One sequence I definitely expected to fall as that I always managed to improve my finishing position year on year after finishing in 103rd last year, agonisingly missing out on a top-100 t-shirt by 5 seconds. I just am not in the same shape as the same time last year, my training is aimed to have me peak for a later race than in 2013.
Anyway, I made my annual trip to Ballycotton, probably the only 10 mile race I am prepared to drive so far to, but the buzz on the day and the immaculate organisation is always worth it. I lined out closely to Angela McCann - last year I had followed her group for as long as I could, desperately hanging on to the end of it for most of the race and running much faster than I ever thought possible. A repeat would have been nice, even though I feared I would be in way over my head.
However, there are over 2500 runners in one tiny cul-de-sac and it's hard enough to get away unimpeded, so for the first mile I just minded my own business and when I scanned around I could not see her, but I did happen to run right beside an equally fast female runner, Ann-Marie Holland. She was flanked by a couple of her Eagle AC club mates. I guessed this would have to do.
Mostly I tried to run in a relaxed manner rather than pushing the effort too hard, because I know from experience that a 10-mile race can feel much longer than that if you get it wrong early on. They called out the time at each of the first 3 mile points and we were doing 6-minute pace pretty much spot on, though I was pretty sure that would not last. Indeed, our group seemed to slow down and when a couple of runner sped past I clung on to their backs instead. In fact, from that point on I gradually started to make my way up the field, catching a fair number of runners on the way - though I was being passed myself on a few occasions as well.
I reached the halfway point in about 30:10, half a minute slower than last year but still faster than I would have expected. However, we were now turning into the wind and while it was not strong at all, it sure did make running at that pace harder on already tired legs. I had passed an entire group just before halfway but was now fighting the wind on my own, which felt like tough work.
|Mile 7 waterstop. Photo by Kieran Minihane. I feel as old as I look.|
At mile 8 a runner in a red t-shirt passed me and I tried to hang on to his back, which required a significant increase in effort, and from that moment on I was basically redlining. The climb back into Ballycotton started with about 1.5 miles left and I first tried not to kill myself on the first, steeper climb and to keep the rhythm reasonably relaxed but the effort high when it flattened out a bit.
One guy called the time as 55:30 as I passed the 9-mile marker and I figured I should come under 62, which I would have been quite happy with. It was well over a minute slower than last year but what can you do. I dug deep during the last mile and went way back into the pain cave, and if there are any photos of me during that stretch they are probably even worse than usual, I really was giving it all I had. There was massive gap to the runner in front, and even though it might have shrunk a bit I was never going to make up that distance but at least I was not going to get passed either.
When the agony was finally over and I crossed the line I was absolutely shattered and told myself that I could not have run a single second faster. Just then I saw the runner in front of me receiving something yellow from a lady marshall and then she turned over the cardboard box, now empty. At that moment it hit me, the guy in front of me had just received the very last top-100 finisher t-shirt and I had missed out by one, one, just one single blasted damn place. I was dumbfounded; I had not expected to come anywhere near the top-100 but to miss out by one place was just unbelievable. I received my mug and was highly tempted to smash it to smithereens but just about managed to contain myself.
Actually the initial shock wore off quickly. I had never expected to be in the running for a top-100 shirt which made it easier to accept. I didn't blame myself, I really thought I had given it all when I had crossed the line and I was never going to make up the 11 seconds I had been behind the 100th runner. I had managed to run the last, uphill mile in 6 minutes flat; ironically, had I done that last year I would have gotten a t-shirt back then. Instead I have to console myself that my sequence of finishing in increasingly better position has remained intact and if I manage that one more time, that t-shirt will invariably be mine.
I'm not sure why the standard for a top-100 place was lower than last year, the conditions were pretty damn good today, probably better than last year with less wind. At least I managed to find out why I never managed to spot Angela - she had always been behind me. That's pretty much a first!
Update: Mile 9.5 See what I was talking about:
|Photo by Kealan O'Connor.|
- 8 Mar
- 5 miles, 39:59, 8:00 pace, HR 130
- 9 Mar
- Ballycotton 10, 1:01:31, 6:09 pace, HR 172
- 101st place, 20th M40