RACES: LL - Tibradden

Last Wednesday I had my first try at the famous ankle-breaker mountain: Tibradden.

I had a great race, and a great time, report coming up once I've recovered from the Connacht Championships...

The Vaunted Mountain
For a small low-lying mountain just outside Dublin, Tibradden seems to have acquired quite a reputation, and I had heard numerous tales of woe about it during the season, such as the story of Niamh's first mountain race, where she suffered a terrible sprain coming down Tibradden, leaving her mother with both husband and daughter on crutches (the families of mountain runnes must endure many things...).

Looking back I did have my doubts about the race, even to the point of wondering if I should use it as an excuse to take a break so I wouldn't haphardise my participation into the weekend's Connacht Championships.

I was coming off two difficult races at Scarr and Brockaghs. In neither race did I feel particularly well, and it seemed as if the toll of heavy training after my injury was too much compete effectively.

Luckily, though, I used no weak excuses because Tibradden proved to be the start of a resurgent campaign.

The Route
Tibradden is one of the longest Leinster League races and takes in the peaks of Tibradden mountain itself as well as good ol' Fairy Castle (known from the Ticknock races).

I clocked the distance into 11.23km with 366m of ascent and an 6.7% ascent grade. Technically, it's a very challenging race, however, so don't let the low grade fool you. The first climb (which is also the final descent) is so rocky that it's second only to Croagh Patrick, and none of the ground there will lend its support to your feet.

Going down at the end you must strike a perfect balance between speed, lightness, and control, or you will put too much weight on your feet and end up injured, or force yourself to go so slow that you'll end up miles behind the leaders (well, that is, more miles than we are already!).

The Race
In the welcome sunshine the race started out at the usual ferocious pace, but I tried to hold back a little more than usual in the beginning (a strategy that has since given me further good results, it is true what The King said: "Only Fools Rush In").

For the full story of the race, I recommend Jim Fitzharris' race report (very vivid!). I can add to that that I was lucky to have one of the good experiences with Tibradden. I saw few falls (did not stop up gallantly like Jim to help, however, as there is no better springboard to the next rock than a soft runner!), and at one stage the guy in front of me kept yelping in pain as he seemed threatened to fall with every step he took. I couldn't help but think "why is he not slowing down", but then again, why look for sanity among mountain runners???

At the return to the flat summit of Tibradden, a grey-haired runner, Eddie Reid I believe it was, seemed to fall without provocation, but that just confirmed to me that it's always the "easy" bits that get you (as my friend Conor Murray will remember coming over innocuous rocks at Hellfire this winter!).

The finish was frantic, as I rushed past a few runners to gain late positions, before deciding to have a go at Gary Moralee, the superb Tallaght runner recently promoted to M50, who has not finished outside the top 30 this year, and whom I have never beaten. My first sprint seemed to provide me with a small gap, but when Gary responded it proved that he had a lot more fast-twitch fibres left in the tank than me, and my ill-timed sprint almost cost me a further position, but I hung on, finishing 6 seconds after Gary.

I found my own rhytm almost immediately, and kept it the whole way through. The rocks gave me little difficulty and I can say I'm looking forward for my return to Tibradden, ankle-breaker or no ankle-breaker.

The Result
I registered a good 37 place out of 147 runners, in a 128% of the winner's time (for the second consecutive week, strangely I felt like I had run a much better race this time around), perhaps because I had registered a good victory over close rivals Justin Rea, Aoife Joyce, and taken one and a half minutes of Ruiri Finucane who had outsprinted me on the last 50m of Brockagh's the week before! It's the small victories that keep you happy!