This one fitted the schedule pretty well, I’m trying to run races on days I would normally run a session so they’re not impacting a typical weeks training too much. I know how much I improved last summer when focussing on shorter stuff and a big factor was regular racing.
Having chatted to a few club members who ran this same course recently, I knew it wasn’t super fast and there were a few pulls but again I was more interested in a good race and not so much the time. I have my eye on some 5k’s later in the summer where I’d hope to be setting PBs, the times will come naturally as long as I continue improving and racing.
Beautiful evening in Cork so with an 8pm throw in, I arrived to Ballincollig just after 7pm, picked up a number and met a few friends and warmed up around the GAA pitches. This was a BHAA race and a healthy crowd of about 380 turned up for this one. The start was pretty congested so I lined up at the front as we prepared to tackle a 500m climb staring at us.
Mile 1 – 5:12
The corporate lady from VMWare made the hooter hoot so off we went, elbows everywhere. I got out well just behind a group of navy lads (wearing navy singlets and they’re actually in the navy, what are the chances). About 100 meters in I heard what sounded like a set of Ford Focus car keys hitting the ground. SHI!T!!! Those were my car keys!! I only have one set, should I stop? What about the race? But I only have one set. Oh I’m gone too far now somebody will pick them up. But what if..this sequence ran through my head for essentially the rest of the race and to be fair did help take my mind off the 500m climb which I didn’t realise was over until I could barely breath at the top of it. The good news was though that I was sitting in 2nd and just ahead of me was a Leevale clubmate and navy representative, I wouldn’t mess with him. I’m not far behind him in training so I figured I’ll be doing well to keep close. We now had a bit of respite as we hit a downhill and I was gradually overtaken here by 2 guys, black and green singlet. I was now sitting in 4th and going at a decent clip hitting the first mile in 5:12. Had a glance at the watch and while that was pretty satisfactory, I wasn’t feeling good at all though, that first hill had hit me hard. A mile in and I felt like stopping – HTFU man!
Mile 2 – 5:31
Tipping along with the lads now extending a bit of a gap on me and I had a lot of company right behind me, maybe 5-6 runners. We turned back towards the village and this is where the climb begins. I’m still feeling like hell and actually wondering would it be ok to drop out now, I’ve done enough haven’t I? Ridiculous. I was working very hard up the drag and got overtaken by white singlet but I stayed very close not wanting him to get away. We were running along the main road in the bike lane and a green car was moving very slowly alongside me. I glanced in passenger window and saw some regular people just sitting there, it looked good. I wished I was just sitting. Why am I doing this to myself? We finally hit the 2nd mile mark and I am seriously struggling. Glanced at the watch to see 5:31 and I couldn’t have cared less I just wanted that finish line so badly.
Mile 3 – 5:06
If somebody had told me right there I was about to run a 5:06 mile I would have actually given them a large sum of money and betted against myself. Another nice little downhill after all that climbing and I momentarily gathered myself before another brief climb but this time I found myself powering past white singlet but my breathing was so heavy and extremely audible. With about half a mile to go white singlet was still stuck to me and a few other footsteps were audible just behind him. 1st and 2nd runners had a fair gap on me now but I was actually slowly reeling in green singlet in 3rd who had previously a pretty sizeable gap on me. I wasn’t sure how this was possible as I felt if anything I was slowing but we weren’t far from home now lets just keep motoring. Another small climb arrived and with white still very close I figured this was my chance to drop him. I mustered a bit of energy from somewhere and powered up the drag. It was working, I was getting away and while my primary focus was the finish line, I really wanted to hang onto my spot. We got to the top of the 500m hill that we climbed at the start and it was all downhill from here.
I found myself within touching distance of green singlet and without really thinking about it I passed him just starting the decent. He stuck to me like a pancake (stuck on a non-stick pan) and I was working the hardest I have ever had in a race. I knew the line wasn’t far and it could not come sooner, I had dribble all over my face and I must have sounded like an escaped animal with my grunts. Green singlet had other ideas and wanted his place back, I was on the verge of blowing and to be fair to him he fought hard and edged me with about 200m before the line. I had given everything possible and I couldn’t respond. Very frustrating but that was short lived because when I looked at the clock ticking onto 16:10 I couldn’t believe my eyes. Holy crap, really?? Is this right? I’m actually on for a PB here. The pain, it was all worth it. I crossed the line a pathetic mess in 16:18 and I was absolutely FÚCKED. I actually wobbled and got very dizzy, I tried my best to congratulate the lads around me but all I wanted was to lie down. Which I did. What a relief.
Hands down toughest race of my life. This was seriously a new level of pain I have never experienced in a race before, more confined to my cardiovascular system than my legs even though they were in complete overdrive too. In hindsight I’m glad it happened because it feels like I pushed through a new barrier that will stand to me in the future. I picked up a small voucher for my efforts and enjoyed a nice cooldown in the solitude of the Ballincollig regional park drowned in the evening sun, that was so enjoyable. Bumped into our own ViperLogic afterwards too so was nice to finally put face to username, lovely fellow, ran a great race himself and picked up a team prize. As always flawless organisation by the Cork BHAA, how can you go wrong for €5!
I couldn’t be happier that result, a PB was a complete surprise and I didn’t expect to be taking 30 seconds off my last 5k in such a short time on probably a harder course. I’m happy with how I battled the urge to stop and I know what I’m capable of now. It’s becoming more evident to me now how important the mental side of racing is and it can only be tuned by actual racing, you can’t learn this in session. I’m feeling good about running a sub 16 5k this summer and I think this episode has done me the world of good, I really believe it’s there for me now as long as I stay injury free and put in the sessions.
Major omission. I got my car keys back, a very kind steward had picked them up and returned to me after the race. #relief