Had marked this one off in the calendar for ages as my first venture into trail/mountain running. Didn’t have the smoothest few weeks training since the Clonmel Half Marathon 5 weeks ago but was still feeling pretty good. Importantly I did get down to run a recce of the course 2 weeks ago. Did that in just under 2 hours so was pretty hopeful of getting under 1’45” for the race itself.
The weather on the day was good, dry and about 14 degrees, which was great given the rain earlier in the week and the day after (now). Arrived about an hour beforehand with Marian and the boys and after I signed in they headed off to Cahir Castle for a while. Jogged around for a bit and had a few sprints to get warmed up, didn’t seem to be too many others doing the same. About 70 maybe assembled at the start and after a quick briefing it was a pretty casual 5-4-3-2-1 start.
The first 500m or so was downhill on the road so an opportunity to stretch out the legs, could see a handful of guys already disappearing off but was up around the first 10 or so at this stage. Didn’t want to go too hard cos the 21k is still a pretty long distance for me race wise and there was a lot of climbing to come. Got into a nice rhythm when the uphill started and for a while settled in behind a young kid who was going well (I believe he finished in just over 2hours which is very impressive). Eventually passed him on another uphill bit and when I rounded the corner onto the main Slievenamuck hill could see a couple of the front runners off near the top of it (distances are deceptive on that hill!). That hill was tough going, very short stride, heavy breathing felt like stopping to walk as I got nearer the top but kept it going.
Once over the top I started to quicken up but needed a minute or so to recover from the climb. Then when I did push on the downhill I got a bad stitch or something in my right side so had to eventually ease off and take it handy for a bit. Once down off slievenamuck it was a relatively flat gravel trail all the way out to the road so I managed to get a good pace going but again I was conscious of trying not to go too hard to keep something for the remaining climbs. Flew past the aid station at the road but then it was a case of slow up and fast down for a while over some tough little hills. Was still feeling ok at this stage and thinking of getting below 1’40 but as soon as I hit the far road and that short climb before re-entering the forest my legs were starting to struggle.
Jumped the barrier for some reason, it was low so seemed easier to just stay going straight than veer around it. Two more short steep climbs in this section had my legs really heavy but once the second one was cleared I knew from the recce that was the worst of it and there was only 4k left at this stage. Tried to kick on a bit but wasn’t finding a lot. Passed the Christ the King and the friendly aid station and back into the forest on a bit of a tricky path with steps and lots of tree roots (I had gotten a bit lost here on the recce and gone on a lower path). Had a nice big downhill starting the last kilometre but even with that I really couldn’t muster much of a strong finish and was pretty much just waiting for the finish line to appear which it finally did as I stopped the watch around 1’40″30.
Happy with the time and was greeted by Marian and the boys as I came through. Typically though I was thinking if only I had mustered a bit more pace near the end I would have gone under 1’40 but in all honesty my legs were pretty dead in the last 4 or 5k. Had 2 lovely pints of Guinness and a bit to eat in the pub but couldn’t wait around any longer for the results and presentations so hit the road home tired but happy.
A well run event, the course was excellently marked and there was a good friendly camaraderie around the whole thing. Will definitely have it in the calendar for next year where hopefully I’ll step up to the marathon or even the ultra depending on how the legs cope with the increase in miles.