Saturday, February 14, 2009

Race Report #19 - The loneliness of the race with no one around

No records set today but there was a first. Well more accurately a second. My first podium finish, although there was no podium... I wish there had been a podium as my tallness would have had me towering over first place. Ah well, another day maybe.

With the national intermediate tomorrow there was never going to be a fast field in today's race so from the off I was to the front. The leader had a slight gap over me immediately and there was never a danger of me closing it. My plan was to go out easy over the first kilometre and then to push on. By 1km the gap had widened between myself and the leader. Already the thought of keeping a respectable distance was in my head, but the lead just kept growing and there really was nothing I could do about it. The real strange thing was that I could no longer hear any footfalls behind me. New fears that I hadn't experienced in racing were now in my head. How far clear am I? Can I hold onto this position? These fears stayed with me right until the 9km mark.

By 3km the race leader was well clear of me and it was just a case of staying strong and running hard. Looking at photos there, *cough cough*, it looks like there was a bigger gap between third place and me than between first and me at the 3km mark (I did not know this during the race). As anyone who has raced in the Phoenix Park knows, the second half of this course is the worst. At the Chapelizod gate, which is around the 6km mark, you start a climb into the 'S bends'. This climb and the 'S bends' last close to 2km. Through this stage of the race I could no longer really see first place. As I started the climb at 6km he was just going out of sight. At the end of this section there's a lovely downhill before starting into the Kyber, a one kilometre uphill which drained me completely. My pace here was stop start to say the least. Bolts of energy would see me digging right in, before slowing right down. With no one pushing me from behind (except the fear) and no one in front that I was going to catch this climb was soul destroying.

After the 9km mark there's a section where you run in the opposite direction to the runners behind you, if that makes sense. It was here I finally got to see where 3rd place was. About a minute behind me. 2nd place was secure, but there was still 800m straight of running to go. As I was getting closer I could see the clock saying 34:20, I knew the PB wasn't here today, all I had to do was dig deep to make sure I got in before the 35 minute mark.

Final time 34:54*. It's hard to know whether I'd have preferred a few people around to push me on and knock my time down over a 2nd place finish. That's something for another day, today I'm chuffed to be able to go out into town tonight and celebrate a second place finish.

* possibly a few seconds more but that's what the clock said when I went under!
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