It has been four years since I last competed in the Wicklow Way Trail. Back then the race was shorter (22km) and the fields smaller and I remember memorably how a few “fast guys” took to the front. I did not notice how many but I saw Mike Long, whom I knew was running very well at the time, somewhere ahead and I decided to spend the race chasing him. I did not catch him but finished a very surprised 5th having held off some good assaults from Rafael Salazar and Mick Hanney during the race.
This year, I am back as the race suits my marathon preparations and I have finally brought the body back to a state where it can take the sort of punishment required for absorb the many hard downhill kilometres on fire-road. I have great positivity around my current climbing ability and Ballycotton showed me I am as fit a ever, so I want to use the race to be part adventure and part confidence booster.
I have decided to drop my mileage to 100km this week and have taken some degree of taper. Using an old “Lydiard-trick” I have ensured that I work every energy-system a little bit as they may all come in handy during the race. Amidou, Aoife and I had a very relaxing run over the course on Sunday. The time of 2:28 is a useful predictor for what can be done in the race. I have a time in mind but am keeping it to myself.
Monday, I did another aerobic run and on Tuesday a short “Out and Back” with 5km at my normal pace (4:40min/km) and the 5km “in the middle” at marathon pace (4:00min/km). Wednesday, I then moved up the system a further gear with 5 fast 100m strides and 10 minutes of 30/30 fartlek (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy) with paces ranging from anything from 3:20 to 2:56min/km. The Wicklow Way Trail run will be 99% fuelled by the aerobic system but on small parts of the climb a hard anaerobic effort may be called upon and now I have worked most of the different intensity levels, but just a little, so as not to overcook things.
Thursday I was incredibly stressed, so my planned 70-minute run was cut down to 40 minute at steady pace. For the Friday, I do my customary 6x100m strides barefoot as a final “priming exercise” ahead of tomorrow. In the old days I would have had a good bit of nervous tension for a week before but this time there is an eerie calm. I shouldn’t be surprised, however, so many of my runs, even those run at a decent pace, have been longer than the Wicklow Way Trail will be. Certainly it’s a testing course and the competition will make it a battling day, but the body will not be asked to do much beyond what it is capable of on a regular basis.
As another ghost from the past, I booked my ticket to Snowdon yesterday. I had decided to take a break from the race especially after my appalling race performance in 2010, my personal low-point perhaps, a day where I didn’t see much way forward. I lacked perspective then, and the experience to read the situation correctly.
With my marathon preparations going so well and the extreme endurance requirements of Snowdon, I decided my form should be taken advantage off. After Copenhagen, I can simply do 4 easy weeks, and then resharpen quickly with some hill races. With that technique I should expect to arrive at Snowdon with my marathon base intact and enough specific hill training to bring home a new best performance. Too good an opportunity to pass up quite simply but after this year I will definitely need a break from the race to be able to take on other challenges in that time-frame.
Newbie in 2007
To recoup for newer readers, my first experience with Snowdon was in my first year mountain running, 2007, when I surprised myself with my finish. I had ascended so poorly in my maiden season that it came as a surprise to run reasonably well and it could have been better if stomach cramps hadn’t ruined my descent. On that day, my international dream, of wearing the Danish vests in an international mountain running event was born.
Flying high in 2009
In 2009, after a year of injury, my best Snowdon performance arrived as one of the few bright spots in a patchy season and really endeared me to the race all over again. I felt like, on this mountain, I could not lose. Suddenly I could climb and descend well, all in one race. The longer distance, compared to the normal IMRA races, of course favoured my strong points.
In 2010, my international dreams had long been in the freezer as I struggled to stay injury-free for more than a few months at a time, and any lingering pretensions were brutally snuffed out when I ran well below my 2009 time, suffering from start to finish and feeling powerless, like a man running on legs not his own.
By 2011, I merely performed the duties of team manager as the Lakeland 50 mile was pencilled in the following week, and besides, I had barely run for 3 months. Still, I enjoyed the international atmosphere as I always have.
The “useless 2010” version
So what of 2012? Far too early to say, but hopefully, I can pick up the pieces I left in 2010. But first, the Wicklow Way Trail 2012.