As tests go today’s Trial seemed as a very useful endeavour. The very tough start took its toll on a lot of runners including myself and those around me. PJ and Eamonn quickly distanced me after which I was left to fight it out with Richard Donelan from DSD and Finbarr Murray. I started to gain ground on both towards the end of the first climb and managed to overtake them coming down to the Dargle.
The climb evened out a lot later on; I didn’t recover immediately coming up the rocky path away from the river but kept the legs going enough to keep my pursuers at bay. Emerging on the lovely grassy slope, I could see the next batch of runners were already well beyond reach and I felt extremely feverish by now, struggling to lower my body temperature and very tempted to rip off the singlet to gain some relief. Behind me the course had been interesting; I hadn’t seen some of the trails before. Once we hit the rocky zig-zags, you think you get a break, but guess again!
Luckily, the higher and higher altitude finally brought with it a cool breeze and I found some measure of stability as I reached the rocky final ascent where I just focused on keeping the legs running for as long as possible up the steepening slope.
Eventually, the legs had to power-walk more and more and my resolve to keep the feet quick strengthened as I could clearly hear the numbers of at least one runner behind me fluttering in the wind. Towards the final stretch I got superb encouragement from Mark, Jason and others and I did my best to run here although it was a painfully slow effort. I probably didn’t pick the best line either, zig-zagging slightly on my way upwards. Eventually Richard Donelan just hit a sprint out of nowhere. My boiler was already putting enough pressure on me to blow a lid off, so while I struggled on, I couldn’t match it but did carve out almost a minute on Adrian Farrell and Finbarr Murray behind me.
What I really came for was proof that I haven’t turned into a coward and a quitter and that was all there today. Although I never felt strong, my heart felt laboured and under pressure at only around 175bpm average (not as high as Wednesday) and my body temperature too felt unusually elevated. I had the legs for more, but I pushed as far as pain allowed under the circumstances, gritted my teeth and had a good mental attitude when I was once again left by my erstwhile peers. That’s all that matters, as Pre said (paraphrasing) “I run to see who’s the toughest” and today was an honest fight.
My time of 46:18 looks brutal compared to Brian McMahon’s magnificent winning time of 33:29 but he build up almost 3 minutes on the next man (Barry Minnock) which shows his class on the day. On the downside my time was almost 3 minutes slower than my time for the Powerscourt Uphill last year. While not as steep (that race had a 9.6% gradient versus today’s 10.9%), it’s 400m longer and yet I was so far behind my older time (and I was quite disappointed with this time last year).
I remember how full of hope I was finishing at the European Trial 2008 in then 129% of the winner’s time, thinking myself great and on the up. Perhaps this result does need to be seen in context. I was then fourteen and a bit minutes behind Stephen Duncan, the winner. This year I lost a bit less on a, from what I can gather, stronger Brian MacMahon. Of course, the winning percentage may be a better guide as Stephen needed 12km and almost 52 minutes to carve out that sort of gap. If you had given Brian more than the 6k and 33 minutes he needed, he could undoubtedly have put a much bigger gap into me. Signs are clear enough: My wings have been clipped and I’ve fallen from the heights. It’s more fun to build staircases to heaven from mountain tops than digging yourself out of a hole you’ve fallen into. But if dig is what I need to do then dig I shall. Knowing after today that I still have the guts to compete was more important than any time and any result. All I need know is a good explanation from the doctor and a clean bill of health going forward.
Sitting here writing this, I generally feel ok, but my body temperature is too high still and I’ve got a sore throat, so this better be my last experiment for a little while. Illness or no illness (the hospital will sort that), I seem to have spent my juice and it’s time to recover and get back in base training now (and lose all that weight!).
In my “Relative Power” system today’s climb was equal to 2.8 W/kilo or 199 Watts power produced total, just a bit less than my Snowdon performance and slightly behind last year’s Powerscourt Uphill (with 2.9 W/kilo and 201 Watts produced total; I was only 68 kilos then).
Heroes of the day…
Special mention must go to Peter O’Farrell who hasn’t run much in the hills this year but turned in one of those dark horse performances you remember when he finished a solid fourth. Rathfarnham look set to bring their team spirit to the worlds with Barry Minnock 2nd and Eoin Flynn 3rd. Overall, it was, of course, a strong field with race winners such as Tristian Drute and Diarmud Collins “only” placing 10th and 18th.
Fairplay also to Eoin Flynn for qualifying in his first mountain race and great to see him enthusiastic about the whole scene together with his co-owner at Sub-4 Mark Ryan. Mark unfortunately couldn’t shrug off the lack of fitness from his long injury enough to qualify and now looks likely to need an operation. Great courage and determination to still go for it, though, it is athletes who appreciate the hills enough to go to such lengths that bring distinction on the jersey and hopefully he’ll be on the mend and back running to potential soon.
Several of the Snowdon lads did well too with Aengus 6th, John 9th and Martin 17th. Jason felt a bit off the boil having really started his off-season already and can take a 13th with him into the holidays which may have him throw some salt over his shoulder if he’s the superstitious sort.
The race baptised my new Garmin ForeRunner 310XT and it’s a lovely watch. Nicer to wear, very pleasant HR monitor strap, a great selection of new data fields and the same old simple interface. Overall, there’s more features the ability to customise workouts completely and the 20 hour battery life being useful for ever prospective Bob Grahamer (although, unless I get faster, I’ll still need two watches to record the whole venture!).
My new Garmin ForeRunner had very different ideas of what the race course was compared to the official measurements, registering 6.08k with 664m ascent compared to 6k and 691m ascent as advertised. A slightly shallower race basically, but it didn’t feel at all shallow and it should be noted I went wrong, running inside the stony wall rather than outside, but Mags let me off the hook as she said I’d only made it more difficult on myself. Great!