Sunday, April 30, 2006

Whiskey In the Jar

I was going over
The Cork and Kerry mountains
When I saw Captain Farrell
His money he was counting

Well, actually I didn’t see the Captain, but I certainly went over the Cork and Kerry mountains, both by car and on foot. Last night I had set the alarm for 6am, but changed my mind in the middle of the night and re-set it for 5:45. That turned out to be a good move. Today wasn’t just the day of the half-marathon in Bantry, but also the “Rally Of the Lakes” in Killarney, which a serious number of people are following. As a result, the road I was intending to take was blocked and I had to re-route, which took me longer than planned (but was also very scenic over said mountains). My route also happened to take me from Glengarriff to Bantry, which is where the race would be run on. Thus I knew what was coming, especially the climb out of Glengarriff itself. The web site had mentioned something of a 1-mile climb, but I could see that that was barefaced lie – it was basically 2 miles (ok, 1.9 miles when I measured it again on the way back). I finally got to Bantry with less than 5 minutes to spare to get the bus to the start.

This was my first ever half-marathon (which is weird for someone who already has 4 marathons under his belt, I know), and I wasn’t sure how to pace myself. I had plenty of warnings from Mike and Liam not to start too fast. The plan was to start at 8:00 pace until about mile 5 (which is the highest point of the course) and then gradually accelerate and attempt to hold on to the higher pace until the finish. From the start, a lot of people overtake me, but I stick to my plan (and, in my mind, say to everyone who’s going past me, I’ll see you again soon enough). I miss the first mile marker, but at mile 2 my time is 16:00. How’s that for pacing? Mile 3 is 24:03, mile 4 32:10 (that is well into the climb out of Glengarriff). Somewhere between mile 4 and 5, on that long climb, I start overtaking people. Mile 5 passes in 41:58, which I don’t believe, cause there is no way that mile took nearly 10 minutes. Mile 6 is around 48:20, which confirms to me that the mile 5 marker was a bit off. By the way, my HRM doesn’t measure laps, so I’m quoting those times from memory. By now I’ve moved up the pace by a good bit, and I’m reeling in other runners for fun. My only worry is my HRM which keeps saying my heart rate is somewhere between 173 and 178, which seems too high to keep going until the finish, but I feel good and decide to keep going. I pass mile 8 at 1:03, mile 9 at 1:10 (no seconds on the timer from here on) and mile 10 and 1:18. I forgot the later splits, but basically each mile takes somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes. The course is never flat, after the big hill outside Glengarriff it’s rolling hills all the way to Bantry. Once or twice I start feeling worse, but concentrate on keeping my place and keep in touch with the runner ahead of me. After a minute or two I feel better again, and the overtaking starts again. At mile 11 I get a stitch – now there’s a rare thing. I slow down a little bit and concentrate on my breathing, and that problem passes too. At mile 12 someone pushed past me. I can’t quite keep up with the guy, but I decide to hitch a ride anyway, and keep him in my sights. We overtake a few more runners, and at mile 12.5 I put the hammer down and decide to treat it like a half-mile interval. I re-overtake the guy and storm towards the finish. There’s one more funny turn. There’s a guy with a microphone at the finishing line and he says things like number 326, that’s Mike Murphy, give him a good applause. Well, when I come along, he starts “number 266, that’s Thomas (long pause) erm .. (longer pause) WELL DONE THOMAS”. He’s not the first to have problems pronouncing my surname, which I owe to my Austrian-Czech ancestry, and he won’t be the last one.

Anyway, I basically sprint all the way to the finish and cross the line in 1:41:10. My aim had been 1:40, so I missed that, but I’m pleased all the same. On a flat course the same effort would probably have delivered 1:40 or even better. I also didn’t really train for this. The last 5 weeks were marked by my recovery from the Connemara marathon, and my only concession to today were two resting days before the race. I still felt very strong at the end, which might mean that I could have run a bit more aggressively, but then again my average heart rate was 175, which would be 93% of my max. Is that even possible? Maybe I should leave the HRM at home next time, but then again, it’s also my stopwatch, and I definitely prefer to know how far into the race I am. Today I never ran by heart rate, only by feel, and that went very well. It was definitely fun the catch runner after runner from mile 4.5 onwards, and it reminded me of Connemara in that respect.

The drive home was delayed by the bloody Rally again, and it took well over 2 hours to get home. I feel stiff as a plank by the time I’m home, and I know I will be feeling sore from all the downhill stretches tomorrow and on Tuesday. And if I counted correctly, it’s only 25 weeks to Dublin – the training for that is almost upon me.

30 Apr: 13.1 miles race, 1:41:10, 7:43 pace


  1. A great race! Funny about the guy not pronouncing your name so well!! Super push at the end, too:)

  2. Nice job! And playing "catch the runner" too. I especially liked that your thoughts about seeing all those speedy starters later, then passing them up.

  3. Fantastic run and well executed plan! Great to have a bit left at the end and not to be just hanging on eh? Congrats ;-)

  4. Great job with the race - pretty darn fast in my book, especially for your first half! I love half's I can actually finish them without feeling like I'm ready for the wheelchair.

  5. Congrads!
    Well done!

  6. Smart Race Thomas. I like how you reeled them in one by one...with a strong kick to the end.

    Those hills sound like they could be in Nova Scotia.

  7. Wow - Thomas - great run! Fast! You're lucky they even attempted your name - most times I get a glance and then they just skip my name because it is too tough to figure out!

  8. Great run and great race strategy - sounds like you enjoyed it too.

  9. That's funny about your name. My last name's Byrne, which he'd have had no trouble pronouncing, but here, I get "Brine" or "Byron" all the time!

  10. Only 25v weeks for the next marathon and you are finishing a half?? All that sounds fantastic!!

    This was a great time and without any special training, that was great!

  11. Glad you had a great race, and listened to our advice about starting steady and building from there. At a guess, that's probably why you felt so good at the end. Great time as well on what sounds like a toughie.

    Although my surname is more "anglo", being Mycroft, I often get called Mike, especially on the phone, so even having an "ordinary" name can bear it's crosses at times - Funny tale though....

  12. Nice Thomas, I like that you were diciplined too.

    I have found that when planning a race time, that if I make it a window rather than a hard target with If I feel great for one side of the window and if not the slower side of the window.

    I think 1:41 is very nice!
    Great job!

  13. Marvelous race report! Congrats!

  14. well run, thomas mumblemumble! i love hearing about runners to approach their race with a plan and then stick to it, and as a result finish well. isn't a kick to reel all those folks in that streamed past you at the start? hehe...who's laughing now, eh?

    well played and congratulations on a splendid time!