Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unexpected But Welcome

I have been agonizing this week how I would approach this race. Should I train through completely and take the race as just another workout, or should I take it easy beforehand? In the end I took 2 easy days with 10 miles on Friday and 6 on Saturday.

I had been looking forward to this race ever since I heard that it was taking place again. The scenery is just stunning, even the drive along the Dingle peninsula is worth the journey alone. A slight downer was the fact that I had put Niamh and 3 of our kids on the train to Dublin earlier on. I’ll be on my own this week (Yeah! I have the run of the house! I can train for hours on end!), and the fact that they had not changed the route from last year. I don’t mind all those hills that much, but the fact that the course is 0.2 miles short is a bit annoying.

Anyway, I arrived in Ballydavid (or maybe I should say Baile na nGall. This is a Gaeltacht after all) a bit later than planned, but with the customary delayed start (we're in Kerry!) I had plenty of time for my warm-up. Last year I had come eighth overall, but looking around I could see that this year would be a bit more competitive. At the start a whole group of runners shot off at breakneck speed. Surely they couldn’t all be top runners? I was doing a rather aggressive pace myself, definitely faster than what I would be able to hold. There were almost 20 runners ahead in that group, pulling slowly ahead of me, and I was caught in no-man’s land between the leaders and the rest. Still in the first mile two runners caught up to me and I tried to stay in their slipstream, but the pace was too hard and I could not quite keep up. On the other hand, the leading group was breaking apart and a few runners kept coming back to me. I was at least holding my place, and after that first mile nobody would go past me again.

Last year’s weather had been pretty bad, strong winds combined with at times heavy rain. The wind was still there, but at least we were running in full sunshine. It just made for a nicer atmosphere, especially considering the scenery around us. Not that I had time to admire my surroundings. Instead I was running hell for leather. Since I knew the course to be short I did not trust the km markers. I tried not to look at my Garmin, but on a couple of occasions could not resist. After a mile the pace had been 6:06, despite the fact that the second half had consisted of a steep hill, and we had gained 60 feet in elevation. I could not possibly hold that effort, but I remembered my motto from last summer’s races, suffer as much as possible, and today I was once more true to that. I invariably slowed down a bit, but I kept picking up a runner ahead of me every now and again. After about 3 or 4 km I caught up with a guy from “An Riocht”, the Castleisland running club that seems to contain all the really fast runners in Kerry. I tried to stay behind him to get some respite from the blustery wind. At first I thought it did not make any difference, but once I pulled out from behind him to overtake I could clearly feel that there was indeed a difference. He did not give up easily and pulled away from me twice, but eventually we caught up to another runner ahead who I then started using as a windshield, and eventually the An Riocht guy dropped back.

For the next mile I used that new runner in his yellow-orange vest as my pacer, and more importantly as a wind shield. I think he tried to drop me at least once because he put in surge, but I stuck to him. Eventually I felt guilty about using him to set the pace and pulled level, but he would have nothing of it. I was only ahead for a few seconds when he went by me again.

There were about 3 km left and we went over the next set of hills, but by now the wind was no longer coming from the front. Last year I had fallen apart on that stretch, lost contact with the runner ahead of me and dropped up to 20 seconds of my time. A peep at the Garmin told me that I was slightly behind last year’s pace, but if I could keep things together a new PR was still within reach. With the wind now pushing from behind this was definitely not over yet.

I was hurting really badly by now, but was determined to push on with all I had. Then, with maybe one mile left, the runner ahead of me suddenly started limping. At first I though he was pulling up entirely, but he kept on running, though clearly slowing down. As I went by I asked if he was ok and he said he thought his hamstring had gone. I told him to take it easy. I don’t know how he fared because I didn’t see him afterwards, but I fear he might be out of action for a few weeks.

With my immediate adversary gone all of a sudden I looked ahead for the next potential victim. There was quite a gap, enough to make a pass unlikely, but I tried anyway. I counted the steps between us and came up with 33. With less than a mile left I pushed with what I thought was all there was left inside. The gap was slowly melting away, and I got to within 12 steps, but then he looked back, saw me coming and started kicking for the line himself. If the course had been the full 10k I would have caught him but even though I tried to find yet another gear I ran out of road in the end. I’m not sure where I ended up, somewhere around 14th place overall I think.

My time was 37:34, which I realised was a few seconds faster than last year, and the Garmin showed exactly 6.00 miles. When I calculated the equivalent time for a 10k I came up with 38:55, and I’ll claim this as my new PR. The short course is a bit annoying, and I know some others would disregard times set on it, but I decided to take it, albeit with an asterisk. I haven’t set a PR since January and had started wondering if age was creeping up on me and the time for new personal bests was already gone, so I take it when I can. After the effort I put into today’s race I felt I deserved it.

After the race quite a few people recognised me from my blog. The best thing about that was that I had someone to chat to after the race. Otherwise I would have stood there like Billy-no-mates. Hi to everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the day as much as I did.

On my way back home I stopped in Dingle for 3 scoops of the best ice cream in the world. Sitting on Dingle pier in the sunshine eating ice cream, after having just set a new personal best, made for a pretty good day. Apart from Niamh’s and the kids’ absence I was perfectly content for once.

17 Jul
10 miles, 1:17:35, 7:45 pace, HR 140
18 Jul
6 miles, 46:24, 7:44 pace, HR 143
incl. 9x100 strides
19 Jul
16.5 miles, including:
  Ballydavid (Baile na nGall) 6 miles, 37:34,6:15 pace, HR 178
  Equivalent 10k time 38:55

Weekly Mileage: 87 miles


  1. well done. always good to improve on your PR!! Sounds like tough conditions and a nice way to round off a long week!!

  2. Excellent report! Quite a race and you suffered well! Congrats on the new time.

  3. Congratulations on the PR!! I may adopt your slogan "suffer as much as possible" if it means a PR. Way to race!

  4. Well done on improving! I'm delighted you liked the ice cream, and I hope it didn't slow you down!

  5. I want to find one of these Irish "10k" courses!

    Seriously though, sub-39 is good running.

    Re the overtraining... funny thing is, after 30 years of running you'd think I'd be experienced enough not to succumb. It's bloody difficult though, to differentiate between "normal" training tiredness and the fatigue of over-training. That's why I'm so keen to try a HRM with HRV, so I can prevent it happening. I see such a watch as much more useful than a new Garmin (or any Garmin).