We are in the middle of packing to move house so there’s not too much training going on this week. The highlight of the week was running the Clontarf half marathon with Ais, John and Bren on Saturday.
I was under instructions to run hard. The thinking being there would be plenty of time for the legs and body to recover as I’m not going to be training to much.
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I figured that I was in sub 1hr30 shape. I wasn’t quite sure just how “sub” that would be though. Clontarf is just about the flattest course I’ve ever run but over six kilometres of it is run across the beach on sand which slows you a bit. It probably balances out if I’m honest. A course with some hills would possibly have a similar effect on the overall speed and result.
Anyway that’s the excuses out of the way.
If it all goes to shit it’s because of the sand, ok? Good, let’s get on with it so.
If you’re not into the whole race report thing ad just want the numbers and Strava file click on through and scroll to the bottom of the post.
I started with the one hour thirty pacers and slotted in the middle of the group. I was too lazy to do much of a warm up and knew that I’d probably be pretty uncomfortable at their pace for the first thirty minutes or so but I figured I could suck it up until I either blew up or settled into it.
The pacers must have been putting time into the bank for the sand sections later in because we were ticking off the k’s 5-10 seconds faster than I reckoned we should have.
Even so I was happy enough to be either putting in something of a buffer in case I faded or if I was able to push for a faster time later on.
When we hit the sand on the way out (Clontarf is an out and back course so we would run the 3k beach section twice) I started to struggle and found myself drifting backwards through the group. When runners stopped coming by me I looked back to realise that it had split. I was last man and I was in danger of going out the back too.
I dug in and clawed my way back but within a minute I was drifting backwards and again I was of the back of the bunch.
I thought that I’d look pretty stupid after my confident predictions of a comfortable sub one hour thirty run if I got dropped six kilometres in. I surged to regain contact with the runner in front of me.
It was just as I regained contact that I realised that I wasn’t actually hurting that badly. In fact it was nothing more than slight discomfort. I was breathing a little hard but my legs were ok.
“You’d better get your shit together you lazy fucker Cummins. You are not getting dropped because you’re in some minor discomfort”
I forced myself to get back into the group and right up to the front. I tucked in behind the pacers who were having quite a comfortable chat. Stupid showing off fuckers.
We finally turned off the beach and back onto the seafront road. I stayed tight in the group all the way to the turn around. There was some surging as we turned around a cone and came to the drinks station a minute later and again I found myself feeling like drifting out the back and again gave myself a mental kick up the arse for being soft.
I imagined having to explain to Ais that I’d gotten dropped even before things started to hurt.
So I sucked it up.
A couple of minutes later Ais cruised past in the opposite direction waving and smiling and chatting to John and looking like she was much more comfortable than I was.
I was really glad I hadn’t gotten dropped.
About a kilometre later it suddenly felt like the group slowed. I almost ran into the runner in front of me before skipping out to the left and around him. I slotted in again and again nearly tripped over the next guy in front.
My Garmin buzzed with another kilometre split I glanced down to see we’d gone through the last k in 4:09. We hadn’t slowed. I guessed that at this stage we had over a minute in the bank.
And I still felt like I was tripping over the guy in front. It gradually occurred to me that my legs had finally woken up. It’s about fucking time too lads.
Now I was faced with the dilemma of whether to sit in for the easy ride to the finish or to make the risky move of going off the front of the group. The second choice would be made hoping I didn’t blow my lights five minutes later, get swallowed up then spat out the back of the group. In the process looking like a complete idiot.
I was still considering the choices when my legs took matters into their own hands. I found myself surging off the front without realising I’d decided on that course of action.
“What the absolute fuck?”
I was trying to decide if cursing at my legs would help the situation when I spotted three runners up the path ahead. I could hear Asho telling me to “go and hunt those motherfuckers down”
I pushed on and could see the gap coming down. I thought that I could also still hear the group behind me and the fear of getting caught kept me working hard. I caught them before the beach and moved past. I looked up ahead to pick another target.
My breathing was hard now and I tried to calculate how long I had to go. I thought there was eight kilometres left. At just over four minute k’s that was probably under thirty three minutes. That being said I didn’t quite trust my mental arithmetic abilities just at that moment.
I thought I could hang on that long as long as the second time across the beach didn’t fuck up my legs too badly. I might even have some sub four minute k’s at the end and dip into a faster time.
That thought lasted just as long as it took to hit the sand. My effort went through the roof at the same time as my pace slowed.
“Fuck! I’m going to get caught and look like a complete spanner!”
I pushed harder despite the fact that I was already close to my limit. A runner caught me and drifted past. I tried to match his pace and lasted about thirty seconds before having to back off.
Another one came up alongside and told me to dig in. He’d been following me for the last ten minutes and said I should stick on his shoulder. His encouragement dragged me through another minute before I started drifting backwards again.
I could finally see the end of the fucking sand and we turned on to the Bull Wall wooden bridge. I could hear runners coming up behind which kept me running with the fear of being caught boiling in my stomach.
I surged again trying to force myself not to slow and focused on reeling in runners ahead instead of worrying about getting caught. I could hear Ais in my head telling me to push. My breathing was ragged and rasping and everything hurt.
I was catching a strung out group of runners. I was on my limit but pushed anyway. I knew there was less than two kilometres to go. I tried to figure how long that would take but my brain wouldn’t cooperate. It was too busy cursing at me to slow the fuck down and become horizontal.
I came up to the back of the group and pushed harder so that they wouldn’t try to come with me. I was so far past my limit that I didn’t know if I could hold on for the last kilometre.
I started measuring the distance in “tracks” “There’s less than two laps of an athletics track to go” I told myself “That’s not far. Push” I looked at the watch hoping desperately I had enough time to get in with a 1:27. Who the fuck knows why a 1:27 half marathon was all of a sudden the most important thing in my entire existence. That and passing one more runner.
I crossed the line and stopped my watch. It said 1:28:03.
I thought there might have been a couple of seconds either side of the start and finish line timing mats that might slip me below 1:28 but I wasn’t sure.
I took a couple of minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to puke. Or faint. Or die. And started to jog back out the course to meet Ais coming in.
John passed me and shouted that Ais was just behind him. I saw her coming and turned to run in with her. As I sped up I started to question the wisdom of this course of action. You could have waited at the finish line like any normal person Cummins. What the fuck is wrong with you? Of course Ais was pushing hard for the last couple of k’s too so I was running pretty hard again. This time on legs that felt wooden and sore. Thankfully it was over quickly and I was able to become horizontal.
In the end I was quite happy with the result. Especially given the fact that I seem to be getting faster the less I run. Who knew that would happen?
You can check out the run or any of my training and racing on Strava at the link here
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