Saturday, 17 September 2016

Athlone Flatline Half marathon 2016

The last two years I have gone with the 1.45 pacer and lasted half way through the bog, to about the 9 or 10k mark, keeping the pacing balloon within sight. But the last half and especially the last quarter I have slowed and suffered. Those year's I had a modest 240k training done in the preceding 3 months but this year I had done just 160k, 70% or previous, but I was hoping having gone to the gym twice a week since November - for the first tine in my life - would stand to me!

There I was at the start and I met a lad I was planning on seeing but had not arranged, another Tom C, right by the 1.50 balloon. Tom was going out with them and see how he got on, ideal, the gun went and I set off, after a little bit I noticed Tom a stride ahead and I joined him. We got around some runners and into open space, I spotted the pace balloon ahead, grand. The Endomondo lady on my phone said 5.04kph for the first k and then 4.45kph for the 2nd, why were they going so fast? Checking the app as I write -which I have used to track my running for all my half marathon training the last few years - I set a PB for 3 miles at 23min 24 sec. Not my plan! The ks continued at just over 5min\k pace and at about 7k I asked someone why the 1.50 pacers were going so hard, I was told it was the 1.45! Bollocks - game plan out the window.

Of course, I felt pretty decent and started dreaming of breaking the 1.45 and surely 1.50 was in the bag to give me a PB. I got to 10k just over 50min, not too far off my 10k best made in my only running of that as a singular event. I was still 3 telephone poles off the 1.45 pacing balloon. Looking at Endomono afterwards, I did a PB for 1 hour - 11.88k. Coming out on the main road was at 13k and then there was a slight downhill for 2k before tucking back into the bog road. I targeted the road, but the pace was dropping down to 5.17kph at 12 - I can recover this. I hit the main road and where are the family, who've always been at the finish line the previous 2 years and I never saw them cause I was too far gone. This time, they are viewing from here and the finish. Looks like they've stationed themselves well up the road. 14k. 5.20kph. Where are they? I wave in the distance at the wrong group.  Ahh, there they are! Great, cheers, nice buzz. "Jimmy is winning" I hear Cadhla fade in the distance. Memories of doing the Athlone Olympic tri 5 years before when it still ran and cycling this road at 30kph with Malie having made a poster and out at the top of our old estate. But that is only a memory as I write, as I run I am not able to think of anything.

Almost immediately after I pass them I feel myself dropping and slowly punters pass. They pass in the car on the way to the finish line and I am helpless. I tuck back into the bog. At this point last year I had a stitch, this year I chugged 600ml 2.5 hours before the race, 150ml 25 min before, 70-100ml (1 gulp is about 30ml) at the water stops at 3m, 6m and 10+m. I felt different, I knew I was stronger this time. But damn, I could not run faster, 16k, 5.33. 5k left and I just can't run faster, I want to stop. This is so bloody hard, why am I doing this? Never do this again. People are stopping and walking. I want to stop too. Whatever you do, don't stop lad. 18k, 5.59kph, I've felt myself go backwards, punters have been passing me and it's continuing. The road turns back in from the bog, will it ever end, 20k, 6.11kph. Last turn home straight, keep an eye out for the family, this time, Gawd damn it. There's Malie, there they are, awesome. She has her hand out, she wants to finish with me, great, I put my hand out but don't turn and make sure she grabs it and the moment is gone. 50m, I can sprint this, go, take 3 lads, just at the line I break it with some lad. I turn and it's Tom C, I have pipped him at the line, he shakes my hand.

Meters passed the line I sit down and don't move for 20min I think. Laura passes over the chocolate milk, I take the one for Tom C as well, where is he, I wonder when he'll come in, I must go down to the runner's exit and look for him. Can you find me a blanket, the shivers kick in, Laura has one brought from home, the ambulance lads's unwrapped this other one. Tony can you get me another cup of coke. I get up what seems like 20min later and am unsteady.

Eventually, I bump into Tom C, I've stashed his milk in Christine's bag after having it under my blanket all that time. He reminds me I pipped him on the line, I had blanked that. Tom C had won the M60 last year and beat his time by 7 or 8 minutes this year but a Trim AC runner came in at 1.39 and a Ballina AC runner at 1.41, leaving his title in tatters but he still had a podium finish! The results were posted on the fence, we finished 404 and 405th, me 1sec ahead in 1.53.48. Check out my "sic sprint" to finish (barely moving): 

So a couple of minutes slower than last year. I have realised that there are no shortcuts in this game to the long road miles. Also, next time I'm going with the 1.50s pacer mos def! I also discovered a recovery secret - a 45min power nap in the afternoon :-)

It was the 5th running of the flatline, a brilliantly organised and run event which takes a lof of effort from the committee.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Meacan Déarg

Carrot Ridge, Gleann Eighneach, Binn an Choire, Connemara,
370m Diff
Sunday 17 July 2016

So I picked up Matt at 8.30 in his hotel in Athlone, later than ideal but a good compromise with him just having arrived from Chicago the day before; we met Colm at 9.30 in Galway city. With a coffee stop and finding literally the only parking spot on the Recess Kylemore road we left the car at 11.30. We hiked in via sheep trails, following the river into Gleann Eighneach, having to cross this before hiking up to the hidden base of Carrot Ridge - a tough ascent carrying packs.

Matt insisted on hiking in flip flops (one of his trade marks) and one strap spit before reaching the base with him finishing in bare feet. I got a big shock when i opened my bag and found no climbing shoes, seeing them in my head in the side pocket of my climbing gear bag in my room where I swapped bags to a 45L :-(

We started up the route at 1.30 carrying 2 packs and with me and Matt swapping leads, Colm was in the middle tied into a 60m and 50m to Matt and myself respectively. The grade was run out Diff (5.3, maybe some 5.4) and I managed to lead fine in boots.

We had the whole valley to ourselves, it was incredibly peacefully up there with a distant sound of the river Inagh and the endless sheep. We ate lunch on a wonderful ledge up at the top of pitch 6 before the rain came in. We couldn't see the road or any signs of civilisation, proper remote, I haven't experienced much if any of that in Ireland.

The climb was 370m, climbing,ie says, on lovely quartzite and after 8 pitches the last 100m was a gorgeous 100m clean rock scramble. It's so special being high on rock after a step hike into the base. On the route there was an amazing view of Seventh Heaven (HS) to the west against the skyline (see this topo), a 8 pitch route with plenty of 30m 4b run out I'm told. I'll be dreaming about it!

We topped out at 5.30 with the last hour-ish in rain, the rain, which had finally blown in from the west, was not too bad and didn't ruin things. Then we had a nasty descent down a scree slope \ moving boulders. Matt hiked down in his climbing shoes down to the flat before switching to the ripped flip flop. With a bum knee flaring up for Matt it was close to 8 by the time we were all back to the car. Epic. Great to be alive.

Named Meacan Buí, Colm's brother, who lives in the Gaeltacht, told him that means parsnip and it should have been called Meacan Déarg!
I highly recommend this amazing mountain experience at our doorstep here in Ireland.

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