RACES: LL- Ballinastoe

Well, a few busy weeks have gone by, and updates haven't been as concise as I would have liked.
Yesterday, I finally got a look at the Ballinastoe race after missing the shorter version of the same during the Winter League when I was away in Canada.

After the race, as we all congregated in Kavanagh's pub in Roundwood, Justin gave me a bit of a bad conscience by remarking that all my posts are unfinished!

So to deflect any accusations of laziness slipping in, I'll post my report on yesterday's race together with an update on all the last posts.

I'll talk more about performance and statistics today than race, so I recommend reading the excellent race reports on IMRA.

See the mucky pictures here. I've included some photos of the people I mention regular in my reports, so you get the picture (absolutely no pun intended!)

A Good Spell
Today's race finished a fantastic spell of running for me. For the fourth consecutive LL race I ran in 128% of the winners time. I'm very happy with this particular statistics, because nothing reflects true ability better than consistency.

Combined with my strong run on Croagh Patrick, determination to finish Ben Gorm injured, and surprisingly high finish as 66th out of almost 700 runners at the Achill Island 1/2-marathon, this is far and away my strongest spell of the season.

Coming up is a stint of bone hard training to peak me out for Snowdon, before a short rest will propel me towards this year's Dublin Marathon. But let's rest on our laurels for a little bit.

The Soft Side of Running
After having experienced the luxuries of road running in its fullest during my Achill Island half-marathon (cheering spectactors, fast surface, and water stations galore), there proved to be no better race for getting back my "fellhardiness" than the muck, water, and branch festival that is Ballinastoe!

The race was extreme in ways quite different from other mountain races (Luc is relentless, Croagh Patrick is just HARD, and Carrauntoohil is, well, Carrauntoohil, the household deity of John Lenihan).

The variation of terrain on the route is a great challenge for the less-than-technical runner (or those like me, born motorically impaired): hard trails, soft trails, mud, marshland, overhanging trees, brush, and to top it all out another stream (not the Mississippi, but you'll have to let those feet of yours get wet alright!).

Ballinastoe wood and the race it hosts features the largest amount of raw climb during the Leinster League, and is also the longest race with it's 11.53km course. I naturally hoped that my half-marathon four days earlier would give me an advantage over the majority of runners, who would focus on mid-distance, not long. Tiredness was a possible threat, of course, especially with the intimidating long climb from the beginning.

The Route
The Ballinastoe route is 11.53km through forest, marsh, and other mixed terrain, featuring 538m of ascent with an average ascent grade of 10.2% (steepest points featured ascents of 22.3%), putting it at the high end of the Leinster League races.

It was a tough route, and challenging to run. On the good side, however, the endless change of rhythm and running style meant I could distribute pressure on more muscles than in a regular run. On the bad side, it meant I fell on the marshy part and opened up the gash on my right knee again!

The Competition
After seeing Aisling and the usual suspects break off early on the first hill, I was surprised to see Alan Aisling suddenly rushing past me much later on the ascent, having figured he would be way gone already!

This was indicative of a fairly good start, midway through the ascent I had lost a few of my regular competitors and held off a strong challenge by Aoife Joyce, stuck by her, and eventually passed her out, instead opening up for another duel with our president Cormac O'Ceallaigh. I passed him out a few times in the early stages of the race, but every time he put the pressure back on and headed away. During the long tricky, midway descents I fought the best I've learned to keep up with Cormac and the group surrounding him and held on, just keeping them in sight.

As we came out the flatter parts of the final descent, I had held sufficient energy in reserve to finally pass him by, and on the descent I gained a few more positions, before almost losing them, as I had to stop for some seconds to look around and orientate myself. The two runners straight behind me did not hesitate to try and take advantage of this, but my fast twitch fibres were not depleted and I held firm to get over the finish line in a decent time of (coming up) in 128% of winner Peter O'Farrells time.

I also scored a rare victory over a few runners such as Gavan Doherty, who told me he was having a real off day. I know all too well how he feels, sometimes, they just hit you out of the blue.

In the women's side Aisling Coppinger wrapped up a very deserved Leinster League victory by winning the race and eliminating the last mathematical chance contender Laura Flynn would have had of taking the title.

Midge Hell
Standing at the finish I realised I had probably picked the worst possible day to forget my long trousers, as bloodsucking, pregnant flies attacked me in endless swarms (they are called biting midges for the record!).

The next day I had red bite marks pretty much all over arms and legs, and semi-collapsed in my bed early Friday morning with what I can only suspect was a bad case of histamin overdose!

So remember, in Ballinastoe, repellent or flame-thrower is absolutely mandatory!

Coming up on the Site
Having now almost caught up with finishing these old diary entries, I hope to bring you an article about my training programme, my experiences with the Peak Centre in this relation, and the target training volume needed to take the step up to the "big-time". See you soon...


Anonymous said…
Every period of sustained success is followed by a dip in form. It's just a fact of life and as certain as morning follows night. So don't go over board on the hard Snowdon training. In fact you'd be better served having an easy 10 days instead.
Renny said…
Very true, and thanks for the concern. The training scheduled for Snowdon may have come off as being harder than it is, though.

Basically, I'm just following the programme outlined for me by the Peak Centre. Which has meant:

Fri AT1 Run (30 min)
Sat MAC (45 min intervals)
Sun AT1 Run (60 min)
Mon AnT Endurance Run (40 min)
Tue AT1 Run (60 min)
Wed AT1 Run (30 min)

Then rest for two days before the event.

That being said, the goal of course is to be able to reach the overall yearly training volume of 800-1200 hours which is the average for professional athletes.

This may not be physically possible (for me), but unless attempted, I don't think anyone can see there full physical potential before reaching this training level.