DIARY: Cold Start to the Season

Sunday's the big day: The season restarts with the first Winter League race at Howth.

The Winter League is, of course, IMRA's five race series from Jan-Mar each year, in which you have to run 3 races to finish the league.

Last year saw Crusader's Orla McAvoy and Irish International Ronan Guirey winning the respective female and male trophies, and this year proves to be another exciting run-out.

My favourite moment was running in the snow at Three-Rock and my greatest hope for this year's Winter League is that the Weather Gods (that's Thor for us!) will really show us their bad side. I guess I shouldn't be saying that with that putting people's health in danger etc. etc., but give me foul weather over sweltering heat any day!

Cryo in Wexford
Before I embark on my own Winter League crusade, I still have the little matter of a training-stopping injury to attend to.

As it's probably obvious from my wishful thinking above, I like cold weather, probably not such a strange thing for a Scandinavian.

This weekend, however, I will undoubtedly get more than I bargained for as I'll try out the Cryo-Clinic in Wexford where I will be entered into three chambers for three minutes each, each chamber progressively colder, starting at -10, moving to -60 and down to an astounding -110 degrees (which is incidentally 41% of absolute zero!)

Death sets in after at such temperatures, so I'm banking on the room having an emergency switch in case the door gets stuck!

Season Ahead
My pre-season is slightly in tatters, our original plan was to have four months, Dec-Mar, where each month would focus on addressing one specific physical weakness.

Should the injury be healed by the cryo, however, things are still looking optimistic, with at least 2 months of quality work to be done. It won't mean a quantum leap forward, but should mean some improvement at least. For the moment there is only regress since the marathon.

I plan to cut down on my number of races, particularly the Championship races, this season. I need to build speed, and a lot of those races are to rough to facilitate this, and see all but the best runners walking huge bits, so my focus will lie on the Leagues, the Trials, and Snowdon, and then the Cross-Country in Winter, with the marathon out (I may act as a pacer).

I still plan to do a good few Championship races, Mt. Leinster because I've never been there, my favourite "harsh" races Lug and the races that will attract a lot of top runners such as the North/South challenge at Carlingford.

Then of course there's the Connacht Championship which is worthwhile attending for the social side alone.

So in two days it's Howth will start our season. It's a good route, quite fast, but with two vicious descents. Everyone who's run it, knows that getting into the forest fast is key to a good race.

It's not a concern of mine for this Sunday, however, my previous best of 41:37, which I had planned to bring below 40:00 this year (and still hope to do in the Summer version of this same race), is unreachable in my current condition.

In fact, I'll be happy if I can beat the 47:35 I set, two weeks after I took up hill running, and was still recovering from years of sedentary lifestyle and heavy drinking.

Crusaders v. Clonliffe
On the team front, I'm looking forward to seeing our Crusaders ladies team up against Clonliffe. We have a huge squad of good female runners, led by new Captain Aoife Joyce, and I expect to see a lot of them in the Winter League to put up a tough competition for the also strong women from North Dublin.

On the men's front things are more insecure, Shane will be leading our line, and well, I'm sure, but I'm not in great shape to help him out, and we're missing our new strong Kiwi, Jason, who's in London. We do have the always solid performers Paul Kelly and Diarmuid O'Cholmain to bank on, but here's hoping a few more of our lads turn up and allow us to give it a strong showing this year.

Good luck to everyone in the new season!