An unexpected opportunity landed on my door-step today to put a marker in the ground for myself – a Wicklow Way marker! I was on the road early as Aoife had been called in a late replacement for the Crusaders team on leg 3. Our own team had missed the cut due to us being too busy with the wedding, so this was a great opportunity for her to race on what is generally our favourite day of the year. Jason (Kehoe) likewise got a late call-up Thursday night for leg 5 as a replacement for Irish international Tom Hogan, struck down by a bad bug.
Pic (above): Some downhill running in our garden with over-head bar on Friday evening
Dropping Aoife off I made my way to the road-section 1500m from the finish and watched her taking back the last of 3 places she made up on route to recording a very respectable 33 minute time looking strong and in full control.
Running did not feature in my own plans. Ironically, while I have finally a very long period without injuries, I could barely train over winter trying to keep my commitments to my day-job, my business and my athletes. I decided to do “something different” and plan my marathon-training for the summer where the light hours makes everything easier. I resumed regular training three weeks ago after our honeymoon with an aim to peak for December.
From the embers fly the sparks…
Arriving back in Glendalough, Crusaders were in a crisis with their runner not having shown up for the hand-over. We hung around the start until he arrived – straight off his bike and understandably stressed out!
Pic: Uphill training with my weighted bar on Friday evening
There had been an ember smouldering in my heart since last weekend and suddenly it turned into a burning desire to see “where am I at”. Standing there at the change-over to Leg 5, while seeing the Crusaders runner take off down the Green Road, Aoife turned to me and said: “I’m going to Glenmalure with Eva”. “Does she have room for one more coming back?” I asked. When she answered yes, I handed her my camera, looked down the road again: “I might just run over,” I said, “Do, do, check he doesn’t get lost!” (we have bad experiences on leg 5!).
I’d planned to do a steady training session and there I was in my singlet, VivoBarefoot Breathos and my broken watch in my hand, so I galloped off down the Green Road towards the Upper Lake and caught our runner just before the steep climb up past Poulanass. After a brief chat I was told to go on. I dutifully looked back at a few key junctions but noticed quickly he had done his home-work. At that point my mind was made up to just run as hard as I felt like – “see what’s in the tank”.
Pic: Jason coming into the finish
Descending with Beckenbauer
Leg 5 poses a magnificent workout on any given day – 13km with 510m ascent, the first 7.5km featuring continuous, but largely steady, climbing. Finally at the end of the uphill I managed to do the “good deed of the day” as I caught a runner about to turn right up towards Lugduff (a terrible detour!) but my screams of “straight, straight” left him with no remaining uncertainty of the direction to go. As a thank you he let me pass as we ran off the boardwalks. I’ll admit, my technical descent down through the rocky forest sections was shockingly cautious – a sign of a man long out of practice with that part of the game.
Could use even a bit more of that “Beckenbauer chest” (below)
Next came what I had been waiting for all along: the 5.5km of descent on fire-road. I simply love the new technique on this: I feel like Franz Beckenbauer with my chest out and head tall, legs being pulled off the ground behind me with minimum sense of friction and maximum sense of freedom. Gravity alone allowed me to put together two 3:28s back to back before speeding up to 3:10 coming into Glenmalure and the finish. “Just running” was never my passion, running “really really fast”, close to the max, has always been my true passion (possibly a fatal blow to my long-term ultra-running aspirations!) and today was a timely reminder of that – free-flowing down the hill in the beautiful sunshine feeling no braking forces – just a relaxed flow.
Wicklow Way markers – personal and in brief
I clocked just over 64 minutes at the end, a very reasonable time that would be in the top-10 most years for the leg and an indication that just keeping a reasonable amount of activity together with consistent technical and physical conditioning I have undergone has not left me too far off my very best times despite what would seem a modest average weekly mileage of 42km this year so far. Of course, it was never just about the miles, as I learned the year I ran up to 144km per week yet did poorly – it’s about what you put into those you do – primarily the quality of the movement, the clarity of the purpose of each workout.
I like to think I would have had a bit more even had I run the race for a team, or maybe not as just doing it “for me” let to very good pacing on the uphill. “I wouldn’t have minded a bit more power on the uphill,” I said to a runner, “Wouldn’t we all,” someone retorted.
Jason too seems in fine flow since his 2nd place finish at Annagh Hill running around the hour mark for the Glendalough to Glenmalure trek. As a runner he is well capable of a time under 55 minutes and this form will return soon by all accounts. In other news, Raheny seem to have broken their WWR duck winning this years race and resigning Rathfarnham to a rare piece of shade in 2nd in a very impressive time of 7 hours 6 minutes (this years Wicklow Way Relay is one kilometre, or roughly 4 minutes, faster than previous years due to a diversion on the 6th leg).
Other notable mention really goes to ultra-runner Eoin Keith’s 12 hours and 25 minute solo record which is a sizeable chunk off the old time set from North to South by Paul Tierney. We’ll never reach the absolute barrier but it will be interesting to follow how long this record will stay or whether an annual race on the course will see it come down several times in the coming years.
Pic: Aoife motoring past (and through!) hikers on leg 3
A perfect day in the hills, a great way to see where the form is ahead of marathon training, and who knows, after sniffing around a racing experience today, I may sneak in one or two over the summer…