The number three is decisively non-magical for me (unless in the sense of a warlock's curse!): Three seasons I have entered on the back of serious injury (2008, 2009, 2010). On three occasions, Brockagh Mountain, my favourite Leinster League race, has been the race when I would finally see the first results of the upcoming peak, and on all occasions, injury has stricken to stop that peak from occurring.
Hard chasing I arrived at the top in 31:50. I can’t remember how many I passed out on the decent, but they were a few. Then came into view the man I was looking for: Jason Kehoe. Thrice I attacked him on the bends of the Wicklow Way, and each time he cleverly blocked the corner to have me take the long route. These furious last kilometres were run in 3:18 and 3:16. Finally, I broke free, and pelted off on the flat stretch to goal. I saw a trio with Colm Mullen at the back and readied for a final charge towards the corner to attempt to take them out in the sprint. Then, a rock slipped my foot and I painfully hobbled over the finish still recording a best time of 50:37 for the route and finishing 17th.
A body tired and weary from multiple sprains and plantar fasciitis was promptly retired and wouldn’t race seriously again that year.
My only good race in Ireland in a troubled season, I finally hung on to Mick Hanney and other competitors battling to arrive at the top ahead of them in 31:02. At the very first drop, my ankle flicked on a muddy curve and sprained painfully. I hobbled along painfully until a final fight through pain allowed me to put in somewhat faster final kilometres of 3:24 and 3:15 to finish in 51:02. I caught no one but somehow held on to 20th in a race where I would certainly have smashed 50 minutes.
The route was 100m longer than the 2008 version so my overall pace was slightly faster than 08 despite the injury and the slower time.
The first sign of race fitness had arrived at Fairy Chase and my lactic tolerance was better. Still my climbing left a lot to be desired arriving at the top in 31:42, a full 40 seconds slower than the previous year. Not spraining my ankle at the top allowed for a much faster descent, however.
I came off the top a bit too slow and was caught by Martin Francis before catching a runner in grey and finally finding my stride to chase down fellow Dane Torben Dahl on the grassy bit. Firing off on the fire road, he pulled up alongside me again. My energy stores were now fully replenished and I prepared to put in another really fast 3:15-3:16 kilometre the way I had done in the previous year’s having put in my fastest kilometre on Brockagh yet (3:14) on the ninth. Then a loud pop and a cry of pain as something went in my calf.
Torben stopped and yelled “are you alright”, “Go, go, GO!”, I yelled. Enough that one Dane had his race ruined. Fighting, hobbling, jumping to the finish I covered the next kilometre more than a minute slower than normal and lost a further minute on the last 0.5km. I took off my number and DNFed in disgust at my bad luck as I hobbled to the side, managing to cover the course in 51:53. My estimates showed I would most likely have run 49:57 or faster and finished 18th-19th, a mission accomplished, but at the time I arrived at the finish around 14 runners had passed me by on the last kilometre.
Brockagh, you beast..
Why is Brockagh my favourite race? Well, despite my misfortunes here, I just love the course which has it all, open mountain, fast stuff, steep uphill, varying downhill and a bit of fast to blast off your raw speed as well, meaning only a complete runner with a wide array of skills can truly master the course.
I don’t know the extent of my injury yet, it could be anything from a bad cramp and light fibre damage to a tear of either the soleus or the tendons connecting to the calves. This could mean running again in a week, but it could also mean two months.
So long Leinster League?
In any case, I need to re-evaluate if there’s any value in doing any further Leinster League races. I got confirmation that my 10 weeks of endurance and strength work is having exactly the desired effect and racing form is returning very quickly on top of the aerobic base, long before true anaerobic and peaking work has started. I got 12 injury-free weeks. For me that’s a lot. If so much can be achieved with so little what can be achieved with 52 weeks, or 104 weeks, and so on?
No matter the news from the physio, my resolve is only strengthened by the latest feedback. I’m still a long way off where I need to be, but I know now I can bang out the high-mileage weeks necessary. As Mark Ryan said to me today, “you get an extra gear when you move from 80 to 100 miles”. I can’t wait for that. Time stays the major player here. It takes years and years of 100 mile weeks to bring out the true runner that hides inside every potential champion, so I’ll stay dogged in the face of adversity. If I must do professional levels of mileage for another 10 years to get what I want, then so be it. No price is too high to pay.
Finally, apologies to anyone suggested to my rather loud explicits. These were not directed at anyone in particular but just at fate for rewarding 10 weeks of self-deprivation and hard work with injury rather than success.
The only other serious question to ponder for me is how to get the small of insect repellent out of the new compression socks graciously sponsored by MST???