Race number 7 in the Mayo League out at Ballyhaunis - about a 50 minute drive from Galway. I hadn't run the course before and I was looking forward to some kind of hit-out to get back into race-mode and hopefully give me the kick up the backside to get back into proper training.
Arrived in time to register and do a short couple of kms warm-up (I was using my new racing flats straight out of the box). It was a very windy day which wasn't going to help things and I had been pre-warned that there were some nasty hills in the 4th and 5th kms. A poor turnout with only about 100 runners fronting up - can't really explain why as there didn't look to be too many other races on the calendar.
The start was a strange one - I thought the countdown to the start was a dress rehearsal but it turned out it was the real thing and I was left a few rows back before I started my run. I quickly moved through the field to get in second position behind a smaller runner. As we ran through the town it was very quick as the course was steep downhill. After about 400m we took a right turn and it immediately become tougher as we were now running directly into a very strong wind. At around the 1km mark I took the lead with the smaller guy doing the sensible thing and tucking in behind me.
The next couple of kms were tough - the road was dead flat but the wind was a real strength sapper. I was gradually slowing and just before the turn at 3km the guy behind me had moved back into the lead and was pushing on. Another right turn and it was time to get stuck into the hills. I was moving okay but I was losing a little ground on the leader. I kept telling myself to stick with it as I knew the last few kms would be quick. The fifth km was really tough. I felt like walking up (what I hoped) would be the final climb and I kept expecting someone to come up behind me but surprisingly that never happened.
Through 5km and finally some quicker terrain. I was only about 10 seconds down on the leader and I was still confident I could get close. One final right turn and we had a nice flat/downhill stretch back into town with the wind on the back. I ran as hard as I could but didn't seem to be making any inroads into the leader. At the 7km marker I knew the win looked unlikely and I upped the pace as best I could but with no joy. With about 500m remaining we made a left-turn and there was a nice flat stretch up to the finish line. I crossed the line in 26:22 for second place some 11 seconds behind the winner.
Happy enough with that - a strange race as the first km, and the last 3kms felt really comfortable. The 4kms in between though were really tough. There was no in between. Probably a better run that I was expecting given my piss poor preparation. Well done to the winner - Con Doherty. It turns out he is one of the top junior triathletes in the country and with a 5km PB of 15:10 he is no mug at running! Great to be mixing it with a guy over 20 years your junior!
Here are the splits:
4km 3:13 (13:11)
8km 3:06 (13:11)
I though the 4th km was hilly but the split doesn't suggest that. Perhaps there was some downhill in there that I forgot about? Or perhaps it was the relief of getting out of that headwind? Dunno. A nice finish running the last 3kms in 9:31 and funnily enough even splits...
I finished up with a 4km warm-down. All up 14kms for the day. I couldn't stay for the presentation as I had to be back in Galway by 6pm but there looked to be a very good spread in place for the runners in the clubhouse. A good afternoon out and well worth the trip.