PREVIEW: Cooley Legends Half-Marathon

So, I'm back from Singapore after 55 hours without a bed to call my own. I caught up well yesterday, running three sessions (a slow 13k hill run, a wonderful 12.5k fartlek and a tiny 4.5k hill run to stretch my legs. Why? Well 30 is just such a lovely number and I was so excited to see my hill again. Has it ever been this dry?)

Anyway, to the Cooley's. Tomorrow morning I travel to the inaugural running of this exciting new race. I had planned to do Tonelagee but it was love at first sight when I checked out the GarminConnect map of this route.

The similarities to Wicklow Way Leg 7 and the old Wicklow Way Trail are many, so here I had my perfect replacement for the race I lost due to injury and the race I am bound to lose due to the clash with the European Trial. Let's look at the route:

The Climb

Like both aforementioned races, the Cooley run starts on a prolonged climb over the shoulder of Slieve Foy. In this case 6 kilometres (WW Leg 7 has 4) with a climb of around 330m (a very gentle 5.5% gradient but with a few much steeper spots).

A fast descent follows, a bit shorter than the leg 7 one, dropping 200m in 2km before a long flattish stretch as you run south in the shadow of Carlingford Mountain. Just after the 14km point you climb over the shoulder of Carlingford Mountain a climb of about 150m and of two kilometres length. This climb while not as hard as the late climb in Leg 7 and Curtlestown in the WWT fall at much the same time of the race, strengthening the similarity in dynamics.

The second climb, with its 7.5% ascent grade is tougher than the first in those terms, and could prove decisive if the battle is still close at this point. You finish with 3 kilometres of furious downhill until you hit sea-level outside Carlingford to run the final 2.1km on flat tarmac. This should be equally torterous to holding a strong pace in Glencullen after flying off the backside of Prince William's Seat.

Sixty percent of the race is on trail, mainly over the shoulders of the two Cooley mountains braved on the day. The rest is tarmac road, so again we see similarities to our Leg 7 and WWT who also feature significant parts of such running.

The Competition?
Who knows and who cares? ;-) Seriously, a good field seems to be forming, two weeks ago 169 had signed up, so even if I'm the only one since then its a 170 plus strong field and I'm hoping to see several of Northern Ireland's best.

Lydiard said that when you move into quality training you should look at what you got: "Great endurance and ability to recover." This means you often start with longer and slower repeats with less recovery before moving on to more intense work as your body slowly get's into a racing groove. I view this race the same way: Over the last 6 weeks my endurance has started to truly come back and I'll easily last the distance and keep up a good pace in a half-marathon distance type race. Ask too much speed, however, and my body will protest and falter at this stage.

So the Cooleys are a perfect bridge and looks to be a memorable race. I hope to see some familiar faces up there and will certainly be reporting on the first event on Mud, Sweat and Tears.