Burren Marathon

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My tired frog face! Job done, kinda! 

Yup that’s me after a 3 hour 25 minute marathon in the Burren hills. What can I say! A cracking race, a stunning course, incredible volunteers and a strong field of runners, but for me not the most graceful of days. Taking into account that I really exerted myself in The Race and my longest run since March was 23km, taking on this marathon was more of a training session/build up to a big summer. All this planned out carefully I still decided to try pace the race, in a comfortable way, so that come the final 10km I would be in with a podium chance.

The race started by the sea in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. A huge crowd for a marathon, a half and a 10k, with walkers, joggers and runners mixed in. The run would be made up of basically 21km off road and 21km on the road. Not really suiting me but I would take it handy, ish, early on and see how I was feeling later.

The first 10km was basically up hill, a gradual climb into the hills, winding up into the rocky burren and off the road onto some pretty nasty ground underfoot. I was feeling well and staying out of the red, and somehow cruising along in 2nd place. The leader was a spanish dude I think, who was grinding out about a minute every 3k on me, so I decided not to chase today. At around the 12km mark I was passed out and I knew there were a few very steep off-road climbs ahead, so I let this guy go as well and let myself fall down a long downhill section on the road. The climbs started after passing some dried up riverbeds, a few lonely sheep and a donkey that looked at me as if I had 3 heads, probably right!

Up into the mist we went and by the top of the climb it was getting windy and cold but I knew the halfway point wasn’t far away. The climb topped out and the ground softened underfoot and I let my legs open up along a nice grassy trail, feeling good but I noticed my stomach wasn’t working as it usually does in a race and I felt very bloated. Too much sucking on the Tailwind? Maybe! Being an ultrarunner theses days, I’m used to a constant flow of fluids but I think pushing harder over a shorter race means less fluids are needed sloshing around in there. I had made a mistake and I was about to pay.

The trail wound it’s way down to Fanore and the Atlantic of Galway Bay spread out as far as I could see. I hit the road at the bottom of this long decent and the legs stopped moving, I slowed from a comfortable 4.20min/km pace to nearly 5.30. Off the road for a brief trail down to the edge of Fanore beach before more road to the Greenway which leads all the way back along the coast to Ballyvaughan. The stomach was aching and it was slowing me down. My legs were ok, not spent, but they were slowing all the same. I was passed by about 5 runners in a 20 minute spell near Fanore and I began to feel a bit crap to be honest. I hit the Greenway and had to stop briefly as my head was spinning and my stomach aching. Another runner skipped passed. I had about 9km to go when I met Sinead, who was out to support me and support every single runner in one of her favourite races of the year. I mean every runner knew her by the finish. I indicated as I passed that things were not too rosy and she said later that I was looking a wee bit rough at that point!

The trail carried on for 4km and then a 3.5km section on the road would lead to the finish. Another runner passed me as I hit the road and I began my shuffle home, gradually feeling a little better as I had stopped for a mini puke before I left the trail. The first time in 10 years racing that I got sick during a race. I don’t blame Tailwind, I blame bad race fueling. Even with experience we make mistakes and learn from them.

The run home was kinda fun, stopping at the aid stations along the road to throw water over myself and laughed with the volunteers saying that my stabilisers had come off around 30km and now the wheels were wobbling. The walkers were making their way to the finish at this point so there was lots of banter and craic with them as I bounced along to the finish.

All in all the first 30km was solid, the last 12 was awful, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I think I gave my body too much to do with too much fuel and then I overheated as a reaction. That’s my excuse anyhow. All in all a good top 10 finish in a decent time for any trail or off road marathon and miles in the tank too. I recovered quickly and even that night and the next day felt fresher than I ever had after a marathon.

As I write this it is almost a month after this race and last weekend was the 127km Wicklow Way Race. Race report to follow very soon. Ah yes the YELLOW men are back. How would Wicklow treat me this time??!

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