I wandered up to the start about 20 minutes before the off and luckily for me I bumped into a friend who offered to take my gear from the start to the finish of the race which meant I could keep wearing extra layers of clothes until just before the start. I did a quick couple of kms warm-up, and watched the leader of the marathon coming through Leenane (half-way point), before heading back to the start. After some nice words from the MC and the Race Director the horn sounded and we were off.
I quickly took the lead and by the time we made the first turn left on the long climb out of Leenane I had already opened up a handy lead. At this point it became obvious that it was going to be a very tough run as I was already running directly into the wind, and to add insult to injury the first mile is nearly all uphill. Through mile 1 and I had the lead cycle to focus on and the uphill climb seemed to continue for most of the second mile. The next few miles the course flattened out and I seemed to have a decent lead so it was a case of remaining focused and keeping the legs ticking over.
Another very nasty climb up to 5 miles, and still no shelter from the wind, then a nice downhill section. More hills in miles 7 and 8 which I didn't recall from the previous year but running into the wind you seemed to feel every undulation. Just before 9 miles we took a right turn and then it was a very slow 2 mile grind which had me thinking every negative thought possible. The last couple of miles were still tough despite being mainly downhill and I was a very relieved person to reach the finish line in 1:19:29 for the win. I went a bit crazy coming down the finishing chute acting like a right pork chop. Not a good look for a nearly 42 year old....
Despite this being one of the toughest races I have ever done I think I enjoyed it. First class organisation and a truly unique experience running through Connemara. Lots of people to thank - firstly the support I was getting on the course from the walkers, the marathon and ultra runners that I passed. Plus a big GCH support crew just before the finish that gave me a real lift. Plus a big thank you to the organisers and volunteers who made this race possible.
Legs were very sore after the race - no warm-down, instead straight into the hotel at the finish for a massage where I found myself on the next massage table to Gary O'Hanlon who stormed to a win in the marathon in an incredible time of 2hr35 (note a quicker pace than my half!). A good chat with Gary and then back to Galway for a few celebratory beers.
All up 23.1kms for the day and 80.5kms for the week.
I'll post the sorry splits and a few photos over the coming days.