"Should be done and dusted at this stage". The original plan to head for the Dingle half on Saturday morning didn't happen, working late, kid's starting swimming lesson's and life in general decided The three hour trip to west Kerry wasn't going to happen. Luckily there's a plan b and even a plan c to mull over for the evening. The Cork half marathon in Blarney is on at 11 in the morning and there's a 12 mile trail run from Ballyhooley to Killavullen and I'm finding it hard to choose. The half in Blarney is the logical choice but the trail run has a big curiosity and novelty draw. In the end a night of heavy rain has me scampering for a lift to Blarney early Sunday morning.
Indecision and a lack of conviction has thrown me out of focus and I'm finding it hard to visualise a plan. All week I could see myself running hard all the way to Dunquin, now I have to contend with trying to memorise the road out through Waterloo and to the turnaround at Grenagh. In the early nineties I'd have ridden in this same road in a group of forty or fifty cyclists 20 minutes down on the stage winner in the Blarney three day. The state I would have been in and the amount of water under the bridge in the meantime leave's me clueless of what's in store. All I'v got is a course profile that goes slightly up for the first half of the race and slightly down for the second.
Still sleepy it's a struggle to get in gear. Last night's rain has stopped which mean's I will actually line up for the start, I don't mind the rain but when your not up for it, it can be hard to face. This is my longest race in 12 month's and mentally I need to get to grip's with it without letting it get on top of me.
"Take it handy, ease into it". Sweating more than normal after half a mile, negativity rear's it's ugly head "f***in head cold I bet, this'll be a disaster". Looking for the positive's, the leg's don't feel too bad. One thing that's hard not to notice is the much calmer pace than I'v become accustomed to in the five milers and five K's of the past few month's.
That was quicker than I'd planned, ease off a small bit. Difficult now as already I'm part of a strong group with plenty of shelter in number's. I'm not confident at this distance, confidence can only come with the knowledge that you've got the mile's in the leg's and at this stage I'm doubtful. How can I let this group go?
Increasing gradient and a steady pace that's a bit too much for me forces me to leave them off, It's not good for the head but on my own between group's I settle down a bit. runner's are passing me in one's and two's, any encouragement from them is met with a blank stair and silence or a grunt. Oh the smug satisfaction and faux concern as one runner passes another. This time I'm on the receiving end. "well done, keep going!!" "WTF"
Ok, starting to settle in to a group here. I reckon I'm the youngest. For comfort I tell myself they're all seasoned marathon runner's, they're tough as nail's and it's a good group to be in. Sweating a lot, there's temporary relief as I start to feel the groove, The sound effects of six pairs of feet hitting the ground in unison over and over again is hypnotic, no word's spoken. I don't know if I'm totally concentrated on the job or if I'm away with the fairies. "Stay with these guy's to mile 9 and see if you can up the pace to the finish", "Top 10 in the lost sheep, where did that come from? jeez Timmy's flying", "Might go to Lombard's to watch the match later".
There's David McCarthy. He'd walk at this pace. Nearing the end of his season he's probably down to watch a few friend's. "How do I notice these thing's?, did anyone else see him?" The incline has increased and I'm comfortable in the group but the thought of the suffering involved if I push on at this stage is keeping manner's on me and the head's not as strong as it could be. This is mile five, eight to go and it's still a long way out.
Still climbing we're fragmenting a bit and six soon become's three two's. That's Ok as I'm half of the first two heading for the turnaround. "must book the van in for the DOE", I'm starting to think that maybe I'll be able to finish strong, I'll hold on another while, I'm still a bit doubtful.
The leader's have passed us in the opposite direction, it's an out and back course, They're motoring. 66 minutes will win it today for Alan O Shea. "How do you run that fast?" They're a distraction. Big gap's between the first three open the floodgate's for the rest who've now become a steady stream of faster runner's than me. Clubmate Brian passes me looking very comfortable, I wondered if he could sustain the pace he went out the road at, now I'v no doubt, he's on the way home looking strong and can smell the line.
Five to go. This is what I'm used to, feeling Ok? I step on the gas a bit and I'm able to take it, the guy who's been dangling out in front of me for the last few mile's has just gone backward's under my left shoulder and now my back's up. "Keep it steady". I'm starting to pass and recognise some of the concerned runner's who passed me in the early stage's. "Well done, keep it going"
Hitting a few long straight section's on the approach to Waterloo I can see a lot of runner's, they're all f***ed at this stage. I know because we've all been there. I was there thirty minutes ago and I'll be there again but for now I'm running controlled and feeling strong and I'll pick a lot of them off in the next twenty minute's, still sweating a lot, worry about that later. For now just enjoy it.
Relieved to have got out of the morning stupor I'm in cruise mode, controlled breathing, controlled heart rate (No stat's, heart monitor strap went missing in February). Still holding back, this state is rare and has to be enjoyed when it come's along, leaving the leg's up to their own device's covering good ground with relative ease, I'm looking at the 11 mile marker to throw it all out there to the finish. The finish is Just short of the more intense five K's that I'm more used to.
Now I'm in familiar territory. Confident of getting to the line in one piece if I open it up at this stage, I start to scream a bit and the muscles start to tighten. Quite alright in these circumstances, starving the muscles of oxygen, they're perfectly within their right's to make me hurt. Think of something to take my mind off the pain. "It's Kate's tracksuit day tomorrow and don't forget to put the tin whistle in her bag", "concentrate for f*** sake". I'v passed 10 or 12 runner's in the last two mile's but one of the first I passed is still hanging in there. The fourth lady on the road has the third in her sight's and her ability to deal with the change of pace is impressive. I'm running pretty hard.
Two to go, settle a bit, still picking off runner's. It's a new experience to have a solid finish at this distance. Probably a first in fact. Now onto smooth tarmac, it's a pleasure to run on, to know what way your feet are going to land, it's just one less thing to think about. Subconciously easing off the gas "wonder who's around tonight? think I deserve a guinness, not a bad day's work" "Ah Jesus, your drifting again, get it together, take it all the way to the finish".
Nice decline and still running strong "I remember this from '91/'92. Blarney three day, covered in shite, cold, wet, numb, 20 minute's down, rolling over the line cross eyed after four hour's racing around North Cork on a wet easter Sunday". "Come on for f*** sake, finish it off". Stinker of a ramp with 100 mtrs to go, just manage to keep the form over the top and freewheel to the line.
A funny old race, 84 minutes was 6 minutes faster than my first half this time last year and has me some bit contented. Inconsistent mile time's consistent with an an inconsistent mind set. The really good day, when the concentration doesn't waver and the sweats don't come 'till near the end, going to have to wait for another day for that. They're the day's we'll alway's look for.
It was a good day all round for Grange AC. Brian ran his best race in 10 year's finishing in 82 minute's. Alan ran a comfortable 87minutes nursing an abdominal injury. Clo ran a pb in 91min., Maurice ran his umpteenth half in 92min., Joan ran 93min. Matt was one of two runner's to survive a bee sting under his eye and came home in 97 minutes. Everyone happy except for the bee RIP.
I got to see the match and have a few pint's too. Now where'd I leave that tracksuit?