In Race Report
I entered this one a few weeks ago, felt I had been progressing well on the 5ks recently but wondered would that speed translate to the half marathon? We made a weekend of it anyway, headed down the Friday evening, grabbed a bit of grub and some live music (just the one bottle of beer keeping it safe) and got to bed early enough, disaster of a sleep though in a dingy hostel as everywhere else booked out pretty quickly.
Race morning, up at 6:45am, cup of coffee and off I ran down to the Gleneagles hotel to catch the 7:30am bus to the start line at Molls gap. I got another 10 minute warm up in when I got there and was feeling pretty relaxed but still a half an hour to start so I moved away from the 700 strong crowd for a bit of solitude and sat on a rock to listen to music and enjoy the scenery. Soon I headed for the line, chatted with a lad from Donore for a while and before I knew it we were off.
The aim today was a 76:30, over 2 minutes off my last half in Cork 7 weeks ago. Ambitious I know but I had the advantage of two fast downhill miles and I felt I was in better shape so an average of around 5:50 min/mile would get me there.
The plan was to keep it conservative for the first 3 miles at 6 minute pace before the big downhill. I went out feeling a slight pain in my side but it quickly subsided and I settled into a comfortable rhythm. A few went out quite quickly, one in particularly in an Amphibian King vest who was out of sight after the first corner. I was sitting in about 8th or 9th, the first mile was slightly downhill and hit that comfortably in 5:52. The course levelled out now with a few small drags starting to appear. I passed a few lads who were slowing and then saw another 3 ahead of me, group of 2 and one on his own. A few climbs caught me by surprise with effort slightly increasing but I stayed strong on them and took the 2 runners ahead of me, one of them from local club Finbarrs and I recognised him as a decent runner from a few races. The next guy ahead who was sitting in 2nd had quite visibly gone out way too hard. I quickly reeled him in and passed him going up another drag in the 2nd mile, wondering why he’s gone and exhausted himself already. So here I am sitting in 2nd place and almost 3 miles into the race, hugely surprising but a nice feeling. I knew I was going to have to work to keep this pace with the group of 2 lads just behind me. Hit mile 3 feeling I was working a little hard but had the drags out of the way and now it was time to descend.
Splits: 5:52, 6:03, 6:02
From the course map, miles 3 and 4 are visibly the quickest with a sharp decent followed by relative flatness for the remainder. These were easily the most comfortable couple of miles of the race running 5:34 and 5:36 respectively. I just let the legs do the work but had to be careful to run the racing line with all the sharp corners. I could hear the footsteps of the lads behind me for the first mile but by the time I had reached the bottom I couldn’t hear them at all, I was just out on my own and it felt strange. Talking to the Finbarrs runner after the race he said he eased up for the downhills as they bolloxed his legs last year, I can say I’m definitely feeling it today in my quads, in ribbons! I was nice and relaxed coming off the 2 downhill miles, feeling confident but soon effort increased as the course flattened out again. I kept a decent pace for the next mile running 5:51 and knowing there’s still a bit of work to do. Through 5 miles in 29:09 – PB!
Splits: 5:34, 5:36, 5:51
The course looks pretty flat on the elevation map after the downhill but in reality it was anything but. I had a good few drags and pulls to battle over these 3 miles, I was starting to feel the humidity kick in also and there was a decent headwind but I was working well keeping pace in the low 5:50′s and this is where the real work was done. It was a little difficult being out on my own on what is probably mentally the most difficult section of a half marathon. I got a bit of a shock on the start of mile 7 to see the estimated mile pace at 6:20 while going up a drag but it soon levelled before a downhill followed and pace resume to sub 6, that was to be a familiar pattern for the remainder of the race so I just got used to it.
Splits: 5:53, 5:57, 5:53
I just continued weaving my way through the winding country roads, the rugged beauty of Kerry of absolutely no interest to me, I just focussed on the road ahead and maintaining my form. I was starting to tire a little and aching for that finish line. I turned off the main road on mile 10 and into the national park, I lost a few seconds turning some sharp bends but was feeling good coming into the last 5k. I hit 10 miles in 58:2x, new PB and seeing that on the watch gave me a lot of confidence to keep it going. I was worried a few times when I just found myself out on my own for long stretches on a narrow pathway without any directions. I had a steward on a bike ahead of me most of the race guiding me so I was so relieved when I finally saw him up above waiting for me, still on track. Because I had this cyclist with me most of the race, I wondered if I was actually leading the race and the leader had dropped out, one can dream but I was just purely focussed on getting the time I wanted.
I was running well through the park despite all the humps and bumps but I was working pretty hard. I started getting a bit of support from walkers and a few spectators, it was good to be back to civilisation again and the few cheers really helped. The last couple of miles just flew by, I had to negotiate my way around a few horse and carriages on narrow pathways and wondered how that would work for the big groups of runners behind but I didn’t wonder for too long, more important things to worry about. Finally I hit mile 12 and repeated to myself “one mile to go, keep it going” along with some other inspirational things. I exited the park finally, knowing I was on a PB but no idea how close it would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the line come into sight and my watch read 1:15:xx. I knew I had a 76 in the bag but really didn’t have a sprint finish, maybe had I had someone around me like Cork but I was happy enough to just maintain pace and and see it home. I crossed in 1:16:17officially and in 2nd place as called out by the MC, damn it, your wasn’t injured after all, he was just incredibly fast!! I was thrilled with that result but it barely registered with me at the time, just wanted to get in and sit/lie down. I joined the winner on the massage beds (perks of coming in early) for a rub down and had a chat with him. I was extremely impressed with his 71 mins, a whole 5 mins to spare on me but that’s the level I aspire to get to one day.
Splits: 6:00, 5:53, 5:46, 5:46
Got a 2 mile cooldown in and headed walking back to the hostel but it proceeded to piss down from the heavens on me, I didn’t mind I just had a big smile painted on my face. We headed back to the Gleneagle for 2pm to collect my prize which was a nice wooden plaque, 100 euro and free entry for next year, all washed down with a pint of ale. Great weekend, great event, great hurling by Wexford and couldn’t have asked for a better race. Feeling confident heading into the marathon schedule in a few weeks so back to work next week.
Summary: 13.1m in 1:16:17 @ 5:49 min/mile (2nd place and 17.4m total)