Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sixmilebridge - "Welcome to hell"

I went to Sixmilebridge (County Clare) with John today to run a marathon around the town along a 1 mile loop. Our race was one of the short ones on offer with a 52.44 mile double marathon starting at 7, a 30 miler at 10, the marathon at 11 and a half marathon at 12. Overall there were about 100 entries, which is just about enough to ensure there was no congestion around the 1 mile urban course, which remained open to traffic, although the course was coned off.
The marathon started close to the high point of the 1 mile loop with a 0.22 mile net drop to the start/finish area, another 0.44 mile net drop down to the center of the village before a 0.33 rise back to the highpoint. So no big hills but the 26 small ones proved enough of a challenge. 
I decided to start relatively conservatively at about 8:30 pace and gradually increase the pace over the opening 6 miles to below 8 minute miles with the aim of getting under 3:30. John's plan was slighthly different - 8 minute miles for a sub 3:30 (No 6 mile cut-in). Hopefully I would bump into him in the second half. The temperature was a few degrees above freezing which called for my club singlet over a long sleeved top and gloves. I wore compression socks for my recently recovered calves and a relatively new pair of Asics Gel Hyperspeeds. The first drops of rain began to fall as the countdown began - the start of a progressively wet and windy day.
My opening half mile was at 8 minute pace, but the rise at the back of the course knocked that back to 8:21 for the opening mile. Mile 2 passed in 8:15. Coming into the 2.2 mile start/finish the front runner passed me - bloody fast 3.2 miles (5.18 km) in under 19 minutes. My pace gradually reduced to below 8 minute miles by mile 5 (7:57) 40:50 overall - only 50 seconds behind 3:30 pace. Coming into the end of lap 7 one of my laces became undone and after crossing the timing mat to begin lap 8 I stopped to tie it. On resuming running I noticed the Garmin display "auto-resume" -  "Shit" the timer was paused while I was stopped. I had not tied the lace properly and had to stop again before the end of the lap to tie it again. I reckoned I had lost about 40 seconds, when checking my time against Ken Begg's Garmin a few laps later.
 I was on 3:30 pace by mile 10 (1:19:12 on the Garmin - close to 1:20 real-time). No sign of John ahead though. In fact I did not catch him until coming in to complete lap 15. He reckoned we were 1:50 below 3:30 pace. Miles 10 to 15 had typically been at 7:40 pace (7:20 on the downhill, rising to 7:40 by the time I crested the high point). I had to tie my bloody shoe lace again - nearly cutting off circulation on the top of my foot to make sure it would not unravel again. I went ahead of John before the end of lap 16 - 10 miles to go. The laps to mile 21 were at a steady pace just under 7:40 miles. With 5 miles to go John was back on my shoulder and pulling away from me (a few bars of chocolate had given him renewed energy - I had taken a gel at mile 13 and was saving my second one for mile 22). I could not respond and preferred to stick to my relatively consistent pace, which would get me to the finish line in the most efficient way I knew - and who knows he may slow before the finish - although the way he was moving I doubted it. I was just glad that I was reasonably comfortable and not slowing down (a good sign for pacing Clon in 3 weeks time) Niall, who was stewarding close to the start/finish, was encouraging both of us to race as we passed. 
Coming in to complete laps 23 and 24 I was about 30 seconds behind John and figured I would finish up to a minute behind him. Coming up the rise towards the 25 mile mark, however, I noticed I was gaining on him, which encouraged me to keep a steady effort as I gradually eroded the gap between us - crossing the start/finish mat at mile 25.22 a few yards behind him - one lap to go. We ran down to the village center side by side. Knowing that John has a much faster finishing kick than me I knew that the only chance I had was to kick from the bottom of the rise (about mile 25.6) as I appeared to be stronger on the uphills over the last few laps, with John pulling away on the downhills. If I could put enough of a gap between us by the top of the rise I might just be able to hold on over the last 0.3 miles to the finish.
Off I went - pushing harder than I had over the last 25 laps - knowing  hoping that the effort I was enduring was harder for John. I didn't look back but was certain he was right behind me - very difficult to tell where he was, as we passed quite a few runners and every footfall I heard behind me was John's. Finally I crested the high point and opened up the throttle as hard as I could - running scared - this wouldn't be the first time that John would blaze past me over the closing few 100m of a race. I hoped I had done enough on the hill. I kept hearing footsteps behind me - almost stumbling on the last bend in my eagerness not to lose speed, 50m from the finish - pushing for the line crossing just a few seconds over 3:23 on the Garmin - so about 3:24:xx counting the stops to tie my shoelace. John came in a few seconds later - claiming that I had done enough on the hill to keep ahead. My last 0.22 miles was at 6:36 pace - good to know that I had something left in the tank. Today was never about puhing my limits but more about getting some confidence that I am fully recovered and have a reasonable chance of pacing a hilly 3:30 finish in Clon on December 8th.
Well done to Tom Enright and all the stewards today - great organisation, support and encouragement and a tough job to be standing out there in the rain all day. "Welcome to hell" Tom said to me when I passed him somewhere around mile 23, splashing through the rivers flowing down the road - but to be quite honest it was nowhere near hell. I only noticed how wet it was after I finished.

PS: The results give me a 3:24:02 finish in 5th place (out of 34). 1st was nearly half an hour ahead in 2:55:40 - although he slowed significantly in the 2nd half (1:18:40 to mile 13.2 and 1:37:00 for the last 13 miles to my 1:44:13 & 1:39:49).
 Somewhere Out There


  1. If that was hell, then hell has officially frozen over! Sound like mine wasn't the only sprint finish of the day.

  2. Wow, great effort, Grellan! Sounds like you're indeed fully recovered.

  3. Great to be able to kick so well at the end of a marathon.

  4. Now those are the tactics Thomas should have employed ;-) 3:24 is a nice marathon off a slow start. You'll be able to pace 3:30 running backwards.

  5. Sounds a bit like Iron war there Grellan well done..

  6. Wise strategy not to push your limits while recovering, still solid time/workout. BTW about what % of marathons over there get rain?

    1. Scott that was the first wet marathon in a while - i'd say 10-15%% of my irish marathons were wet.