RACES: Records fall at The Round Mountain

I've spend most of the week drenched in Arnica, gulping down glucosamine tablets and Apple Cider Vinegar, not to mention a 6k recovery run and several evening spend with my feet (who are now left with only 8 nails) drenched in ice cold disinfectant water.

So I felt a bit odd standing at the starting line for the very small crowd of people who had chosen to show up for the third (and final) race of this year's IMRA Spring League: Round Mountain, close to Dundalk.

It was my first visit to County Louth, and had managed to catch a lift with three of the girls from Crusaders Athletic Club: Maureen, Mary and Geraldine, who were leading the women's Spring League.

Spring League
The Spring League is intended for beginner's to get into mountain running and features low levels of ascent and running on good solid track and trail (with quite a bit of gravel thrown in though!).

To win the league you must attain the best placements over the three races: Glencree, Kilsheelan and Round Mountain. Due to low attendance (partly due to one race being the day after our epic Wicklow Way Trail run), the Crusaders women's team were almost certain of winning the team prize before today's event, and Geraldine would wrap up the women's title by being the only to contest all three race. But in the car we duly agreed: A win is a win!

So it was much to my dismay that I saw a very very tough turn-out on the male side: Mark McKenna (Monaghan man and University speed demon), Robert Maher (who finished 8th out of 40 in the 2005 Round Mountain), Fingal-runners Eddie Casey (previously 7th and 11th on Round Mountain) and John Rowe, NIMRA-runner Gerry Kenny (whose merits includes 12th at the Flagstaff-Carlingford race and other solid performances on the NIMRA calendar), Newcastle and NIMRA man Marty McVeigh (serial finisher of Luc and Carrauntoohil) and IMRA-president Cormac O'Ceallaigh who needs no further introduction.

Around the Mountain
The Round Mountain is a funny race covering 9.05km (5.62miles) up around the summit of Round Mountain, and featuring 325m (1066ft.) of ascent (all on well-laid fire trail) with an average ascent grade of 25.5%.

The race started off at a high pace, especially eventual winner Mark McKenna who sprinted upwards and never let go: Its fair to say that he spanked the mountain with his time of 34min33sec.

Unlike most IMRA races, the men and women's were separate, leaving the four Crusader women Niamh Ni Cholmain, Maureen McGinley, Geraldine O’Shea and Mary Donnelly to contest a race covering two loops at the top (as opposed to three for the men), and Niamh pulled out victorious of this "mini-club" championship leaving the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd from Kilsheelan in her wake.

Finishing the race meant Geraldine secured the Spring League title, which will no doubt be displayed proudly next to Winter League title brought home by fellow Crusaders runner Orla McEvoy at Trooperstown Hill back in February.

Personal Records Fall
Well, as a new convert to "serious" running personal records are falling hard and fast for me, and today I breached through the longest I have run in any given month, having clocked 80.42k (49.97 miles) in 21 days. I'm hoping to extend this beyond one hundred during next week!

(In the three previous months of the year I've clocked 59, 74, and 75 km respectively)

Finishing 8th of a 10 man field was slightly disappointing, but the numbers tell a different story. With a niggling injury to attend to and (unusually) and all-men field to contend with I delivered my best time/km since Hellfire (5.08km/min against the 4.41km/min at Hellfire) and a finishing time of 134% of the winning time (something I have not bettered since my mad descent on the snowy slopes at the Ticknock 3 Rock Race yielded a 130% of winning time).

Bizarrely, my pre-match stretches seemed to have pulled something back in place in my place that appeared to be stuck between my right quadriceps and glute, leaving me feeling better today than before the race. Did some saint spend time on Round Mountain???