Staying up until 3 a.m. to watch the Olympic men's marathon was hardly the best preparation for today's 8k road race in Liscarroll. But what a race it was - the marathon that is! The leaders set of at a blistering pace and hold on until only one man is left. The first 5k in 14:25 or thereabouts - to put this in context the winner of the local Novartis 5k road race a few weeks ago came in in 15:40. Great credit to Wansiru of Kenya for holding the pace right to the end, finishing in 2:06:32 smashing the 02:09:21 Olympic record on a hot humid morning, and looking so fresh - I wish I could smile like that crossing the finishing line.
My complete admiration, however, goes out to silver medalist Gharib of Morocco who looked like he was dropping off the leading group of 4 with less than 10km to go but repeatedly dug in with true grit and determination and reeled in the leaders and was the only man left when Wansiru made his move with about 5km to go.
My heart went out to Merga, the Ethiopian who pushed the pace for much of the race but was dropped by the leading pair in the closing stages and appeared to suffer over the last few kilometers and despite his cushion of over a minute and a half he was passed by his compatriot, Kebede, in the "Birds Nest" with about 300m to go - what an absolute bummer that must be.
I woke at 7 to the sound of kids chattering and running around the house - Dara and Eimear, the 9-year old twins down the road were on a sleepover with Ani. I huddled them downstairs and managed to get back to bed for a bit more shut-eye before rising shortly after 10.
I was out the door heading for Liscarroll at 11:22 arriving 50 minutes later to sign on and warmup with half an hour to go before the 1 pm start. There was none of the usual road signs directing traffic to race registration/start or even "road race in progress" signs so after a bit of trial and error I found the Community Hall where registration was taking place, pulling the car in behind Thomas, Niamh and and the kids. Thomas thought I had been following him. I though that I probably would be.
The start was about 1km from registration. The course was undulating to say the least. A map of the course referred to a steep hill lasting for 1km at the midway point.
"so the long gradual incline between km 1 and 2 that I had warmed up over was not the only or indeed steepest hill - this is not going to be a fast/easy race" - first sign of pre-race jitters.
We jogged the km to the start line with a relatively small crowd (perhaps 60 or 70) lined up and were off after a brief delay. Down the hill through the village at a steady pace. Thomas a few places in front of me (where else would he be). By the time we got to the first km mark (sign said "7km" - obviously remaining) near the Community Centre the pack had more or less settled down. The long straight climb over the 2nd km gave me a chance to see the field spread out in front of me. I counted Thomas in 12th place about 50 yards in front of me with 2 runners between us (including the leading lady - Mary Sweeney).
First mile in 06:21 (not blistering but respectable).
We continued in formation to the top of the incline and then a gradual descent and a left turn towards the "6km" to go mark. Another left turn, keeping the effort reasonably steady @ comfortably hard. Approaching another long gradual incline and gaining slightly on the 2 in front of me, first passing a guy and then the leading lady - Thomas still keeping his distance and closing in on number 11. I certainly appear to do better on the uphills. A watering station at the top of the hill (first time in a 5 miler) between km 3 & 4 and while most in front decline I accept, getting a mouthful of water into me (throat was starting to get dry) and the rest over my head - certainly perked me up a bit. Now a long gradual descent to the main road at the 3 mile mark overtaking number 13 and putting me behind Thomas.
The fact that the course signs were in km and the Garmin laps in miles I had missed the 2 mile Autolap - I wasn't really concerned as I was running at the effort I could sustain and while Thomas was still 50 yards ahead the gap was not increasing - not that Thomas was my target, just that if he is running good, and he is lately, then I must be running good to.
Sharp left turn onto the main road leaving the undulating part of the course behind and now the monotony of seeing at least half a mile ahead of you with the field well strung out. Past the "3km" to go mark -
"good, less than 2 miles to go".
I did not know how far behind number 13 was as I never look over my shoulder and so that kept me running scared so to speak. If I had looked behind there were two possible scenarios:-
1. a big gap to number 13 whereby I might have relaxed the pace, content with my placing or
2. a short gap to number 13 whereby my mind would go into overdrive, my confidence falter and my pace suffer or increase my pace and suffer later.
Either way there was no benefit in looking behind.
"2km" to go - the effort is getting to me now, while Thomas is not pulling away I am getting no nearer either, nor does he appear to be gaining on the guy in front of him. While this is all good really, my brain is looking for more tangible results from the body's effort (i.e. am I gaining on anyone, passing anyone, pulling further away from anyone - "don't look back".
"1km" to go - "4 minutes or so of this pain to go"
A quick look at the Garmin tell me I am about 2 minutes into mile 5 - confirmation that 4 minutes are left. The road rises a bit and I appear to gain slightly on Thomas. Still 20 yards behind (I get as close as 4 of 5 seconds).
Thomas looks over his shoulder "this is the first time I saw him do this, he must be beginning to suffer - looking back to see how much of a cushion he has - not much"
To be quite honest I had not entertained the idea of passing Thomas until my little surge brought me closer to him for the first time in nearly 2 miles. However my energy spike was soon replaced by leaden legs as we entered the village with about 2 minutes to go and the gap began to widen and we turned left down hill along the main street - my thoughts of overtaking long since replaced with "let this pain be over" as my breaths became shallower.
About 30 seconds to go I reckon as I take a left - and there it is the finishing line only 20 yards in front of me - a welcome early relief.
I stopped my watch at 31:15 as I crossed the line (no race clock here). Thomas just ahead of me in 31:06 - 11th and 12th overall, not bad for a rubbish marathon runner and his shadow.
Following a quick chat with Thomas & Niamh, who were off to the nearby donkey sanctuary with the kids to see their adopted "Jacinta" I went for a 2 mile wamdown and a cup of tea in the community centre.
There were prizes galore and given that the race was quite small and in it's second year only (not too much competition) I got first M40 and a cheque for 40 euro - more than covered my race entry of 10 euro. Official time of 31:17. Thomas took first M35 and as he was absent I accepted his prize on his behalf thinking he would still be parked outside - but he was gone - so Thomas if you're reading this maybe you'd e-mail me your postal address and acceptance speech. Coming 11th and 12th and with the first 7 men getting prizes (and no one getting more than one prize) and knowing that the first M45 was ahead of me in 8th or 9th place I thought we might be in with a chance.
As 8k is 46.5 meters shorter than 5 miles (4.97 miles) and I only measured 4.93 miles I don't know what type of PB I got. Maybe I should run with an 8k PB of 31:17 as that's the official time over the official distance. That would equate to about 31:27 for 5 miles.
Have a good week.
The results are here - 61 runners in all. While I was nearly a minute up on number 13, a minute in the other direction would have got 5th place.
Thur 21st Aug
a.m. 2.5 Miles in 22:00 (08:48 pace @ No HRM) recovery run on treadmill.
p.m. 5.37 miles in 42:49 (07:58 pace @ No HRM)
Fri 22nd Aug
8.98 Miles in 01:07:54 (07:34 pace @ No HRM)
Sat 23rd Aug
2.1 Miles in 16:58 (08:05 pace @ No HRM) programme called for 2 miles ahead of Sundays race
Sun 24th Aug
9.58 Miles in 01:08:55 (07:12 Pace @ No HRM) with 8k in 31:17 (06:17.5 pace)
Marathon Week 8/16 - 44.86 Miles