Home News Energia 24-Hour Race 2012 – Beyond Limits

Energia 24-Hour Race 2012 – Beyond Limits


You learn as much from failure as from success… The Energia 2012 Race’s strap line was ‘Beyond Limits’. The weather certainly turned out that way: we had 12 hours of pouring rain and biting wind. However, the camaraderie between ultrarunners is legendary and we helped each other get through it and achieve our potential … and maybe even a bit beyond those limits!

"Sure it’s July … it’ll be warm rain if we get it at all." That thought would haunt me again and again throughout the race!


The last weather forecast I (Gerard McCann) saw before driving to the race was that the rain should probably miss us, but either way it would be 13 celsius. That’s a pretty much perfect temperature for me to run in. Well ordinarily anyway. I have run marathons in the rain (including the 2012 Belfast Marathon which was about 8 celsius), but the wind and rain which Mother Nature heaped upon us for 12 hours during The Energia taught me a very valuable lesson: if you haven’t got gear with you for all possible eventualities (and you need to cover the extremes here), you could really suffer on the day!


It all started out well enough though. I arrived in Bangor at 3:00pm and there were already about 15 competitors getting set up in the tented village. We helped each other out with pitching tents because there was a wind blasting across the track. If Ed runs the event in Bangor again, beware this wind. The track is very exposed and apparently the strength of any wind in the weather forecast will be stronger at the track.


It seemed like no time at all before we were called to the start line to begin the race at 6:45pm. I linked up with Gary Stitt as we had similar race goals and knew each other from the 2011 event. We walked the first lap because we were quite cool so didn’t want to risk pulling a muscle or getting sucked into someone else’s pacing strategy. In terms of pacing, I wanted to run 5 minutes at 8:00 min/mile, then walk 1 min at 12:00 min/mile. However, I knew it was more important during this phase of the race to get sufficient food and drink, so settled for slightly less than 8:00 and a few more walk breaks because I had a slightly slushy stomach when I tried to stay exactly on 8:00 pace.


The first 6 hours seemed to go almost in the blink of an eye. We chatted away getting to know our fellow runners and renewing existing acquaintances. Gary and I ticked off a few mental boxes: half marathon completed in just over 2 hours, marathon done in 4 hours 35 mins, 50k complete, etc. The race was going according to plan and I was feeling good. However, the rain was starting to get more persistent and I was starting to feel quite cold. I put on a hat, and ‘waterproof’, ‘windproof’ coat (that coat has never let me down before, but the rain and wind eventually got through it during the race!). I was fine for heat so long as I was running at 8:00 pace. Trouble was that I was due to drop off that pace and go to 10:00 min/mile for the overnight 6 hour stint (from 12:45am to 6:45am).


After I dropped to the 10:00 pace I got colder and colder each time I took a walk break. The fundamental problem was that I had no properly waterproof, windproof outer layer and/or an insulating base layer. I began to really suffer from the cold. Rather than addressing the root cause, I had a double espresso and got a caffeine boost to try and get me through it. It worked, but only temporarily … I was overspending at the bank, as it were, and creating an energy deficit (because you have to burn more calories to make body heat) that would have to be repaid later.


Despite the above, I got to the 12 hour point in reasonable shape and had done 60 miles. However, I was starting to feel it a bit in the legs, so went for a massage. By the time I got out of the massage tent, I was starting to shiver uncontrollably. I knew a few of the other runners had pulled off the track to recover from the effects of exposure, but I was determined to go on. I grabbed a foil blanket and wrapped it round myself under my jacket as best I could. It gave me a bit of heat, but I was still burning lots of energy keeping warm rather than running.


I found this next 6 hour phase of the race absolutely frustrating. I wanted to run at 10:00 pace and walk at 15:00, but my body wasn’t letting me do the running piece in sufficient quantities. I kept having to go and get massages every couple of hours … and thanks folks for patching me up so well, much appreciated! Why did I need to see them so often? I was undertrained. Well, undertrained for an ultra of this level. That’s the second big lesson for me: you can’t do well in a 24 hour race on 40 miles per week and only a few back-to-back long runs. I did practically half the training for this year’s event that I did for the 2011 Energia where I got 100 miles in 22 hours, but could have done lots more with a better strategy. This year I had the strategy right, but my body and race gear were such that I couldn’t deliver beyond the 12 hour point.


It’s due to the fantastic support of my fellow runners, the hardcore people who sat at trackside cheering us on, the massage therapists and the Precision Timing folks that I managed to tough enough of this phase of the race out by powerwalking to get through to 21.5 hours and 93 miles. Thank you all so much! Couldn’t have done it without ya! Unfortunately the energy deficit I created during the cold night and the fact I was undertrained meant that when I tried to dig a bit deeper at this time to make one final push, I had nothing more to give. Literally nothing!


I took a short rest in my tent and decided that 100% for sure I was quitting the race. I went to tell Ed the race director of my decision and had a really dizzy spell and needed to sit down. I sat for 15 minutes but was really dizzy again when I tried to stand up, so I got the medical staff to take my blood pressure etc. All checked out normal and they put it down to exhaustion. Thanks to you folks because nothing like that has ever happened to me before and I was a bit scared. Alan Withers the physio looked after me very well and I eventually warmed up after an hour and a half in a foil blanket sipping warm fluids.


It was amazing to see others doing what I couldn’t and pushing through to the finish! You’re all stars for keeping going. Special congrats to the winners and the 100-mile club. Also well done to the 12 hour racers and relay folks. It was brilliant sharing the track with you. One of the 12 hour folks was Finn O’Mara so hopefully Finn will have a race report out somewhere sometime. I look forward to reading it.


Despite the negatives, I have absolutely no regrets … it was an amazing experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I just have to find a way to cope with/love the big 70 mile training weeks and back-to-back runs as they set you up for success, and bring a few more bits of gear on the day.


Energia 2012 – Beyond Limits … I certainly found and then pushed beyond mine!


24 hour race only – stats from Precision Timing (https://precisiontiming.net/result/view/id/211):

Name                      Km          Miles
John O Regan        208.8       129.748
T Bubendorfer        202.931   126.1010127
Eddie Gallen          194.888    121.103
Iveagh Jameson    189.028    117.4619992
Patrick Quinn         166           103.152
Aishling Coppinger 162          100.667
Paul O Rourke       161.6        100.418
G McCann(me)      150.4        93.459
Tom Meany           139.2488   86.529
Iryna Kennedy       125.497     77.984
Liam O Neill          119.2         74.071
Gary Stitt               110.8         68.851
Eoin Keith             104.8         65.123
Phil McComb        103.6          64.377
Gary Chalkley       93.339       58.001
Sharon Gayter      82.4           51.203
Rachel Pierce       58.8           36.538
Gary Flynn            45.2           28.087