RACES: Return to Ticknock

This Wednesday the Arup Leinster League kicked off with a return to Three-Rock mountain for a hard fast run over Three-Rock, Two-Rock and Fairy Castle (where I've previously contested a Winter League race as well as the Man v Bike). Its fair to say, that its starting to feel like "home turf"!

See the race pictures here: IMRA Pictures

And those of me. (hey! Its perfectly normal to collect pictures of yourself in pain!!!)

Leinster League

The Leinster League is a series of 13 well-marked, rugged Wednesday races, mostly run on trail, but decidedly mountainous, of which the 7 best positions you get will decide your position in the "Leinster League" sponsored by Arup.

Today's race is a 8.55km race over three peaks with a total 340m ascent and just about the same amount of descent.

Hitting the Peak
I had a (by now unusual) day of "complete" rest going out with my Training Team and our new Process Team at work (I even allowed myself the luxury of a single pint of Guiness, well did it taste...).

Today's race, like the weekend's Round Mountain race, started at a blistering pace with runners pushing and shoving to get themselves up through the narrow dusty road leading from Ticknock car park to the infamous bane of ankles: The Boneshaker (pictured above).

I started the race quick once again trying not to be caught in a "traffic jam" during the early stages, and was making good speed up until 2/3 up the Boneshaker, when I hit a "mini-Wall", forcing me to reduce pace and struggle up over Three-Rock, losing a good seven positions in the process. Aisling Coppinger, later winner of the women's competition, and my fellow Scandinavian, Swedish newcomer (but cross-country veteran) Sarah Linse, were among the notaries displaying the contours of their foot soles to me.

There seems to be an almost endless combination of routes available at Ticknock, and today's had a rather nasty surprise in store: After braving the Boneshaker, the only reprieve is the short (but not as fast as it seems sadly!) drop to the foot of Two-Rock. (seen right)

Short or not, I managed to catch a bit of second wind and hung on for dear life as a big snake of people fought their way up Two-Rock, before making a few turns to conquer Two-Rock peak. From here the route flattened somewhat, and my thoughts turned to a potential attack on the descent.

The First Descent
As we turned left over a stretch of flat, there were runners left right and centre crowding the paths, so I new this was the time to break-free as the first serious descent presented itself invitingly in front of us. Throwing myself into a wild lunge and away from the group, I was left incredulous as Justin Rea, who always runs me close, flew past me in a display of solid technical descending.

I hung on over the next flat stretch and as we hit the next two ascents, my legs were suddenly re-energised and I fought my way up through the field in a vicious up-hill attack, managing to pass out Justin, Karen Doyle (second woman home), and Moire O'Sullivan (third woman home).

At this stage it was run-or-die, my pulse was fluttering well past the healthy limit now, and collapse was imminent, luckily I had conquered the final ascent, and with a very rocky path making its way down towards the fire trails leading to the finish, I knew recklessness could compensate for lack of athleticism.

As I flew down, testing the ankles to the limit, I made a few by-passes that wouldn't have gone unnoticed had they been made on the highway, and almost caught up with Sarah Linse (who would go on to win the women's F40, not bad for a first-timer!), only to see her bust off with amazing natural pace on the flat stretch before we would hit the Boneshaker again (this time going down!).

Back to the Boneshaker
The Boneshaker descent was the last good opportun
ity to gain places so I gave it my best only to trap myself behind an early starter for just a few seconds, allowing Karen (or was it Moire? At this stage I really couldn't tell), to overtake.

At this stage my body was reporting heavy damage from all decks, and I knew that I could blow up any minute. I decided to risk it, though, and started a desperate chase down for a few more positions, and while I overtook Karen on the dusty road through Ticknock forest, I felt her snapping at my heels for the rest of the race as I prayed for the relief of the finish line.

At last, the end came, and I felt bad as I passed by an older runner just 20 metres from the finish

At the end, 43rd in a very strong field with my best "percentage of win time yet". Sadly missing from the field was Gary Crossan, James McFadden, and Ronan Guirey who made such light work of the Winter League. Story goes Ronan is injured, well let's hope he's back and ready to compete on the Leinster League.

Winner and runner-up was not surprisingly Connemara Half-Marathon and Wicklow Way Trail winner Barry Minnock and long-distance specialist Eoin Keith, who lost much of last season fatigued after his incredible tribulations in the Primal Quest Adventure Race in the desert's of Utah (were one of his team-mates was none other than today's champion Barry Minnock).Barry Minnock (left) and Eoin Keith (second from right)