Monday, February 22, 2010

Race Report #38 - And then there was one

Another Sunday, another field in some random county in Ireland to run around, thanks to the bizarre racing calendar that is the Irish one. Each year there are four different National Cross Country titles up for grabs, in four different locations, in four different months. This year they've been in Kilbeggan (Westmeath), Coleraine (Derry), Boyle (Roscommon) and in two weeks time the final one is in Dublin. At the end of it all I'll have taken part in three of them. And people wonder why the participation levels are so low in all these National races. They can't seriously expect everyone to travel to all these races every year?!

I'll save my moaning about the race calendar for another day, even though I do love a good moan. Yesterday's 10km (*cough* 7.5km *cough*) took place in the aforementioned Roscommon. I have some West of Ireland prejudices about the weather and was convinced it was going to be wet and cold. The fact that the course was in the middle of a forest, beside Lough Key, didn't help to play down these fears. Throw in the fact that there were going to be three adult races us and countless kids races (I'm convinced they only hire these kids for the day to dig up the course) on before us and I was, without doubt, prepared for the worst course imaginable.

When we got there (no rain or snow in sight) and found out that there was going to be 7 laps of the course (1 small and 6 long) I decided to do away with the lap of the course to see what it was like. Sure wouldn't I find that out easy enough on one of the numerous? I found my way to the local establishment that served coffee and chilled there until around 50 minutes before my race was due to begin. Then it was the usual pre-race routine - Attach number to singlet (Some wise guy decided to put me on the county team - no pressure there then!), jog around the forest trails, come back to bag, spikes/shorts/singlet on, few strides, line up, race.

I can't say the start of my race was as nonchalant as last week's. With so many people bustling about the place its hard to just sit in and relax into the race - some people are going too slow, some are zipping by and weaving in and out. I went for the weaving technique myself, keeping my eyes on people ahead that I knew I should be up around. One lap in and I started to move - six times up and down the hill to go. Too my relief/surprise there were only two areas that were churned up and they weren't getting that much worse with hundreds of people trampling all over them. The laps were going by so quickly that it's hard to differentiate one from the other. They all followed the same theme really. Pass people on the hill going up, run down fast and try not to fall with gangly legs going everywhere, try catch people on the next straight, round the bend, through the mud, avoid people losing shoes, feel knackered, another straight to work on, more mud, Up the hill...

With four laps to go I remember feeling absolutely knackered and thought that I was going to have to sit in and just get around the remaining 6km. I decided to concentrate on my stride for a bit and gradually I caught up with those in front. Once I moved past them, the tiredness left and I was motoring again. The fact that one of that group had finished ahead of me a few races back probably spurred me on more and I tackled the hill again.

The problem with moving through the field is that you never know how many people actually stay with you. Coming down the hill for the last time I was saying to myself that there was only 600m to go, to just stay with it. Slowing down at all now could easily cost 5 places. As we went around the bend and through the mud for the last time one guy went by me to my left. There were now three a few metres ahead. As the line came into view someone went flying by my right hand side.
This could cost me a county medal. Here we go again... another poxy sprint finish.
Coming out of the mud the last time someone on the sidelines calling out positions had said I was in 33rd. That fast lad zipping by pushed me into 34th. Nothing to do but grit teeth and run to the line. 31st. No idea if it was enough for a county medal because I have no clue who was on the county team. Without seeing the county team I'd imagine I was the 8th/9th/10th from my county home which wouldn't have been enough to score.
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