I also thought I'd successfully sabotaged any hopes of a good run on Sunday by returning to the mountains on Saturday, giving especially the calves a bloody good workout, but that run deserves its own blog post, which I reserve for later this week. When Niamh rang me last night and inquired if I was going to do the race, I said I'd make a late decision on Sunday but expected to stay at home.
Sunday was a beautiful day and while the antibiotics had not cleared my chest as much as I had hoped for, I was feeling better and decided to go ahead. I did not expect anything apart from having fun. I was not exactly well rested. Apart from being up in the mountains on Saturday and not being recovered from my man flu, I also had to cycle the 10 miles from Caragh Lake to Milltown, trying not to kill myself with the effort before I even got to the start line.
I got there in good time and noticed during the warm-up that my legs felt like they had bricks attached to them. I wasn't sure if the mountains or the bike were to blame, but decided just to jog slowly for a mile to shake them out a bit and not tire myself out unnecessarily otherwise.
The usual fast local runners were gathered in force and I started right behind them, as always. The course was a loop of about 9K, so the start was offset by 1 km and the first and last K would be the same. That road was a fairly steep downhill; a fast start and a fast finish were assured.
The field settled very quickly and I found myself around 10th place, behind a group consisting of the leading lady Marie, Phil and one other guy I did not know. About a mile into the race I realised I was running the same pace as that group but 5 meters behind them, so I injected some pace to catch up. It's always easier to run in a group. Just as I caught up, the unknown guy started to falter and I had to pass him to stay with the others.
The next 5K were all about me hanging on desperately to the back of the group. I felt I was going a tiny bit too fast for my abilities but refused to give in. Last week's disastrous race was still vivid in my memory and I wasn't sure if repeating the same tactic, namely trying very hard to stay with the group, was really such a great idea but was unwilling to slow down. I did fall behind a couple of steps on numerous occasions and had to speed up each time to keep contact, but I just about managed it.
The roads were very quiet, typical Kerry country roads, just like I'm used to from training and I really enjoyed it, as much as you can call it enjoyment when running right at the pain threshold. There were some very straight sections where you could see 2 miles ahead and the best thing was not to look ahead. The other feature were a couple of hills, and they sure did drag on.
Shortly after 6K Marie managed to gain about 3 meters on Phil and me and seemed assured to leave us in the dust. I caught a look at the numbers on my Garmin and realised that our pace was slipping and tried to push past Phil. As soon as I drew level he accelerated and I ended up a couple of steps behind him again. Uphill running isn't my forte and I was struggling to keep pace while trying not to kill myself. Shortly before the 8K mark I noticed that the pace had definitely been slipping; the average pace on the Garmin now read 6:18 (minutes per mile, that is), well down on the pace needed for a personal best, and I decided to give it a good go from her on, as the last downhill K would help. I pushed past Phil again. Again he accelerated when I drew level but this time I kept the pressure on. I concentrated on catching Marie and eventually Phil's footsteps started to recede and I was right behind Marie. Tempted as I was to take a break, I pushed on even harder. I thought we were at 9K, where the start line had been, and put the hammer down.
Turns out I was wrong, the 9K marker came about a quarter mile later but there was nothing left to do but keep going. The world shrunk to a bubble, I was hardly aware of anything else, there was just me and the pain and no way out, except to push as hard as I could. Arthur, who had come second, saw me on his cool down and later commented that I must have had a good finish. He was right. I pulled well clear of Marie and came close to catching the fella in front, who had been way ahead of me with a mile to go, but in the end I ran out of road and finished 6 seconds behind him in 9th place.
I was pleased with my race but got a real surprise when I looked at the time, 37:58! To be fair, the course might have been a tiny bit short which would definitely have taken me over the 38 minutes mark, but what the hell, I'll take it anyway. I see it as compensation for suffering the long course last week.
As pleased as I was with my performance, the banter afterwards was even better, everyone seemed to be in a great mood and the lovely weather sure helped. I didn't even mind when it turned out that those 6 seconds had cost me the trophy for the third man over 35 (the age groups were a bit funny, O35 and O50 only), and only swore a little bit when my bike had a flat tyre 6 miles from home on the way back. The positives definitely outshone the negatives today.
- 28 Aug
- ~8.5 miles, including:
Milltown 10K, 37:58, new PB, 9th overall