Sunday, 3 November 2013

Dublin 2013

The annual pilgrimage to Dublin began a day early this year as I took in a bit of international rules football in with Ani, Saran, Robert (Cousin), Rob (Uncle)  Dave and Dermot on Saturday evening. I wouldn't class myself as a fan of this makey-uppy game that is a mish-mash between Australian rules and Gaelic football that is only played once a year between said nations. This year the Australians didn't appear to take the test seriously (apparently they didn't practice enough with round balls, they being used to the oblong ones) and the match was very much one sided, except when it came to the frequent bouts of fisticuffs, where they very much held their own (The first bout came before the start whistle was blown - the match was 5 minutes old before I saw where the ball was).

Sunday was a laid back day with the only activity involving a stroll in the park with the kids followed by the short trip into the marathon expo to pick up my race number and pacing gear, bumping into Thomas near the pacer stand, both of us sporting our Connemara 100 hoodies (wearing a top with the longest race distance all part of the play).

Monday morning turned out to be mild and sunny, despite the warnings of wind and rain. It was still cold waiting around at the start, where I met my fellow 3:20 pacers Fran and Dom. 

Killing time before the start

The early rise had me yawning as we waited for the gun, not very encouraging for those expecting me to pace them to the finish. We placed ourselves in the middle of the first wave ( < 3:50), starting at 9 a.m.

It was only when I went to power up my Garmin that I realised that it was the old one, that does not pickup the satellites and to compound my rising frustration at how stupid I could have been the "low battery" indicator came up on it. So much for my meticulous preparation. In searching around for solutions I noticed that Dom was wearing two watches so I explained my predicament to him, without going so far as to ask him for one of his watches. He didn't appear to take the bait or else didn't want to part with one of his watches as he replied that I'd be grand as all i'd have to do was follow him and Fran. Yeah! me and couple of hundred others. I though the purpose of having three pacers was that each could pace independently. I only had myself to blame. Luckily who should I spot but the guy who prepares for all eventualities and has got me out of more holes than I care to remember , clubmate Denis Looney. Sure enough he has two watches and does not hesitate in offering me one, showing me briefly how it works. I just hope that his lack of a spare does not hex his marathon PB attempt.

At last we are off and I begin to warmup as the pace picks up. Still it takes us a couple of miles to get on pace as it is difficult to run freely within the crowded field.

Mile 0.25 - Rounding the first bend

I find the first 3 or 4 miles to the Phoenix Park quite challenging, but gradually get into my stride. I get chatting to a few runners including two girls from Raheny Shamrocks who were both aiming for 3:20, their coach telling them to stick to the 3:20 pacers. At each mile marker we are only ever a few seconds either side of a 3:20 finish. As always the crowd support is top class and with people shouting out my name I realise that it is printed on my race number and I am not as popular as I thought I was.

Clubmate Keith flies past me shortly after the 9 mile mark, well on his way to a sub 3:10 PB finish, having started well back the field (the only way too race). He is followed a mile later by Denis Looney, also on his way to a PB finish, although I would see him later.

I can't say I was relaxed but I was reasonably comfortable. We cross the half way timing mat in Walkinstown a few seconds under 1:40 (chip time). There is always a good group around us, but at times it's difficult to differentiate between those running with us and those running around us. The sun begins to shine and it gets quite warm for a bit, glad I did not put on the compression top I was tempted to wear (but did not have), hanging around in the frigid morning air at the start line.

Over the next few miles my legs begin to tire as the lack of mileage over the preceding months begin to tell. An endurance base is only as good as the previous months training and 3 runs per 35 mile week will expose a few cracks when put to the test.

Denis comes back to me shortly after mile 18, where I inadvertently take a bottle of lucozade sport instead of water and have to chuck it away after taking a tentative sip (too sweet for me). The last hill of the day takes us past the 20 mile mark and onto Fosters Avenue. A few drop off the pace along this section. but most stick to the pace. Fran informs me that Dom has dropped out due to nausea and vomiting, so it is down to us two and with 15 seconds in the bag we commit to add a further 10 second cushion over the following miles. 

Mile 21 - Fosters Avenue "We are this much ahead"

 To be quite honest the last few miles are not fun and while I offer encouragement to those round me I just want it to be over - "Just 20 minutes of pain left, keep pushing, one foot in front of the other". Its my tiring/achy legs rather than any lack of fuel/energy (Apart from the sip of Lucozade I took on no calories) that is the week link in my chain. With all my training long runs on grass the impact of tarmac is having a toll. Miles 24/25 are particularly challenging as we are hit by a headwind and have to up the effort just to stay on pace (cushion of about 20 seconds at mile 25), not the best for those around us. At this stage those that had a bit of energy left pushed on for a 3:17/18/19 finish and a few more clung on to us for dear life, pushing hard to stay on pace and no doubt a few fell off the pace. At last we are rounding College Green and heading down Nassau Street and onto the home straight crossing the line in 3:19:4x (chip). Another pacing job complete, and although not my fastest it felt the most challenging.

It's difficult to know who or how many relied on you to pace them part or all of the way until they come up to you at the finish and thank you, which makes the whole effort all the more rewarding.

There were plenty of PBs among my Eagle clubmates (including Denis and Keith, who I met on the course and Elaine who I met at the finish line) A big well done to all.

This time last year Dublin marked my 25th Marathon, this year marked my 43rd - so between the two I ran 17 marathons/ultras, pacing 6 (and a half), setting 4 PB's (2 marathon and 2 ultra) and participating in a few unusual ones (midnight & back to backs). I don't think I will be as prolific over the next 12 months. Where to from here? I don't know yet.  I have a few thing floating around in my head but i'll have to get out on the roads more that 3 times a week if I am to stay in the game.



  1. You could try out for the Demons. They need some good players ;) And Sherrin's aren't oblong!

    Great pacing job with just a digital watch. Perfect splits. Massive crowd there and it doesn't look cold and wet at all - could be an Aussie marathon!

  2. Sounds like a tough last couple of miles Grellan fair play for sticking in there and bringing the gang home on target.god knows you would have been forgiven for backing off a bit after such a hard season..good stuff.