Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ideal

A cold sunny day greeted the 1,500+ participants of the Full, Half and Mini Marathons in Clonakilty this morning. The start was delayed due to the large number of runners who decided to register on the morning. There were a few clubmates running both the full and half.
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I travelled down with neighbour Ian, running his first half, six months into his running career and John D running the full on a training diet of 8 mile runs - to be fair he did say he ran a long run from Cork to Cobh at the start of October, no problem there so!
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Just before the start I met my Cousin, Liam, who had travelled from Dublin to run the full. He has already signed up for the Connemara Ultra next April (it must be in the genes, mothers side).

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The half started about 0.25 miles ahead of the full and mini and about 5 minutes earlier. Once the gun went I eased into a comfortable pace in the 7:30's, finding clubmate Rob (aiming for 3:10 - 3:15) within the first mile and Maura (aiming for 3:15 - 3:20) shortly after. My decision to run in a singlet was justified as the day began to warm a little - although I wore a disposable long sleeved top for the first 2 miles. The first 4 miles are relatively flat as we clicked off 7:30 pace and were joined by Liam, John D, Anne and Catriona (whom John D and I ran the full 26.2 with last year). Rob forged ahead before we hit the hills of Inchydoney. I was next to move ahead as we began to hit the back of the half marathon field. I passed the first timing mat at 5.5 miles in 41:46 (7:35 pace average - compared to the 7:30 average the Garmin gave me).

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The Garmin was not recording laps as the data bank was full, so my mile splits went unrecorded, except for the ones I remembered. Heading from Inchydoney, back on the flat road around the back bay, I continued my steady pace, making my way through the half marathon field. Heading inland again and now on a steady incline I pass mile 8 in 59:03 (7:23 pace overall, compared to 7:18 on the Garmin). Shortly afterwards I rejoin Rob as the full and half fields split and go on their separate ways. The marathon course suddenly became a lonely spot with 2 other runners choosing the right fork in the road that would eventually take us on a few gradual downhill miles to the picturesque village of Rathbarry, passing mile 10 in 1:13:24 (7:20 pace average). My plan was to hit 20 miles in 2:25 - so I was nearly a minute behind the 1:12:30 half way split. No big deal as my slower start was the reason for the deficit.

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Passing Castlefreake we both came on the shoulder of Thomas Sheehan, who joined us on our journey - Thomas was not necessarily happy to see me, as the last time we met was when I left him behind at Mile 16 in Dublin. Back on the coast now the three of us turned left at Owenahincha beach climbing again over the headland to the Long Strand and the halfway point, which we pass in 1:35:17 (7:16 overall pace) - just 17 seconds behind 3:10 pace and still feeling reasonably intact. I had a few scares earlier, when I got a pain in my right foot, which thankfully subsided as suddenly as it had come. I also felt a tightness in my right calf and then remembered that I had left the salt/endurolyte tablets Denis had given me back in the car - doh! Was I going to regret wearing my 1,500+ mile red racers with the soles compressed to half their thickness from nearly 2 years of pounding pavement.

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There are 2 runners ahead, but it takes us a mile to catch up as the road rises again towards Fishers Cross with the Galley Head Lighthouse off to the South. How is it that I never fully remember all the hills on this course. Still the legs feel pretty good but the HR does rise to keep the engine firing and delivering the additional energy needed for these climbs. Thomas begins to drop back at this stage and Rob and I are left with one of the guys we caught, as the road falls again towards the Red Strand - no time to stop and enjoy the view.

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Up ahead is the left turn as we head inland and the start of a gradual climb that will take us from sea level to the highest point in the course at about 110m. There is about 2 hours on the clock as we take the left turn and I tell Rob that we have about 20 minutes to the top of the climb (the benefit of running this section 3 times during August). The first section is relatively flat as we pass the 17 mile mark. As the road begins to rise Rob begins to fall behind - a little at first, but gradually his footfalls quieten and eventually can't be heard.

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I am on my own for the first time since mile 8 (and then I was surrounded by half marathon runners). There is a guy a few hundred yards ahead that I just make out through my myopic vision. He gradually comes back to me as we reach the highest point on the course and I recognised him from the single calf guard he wears on his right leg - none other than Seamus Murphy, who gets the odd mention in Thomas's blog. I tell him that this is the last hill on the course, bar 1 (incorrectly as it turns out - sorry Seamus) and that the last 4 miles are flat, which he is grateful to hear. I forge ahead as my legs have survived the climb pretty intact, albeit fatigued. I do my best to take advantage of the downhills by striding out but they're a little too steep.

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Mile 20 comes in 2:25:12 (7:16 pace average), 12 seconds behind where I wanted to be - good stuff, my 3:10 target is still looking good. Two guys ahead come back to me as we drop steeply down to the Beach at Duneen and take a left up another sharp climb as I pass one guy and the other pushes ahead - although at the next climb he stops and walks and resumes running after I pass. We are now dropping down towards Dunmore Hotel and the last 4 flat miles and there are 4 or 5 runners in groups ahead. I see clubmate Donnacha at the 22 mile water station, just after finishing the half in 1:29 (well done Donnacha) and cycling out to support Maura over the last 4 miles of the marathon - there's devotion for you ;). He even finds time to chase after me to give me a water bottle after I had missed picking one up - cheers Donnacha (to be fair the guy handing out bottles was offering "sports drink or water" and when I asked for water he found he was only holding sports drink and could only offer me a puzzled look as I passed by).

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Over the next half mile I pass the guys in front but hear a new footfall 4 or 5 yards behind me. My mind starts working overtime, playing tricks on me - Do I surge to pull away or slow down and let them pass? Could it be Rob? or is it one of the guys I just passed coming back at me? I do nothing and just keep ploughing along at a steady pace - maybe i'll eventually burn him off. He never comes on my shoulder but is not far behind as we turn right onto the first of 3 causeways that will take us back into Clon and the long awaited finish line.

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I start counting down the time using 3:10 as my notional finish time - 2:50, twenty minutes left. Past Mile 24 (2:52:57 - I think) - still ok for 3:10 but doubtful for my sub 3:08:58 (pre-Dublin PB). The footsteps behind have faded, I turn right onto causeway No.2 - 2 guys are ahead running noticeably slower than I am. Keeping the pace is becoming more difficult but still manageable. I pass the 2 guys in front and the road ahead is completely empty as I round Inchydoney and turn left onto the last causeway. I pass the 25 mile mark with 3:00:00 on the Garmin and follow the flat road around the shores of Clonakilty Bay. A sole spectator tells me i'm in 20th position. Only 5 minutes left, will I get under 3:09, I can hear the finish line MC in the distance, congratulating the first female finisher. Past the 26 mile mark and a half marathon walker - 3:07:xx - i'll make it under 3:09, up a short incline and the drop towards the finish line, I felt great, elated to have run my race to plan, delighted to be finished, no TV cameras this time to record a far stronger marathon finish than Dublin 6 weeks ago - turn left for the 10 foot run to the finish line, the clock turning to 3:09 the first time I see it. Stopping the Garmin it shows 3:08:47 - 11 sweet seconds below my 3:08:58 A-Target, tight...very tight......but sweet.

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Who was in hot on my heels, 5 seconds later? only Seamus Murphy who I had thought I had left behind at mile 20. He must have dug pretty deep to pull that off. Fantastic recovery.

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The official results give me 16th place in 3:09:02 Clock & 3:08:49 Chip.....even tighter again. (7:12 average pace). That'll do me, although I was still only 4th M45, with 3 M40 runners and the leading lady (3:07:24) also in front of me.

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Maura had a fantastic race getting second female spot in 3:16:40 and a 10 minutes PB, on a hilly course!!! Fantastic result Maura well done. Rob was about 30 seconds ahead of Maura, although I dind't see him and get a chance to talk to him after the race. John D was a shade over 3:30 just behind Catriona and Anne, whom he paced to the 20 mile mark. What's most impressive is that he gave me 4 gels at the end of the race having consumed one of the two I had given him before the race - either he has cut me in at the start of a gel pyramid scheme or he should be running the country. Liam finished in 3:24, which he celebrated over a few pints in Debarra's Pub - now there's something i'd like to endure for a while. See you in Connemara Liam (hopefully)

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Ian was waiting at the finish line, having completed his first half in a very respectable 1:54 and all with a dodgy calf which he injured earlier in the week. A feed of sugary tea, Clonakilty black pudding, mince pies and biscuits recharged the batteries as we caught up on a few stories of pain and suffering and congratulated Ken who travelled from Antrim to complete his 100th marathon - and Ian thought we were mad.

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I mentioned to Ian on the road home that John was a more prolific blogger than I was. "You know the Running in Cork Blog" John asked Ian. "Can't say I do" Ian replied. Well if you saw the look of incredulity on John's face. In Ian's defence he is only running six months.

13 comments:

  1. Nice going Grellan. You cut it close! Good to beat that pre-Dublin PB. Time to retire those smashed up red races to lawn mowing or dry cross country races ;)

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  2. Very good race with a nice negative split. Impressive on a hilly course.

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  3. Sounds like a perfectly executed plan! Well done, two fast marathons in less than two months is no mean achievement.

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  4. Sounds like a perfectly executed plan! Well done, two fast marathons in less than two months is no mean achievement.

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  5. Great stuff, well done. I'm really sorry I gave it a miss, if only to see that look on John's face.

    What's your target for Connemara?

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  6. Congrats to your 'RED RACING SHOES' outstanding service to duty!
    Think they might like to retire now?
    Good race so soon after Dublin.

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  7. Nice race Grellan there was no fear of me being on your shoulder that late in the race I was well out of it at that stage.( although as you mentioned I did take the half :)I did note the red racers maybe you should hold on to them a while..... well done lad

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  8. bloody impressive on a hilly course. what a great year for you.

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  9. Well done on another very impressive run on your home course -
    (I could'nt even run the 10k as have lower back problems at the moment.)

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  10. Great Result Grellan, Just confirms to me again the advantages of starting off slow and steady.

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  11. Great run Grellan so soon after Dublin. That was not an easy course. It seemed a lot harder than last year. Maybe the ice froze the brain last year ?? Either way , great run on a very tough course

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  12. Thomas, if I run Connemara it would be to get under 5:15, unfinished business from last year - surely I can manage 8 minute pace despite the hills.

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