DIARY: Winter and Leinster League Thoughts

While I receive the calendar a little bit earlier than most others so I can partake in discussing about its strengths and weaknesses at a committee level and upload it to the website, this doesn't leave me any less excited about the eventual outcome than the general membership.

Overall, I'm privately very happy with the new calendar. There is not much I would have done differently. Getting a calendar that suits everyone is near impossible, and I think this years has a good balance overall.

The Egoistic Calendar
Had I made a calendar just for me, I would have made only 3 changes (keep in mind this would have made the calendar better for me, I'm quite willing to accept that the existing calendar is probably closer to what the majority wants).

I would have replaced Circuit of Glenmacnass with Aughavannagh as I think Glenmacnass has had two good years and could need a rest. On the other side, I see that its the most accessible of the four big circuits (the other two being Glenmalure and Glendalough) and this may be important in a year where the Leinster Championship and Irish Championships are being marketed more broadly.

Another thing I would change is moving Scalp out of the Leinster League calendar and into the Trail League while replacing it with the newly regenerated Tibradden race. This is again personal bias, I find Tibradden to be a much superior hill race, while I'm afraid to say, I think of Scalp as a mazy mess!

Finally, I would have liked to see Ben Gorm being replaced by another Connacht race to spicy up the Championship again as I think the second race (apart from untouchable Croagh Patrick) should rotate. That being said, its a popular route for its savage harshness among the main demographic for the CC, which doesn't include me (in fact, I won't be able to do the CC this year, so who am I to complain!). And there may be quite interesting things in store for Connacht...

But I guess it speaks to the strength of the calendar that there's only two points that stick out for me as being against my personal tastes, so now that the menu is set what should I order?

Winter League
I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to the Winter League and I happen to like all the races, and with the long breaks between them all, I am perfectly happy to use them as pre-season tests. That way I make them bi or tri-weekly "breakthrough workouts" which is not the worst use of them.

My favourite route remains Trooperstown Hill which I'm looking forward to revisit. If I cut out any race it will be Ticknock, as it returns in the Leinster League. Howth was too good to me last year to be discarded on that same logic, and I love the atmosphere surrounding the UC, so Crone Wood stays in. And I beat both Mick and Mike in that race, so what's not to love!

The new Annacurra race is a real treat for the speedster, the descents should have a speed limit painted over them, they are so fast, so how can I possibly resist that. If I don't run a very solid sub-3:00 kilometre on at least one of the last 3km of Annacurra, I can just as well go home and hang up my boots, because then it "ain't ever gonna happen" as the Americans say...

Leinster League
I've more or less made up my mind only to do 7 (possibly 8) races to get more quality into my race results and not tempt injury once again. The first thing I do is automatically discard the races that I don't like running:

1. Bray
2. Scalp

The next I consider is timing and how the races suit my current injury-proneness. This leaves me to discard:

3. Ballinastoe
4. The Sugarbowl

Finally, I look at the calendar and take out a race I'm just indifferent about:

5. Prince William's Seat

, which leaves me to cherry-pick among the remaining 8. I like to attach a reasoning to my races and they would be these:

1. Howth (good results on route, fast)
2. Hellfire and Brimstone (had to DNF last year, but seems to suit me, another fast one)
3. Ticknock (home turf, one of my faovourite descents)
4. Powerscourt Uphill (rely more on uphills after my injuries and the novelty factor alone makes it a must)
5. , 6., and 7. Scarr, Brockagh and Sorrell Hill. The "real mountain races" on the LL calendar and my favourites. Open, great descents, and longer, which plays to my strengths as well.

This leaves only Corrig undebated. I like to think I keep it in reserve. I have never run it, only marshalled half of it, so this alone makes it interesting.

Main Priorities
Besides the Leinster League, I would like a good showing in the two Trials. To me, these are the races that truly throw down the yardstick. "Measure is unceasing", says the Scylvendi barbarian in R. Scott Bakker's masterpiece "The Darkness That Comes Before", and it surely is unceasing in the trials. If you really want to face the facts of your own fitness, the trials are the place. Like the major Cross-Country Championships, they are a crucible from which stronger and wiser runners emerge and cannot be missed for the experience they endow upon us.

I would like to get a run in on Ballybraid and Mt. Leinster as the routes seems to be fantastic, and Lugnacoille is another favourite of mine that I would be sad to miss. Unfortunately, doing two races in a week would violate my current cautious approach, and I would be loathe to jeopardise that as I try to rebuild the effects of a torn meniscus, 1 sprain in the left and 3 sprains in the right ankle, as well as plantar fasciitis. I sought speed before fortitude and, as she is loath, Mother Nature punishes such acts of mistaken prioritisation.

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