Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ho Ho Ho (... and a "race")

We asked the kids at bedtime yesterday if it had been a good Christmas, and the unanimous answer was yes, it had been highly successful. Santa had obviously forgotten about the recession and richly rewarded them all for their good behaviour (???) during the year. The only thing that didn’t quite cooperate was the weather; after a week of icy roads and heavy frost in the mornings (which would have done for a White Christmas) it was quite rainy, the ice has been washed away and we stayed mostly indoors. But since the kids were loaden with new toys, that was not a problem.

Since the road had still been icy on Thursday, I ran into work once more, but it was a short day and Niamh came to collect me in the afternoon when the roads had thawed out. It made for another easy running day. The program had called for a few faster efforts, but that was simply impossible under those conditions. And on Friday I didn’t find a window in the proceedings to head out. Family comes first.

Today, Saturday, was supposed to be race day; a traditional 4-mile race is held yearly in Farranfore, about 30 minutes drive from here. Since the ice had melted I drove there for the 12 o’clock start, only to (eventually) find a sign saying that the race was off due to the roads. I was wondering what to do when I talked to one of the guys hanging around and he told me that about 10 of them were doing the run anyway and I was welcome to join, so I did. In the end there were just over 20 of us assembled on the start line, and it sure felt just like a real race to me.

We headed off and 4 of us made up the leading group. The course starts with a long uphill and there was no place to hide. One of our group fell behind soon enough, and the three of us stormed ahead at what was breakneck speed for me. I barely managed to hang on and really had to strain to keep up, but I did not want to fall behind. Apart from me, the group consisted of a young guy and an older one (well – no more than in his forties, but that’s how I saw them at the time), and I somehow felt that the older guy was the one to watch out for. Indeed, he mostly led the way. Eventually we crested the hill, but any thoughts of an easier ride on the other side were dashed when the two of them inched away from me, and I really had to push with all I had to keep up. For the next mile they kept pulling ahead for a meter or two, I strained to close the gap again, and the whole thing would repeat itself. Just as we were nearing the neighbouring village of Firies, almost 2 miles into the race, the older guy made a break and pulled ahead. The younger guy could not respond; I tried my best, overtaking the young one, but it became clear soon enough that I wasn’t able to keep up with the leader either and the gap grew steadily. I didn’t know the exact course, but following the leader was easy enough; after a short loop through Firies we were soon back on our way to Farranfore. At the end of the loop we passed the slower half of the field coming the other way. I tried to say something like “looking good” when I passed, but didn’t have any breath left and just gave the runners a thumbs up instead. Anyway, I was at least 40 steps behind the leader, but could not hear footsteps behind me either, which meant second place was reasonably secure. I tried not to look up because the road was straight for over a mile and I could see the hill again that we would have to traverse before the end again, and I wasn’t looking forwards to that. Isolated as I was between the two other runners I didn’t have anyone to run with me, and the pace suffered. Had I been fighting for a place I’m sure I would have not slowed down as much as I did, but the searing early pace caught up with me and I struggled to keep going. The heart rate, which was always over 180, shows how hard I worked. As clear as it was that a win was not on the cards, I did not want to lose my runner-up spot, and that kept me going. The hill was very tough work again, it didn’t seem to end, but after the longest 4 miles I can remember I was finally heading towards the finish, and crossed the (imaginary) finish line at a time of 25:40. The distance had been advertised as 4 miles but the Garmin showed 4.18, so it was definitely a bit longer than that, which was confirmed by others who had done that race before. It’s supposed to be a race against others, not a time trial over a measured course, which is fine by me. With that hill to be climbed twice it’s not a PR course anyway, but as a speed workout this got 10 out of 10 points from me. Being in the front group made me work harder than I would have otherwise, and until our group broke up I could not possibly have run any harder. I left a few seconds out during the second half, but that was due to me running on my own. I’m really pleased with the way I raced today, I kept trying for as long as I could, and was only beaten by one runner, who was definitely the better racer.

All the really fast guys had stayed at home today, which is a bit of a shame, but what can you do. Personally it suited me fine, I would not have been in the leading group otherwise.

It started raining, and we all got very cold very quickly, so we dispersed fairly soon. I thanked the guys for the run, and started my cool down when someone called my name. The face looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to it. “It’s John”. Still blank (I must have been in the post-race anaerobic haze). “John O’Regan”. That’s when I finally recognised him. Thomas you nitwit! You come across an Irish running legend, and HE recognises YOU, but YOU don’t recognise HIM! Argh!! I could have slapped myself, but instead I had a bit of a chat with John (who had missed the race but was out for an informal run now), which was cut short again by the cold. See you next year John, and I’m sorry!!!
24 Dec
5.1 miles, 40:02, 7:51 pace, HR 150
25 Dec
0 miles, family time
26 Dec
9 miles, including:
  Farranfore 4+ mile race, unofficial
  25:40, 6:11 pace, avg. HR 180

1 comment:

  1. Well run tactical race. The organisers mustn't have checked the course before cancelling .... or else your donwhill skiing skills came in handy.