RACES: Scalp - The LL meets the Jungle

QUICK RACE ANALYSIS (1 = Abysmal, 5 = Excellent)
· ROUTE: 3 (Undulating short trail race with interestin forest bit but narrow bordering on the claustrophobic. A good candidate for the Trail League)
· WEATHER: 3 (Light drissle and overcast but pleasant temperature and calm evening)
· FIELD STRENGTH: 4 (strong, this years main men all there including the welcome return of runners such as Cormac Conroy)
· STRATEGY: 3 (No preparation, but decent tactics on the fly. Started too far down in field and got caught in the beginning, kept good steady pace throughout)
· PERFORMANCE: 3 (another steady-yet-unspectacular performance. Stronger than last week, but lacking kick on both descents and flats, no explosive power on ascents)
· OVERALL: 3 (An interesting enough outing, but no classic, and a race I'd make a point to avoid in future seasons unless needed for completion of the LL)

When I recceed Scalp this Monday I had serious concerns about how the route would handle another influx of 230 runners, so it was with some relief that I noted a smaller field (of about 190) turning out on the night.

This was my first time doing Scalp as I missed the race through injury the previous year. It was a race I had made a point out of doing if possible as it's a very short race (about 5.8k) and in that way similar to Crone Wood. As a runner whose forte lies on the 10-20km distance (at least for the moment), I find it imperative to challenge myself against distances that will rock me out of my comfort zone.

Scalp is one of these, and I ended up racing with an average heart rate of 182, not as fierce as my runs last summer (when heart rate soared as high as 188bpm on average). There's two reasons for this, one my heart is stronger and two, I'm not quite race sharp yet, having done much fewer races this year than last. Still Scalp remains a race in the mould of cross-country races with plenty of pressure from the gun to the finish line.

Hill in the Jungle
There's something Bornean about the Scalp race with the small rocky knoll of Carrickgolligan, a molehill of a mountain, amongst lush green trees with plenty of weeds, long protruding branches, and trip-wire vegetation.

Indeed, the jungle was so overgrown that Joe Lalor made a point out of moving some fallen trees out of the way to facilitate the race.

The race makes Howth seem like an airport runway so tight is the bottlenecks, so I lined up cautiously behind Jason Kehoe and not too far from Tim Grummell, but when the start shout came, I didn't go off as well as planned, got caught in pockets that broke my rhythm and laboured on. I had made it out alright, but not as well as I should in hindsight, and passing people by took persistence and daring-do.

A flattish start is followed by a short quick descent with many protruding rock-faces. My Trail-Foxes struggled to get to grips (literally) with this and I didn't exactly feel like flying. The next uphill bit was hard labour, first in up a firetrail that turned back on itself into a very sharp and then the overgrown paths bending backwards and forwards towards Carrickgolligan.

Lost Leaders
The top-10 had gotten lost by this stage, and everyone interested in this account should not miss Barry Minnock's own retelling of the evening's race on the IMRA website.

I was certainly surprised to see first him, then Peter and Eoin rush past me (my club mate Jason Kehoe who had a great run in 12th was bungled out into the bushes by the duelling leaders and had the bruises to show after). Shane O'Rourke and others showed more restraint, not being sure it was entirely fair to push people out of the way on account of your own mistake.

As for my own opinion on the matter, I didn't see it, and having flicked a branch into the head of my regular rival Mick Hanney earlier this year, am hardly the right to comment. Mick got some sort of revenge today, registering his first victory in our one-to-one meetings this season to cap his last month of fabulous results, most notable his 03:05:55 marathon in Cork. Once again, it was tight, and he finished ahead of me in 16th as I fought in to 17th spot overall.

This was once again a new record low finish in the LL (5th being my best overall achieved in the Wicklow Way Trail), but it far from felt like a victory as I bungled my last descent and was overtaken by two runners. There was some consolation as I managed to throw all my force into the last uphill bit through the forest, this closed the gap on the nearest of the two runners and while I had to throw myself into the grass to pass him, I painfully held firm from there.

Most of the runners I have managed to hold off at one or more occasions this year, got the upper hand over me today though, Martin Francis, Tim Grummell, Jim Kirwan, and Jason. My heel acted up awfully after the race and I feared I may not be back anytime soon to fight again, after a few days of heavy icing, things once again look rosy though.

Aoife wrapped up another victory and probably the Leinster League, but was noticeable tired after. A long season of racing has hit in and we'll both look forward to some rest ahead of the real big test of the season, next weekend's: Crone Wood Trial.

I'm in two minds now on whether or not to do Circle of Glenmacnass. I've recceed it and it would be a nice long training run. If I do it, I'd have to jog it, however, to remain fully fresh for Saturday. Could I mentally handle that? Dermot Murphy thinks no! We'll see Sunday...


Renny said…
I quick note on this update, I was informed that some of the "lost leaders" interpreted my review as attributing blame to them all for their fightback up through the field.

That's not the case, as first I stated I don't make any personal judgement on it (because A) I didn't see it, and B) some pushing and shoving is inevitable in a race). I do, however, report what I hear, and I did hear numerous people describe the running as "aggressive" and there was reports of pushing. Jason also showed me the bruises and cuts he got from being bundled into the bushes. Let it be said, that like a true sportsman, he had no issue with this as he was actively trying to hold off the "pursuants" himself, and accepted it as "part of the game".

So apologies to anyone who took it as a personal attack. This was a rendition of people's observations from the night (including my own). "Brave comeback" or "mad rush" would be the two extreme depictions of what happened on the night. From my perspective it's the former rather than the latter (then I was only given one light push, and have experienced worse as Snowdon and other races). Then again I'm fanatical about the sport and understand the combativeness while others may have different opinions. Since these were voiced, I chose to depict both here.