Dublin Mountain Plod
17 July, 2012The Dublin Mountain Plod,
Iâ€™d been looking forward to tackling this race again. Iâ€™d missed last yearâ€™s event due to an ankle injury received on Brockagh which had me out of action for 2 months and in the inaugural year it was my first attempt at running longer than 12km and memories of pain flutter vividly in recollection of that first attempt. And the time had arrived to banish those memories.
Even though Iâ€™m out of bed at 5:00am with the kids I still find myself rushing around the house packing gear/food/water bottle at 9:30am and wondering will I make registration in time. I hope into car and speed off hoping I have everything with me.
I arrive at Marley and jog over to the tent to register, I sign up and collect my number and nice tech top, all runs smoothly and I think great job by the Dermot and his team of volunteers. Back up to the car and get changed for the race, once Iâ€™m done I start to relax and stroll over to the start line to get some stretches in. I meet up with 2 mates from work (Philip & Ben) and I give them some last minute details of the route before Dermot gathers all the runners around for a race briefing and then calls us to the start line.A quick good luck and hand shake to John Condon who Iâ€™d been chatting to in the car park and then weâ€™re off.
Iâ€™ve ended up too near the front and find the group pulling me along I settle into a comfortable stride and start to work my way around the Marley park loop ignoring the other runners surging past. I glimpse my friend Phillip attached to the lead group up the front and wonder how long heâ€™ll hold that pace. My Garmin beeps at the 1km mark and I take a quick glance; 4:36 min/km. I think damn this is way too fast for me, my best time this year in training for 21km was 2:03:35 and I was aiming to start the first 4km on road at a 5:15 min/km pace. F%&% it Iâ€™m feeling relaxed so decide to just keep moving and to dial things back when I start to hurt.
I reach the 4km mark (start of Masseyâ€™s woods) averaging 4:50 min/km, the number of runners passing me has dropped off and I start to wonder if Iâ€™ve reached that point where people stop passing me and I start reeling people in. I shout a quick hello to the Marshal at the entrance to Masseyâ€™s, cross the river and start the first little climb in Masseyâ€™s. My previous ponderings are put to bed as Iâ€™m passed by a group of 5 runners working well together, I think about tagging onto the back of them but decide to just keep doing what Iâ€™m doing. No point me trying to race anybody at this point Iâ€™ll just wreck myself. Typically the only part of a race that I race is the last km when I know the end is near and the start of Masseyâ€™s is not the place to be getting grand illusions of my capabilities.
I keep a steady pace up the fire road and notice the group that past me have slowed down and start to come back to me, by the time the fire road drops down again Iâ€™m at the back of the group. I relax into the gradual decent and lazily stretch out my legs and start to mentally picture the climb to come, up to the fire road in Cruagh woods. I take a quick mouthful of water from my bottle as it will be Cruagh woods before Iâ€™ll have another easy moment to take on water. I hit the hairpin that marks the next climb and Iâ€™m passed by a new group of runners who all keep their moment from the decent on to the start of the climb. I settle back into my climbing stride and start to plod away on my own again. At the steeper sections in Masseyâ€™s I start to see people walking in front and get a little boost as I pass the walkers.
As I reach the top of Masseyâ€™s woods my legs are still feeling good and Iâ€™ve been going faster than any of my training runs all year, but I start to wonder how itâ€™s going to affect me later. Gavin Doherty bumps me out of my musings as he runs up beside me with a warm hello, we cross the road and run up to the stile to Cruagh Woods together. We hit the fire road and Gavin pulls away. A few other runners have past me in the meantime and I recognise a few of them as the walkers in Masseyâ€™s.
As the fire road levels off I stretch my legs and then decide to give a little push on the next little climb to the top of Cruagh, I keep my stride short but increase my cadence and the heart and legs start to feel some strain I keep this up to the top of Cruagh Woods, eyeâ€™s focused on my shoe laces. I try to run through the summit and get some momentum from the decent before I ease back on the effort, that hurt! I take about 30 seconds to rest get another mouthful of water and then focus on relaxing and stretch out my legs for the decent to Pine Forest road.
Gavin Doherty popâ€™s out of the bushâ€™s and I make some unintelligible comment about P breaks and running. We settle into the decent and start to reel in the runners in front, Iâ€™m pushing harder than I think wise and my legs are starting to feel weak, the faster start is begining to hit me. I decide to make the most out of the decent with Gavin and plan to take a rest on the climb up Tribraden. We sail past the water station where I take a swig from my own bottle and then quickly hit the hairpin turn to the start the climb up Tribraden. I say good bye to Gavin and slow right down for the beginning of the climb. A few more runners pass me here but with 3 or 4 minutes Iâ€™ve caught back up to them and pass them.
As I leave the fire road and join the trail up Tribaden I see a walker in the distance and aim to catch him before the top. I put my head down and catch him at about the half-way point, I keep going but i'm starting to hurt. I get over the steepest section and then ease back, then whoosh! Iâ€™m passed at speed by a lady runner. She pulls away for about a hundred meters before I can get my pace back up to match. I keep my eyes down on the rocks as I scan the ground for my next foot spots over this tricky part of the trail on tribanden. I get to the board walk glance up and nobody in sight, I ease back on the board walk and take a drink as I crest the hill. I can see the lady runner has doubled the gap and is passing two other runners. I regroup, tell myself to relax and try and stretch out on the next level section as I get back into my stride I start to close the gap on the two runners in front and then pass them on the little decent down to the Wicklow way. Iâ€™m feeling empty now and purely using gravity but as we hit the Wicklow way Iâ€™ve closed the gap with the â€œWhooshâ€ lady runner to about 5 meters.
But then she pulls away again on the new path section which I really struggle with. Iâ€™m expecting to be passed by the two guys I had just passed but I donâ€™t hear anything. I hold out and make it to the rocky trail that leads up to the base of fairy castle. I employ my bouncy bouncy stride and think of light steps, this gets me moving again and I start to pick up the pace as the gradient eases. Just before this rocky trail levels out I hear pursuit and somebody comes right up behind me. I ask if they want to get by but get no response and I can here that it a lady runner working hard. I start to get into a nice running stride again and as we level out I can see the â€œWhooshâ€ lady runner in black up ahead and Iâ€™m closing the gap. I pass the lady runner with about 400 meters before the fairy castle base. I hear the two ladies start to chat and I start to pull away from them.
I can see 5 guysâ€™ now running across the base of fairy castle as I approach its base and they all look to be hurting on the little climb. One of the guyâ€™s is wearing a distinctive light blue top and I remember him passing me at the stile in Masseyâ€™s wood. I Push on and pass two of the guyâ€™s on this last little accent. And I start to pick up the pace, itâ€™s all downhill from here and I love downhill. I stretch out the legs and let gravity take me, all I have to do is direct my feet and not trip up. I pass the next 3 guyâ€™s quickly. Light blue top being one of them. I see another runner ahead and aim to pull him in before the next Water station which I do. I hit the fire road take another mouthful of water from my bottle and then let rip. The guy I just passed tryâ€™s to keep up but fades away after 30 seconds.
Half way down I know the pace is killing me and Iâ€™m worried about the flat section at the back of the golf club. A quick glance at the Garmin showâ€™s my pace as 3:45 min/km and I keep this all the way down. As the road levels off I manage to keep my momentum and manage a pace of 4:32 min/km, and my next target comes into sight, Guy in a blue top and white cap looks to be struggling. But as I keep the pace ticking over Iâ€™m not closing the gap. I hit the tarmac and downhill and speed up again.
I can see a string of runners off in the distance now and all I can think of now is holding my place, Iâ€™m not gaining on them but not losing ground either. I keep going, trying to keep everything moving, arms pumping, and steady breathing. As the tarmac starts to level out the runners in front slow down and I start to gain again. I fly past two guys then another two just as we go under the motorway bridge, other side of the bridge I pass one more. Then I see another two halfway up the little climb at the back of Marley and I stretch out forcing myself up the hill maintaining my pace, I catch them as the road levels out and move past them as they ease off after the little climb. I see the white cap and blue top in front; I still havenâ€™t closed the gap with him as he turns into Marley Park.
I hit the gate and turn onto the track and lose all my momentum, my arms, shoulders and legs start to seriously object as I try to get moving again. I see the blue top white cap take the next turn and realise heâ€™s pulling away. 1km to go and Iâ€™m slowing up, I make the next turn and see a guy all in black walking, I try to say come on not far to go but I think I just groan. I turn down onto the grass and all I can think is keep moving donâ€™t be caught, I move through the trees and come out at the corner of the field, Blue top, white cap is just passing through the gap in the wall and heâ€™s gone. I aim for the flag in the corner and start to hear the pursuit behind me. As I turn around the flag I glance back, Eyeâ€™s meet and I see the predator instinct chasing me theirs a bullâ€™s eye on my back and this dude wants to beat me and Iâ€™ve let the cat out of the bag by glancing back. He sees the pain on my face. I hit the tarmac and stretch out again. Iâ€™m thinking, One small hill to go, donâ€™t let him pass, he settles in behind as Iâ€™ve increased the pace, Iâ€™m panting, gasping for air. Next turn I start pumping my arms up the hill and kick for home I try to lose him, I reach the next turn, I canâ€™t hear him, I glance back , Iâ€™ve opened a gap and he looks like heâ€™s given up but I sprint to the finish line to be sure.
I cross the line and quickly look for somewhere to drop my body, Iâ€™m wrecked and soar but delighted, I canâ€™t believe I kept moving even though my body was hurting for so long. Garmin sayâ€™s 1:50:35, Fantastic 13mins faster than my previous best.
What a great venue and route for a race, Big Thanks to everybody who helped put this great event together and well done to all.
Brian O Murchu
15 July, 2012Dublin Mountain Plod
Although I have done the Wicklow Way Trail this year and last, this race was my first half-marathon for 3 years. After completing Mount Leinster last week, the 14k was the longest race Iâ€™ve done since WWT in March. The extra 7k, â€œitâ€™ll be grandâ€ I thought as I pre-entered on Monday.
Paul Oâ€™Grady kindly offered to carpool from Blackrock. Paulâ€™s wife is expecting their second child on Wednesday. They donâ€™t know if itâ€™s a boy or girl yet, but it could be a future IMRA runnerâ€¦
It was great conditions for the race, dry, mostly clear skies and not too warm (especially for a 21k). At the start, unusually there didnâ€™t seem to be too many people keen to be first in line at the starting cones. I started next to Martin Francis as we had been de-briefing our close finish from Mount Leinster the previous week just before DMP started. Right from the off there was four of us in a group off the front as we did our lap around Marlay Park, Kevin English, Aengus Burke, Martin Frances, and myself. As we exited the park Kevin English and Aengus Burke started to pull away with a gap to Martin and another gap to myself.
Martin held that gap for quite a few kâ€™s before I caught and passed him. At this point I was in third place and I started to believe that I would be finding out first hand what is in the envelopes for third place finishers. Running through the woods, I had to admire that the course was very well marked. Then I came to a narrow section where I had to cross a narrow gully and over two or three fences. I was thinking I should have got some Parkour lessons from my cousin Connor Sebo who does free running, which would have really helped here. Especially as another running was coming up from behind. When Peter Oâ€™Farrell caught up with me he starting chatting casually about my footwear, which are NB by the way, and then footwear in general. Then when we exited the forest to cross the road, Peter stopped to chat with one of the course marshals (Vivian, I think). There was no cut-throat race atmosphere here. Peter quickly caught me again and soon disappeared ahead out of sight. For most of the race I though my NB shoes was perfect for DMP, except when we got to the short section of sleepers. The staples sticking out were going through my shoes, and even though I jumped off the boards half way through, I had sore feet from here till the finish.
I did not notice hill #1 change into hill #2, it seemed to me to be one big hill going up and up. But when I got to the water station, I knew that was half way. Ascending Two Rock, there was a bunch of girl guides in red t-shirts cheering me on. But they must have cheered Ciaran Aylward on also, as he caught and passed me just before the summit.
Having not done many IMRA races before this year, in most races I do, if the course is not out-and-back, I can never know how far is left to run. DMP was different as coming off the long final descent I could see Marlay Park in the distance. As the descent changed from fire road to tarmac I realised that last weeks sprint finish at Mount Leinster had left itâ€™s effect on my hamstrings compelling me to hold back on the descending speed. Near the bottom of the descent, just like last week (Mount Leinster) when I thought I had consolidated 5th place I heard a runner come up behind me. And just like last week in a deja-vu moment, it was Martin Frances again. Luckily for me there wasnâ€™t much more downhill and when we took the right hand turn at the junction onto College Road, we were neck-and-neck. It was flat enough from here to the finish and I was able to pull ahead and hold it to the line. Although my sore feet with staple shaped blisters and bruises were distracting me from relishing a fine 5th place finish.
At the finish I saw my manager from work who co-incidentally also ran DMP. It turns out we were only one person short of a 'Threshold' team. I suggested that one of the job requirements for any new staff should be a willingness to participate in IMRA racesâ€¦