IMRA Race 2 – Ticknock 02/02/14 – Surprise Miles* Edition

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Races 2014
Tags: , , , , ,

January didn’t finish very well with my first DNS (Did Not Start) of the year at the Dungarvan 10 Mile. I, being the conscientious citizen that I am, heeded the weather warnings of both Met Eireann and Ben England, and decided against a three hour round trip in those conditions. Instead I went and bought myself some new trail runners (because I obviously needed a new pair) and then went for a gentle trot round the woods to break them in. This week had been a bit rubbish in terms of mileage but I had the second IMRA race of the season in Ticknock to look forward to, so at least I knew I’d get one quality session in this week.

Looking back at my post for the 1st race of the season at Howth I had a number of things to improve on this time in relation to preparation:

  1. Rest well for races – 21:06 on Saturday night I went to bed. I wasn’t asleep at this time, I was up until past 23:00 reading Ronnie O’Sullivan’s book (Running – which features nowhere near enough running by the way) but at least I was in bed, resting, and away from any food or drink related temptation.
  2. Hydrate well for races –  No problems here. Plenty of water Saturday, no (real) boozing, sipping water right up until race start.
  3. Fuel well for races – I ate well on Saturday, more carbs than usual but nothing much. I woke up on Sunday morning, had an espresso and a butter coffee at 8:30 (two and a half hours before race start) then a banana about half an hour before the off.
  4. Specificity. Specificity. Specificity – a couple of runs around Moore Abbey woods. Still not great on the hill front but better than last time out.

More weather warnings were in place for this weekend, and it was pretty wild on Sunday morning when myself, Benny and our dedicated photographer Fionn set off for Ticknock. There were plenty of fearful faces and chilly extremities huddling around Lamb Doyle’s pub where registration was, not least Benny’s as he realised he’d brought no gloves, hat or really anything that would constitute warm gear. He did have a pair of those enormous waterproof trousers usually only seen on Deadly Ice Trucker’s Catch Big Fish and was actually contemplating running in them, but eventually saw sense. This is a guy who has previously ditched every bit of gear he carried bar skin and hair, in a race up Croagh Patrick in mid-December, in a futile effort to save weight, and he was about to race in Captain Ahab’s oilskins.


By the time we had made our way up the road to the start point the weather had cleared considerably. The snow that had been threatening for the last hour or so had thankfully not appeared and the sun had made a welcome appearance, not only raising the temperature by a degree or two but giving us a beautiful view over Dublin Bay. After a quick briefing all three hundred or so competitors shuffled through the organic starting chute formed by the hedges on each side and then we were off.

En Route to Start

En Route to Start

Face in the crowd

Face in the crowd

And then stopped. Much like Howth it was an initial surge, a bit of a run uphill and then hang around for a few minutes at a bottle neck. I really don’t mind this hanging around, it’s quite nice to be able to get your breath back after the early rush, but if I ever want to get anywhere in one of these races I have to (a) position myself somewhere close to the front at the start and (b) go hell for leather for the first few hundred metres. I know it’ll settle down then and I can recover, and I know the distances are no issue, but that kind of start is just anathema to any kind of racing I’ve done and the “start easy and pick up pace along the way” strategy I’ve tried to employ in road races. Still, horses for course, needs must and all that.

The first kilometre was a steep, slow uphill followed by the aforementioned bottleneck, before things opened out a bit. We were still going uphill but on swampy wet grass now, which afforded the choice of various routes. Another thing I definitely need to work on when trail running is my route selection. I spent so much time zig-zagging during the race, trying to pick the optimal line, I resembled one of those frustrated young men who drive shonky 1.9 tdi A4s, with the de rigeur ‘RS’ kit obviously,  who spend most of their time jumping from lane to lane in near stationary traffic. After the relatively open section there followed a fantastic couple of kilometres that was mostly uphill through a rocky little gully that had of late been transformed into a river. Back out onto the open hillside for a bit before, blessed relief, the summit was spotted and we began our descent.

Back down gullies, single tracks, through muck and slop, over rocks, through near dark forest. It was spectacular fun, and I was ages into it before I realised I usually pick my way downhill on this terrain like Mrs Doyle alighting from the windowsill. The thought, and familiar trepidation, briefly entered my mind before I banished it and got back on with the serious task of enjoying myself. There wasn’t long left to go in the race now, less than two kilometres and I was feeling very comfortable, so the plan now was to go hell for leather as soon as we reached the track back to the start. Less than a kilometre to go, here’s the fire road, there’s the finish area over yonder, time to go, so I put the hammer down and went flying down the road as hard as I could only to come to a grinding halt about three minutes later when I was greeted by the sight of more muddy, lycra clad runners all milling round like the marching band who’d just been led up the alley at the end of Animal House.

It soon became apparent that we’d gone wrong somewhere, hopefully not too far back. So the quickly growing group turned around and headed back uphill, gathering up more people, plenty of whom I’d just passed as I was careering downhill. Even more people were standing around at the intersection where we’d apparently zigged when we should have zagged, and on seeing us coming back in one direction all set off in the other. On getting back to that point and setting off on the correct path once more I saw an awful lot of familiar backs, but with only a few hundred metres left to go there wasn’t much of a chance to reclaim many places. Not that it really mattered anyway, there’s not much of a difference in 200th or 232nd place, and I really (thankfully) don’t care about positions. What I wanted from the race was a good run, a hard workout, a chance to improve both my fitness and my trail running ‘skillz’, and I definitely got all of those. Plus Surprise Miles!

Finish (almost)

Finish (almost)

Time: 68:08, position 232nd

I ended up doing a kilometre extra, which given my average pace and time spent standing around trying to figure out where I was and where I actually should be, was about eight minutes wasted.

Lessons learned (an on-going list):

  1. Push! – whereas in Howth I was miserable and struggled round, here I was in a great mood, really enjoyed the race but enjoyed it almost too much. I was very conservative with my pacing and ran it like a training run rather than a race. That would have been fine if I had put in 60k already this week but I hadn’t, so should have gone a lot harder.
  2. Start as you mean to go on – I’m not sure if it’s the case in every IMRA race but with the amount of bottlenecks and single tracks it’s quite hard to pass people. If you’re ambivalent about your starting position, and saunter off the line, by the time you reach the first bottleneck you could be waiting half the day at it. After that you’re fighting a losing battle. Next time, start close to the front, go off hard, get through the first bottleneck and have some sort of clear patch at some stage rather than just peering into a never ending succession of miscellaneous buttocks.
  3. Enjoy it – especially the downhill stuff. Stop worrying, trust in yourself, try to remember what little pieces of technique you’re picking up but mostly just enjoy it.
Happy and relieved

Happy and relieved

*TM – JBHK Productions


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