Arrived a little too late for comfort after getting carried away playing with the Lego. On the short drive to Athenry it was raining very heavily and it didn't look like letting up. Well it didn't - at least not until the race was over...
A quick dash to collect my number and get changed. Ten minutes before the off I jogged round to the start area - I reckon about 500m and that was my warm-up done. It was still hammering down and the roads were covered in puddles. I don't recall ever racing in such wet conditions.
The gun sounded and close to 1,100 people were underway. The race was packed full of quality and a lead group of half a dozen or so quickly broke away leaving me in a chasing group. After a couple of kms things had settled down - the lead group were working away and I was left in a group of 5. This section of the course is pretty flat and not much happened until we took a left hand turn around the 4km mark.
At this point one of the group fell off the back (Peter O'Sullivan), leaving 4 of us to battle it out. The group included Steve McKeigue who I last met in Carnmore a few weeks back, plus a couple more faces that I didn't recognise. This section of the course was a bit tougher. The road is much narrower and I occasionally clipped arms with the others whilst trying to find a dry line on the roads.
Through 5km in 16:44 and I couldn't believe the time - it felt at least 20 seconds quicker. At this point one of the runners had made a slight break off the front which I couldn't respond to - I still had company though so kept plugging away. Another left turn and it was the long run for home.
I think it was between 6km and 7km that the water on the road was incredible. A few sections of 30m+ where the road was completely covered in water and there was no option but to race straight through the middle. In places it was at least ankle deep so you can imagine how much I enjoyed wading through that...
By about 8km I was racing with one other guy as Steve had fallen back a little. We gradually reeled in the runner who had previously made a break so it was going to be a three way shoot-out to the finish.
At 9km we were all in a line and the same guy made another break for home. I tried to go with him but was starting to feel the pinch. The last km has a lovely downhill section but despite running well I was still some 3 or 4 seconds behind. I had one final throw of the dice after crossing the railway but it was not to be and I had to settle for my position (9th) after gapping the other runner in our group by a few seconds. The time was 33:21 which despite being 20 to 30 seconds off where I'd like to be, was probably explainable given the constant deluge.
Some real quality at the front with Mick Clohisey taking out the race in 30:57, Emmet Dunleavy in 2nd in 31:36 and Michael Shannon 3rd in 31:40. Brilliant running.
Straight to the hall to get changed (no warm-down). A quick coffee and off home for a long hot shower. I have to say that despite the weather, I really enjoyed the race. Great to be out there having a few battles - which you seldom get in the smaller races. It has certainly given me a renewed appetite for racing in the New Year. Finally, hats off to Athenry AC in putting on another fantastic event.
Here's a photo (thanks to Peter Mooney):
5km 3:27 (16:44)
10km 3:07 (16:37)