Day 22 – Run To the Hills

Posted: January 23, 2012 in January, Races, Races 2012
Tags: , , , , ,

Start line

The morning of my first mountain race rolled round and I have to say I was more than a little excited about this. I was a little bit sure of how to approach it though as most races I’ve done in the past have been of two to six hours duration, this would be considerably less than an hour (I hope), so no need to carb load, no two day hydration plan, even the amount of kit required is pretty minimal. I was out of bed before eight to make a huge pot of coffee and an equally enormous batch of porridge, and after polishing those off I managed to rouse the rest of the family, loaded everyone (including our third ‘weekend son’ Colm) into the car and set off for Howth.

On arrival at Howth GAA club I registered both for the race and with IMRA (as it was my first race with them) and then retreated back to the car to take shelter from the wind. It was very windy, a particularly cold and biting wind that managed to infiltrate every pore of my clothing and skin, and with it being still almost ninety minutes to the race start there was no point in being out there freezing. Despite the organisers asking for everyone to be there for registration by half ten this being Ireland most people rolled in the gate well after eleven. I looked at the crowd still waiting to register as I was doing my warm up and thought there was no way we were going to start on time, but the organisers did a fantastic job and managed to rattle through the crowd, somehow getting everyone to the start line on time.

Due to the wind it was impossible to hear one of the organisers tell us where the route was, but considering I was going to be resolutely mid-pack (hopefully) it wasn’t really a concern for me. We set off up and around the two football pitches before heading off-road, under, around and through some trees before everyone came screeching to a halt at a bottleneck on the path. After a little bit of waiting around we were moving again, uphill for a short distance before plunging down into more trees. I’d been initially quite hesitant, wanting to conserve energy but seeing as the race was a short one, and there’s be ample time to recuperate at bottlenecks/uphill sections I took off and tried to pass as many people as I could any time the path widened up.

We had a couple more tight, uphill sections where it was single file at walking pace but also some flat, rocky sections and a steep downhill or two before the route levelled out into a quick, relatively flat and straight run through some gorse.The next uphill section wasn’t particularly steep, and it was quite wide, so I used the opportunity to pass some more people before the steep, rocky downhill on the other side. One of the reasons I wanted to do a lot of mountain races this year was to improve my descending, which is utterly atrocious at the moment and cost me lots of time at Gaelforce, and particularly Sea2Summit, last year. I watched some of the more experienced runners around me, trying to emulate what they were doing, keeping my feet moving with short, quick steps.

At the bottom we were back to the first flat section through the trees so I upped the pace again, knowing there was no more climbs and only about a kilometre to go. We came back up on to the football pitch with about 800m to go and the guy I’d been trailing for the majority of the race was just ahead of me. He’d pulled ahead by a decent amount when I stopped to tie my laces at around the halfway point, but over the last 2km I’d clawed my way back. I passed him with about 600m to go but this was a rookie mistake on my part. At this point I was almost flat out and tiring. The wind was in my face but unfortunately not in my lungs and I couldn’t keep it up. With about 50m he came back past me and there was nothing I could do about it. In the end I finished in 135th place out of 284, in a time of 32:33, a time I was more than happy with.

I learned a huge amount from the race – from the course itself, to better footwork, to better descending, that my climbing is getting better (thanks in no small part to the amount of time spent on the roads around Tramore), and also all the things I still need to work on – more speed, maintaining a high pace, better racecraft etc. The race itself really couldn’t have gone much better and it was easily the most enjoyable race I’ve ever done. To top it all off we went down to the market in Howth where I treated myself to a mouthwateringly delicious pulled pork sandwich, smothered in hot sauce, from one of the many stalls there. We spent the rest of the day driving along the Dublin coast, listening to the most inane bickering ever from the squabbling kids in the back before arriving home just as exhaustion was setting in.

Overall it was a fantastic day. As I said it was easily the most enjoyable race I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to do some more of them.

View from the course

  1. Nice one bro. How long was the run?

    In the top picture, are you the guy dressed like a terrorist?

    • try366 says:

      Cheers man. The race was just over 5km, so a nice introduction to the world of mountain running. I’m actually the beardy luminous guy behind the terrorist, my photographer was too lazy to move around and get a clear shot of me.

  2. mutteringsofafool says:

    Popping over from Love all blogs – sounds like a fun race, even though I’m a crazy runner type also I’m a little daunted that most of your previous races have been 2-6 hours! I’ve been doing some adventure races over the last couple of years but trying to build up to an ultra next year so taking part in more trail races. There truly are some amazing ones out there. What’s next on your list of races?

    • try366 says:

      Welcome, and thanks for the comment. A lot of my races have been the longer ones, in part I think, because I’m quite slow, and it’s easier to add distance than speed. Especially when you’re just starting out like I am. I do love the longer adventure races and trail races though, straight road racing doesn’t really appeal to me that much.

      In terms of what’s next, I’ve got a trail half marathon in February, a 26km trail race in March, a duathlon or two and then I’m into quite a busy schedule of longer stuff, starting with Belfast marathon in May. Speaking of ultras, I’ve actually signed up for my first one, London to Brighton in September. Really looking forward to that, I just need to learn how to navigate.

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment, hopefully you’re enjoying my ramblings and I’ll be sure to pop over and have a gander at yours later.

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