RACES: Star of the Seas Cross-Country 2011

Our little group consisting of Amidou, Jason, Tony Collins and I had a fruitful trip to Co. Meath and the old-fashioned cross-country festival event there. We arrived in good time and had time to take in some of the junior races and bask up the nostalgia of seeing this great course with its two extended climbs on each 1500m laps (of which we had to do four as the race was over the classical novice distance of 6k, or about 6.2km as it proved).

Wet and windy conditions meant the race could be slower than back in 2007 when I ran it in gorgeous sunshine but some high calibre runners were in the field which promised a frenetic start. Everyone in the group agreed to try the approach I have copied from Colorado’s successful cross-country coach, Mark Wetmore, to run the first lap fairly steady and then focus on picking up places.

It worked a treat and catered to the current strengths of all the lads, who are all currently training on my Lydiard schedules. Jason arrived first home of our group, but we don’t yet know the position (nor the time as his watch gave out) but Amidou arrived not too much later in a strong 21:57 with Tony in town in 22:02.

My legs had felt alright although I quickly realised they lacked power on the climbs, so I took it conservatively on the uphills and managed to claw back well on the descents and flats on lap one and two. On the third lap, having steadied myself a bit further up the field, this party trick wore off and I didn’t really make much further ground. My splits were pretty stable (staying in the 3:50s after a first in 3:46) but I lacked both uphill explosiveness and full finishing power.

I worked solidly throughout and despite the slightly disappointing time of 23:53, I had run 11 seconds faster per kilometre than in 2007 despite being less race fit than then. A bit of gloss was added when the announcer declared our trio of Crusaders (Jason, Amidou and I) the second-placed team ahead of Raheny: We were tied on points at 65 but I had arrived in 38th versus Raheny’s last scorer in 45th. Hosts Star of the Seas swept to the win.

Always intended to be a final test ahead of the Dublin and Wicklow Novice races next Sunday, everyone was chuffed with their performances and could take some good lessons (and 30 quid for the team!) away from the event which went on without a hitch. For myself the lessons were pretty much as expected: raw speed is strong, endurance is reasonably well developed but power and strength needs a lot more work. Also, I need to keep watching my caloric intake as there were some signs of low glycogen levels today. The endless feeling of pulsating energy from the working muscles that I felt during the National Half didn’t manifest today. It made it all the more satisfying to battle up through the crowd where no favours were given and I had to swing one gentle elbow.

Jason had a similar incident when a guy pushed himself through his group of four with the words: “For f*cks sake let me through", only to be passed out by the entire group only a few hundred metres later and never seen again. Clearly, some practice on pace judgment and common courtesy to be extended to this gentleman but full marks for competitive fervour.

Such ended a great trip north, a long day but it felt good to dirty the old spikes again.