RACES: Gibbet Hill

I'll turn my writing away from our epic Lakeland journey for a short while for local matters were at hand this Sunday as I travelled to Wexford to compete in the third, and final, of Jane and Graham Porter's new Wexford trail series: The Slaney Olympic Open Trail Series.

Three races were the menu on offer, and I had competed in the first, Little Sliabh Bui, finishing 6th, but missed the second, Kilbrannish South on the slopes of Mt. Leinster, due to a calendar conflict with the National 10k.

Long story short I had a very decent race and finished 4th, sitting in 2nd spot from about 500m and all the way to the 9 kilometre mark, almost at the end of the final climb were all life deserted my legs.

My main purpose had been to simply test the knee and gauge if any chance of racing at the more demanding Ticknock on Wednesday remained. This test was reasonable positive, although I'm somewhat worse for wear today as a result of the race.

My full race report can be read here.

On a more personal level the race proved an interesting one. Once Keith Heary took off like a hare the race win was a foregone conclusion, but this left me alone to fend off everyone else in the field anywhere close to Keith.

Not only did this turn out as a great opportunity to try "leading" a race and setting the pace, it somehow served as my redemption as well. I practically flagellated myself against each hill, seemingly as punishment for both my stupidity at Howth but also the nagging feeling, felt again and again in recent races, that I "left something on the road".

I certainly left nothing out there today, twice I invoked the image of Joss Naylor, and all his suffering, to push me over the hills ahead of my pursuers. In the end the body shut down completely for a fatal 30 or so seconds, but I am happy to have run beyond the pain limit and then some.

This meant the climbs I had were probably my first descent climbs since I went from 65 kilos to 72. I may have lost a bit (I need to check), but its proving harder to gain the strength than lose the weight, and I am remain a weak climber unless I drop my weight dangerously low. Geraldine's strength regime should prove an ace-in-hole for the future, but it will take time, a long time, for this to start paying off. Yet today I was happy enough as many of the lads behind me, Chris, Frantisek and Ed in particular, were climbing very well, yet I held them off for 9 of 11km.

I was happy to see Aoife back racing as well, of course, taking victory in a local race is always a great occasion and we both hope the rigours of the race will have stirred up enough in her foot to allow tomorrow's MRI to show what mystery injury truly has befallen her. I haven't lost much fitness, so the fact she only lost about a minute and a half on me after 3 months of downtime shows how far ahead her fitness had developed before the injury.

Tactically, the race was also interesting: I completed the first and last laps in 3:34 and 3:21 respectively but the rest was quite uneven (I had a 3:35 thrown in the middle, but was as slow as 6:18 on the toughest climb). I lost 2nd spot on pretty decent 4:48 and 4:54 kilometres on the final ascent. So that's it, back racing, hopefully Ticknock now beckons...



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