Lured here by the promise of scenery and muffins we arrive to the Lakes around 10 am. The rain has cleared and we’re left with a watery grey morning, a cool 16 degrees and no breeze. These are perfect conditions for a run.
Neither Conor, Sandra or myself are hell bent on a warm up. En route we’ve passed Gareth and Karol out the road doing their routines and it looks a bit intense. Instead we put down the time by asking a man who’s trying to put on his runners to take a picture of us with the lake.
Then there’s a meander down to collect our numbers (seamless) and visit the portaloos (which are of a particularly high standard, just short of having elevator music). The smiling faces of Val, Anne, Phil and Lorna all materialize from the assembled runners and Myles appears offering some welcome support. Between chats and photos, before you know it, it’s “go” time and there’s been no warm up.
Warm-up faux pas aside, I’ve put a lot of thought into this race. Having read several of Gareth Murran’s race reports I realise it’s important to have a strategy in place. So I’ve studied the elevation map and consulted veterans (i.e. Aoife: “There’s a big hill at kilometre 6/7 but after that you’ll be laughing.”) The plan is to keep as close to my “still breathing” pace of 5 minutes per km for the first 6kms, to just keep going on the hill and then for the last 3km run headlong towards the muffins.
Registering for this back in July, on the back of getting around two races with virtually no training, I resolved that if I could just up my training a few hundred percent to like, 3 times a week, I could achieve my ambition to break 50 minutes in a 10k and be done with that hateful distance for good. My gruelling training regime since then (no need to take notes, I’ll send ye on the power point slides) has included, inter alia, running one and a half times up Mount Anville hill and numerous circuits around a field of bewildered sheep down in Tipp. Pay off came with a big PB at the Rock and Roll 10k in August but it turns out that training doesn’t really suit me and, in the week up to this race, I’m creaking like a broken gate with niggles (real or imaginary) from my right shoulder to my left ankle.
In spite of the meticulous planning I’m nearly 2km into the race before I realise I’ve forgotten to turn on the watch. There’s momentary dismay that that 8 minutes of my running life will never be synced to Strava but this is no time for a meltdown. The first 2km of the route is bordered by trees. 10k is a lonely distance; short enough to need hard effort but too long to hold concentration. It took a supreme effort to break 50 minutes a few weeks back I’m reluctant to let it go and yet neither body nor mind are hungry for the exertion today. I fall into step with a non-sportsworld pal who I know is also aiming for a sub 50. Around the 2k mark Lorna Quinn, who rumour has it is just back from injury, glides by at a steady pace. Happily, I’m aware that Lorna could probably outrun me on crutches so I just stay chugging away.
The road opens up a bit. There’s no crowding, there are glimpses of the lake now and there’s not a lot of movement in the race. My legs feel heavy but every time this thought creeps in I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do this, focus on the scenery and breathe. Though I’m running alongside my pal both of us are working hard and there’s no chat. Then it’s the halfway mark, signalled by a water stop and a noticeable turn at the top of the lake. We’re over half way now but I’m aching and tired and wishing the infamous hill would just come. When it does ( wonderfully signposted, as is all the course), I’m so relieved to be this far along that I don’t worry too much about the hill itself. Just stay going and don’t use it all up. There’s a sharp decline thereafter and I make the mistake of breaking into my pre-planned Muffin gallop and going down too quickly. It’s something I’ve done in all my races this year, looking for cheap gains from the downhill but today the impact reverberates up my limbs and jostles my stomach and by the time I get to the bottom I feel nauseous. After that, there’s not the gradual decline that I’d expected but rather a slight incline from about 8.5 kilometres compounded by a light breeze into our faces. So the muffin run idea gets shelved and there’s really no plan B except to stay going. Then it’s the last 500 and, the welcoming sound of Myles cheering us home. I realise only then that Sandra Kelly is close behind and gaining on me. She steams by with about 200 metres to go and I have no response in the tank. But it has been enough to scape a tiny PB on the big PB of August so that’s a satisfying reward to an unwisely overreaching effort on the day.
While I’ve been close to death to get sub 50 Karol has rumbled in in 5th place with a time of 33:31 followed by Phil and a “jogging” Gareth both in under 36 minutes.
After collecting our medals and goodie bags we reconvene for the essential 2 hour coffee and lunch session and the good company and chats put things right with the world again.