PREVIEW: Annacurra

The 3rd race of the IMRA Winter League hovers ahead on the horizon at Aughrim this Saturday. For anyone who has not yet raced in the Winter League, this is the last chance to start if they wish to get three races in and complete the league. Ahead lays the “royal” race of the league Trooperstown Hill with its 10.5km distance, before we turn to the familiar straits of Crone Wood. Unfortunately last year’s fast and furious 6km route has been amended and the longer route now more resembles the other races that are already in the calendar.

Aptly named Annacurragh, after the starting point, this race has no named hill to lend it a name; instead it is a series of undulating forest tracks and fire trails leading you up through a cosy forest to the top of the local hill and back down again on fast and furious descents with little technical elements.

For that reason purists may eschew it, but be that as it may, the races serves as a perfect stage of the Winter League: friendly to beginners, a fast challenge for seasoned veterans, and with its 9km length, long enough to play primarily on stamina not speed.

Make no mistake, however, like most hill races, you’ll need power to combat the long ascent, and the only viable strategy available will be running to the top as if it is the finish line. Any one of the regular top-20 runners will be comfortably able to run around 3:00min/km pace for the long descent, so unless you have confidence you can run steady sub-3min kilometres, you will not find time enough left on the course to cut back any form of major gap.

Race Director is local man Mick Hanney, for whom this is a great opportunity to showcase one of his favourite routes. I remember having a decent race nearby, down the road, at Cushbawn, one of the 2007 Leinster Championship race. Annacurragh promises to be an even more fun experience (although the rocky descent of Cushbawn would be a welcome addition to this race but our opportunity to test ourselves against such challenges lies in wait at Trooperstown Hill).
The Route
When I first came back into running after my injury I went on a recce of the route which I jogged in 47:37 minute. Kilometre 7 to 8 is particularly fast. I couldn't really run because of my sore knee, but still managed a 3:50 split while Mick was bombing down in front of me.
Kilometre 3 to 4 is the hardest with our jogging speed dropping to 8:31 here (we had done the first to uphill between 6:30 and 6:50).
Ascent grade is actually quite high for a Winter League race with an average of 8.2% and some nasty bits peaking out at 22.6%, so don't underestime this little beastie.
See you Saturday and best of luck!


Mick said…
Add some snow to the mix and it could get challenging.