I think ran this race close to my current potential. I realised that fairly quickly after passing the finish line… despite initially being dismayed when the finish gantry came into view. I saw 1:26:45 rolling up on the clock, finished in 1:27:05. I was shocked, because I had hoped to nail a 1:25 dead – or possibly a little under. I did not look at a single mile-split on my watch during the race and I felt like I was giving it socks the whole way. I skipped the time checks to try and run the fastest race I could: with a mind free from stressful analysis of mile-on-mile performance. I was shocked mainly because it felt like a really good run, and yet I was nowhere near the target time.
Well, maybe not too far off in one way. My PB is 1:25:50 from Longford 2009. Longford is flat, whereas this Blarney course has two significant climbs in miles 6 and 7, the first one starting just before the 5 mile marker. My pace, which had levelled off to a very steady (and very comfortable) 6:30 average in miles 3 and 4, dipped dramatically on the hill. Actually, it fell off a cliff. My legs started to feel really tired after only the first couple of hundred metres up the hill. I knew it would be a steady climb all the way to Grenagh, a little before the 7 mile marker. A real slog, but of course everyone is in the same boat!
Yes, everyone takes a hit on the hill, surely! Hmm… If there was one thing I took out of this race, it’s that I need to introduce some hill training into my schedule. :-) About 20 runners blew me away on the ascent. I thought, no way can they keep this up. I’d been with a group of about a half-dozen runners since just after the 1 mile marker, all of us going really steadily. They quickly pulled out a 10 metre lead on me… all of them… at the start of the hill. “Newbies” I thought, having a little laugh to myself. They’ll soon stutter, I’ll close the distance and rejoin the group. Maybe not on the hill itself, but I felt sure I’d reap the rewards of my “even effort” on the downhill/flat to come after Grenagh.
The gap rose to 20m.. 50m.. 100m. It kept growing. The breath of additional runners became audible behind me, then silence again after they cruised by. A very slow manifestation of the Doppler effect seemed to mock me. These other runners could run hills almost without slowing down! Sure enough, the 2nd lady (who was in the group with me up to the mile 5 marker) finished just over 1:40 ahead of me. Assuming a 6:30 average, I lost 1:20 in mile 6 and 7. Yes, I’m definitely introducing hill repeats into my training!
Starting the downhill out of Grenagh village
We had a pleasant downhill after the summit in Grenagh village. I pelted down this and continued along the flat return to Blarney. I stayed on the heels of a runner who, at the 8 mile marker, turned and said to me “6:30′s all the way now”. This was reassuring! This guy was the last to pass me on the hill and stayed just a few metres ahead of me for the rest of the race. He looked very steady. Since I had no idea of my splits, I took his comment to mean that we were heading for a 6:30 average over the whole race. This fit well with my (slightly over-confident) pre-race prediction. Unfortunately, only a couple of those last five miles were at 6:30.
I passed this guy on the final sprint (felt a little guilty about it) and nearly threw-up with the effort after passing the line. For the whole second half of the race I had felt a little bloated… slightly too much food/liquids ingested before the race I think. Not a big deal though, not much impact on my race, just something to refine for the future.
- 6:30 – Cruising really steadily up to here, and for the next 3/4 of a mile
- 6:50 – Just hitting the start of the hill
- 7:31 – Ouch…
- 6:47 – End of the hill, start of the descent out of Grenagh
- 6:32 – Going very steady again.
- 6:42 – 10 mile split = 66:31. The same split at Longford last year was 65:37. Both make a mockery of my actual 10 mile PB!
- 6:39 – Pace dipping a bit by now, only a little but it all adds up. :/
Giving it socks on the finish straight
I was reasonably satisfied with my time after the initial shock of being so far outside my target. That target was evidently too ambitious. And the time was decent, even if the pacing left a little to be desired.
- Flawless organisation, really good. St. Finbarr’s club organised the race, and they are a strong club with a lot of good runners so I was expecting as much. I was actually glad they didn’t throw in a t-shirt, which was the only thing missing that other races might have.
- €20 with chip timing… I want more of this!! Cork to Cobh on the 3rd of October is only €10 and will most likely have the same standard of organisation. Incredible value!
- Plenty of fruit and drinks at the finish.
- Very well marshalled. Loads of stewards all around the course. The vast majority of the route was on quiet roads, the smallest of which was closed completely to traffic. Plenty of “heavies” ensured that any traffic on the other roads was kept to a crawl.
- Water in cups and bottles. Six stations I think? Which is nearly overkill for a half-marathon but the out-and-back section helped with this.
- Good quality field. Lots of fast runners from all around Munster.
Great race. Tough course, but fair. Maybe not one for a PB but a good challenge.