"Snowdon here we come!" or so I am tempted to declare after today's race. The sprained ankle held up admirably and my climbing was good despite yesterday's hill run and tough resistance session in the morning. Running decent when your legs are tired is fundamental as it simulates the anguish you'll face at the later stages of longer races such as Snowdon. I took great enjoyment from going into a race with a relaxed attitude, no goals, and no special preparation. Sometimes you really need to run without a care in the world to recharge vital batteries.
- Route: 5 (A splendid route with generally fair terrain, nice views, and a stern worthy challenge. Is and will always remain a classic. Not my type of race per se, but getting less antagonistic to routes like this)
- Weather: 4.5 (Too warm for me but the breeze further up helped and the lack of mist made navigation a breeze)
- Field Strength: 4 (Good field consisting of well-known contenders such as John Lenihan, Peter O'Farrell, Bernard Fortune, Cormac Conroy, Turlough Conway and the upsurging Crusaders Richie Healy and Jason Kehoe. Good strength in depth and a big crowd for an IC race)
- Performance: 4 (Another cynical and dispassionate performance that blended training and racing perfectly towards Snowdon. A well-paced effort, low-risk strategy and enough energy conserved not to hamper the final ramp-up. Sloppy route choices and cowardly descending on the technical bits, but I forgive myself due to the recent sprain. Work to do on technical descending, injury or no injury, however)
- Overall: 4 (Happy day out. Good training, back in one piece, and great craic at the pub. The red lemonade was the tastiest treat in ages. Was glad to be able to observe some legends at work on a classical course after a long absence from such races)
Let me just give some credit to the website here: http://www.thesolemate.com/articles/Ankle%20tape%20Today.pdf. The taping technique on it was a great help in the morning when taping up the injured right ankle (although, I started out groggily by taping the wrong leg!). After the race the multiple breaks in the tapes showed clearly where the taped had saved me. Its likely that each one of those breaks would have gone straight to my ligament had the tape not been there and extended the small tear that's probably there.
We're still waiting for the results but it was a great day for Peter O'Farrell who beat John Lenihan and now have two wins in the Irish Championships and some tough decisions to make with both the Galtees and the European Championship looming within the next two weeks.
Turlough Conway seemed to have lost some ground on the descent, but was very well up on the ascent from what I could see coming up and must be secretly pleased with that. Dermot Murphy also had another cracker after he showed strong ascending at Brockagh and, of course, my own two club mates, Richie and Jason, were absolutely flying and were both in the top-6 I believe.
Best jump of the day was Will Powderly who had passed me out at the foot of Camarahill on the descent and jumped the gate with two hands while I walked over the turnstile. Pity as I've never beaten Will and it would have been good fun to do it here.
Bernard Fortune managed to overhaul Turlough on the descent and was fifth with Cormac Conroy also well up. The field size was impressive with more than 70 people when usually this race only attracts 40. So perhaps the marketing of the Irish Championship sees effect now.
My time on the day was 1:06:41 which I can't really compare to much as I was injured coming down in 2006 (and in any case, had only two months of any kind of fitness at the time, so a poor gauge). Last year I couldn't do it, and in 2007 the race was uphill only, so not an an apples-for-apples comparison. Still I was 30th to the top that year in 48:43 and had one of my best races of that season. I'll never forget the field that day which included Robbie Bryson, Colm Mullen, Ronan Guirey, Stephen Duncan, Garry Crossan, Eoin McKenna, Barry Minnock, Peter O'Farrell, Cormac Conroy, Owen Gahan and that's only the top-10 (the top-20 was far from shabby either, phenomenal).
Coming off the steep bit and onto the "golf course" part of Lug, I tried to follow the acceleration of Martin Francis who had been a reliable "partner" the whole way up as we have practically paced each other and I had even obliged to give him a push in the back at one stage. He told me later of his disappointment that I wasn't there at the cairn to give him a push down. Not that the needed it. Over-heating and thirst had been my greatest issues going up and I tried to stay beyond a mental "red line" beyond which I felt I'd just blow a gasket and this pacing worked well as I finished the race in a very agreeable condition and ready for another rough week tomorrow. Martin went on to win the M50s. I knew that I would need to be mentally and physically 100% to keep up with Martin going down, so once he had a small gap I was happily reclined to the fact that he wouldn't be caught by me today.
What was surprising was the vast amount of walking we did, even as we were placed reasonably far up the field. This is thought-inducing as all walking must be eliminated, even from a course like this, to became truly competitive in the future, so there's a lot of work to do on hill strength. I can see plyometrics and resistance training becoming a key ingredient in my future training to work on this, I don't think running alone can do it. Nothing would please me more than run for King of the Mountains points, even if it was only 1, so there's all kinds of motivation for working on the uphills more.
Despite my legs not wanting to sprint to the top I think I arrived around 43:30 (I didn't have time to look as I was too busy telling some bystanders where our race had started). While its hard to make out how good your splits are on the up (as they all look very slow, kilometre 5 I ran in 11:30 for instance!) , I can certainly be pleased with taking 5+ minutes off my 2007 time. One of the next years, I'll put real focus into these races and arrive fresh and rested. I think sub-40 for the top would be more than achievable within 1-2 years.ith John's time from last year which was about the same while, of course, the all-time record of 49:34 (set by John Lenihan) would have done some serious damage to people's statistics. My own "% of winning time" of 122% remains a good bit under what would be the norm for the League but this must be expected especially given how the leaders seem to be racing the descent when myself (and many others undoubtedly) had to take a bit more of a cautious approach. I'd love to see the downhill splits of one of the leaders. My own weren't the best with no sub-4:00 recorded and my best being 4:01 (on the flatter grassy bit were there was little or no risk to my ankle).
On the descent I wasn't picking very good lines and seem to be able to navigate into the worst rocks and the biggest mud puddles on an otherwise dry route. The steep bit coming off the top and the rocky bit just after the ascent flattens out caused me a lot of trouble as I didn't have any confidence in my stability. I was passed out by a good few here, but once the terrain got better, I had recovered pretty well and could chase some down again. I also managed to gain back Helen Whyte, the female winner of the day, who qualified for the Europeans at Clohernagh and was undoubtedly using this as a bit of practice. Paul Smyth, always a good descender, passed me out on the rocky bit and it took me until the foot of Camarahill to gain him back.
I was in a good position for a finishing sprint here as the forced slowdowns had allowed me to regain a lot of strength. However, when Will Powderly cleared the gate with an elegant jump, there was no way back for me but I had enough momentum to hold on to the place I had gained. Coming over the finishing line I immediately secured some water to quell my mad thirst. On the plateau I had managed to secure a sip of water off a volunteer walking up which gave me some reprieve. Something hadn't been quite right with my fluid intake, perhaps Moire's leaving party on Saturday which kept us up until the early hours. Moire herself did well and finished 2nd woman with Caroline Reid in 3rd followed by Karen and Jackie.