RACES: Wicklow Road Champs 2017

Three years have gone by quickly for Glendalough AC - it seems like yesterday, we set out to form our valley-based club and yet this Friday was the third time we competed in the Wicklow Road Championships over the 5 km course in Ashford.

It's been a productive competition for us - last year saw 5 individual medals and 2 team medals and we also had a good haul in 2015. Let's give away the game upfront first: Fionnuala McCormack, who holds a 5 km personal best of 15:12, could cruise home to victory in the ladies race once again in 17:20 whereas Clive Quinn took the overall victory in the men's race (although Senior men's champion was Tim Grummell as Clive now plies his trade in the Master's categories).

Pre-race tactics

The race invites a far bit of tactical consideration from each club coach as you can enter Masters athletes into your Senior Men's team while allowing them to still compete in their individual categories. Adding to that there's the cross-country dynamic of the race: first 4 senior men to score or first 3 masters athletes or females. Moreover, only the first non-scoring runner from each club is a 'counter' - so if you have 5 athletes, the first 4 tally together to form your 'score' for purposes of medals and the fifth athlete is 'counted' in the results for purposes of 'knocking other runners down in the placings'. But runners 6th and onwards do not count except for in the individual categories and overall results.

We had a few notable absences once again with Torben Dahl currently in Denmark and Rachel Wisdom (who took ladies silver last year) and Marcus Murphy still in the final stages of recovering from their respective injuries but could still field 12 runners - almost half of the clubs senior members. Angus and Yvonne had competed in the Maurice Mullins Trail 6 days earlier and Keith Mulvey even more impressively in the Maurice Mullins Ultra - that's commitment to club and cause! Like the Wicklow Way Relay and the cross-country it's one of the few chances we have to come together as a club and race as a team.

In the end I opted two try and go for broke but spreading our best men out over the Senior team and the Master's team to try and achieve an outside shot at two Bronze medals. We estimated that loading all our best runners into one team would secure one Bronze almost for certain but that we didn't have enough 17.xx runners to get silver. The women's team was a different story - having won gold before - anything was possible there even without Rachel and as Claire was not a veteran the only option was two enter our masters women in the Senior team with her.

Surprise gun!

It wasn't exactly a 'oh my God, he's got a gun' type of moment but the starter gun did go off without pre-warning leaving an almighty stampede to commence.

I was lucky to be positioned only a few rows back so I could react fairly quickly. Some of the team had even more rushed starts - Donna didn't get her watch started until the first kilometer and Amidou suffered a bit from the long drive down from Dundalk and barely having had time for a warm-up. Early on he sat on Angus' shoulder where you'd expect to see him but he drifted back to Barry O'Neill and Peter Bell. The trio could work together for a while but eventually Amidou would finish fourth - just under a minute below his personal best. We had expected this to some degree as he was been away working in Mali without any structure training over the Winter and early parts of this year. Angus ran well given he had raced Maurice Mullins and was about 24 seconds off his best leading us home in 17:44 and earning a Bronze medal in the over-45 category (he took the gold in 2015 and silver in 2016).

I watched most of these proceedings early on as the out and back course pretty much let's you follow the majority of the race. My body was sore and my chest felt constricted so I was relieved when I noticed my pace was reasonably good. After taking a knock in form after the flu I had in February, my predicted time had dropped to high nineteen minutes. 3:40 for the first kilometre gave me an 8 second cushion for dipping under 19 minutes - my stretch target for the day. If I could do that and also giving it my best, I'd say 'job done' at the finish line and tick off another step back towards best form.

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Just over a kilometre in - Eugene Doherty getting back close (in orange)

In the early frantic stages I passed a lot of familiar faces - Aisling Kirwan (who'd go on to battle with Claire for most of the way, just losing out), Billy Porter, over-60 winner Desie Shorten  and eventually the guest runner from SBR - Eugene Doherty, who had been on our silver-medal winning Wicklow Way Relay team back in 2011. I had raced Eugene in two recent races, so expected a tough battle and he kept me honest during the tough middle kilometres eventually allowing me to escape as we got towards the final kilometre and a half. Normally I gain spots on the downhills and lose ground on the ups - today it was strangely reversed but since I like a change from the ordinary, I'll take it.

Anaerobic 'cheat'

Coming into the final bit, I had clearly been running on my anaerobic quick-fix workouts because there were no reserves left and despite the downhill gradient I lost a few spots here. Catherine O'Connor - who won the o-35 ladies category, almost gave me a second wind when she got up on my side. We stayed side by side for 100 metres but eventually I ran out of steam and had to let her go . A pulled up on the side of another runner with 60 metres to go but once again had nothing when he decided to sprint away.

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Finish line - no sprint left - bad 'rearing back' reflex going on there - perhaps braking for the chute?
My final 400 metres was the most subdued I can remember - like in most 5 km race splits, it was the second-fastest (with the first being the fastest) but I had no kick and very few options, losing about 4 places on the final 600 metres. Thankfully I had gained a good few from 2 km onwards and it was interesting to notice that most of the places I lost were to 'new people' I had not seen previously in the race rather than runners re-passing me. In the end - 45th spot out of 164 and a time of 18:53 bettering my two previous times on the course 19:13 (2009) and 19:24 (2015)

First county medal!

In terms of results for the club there were 3 Personal Bests in a race that often brings out the best in people and a total of 5 medals this year. Claire secured her third medal in this event - silver this year and a personal best by 1 second with Yvonne also taking a personal best and the silver medal in the over-35 women's category.

The teams secured two medals as well including - Silver for the Senior Women and Bronze for the Senior men's team. As third scorer in the team this means my first county medal - not an accomplishment to be overstated but a nice achievement nevertheless and great for my team mates Amidou, Peter, Philip and Colm to get as well, especially Peter Bell in his first race for the club.

So a quick thanks to everyone for giving their best despite other race commitments, never having race on the roads before, short recovery and so on and to the competition for keeping me honest as always.


I've never been a prolific racer - a fact largely stemming from my foolish early years where my body took a battering from over-racing (notably the 45 races in 2007!). After that I noticed I was not the type who recovered well from high intensity work - so always picked and chose my battles to try and run only when needed or when my form was good. So this was my 15th 5 km race in 11 years and the 7th fastest.  More importantly it was the fastest time since the Leixlip 5k in 2012 - almost 5 years ago. That consistent training has had an immediate effect can be seen in my VO2max development over the last 12 months:

vo2max development last 12 months with note of when consistent training began again. Personal bests were set at 58 in 2012

I started my sustained push for real training consistency again in December last year - really getting started 1st of January with my 'project'. I was based on the knowledge that it'll be 20 years before I'll have 1) proper sleep and 2) lots of time again, so there was no point waiting for that as I'll be too old to achieve my goals then. Things are very far from perfect at the moment for training - but it may be as good as it'll ever be, so I'll just get on with it and get my stuff done hopefully over the next 3-5 years. As I mentioned in the last post on this page, I don't want to stay in this game forever at least not with this level of commitment.