I like routine and if I find something that works I tend to do it the same way again and again. In fact, on a recent visit to the Zoo, a friend joked that we would go round and visit the animals in an anticlockwise direction, just to see how I’d react…
So I found myself falling back into the same routine last thursday as I prepared for my first race since the Dublin City Marathon in October. Same as always, start from the bottom, work my way up the body and imagine myself on the start line so I don’t forget anything. Shoes, socks, shorts, race belt, €20 note (for an emergency taxi!), iPod etc, right up to a hat or cap depending on the weather.
Packing for Kinvara was not difficult, I’d done it a million times before but this was all the sweeter as it was my first start after the back surgery. I hadn’t run more than 6k in training, but I was fit, probably fitter than ever before and as I visualised starting, I also visualised finishing. Strong, running, hands in the air, remember to smile and don’t stop the watch until after the line ; I’m not going to be the one with a finish photo of me looking at my wrist.
Leave my mother in laws in Ballinasloe (our pre race base) and drive up with Maureen to the village of Kinvara in Co. Clare. A wonderfully beautiful part of Ireland, on the new ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ tourist trail, surrounded by the Burren and not far from Aillwee Caves, a favourite place to visit when I was a kid. We arrived with time to spare, parked up and registered.
Thats where you get to see the difference of a local, smaller run race. The parish hall, staffed by volunteers & scouts was easily navigated and numbers quickly stuck on shirts. A fleeting hello to Sean Conroy, he of Amphibian King, Oranmore fame and off we went for a warm up jog. I was starting at 12, Maureen, who signed up for the half, was in line for 12.10.
Plan A, finish without walking. Plan B, break the hour. I found myself right at the start line, saying hello to the 40minute pacer. Hmm, I’d better move to the side and let all these lads pass before I cause an accident. Garmin set for 6.15 pace. I’m still not massively familiar with metric pacing but I enjoy a kick at the end of a run so 6.15 /km should be ok, shouldn’t it?
Bang, off we go. Predictably I’m passed by lots of people in the first few hundred meters. Comfortably easy is the pace I’m looking for. 5.45/km is a general parkrun pace I seem to have settled into recently & I’m wrecked at the end of that so I’d say today I’m clicking along somewhere around 6mins. Feeling good and breathing steady, I seem to have fallen alongside similar paced runners, don’t go out too fast…
Beep, first km done in 5:45, oops, thats a bit fast but I’m feeling good so lets keep going. Beep, second km in 5:37, so much for starting slow. I can still feel my legs and theres no hassle with the back. Beep 5:48, damn I’m going to pay for that fast start, I wonder am I allowed think up a Plan C mid race? Beep, 5:48 it feels like we’re still going uphill and I’m beginning to look for the water station.
We’re running along country roads, through puddles, past cows and green fields. The Phoenix Park in Dublin is a beautiful place but it’s not a patch on running out here. Kids sitting on their garden walls looking for Mums or Dads to support as we run by. Dogs running alongside us making sure we keep pace, the sweet smell of farmers yards keeping our minds focused on finishing as quickly as we can.
Beep, 5k done in 5:56. This is quite good actually, I’m not feeling too tired and I’m approaching the point of running further than I’ve run in a long time. Theres supposed to be a big hill at 7k. Save some energy, you’ve banked the time, make this hill your target, conquer it, make it something to look forward to.
Beep, 6k, 5:58/km. More uphill than down in this race it seems, no one told me that. Legs are feeling good and theres a definite lift knowing that there is less distance to go than I’ve run so far. If I stop now I’ll just have to wait ages for a car to pick me up so I may as well keep going.
Beep, 7k in 5:58 again. Jeez I’m good, thats some pretty metronomic pacing, I’ve completely forgot the timing spikes that have gone before this. ‘Did I miss the hill?’ ‘Nope, its just ahead‘. When you’re at this end of the crowd you get a chance to have a chat with the runners beside you. The hard part is over I’m told. Its all downhill from here and in running thats a good thing.
Beep 8k done, I know I’m going to finish now but the legs are beginning to tire. Plan A achieved, I’m trying to do the maths on Plan B and I think the hour could be on. 5:45 for that last km, we really must be going downhill. I spot a fellow runner clearly flagging and looking like he wants to drop out. ‘Come on, stick with me and we’ll finish this together‘ I whisper as I pass his shoulder. I’ve been there and I know how a bit of support in the last few kilometres can help. In fact it was probably as much for my benefit as it was for him. I told him I’d see him to the finish, I’d better keep up my end of the bargain now!
Beep, 9k down, thats the home straight, but I had missed the 9k marker and in fact I had missed the watch beeping too. I hadn’t a clue where I was and how we were doing. The crowds were getting bigger and there was the GAA club, that must be somewhere close to the village and the finish. As it turns out 9k was at 5:43. Me and my new pal were doing just fine.
‘How long left?’, ‘I don’t know, aren’t you a local?’ ‘Nope, I’m from Dublin’. ‘OK so’. We were in this together, both a little lost but in it together. I ran ahead & he caught up, then it was his turn to let me to work off him. We pulled each other along like the worlds worst pacing team until we turned the corner & the finish was in sight.
Beep, just before the line. 5:21/km and the race is over. Bananas, water, medal, say thanks to my new friend and try not to fall off the pier as I negotiate my way along the path. Legs still there and feeling good actually. 10k done, now its back to the parish hall for tea and cakes. Cakes for Gods sake, donuts, flapjacks, muffins, cupcakes, rocky road squares, danish pastries and croissants too. Heaven, if this is how they do these local races I’m never going pack to the Phoenix Park again…
– previous 10k PB: 50:34
– Final finish time 58:05
– Garmin Data HERE