Day 196 – Race to Glory

Posted: July 17, 2012 in July, Races, Races 2012
Tags: , , , , ,

I was down at the start point of the race about two hours before we were due to go off, just hanging around, stretching, warming up and chatting to some of the other competitors. One of the things I loved about Race to Glory last year was the atmosphere, how friendly everyone was despite the fact that there was some serious racing going on, and the incredible support from seemingly everyone in the town and surrounding countryside. At a lot of races you see so many of the ‘top guys’ and they’re so po faced and serious, here everyone’s mingling and mixing and there’s absolutely no airs and graces.

After bonking so badly at Race to Glory last year I wanted to make sure I had sufficient energy stores this time round. To that end I spent most of yesterday shovelling an assortment of carbs down my throat, topiing it off this morning with a huge bowl of meusli and four slices of toast with jam. An hour before the race I followed that with a banana and a bottle of Lucozade Sport and I was quite literally full to the brim. After a quick trip to rid myself of some excess carbs (I wasn’t joking when I said I was literally full to the brim) it was time to make my way to the start line. Then it was time for a few quick words from Race Director and organiser Brendan Mooney and we were off.

Whereas last year I was trying to just make it to the finish, this year I had some definite goals in mind. Last year’s time was 2:57:28, with splits of 1:03:30 (run 1), 1:11:49 (cycle) and 42:10 (run 2). The target for this year was 2:30, which broke down roughly as 52 (run 1), 58 (cycle) and 35 (run 2), which left me with a minute or so contingency for each stage and a minute for each transition. It was a pretty optimistic schedule, but one that I felt was just about achievable (plus I really like nice, round numbers).

Asshole Shades

I figured that I should be able to average 5mins/km for the first run, it was only a 10k after all, even if it did have a bit of a hill, and some bog to navigate in it. The first 2km were going exactly to plan, running about 4:30/km and feeling really strong. The field had split up quite a lot, with the really strong guys (and girls) disappearing off into the distance, and quite a lot of the rest of the field behind me. Even at this early stage of the race there wasn’t a very big crowd around me though. Maybe they could sense an imminent explosion from my churning guts?

Unlike last year when I thought that my laps around Moore Abbey woods had prepared me for Spankers’ Hill this time round I knew exactly what was in store. Take it easy going up the first part of the hill, that’s not the real climb at all, then once you get round the corner and the properly steep part starts just get into your rhythm, nice short strides, quick turnover, keep chugging away, oh shit I’m stopping again aren’t I? Despite spending months running up and down every hill in Tramore, managing a half marathon through the Gap of Dunloe and just two weeks ago managing 1250m of climbing in the Wicklow mountains this bastard of a hill had once again bested me. Admittedly it was getting pretty warm by this stage, and I was about seven months pregnant with a 10lb carbohydrate baby, but I was still a bit miffed that I’d stopped running. I translated this annoyance into effort though and set about hiking as quick as I possibly could up the hill and getting it over with. It probably wasn’t such a bad plan of attack as I managed to maintain a pretty decent pace and was passing most of the people going up at the same time.

Once I got to the top and it was time to start running again I had to deal with some minor protestation from my legs. However, I wasn’t about to let all the people I’d just passed on the way up overtake me again so I pressed them into action and tried to get back to the kind of pace I was doing back at the start line. Once I did manage to start running again I had to deal with the carb bloated stomach, which was now way, way worse than before and (I felt) possibly approaching crisis point. One of three things was going to happen (1) my stomach was going to settle itself eventually (2) the excess material churning around my stomach was going to make its way out the way it had entered or (3) food that had finished its journey through the digestive process was going to make its own, more natural way out. At this point I was actually hoping that number 2 was going to happen, so I could just puke and get this over with, but despite some forceful belches it was still some distance from happening. Thankfully I was about to hit the next part of the run, the bog, which would serve a dual purpose of slowing me down enough to stop the churning, and also give me something to focus on other than the state of my insides.

Last year almost as soon as I hit the bog section I was walking, but this year I managed to run the entire section, despite some very sticky moments. When I got out though as well as having sopping wet, peat caked runners, my legs felt so, so heavy from having to drag them up and out of the soggy bog over and over again. There was no respite though as almost immediately I had to start into a very steep descent, 100% designed to smash  whatever life and feeling was left out of my poor aching legs. Padraig Marrey, who designed this course, may well be a very nice man, but there’s surely a large sadistic streak in anyone who would have you run that climb, followed by the bog, followed by that descent. Every single part of your legs are punished and tortured before you’re spat back out onto the main road and you’re heading back into transition to pick up your bike.

I was really making up for lost time on the descent at first. I’d got some life back in my legs and was able to just concentrate on keeping good form, picking my feet up and landing nice and light, as opposed to crashing and thudding my way down and burning out my quads. I had a lot of time to make up after the first part of the run and was doing a good job of it when I started to over think things, thinking about how much time I needed to make up got me thinking about how quick I needed to go got me thinking about how quick I was actually going which for whatever reason slowed me right down. A couple of people came back past me, seemingly just by throwing caution to the wind, so I stopped being such a little bitch and set off after them. Not long after the road leveled off (for almost a kilometre!) and then it was back in to T1 to pick my bike.

One of the ways I was hoping to make up a decent chunk of time this year was on the bike. Last year I wore bike shoes, which due to the separate transitions meant I had to carry my runners, plus there was the inevitable faffing round changing them. On top of that as soon as the road ramped up I, like almost everyone else around me, was off the bike and pushing it up the hill. In cleats. It was so bad that I stopped to put my runners back on, then thought better of it. Basically I had a bit of a mare on the bike. This time I was into T1, on with my helmet and asshole glasses, and heading back out on the course with minimal fuss.

Still conscious of bonking last year as soon as I was pedalling I started to guzzle Powerade. Just a few minutes ago my guts had been churning and I had thought there was no way I was going to use the gel I’d bought this morning but as soon as I started cycling everything settled down, so I decided to go for it. I’d only eaten/drank/slurped a gel once before, and that was a bit of an emergency measure during the Belfast Marathon, but I remember it being not unlike concentrated cough syrup. This one, though the flavour might have been slightly different, had the same consistency and was just as gank. I washed it down with some Powerade though and then set about getting a wiggle on.

The first 7km of the bike leg was relatively flat and on the main road so the plan was to go pretty steady and maintain around a 30km/h average, which I just about managed to do. After that there was Bastard Hill before 10km or so of rolling country lanes (and when I say country, I mean country, as in ‘grass down the middle of the lane and barely wide enough for one car country’). Last year I got a hell of a shock when I turned up the lane and started the climb but this year I was ready for it and going to….

Oh for God’s sake. Off the bike again. OK, well if I’m going to walk it there’s to be no dilly-dallying, so I set about pushing my bike up the hill as quick as I possibly could. I felt a little better when I saw the only two people who were still pedalling weren’t actually going any quicker than I was walking and before I knew it I was at the top of the hill, or at least where it levelled out. Last year it seemed to go on forever. Back on the bike then and it was time to make up some places. One by one I passed the few guys in front of me over the next few kilometres, even managing to pass one guy downhill while he was pedalling and I was freewheeling (some Tour de France style descending coming in handy). I did get passed by one guy (who I noted was on a full carbon Kuota tri bike) who I managed to stick with for quite a while, gaining on the climbs, then losing ground on the descents, until we got to the last of the really big descents, at which point I lost him.

King of the Mountain (In a Way)

Coming back on to the main road the route then differed slightly from last years, going straight ahead through a junction rather than turning left. I got passed by someone going through the junction, though I blame my wife who was standing there distracting me. That at least gave me someone to chase for the last few kilometres, all the way up to T2, which this year was a field, where we dumped our bikes.

Coming out of the gate at the end of the field I’d managed to catch the guy who’d passed me on the bike. I said hi to him passing and he mentioned that his legs felt like jelly. I was expecting mine to be similar but I wanted to look strong going past him so pushed on as soon as I hit the road and found to my surprise that they actually felt fine. I was running at a decent pace and just getting into a rhythm when I recognised the house on the river bank from last year. I didn’t remember it being quite so early in the run leg last year but here we were, about to jump into the river and wade a couple of hundred metres. The water wasn’t quite so deep at the spot where I entered, but as soon as I waded out into the middle it plunged to waist deep, and I couldn’t stifle my shriek of “my balls”, which I think was picked up by more than one or two of the watching audience on the river bank.

Last year I was thoroughly miserable slogging through the river, managing to fall twice and gash both knees. This time round I was able to have a bit of a laugh with some of the spectators before dragging myself out and hitting the road again. The good pace that I’d managed to set before entering the river was now but a distant dream, as it felt like I was wearing concrete boots. I know the theory is that the river is supposed to refresh your legs, or at least that’s what they tell you, but each time I’ve got out of the water I’ve really struggled to get running again. After  running on some filthy rutted lanes for a bit, where I managed to pass a couple of people that had been ahead of me, it was out on to the back roads heading back towards Kiltimagh. It was at this point last year where I really began to struggle, but I knew I was much, much fitter this time round, and kept on telling myself that. Just like last year almost every house I passed had people outside, cheering you on and encouraging you, or in a lot of cases with their own water stations set up. I’ve never seen another race where there’s so much local support, and I was delighted that this time round I was actually able to recognise and appreciate it, and I could say hello or wave to the supporters.

Looking at my Garmin I knew I was touch and go as to whether I’d crack 2:30 so tried to up the pace for the last few kilometres. Unfortunately just at that point the route took us back on to the main road, which was just straight ahead and with no supporters to liven things up. My pace flagged for a minute until I noticed a guy about a kilometre ahead who was walking, and then stopped. He turned around to look back down the road, and whether it was because he saw me or not I’m not sure, but he started to run again. And then stopped. Game on. Someone to hunt down over the last stretch. I started to push again, repeating a little mantra to myself and putting my game face on. By the time we were entering the town he was only a few hundred metres ahead of me and had picked up a companion. I was definitely going to catch him before the line. Or at least I was until I hit the hay bale and tyre section, at which point I executed the least athletic run through of an obstacle course since Private Hucks in Police Academy. Somewhat embarrassed by my ineptitude, and by the fact that I was passed immediately after by a guy (who was doing his first adventure race, and doing a damn fine job of it) I’d been chatting to just after Spanker’s Hill, I braced myself for one last long drag up through the town.

I started to run hard and managed to pass the two guys I’d been tracking, but far sooner than I expected heard the noises and saw the barriers suggesting the finish line was just ahead. I started to sprint and rounded the corner to see the line just ahead, with the clock still reading 2:28. One last push and I was done, crossing the line in 2:28:54

I was absolutely shattered when I finished, but in a good way. Last year it took me almost half an hour before I could even talk, and even then I didn’t know whether I was going to laugh or cry. I was absolutely destroyed, physically and emotionally. This time round I was absolutely ecstatic. This was the first time I’d really gone into a race with a definite, calculated target in mind, and I’d done it. For once I wasn’t looking back at the race thinking “well I could have pushed harder there” or “I should have done this there”, I had done what I had set out to do and now I could sit back, relax and enjoy the BBQ, massage and all the hospitality that Brendan  and the good people of Kiltimagh had laid on for us.


  1. Excellent blog…and pretty much the same race tactics that mr incredible aimed to employ. Oh well maybe next year 🙂

    • try366 says:

      Cheers Harvey, or should I say Mr. Incredible. My wife and I saw you before the start and she said to me “see your man for the race in that costume, that’d be tough” and I just said “you have no idea”.

      I was thinking about you actually when I was going up Spanker’s Hill in that heat. Fair play to you!

  2. Mags Murphy says:

    Congrats on a great race. Having completed my first R2G this yr I can completely agree with everything you’ve written. It’s a bitch of a course with endless hills. But the presence of the wonderful cheerleaders along the way made the agony of the course very bareable. Here’s hoping I can improve my 2013 time as much as you have! Congrats again to all involved for a great day

  3. Declan Hughes says:

    Excellent review of the race. I thought I was one of the guys you passed near the end but I was just in ahead of you @ 48 seconds..Absolutely shattered and barely able to move! Hopefully see you there next year and we can improve the times.
    Good luck with the rest of the year.

  4. onceawarrior says:

    Excellent blog and just what I needed to read today! My roundness is returning after a 3 week sun holiday and I need to push my self to train harder! My target is Sea 2 Summit in November. I completed it last year but hit major walls on the second cycle of the event. A lot of what I went through that day I have been reading in your blog! Onwards and upeards as they say! Keep up the blogging and the challenge!!


  5. Frank says:

    good stuff. well written.almost makes me want to do it….Frank

  6. try366 says:

    Thanks a million guys!

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