I woke up to a very windy day. I also felt like I had a hangover and this was one of the rare Sunday mornings where I'd only had a couple of beers the night before. So perhaps I wasn't in the best frame of mind for the race but I had to run as I'd promised the mother-in-law a turkey for Christmas Day...
Arrived and did all the usual pre-race stuff. I ran a 2km warm-up - one km with the wind on the back (what wind?), then turned to run back and was struggling to move forward. A quick change into the racing flats then another km down to the start.
I like this course - it's a lollipop shape - and relatively flat with only one long drag as you start the main guts of the loop. The direction of the wind today meant that it was more-or-less always a cross-wind, with the exception of 500m between 1.5km and 2.0km (running into it head-on), and then 500m with the wind on the back (somewhere between 2km and 3km).
The race started and myself and Paul Buckley lead out a large group of around 6 or 7. There are a few turns in the first km, and with nobody willing to really push on, the group remained relatively close together as we went through the first km in 3:11. Halfway through the second km and we made a left-hand turn into the wind. Paul was slightly ahead at this stage and everyone slowed as the strong wind pushed us back. Through 2km with a split of 3:18 and then shortly after that we made a right-hand turn to be greeted with a long uphill drag. At this stage I wasn't feeling great at all and I think I slipped back into 4th or 5th place before re-focusing and gradually working back up to the leaders. By the time we reached the top of the climb we were starting to curve to the right and this gave us some welcome benefit from the wind. Through 3km with a split of 3:17 and then it was time to hammer a nice 500m downhill section. Myself and Paul were still side-by-side and then Donal came flying past us. At the foot of the hill we turned right and I seized the opportunity to take up the running.
I quickly opened up a few seconds gap on the group and started to string them out. That was great but the surge had taken a lot out of me and as I hit a few little drags at the end of the 4th km, I could hear someone closing me down. Through 4km in 3:10 and sure enough Paul had caught me. It was going to go down to the wire and I wasn't sure I had much left to offer.
About 1 minute into the last km and I was hanging on to Paul - I kept thinking "let him go and settle for 2nd" but being a stubborn so-and-so I came up with a plan. Try and stick with him until 2 minutes and then make a break for the line. Well that's what I did, 2 minutes passed, and I kicked for home. I say kicked, but it was nothing more than a slight increase on the speed we were running. Thankfully that was enough and as the finish line came into view I knew I could hang on for the final 100m. I crossed the line in 16:06 (a 3:10 last km) with Paul in second right behind me.
Very happy with the win - especially so having not felt at all right today. I'm not sure what was wrong - just one of those days where I felt very flat. The time wasn't bad considering the conditions - everyone ran slower than target so I'd say that was the equivalent of around 15:50 on a still day. It's funny that when you're running well you don't even notice the small inclines - well today was one of those days where I felt every little bump on the course.
Still not feeling great I decided to walk for about 5 minutes to reclaim my long-sleeve, and then finally I summoned up the energy to run 3kms as a warm-down. All up 11kms for the day and 72.4kms for the week.
Back to the hall for hot tea and the presentation. A great event and a really nice vibe with lots of chat and piss-taking with a few of the GCH crew. Loads of prizes and I think they gave just about everyone a free turkey - except to Donal who finished in 4th place (nobody remembers 4th place!). Well done to all involved - runners, volunteers and organisers. It's a great little event which seems to go from strength-to-strength each year and long may that continue.
A few beers in the evening. I only caught bits and pieces of the snooker - with Selby leading 6-3, Robertson started playing some brilliant snooker winning 5 frames on the spin. Selby got a frame back, and then jawed a black to make it 8-8. Well that was the impetus Robertson needed to go on and finish the match eventually running out a 10-7 winner. On that from he is going to take some beating in 2014 but I wouldn't be writing off the Rocket just yet!