RACES: Leinster League - Scarr

I know I tend to be fairly lengthy in my articles, so today I'll try out a new format for my personal race reports, so its easier to pick and choose what you want to read!

See the pictures of me running here.
See all race pictures at IMRA.

The Race
Scarr is the 8th race of out the 13 that comprise the Arup Leinster League, also known as the Summer League, and is a new addition to the IMRA course (and a very welcome one, if the consensus of the runners I talked to is anything to go by).

The race is listed as 8.5km with 357m of climb, but this was an estimation, as it seemed the decision on where to start was taken very shortly before the start. This made the route slightly shorter, and I got it at 7.9km with 367m of climb (so pretty close for a first measurement of a new race).

There was a different buzz around the front group today, as this season's real heavy-hitters: Barry Minnock, Eoin Keith, Garry Crossan, Ronan Guirey, and James McFadden where nowhere to be seen (no doubt in preparation for this weekend's European Trial Race at Lucnaquillia, which will earn places in the European Championship for the best runners).

This opened up opportunities for the likes of Paul Nolan, a bit of a legend already with his slew of victories in the year's 2000-2006 before injury stopped his progress for a while, Peter O'Farrell, the Rathfarnham Runner who also runs the winners as close as it gets but is still waiting for his first win with IMRA, and Mweelrea winner Bernard Fortune.

The three afore-mentioned gentlemen did not disappoint, I saw them flying down coming up about 5 minutes behind in the first quarter of the field. At this stage Gerry Brady shouted positions to us, I was 34th, meaning I was better placed on the ascent than I would be later after the ascent. Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Will elephant's fly?

The Finish
After the race, there was a delighted cheer among the IMRA runners as the winner was announced: Peter O'Farrell had done it, fetched his first victory 52 seconds in front of Paul Nolan with Bernard Fortune a close third.

I had the pleasure of following the women's competition first hand, winner Laura Flynn passed me out on the way, but I was hot-on-the-heels of her nearest pursuant, my always close rival, Aoife Joyce, of Crusaders, who rounded the top half a minute before me prompting a desperate 4 kilometre chase down to the finish. Sadly, for both Aoife and me, Caroline Reid popped out of nothing, rushed past me unchallenged on the last kilometre and picked out Aoife (who thought she was me, my macho image is ruined!), to finish second, as Aoife took a well-deserved third, and I hobbled in 10 seconds later, not feeling as wiped out as I knew I should...

In the team competition, the female Crusaders, led by Aoife, took first prize, while Rathfarnham (as usual!) took the men's.

Another story worthy of remark, was the return of Hugh McLindon, winner of many races, and the 2003 Leinster League champion. I don't know Hugh's history, but can see his history goes way back. Every sport shines more brightly in the presence of its old champions, so I for one am delighted to hear of the return of another legend, just a few months after John Lenihan stepped back on the stage in full force.

The Route
Not too much to say about the route, but I mean that strictly as a compliment! It was a very simple route, up a bit of fire trail, out on the open track up to the mountain. The landscape featured a consistently verdant green, and while the track up to Scarr has several rough spots with big pebbles for your feet to attend to, it also features mushy soft earth, and good soil.

The summit itself makes for a good view, as you come over two "fake summits", that, once conquered, reveal the pointy top of Scarr. Up to the flags and back down again the way you came. A nice quick route up a "real" mountain with plenty of space to all sides. Aaaaah....

Personal Evalution
This was an utterly strange race for me in all ways. So strange in fact that I don't know whether or not I should be happy or unhappy about it???

I felt a little "off" before the race, if it was the stressful day at work, the hard interval session on Monday, or the strange niggling cramp I had in my stomach, I couldn't tell, but something seemed sub-optimal.

As I settled into my pace going up the hill, I expected my usual "up-hill meltdown" any minute, but it never came! To my surprise, I just kept going, beating usually stronger ascenders such as Vivian O'Gorman, Hazel Thompson, and the usually unbreakable Moire O'Sullivan, IMRA's own Equipment officer, who I had only beaten once before: On the descent of Three-Rock Ticnock. (this little personal victory lost some of its sheen, however, when I learned that Moire was just recovering from withdrawing midway through a 250km adventure race with hypothermia the weekend before! Tough cookie her! From here I'll extend my best wishes of a swift recovery!).

A little bit behind me came another runner with whom I have had some memorable races: Justin Rea. I owe Justin thanks as the people at the Bray shoe-shop Amphibian King attribute all their mountain running expertise to him!

I didn't feel my usual self coming off the mountain, though. While I was going fairly fast, Caroline caught me at the end, the first time I can remember being caught on a final descent by anyone. The meniscus was complaining slightly with the soft terrain against my non-padded Inov-8s (which I must say performed great on the terrain, grip like Spiderman), but I broke my stride several times when I should not have, and it seems I've lost a few percent to over-caution.

Hopefully as the area heals more this will go away (today it may have proven a wise choice, however, as the injured area was pounding quite a bit afterwards! Maybe to remind me it was there).

Second concern today was my inability to push myself far enough. I forgot my heart rate monitor, but I didn't need it to know that I hadn't gone anywhere near the 183-188 average that I need to do in races like these. Lesson learned: Destress after work, get enough sleep the day before a race, eat well until an hour before the race, then stop, and finally, be careful over-doing the intervals.

Statistics - To be Trusted?
On the statistical side, things looked great, however, I recorded a 38th spot, my highest of the Leinster League so far, and finished within 28% of the winners time (my personal best). The 38th position out of 154 runners was also the highest I've been up in the rankings, relatively speaking.

This is, of course, all very encouraging, but a few explanations lie between these positive stats: the usual winners weren't out, and had they been, my percentage would have been further than 28% behind, and I would have been some spots further down the rankings.

But as they say in football, "you can only beat what's put in front of you" (or "what's paid to take a dive in front of you" as they say in boxing), so roll on Lucnaquillia (again!!!) Sunday, and let's see how badly I can get hammered against the combined elites of Ireland and the Six Counties!