RACES: Teacher's Cross-Country

Another race, another day in the office. How can the football millionaires of the Premier League, who are pampered in every aspect of their life and have access to the best of the best ever say they feel tired?

While I'm not saying I feel fresh as a spring bunny after today's race, my 37th of the season (with the Marathon, and Powerscourt Ridge lined up, I must find a third race to make 40, that would be a good haul), I'm sure I would if I could concentrate only on training and returning to my luxurious mansion and keep myself in good fighting shape.

See Lindie's pictures here, and the pics of me here.

BHAA Season Restarts
The Business Houses Athletics Association is an organisation arranging semi-casual road and cross-country racing where people have the chance to go out and represent their company instead of their club (and in fact, for cross-country most other races are closed to non-club runners).

Today's venue was Castleknock College North of Phoenix Park where a 1 mile track had been laid out around the local rugby pitch (this would prove near-fatal later!). The men's race consisted of four laps of this while the women's consisted of half that (giving race distances of approximately 6.44km and 3.22km respectively).

Crusaders Ltd.
I was surprised by the amount of Crusaders out there today, in fact we pondered the thought of forming a "Crusaders Ltd." company and race together. I'm still having problems with a few names but our coaches Lindie, Michael, and Susan where all there (only Susan raced though), while Sean and 4 of the other Crusaders short and mid-distance runners where there.

During the first few laps a rugby player mistook one of the ladies for an opposing player and slammed her into the ground with a tackle that left her winded enough to need the care of several first aiders as I passed her doing my third round!

Talk about being a rough touch with the ladies! (and God knows why these rugby players are so popular with the local women!). Also there was ever-man Mike Long, complaining about a hard training session the day before, which is always refreshing as the vague comments from runners at the start line sometimes makes you think that training is somehow something to be ashamed of. Also there for Rathfarnham was strong hill runner, Zoe Melling, who had helped encourage me and others along last weekend in Tymon Park.

Start but no Gun
Due a rugby match having just commenced there was no whistle or gun going today, only a short abrupt "go", after the women had, unusually, been asked to congregate at the back before embarking on their shorter fiercer challenge (not that 4 miles is a slow-trod!).

I felt bad from the start, lungs where fine (as they always are), but legs and stomach was giving me problem. I was quickly distanced by the faster track athletes of Crusaders, and only caught up with one of our juniors, Chris Morahan, at the end of lap 1. Chris is a 1500m sprinter, and as is typical for younger runners, performs stronger over short-distance than medium and long. It's thought-inducing that when he reaches my age, he'll have had more than 14 years running experience under his belt, be well off his best as a mid-distance runner (if he makes the switch) while I'll be 42 and heading into the twilight of my career.

But I won't decry my "wasted years", I had a hell of good time, even if it'll cost me a few years in the other end when the grim reaper comes, and I'll be looking forward to being beating again and again by Chris as he moves into his prime.

What Age?
that you don't have to be young to be quicker than me was exemplified by Mike Long and the M60 winner (who did an amazing 23 minutes and a few secs!). Mike rekindled our new-found rivalry and passed me out midway through the third lap. I was desperately waiting for that midway spurt that usually comes into my legs and carries me up through the field, but today, it never manifested.

"The old guy is ahead of you," Lindie yelled, of course, this was the "old" man who finishes less than 18% behind the leaders in mountain running (where I have only recently closed into around 28%) and in 14.5th position whereas I linger in position 36 on average!

Even with two days rest (or maybe because of!) I never found a good pace, felt slightly disjointed, and slowed down to a trod on a few occasions as I failed to cope with the lactic acid build-up in my legs, so it was no surprise that I had to give up on chasing Mike and instead suffered more midway pass-outs than I can remember, before gaining back a place towards the end. The guy behind me was clearly stronger on the day, however, and only the cheers from fellow Crusaders to urge into a mad sprint kept him behind me. I have a feeling he didn't expect anything left in me, and I must have taken him by surprise.

Route Length Anyone?
My recorded time of 24:15 is still a decent time for a 6.44km race, but there where widespread murmurs that the race must have been shorter than that, a fact I couldn't double-check as my Garmin is currently experiencing technical difficulties!

In any case the race wasn't as bad as I felt out there doing the laps, but there was definitely something not right, hopefully just the hard marathon training sinking into the legs. On the plus side it has left me in a more combative mood than ever, and I can't resist the temptation to go out and do a long slow trod this evening to run this out of my system, as most of my pains and niggles seem to have gone away after the two days rest.

The Legend of Lenihan
The facilities after the race where great, we enjoyed cake, tea, and biscuits before an inordinate amount of prizes where given out to the participants where Susan managed to sweep up the win in her age category!

I had a chat with Mike who reminisced about John, the King of the Hill, Lenihan, Ireland's greatest ever mountain runner. During a race once, John lapped him and not only did he feel it was a great honour, he couldn't help but admire his long strong and elegant uphill strides, working like a perfectly oiled machine. Well, I can understand it, should I fall and Lenihan should wish to use my back as a springboard, I'd be honoured too, and would make sure the studmarks on my skin never went away!