Sunday, March 22, 2009

IMRA Crone Wood Race

Photo by Gerry Brady/IMRA

Yesterday was the final race of the IMRA Winter League. With 3 races from 5 to count, I had already notched up enough finishes to score in the league, but with my 35th place in Annacurragh dragging me down, I knew I could improve on my 17th place going into the race.
More importantly, however, this race was also the 2009 University Champs, and I was determined to do well. With this in mind, I had run the course 5 times over the last 2 weeks and was feeling good about it, it seemed well suited to my strengths, with a tough climb up Maulin and some steep descending. Only the final fireroad run in of 2km gave me any real cause for concern, so with that in mind I had done several sessions of 400m (1:20) and 800m (2:55) intervals to try up my leg speed a bit in preparation.

Race day started with a trip into town to pick up Ciara from Busaras, though having taken the bus from Belfast, her day had started considerably earlier than mine! Arriving in Crone I was greeted by what I didn't want to see - loads of IMRA speedsters who had come out of hibernation on this sunny day and I knew this was going to be a fast race. Felt good during warm-up, and positioned myself well on the startline, about 2 rows back, alongside some people I was hoping to do battle with.
Then the countdown began..10...blah...4...3..and then a cold feeling came over me and my body just felt empty. I was zonked before the race stared! No bueno. Usual tussling for position off the start and I found myself alongside Mick Hanney on the first climb, so started thinking this mightn't be too bad. Mick is a much faster runner than I (going for a sub-3 marathon in 2 weeks) so I thought if I could stick with him I'd have a chance, but the legs weren't there.
Up the very steep grassy bank, I made a few places but was suffering badly by now. After that the climb to the summit of Maulin was harder than it should have been, but I knew the descent was coming so wasn't worried about losing 2 places here, one of them to Ciara. I had told her earlier about the better line off Maulin, so was glad to see she strayed away from the obvious path and we dropped the 2 guys that were between us at the top, as well as catching 2 more. With some semblance of form returning, I eased ahead a little and got back up to Martin Francis, who was looking very strong. He dropped me again on the next bit though :-( The hairpins provided one last chance to draw a breath before the final climb up the grassy ride and the plunge back to the carpark. Again, I was pleased to make ground on the steep descent and was amazed to find that nobody passed me on the fireroad until Mags Greenan and Niamh O'Boyle shot past before the last corner, fighting for 3rd place.

Finished 32nd overall, @ 128% of the winning time, which is a big step back from my average leading into the race (119%) The faster field will have had something to do with it, but for my own part I must wonder what went wrong. I had harboured ambitions of a top 20 in this race, but couldn't pull it off on the day (my training times indicated that it may have been possible) Case of the jitters maybe? I know I need a lot more race experience to get used to the pace off the start line, and help get rid of the nerves.
6th in the colleges ranking, but 6mins down on the winning time. Also, somehow became a scoring runner for Clonliffe, in a very tight teams competition.

Ended up 21st in the winter league, would have needed to finish 26th or better to move up to 20th.

Not sure what I'll do next, maybe the Black Mountain race in Louth. At 14km, its a little longer then the winter league rounds, but should be ok.

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