Against better judgment I dragged my stiff knees out to meet Barry and run the third last Leinster League race at Sorrell Hill, and what a race I had...
It's all too easy to use minor injuries as an excuse to take it easy. If I learned one lesson today, that was it. While I felt quite stiff warming up, I felt in perfect condition from the moment the race kicked off.
Muck, Dirt, and Grit
Apparently, Sorrell Hill is normally a very fast race with plenty of good ground. The last few week's of rain, however, had reduced it to a sludge-fest, albeit still a fast one!
After a medium-rough climb up through the forest, we all entered the mudsoaked trail running along the forestside. In the beginning most of us tried our best to evade the puddles of water dotting the trail, but myself and others quickly reconsidered that strategy and just waded straight through them, hoping no treacherous rocks or monsters would be hiding in the murky deep.
The race ran much according to regular plan, meaning Rathfarnham won the men's team competition, Clonliffe scored a narrow victory over Crusaders in the women's race (as a sidenote I was pleased to finish as first Crusader this day, but with only two scorers, we did not score points), and Barry Minnock won another race. This was an important win for Barry, though, as he wrapped up his title as Leinster League Champion with the latest win.
The race also saw a very welcome return, as Crusader's "leading lady" during the Winter League, Orla McAvoy, returned from her long injury lay-off to finish 54th. I felt slightly embarassed to record my first victory against her, but when she's back to full strength I'm looking forward to hopefully get a few intra-club duels, like those I enjoy with her rival of old: Aoife Joyce.
In the end, Orla returned to take 3rd after Bronagh, who took full advantage of Aisling's absence, and Fionnuala, the three ladies finishing 44th, 47th, and 54th overall.
This meant I got a rare victory against Bronagh, and my first against Fionnuala Doherty, after she whipped the floor spectacularly with me on Lugnacoille. On the male side, I got another one up on New Zealander Justin Rea, but as he said "there's twenty year's between us", and scored my first victory over Eddie Reid (a feat I would repeat at Ballinastoe the week after).
In the end the strong 39th finish pulled me further up the Leinster League table, eliminating my bad 58th position gained after my total collapse at Prince William's Seat.
For my fellow detail-connoiseurs, Sorrell Hill is a 9.58km long race featuring 392m of ascent and 396m of descent, with a medium-hard 8.3% ascent grade. I suffered slightly coming up towards the top at a very steep bit (maximum ascent grade during the race was almost 26% on a short stretch).
I was getting fed up of always collapsing on the steep bits, however, and decided "just sprint you b*****d" and for some reason held on to the top and roared down with one of my technically best descents to date, jumping in and out of the heather to evade the ascending runners.
The rest of the race was almost one last sprint, and run at a frenetic pace. I must have passed at least 10 runners on my down, and lost only a few spaces in turn (all on the last small climb before forest re-entry).
Arriving at the finish line, I was elated, a strong run, a definite improvement, and my battered knees had held out without happenstance.