Sunday, December 8, 2013

Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon.

Well that's another marathon under my belt but I confess to not really feeling any sense of achievement or satisfaction this time. The main emotion is disappointment with my performance and the sense that perhaps marathons are not for me. This is my fourth one and the last six miles of each of them has been an experience of distress to varying degrees which is not perhaps actually good for either the body or soul.

Saturday December 7th;

I entered this marathon as a way of maintaining  my focus and giving me something to aim for late into the winter. I hadn't realized that it would be such a big event and I was surprised to find that over two thousand enter the three events ( full, half and 10K). The idea of a run by the sea promised to be interesting at this time of year. The sixty euro entrance fee also was a bit of a shock. Anyway this time I was determined to try and get in some long runs before the event and in the month before I managed two 18 mile + and two 15 mile+ runs and these went well. I had stood on the scales a few weeks before for the first time in perhaps six months and I was horrified to find I had put on over half a stone in weight and I decided to go on a diet to try and shed a few pounds. I gave it a good go for the first week and was again horrified at the end of it to find that instead of losing a pound or two I had put one on. I confess to feeling a sense of depression and hopelessness and the diet went out the window. I continued to train but mentally I was in a bad place and I wasn't looking forward to the race, in fact, better to say I was dreading the whole thing. Anyway the day arrived and I was going to give it my best shot.

So I got up at five thirty and after a coffee and biscuit I set off. Now that I was actually in motion my mood lightened. The morning was pleasant but there was a fair bit of fog en route so full concentration was required as I traveled unfamiliar roads. When I crossed the Lee near Coachford there followed a twisty tree lined road that climbed for a fair while and all I could think was that it would make a great cycle some day, what is wrong with me?. Anyway as I got further there was an almost imperceptible lightening in the sky yet it was still quite dark as I entered Clonakilty. I'm not familiar with the town but it was just a case of following the traffic in order to find the registration place.  There was a bit crowd about and a big queue for the registration. Things were a bit chaotic and they ran out of pins to clip on the number and I had to take a large top (too big for me) so I was a bit disappointed with that. There was no other freebies on offer which I thought was quite mean considering the hefty entrance fee. Anyway I had my number and since it was still an hour to the off I returned to my car and listened to some "tuneage" until it was time to walk the mile or so to the start line. I was now actually feeling quite good and since there was no turning back I was looking forward to the challenge ahead. I arrived at the start ten minutes before the off and there was a big crowd assembled in what was a large square waste area behind a modern development on the outskirts of town. There wasn't the usual DJ whipping the crowd to a frenzy yet despite this there was a definite sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. The half marathon started elsewhere and the full marathon was due off at 09.10. The allotted time duly arrived and we were off.
What a fabulous morning for a run.
Lovely start...these pictures aren't mine I hasten to add.

By Long Strand
Very quickly we left the buildings behind and immediately it was clear why the title of Waterfront Marathon was used as were ran along a harbor-side road towards the rising sun, it was glorious. I was determined to try and listen to my body as I went and I soon settled into a comfortable rhythm, whether that was going at eight or nine minute mile pace I didn't care as long as I was running comfortably within myself. As it happens it was at about 8 minute 20 per mile and I was happy to settle for that. The route soon left the water behind and we ran along lovely rural country lanes liberally sprinkled with the large new build homes that were a feature of the "Celtic Tiger" and  many farmsteads that worked the excellent quality land in the area. One delight was the approach to the little village of Milltown which as well as being slightly downhill (that always helps) there was a lovely stream cutting through a shady deciduous woody glen that abounded with mossy dry-stone walls and ferns, it was magical. Next we ran by the impressive "Castlefreke" ruins and then before we knew it we were near the sea once again. Now though we came to the first real hill of the day which was a stiff climb for about 500 meters in length. I managed this easily and I was feeling quite good, my confidence was improving a bit. From  the top there was a great view onto Roscarbery Bay and we ran down and then alongside the lovely and aptly named "Long Strand" before once again reaching the sea at the delightfully named "Dirk Bay". Here we left the sea behind and the next six miles were inland.

 I knew that there was a substantial climb in the offing and while I wasn't looking forward to it I was hopeful that the downhill section that followed would  allow me to recover somewhat and see me towards the 20 mile mark. Once I passed the half marathon distance I knew that I was now on the homeward side and that each mile done made the finish that bit more attainable. The hill when it arrived was not actually that bad. It rose very gradually to a crest before turning right into the village of Ardfield which I hoped was the top but alas it continued on before finally reaching the top at the 17 mile mark. I must confess to by now feeling the effects of the run and I was looking forward to hopefully recovering a bit on the downhill section. Alas it was not to be for as soon as I started down the slope I got a viscous belly ache and I had to find the first exit from the road and urgently go to the toilet. After this I'm afraid things just got worse. A certain amount of queasiness remained and the legs just got worse and worse. I struggled on to the twenty mile mark and even at this stage I was still after maintaining an 8 minute 20 second pace. From here on I was reduced to occasionally walking and even this was getting increasingly painful. I still was experiencing stomach cramps and was often tempted to try and find another toilet spot but I reckoned that if I stopped I wouldn't get going again. My hoped for time of 3 hours 45 mins was not now possible and I just hoped break the four hour barrier. Sweets and Cola were on offer at the frequent water stations but they only made me feel ill so I passed them up on the last couple. My mood wasn't helped by the banal, so called inspirational writings, written large on the mile markers but probably that was due more to my suffering than anything else, I'm sure the intention was good. Eventually the 25 mile marker passed and I knew that one way or the other I would get to the end but my word I was feeling rubbish. About this point I was passed by the pacemakers for the four hour mark and I tried my best to keep up with them yet try as I might they slowly but surely pulled a couple of hundred meters ahead. Its truly amazing how long the few hundred meters after the 26 mile mark can be and I was never more relieved to finally cross the finish line.
How I managed a smile I don't know...perhaps twas my goodies

 I was in truth too distressed to give a monkeys about the time and more intent on finding somewhere to go to the toilet again. I was totally spent and despite the benign weather I was starting to feel the cold. The foil blanket was welcome and necessary and I hugged it around me. I was given a banana and a bottle of water after the line but I could really have used some soup or something hot but I couldn't see any to be had. After my toilet stop there was nothing for it but to make my way back to the car. The walk seemed endless and I was really cold and weary by the time I got there. I wasted no time in changing into fresh warm clothes and after a while I started to feel a bit better. There were showers available in the hotel but I didn't fancy the four hundred meter walk to reach it so I decided to head home immediately where a hot bath awaited but first I needed something to eat. I stopped at a service station on the edge of town and, oh dear, I'm afraid my first attempt at walking to the shop wes painful and faltering, but I got there and a large roll and good coffee gave some fuel to the starved engine. A weary drive home followed and the bath was indeed welcome but the weariness will linger for a while yet.

Overall it was a well run event on a lovely scenic course. The stewarding was first class and there were plenty of water stations all along the route. An inspired idea was to have your first name printed in bold letters across the number bib and it was great to hear people offering personalized encouragement along the way. It was a pity not to be able to get the correct size top and registration was a bit chaotic. There was plenty of stuff for sale at check in but considering the hefty entry fee a goody bag with even a few bars inside would have been welcome as would some hot food at the finish. Perhaps posting the registration pack would be a better idea and make it less of a chore getting to the starting line. I will have to reevaluate my goals for the future. Right now I'm not sure if marathons are for me but perhaps that decision is best left for now.

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