Photo by Dave MackeyHaving never raced in a straight mountain bike race before I thought I’d give the St Fillan’s Mountain Bike Challenge a blast which took place in the beautiful Perthshire countryside. Rachel also entered the race and we couldn’t have had a better day for it. Although it felt cold the sun was shining and the ground was dry. Trying to fix Rachel’s brakes on the start line didn’t quite work and she had to ride the race without a front brake…which was fine for the uphill start but not so fine for the downhill finish! The race began with a short road section before breaking off into the woods and starting a significant climb. It spread the field out and as a couple of riders disappeared into the distance I found myself 5th where I remained for the race. The terrain was very Photo by Dave Mackeyenjoyable after the initial climb and the course constituted of undulating fire roads. We raced out to the highest point of the course before doubling back on ourselves which enabled you to find out how much work to do if positions were to be gained. I saw Rachel on this part…the leading female rider, although it looked a close race. I was quite far off the first two riders but not too far from 3rd and 4th. As the course took us past the half way point and mainly downwards I pushed hard to try and gain a place but found 4th place was no where in sight. A steep descent with a few tight bends took us back to the village before crossing the finish line. 18 miles in total with over 2000ft of climb, it was a great race and highly enjoyable. We’ll be back next year for sure…Rachel has to defend her Women’s Open title!

Mountain Bike Challenge Results


LVO back at the City AirportLast weekend I had the opportunity to travel over to England with LVO and compete at the Compass Sport Cup. This is a club competition and attracts most of the ‘big’ clubs in Britain. LVO was the only club to represent Northern Ireland and was also first time the club had ever entered the Compass Sport Cup. Thirty nine club members came along and it was a very good opportunity (for me) to get to know some of them better. Because we had planned to fly over on Saturday morning a few of us also had the opportunity to enter the Cambridge City Race (the Compass Sport Cup was on Sunday). This was the first time I had entered an orienteering race outside of the ‘local’ scene and I was looking forward to see what level I was at against some of the best runners in the country.

Cambridge City Centre The event at Cambridge was billed as a chance to test your orienteering skills amidst the narrow streets and amongst the ancient colleges of Cambridge. The start was located on Jesus Green and as this was my first time to Cambridge I was ‘wide eyed’ at the history surrounding me. There were over 300 competitors, each running in there various classes. I decided to stay in my M40 class as this was my first ‘proper’ urban orienteering race. The map was slightly different to a standard O map with ‘olive’ green area indicating out of bounds areaes i.e. don’t step on the lawns!! My race started well and it did not take me long to get into the swing of things running around the streets and dodging people and bicycles. Then I made an error going from CP5 to CP6. Crossing a busy road I must have slightly turned my map and when I looked down at it again, what I thought was CP6 turned out to be CP9. I wasted a lot of time working out were I was – on the ground I was heading to CP6, but on the map I was heading for CP9……and of course something just did not add up. It wasn’t until I got CP7, CP8 and heading for CP9, I realised my mistake. I knew I had MP’ed, but I quickly continued on with the remaining controls error free. At the end I was disappointed with my simple mistake of mixing up 6 and 9, but hopefully it will be other lesson learnt for future races. I still feel planners should make a clear distinction between a 6 and a 9 especially when the controls are places relatively close together. However, it was a very good race and I did really enjoy the run and did enjoy the concept of urban races.

Finnshade Wood - BrownOn Sunday morning everyone headed up the road from the hotel for the 20 minute journey to Finnshale Wood. This was the location for the Compass Sport Cup. After a slightly cool and breezy Saturday, Sunday dawned clear and sunny with very little wind. In fact it was like a warm spring morning and the atmosphere around the car park was great. I had never seen so many orienteers in one place. Every age group was there from young kids to old men who looked like they would topple over if they run further than 5 metres. I was stuck in the Open Class doing the ‘Brown’ course. This would be my second ever Brown course so part of me was very nervous while the other part was excited. My plan was to start a bit slower than normal and then quicken up once as I got use to the terrain and scale. Over the 20 controls I made 2 mistakes – one a CP2 and the other at CP13. Looking at the splits of the guys around me I guess I lost about 13 minutes where I shouldn’t have. I completed the Brown Course in 82 minutes and covered 13km for the 9.1 km course. I finished 79th (out of 126) and even without my mistakes I would never have got higher than 45th place. It’s still a big jump up the placings, but not big enough to make an impact. The winning time was 49½ minutes, which then jumped down to 10th place on 58 minutes. I need to learn how to save seconds going to and leaving each control, as well as running faster. There is still a lot to learn and no doubt I can and will get better……this I am looking forward to, but I also realisde that I might need to concentrate on the orienteering for a while and drop everything else.

Overall, it was a great weekend and it really did fire up my desire to become a better orienteer. Hopefully I will be able to balance everything (including the kid’s football), but I think O will be taking first choice for a while. Finally, a very big thank you to Declan and Wilbert from LVO for all their hard work in organising this trip.

Cambridge Results
Finnshale Wood Results
Some Photos (Flickr)

Di Di and Reilly running up the step at the Giant's CausewayDisappointed at having missed out on the Mourne Way Marathon due to it clashing with our local Triathlon race back in June, I had eagerly said I would be signing up for the Causeway Coast Marathon, organised by 26Extreme. Having run my first marathon in May this year, I found the most difficult part of it the boredom of running alone for such a long time (I’m not a fast mover!) So this time I contacted an American friend of mine, now living in Galway, a seasoned ultra-marathoner and Ironman competitor, wondering if she fancied doing the half-marathon. Fortunately her response was a definite yes, but only to do the full distance, it would make up for the long drive.

As seems to have been the norm this year, work got in the way of training and the week of the marathon arrived with my longest run stretching to about half the distance I should have covered. However, Reilly and myself were looking forward to doing the race for the craic, and had been told the views were spectacular. She is also doing the Dublin Marathon on the 26th October so didn’t want to be pounding around this.

Didi on BeachI wasn’t particularly worried about the race, that is until I arrived at the start line and realised that everyone else there were proper runners and adventure racers. The one girl that told us she had only recently taken up running was in fact doing this as a warm up run for the ultra runs… I started to think that yet again I had signed myself up for something that was perhaps a bit out of my league to say the least!

After a few encouraging words from Rowan, one of the race organisers, telling us not to fall over the cliffs, and some less scary ones from the local Mayor, we were on our way. As the faster competitors took off, the more relaxed amongst us started to chat. I recognised Peter Jack from his commentary at various triathlons I’ve raced at over the recent years. He’s always good for providing a laugh, whether you are a competitor or a spectator. He was running alongside Catherine Butcher setting a nice pace, and so we had a bit of a chat as Reilly explained how she came to be a Californian living in Galway studying frogs… always a good conversation opener!

Reilly on BeachPretty soon we were into the Giant’s Causeway, and Reilly was getting my phone out to take some photos. It was obvious that we weren’t going to be breaking any records in this race! I was glancing up at the magnificent scenery of the cliffs to our right when I realised that people were running up them. Ian and Rowan had thought this the perfect way to start a marathon, send us up a cliff that most tourists take a bus up. Fantastic! Making sure to pose for the cameras on our way up, Reilly and I were amazed by the beautiful scenery once we got to the top. This continued for the length of the race. Whether running down muddy steps or climbing over stiles, there was just so much to look at around us. Having laughed at the warnings about falling over the side of the cliffs, I soon realised what Ian and Rowan were talking about, a whistle wouldn’t have been saving us if we went down there!

The course went along beaches, over boulders, through caves, past cows, up and down hills, it was just amazing, and all the time these spectacular views. By the time we headed on to the long stretch of sandy beach, the serious competitors were coming back at us thick and fast, including my Rat Race team-mate, Barry Tinnelly. I was glad I didn’t have to make an attempt to try and keep up with him this time (earlier he had declined my request to carry me in a rucksack around the course.)

A quick run through knee-deep water and before we knew it, we were at the halfway point, where yet more bananas, oranges, and top ups of water were waiting. It was really nice to have something non-sickly sweet to eat on the course. The lovely people at the stand were so encouraging, and we turned to head home having arrived exactly on our target time.

Heading back we started to close the gaps between some of the other runners in front of us, but this wasn’t the type of race in which we were watching the clocks. We had to keep slowing down to take some more photos – that is how incredible the scenery was. However, after we passed the big orange tent at the 6-mile marker, I started to suffer a bit more than I would have liked. Before we started out we reckoned this would take us about 5 hours, an hour longer than our normal marathon time. At this stage I’d run for as long as I’d ever done, and those hills and steps were getting tougher each time. Reilly was a better prepared having ran a 50-mile off-road race earlier in the year. At this point, some of the faster half marathoners who had set off from Ballintoy started to come past us, and we congratulated ourselves that we were far tougher than them. So armed with some more haribo, and continuing our catch up on the latest gossip, we slowly covered the remaining miles.

Thankfully we didn’t have to go down the Shepherd’s Path steps, as I don’t think I could have faced climbing up the hill path again. We even got to stop and let the tram go past – it was like that steam roller scene from Austin Powers, the tram was moving so slow, but we were afraid we wouldn’t have made it across in time! Coming up the hill to the finishing line this was definitely one race where I couldn’t find any energy for a half decent finish; my legs just gave way as we went across the line. This really was a true test of a marathon, my previous marathon I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t more of a challenge.

Surprisingly I was able to walk almost normally the next day, although taking a group of children to Belfast Zoo with all its hills on Monday morning with work was not one of my brightest ideas. However the benefits of not having pounded along tarmac for 5 hours were pretty clear. I’m already looking forward to the next race 26Extreme organise, but hopefully I’ll have put in the training beforehand!

…..sitting in your office on Monday morning picking all the thorns and splitters out of your hands.

Well done to Paul Mahon, Ivan Park, Peter Cole and Taryn McCoy who have just won this year Sleepmonster’s Abu Dhabi Competition. This is an all expenses paid trip courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to compete in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Race this December.

No Frontiers have had a great year’s racing at various events and deservedly won over some tough competition from Camracers New Recruits, UK Adventure Sports Magazine and Accelerate ADAC. It is good to see an Irish team win this year especially after our own disappointment of just missing out from last year’s winning team ‘Team For Goodness Shakes’.

Autumn Schedule


The calendar has never been busier for the local AR/Multisport scene. When you throw in orienteering events, then your problem is deciding what race to enter.

Tomorrow is the Causeway Coast Marathon, which is organised by Rowan and the team at 24Extreme. It’s a great route along the north Antrim coastline and if my Saturday mornings weren’t tied up with the kid’s football I would be running it. In fact all of my Saturday mornings this side of Christmas have had to succumb to football, so I was very happy when Dromara CC released their dates for this year’s Winter Trailquest Series – all on a Sunday!! Hopefully the NI MTBO Championship can be fitted in around this series as well.

There are still a couple of AR events planned before the year is up. The big one is the Cooley Raid, organised by CCAR. This is a 24hr adventure race planned for the 7th/8th November. On the 28th November the last of the 1 day races is taking place in the Glens of Antrim. Hopefully Rowan and I will rekindle our ‘Not the Sunday Run’ team for this one as I think Billy and Gerry of Team Passing Wind have been getting off too lightly during most of the races this year with a lack of teams making them work for their first place.

There is also a new Winter Trail Running Series kicking off soon down on the Rostrever side of the Mournes. No details as yet, but the races include a couple of night time events, were head torches will be required.

On the orienteering front the LVO Autumn Series has already kicked off and there is still the local Champs to take place down at Meelmore in November. Also the WENT series will soon kick off in November, However if you are missing your Wednesday evening fixes then Queen’s University Orienteering Club will be continuing with their own Wednesday evening training sessions for the rest of October.

Meeting at the Dub Pavilion (changing available) and starting at 7.00pm. The first 45mins will be outdoors doing orienteering exercises (head torch recommended). The second 45mins will be some circuits indoors (you may want to bring a ground mat) which mean we should be finished by 8.30pm.

However, not everything is doom and gloom on my part. I will miss a few events because of Football, but to be honest I’m very happy the boys have picked a sport and are both good at it – it’s great to be able to support them from the sidelines and not always the other way around……but next weekend I’m off to the Compass Sport Cup and Trophy competition with LVO. This is a big club event and will be the first that LVO have attended. This will be my first ‘big’ orienteering event so I’m very much looking forward to it.

So overall it is a very busy period of events to look forward to. Does anyone want to adopt two football crazy kids????

MLNI Event 2Yesterday afternoon there was an orienteering event taking place at Barnett Demesne. It was part of the NI Army Orienteering League, but was open to anyone, although non-service personnel results would not be counted towards the league. It was a perfect excuse to take a half day from work, enjoy the autumn sunshine and get a good training run all at the same time.

The Long Course was 4.5km in length and there were a total of 18 controls. The Army use the EMIT timing system over the normal Sportident system – they do the same thing, but the Sportident is certainly more user friendly. The first 6 controls were straightforward and caused no real problems. I felt my pace was a bit slower than normal and I guessed I hadn’t warmed up properly. CP7 near the playground lost me a few seconds as I stopped short and was looking at the wrong feature. CP9 was another problem control, but it was difficulty to navigate around through the thick undergrowth. CP10 was again straightforward and it was then a long run over to CP11, which was tricky to locate in the trees. CP12 was close by, but again it was a tricky one to find and not exact at the place marked on the map. CP13 to CP15 basically took a loop around the Mary Peter’s Track. There was a bit of a route choice to CP16 and I decided to take to higher route along the edge of the forest. I picked up the track through the forest and this lead directly to CP16. I made a big error going for CP17. I think it was the classic ‘heading to home’ syndrome, were you start to lose concentration with the last couple of controls. Coming out from CP16 I did not orientate the map to compass and basically headed off in the wrong direction. I run about 100m, stopped, saw there was no control, scratched my head and rechecked the map. I wasted about 2 minutes before working out my error and quickly got back on course and hit CP18 and then the finish.

I made five simple errors and one ‘big’ error during the course (probably lost about 4 minutes in total), which was not very good, especially with the Compass Sport Cup coming up in two week’s time. Missing recent events like last weekends NIO Champs and all of this year’s NI Colour Series certain does not help. To improve I need to compete more regularly – something I need to sort out for next year.

I finished 3rd overall – 7:57 minutes behind Jonathan McCoy who flew around the course in 28:05 to take first. Mark Hudson from the Queen’s University Officers’ Training Corps was the first ‘army guy’ back and second overall in a time of 31:37 and Ciara Largey finished 4th – only 14 seconds behind me.


It was a shame to waste the rest of the day and I had no intentions of heading back to work. I headed home, did the needful and collected Scott from school and then headed out for an hours run around forest trails in Clandeboye Estate. It was a good way to spend a half day.

Paul’s MotionBased Route