Distance 4.32 miles
Elevation Gain 340m
Result - 1st in 31.18
This was a real ball breaker of a race right from the word go. Thats the difference when its a short and sharp blast I suppose. Its a real shock to the system at this stage whenever I do this type of race because of my usual much more leisurely pace over longer distances. The race starts at a crossroad in the town and heads out the Claragh road for about 800 metres before taking a sharp left onto a narrow lane to start the long uphill to the summit. The route then goes through a stile on the right to begin its steep ascent up through the forest. The surface here was nice and soft but also laden with roots and small rocks so I was already thinking about the fun I was going to have negotiating this on the way down at the speed the gradient was bound to allow. Anyway the pace was a little hot for my liking on the initial road stage and I had to make do with chasing the main bunch of 9 or 10 eager runners. Once the route started on the long pull upwards, I was able to start pulling back a few places and by the time we had exited the forest and on to the open mountain, there was just James Doran and Donal Coffey ahead of me. The gradient then increased and I could feel the burning in my quads as the effort increased. It was now a real struggle to take in enough air to keep the legs working and I decided not to waste any extra effort by rubbing the flailing spittle from my mouth and face (I know, very classy!). As we neared the summit I made up another place and only had Donal in front of me to chase. However I took a bad line,resulting in losing back that place to Rob Cleary who was motoring well. At the summit we had to go around the cross and retrace our steps back to the start. It was quite a technical descent back down and myself and Rob both passed Donal. Rob had now opened up a bit of a gap. This descent was the best I have felt in any downward portion of a mountain race and it's probably a lot to do with just relaxing and throwing yourself in to it and hope nothing goes SNAP!! There was some shimmying to be done around the now strung out line of bodies on their way to the cross. I managed to close the gap a bit by the time we were back at the forest, and then it was time to start the fancy footwork through the uneven forest floor. At this stage Mike Cunningham had made up a lot of ground and had moved in to third. So I kept pushing hard knowing that he wasn't giving up the chase. As we exited through the stile and back on to the lane, I was 15 or 20 metres back. The long downhill section on the lane felt better than expected as I was worried about how my legs would feel on the harder ground, especially as I had done 9 and a half miles in the forest at home earlier in the morning, just in case I decided not to race that evening. Perhaps not the best preperation before a race!
Turning to get back on the main road, I had made up the additional few metres and I was now side by side with Rob. The last 300 metres are on a nice little pull up the road to the crossroads and thats where I decided to throw in a burst and hope that he wouldn't be able to respond. And to my relief I opened up a little gap. I could still hear Rob suffering just behind so therewasno relaxing in the last few metres. This was definately the closest I've come to gawking at any finish line!!
This is a lovely course and has a nice mix of forest, mountain track and elevation. Once again IMRA show that money is not what matters when putting on a good event. The relaxed atmosphere at the start is a refreshing difference from the sometimes intense concentration exhibited by some at the bigger road races.
It was back to the Community hall afterwards for tea, scones, fruit bread and biscuits and the prizegiving. I am now the proud owner of a new coffee plunger. Thaks to all the lads who helped put on a great evenings entertainment.