Sunday, June 19, 2016

One For The Team

Running is mainly a solitary sport but from time to time we do get the chance to take part in a team event, be it a team scoring event like the cross country (or a 24 hours world championship) or a relay. It was one such rare occasion that made me team up with 9 other members of our local Star of the Laune running club, even though I would not normally consider running a race so close to a 24 hours event.

Running the Ring of Kerry was a special draw as well, no doubt about it. It's a spectacular drive but I wouldn't usually consider running on it due to the traffic, so you take your opportunities when they come. I volunteered for 2 hilly stages; initially Moll's Gap and Glenbeigh, but they changed the course 2 or 3 weeks ago and added an extra loop via Portmagee and Ballinskelligs. I knew that the mountain after Portmagee would be by far the toughest climb of the day so I took on that one. It had the pleasant side effect that my first leg would not start until after lunch time, enabling a long lie-in. Or at least it would have had I not woken at 5:30 and then been unable to get back to sleep because I kept thinking of my team mates already out on the road.

Unfortunately the tracker wasn't working very well so we had to be careful to be at the changeover stops in good time, especially as the team had done exceptionally well and we were half an hour ahead of schedule already by the time Anna handed over to me in Glenbeigh.

I must have been overexcited because I took off like a bat out of hell before realising that I had a lot of running ahead of me, and also had to stop to fix up my number, but by the time I hit the hill out of Glenbeigh towards Mountain Stage I was motoring ahead at a good effort.

It didn't really feel like a race at all. The first placed team was 20 minutes ahead of us and the third team was 20 minutes behind us, so we all would be running entirely on our own with no real prospect of either catching up or being caught and it was more of a solo tempo effort. However, running up a hill at speed is a tough consignment any time and my HR was well over 170 when I caught a glimpse of my watch. I avoided looking at it for the rest of the run. After the initial hill the road dropped down a bit and the headwind became the major enemy. There was surprisingly little motor traffic but there were a lot of cyclists in big groups and we all had to watch out.

The miles passed by very quickly and after 55 minutes I passed the baton on to Vivian and jumped into the support car, helping the next runners on their legs and eventually getting ready for my second stint.

To be honest, I still don't quite get it why we did not run from Caherciveen straight to Waterville but took a 17 mile detour via Portmagee and Ballinskelligs. That's not the Ring of Kerry and while the scenery is absolutely spectacular I wasn't really getting much joy out of it, partially because of the running effort and partially because the weather had gradually turned sour with low clouds and steadily increasing wind and rain.

I knew the mountain out of Portmagee would be tough. That's why I had volunteered for that stretch. I had run it once but I had obviously forgotten just how tough it actually was. The first mile saw about 150 feet elevation gain but the second had over 550! Anna thought I was having an asthma attack but it was just a moan I do with every breath, like I always do when the effort level goes above a certain threshold; I was fine, even if I didn't sound like it. Closer to the top we got right into the clouds with very low visibility, which had me worried about a cyclist coming out of nowhere but thankfully I got up without incident. The downhill side was even steeper with over 600 feet lost in a single mile but that was the section that had worried me the most as I did not want to destroy my legs a week before Belfast, so I just tried to spin the legs as fast as I could while trying to reduce the impact forces.

Down in Finian's Bay I passed the Chocolate Factory, though unfortunately is was already closed, which put paid to my secret plan of a sly stop for hoarding up on truffles, fudge and dark sea salt chocolate (seriously, it's divine!), so I just motored on instead. As I looked around I had the sea to my right and the mountains in every other direction, so it didn't come as much of a surprise when the road rose up another mountain, thankfully not as high and not as steep. At some point Anna asked where in Ballinskelligs we should do the changeover but I don't know the place at all and just said "three more miles", which I felt I could still do at a good effort without destroying myself.

Those miles passed reasonably quickly and that's where I handed over to Damian for the glory leg into the finish. We finished second team but first mixed team.

I very much enjoyed the run, both the team aspect as well as the the pure running part, and would not hesitate doing something like that again. The evening ended on a bit of a low point when they had the trophy presentation earlier than announced and we missed it because we were still finishing dinner! The top team weren't overly impressed that the big trophy went to the first mixed team (us!!) and there was some grumbling that there were no cash prizes for the winners - to be perfectly honest I was bemused by that as no cash prizes had been advertised and I for one never expected any. From the organisational point of view I was happy enough with the event; the signposting was a bit sparse, which was fine for us locals but others did struggle (apparently the signs kept disappearing or were vandalised) and I wouldn't have included the Portmagee/Ballinskelligs detour (unless he deliberately wanted to send everyone over the steepest mountain road he could find [might be onto something here]) but I'd definitely sign up again.

The Star of the Laune team

On Sunday there was the Glounaguillagh fun run that had been postponed at Easter. I was definitely tempted to race that as well, especially since it had been the venue of a rare victory of mine a few years ago, though it would almost certainly have been a bad idea with Belfast so close. In the end I didn't have a choice anyway. Maia wanted to do the kids fun run and since Niamh was busy I had to mind her and obviously would not have been able to leave her alone while racing, so I just jogged the 1k kids course with her (which, btw, was long according to my GPS! :) ). It was definitely for the best, I just did 3 very very easy miles on the treadmill in the afternoon for some active recovery (which, as you probably know, I am a great believer in).
16 June
0 miles, but Yoga on Rossbeigh beach instead!
17 June
8 miles, 1:04:48, 8:06 pace, HR 151, heat adaptation
18 June
leg1: 7.83 miles, 55:35, 7:05 pace, HR 162
leg2: 8.34 miles, 1:03:19, 7:35 pace, HR 163, very hilly
19 June
3 miles, 28:29, 9;29 pace, HR 126, treadmill

1 comment:

  1. Love team running events, but there are so few these days. We used to have a couple of long road relays and a few XC relays back in the day. The road ones died as insurance (and traffic) went up. Well done to your team. That's hilarious about the 1k course being long. How hard is it to get right?!