Sunday, January 31, 2010

Age Has Its Privileges

Merely 4 days after celebrating my 40th birthday, I stood at the start line of the re-scheduled 4-mile (4.2!) race in Farranfore. I was a bit nervous, not because I was the new boy in this division, but because I felt less than race-ready. The fact that I had climbed out of the pool in Killarney only two hours ago might have had something to do with it – my legs felt a bit like jelly after the swim, but had recovered in the meantime. The swim had not quite gone to plan as the coach did not turn up – his brother had been kicked by a cow and needed hospital treatment, which at least made for a novel excuse. Actually, it wasn't just me at the pool, Niamh and the kids were there, too. And since I did not actually have a lesson, we shared the parental responsibilities and I only spent half my time there actually swimming – which, in light of the race, was most likely a good thing.

The race started fashionably late, and when the gun went off everyone seemed to be taken slightly by surprise but then we all charged up the first of the hills. Five weeks earlier, when the original race here had been cancelled, I ran it with about 20 others and ended up second after a mad fast first mile when I desperately and successfully tried to hang on to the leaders. Today the fast guys were here as well, and staying with the leaders was never on the cards. I therefore expected a very different race to last time, and I did wonder if I would be able to match my time.

However, I was quite surprised to be there near the front. The top 3 guys took off, but behind them a fairly big group of at least a dozen runners formed, with me in the midst. Ok, with me at the end, once again desperately trying to hang on. So much for a different race.

The race starts with quite a hill, but things somehow don't become easier on the following downhill, everyone just charges at some mad pace. The first mile is net downhill, and 5 weeks ago I ran my fastest mile ever there in 5:39. I didn't check the Garmin, but as it turns out today was even faster in 5:33. Honestly, I had no idea. At that stage you can see the road all the way to Firies, over a mile ahead, and it's very, very long. I was wheezing, had been pretty much from the start, but I managed to hang on to the rest of the group for another good while, even as others were spat out at the end. From the start I had been running side-by-side with a young guy in a blue singlet, and so far we had been matching each other stride for stride. This continued all the way into Firies where we did a small loop and then the course turned back towards Farranfore, the same road we had just travelled on coming the other way.

At that little loop an older guy had managed to pass the pair of us (me and blue singlet) and I really tried hard to keep up with him. He wasn't in my age group, but I still did what I could to stay with him. Alas, while he remained within target range, he was just that tiny smidgen too fast for me to catch up. When we left Firies he was 5 steps ahead of me. With every single step he seemed to gain a millimetre. It was unnoticeable, but by the time we reach the bottom of the big hill again, he was 6 steps ahead (yes, I counted). By now my buddy from the first 3 miles had fallen a few steps behind, but another guy had gone past, and I was now in 12th place, but had no idea where I was in my age group.

At that point I felt like falling apart. For the first 3 miles I had run faster than I felt capable of sustaining, and with the big hill sucking the strength out of my legs I was clearly paying the price. However, with my chosen target still within striking range I somehow found some extra reserves and kept pushing hard. The hill kept going for ages, eventually we crossed the train tracks, then another false summit, and finally, almost 4 miles into the race, we reached the apex.

I was about 5 steps behind my pacer, which means I surprisingly had actually managed to gain some ground. But as soon as he reached the downhill part he took off, and there was nothing left in my legs that could match that. All I could do was letting the gap grow slower rather than faster, and hope that nobody behind me would be able to catch up. At least I was successful in that, even if the hopes of gaining another place or two were merely fancy wishful thinking. I crossed the line after almost 4.2 miles (4 mile race my arse!) in 25:16. I didn't know it at the time and had too look up my time from 5 weeks ago, but it was almost half a minute faster! I have to be pleased with that.

After rather shamelessly raiding the post-race buffet (I was ravenous after all the swimming and running on only a small breakfast and no lunch), I stayed on for the prize ceremony and was very pleased to find I had come 2nd in the M40 age group and received a little trophy. Had the race taken part on the original date, I would have come home empty handed. Age has its privileges.

And on an entirely different note, yesterday I took the plunge so to speak and signed up for the Valentia triathlon on 22 May. Registration opened at 9 o'clock, when I clicked the registration link at 9:07 there were nine places left, and when I checked it again after registering, at about 9:10, it was sold out. Blimey!

30 Jan
6 miles, 48:13, 8:06 pace, HR 143
31 Jan
~11 miles, including:
  Farranfore 4 mile (ha!) race, 25:16, 6:04 pace, HR 179
  12th overall, 2nd M40

Weekly Mileage: 62+


  1. Hey Thomas, great run. I was the guy in the blue singlet.

  2. Great race Thomas. Welcome to the priveleged class. I heard today that registration for Valentia was available at 7 am - two hours before it should have been.

  3. Good report Thomas. You did well to hang in there throughout and must be pleased to get that 2nd in your age group. I think I was 44 when I got my first age group trophy. I'm sure it's not your last. You're going to get faster and stronger.

  4. Cool trophy! Why does it say 2009? You're getting faster with age it seems. Happy belated 40th!

  5. Congratulations on the race, and a belated "happy birthday". I've been reading your posts over the last 3-4 weeks and have been taking inspiration... keep at it, and good luck with the training.

  6. The first of many Thomas. Annoying thing is, you'll have to buy a trophy cabinet.

    Are you wearing a wetsuit for the tri, or is that a dumb question?

  7. Michael, the trophy says 2009 because the race was initially scheduled for 26 Dec 2009 and had to be postponed because of the icy road conditions.

    Ewen, there is a triathlon rule that states that wetsuits MUST be worn if the water temperature is below a certain threshold. In Ireland the water is never even close to that. Wetsuits are compulsory here.

  8. Congrats on the award! Nice run