Another instalment of the Mayo League. Claremorris is tough course with a couple of big climbs, plenty of smaller drags, but a nice flat section along the main road. It was again quite windy but the weather was much cooler and for the first time in a while it wasn't humid.
I ran a couple of miles warm-up taking in the first big climb. The field looked a bit thin but I guess that's to be expected when there are so many races on at the moment. Soon the whistle sounded and I immediately went to the front with John Byrne who like me was having a final hit-out before the National Half next weekend.
Up the first big climb and I deliberately held back a little as I didn't want another mushroom cloud a la Claregalway. I tried to run as relaxed as possible and upon reaching the top we both pushed on for a nice downhill stretch through to the first mile. The wind seemed to be against us but it wasn't too bad. The second mile turned out to be my slowest of the race. A few drags to deal with and I focused on sitting in behind John. There was no surges like when we both met at Annaghdown, this time the pattern seemed to be me pulling away a little on the hills (yes you read that correctly), with John coming straight past me on the flats/downhills. I don't know what's happened but I just don't have the gears to put in the surges at the moment.
Soon we had reached the main road and it was still neck and neck. This section was quick and I was struggling to keep up with John and I let a small gap develop a few times which I then had to work hard to recover. Just before we turned off the main road I made another break for the lead but this was short-lived as we made the turn for the run back into town.
The pace was still quick and I had a feeling this was going to go down to the wire. One final turn later we had the long straight run back to the finish. At 4 miles we were greeted with a long climb and I decided to make a break. I pushed it all the way to the top of the climb and it was one of those climbs where the top always looked in sight but you never quite got there. Finally as the road flattened out I had opened up a few seconds gap and feeling good I pushed on for the final descent and flat section up to the finish (helped by the wind). I crossed the line in 26:06 for the win with John 11 seconds further back.
I felt much better about today then some of my recent performances and it's probably my best run since Annaghdown back in June. The pace felt okay and the time is only 2 seconds slower than what I ran last year on the same tough course. McM has that down as a 25:56 performance for 8km so nice to dip under 26 for the first time in a while.
I ran another couple of miles warm-down to give me 14.4kms for the day.
Here are the splits:
Nice to finish with a sub 5 minute mile. A "sort-of" confidence booster for next week and the last 3 miles were covered at an average pace of 3:12/km.
Out in the evening for a couple of beers and a game of darts. It was only right that I had to go and celebrate after getting back into the winners enclosure...