A 45 minute drive to the indoor track in Athlone. It was a pretty shocking day - cold and windy but that doesn't matter when you're running indoors! I got there about an hour before my scheduled start time, but it was running slightly ahead of schedule so I got outside and ran 4 laps of the outdoor track as a warm-up. Then inside to find out what heat I was in. This year the races were organised a lot more logically with all the people in each age category in the same race. So the M1's were away first (age 35-39) and then in the second race it was the M2's (my category - age 40 to 44) along with the M3's. So I had a few minutes to do a bit more of a warm-up, and watch the first race at the same time (a great finish with Paul Fleming running down Paul Buckley in the last 50m and both going sub 9 in the process).
I lined up for my race and soon we were off. I settled mid-pack and took a couple of laps to find my feet and get used to the track. The pace seemed really slow but I was boxed in so I took the sensible option to sit in and wait for the gaps to develop. Nobody was pushing the pace at the front so I wasn't too concerned but after a couple more laps I was starting to get frustrated having to keep checking my run so about at the 1km mark (split of 3:13) I ran wide and overtook 5 or 6 runners to take the lead.
So I'd upped the pace a bit without going silly - I ran a few laps at the front before slowing a little only to see Pat Byrne go past me. This was perfect as I could sit in behind him and weigh up the right moment to attack once more. The pace still felt comfortable and we were breaking away from the chasers so no cause for concern. It was all about picking the right time to push for home and feeling good I thought that would be around the 2km mark. But I got a bit twitchy and took the lead again with about 5 and a half laps left and started the push for home.
The last 5 laps seemed to count down really quickly. I wasn't really running any quicker but I was aware that the gap on Pat was growing by a few meters each lap. At the bell someone shouted that I had a 10m gap and so I kept the pace the same and crossed the line in 9:15:74 for the win (the splits for kms 2 and 3 were both 3:01). So not a great time, but it was never going to be quick after the slow start. The pleasing thing was feeling relatively comfortable running the last 2km at basically 3 minute/km pace and still having a little bit left in the tank.
A nice win and great to retain my national title. A few more laps outside to give me around 8km for the day before a quick shower and the drive home. I have to say I love competing at this track - it's a real gem and I should make more of an effort to compete there more often. I wonder if they have an indoor 5,000m there this year?