Like I said in my last post I was contemplating running the Longford Ultra and the Dingle Ultra.Longford because I wanted to defend my title which I won last year,and Dingle because I have never run it before and the thought of racing long distance through such picturesque scenery really appealed to me.
So what was the problem? Well,there was only 6 days between both races and the fact that I was still in recovery mode from July's ACP 100k,meant it was going to be a tough ask to be competitive in both races.
Going in to Longford I was unsure what to expect because I had done very little quality training since the ACP.I knew that I would be nowhere near my winning time from last year,but I went out at a similiar pace and said I would try and keep that going for as long as I could and then just hang on!
As it turned out I was feeling pretty comfortable until around the 30 mile mark and then I started to tire.I had been leading the race from the gun and I didn't know how much my lead was but I knew that the second place guy was only a couple of minutes behind.With nine miles to go I figured my lead was somewhere between one and two minutes.My pace had slowed in the latter stages but if I could maintain this pace for the remainder I knew I should have just enough to get the win.
My mind then turned to Dingle.I maintained a steady pace towards the end of the race without having to over exert myself.I used the last few miles as a "cooldown",whilst at the same time I was conscious of my slim lead.Luckily for me I was able to ease back on the pace and start my recovery for Dingle in 6 days and retain my title to make it 2 in a row in Longford.
Even though I was 12 minutes slower than my winning time last year,a win is a win and I'll take it,especially given the fact that second place Maurice Looby ran a fantastic race finishing just one minute behind me.
So...one down,one to go !!
During the week it was all about recovering from Longford and being in as best shape I could be for Saturday's race.
I finished work at 6pm on Friday evening and then made the journey for Dingle.I was staying in a hostel 6 miles west of Dingle and arrived shortly after 10pm and was greeted by the owner who offered me a cup of tea.I politely declined explaining I would try get some sleep as I was running in the morning.The woman seemed amazed to hear that I was running the Ultra!She continued to state that I didn't look like a runner,nevermind an ultra runner!!I didn't know if I was supposed to be offended or flattered by this remark.When she asked how I expected to do..I told her I would win!She laughed and said good night!
The Ultra start was an early one.The race itself didn't start til 7am,but I was up at 4.30am for breakfast.As usual there was no problem getting up at that hour because I never sleep the night before a race.
In Dingle town the ultra runners were bused to the ultra start line 24 miles away.
There was a real sense of nervous excitement amongst the runners.We all knew it was gonna be a tough day out but everyone seemed to embrace the challenge.
As soon as the gun went I found myself in second place for the first 6 miles.When I finally caught up with the leader Ray Lanigan,we introduced ourselves to one another and over the next few miles chatted about all things ultrarunning.Ray explained that his pre race plan was to run the first 5-6 miles hard and then ease in to a steady pace.After the 10 mile mark he said he would be dropping back and I then pushed the pace slightly and we said our goodbye's and wished each other luck.
Seventeen miles in and I was feeling good despite the driving headwind.
Enter the Connor Pass....
This was the section of the race which I knew was going to knock the stuffing out of me!
A 3 mile climb up Ireland's highest mountain pass.
The pace slowed dramatically and at times I felt that I might have been quicker walking given the severity of the inclines and the gale force winds!
Eventually we reached the summit and it was down hill in to Dingle where we would meet up with the marathoners and half marathoners.
Twenty four miles done(and a tough 24 miles I might add),and a marathon to go!
I had been running on my own at the front since mile ten and now once I reached Dingle town and headed west along the marathon route and found myself having to weave my way through the thousands of marathon and half marathon runners.
I was no longer running alone.As I worked my way through the field of marathon runners it made the latter stages of the race feel somewhat easier and as the race continued I seemed to be getting stronger and stronger.
With 13 miles to go and nearly all the climbs out of the way I did a time check and reckoned if I could push the pace slightly I was on for a sub 6 hour finish.
With 4 miles to go we had our last climb to overcome and then it was a straight 3 mile road in to Dingle.A quick time check....I needed to run the last 3 miles under 20 minutes to achieve the sub 6.
Running in to the finish line to a massive supporting crowd was unbelievable.Winning in a sub 6 hour time(5.59:25) even better,and smashing the course record by 23 minutes topped off a fantastic day and remarkable week for me.
So mission accomplished......two ultras in 6 days,two wins and a European No.1 ranking over 50 miles.
Not a bad weeks work!
Since Dingle training has been going very well and I feel I'm in good shape.I've also gained a lot of confidence from my last 3 races and am keen to continue my winning streak.
I have plans to run another race before the year is out.Maybe a 100km or maybe a long distance track race.I haven't decided on anything just yet but while I am in good shape and injury free I don't feel the need to end my season so early.I think I have one big one left in me.
Watch this space....