Very windy on the motorway on the drive to Athenry. This was going to be another tough day - made worse by the over indulgence on the falling down water the previous day.
A token 1.5km warm-up and it was time to line up at the start. A large field of over 1,000 runners and just after 11am we were off. The start of the race has a bit of a climb which you don't really notice then the course flattens out. The wind was swirling around but was predominantly on the back for the start of the race. Through the first km and I was ignoring the watch as I settled into a small group who were chasing 4 other runners who had opened up a decent gap.
After 1km there was a nice downhill section followed by more gradual undulations. I decided to make a break and surged to work away from the small group. I was left in 5th position outright and I was working my way up on 4th. At this point I was feeling great. The wind was still behind and I quickly caught the next runner and went past him. I continued to push the pace as I passed the next few kms. Then at 4km it was time to make a sharp left-hand turn...
It suddenly became very hard. Running directly into the wind coupled with a long gradual climb. The course was more exposed and I knew I had slowed dramatically. I was hanging out for the next km marker and when I got to 5km the course flattened out a little but it was still very exposed and windy.
Midway through the 6th km the course took another left turn which made the wind more bearable. I was feeling okay on the flat/downhill sections, but had nothing on the uphills. Funny that. The back half of the course is still very flat but what undulations there are seem to be more short and sharp. If you were running well you wouldn't notice them but I wasn't feeling great.
The next few kms were all about hanging on. I had the feeling that a couple of runners behind me were closing in but I knew that if I could get to 9km I'd have enough in reserve to finish the race off. That's how it turned out - the last km being very runner friendly with a nice downhill stretch back into town. I enjoyed the finishing chute and managed to cross the line in 4th position in a time of 33:53.
The first 3 runners were in a different class today. Sean Hehir won the race in a super 31:07 with Emmett Dunleavy 2nd in 31:19 and last years winner Gerry Ryan 3rd in 32:30. I reckon the wind was worth close to a minute today so all in all a good hit-out in very trying conditions.
I decided to run the course again as a warm-down to see if it was as tough as I remembered it. It was. So after stuffing myself yesterday I'd had all the stuffing knocked out of me today.
Here are my splits:
A first class race which I thoroughly enjoyed. On a still day this would be a super quick course but that said it's difficult to peak at this time of year. Anyway 21.5kms for the day and now it's time for a few more beers.