RACES: The IMRA Winter League Part 1

I have run five races so far in 2007, and apart from a detour down to the beautiful Ballyhouras Mts. between Counties Cork and Limerick, they have all been part of the Leinster (that's the counties surrounding Co. Dublin) "Winter League".

Race 1: Hellfire Winter

Again I picked up a lift with my partner-in-crime Conor Murray, and got introduced to two of his close friends also eager to fight it out on the mountains: Jaime McGrane and Ken McGready.

Conor (blue in the back)on his left making his way over the "big hill" enroute. As I rounded the hill for the second time, Conor came limping back towards me (sending out a high five as I "flew" by): Another sprained ankle struck our little "congregation"!!!

Ken (in white) doing likewise. A heavier set serious martial artist, Ken had a rougher race than bony likes of myself and Jaime, but fought himself in at 137th...

The photographer somehow missed me and Jaime among the 155 contestants, but our handsome faces wouldn't have done the grizzly look of mountain running much justice, so I understand they decided to keep them out...

Our local MBS Project Manager, Marc Robinson, made a surprise appearance during the race as well and came in at 119. Sadly old niggling injuries of his broke up during the race and he hasn't made it back since...

The race itself was a great experience, two passes over a b*tch of a hill (sorry mum) that drained you like a triple whiskey on a hot summer day, followed by rocky, hilly trails in the Hellfire Wood, and a spectacular start and finish reminiscent of the famous Alpe-de-Hous etapee in the Tour.

On the last 2k my mind just clicked and I shifted out of my rather pursued gear and started running like a madman chased by ten wolfhounds, almost ending up flat in the last bushes as I roared past another runner in the muddy final curve just to fight for 74th position!!!

At the finish line (as I counted the stars flashing before my eyes and realised that second before I had actually seriously pondered the possibility that my heart might literally explode!), Jaime was hanging around having finished 11 seconds earlier in a solid 69th place.
Even with Conor's injury we left the race heartened and encouraged, and as we drove home, me nad Jaime started planning a training run on the next race a fortnight later: the famous Howth peak in North Dublin that provides so many tourists with beautiful memories of Dublin Bay and "Ireland's Eye".

Next: Howth - The View to Ireland's Eye

Eoin O'Brian making his way down from the first crossing of the race's Hill. I didn't know it yet, but great duels were laying ahead for the two of us as the Winter League kept unfolding.