I set out this morning to run the 15 miles between Cork and Cobh at 3 hour marathon pace (06:50 or thereabouts, which would give me 1:42:30 - more or less last years race pace) and failed miserably. I wonder was I ever really going to stick to my plan. I had already given myself some latitude - 06:40 (wouldn't it be nice to get under 1:40) to 06:50 pace depending on how I felt. It's just that I knew a few guys that were going out at 06:40 pace and the company would be nice. I headed into town with Adrian ( my Amsterdam marathon buddy) shortly after 8 for registration, preparation, check the waterworks and warmup. It was only on leaving registration that I noticed I had left the Garmin on the kitchen table at home - not to worry, back to the stopwatch and mile splits - although the need for a running companion to pace off became more desirable. Where's Thomas when you need him (first deviation from plan). I completed a short 1.2 mile (approx) warmup along Horgan's Quay and the Lower Glamire Road and made my way to the start. The sky was clear and the sun shining (beautiful day) with a temperature of about 13 to 15 degrees. I looked around the start line and sure enough Thomas was there in the throng near enough to the front. He told me he was heading out at 06:40 pace (the same pace incidentally that John Desmond and Pat Murphy of Eagle AC had told me last week they were heading out at - so there were a few that I could keep an eye on). The gun sounded and we were off in the October sunshine. I kept pace with Thomas for the first mile. "This is just like jogging" he remarked after about half a mile. "Why, what pace are we at" I replied. "06:35" - nice pace for jogging certainly. John Desmond and Derek O'Keeffe of Eagle passed by - John saying he was targeting 06:40 pace (his target pace for Dublin) and Derek 06:30. I missed the first mile split and Thomas had started to pull away from me. "This is all good, on target for 06:50 miles" I thought. As we headed down the Glanmire Road. I kept the pace steady and took the lap time for Mile 2 - 13:22 (06:51 pace - more or less on target but I would not want to ease off - actually the pace was 06:41 but after the lap time had gone from the watch I though I had seen 13:42). I was more or less running on my own at this stage with Thomas in a sizable bunch of runners 20 to 30 yards ahead. Mile 3 in 06:43 - passed the first watering station and out the Eastern Parkway to Little Island Junction (slight deviation from last years route). I kept the pace reasonably steady keeping the same distance behind the group in front, where I could see Thomas, John Desmond and Pat Murphy. Mile 4 in 06:41 - I started counting my time surplus/deficit against my target 06:50 pace. Plus 2 up to mile 2. Minus 14 to mile 4. Mile 5 in 06:33 as we headed off the parkway and on towards Glounthane. My pace had increased as I was closing slightly on the bunch in front. Minus 31 for mile 5. Mile 6 in 06:31 - Minus 49 "Perhaps I should be counting relative to 06:40 pace - plus 11 it is then" as the overall 01:40 target began to loom large. See! - it never entered my head that maybe I should ease up - well not while I was still so close to the 06:40 pacers. The pace remained steady and relatively comfortable. Still 20 yards behind the 06:40 group, although a few guys fell out the back towards me. Mile 7 in 06:43 - 2nd watering station ahead - I took my power bar gel out - the biggest effort involved biting off the top and getting some down my throat before taking a cup of water. Up to the half way mark and pressed the lap button "03:29 - "that can't be right and sure enough the time to the 8 mile mark of 03:04 gave me a total of 06:33 for mile 8. Still reasonably comfortable as we headed from Cobh Cross towards Fota with a slight gradual downhill - pull alongside Der Maloney who was falling out the back of the group in front. Mile 9 in 06:21 - I didn't realise it was that fast. I had long stopped counting the surplus/deficit in relation to 06:40 mileing but knew that I was within range. Past the entrance to Fota towards the 10 mile mark and Belvelly bridge (onto Great Island). Thomas was now within 5 seconds. Mile 10 in 06:56 - The mile markers are certainly wrong - no worries still sub-06:40 for the last 2 miles. 3rd watering station and I squeeze a bit more goo into my mouth and put my hand out for the cup of water, which was virtually empty so I slow down to take another cup and by the time I look up the 06:40 group, with Thomas pushing to the front, have gained 20 yards. As we make our way along the north side of Great Island the group begins to string out with Thomas going off the front. That's it, while he may have been a target to that point, I wasn't giving chase - this was supposed to be a less than maximal effort and I wanted to keep it that way. Mile 11 in 06:21 - kept plugging away. John Desmond just ahead. "I thought you were supposed to be taking it easy" he said. "I though I was too" I replied "but you were tantalisingly close". He though we had a minute cushion on a 01:40 finish, but then revised it by saying "maybe not, it's hard to think at this stage in the race" and off he went to build up a bit more of a cushion. Mile 12 in 06:36 - slower due to the gradual incline. "Three more miles to go, lets say 20 minutes" - which I start counting down - this is always the first sign that I want this thing to be over. Still my pace is steady and not too strenuous. Mile 13 on 06:37 - the stress begins and the effect of the sub-06:50 pace begins to take it's toll. There's no way i'm going to feel reasonably fresh after 15 miles - how could I - I had not stuck to my plan. Mile 14 in 06:49 - "I must be suffering if the pace is slowing, only a mile to go hang in there". I get passed by 2 runners during the last mile, however I pass a few also. 3 minutes left, 2 and then I can see the top of the fall into Cobh which is gradual at first and then steepens as I pick up the pace on hearing footsteps behind me - racing for the finish line, Nollaig Hunter just in front of me as I pass under the clock in 01:38:56 - overall 06:36 pace. Nollaig turned out to be third female. Mile 15 in 06:10. I was certainly happy with my result but a little disappointed that I neither stuck to my original plan nor raced. However the way I felt at the end I was certainly close to the "race" end of the spectrum and had I decided to race from the start I don't know if I would have done much better. I'd probably have gone out faster and suffered more/slowed down over the last miles. I warmed down over 2 miles (to the 14 mile mark) with Thomas and John Desmond afterwards. Thomas certainly had a great race and killed off a few demons in the process, i'd say. Best of luck to him in his sub 3 hour quest in Dublin, he's certainly ready. Also best of luck to Richard in his sub-3:30 quest in Dublin - should be no problem after today's 01:47 (I think) Adrian had a great day, coming in 2 minutes ahead of his target. Following a cup of tea and a few cakes in the scout hall Adrian and I headed for the train station to get the train back to Cork. No train for an hour - so we decided to hitch (I hadn't hitched in 20 years) and got a lift from a very nice gentleman, who brought us directly to my car - so we were home by the time the train pulled in to Cobh station. And now the taper for Amsterdam awaits. Sun 5th Oct about 18.2 Miles with 15 Miles in 01:38:56 @ god know's what HR. Sleep - 6.5 hrs: 7.5/10 Legs: 8/10 With 5 easy miles on Friday Marathon week 14/16 gave me 47.2 Miles. Well done to the other racers today - Brendan, who ran the Great North Run half marathon very close to his PB, Private, who went sub 17 minutes in a 5k for the first of many times and Nic who PB'd on his marathon time to get 3:08:19, which is only a training run for a 50 miler he has in three weeks time. Have a good week and don't get knocked down on the roads.
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