‘Arise at the tree hence you fell,” is an old Danish saying. It was almost fitting when I made a last minute decision to enter the fundraise for the local school here in our community in Laragh/Glendalough: The Laragh Trail Run.
The run had expanded from the (slightly shorter than) 6 km route last year to also include an 11 and 12 km route. As I am an advocate of more shorter races, I was never tempted to do the longer one and either way the six kilometre race was more suitable preparation for the first substantial goal of 2015: the Wicklow County Road Race on 22nd April in Ashford.
Glendalough AC out in force
I had planned to be that the race, racing or not, as our new club Glendalough AC had a stand and a banner up to advertise our activities to the locals. Niall Corrigan had purchased a great looking banner which decorated the school yard corner. Our members were out in full force: within minutes of arriving I saw Barry Murray, Niall Corrigan, Deirdre O’Riordan, Ivan Mahon, Keith Mulvey, Eva Borkowska, Heather Cullen, Marcus Murphy, Derek Cullen, Yvonne Brennan, Tim Rowe, Ingrid Howes and our ‘amicable transferee’ form Parnell AC, Barry O’Neill clad in a real battle dress of red shorts and singlet in the absence of our club kit which is ‘still in production’ (Bill Porter and Ronhill will have us sorted soon to turn out in the gold and green of Laragh). Juju Jay made his way up to the scenic turnpoint as one of the photographers of the day ahead of his night navigation exam in the evening.
The Glen AC (or ‘GMAC’) banner flying proudly at St Kevin’s Primary School in Laragh
The familiar faces didn’t stop there. I saw Damien Lawless, a clear favourite from the start, having real pedigree on the roads, as well as IMRA regulars from ‘my time’ (I’ve taken to using past tense, an upsetting habit!) Cormac O’Ceallaigh, Ben Mooney, Brendan Lawlor, Geraldine O’Shea and many others. Most were doing the new 11ish kilometre route which would start at 10:00 with the shorter race five minutes after. I sussed out the competition fairly quickly. A Parnell runner called Robert looked like he’d be strong, there was one of the Kavanagh brothers from Roundwood (Seamus) and Billy Porter who did his best to catch me last year and nearly did so.
The Glendalough AC crew. I seem to have missed it! (Photos courtesy of Juju Jay)
Seemed like so long ago, but it really ain’t you know (Kim Richey…)
My last race goes back almost exactly a year – to the last Laragh Trail Run! Since then strength and technique has improved by stamina and endurance has gone down quite a bit, so I had no clear expectations of how things would go. I had only two priorities in mind 1) run as close to last years time as possible (the less I’ve gone back the better) and 2) be fresh and healthy to run a long run tomorrow and keep up the consistent volume of the last weeks.
Once the long race had gone on their way, the rest of us tried to stay warm bouncing around and trotting close to the finish. With a slight chill in the air conditions were ideal for shorter racing. I had avoided breakfast, having just two spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt with a few seeds, to keep the system nice and empty. The last thing you need in a race is your digestive system making demands not to mention the other side effects that you can read about anywhere so I’ll spare you the details here! I topped that off with two cups of coffee.*
* An unexpected side effect of the Primal3 collaboration with nutritionist, and now club mate, Barry Murray is that I have ‘discovered’ lightly roasted artisan coffee. All the benefits and almost none of the side effects of the mass produced dark roasts. I used to get the jitters after 1 to 2 cups whereas I can drink this stuff all day. For a bit of local advertising: I get mine in the new Mystique cafe in Roundwood (not the full name, I’ve forgotten, sorry!)
The six kilometre route had wisely been changed from last year to follow the main fire road up towards the Wicklow Way rather than the smaller ‘slip lane’ through Laragh Woods. It was a bottleneck last year and good to see it removed. As we took off into the first bend I found myself the pacesetter for 400m with 4 or 5 runners around me. Robert of Parnell found the pace to easy for his liking and strode out to claim a gap of 400m very quickly. Seamus Kavanagh and I ran side by side on the flattish stretch and past the one kilometre point. At this stage I could not see or hear anyone else close by but I reckoned Billy Porter would be lurking somewhere not far.
Into the zigzags, Seamus managed to get a gap of his own. It wasn’t a decisive move and I should probably have covered it but my lack of recent race exposure cost me here as I wasn’t sure how much pressure I could sustain and I also misjudged the length of the climb. By the time we made it up the steep rocks to the turning point, it dawned on me that most of the climbing was over earlier than expected.
Slow on the turn (picture by Juju Jay)
My turn last year had been very effective. This year it was rather clumsy and my fourth kilometre was a good 20 seconds slower. I always tell runners that the key point to keep pushing in a hill races is the turns, the flat bits and the shallow ups and downs because this is exactly where you will try to get relief.
I was fortunate: I could see Seamus throughout, which gave me a target and no one came close enough that I ‘felt the pressure’. My fifth kilometre was solid in 3:35 but made no inroads and perhaps at this time I fell into ‘cruise mode’ a bit. Certainly Aoife thought so. As I passed she said to Niamh: ‘it looks like he’s not trying’. Now, one thing I preach is to never run harder (unless its a world championship) than your running form breaks down and today I managed that. But intensity was high enough with my average heart rate being 176 and maxing it out at 190. The ‘young man I was’ in 2007 could do races of twice the duration at 188 average and 198 maximum, but who knows, I have a feeling I could still bring that gear out some day if I had to. Either way I was delighted that the ability to ‘bring it’ has not been lost in the last few years as you cannot compete without it.
Sidenote: The new Garmin ForeRunner 620 provides some interesting technical statistics for those who know what to use them, more about those in an upcoming blog as they are a bit confusing if you don’t know what they mean or what actions to take based on them for your training. For a lot of runners they will just be ‘more noise’.
‘Down by the riverside…’
Final turn and down by the Glenmacnass river (a bend a large majority of the 6km race entrants unfortunately missed which was a pity as, while longer, it makes for a much nicer return run). I made good tracks but Seamus was gone so I just kept the pace high and before I knew it I had crossed the finish line. Time: 25:01 compared to 24:31 last year. Placing 3rd versus 2nd last year. The race was gentler as we had a bigger group of lads ‘pushing each other hard’ last year than this year. But like last year I found myself on my own from early on the zig-zags to the finish. Bill followed a minute or so later with the female winner next and then our own Yvonne Brennan who added 2nd place in the race to her victory in last weeks’ Debra Ireland 10k. Not a bad week for her!
After a cooldown with Robert and Seamus, we returned in time to see the finishers of the 11 km race. Damien Lawless crossed the line first and went over to show me his watch ‘I added about 1.5 km he said’. He wasn’t the only one, a big part of the field had taken a detour and Ben Mooney had walked off the mountain in frustration. Niall Corrigan, another GMACer, too full advantage as he did not make the mistake and finished a stronglooking second. A great confidence booster ahead of his UTMB debut later this year. Barry Murray, another victim of the detour, followed seconds later to claim third. This detour seems to have affected a great part of the field unfortunately and I am sure Anthony and the team will draw some conclusions for 2016. Marking Brockagh is tricky business and I know from my won experience as a race marker and race director for IMRA that you cannot afford many mistakes, or misplaced marshals.
Niall Corrigan very nearly took advantage of the leaders’ detour to score a win!
Best and worst of friends
Marcus Murphy and Barry O’Neill came down neck on neck with the former edging it. A good omen as we will be forming the 5k squad for the Wicklow Road race along with Angus Tyner and anyone else who steps forward in the meantime. Nothing like club mates being closely matched to get the best times out of each other. I believe Derek Cullen and Colm McKenna had a similar battle going on. Anecdote of the day, Derek tells Colm: ‘You shouldn’t have slowed down on that hill to wait for me, Colm.” Colm: ‘That’s not why I slowed down.’ Those hills…
So although I was slightly slower than last year, not surprising on the back of 2013 and 2014 where I ran only between 2000 and 2100 kilometres, my lowest since taking up running again in 2006. I’ve improved ‘other aspects of my game’, like when Padraig Harrington went away to work on his swing, and now I have to bring it all together again. I took advantage of the free sports massage, just a gentle rub, and it was good to se there was minimal sore tissue in the leg muscles. I raced in my brand new pair of VivoBarefoot TrailFreaks and they performed very well: nice and light and plenty of grip for my needs (which wasn’t much on the day).
It’s the beginning of a new day. My training run average pace has been reduced from 4:50 min/km to around 6:00 min/km pace and this will need to improve before I can hope to reduce my 2012 personal bests. But this is the best position I find myself in since taking a break after Copenhagen Marathon 2012. I have ran 10 km or more every day since the 23rd of February and was back over 100 km last week. My current plan is simple: run another 52 days like this and then move onto six weeks where I begin to really drop the average paces. After that I’ll have 12 weeks consistent work to build some real race form from which takes me to a place around 5th of May and a shot at a good summer.
Another brick in the wall….