterday?

That’s right, Athlone!

Yet another difficult day. We made a good start, straight to our start point, grabbed the photo and off we went. Again the food plan was going well and we started confidently. But even by 7am we could tell it was going to be a scorcher and the heat was hitting Jo hard. At one point (while being filmed by yet another TV cameraman!) the tarmac under her had actually melted and was sticking to her feet! We ploughed on mixing walks with runs and just making sure that we were getting as much fluid and food into her as was humanly possible.

We made it as far as Ballymahon by 11:30 and the heat was steadily building. The pace was dropping steadily so we made the call to get her in out of the sun. We were probably stopped for around 90 mins during which Niall sorted out her feet and Jo rested. The support crew was amazing – first thing we had Sinead and Sarah who drove out to bike with us, great dedication considering the time they had to get up at! They handed over to John (who drove up from Dublin) and Siobhan / Simon (a husband and wife team who sacrificed a day on the beach with there kids to come with us!)

After the break Jo set off strong and in great spirits – we are obviously running behind our original target but that was a very aggressive one anyway so I think the entire camp are comfortable with where we are. Given the conditions and the terrain I don’t think anyone could have got here faster and Jo is in great spirits.

Our frustration at this stage centres on her feet – her legs (and everything else) are fine but her feet are in ribbons and require care more or less every hour. We are wrapping them in the Physicool bandages, which are doing a great job of cooling them down but blister management is now a major issue.

Again though the support from all around was gob smacking – Nialls’s father Jimmy and Jill his partner, another Jimmy who I think just turned up at the side of the road to run with us, Tom and Pat who drove from the depths of County Clare and did nothing but abuse me all afternoon (Tom is the evil individual who lent us the bike and he just sniggered about my sore backside having watched me wobble around on his bike on the news). We also had Don, Lisa and clan (including doggie Sam!)

At this stage it was early evening and we were on the far side of Athlone but the sun was still direct and strong so Jimmy Crowley had the bright idea of using a golf umbrella as a parasol. So we had the insane looking procession of Jo walking along the road under an umbrella being held for her by one of the lads followed in procession by all the kids and the dog!

At this point as well Steff proved what a bright spark she is by introducing some livewire conversation while on the phone… She was waffling away happily on the phone when she reached out to rest her hand on the fence she was standing beside. Which – naturally – was an electric fence! She just got a bit of a sting on her finger but being mean it gave us all a laugh!

Shortly after that at a place called Doon Cross we called it a day and headed into Nenagh to bed down for the night but before we did we showed our faces (briefly) at a fundraiser. Niall has a personal post I’ll put up here after this one that covers it but it was great to see familiar faces (Bridget, Ray) and for Jo to meet some of the carers that will benefit from her efforts. Anna, thank you for organising, it was great.

And that’s about it! “Only” 70kms done but 290ish in total. I’m writing this at 8:41 am and she’s already covered nearly 20kms and the cooler weather has made such a difference she’s just churning out 9 min / kms like she’s out for a gentle recovery run – you wouldn’t know to look at her how hard this has been.

Thanks again for the messages of support and please I’ll stress again if you want to come out and watch get in touch either with us or the Carers Association and they’ll give you a heads up on where to come to. And please remember this is all for a good cause, if you can’t make it to cheer us on in person a contribution to The Carers Association would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On mobile broadband so no pictures this time but I have some crackers for you when I'm back in a proper base!

Day 2 was an utter nightmare. I think that we may have been the only people in Ireland hoping for a cool, damp weekend! Instead we got hot, humid and hotter. What didn't help was the terrain which was consistently hilly - I had a bad feeling when the very first street sign we saw was for the "Longhill Road"! And it was...both long and hilly...

Anyway, there was a bit of a faff in the morning, we were about a 45 minute drive from the end point and because it was a spray painted marker on the road surface down a boreen it took longer to find than anticipated so we were late starting, probably 6:45ish. While it was cool early on the hills were savage and it took a lot out of Jo. As crew we were also having trouble with the navigation, narrow country lanes with unmarked junctions and roads that simply weren't on maps meant that we were constantly scouting ahead and trying to double back in time to update Jo before she took a wrong turn.

Once we got onto a major road things got easier but of course by then it was hotter. And thats when I made my boo-boo (sorry Jo!) We were in the van sorting out the next feeds and planning when she ran by and I hadn't spotted a junction a few hundred meters ahead. "Right or Left?" yells Jo. "Right" says I, then dashed off to verify on the maps... You know what happens next, don't you?

Of course it should have been left so we caught up with Jo and yelled at her to stop. Now we have been living and breathing Guinness World Record rulebooks for a few weeks and the rules are pretty clear that a competitor can leave the course and if they do they can be driven back to it. My panic though was that if Jo's Garmin (the GPS watch tracking her distance) was driven in the van it might go nuts, lose the signal or otherwise misbehave. Call it paranoia but I just didn't want to take the risk. Additionally by running with it I could run to (and tell Jo when I was at) the correct spot for the hand-back when she was back where she should have been. It probably seems silly to someone reading this that we would drive her a few hundred meters rather than just let her run it but any wasted effort was too much as far as I was concerned.

So I got to run with the famous Malin to Mizen Garmin watch! Hurrah!

Steff drove Jo back to the correct point on the course and I handed over the GPS for her to carry on from there. I'm trying to make light of it now but at the time I was worried about Jo - there had been a few minor niggles but stuff like that can erode a runners confidence in the team and feeling stiff, sore, tired and with so far still to go I was concerned about the impact it might have on her state of mind. This kind of thing is as much mental as physical and I felt bad that I could have put more pressure on her than been a help.

(Para regarding witness removed due to subsequent developments)

The rest of the day progressed with more and more walk breaks and a constant battle to manage Jo's feet, which are swelling and blistering in the heat. Which is fustrating because her legs feel fine. The feed strategy (thanks Tony!) is working brilliantly and Jo has had no tummy trouble but obvioulsy the day was taking it's toll on her mentally. Thankfully just as she was fading David arrived to run with her and he kept her in good spirits until Drumlish, County Longford (thanks to the pub patrons who gave very vocal support by the way!) where we called it a day. 96kms run day 2 with 221kms in total.

Keep an ear out on the radio news and an eye on the TV because we're hoping for more press today and tonight (Sunday) we have a function in Long Charlies pub on Kenyon Street in Nenagh, so if you are there come along and give a shout hello!