Thursday, May 29, 2014

So Much Better

I knew whining about my tired legs wouldn't be too clever after a 50 mile race, so I didn't. I still didn't like the feeling of those two concrete pillars strapped to the lower half of my body, though. It's a good thing that these days I seem to recover amazingly quickly from long races.

The HR went straight back to normal levels after 2 or 3 days but kept going up and down a bit. However, the heavy feeling in my legs clearly told me that HR data isn't everything. It took until Tuesday evening of this week to have a run that felt good, but that's still only 10 days after Staplestown. I'm sure a closer examination of various body parts would clearly show that recovery is far from complete at this point, but that's beside the point. I've started to feel good again and that's what counts to me.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all very straightforward, a run in the early morning and a short evening run to round things off. The weather has very unexpectedly turned, we are now able to enjoy a beautiful sunny sky all day long. You can see the smiles in everyone's faces, this is just great.

Thursday's run was a little bit different as I was heading up the Windy Gap again. On Sunday it was a bit of a struggle to climb all the way to the top, this morning I did it almost on autopilot, and twice. A mountain run at sunrise is just beautiful, there is nothing quite like it. I chatted to a friend yesterday who sometimes heads up the same way, we keep wondering why we never encounter anyone else on that route, it's almost as if it were a secret hideaway. I once met a couple of hikers, but this year I have never encountered anyone else on the Kerry Way, and I have been running there a lot.

Anyway, I'm pacing the Cork marathon on Monday, but with the easy 3:30 shift that should be the easiest long run of this training cycle. I should definitely be able to enjoy that one.

26 May
am: 8 miles, 1:02:02, 7:45 pace, HR 134
pm: 5+ miles, 38:57, 7:43 pace, HR 137
27 May
am: 8 miles, 1:02:09, 7:46 pace, HR 132
pm: 5+ miles, 38:50, 7:41 pace, HR 136
28 May
am: 10 miles, 1:16:43, 7:40 pace, HR 139
pm: 5+ miles, 38:13, 7:34 pace, HR 137
29 May
am: 12+ miles, 1:50:36, 9:00 pace, HR 137, Windy Gap
pm: 5+ miles, 39:24, 7:48 pace, HR 133

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Two weeks ago, after suffering through a week of heavy legs and plenty of fatigue, I started whining about how tired I was all the time, only to feel much better straight afterwards.

This week has been much harder but I'll spare you the whining. I ran 50 miles last Saturday and some extended recovery time is to be expected. Obviously, I wished my legs would have bounced back miraculously and I were bouncing up and down the mountains without trouble, but that was never going to happen.

I can take solace in the fact that the HR figures look very good and my VDOT (HR/pace ratio) has reached higher values than ever before, so once I get out of that fatigue I should be running better than ever, which is after all the entire point of this training cycle. If it will happen just in time for the race in Belfast still remains to be seen. I have never done training like this and it's all a bit of an experiment, but I do remain hopeful.

The legs are very, very stiff for the first mile or two of my early morning training runs. I usually hobble down the driveway at 10-minute pace and gradually manage to get things going, but that does take time. I always used my first miles as my warm up, but it's getting more and more pronounced. I'm not sure if this is down to me getting older or if it's a side effect of the heavy training.

My right hip feels a bit weird. It has been slightly off for the last few months, but actually I can only feel it during the day, it seems perfectly fine when I am running. It is somewhat similar to the Achilles twinges I felt last year. They had stayed with me for several months, always just about noticeable but never enough to even consider a break in my training, and eventually faded away. Obviously I am hoping for a similar outcome with the hip. The discomfort is very mild., never more than 1 or 2 out of 10, but very persistent so far.

My back hurt again two days ago, but only for one day. Unlike the hip I'm pretty sure this is not running-related, and in fact running may well improve it.

I think I AM getting old, but I haven't fallen apart yet.
22 May
5+ miles, 40:44, 8:03 pace, HR 133
23 May
am: 8 miles, 1:03:57, 8:00 pace, HR 132
pm: 5+ miles, 38:26, 7:37 pace, HR 137
24 May
10 miles, 1:19:27, 7:57 pace, HR 137
25 May
10+ miles, 1:34:49, 8:47 pace, HR 141, Windy Gap
Weekly Mileage: 69

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recovery, Yet Again

In some ways I find it hard to believe that I just run 50 miles. I went shopping on Sunday and deliberately walked down the staircase to the parking lot instead of taking the lift, just to test my legs and they were perfectly fine. I also did some gardening work that afternoon and got through that just fine - in fact, I only stopped because our lawnmower died.

On the other hand, I was asked yesterday if I had run yet another marathon, and when I asked why I was told that I am dragging one leg behind when I'm walking, something I certainly had not been aware of and which caught me completely by surprise. My left hamstring and glutes are a little bit tight, just about the only thing I can notice from Saturday's race, which probably accounts for the leg-dragging.

I have been taking it very easy since and have followed my usual routine of running 5 easy miles at a time. The HR was off only for a day or 2 and has already bounced back to usual levels, which is quite remarkable. Staplestown might have been a training run but it still equalled the third-longest run I've ever done and I set a PB of well over 15 minutes, even if I think I have at least another 15 minutes of improvement in me, probably more.

The weekly mileage has been a bit up and down as I keep running very long runs every second weekend and subsequently need to recover. I have averaged just under 100 miles for the last few weeks. The last time I did that kind of mileage my weight kept dropping even as I ate as much as I could. I pretty much expected the same to happen again, but that's not the case. I have been at about 146 lbs / 10 st 6 / 66kg for the last few weeks and have remained there, probably the most stable weight level I've had in years.

As Saturday's memory fades away I am looking forward to the next runs. I asked to be moved back from my usual 3:15 slot to 3:30 as pacer for the Cork City marathon, which should give me a much more comfortable day, and hopefully one weekend I won't need so much recovery from. I did apologise to Jo for the inconvenience, I imagine the most frustrating thing for an organiser must be people who ask to be switched at such a late stage. Sorry about that, hopefully won't ever happen again.
19 May
am: 5 miles, 43:11, 8:38 pace, HR 122
pm: 5 miles, 40:09, 8:02 pace, HR 130
20 May
am: 5+ miles, 42:13, 8:21 pace, HR 125
pm: 5+ miles, 39:53, 7:54 pace, HR 131
21 May
am: 5+ miles, 40:59, 8:06 pace, HR 125
pm: 5+ miles, 37:51, 7:29 pace, HR 134

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Flat Out

I had been a bit silly. There was a perfectly good marathon in Killarney, one that I had run last year and enjoyed very much and had every intention of running again this year. Instead I had gotten my dates mixed up, signed up for a 50 mile race at the other end of the country, not realising that the dates would clash. But since I am training for a much longer race and do require some longer-than-marathon training runs, I decided to leave it as it is and go ahead.
The 50 mile field
I had never even heard of Staplestown before. It turned out to be a pleasant little village in rural Kildare and the course consisted of 8 loops between Staplestown and Prosperous. Some local runners had confidently predicted that this course would put an end to the myth that Kildare is a flat county due to the formidable hill that had to be conquered once on each lap.

Mile 1
We started a few minutes after 7 o'clock. It was pleasantly cool with a tiny little breeze but everyone knew that it would heat up considerably during the day. We did a little out-and-back first, adding just over a mile before heading back out on the first of many loops to come. I fell into step with Gerry Duffy, just like in Connemara. We chatted for a good bit, watching the top two runners, Ger Copeland and John O'Regan, very quickly disappear beyond the horizon. I was a bit worried about Ger burning himself out trying to stay with John, but let's wait and see.

We ran about 7:35 pace, which felt incredibly easy as I was jogging along. My heart rate was a very low 140 and I was very confident about the miles ahead. In Connemara I had started at 7:10 pace and finished with an average of 7:20; today was just 11 miles longer and the pace, HR and effort level seemed perfectly appropriate.

Lap 2
I made a comment about the "not-much-of-a-hill", which got a wry smile out of Gerry. The first loop passed very quickly. The 50k had started just before we came through, we saw the entire field on their own initial out-and-back section before they would go onto their loops, but they only had to do 5 of them, of course.

The hill seemed more noticeable on the second attempt, but I still was not overly impressed. Halfway through that loop Gerry started pushing the pace. Initially I stuck with him but after 2 miles, about 11 miles into the race, I decided to back off and preserve my energy and let him go. He was still only a few seconds ahead of me at the end of that loop but then quickly pulled away on the hill, and I knew I would be running almost 40 miles entirely on my own.
Lap 3. Still good.

The marathon started around that time as well. Again, I saw the field on their initial out-and-back, but apart from that it pretty much passed me by, I hardly saw any of those runners afterwards.

I still felt very comfortable. The miles flew by quickly and effortlessly. I was pretty much on autopilot cruising along, holding the pace somewhere around 7:35-7:40 pace. I checked the HR on a few, rare occasions and it was always between 140 and 143, very easy effort. Around mile 17 I thought how funny it was to be running so easily when on a long run at home at that point I would be looking forward to finishing and definitely feeling the effort.

I cruised through the marathon in about 3:21, which felt almost effortlessly and was pretty much the same pace I had done in the Donadea 50k back in February, just around the corner from here. I was now in the second half of the race and still cruising along easily and the "hill" was still unimpressive. Apart from the top 3 of the 50k, nobody had ever passed me, which did surprise me as I sure expected the pointy end of the marathon field to go past me at some stage.

Lap 4. This is easy.

Things still kept ticking along at lap 4, though I did start noticing the rising temperature. It reached 22 degrees, which isn't much if you're used to mediterranean climate but for Ireland in May this is fairly hot. But I think direct sunshine has more of an effect on running than the actual temperature, and we were running right in the sun with very few shady spots on the course. I fell a bit behind on my hydration, and initially they only gave out drinks at the start/finish, 6 miles apart, which was not enough in those conditions. They did rectify it later on and started handing out bottles in Prosperous as well, which made a big difference and I felt I managed to catch up again.
Lap 5. Maybe not quite so easy ...

However, at that point the wheels started to come off. I still felt reasonably okay and I did get a few compliments on my relaxed form, but the effort started to get to me, the legs were aching, especially the hamstrings, and it all felt a lot harder than initially. I finished the fifth loop, just past the 50k mark which had passed under 4 hours, which would have been a perfectly acceptable 50k race.

In a marathon you'd say I hit the wall. It's usually not called like that in an ultra because you are invariably going through several rough patches. These can take a long time, and sometimes you reach the finish before recovering from your most recent low spell. It is inevitable in ultra running. Deal with it.

The only way I know how to deal with it, really, is to put my head down and get on with it. Don't even think about how far it is until the end, that's how DNFs are made. Just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. I kept up with hydration, very important on a hot day like today. I tried taking gels and sports drink but that didn't seem to make any difference. I don't think the lack of glycogen was the problem, my legs were just not fully prepared for the miles. I had run 28+ pretty hard miles 2 weeks ago and then did a couple of mountain runs and a hilly 15 miler last Sunday on top of all that, so my guess is that my legs were a bit overworked.

I told myself that this was exactly what I was here for. I could have comfortably cruised through yet another marathon in Killarney but had deliberately chosen to come here and run almost twice as far instead. As much as it sucked at the time, this was the very reason why I had to do it. The human body is very capable of adaptation, but you need to give it a good reason to adapt in the first place. Running many, many miles is the best preparation for running even more miles.
Lap 6. Looking better than I feel!

There was plenty of suffering to be had on lap 6 and the sun was just relentless. I still didn't rate the hill, but the layout of the course meant that we kept looking at endless stretches of perfectly straight road for miles and miles, and it started to become soul-destroying.

I wished there had been more runners. Connemara creates a fantastic buzz as you make your way through the full and half-marathon fields. Here, in contrast, it was very lonely. I caught runners at a rate of not much more than one runner per mile, which meant I was running entirely on my own for many hours. Passing through the start/finish area was always great, but then it was back to almost an hour of being more or less on your own.

When I pressed the "lap" button after lap 6 I saw just how much I had slowed down and it wasn't pretty. However, lap 7 was even worse. I couldn't really run properly any more so I just shuffled instead, something very familiar to all ultra runners. The feet barely leave the ground any more. Your step size shrinks and your pace with it, but you are still making progress, and that's what counts.
Lap 7. Hard work.

Twice I was asked if I was on my last lap, which would have been a soul-destroying question at the time had I not been prepared for it. Dave Brady did it right. "How many laps have you left?" "Just one more" "Good man". Much better, good man yourself, Dave!

I lapped Anto and quipped that I should have signed up for the 50k instead. "Me too!"

I finally started the last lap. I was about a mile into it when I suddenly saw John O'Regan just ahead of me, which was entirely unexpected. A mile ago I'd had some vague worries that he might lap me, instead he was almost within touching distance.

How often do you have the chance to realistically chase a two-times national champion? I reasoned that since I had obviously managed to close the gap I was moving better than him, but he clearly had no intentions of being caught and increased his own pace. He never managed to put some telling distance between us but he did manage to inch away from me again, and with my destroyed legs I could not really give proper chase any more.
Lap 8. Don't make me do this again.
Photos by Gareth MacCauley

The temperatures dropped slightly as it became a bit hazy, which definitely helped, but the legs were gone and there was nothing I could do about that. As I reached the top of the "hill" for the last time I shouted out loud "Come on, is that all you've got!" at the top of my voice. Actually no, I didn't. The words had formed in my head but never made it out.

One last run on the endless stretch into Prosperous, get some encouragement from the marshalls, "only 3 miles and you're done!" One last run on the even more endless stretch out of Prosperous, for once made easier by the knowledge that I would never have to run it again. It dragged on but each step got me closer to the finish, and one step further was all I ever concentrated on.

Eventually I reached the last junction. The GAA ground seemed to have moved further and further away, but I caught up. Go round the last couple of bends, soak up the applause on the last meters before the finish, cross the line and revel in the fact that finally you can stop running!

I had managed to run every single step, never had to pause for even a second and kept on going until the end. It was hard work, harder than what I would have expected and probably harder than what I would have wanted, I guess. I finished in third place. Gerry had run into serious troubles and wanted to pull out but managed to get back on the course after a break. Ger, on the other hand, had finished in 6:11, an incredibly serious time, much respect and a very worthy winner. I finished just 2 minutes behind John, which is an achievement even on a day when John clearly had to deal with some issues himself.

And Kildare is still a flat county.

extra bit 9:27  7:50 pace
lap 1 46:24 7:36 pace
lap 2 46:44 7:39 pace
lap 3 47:08 7:43 pace
lap 4 47:40 7:49 pace
lap 5 48:35 7:59 pace
lap 6 51:37 8:30 pace
lap 7 54:08 8:53 pace
lap 8 53:21 8:47 pace

15 May
8 miles, 1:01:34, 7:41 pace, HR 134
16 May
5+ miles, 40:32, 8:01 pace, HR 130
17 May
50 miles, 6:45:08, 8:06 pace, HR 143
   Staplestown 50 mile race, 3rd place
18 May
5+ miles, 45:16, 8:58 pace, HR 126

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Healing Powers

No sooner had I written a long, whining rant on how my recovery from running 28+ miles was taking too long than my body turned the corner. I have felt great at all runs this week, and the HR/pace ratio has reached new heights. Maybe I should investigate the healing powers of whining, you never know, I might be on to something.

As stated I have cut my mileage down ever so slightly at the beginning of the week, only running 8 miles instead of 10 in the morning, though I'm pretty sure that slight reduction did not make all that much of a difference.

I felt good enough to go back up on the Kerry Way this morning. The only disappointment was the weather, while I had been looking forward to a beautiful sunrise and some stunning views I got low-hanging clouds instead. Ah well, can't have everything. The legs felt good and I'll take a good run in cloudy weather over a miserable one in sunshine any time.

I'm all set for Saturday's 50 mile race in Staplestown, county Kildare. I'm quite looking forward to it, even if the mileage is ever so slightly daunting. I keep telling myself that it's only 10 miles more than Connemara and on an easier course. Plus, since I don't have any plans of going for a top finish I can run relaxed for the entire distance. The one downtime is that I'll be missing the Lakes of Killarney marathon, which would have been 30 minutes drive from home rather than 4 hours, and in a nicer setting to boot. I only realised the clash of dates after I had signed up for Staplestown. From a training point of view it's probably a good thing because I need some long training runs for Belfast, so I stuck with that race. There will be dozens of friends form the marathon club there, which always guarantees good fun.

I'll take it very easy for the rest of the week, basically doing a 2-day taper similar to what I have done before Connemara or the Wings for Life run. With 50 miles on Saturday the weekly mileage will still easily go over 100 - as long as everything goes to plan, of course.

12 May
am: 8 miles, 1:02:59, 7:52 pace, HR 131
pm: 5 miles, 37:55, 7:34 pace, HR 137
13 May
am: 8 miles, 1:01:23, 7:40 pace, HR 133
pm: 5 miles, 36:16, 7:15 pace, HR 137
14 May
12+ miles, 1:49:49, 8:57 pace, HR 141, Windy Gap x 2

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Es Geht Um Die Wurst

Ah yes, reminds me of home
That was quite some weekend, won the Eurovison on Saturday and the Premier League on Sunday. I think I should buy a lottery ticket on Monday, I'm obviously on a roll.

Except when it comes to running. I have to face up to the fact that it is taking me longer to recover from the Wings for Life run than I thought. I would have thought that recovery would be quicker than after Connemara, but I guess the faster pace made a difference and I suppose the accumulated fatigue from all those weeks of high mileage is taking its toll as well. I knew my training would be tough, but now I'm worried about overtraining. I did try and check my resting heart rate this morning and was rather shocked when the HRM never dropped below 50, but a quick check on the usual overtraining symptoms reveals that I do not show any other ones, so I'm definitely not in that territory. This week had seen less mileage than previous ones as I tried to recover from Sunday's effort, but it was still rather high. A few weeks ago I was asked in a comment if I do cutback weeks every 3 or 4 weeks, and my answer had been no. I thought about it, and to some aspects the answer is still no as I certainly don't believe in cutting back mileage on a pre-planned regular basis, but on the other hand I do cut back after a tough run, like last Sunday's.

This should become an annual occurrence
It's not that I don't have a training plan and am making it up as I go along. Quite the opposite, I do have a very firm structure in mind, but I do adapt the actual training as I go along; I cut back the miles when the legs are heavy a few days in a row and I do cut back when recovery seems necessary.

I have yet another very long race next week. The original plan had been to train normally until at least Wednesday and then take it easy for a day or two, but instead I will dial it back slightly right from Monday.

This week has been a bit strange; the legs always felt really stiff for the morning run but much better in the evening and the numbers do reflect that. Today's 15 mile run was a mini-version of that, it took me half the run to get into it after a very slow start, but I felt pretty good during the second half and had no problem dropping the pace to 7-minute pace over the last 5 or 6 miles, feeling perfectly comfortable.
9 May
am: 8 miles, 1:01:16, 7:46 pace, HR 142
pm: 5 miles, 39:05, 7:49 pace, HR 137
10 May
am: 10 miles, 1:20:12, 8:01 pace, HR 138
pm: 5+ miles, 38:30, 7:37 pace, HR 140
11 May
15+ miles, 1:59:16, 7:53 pace, HR 141
Weekly Mileage: 84

Thursday, May 08, 2014


Km 22. Photo by Sean Murphy.
Note the tailback, and the road is clearly not closed
Recovery from Sunday's race is going okay. It's a bit slower that I would have hoped, but I DID run over 28 miles at almost 7-minute pace, so a bit of relative downtime was always on the cards, I suppose. My legs never felt sore; walking down the staircase in the office building is always the acid test and I managed that without any pain. I was feeling quite stiff, however. I followed my usual recovery procedure of doing very easy 5 mile runs, though with the one twist that I ran twice a day. On Tuesday and Wednesday I noticed a huge difference between the morning and evening runs. I felt as stiff as a plank in the mornings but a day of loosening up the muscles made for a very different evening run; I ran close to a minute per mile faster, with the same RPE.

Of course I keep thinking back to Sunday's race. I am very pleased with how it went. I came 4th out of 367 in Ireland, but the global results sounds even better, coming 140th out of almost 37000 runners. Obviously it wasn't the most competitive event ever, but still. Even my kids almost admitted to being impressed.

The race was very well organised. You could tell that sponsor Red Bull had put plenty of thought and resources into the entire package, even if I'm not entirely convinced that them putting their own spin on something as simple as a running race was strictly necessary. But then again, it was exactly that spin that made it such a unique event. The local organisers did a very good job as well, which can't have been easy.

Admittedly, there were a few things that could be looked at for next year:
  • The tracking website looked very impressive but did not work, at least not for Ireland
  • The road was not closed after Killorglin, despite the road signs saying differently
  • In contrast, I don't think the runners made themselves too popular with the closure of the road between Killorglin and Killarney, as well as the resulting long tailback through Killorglin (yes I know, can't have it both ways!)
  • One runner took a wrong turn in Killorglin. I'm not sure how he managed that as the road markings should have been obvious, but in retrospective they probably should have put a marshall on that junction.
  • The course we ran was different from the map; the change must have been done late as I could see the km markings from the original course as well as the real ones. Mind, the course we ended up running made much more sense, following the N70 rather than taking a few diversions along some tiny roads.
  • The helpers at all the aid stations after km 20 did not hand out the drinks, we had to pick them off the table ourselves. It's a minor thing, but it did cost time and was a distraction. At one station I promptly knocked over a cup, which was probably inevitable.

All of which won't distract from the success of the race. Will I do it again next year? Maybe. It depends on my other plans for 2015.

After 3 days of nothing but short recovery runs, I ventured up into the mountains again this morning. I ran the entire run on autopilot. I reckon I must be in good shape if I can run up a mountain in auto mode. I didn't run in the evening as I was on parenting duty, but after the mountain run that was probably a good thing anyway.

5 May
am: 5 miles, 42:49, 8:34 pace, HR 132
pm: 5+ miles, 39:44, 7:52 pace, HR 142
6 May
am: 5+ miles, 42:42, 8:27 pace, HR 129
pm: 5 miles, 38:48, 7:46 pace, HR 135
7 May
am: 5 miles, 42:03, 8:25 pace, HR 130
pm: 5+ miles, 38:28, 7:37 pace, HR 139
8 May
am: 10+ miles, 1:34:52, 8:49 pace, HR 139, Windy Gap

Monday, May 05, 2014

Wings For Life

I said on Wednesday that I would dial back the mileage slightly for the rest of the week, but family life dictated that I could not run in the evenings at all, so this ended up a much bigger reduction than I had planned. No problem, these things are inevitable and it left me fresher for Sunday's Wings for Life run.

The format was strange with no fixed finish line but runners being chased down by a car. It led to some anomalies, e.g. the faster you run the longer you are out there, completely the opposite of a normal race. It's also mentally challenging as there is no finish to focus on.

The morning was a bit stressful, trying to get the kids ready and drop them off to be minded for the day, but I got to Killarney in good time. The start area was divided into several zones and the runners were very disciplined lining up correctly but it was quite lonely up front where me and John O'Regan were on our own until we were joined just before the start by another couple of runners.

My target was to run the marathon, which had to be done in 3:08 or faster, otherwise the car would catch you too early and you were out. I knew I was perfectly capable of running 3:08 but it would certainly require a good effort. I also wanted to keep a few minutes spare, just in case, and to give me to option to add a few miles, so I decided to run 7:00 pace for as long as I could.

I managed to resist temptation to trip up Bernard Brogan at the start - it would have been hard to make it look like an accident in front of the cameras. It took a bit to settle into my pace and if I counted correctly there were 15 runners ahead of me after the first mile. The first half marathon would be very flat and potentially fast with a slight net downhill and as long as you kept the effort easy you were set for a good run. The early kilometers just flew by. I caught a few runners but was passed by some runners myself and if I counted correctly there were still 15 runners ahead of me after 10 miles.

Km 20. Passing Puck and waving to friends.
 Photo by Susanne Foley
At the 15k feed station I accidentally grabbed a cup of red bull rather than water. I don't rate it as an energy drink because it doesn't contain any calories and has messed up my stomach the one time I tried it, but the caffeine gave me a real kick and I started accelerating. By the time I reached Killorglin at 20k I had overtaken 4 runners and was in 12th place, assuming that I had counted correctly.

It was great to be running a marathon/ultra through my own home town, something I never realistically expected to happen and the main reason why I ran this race today rather than the Limerick marathon. However, the topography of the route completely changed here. It started with a short but nasty climb into Killorglin itself and as we turned southwestwards we were now heading straight into the wind coming from the Atlantic. It was very blustery and definitely stronger than I would have liked and it made the effort feel a lot harder from here on.

The rough conditions seemed to work in my favour as I kept catching runner after runner. It's quite normal to catch a runner or 2 in the later stages of a marathon if you're having a good race, but I was moving through the field at a very surprising rate. 5 miles after Killorglin the road dropped down to Caragh Bridge, almost passing our driveway, and then a nasty and much longer climb toward Glenbeigh followed, climbing about 140 feet in a mile. The road drops steadily through Glenbeigh at about 34k, and then slowly rises again for the next 1.5 miles. I caught another 2 runners on that stretch and figured I must be in about 6th position at that point.

Km  28. Almost at home. Photo by Rosemary Browne
I tried to work out roughly where the catcher car was and was almost scared when I realised that it was definitely less than a mile away. Having a car chase you down and knowing that it is getting close is a surprisingly stressful situation. I tried to get that image out of my head again and just concentrated on keeping the pace as it was. I knew I was well under 3:08 marathon pace, so there was no real reason to worry about the car.

And that's where I hit that mountain. I had known all along that it was coming obviously, being local, but that did not help all that much. It is a tougher climb than the Hell of the West in Connemara or the Big One in Dingle and it comes even later in the race, which makes it the worst hill I've ever climbed in a marathon. From the moment we crossed a little bridge (and that's after already climbing steadily out of Glenbeigh) the road rises more than 250 feet over 2 miles with 2 very nasty steep sections. Unlike Connemara or Dingle you can only ever see a small section of the road ahead of you but I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Invariably my pace dropped. I had averaged 6:58 miles until that point and by the time I finally reached the aid station at Mountain Stage, right at the 40k mark, it was down to 7:02. Luckily that was still comfortably ahead of 3:08 marathon pace, but I sure was glad that I had built up a cushion.

It was comparably easy cruising after that. The road dropped down again, losing about a third of the elevation until the 41k mark and then came the stunningly scenic route along Drung Hill, one of the classic parts of the Ring of Kerry. Unfortunately the vicious headwind made this much tougher and less enjoyable that it could have been, and the low cloud took away the views, though most likely I would not have enjoyed them at that point anyway.

On two occasions I could hear some loud noises from behind that sounded a bit like an ice cream van to me and I reckoned it was the chasing car catching the runners immediately behind me. Once I passed the marathon mark in about 3:05 the pressure was definitely off and anything else was a bonus. I kept the effort honest and the pace on the Garmin remained steady. The motor camera came and stuck with me, obviously waiting for the moment I got caught.

I reached the iconic Gleensk viaduct where the road makes a very tight turn, and as I headed up the other side right at the 45k mark I could see the chasing car for the first time. It did not take long for it to reel me in after that and my race was finally over after 45.59k/28.33 miles.

I finished in fourth place, a little bit further ahead than I thought. Congratulations to winner John O'Regan who managed 4 km more than me and club mate Alison Kirwan who won the ladies race, what a brilliant result!

1 May
8 miles, 1:04:34, 8:04 pace, HR 129
2 May
8 miles, 1:02:25, 7:48 pace, HR 136
3 May
6 miles, 44:42, 7:27 pace, HR 139
4 May
Wings For Life, Ireland run. 4th place
28.33 miles, 3:20:54, 7:04 pace, HR 161

Dedicated to Liam Heffernan. Please give a donation to Liam's Lodge. Thank you.