This weeks update also includes a report from the Cobh 10 miler that I ended up writing even though someone else wasn’t wearing her singlet.
7 week to go now. It’s getting close!
This is a race week and after a decent paced 20 milers the day before I just needed to get some recovery miles in the legs. Monday morning was a really easy 6K at 5.00 pace. It can feel a bit awkward running slower but sometimes it’s worth forcing a slow pace, no matter what that is, just to loosen the legs out. Monday evening was 14.5K at 4.30 pace, mostly on the grass around Bushy and Terenure College. You never know who you might meet in Bushy but it’s also nice to enjoy the peace and quiet of the college grounds.
With the reduced mileage for the week, I just ran up to training, did the session and then ran home. The session was 8 x 650M. It is always great to have Karol there to help push each other in each interval. It always works well as I’m stronger at the start and Karol gets stronger toward the end. Good times on wet grass and a tick in the box for a great session. Really enjoyed this one. It really hurt!
As it was a race week I just did 19.5k at 4.34 pace and not the 25K that I had planned. I need to find the time to start getting this run up around 15 miles next week. A trip to Phoenix Park after work may be in order. An unanswered question in my mind is, how can you excel without burning out, and how can top performance be achieved sustainability? I love listening to music on the run but it can often lead to a burst of pace when a good track comes on. Recently I’ve been using the Calm meditation app on some of my long runs. The moment you open the Calm app you feel a sense of…calm. Relaxing sounds of falling rain play automatically in the background, but you could also opt to be greeted by lake noises or birds trilling. Calm’s music section—a feature that more and more meditation apps seem to be adding these days—includes over 100 free tracks to help you relax, sleep, or focus. Give it a try whilst running or just at home. It helps me focus on form not pace.
With a race on Sunday, Thursday was another easy day with just 9K at 4.30 pace and a sports massage with Michael O’Grady. If you don’t get a sports massage regularly and run more than 40 miles or so a week, then give it a go with Michael or Justin, in the club. It’s a great way to avoid injury. Next stop Cobh for the 10 miles on Sunday
I arrived at Cobh late on Friday. Cobh, once known as Queenstown on Great island is a pretty town with bright Victorian terraces, overlooking Cork Harbor. It’s a town that hasn’t changed much in the 170 years since Queen Victoria set foot there or since ill-fated Titanic left its last port of call on the morning of April 11th 1912.
Cobh is also the birthplace of Ireland greatest ever distance runner Sonia O’Sullivan. She famously spoke about the hills of Cobh in her early years of running. The Cobh 10 miler is now run in her name. A great ambassador for running, Sonia was out shouting encouragement at me and the other runners for the entire race.
I wanted to get a feel for the place on Saturday morning so I got my shoes laced up at 8 am and headed out along the promenade. With its hilly streets and ‘Deck of Cards’ houses, Cobh even has a touch of San Francisco about it.
Pretty soon I found myself running up and down some beautiful country roads. Passing the forests of Fota, rising over the bridge by Belvelly Castle and skirting Great Island to arrive back at this unique blend of Victorian and Irish heritage. Nobody prepared me for the hills. It was a bit of a shock, even steeper than the Waterworks we use for Sunday long runs.
After 10k, I got back to the hotel and set about exploring East Cork with a few tips from locals Andrea and Tom. East Cork is a relaxed and peaceful place to visit, with many beautiful places to enjoy, from the stately home and wildlife park of Fota to the golden beaches and clifftop walks of Youghal and Ballycotton. The expansive coastline and harbors around historic Cobh has endowed the area with a rich maritime legacy.
Driving along Cork Harbor on a sunny day is quite the sight to be seen. The less travelled roads to Roche’s point and Knockadoon Head are must-sees, along with the spectacular view at Ballycotton and Youghal. It’s always best along the coast but it also worth venturing inland. The fishing villages on the shore give way to lush pastures that supply the fresh local produce that fuels the Midletons foodie scene and the celebrated cookery school at Ballymaloe House, near Shangarry. Despite best efforts, we can’t do everything in a day. I do want to go back and visit Spike island, watch the sunset over Ballycotton lighthouse and spend a bit more time in Cobh itself. I’m a bit obsessed with recent History and it has a tonne.
On Race morning I woke up at 7 to do my standard 1 mile loosen upper. It’s something I picked up many years ago in Lanzarote and I swear by it. Just jog an easy mile and then eat breakfast and drink a pint of water when you get back. My hotel the historic Commodore was 1K from the start so I was able to leave at 8.50 for a 9.30 race. Unfortunately, I had to wear my normal runners as I brought two left racers. Doh! I decided to walk up the giant hill on which the beautiful Cobh Cathedral is perched for fear of using up all my carbohydrate stores before the race even started.
I got to the start and then set about doing some strides. For a 10 mile race if you want to go at race pace from the start you need a short warm-up. If you are going to ease yourself in then it’s ok to just do a short walk or jog. I met Tom first and then Andrea. We got the snap from Lucy Darcy on the start line. After chats with Sean Tobin about World Cross on the start line, we went off at 9.35.
All the paces were in my head. 3.25 pace and nothing left to chance. At least that’s the way it was meant to go down. I’m not sure if it was Lucy saying you have a good chance here today or just that I was feeling really good but I went off at a crazy pace. After 3 km I was 40 seconds ahead of my target time. When I hit the first hill at 3.5k. It was steep, really steep. I could hear the group behind getting closer. I decided to keep pushing on.
At 5k they were on my shoulder. I stayed in a group of 4 for most of the first 10K of the race. Unfortunately, we got to a steep hill around then and I went through a bad patch and got dropped by the group. I’ve been trying to read up on how to keep motivated and focused when you fall behind. The best runners seem to be able to run through the bad spells and come out the other side. I’m not there yet I often concede defeat at these times and start to slow down. Now in 5th, I tried to work my way back up to the group over the next 3 to 4 km but it just wasn’t happening.
For the rest of the race, I pushed on the downhills, trying to make up some ground but the legs weren’t having it. I had my watch set to show average pace as well as current lap pace. I even had Sonia ask if I was alright :).
In hindsight, I won’t go out as fast on that course again. The rest of the course was similarly difficult. It was full of steep hills gradual climbs and seemingly little if any long downhill sections. To tell a lie there were a few downhill sections but my legs were so tired from the uphills. It’s a long time since I struggled this much in a race. I’d compare it with the last 10 km of last years Dublin marathon. Draining in every sense of the word. The welcome to Cobh sign couldn’t have come too soon. I tried to put on in the last 2 kilometres but ended up losing one more position. The line was a welcome sight. Like many of the races, I’ve done recently the course was slightly long. I’m not having much luck in that department. 56.30 on the clock and 6th place.
It’s always a bit frustrating when you taper and don’t get the result you were after but I get plenty of chances to race and can take the positives. I got the pacing badly wrong and underestimated the hills but I fought hard in the second half of the race and despite going from 2nd to 6th enjoyed the experience.
Just catching my breath I saw Andrea cross the line in 71 minutes and Tom finish 78 minutes. Andrea was just over 70 minutes, a very good run on a tough course. She was 11th female, a very strong run. Tom ran 78 minutes and regaled us all with the story of how he heroically gave his jelly beans to a struggling runner. Goodman Tom! I removed him from my nemesis list!
After catching up with Andrea and Tom we went for a tasty eggfast near Fota island and even picked up some baked goods as recommended by a local master baker for the drive home. I’ve given Cork enough compliments though, they make better cakes in Dublin.
If you want a great weekend and a race then I’d recommend Cobh and often overlooked East Cork. If you are just there for the running and want a fast course then this isn’t it. Really enjoyable but possibly the toughest road course I’ve ever run. Enough hills to break your spirit and spit it back out. Ballymaloe House voted Ireland’s Favorite Foodie Experience is on the menu for next year. I intend to dine in my singlet. It is red and white after all. 3 seats at the table are already reserved.