“You have created a monster,” Aoife said to me in the car as we were driving from the foot of Mt. Leinster to the prize-giving in Ballindaggan. I couldn’t claim full credit for what had gone before though: The Man from Mali, Amidou Dembele, once again used his blistering descent to move from 7th at the top to his first podium finish by the bottom almost catching Bernard Fortune who finished second after the record-breaking Tom Hogan.
The natural speed and fearlessness is Amidou’s own and perhaps also owed to the Mali school systems focus on sprint training during childhood years but the raw fitness gained by the Lydiard system now delivers the Mali man within striking distance of the money spots. By taking third, he ruined a perfect Wexford sweep as Des Kennedy relented to Amidou’s pressure late on and had to settle for the M40 prize, leaving “only” two locals on the podium.
A lot of cross-training, barefoot walking and running, and seven weeks without running have restored a lot of strength to my achilles so when I went with Aoife down to Mt. Leinster today, I eventually couldn’t resist the chance to race.
Aoife had her sight sets on a crack at her own record on the route. A domestic upset was on the cards for the first time since 2007 with her having hit a vein of good form in the recent months as her peaking set in and my own fitness having deteriorated to a point where my Monday hill-walk up Camaderry had me fearing for my heart. Ok, it wasn’t actually that bad, but when in good form walking up a hill is like a walk in the park, this week it was a workout! Ditching my shoes on the grassy bit helped…
In the end, it would prove that I have no imagination as I ran the entire race at exactly the same pace as in 2010 but instead of being heartily depressed this time I felt only thoroughly entertained. Of course, most people’s performance today should be gauged against the 230m extra caused by an added detour at the top courtesy of works on the mast.
This little trifle did nothing to harm the prospects of either Tom Hogan or Aoife Joyce, Tom matched Colm O’Cnoic’s time of 59:59 while Aoife knocked a minute of her own previous time.
The domestic upset failed to manifest: Setting off extremely conservatively I made some ground on the grassy zig-zags before we had a bit of nip-and-tuck on the ridge. Aoife had all the support apparently with several cheers of “get him”.
“Nice of you to join the race midway up,” Richard said smilingly in the Holy Grail after, it made a nice change to not suffer terribly from the gun as I tried to figure out what my legs had after the lay-off. My breathing felt shallower than normal but the calves kept themselves alive and midway on the ascent I made some further ground and basically kept motoring at the one steady gear I felt I had from there.
My fear: That there was no gear beyond it just a red zone and a quick death.
Septic tanks beware!
Wading through the sloppy quagmire that is the top, Gareth Little tried to break past me but I managed to respond and kept a second clear to the top. Barry Tennyson, one of the early starters, yelled “beware the septic tank”. I didn’t notice it but he had apparently stumbled into one, so clearly there are worse things than bogs lurking on Irish hills.
Summit time: 47:01. Coming off I meekly admit I took a 10 second break both mentally and physically and never managed to close down the gap as Gareth past by here.
Once clear of the bog, I clicked into a seamless joyful flow. I felt great and the legs moved like a bicycle beneath me, no braking, no effort, just my friend gravity. The control and grip of my newly purchased Inov-8 BareGrip 200 could not have been better. Mudclaw? Beaten hands down. Inov-8 X-Talon? It’s a mere sports car versus the formula 1 that is the BareGrip.
With no midsole you have to purposefully seek to twist your ankle to do so. If ever a shoe deserved a review it is this one. Together with the Road-X Lite 155 which I also picked up in BaseCamp (the first to buy either pair according to the staff) except a raving enthusiastic review once I’ve done a few more tests.
Always Martin Francis
When I heard feet and breathing behind me, I had a feeling it could only be one man. I had taken a few bad turns early on the runnable trail down but felt I was running too fast to lose places already on anyone but Martin Francis and so it proved. “I had hoped it was you,” I said as he passed.
The Sli Cualann man broke a small gap before we hit the short sharp climb midway on the ridge where I managed to build a small lead again on the wily M50.
It stayed close coming down the grass, there was no breaking of any note as we caught up with the later junior winner from SBR. We seemed to have distracted him a bit: Trying to fend us off he inserted little spurts and just as I finally moved through I heard a *thud* and some cursing. “You ok,” I yelled and as the affirmative rang back I continued. The better trail started and I knew from the signals in my systems that I couldn’t push the pace as the course flattened and when Martin broke it was for good. My fitness only left me enough to keep my legs turning over, not to move any faster.
Luckily, we had closed in on Dermot Murphy and the prospect of gaining another place, Martin quickly took and when I followed it left me a clear run-in to the finish. I was relieved to not have to push the pace further or engage in a sprint finish.
Crossed the line in 75:20 for the new course length of 13:38. I have lost fitness and gained a few kilos in the last seven weeks but the body is strong from my new regime of cross-training (more on that later) and today the new natural running form clicked in completely naturally (as it should, never concentrate on your running form while running). Just being back and getting one hill race in for the 2011 meant an awful lot. For the first time in many years, the pace and placement was entirely a secondary concern. With three weeks to the Lakeland 50 Miler I am hoping the body will be up for it and then the rebuilding starts for the autumn season.