Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Real Surprise

When Niamh went to Dublin for an extended weekend, not only did she take the kids, she also took the car, leaving me rather stranded here in Caragh Lake. There was a race on in Milltown, the next village from Killorglin, but as I was not feeling too well I did not think I'd even attempt to go there.

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


  1. Fantastic run Thomas - what was in the antibiotic. Are they any good with a tape measure in Kerry - maybe they don't have a 10k one ;)

    As they do not appear to be offering pacing gear for Dingle will we wear our Cork pacing kit on Saturday?

  2. Nicely done, Thomas. Enjoy Dingle this weekend.

  3. Good stuff Thomas! Great racing and a nice PB. Find a track 10,000 or a flat course and you'd be in the low 37s for sure. Where can I get me some of that man flu?!