RACES: Sorrell Hill

Another round of Leinster League misery followed yesterday for yours truly as I had to pull out at 8km just as I crossed the fence down the grassy ride to the finish.

Shane returns

I’d hoped to contribute to a decent team performance on this evening. With our “biggest guns” Jason, Richie and Rob only paying lip-service to the LL this year and focusing on other things, the return of Shane O’Rourke and our new recruit Niall Heffernan gave hope of improving the Crusaders points tally by a bit.

I wanted to race and see if the leg could take it before Sunday’s trial. I reasoned it was better to find out here as it would be almost impossible, mentally, to pull out of the Trial race. Coming off the start my legs felt strange. On the one hand they moved as effortlessly up the climb as the weekend’s run had let me believe they would. Yet there was a strange electric numbness in them similar to what I have experienced when going to be in recent months. As Joss Naylor says it was “almost as if they didn’t belong to us…”

When Shane and Niall took my shoulder and we turned left up the grass, everything just stopped working. Yet I persevered (just about) to the flat stretch on the grass. Here the wily Mick Hanney blasted past four of five of us. I had quite the opposite experience. My legs weren’t tightening up but I was feeling very uncomfortable, almost sick, and it was like no batteries would fire. I seemed stuck at a pedestrian pace and felt like a guy hitting an “on” button on a broken TV desperately. Nothing happened, and once again I could only disappoint Martin Francis as he came by and tried to pull me along with a snarling “c’mon”. Jimmy Synnott likewise offered encouragement as he flew by before tearing his part of the field apart on the descent.

Left and up

Once we finally left the grass I was hoping for a revival or for people starting to die off, but instead I just kept stuck and even had to walk large bits. At parts here I felt strangely sugar-low and was staggering around punch-drunk with moments going by where I thought I’d hit the soil any moment. The thought “something isn’t right” kept jumping into my head and I did my best to block it as to not to further hurt my already fading performance.

Somehow I still managed to overtake Martin again and caught Conor O’Meara around the cairn. He put in a good effort to hit the descent first, however, and much to my surprise I found myself going down fast before unfortunately being completely boxed in by Conor and another few runners in front. I tried one desperate move through the heather which got me past Conor and the other runner but the second time I tried the trick to further release myself I got stuck and had to start doing it all again. Martin managed better with one fast committed sprint he had released himself and was on his way. I just missed the boat and with it my last chance to make up serious ground.

As it flattened I could finally pull away from Conor and then a Boards runner was ahead. Again no space opened up for me to pass by until he took a tumble straight on his face. I yelled “are you alright” as I raced past feeling somewhat guilty that for a short second I welcomed his misfortune as it finally released me from my cage.

On the way back my tempo was getting somewhat better but there was still no zest and halfway through my calf had had enough and started to tighten up. I lost, won and lost back again a few places before eventually feeling further tightening around the tibialis. That was my check-out call. I walked out to the side, took off my number, took off my watch, and turned it off. Then trotted despondently back to the finish. Seeing the Blessington Lakes brightened my mood somewhat, and so did the realisation that I had had the good sense to stop today when at Brockagh I hadn’t.

“I let you down,” I said to Shane back at the cars, but he only shook his head dismissively. A seasoned marathoner he appreciates that men our age, while we can still achieve great things into our late forties, can’t afford to throw seasons away trying to achieve a few points for a team competition.

Don’t like at the Garmin!

Studying my Garmin after it was all too clear that something was terribly amiss. Reading some of the splits was the stuff suicides are made off: The fastest downhill was 4:15 and most was a lot slower. This is beyond shocking even in the context of how bad I felt through the race. Such paces are not even half-marathon pace on the road (in fact far from it!) and shows that either I was very ill for some reason or the missing elements of my training are having a very serious effect at the moment.

Theoretically this could be the cause:

1. Without proper anaerobic training, I have the strength but not the resistance to oxygen debt required to cope with utilising my new strength

2. Racing detracts rather than adds to my current form

The latter is likely the case as you have to do your systemic anaerobic training first (e.g. getting the full body used to continuous anaerobic running). Tempos and intervals at 3-5k pace work this.

Only once this has been done for 4-5 weeks is the body ready to benefit from “localised fatigue” (e.g. your legs swamped with acid). This is achieved through runs at 1 mile pace and faster either short time trials or very short fast intervals with little recovery (Arthur’s windsprints or 30/30s are good examples).

I have jumped straight from strength work into racing which is causing an anaerobic stimulus I am not equipped to handle and providing a stimulus I cannot benefit from. So my aerobic form is being eroded while I am not building any fitness. To fix this I need to do three long 2-hour runs on back-to-back days followed by 3-4 weeks of 3k-5k pace workouts. That leaves me 2 weeks for coordination/sharping (not much but better than nothing) at 1 mile pace if I want 1 week taper for Snowdon (this was enough last year).


Coming home, my old stomach cramps set-in and I wasn’t surprised. With the move over the weekend my eating and drinking have been pretty awful and perhaps I saw all that come together today I am going to go on the road and the track for a while, sort out my head and my form, and hopefully do Lugnacoille as a litmus test before Snowdon and then just focus on getting that one good race over there before a lovely long holiday in the Lake District with daily 4-5 hours slow runs/power hikes.

I don’t feel at home in the Leinster League anymore and I’ve noticed I’m only doing them because I’m obsessed about returning to the performance level of 2008. Best thing is to take a break, do some other racing, and return when I’ve sorted myself out.

It’s hard to keep the faith in times such as these, but I know it only takes one reasonable result to confirm that I’m back on the right track and I don’t think that is far away although the recent results imply that I’m miles off the pace.


Colm O'Cnoic said…
I know your following a well thought out plan to peak for Snowdon but every plan can become stuck for one reason or anything.
If things aren't going your way in a race and you feel crap by all means pull up and save yourself injury, but if its only the build up of cramp and you have to slow down, then slow down. But don't drop out. Dropping out can become a bad habit.
From past experiences, finishing a race, even if your last of the last builds a mental toughness that you are able to call upon when your neck and neck with your biggest rival in your number one priority race. Giving up can become a bad habit, but on the flip side, not giving up and fighting for every inch can become a habit. A habit that will get you one place higher up the results every time.
Its not just ability and training that is important for success - its about how much you want it.
Renny said…
Appreciate the comments Cnoc. It can be a tough call whether you should fight on or not especially in the thick of the fight.

In this particular case, I didn't feel there was any ambiguity. I was well recovered by the time I decided to stop and my muscles weren't particularly sore compared to what I normally do to them in races where I plan to put in a full effort. The pain was localised around exactly the tendon that causes me problems in both legs, so I consider it a no-brainer really. At the end of the day, in hindsight, I was wrong to contest the Leinster League at all this season. I should have stuck more strictly to plan and not raced before the body was ready to handle it.

To be honest, looking at how the last few days have been, I think I was most likely sick. Sleep has been feverish and mind has been fatigued ever since the race and I am constantly craving junk food. All signs of being worn down by something...