Raheny Shamrocks 5 Mile Race ”“ Sunday February 5th 2006-02-06

The first race of the year for me, and a chance to see how my training has developed in the first 5 weeks of the year. Last year was all about getting my motivation back after a few years in the wilderness, feeling like a European Runner in the World Cross Country Championship! To the main, with the exception of the end of year set-back, last year was a success, and at Xmas time I sat down and mapped out my goals for 2006. My main aim this year is to consolidate my Marathon running, manage the Grand Slam of the 4 Irish Marathons, and to improve my M45 times over shorter distances. I wasn’t going to be stupid and rush into things, just build each month, ensuring a progression throughout the year with Targetted races later in the year.

To this extent, my first “Goal” is Connemara in March, and a crack at the Hell of The West. On the way to the West, there are two “Indicator” Races, Ballycotton 10 on March 5th, and the Raheny Shamrock 5 Miler on the first Sunday in February. On January 1st, I wrote in my training diary that I would be looking to break 40 minutes in February and 80 minutes in Ballycotton. Having written that, I knew my January training had been going well, and I revised my 5 Mile Target for the race to Under 39, maybe getting close to 38 minutes, dependant on weather. Things didn’t go quite according to that plan.

Sunday, Feb 5th saw a cold, grey winters day. Not much of a breeze, but an air of expectation of coldness, with the temperatures having dropped a few degrees from the relatively mild days that February had commenced with. I was planning on meeting up with Darren, an Australian Running mate at the race, along with a couple of Dublin people who I had been chatting to on the Connemara Marathon Forum and hope to get in some longer training runs with. Darren and I met up, and froze to death hanging around waiting for the start, but by the time 3 pm came around we were raring to go, if only so we could warm up!

I had my new Athenry AC kit on, along with a long sleeve, thick t-shirt, ironically advertising a New York Race, the Frostbite 10, very apt today. There was a large turn out and the resulting start was a little chaotic as I was too far back for my own good. I wasn’t familiar with the course, but expected a relatively flat one, and my time goal of 38 minutes required 7:36 pace per mile. Well, the first mile of dodging runners and trying to get a racing line and regular stride pattern saw me take 7:37, but I felt I was running well within myself, so I just tried to maintain the pace I had reached by the Mile Mark. My breathing was fine, the legs were strong, and, despite the cold, white numbness of my hands, I was enjoying the run.

I continued to pick runners off in Mile 2, but by now it was a steady catch up and pass progression, rather than the dodging and weaving common in the first mile of so many mass participant races. As the Mile 2 mark approached I checked my watch again, 14:42, quick maths worked out I had run 7:05 ”“ Fast! Had there been a long down hill I had missed, I didn’t recall, but I was still feeling smooth, and confident, so I didn’t check back. By now I was running with a guy from the Midlands Tri Club, and we vied for position on the road as we passed runners slowing down. This “competition” kept me concentrating and Mile 3 soon approached and 21:48 was my time now, another mile at 7:05 pace, and still I didn’t feel I was running faster than I should be. It was in Mile 4 that we did have a nice down hill stretch to the Coast Road, and I relaxed down the hill, letting the road do the work, and as we turned for a stretch along the coast, I was trying to work out where the climb back would be. I found out as we turned off the coast road just before Mile 4 as a long steady climb was visible past the 4 Mile Marker.

I dug in and at the Marker my watch read 28:50, a 7:02 mile, and I knew that even with this hill I was climbing, I was on for around 36 and small change, well exceeding any expectations I had. I dug in on the climb, head down, thinking merely of reaching the crown of the road, and coasting home to St Anne’s Park and the Finish. I gathered in my thoughts as I saw a sign saying 600m to go, and picked off my targets ahead. 400 to go and I wasn’t closing many gaps, someone sprinted past me ”“ Why? There was still a full 400 to go, you could see the finish, but a lap around the end of the park was still required ”“ Had he gone too soon, was I too slow at reacting? Maybe he had been holding back for bets, but I knew then that I was still strong, and picked up the pace again, passing a few, keeping an eye on my sprinter, and as we turned for home with around 100 to go, I eased passed him, I won’t say sprinted, and set my eyes on the finishing line ”“ I heard the announcer call my name “All the way from the West of Ireland” (actually Raheny is 2 miles from my home here in Dublin, but hey, why spoil the moment), and crossed the line clicking my watch stopped at exactly 36:00 minutes ”“ a 7:10 last mile, including the climb, and a feeling of a job well done.

I met up briefly with Darren, who had beaten me home by around 20 seconds, and met a few of the guys who will be in Connemara, before dashing off home to get warm and watch the football. When I got home I checked my time against everything, and this was my fastest run since the Streets back in 2003. It was 2 minutes ahead of my predicted time, and given this was my first race of the year I was very pleased with my performance. My Target for the Streets of Galway race in August this year is 34 minutes, and with a February run, with no speed work at all, under my belt, the Hard Target I set myself for 5M/8K seems well within my grasp. My Ballycotton Target will need to be revised now, and with my overall Target for 10 Miles for the year being only 75 minutes, it may well be that I will exceed even this longer term goal in 4 weeks.

Not counting chickens or anything yet, but a very promising start to the year, and something positive to build on for the year. As an indicator of how different a year can be, last year I started with a 5 Mile Race (In May as I was late getting into things last year) in 43:26 and improved to 36:21 by the time of the Streets. Whilst I won’t be expecting a 7 minute improvement, 2 minutes is eminently doable! Watch this space”¦”¦..