RACES: 2 Mountains, 1.5 Meniscus and 1 Man

Well, it had to happen, and so it did...

Another injury struck me during this Wednesday's race going back to now all-to-familiar Three-Rock mountain. This time for the third race of the Leinster League, starting at Stepaside, and attacking Three-Rock from the other side, going over its "evil twin" Two-Rock Mountain.

How did it go?
This was a classic IMRA Leinster/Winter League race. Huge crowd at the start, slightly narrow starting arrow (meaning a bit of elbowing goes a long way. Make sure to hit your rivals before they hit you!).

Garry Crossan, whom my consultant at the PeakCentre describes only as "a machine", has been perhaps this year's fastest runner even though he's done only a few races. Of the 13 races he's contested over the last three seasons, he's won 10 and finished 2nd in three! (and on one of those occasions he finished in the same time as winner Paul Nolan, one of just two people to have beat Garry)

Today he set a murderous pace once again and narrowly beat Winter League champion, triathlete Ronan Guirey. Their pace pulled the whole field with them, as a horde of runners stampeded through the forest at the foot of Two-Rock.

Once again, I hit a bit of a wall, as Two-Rock faced me with an ascent grade more severe than I can currently cope with, and I dropped from a position that must have been in the top 30 back into the fifties...

For full race results click here.

Thank you, Aughavannagh
The ascent was long, but not so long that the damage done could not be repaired, and I was banking on my usual affinity for getting relatively stronger the further the race progresses. If Aughavannagh had taken some of the freshness out of my legs in the early stages, I had a feeling that it would provide me with resilience and toughness to go, in the second. It did not let me down...

This time there was no total collapse as seen on Prince William's Seat and Cushbawn, and as we hit the descent, I recovered, and upped the pace up the much more forgiving Three-Rock ascents.

I passed by some strong runners, notably my, as-ever, close rival Justin Rea, veteran Vivian O'Gorman who ran so well and came 4th at Aughavannagh at the weekend, as well as newly capped Irish International Bronagh Ni Bhriain, who was still feeling the soreness of the extreme climbs endured by the internationals at Knockdhu in the Six Counties.

Injury Strikes...
Coming down I was eager to catch up with the runners in front of me. I had been catching up to a large group since running a good 4min km on the 4th km of the race, and was feeling strong with plenty of reserves left in the tank.

This is when it happens to you...

I suddenly had Aoife Joyce, who had beaten me with 4 seconds at Prince William's Seat after a few narrow victories for myself (most notably the 20 seconds on the long long Wicklow Way Trail) in my sight, and let all Hell loose.

As my left leg hammered down on a rock, my bodyweight shifted too much to the left for a brief second and I heard a familiar "crunch" sound. There was no intense pain, just a sharp tinging sensation and a sudden loss of pace, as I half ran/half stuttered down to the foot of the descent (picture above is taken 50 metres or so after the injury happened).

Running through the tricky, muddy forest tracks leading back to the firetrail, I struggled to find balance and pace, but as soon as I hit the descending firetrail, I could settle into good running form, minimise the pain (and more importantly the extent of the injury I thought!). I couldn't accelerate but just managed to keep ahead of Justine Rea, who gave me a bit of a shock as he punched towards goal, finishing just 10 seconds behind me.

Aoife in the meantime, had managed to beat me with exactly 4 seconds once again! Consistency comes to mind!

I was fairly happy with the race, after getting lost at Aughavannagh and running so poorly at Cushbawn and Prince William's Seat, I felt well up for it today, and, if not for the injury, was well on course for a finishing time around 43 and a half to 44 minutes. Not bad for a tough 7.8km race.

To boot, the night featured some great fun at Johnnie Foxes and a spot-prize!

Me hunting one of the early starters
The Diagnosis
That was the encouraging part, now for the injury.

I went straight to see a physio the next day (meeting fellow mountain runner Mick Hanney coming out after a maintenance session after a gruelling Belfast marathon run in an impressive 3:21. Mountain runners make good marathoners indeed).

After a good ten minutes of investigation, he had no doubt: a tear in the meniscus, 3-6 weeks off racing, 2 weeks if I'm lucky.
This was worse than I had expected, but the exercises suggested by the physio were very encouraging, and I'll be doing them till I drop for the next week.

My consultant in the Peak Centre agreed on the timeframe, but Emma Watts did add that someone with a healthy lifestyle (which I have, who would have thought a few years ago!), could recover within the two weeks. I'll try. Corrig looks to be definitely out, but I'll do my best to be ready for Bray's head.

In some ways this injury may prove beneficial, the training and knowledge gained from the physio will be invaluable over the next many years, and my body will get a week of relative rest that I would never have agreed to voluntarily! (there's a bench standing in my living room yearning to be used, so while the legs take a rest, the rest can suffer for them).

And hey, now I almost have a complete sports staff at my disposal (a well-paid one, but one nonetheless!!!). In my three-year plan to break into the Danish international team this experience will be invaluable, and I will continue with cross-training, plyometrics, and sports pilates until I have strengthened enough to resist the rigours of even the most fierce competition.

If anything the injury proves that I've grown sloppy on the technical side, and used my natural pace downhill as an excuse for not giving it enough focus. Running downhill is the most dangerous part of mountain running, and it deserves a lot of your time. The best way is to strengthen all of the stabilisation muscles in the lower legs, and there are numerous techniques for achieving this, of which I'll talk some other day.

Well, hope the next race report won't be too long in the waiting...