Race day for me started at 5:00 am with breakfast in bed before resetting my alarm for 07:00 and another 2 hours sleep. All my kit was prepared the night before and my hotel was across the road from the start line which made for a hassle free start. Before leaving the room I made up enough drinks to keep me going for at least 3hrs and Aisling had her instructions to resupply me throughout the day as required.
The relatively small field assembled in the starting area at 07:45 and we prepared our fuel by laying it out on a small section of a table which we would pass during every one of the fifty laps.
The night before the race I spoke with Martin Rea about the race, Martin was part of the Irish Team but had dropped out with an injury and rang me with some advice for my debut at the distance, he suggested that I run with Helena Crossan as he thought we had a similar pace.
As the race started I took off slowly and stayed towards the back making sure I didn't take off too fast and within the first lap I caught up with Helena and we worked together for the next uneventful 60K. I say uneventful because all I was thinking of was staying on pace rather than counting laps or chasing anyone that overtook us. In the early stages it can be an effort to run slower than you would normally run but it pays off later in the race as the fuel should still be in the legs.
Do you get bored running all those laps? I didn't have time to get bored as I was concentrating on keeping a constant pace. Heading away from the control area I was conscious of following the race line and running the shortest possible distance and on the return I was deciding what drink to have over the next few laps while always checking my time and pacing. Having a short loop was ideal because it was easier to check pacing and we were never far from our fuel, a toilet or a medic if required.
Helena maintained her constant pace while I dropped back at 60K to loosen my lace to relieve some swelling in my foot. I took off running again but at a slightly slower pace knowing it would be foolish to try catch up with Helena. After completing the next lap I stopped again but this time I needed to take an anti inflamatory as the swelling was still there. The problem was manageable and if pushed or if the loop was longer I could have ran through the pain, but for what? I knew I was going to achieve all I set out to do so there was no point in bringing home a preventable injury which would mess up my training schedule which would resume the following Wednesday. I continued on running with Aisling Coppinger and we ran together for the next few laps.
At this point I had covered over 80K and was starting to feel some relief from the anti inflamatories so I picked up the pace again and before I knew it I heard a shout saying I had only 2 laps to go. I didn't feel like I'd ran 96 Km and I thought this must be wrong so I asked if they could double check and it was reconfirmed. I picked up the pace yet again and all of a sudden 8hrs 36mins 42 secs later it was over. I didn't have that feeling of joy having finished and almost immediately I was thinking when can I do this again? Could I run closer to 8hrs?
I learnt a lot from this race and what I have learnt I cannot explain as it is based on my observations of people like Helena Crossan, Eoin Keith, Thomas Maguire, Tony Mangan, Aisling Coppinger and Bob Boles. I could see the determination, the dedication, the confidence and everything else that goes into making an endurance athlete and I can't wait to put what I have learned into practice.