Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Farranfore St.Stephen's Day Race

I had more or less taken a year absence from the local road racing scene. A low-key 10k in Tralee in June was the only local short road race I had done all year, so this was a comeback of some sort. I saw plenty of very familiar faces that I hadn't seen in a while.

The kids were all happy with their heaps of new Christmas presents and I was able to leave for a couple of hours without feeling guilty.

Yesterday my left hamstring had started hurting on the last mile and as soon as I started my warm-up I could feel it again. Running a race with a dodgy hamstring is unlikely to be a good idea; if I got hurt now it would destroy my chances of a good Tralee marathon, which would be devastating after the excellent base training I had managed in the last few months. However, I decided to go ahead anyway. What can I say, I'm the guy who thought running for 24 hours straight was a great idea; idiocy comes easy to me.

This was the 51st annual Farranfore road race, very much a credit to the local running club for keeping it going for such an amazingly long time. It's an old-school race as far as the odd distance is concerned, about 4 miles and a quarter. Back then they didn't care much for PBs over certain distances, it was all about racing each other, and that's exactly what I had in mind today.

The race course is tough, you start by going up a hill right from the off, then a slightly undulating straight road to Firies is followed by a small loop and then the same road back, which means that for the finish you have to cross that same hill again, which has seemingly doubled in size since 20 minutes ago.

The front row was pretty much packed with the usual fast guys. Two guys shot off from the start and would contest the eventual winner between themselves, but the pack right behind them contained all the familiar faces, including John, Simon, Cian, Arthur, Ed, Rob and ... me??? I was wondering what was going on, I am used to being a slow climber but reasonably fast descender, so to hang on to the back of these guys despite going uphill and not even working too hard was odd. When we reached the top of the hill I was still right there but then it felt like they all accelerated in unison and left me behind, struggling on my own against the fierce headwind. On the following downhill section I was caught by about 5 runners, including the first 2 ladies. This was the complete opposite of what I'm used to, usually I lose a few places on the climbs and gain them back afterwards. I'm not sure how that happened, but I must have become much stronger since last year but at the same time can't seem to spin my legs fast enough on the descent.

I tried to hang on to the backs of the runners who had just caught me, but with limited success. All I could do was try and keep the gap reasonably small. Just as we got into Firies George overtook me. I'm used to him disappearing into the distance right from the start, so I figured I must be running well even if I was unable to match his pace from here on.

Positions and gaps were maintained through Firies and on the way back home I noticed I was gaining on the runner ahead of me. He held me off when I drew level and together we closed the gap to the runner ahead until the three of us were running level. That's when the final climb started, gently at first but getting steeper with each step. Again, in highly unusual fashion, I was strangely strong here and not only gapped the two guys but caught the next runner in front of me as well. Then we reached the top and from here on I tried to spin the legs as fast as possible until the finish so as not to lose those places I had worked so hard for, which was successful, happy days!

I finished in 17th position, 3rd M40 (George overtaking me was the decisive move as far as finishing in the prize money was concerned), in 24:30, official results are here. That's 5:52 pace over a hilly course in very windy conditions, much better than I would have thought possible! Funnily enough, I had been talking to John O'Regan beforehand and somehow I had been running the race he had hoped for himself while he ran the race I had predicted for myself.

The hamstring did not hamper me at all, after a mile or two I did not even notice it any more. I knew I was in good shape, but had no idea I was in SUCH good shape. Happy Days!
24 Dec
8.5+ miles, 1:15:08, 8:46 pace, HR 138
   Hill Drills: strides, high knees, thigh drive
25 Dec
8 miles, 57:58, 7:14 pace, HR 149
26 Dec
8 miles, including:
   Farranfore 4.2 mile race, 24:33, 5:52 pace, avg. HR 178, max HR 185, 17th place, 3rd M40


  1. It's amazing how easy it can be when you are in 'shape'! Great performance and keep up those base miles so you can benefit from the peaks!

  2. Think that 4 miles PB needs a changing ;)