Whose bright idea was this???
Oh yeah, mine.
So where to begin? I like to run. In doing so I like to do things that I will remember when I’m old and greyer. This year, I’m in my 39th year so what better way to mark it than a 39(.3) race, the Connemara Ultra.
KISS- Keep it Simple Stupid
My basic plan was (a) to get to the start line and (b) get to the finish line. In distance running, part (a) is often the hardest to achieve with the chance of illness, injury or simply not getting the time to complete the training load. For me, a chest infection with a week to go made me more than a little nervous. But, felt good by Friday and the race wasn’t until Sunday.
39 miles to run, nowhere to hide
We set off from near Peacocks of Maam Cross at 9am without fuss and I settled in to a nice steady rhythm. I ran by effort rather than pace as the Ultra is anything but flat and an even pace but would be difficult to achieve. For me, a Heart Rate (HR) of 165-170 was about right.
A game of 3 halves
You could say the Ultra is a race of 3 halves with the first half marathon section reasonable, followed by two progressively harder half marathons to follow. I felt comfortable until about mile 15 when a strong-ish wind and rolling roads made me work harder than I had wanted. My HR shot up to 180’s and slowing down didn’t have any effect. I knew I would pay the price later in the race. The left turn for Leenane brought a welcome relief from the wind. What followed was a good stretch of downhill running. The only problem was the downhills were just as hard if not harder on the legs than the uphills.
I got to the 26 mile mark at Leenane at 3 hrs 44 mins with the hardest section of the course left. Heading out of Leenane the legs started to get their own back on me and started to send shock waves of cramp. I wasn’t alone though as many of those around me suffered the same fate.
Onwards and Upwards. Literally.
I’d like to say that I negotiated the course from Leenane to Keane’s Pub in Maam comfortably but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It hurt like hell. Each uphill brought a dart of pain from the calf muscles and each downhill hurt everywhere else. Energy was running low but I couldn’t face eating. A bottle of flat coke at mile 29 managed to save the day though.
If you are going through hell, just keep going.
I struggled on to Keane’s and made the final turn of the day, onto the ‘Hell of the West’. I had decided long before the start that this race, for me, was all about the last 5 miles. A 34 mile warm up and a right good dig up and over the infamous hill.
Brendan Monaghan who had tirelessly kept me hydrated and motivated throughout the race as he cycled up and down the course was joined by Stephen Brady and John Joe Higgins. I think we were the only people who laughed our way up the climb. My wife Mary, sister Marian, and mother Sheila had stationed themselves at mile 38 and they provided all the encouragement I needed to slog it out to the finish. The clock read 5 hours 59 mins as I crossed the line.
Just need to find a 40 mile race for next year