The Kerry weekend came around again for Easter and like last year we had included the Good Friday 5 mile run in Killarney on our schedule. Our women’s team had taken the first prize there last year and with Amidou, myself and Jeff Fitzsimons getting a run-out along with a group of others from the trip such as James Clancy, we thought we may have a shot at getting another painted cup to use for the Sunday celebrations! Brian Furey was also there, vying for a top-3 spot.
The organisers had to move the race from the larger 3 lap course to a 4 lap version closer to the town centre due to traffic restrictions, making the course faster in the process as the hardest climbs were taken out.
We started closer to the town centre as well and the course featured only two short shallow “drags” as well as a bit of wind on sections. The field was bigger than last years by a good 50 heads and it showed. Sean Connolly and Linda Byrne were shoe-ins for the win and could cruise home unopposed by any serious contenders in 24:41 and 27:05 respectively. Sean had almost two minutes to second-placed Kevin Lawlor and the second woman was Niamh O’Sullivan in 19th, almost three minutes behind Byrne.
When start shout went, a huge group whipped out fast and I was probably sitting in about 30th position although I made ground straight away. Amidou was gone straight off with Brian ahead of him while Jeff sat 100m ahead of me and James on my shoulder.
We hit the first mile in a fast enough 5:44 and at this stage I felt indifferent. James passed me out and the gap to Jeff was still there and given the gap I had had to James at Ballycotton, I didn’t know whether it was a sign of conservative pacing or a bit of drop in form after the Wicklow Way Trail, which exacted a heavy toll on the recovery engine. I had a brief chat with Jeff and James when we drew level for a spell. A guy was huffing and puffing next to us fighting to move past, when Jeff mentioned his sore leg and I said “sure it’s still all aerobic anyway, so you’ll be fine”. He dropped back then.
By mile 2, a slow 5:57, my engine kicked into gear and I began to get the “tireless feeling” in my legs that has been standard of late. At this point I upped the pace, run past James, reeled in Jeff and the group of four he sat in with. Every time we hit the downhill stretch I had made gains or created gap just by using pure gravity to my advantage. But by the 3rd mile I began to attack the flat and sloped sections as well. I then moved on to devour another group and then some stragglers before latching onto a chap called Brian O’Sullivan. He launched a spirited fight-back when I finally pulled past him and I decided to go for the Jedi-mind-trick and told him: “Good man, keep pushing”.
This time I got an unexpected response: “you training for the marathon”, “Yes, Copenhagen,” I answered. “What’s your goal,” he asked, “hoping to break 29”, I said. “You may, but I won’t break 30,” he said. “Ah, you’ll be well under,” I replied. At this moment I realised that given the fact we were on the last mile, having a lengthy conversation was perhaps proof that a bit more effort was actually in order here and I decided to end the conversation and push the pace up.
Brian tagged onto me and I knew he was waiting to sit in for a kick. I kept my pace just low enough that I could respond when he went but was confused when we came into the main street and I could not see the finish. Then Brian went full tilt past me and immediately got a gap. I didn’t panic, as I knew he had gone too early, especially with a slight hill ahead going into the corner. I was not sure the finish was left or right but slowly upped my pace to sit on his shoulder and then pulled past him. His breathing machine was asthmatic at this stage and I thought he was safely finished off as my own breathing was easy. Coming up the hill I should have pushed harder to keep him out of the game but I was looking around to see if we were going left or right. Just at the turn, to my surprise, Brian came roaring back past me with a second sprint.
I latched on immediately and kept thinking “relaxed, fast” and every stride he took I could match but unfortunately I only saw the finish too late and by the time I was on his shoulder he had crossed the finish line. It was an unnecessary loss of position caused by my lax approach to the finish. In terms of the bigger picture, however, it was meaningless and I was happy with my relaxed controlled response to the late attack. With a clear view of the finish, I would have charged the hill stronger but you cannot always rely on this level of knowledge. We ran the last mile in 5:45 which was made up some of the tardiness of the middle miles and I recorded 29:28, 16 seconds faster than what I had run in the last 5 miles of Ballycotton and a new PB.
Amidou had finished 7th in the end in 28:43 with Jeff in 22nd in 30:08 (and understandably displeased with leaving the 30 minute barrier intact) and James came in 29th with a time of 31:02. We must have had a good shout at the team prize but they were not published so we don’t know if we won it.
From a purely numerical point of view I did great: my highest ever % of winning time (103% of the field with 12th out of 428) and I finished within 116% of Sean Connolly which rates as a stronger performance than finishing within 118% of Sergiu Ciobanu at Ballycotton.
Overall, I’ve been much stronger placed this year in my races with 6th, 14th, 7th and 12th positions in the “smaller” races and 114th out of 2617 at Ballycotton. In terms of VDOT it was the second best performance of the year with a 57 compared to Ballycotton’s 58. With my recent VO2max showing that I’m really operating at 60 at the moment, I’ve clearly not yet fully committed physically and mentally to any one race (perhaps with the notable exception of the Wicklow Way Trail) but that’s all part of a peaking strategy.
Top-10 and sub-29 minutes would have been a good result on the day. What I got was “merely ok” but I had expected a small dip in performance as there was no quality in my running for about 10 days after the Wicklow Way Trail. Doing the race in the Inov-8 Road-X 155 was also a gamble but I was eager to test out what I had learned from Tony. It caused my calves to fatigue earlier than normally but forced me to “keep off my feet”. I would probably have been a bit faster in the cushioned runners I am used to at this stage, but I need to begin to make the shift and think long-term. The obvious implication is that I may not be ready to run the Copenhagen marathon in such shoes and will probably need a compromise solution for that race.
Three step rocket
I now have six weeks left before Copenhagen with three races all of which should ideally result in very strong PBs: Shanganagh 5k, Kildare 10k and the Wexford Half-marathon. My hill phase ends this week and I then move on to two weeks focused on stamina workouts before three weeks coordination and taper.
My last quality long run (not counting the 39km odyssey on Kevin’s Way in January) was the Sunday 31.5km run on the Kerry Way with Amidou, James and some of the other chaps so from now on the focus is more on quality and keeping the mileage consistent.
100 days running, six PBs broken, two top-10 finishes and my best position of field and times relative to the winners so far of any year finally surpassing 2008. The long barren desert journey that was 2009-2011 is finally over. A good start, now to finish the job…