Sunday, July 31, 2011

24-hr Irish Championships 2011.

I almost didn't run this race having abandoned my original plan after being selected to run in the Trail World Championships.  Even though this was my main event of the year due to the cancellation of the 24-hr World Championships all it took to change my mind was a chance to run in a green vest.  Some might have done the 2 races but for me going into the Trail Race I didn't want any mental distractions, I wanted to give it everything I had and I couldn't do that if I was thinking of or trying to save myself for a race that was only 2 weeks away.  I knew that during low points I may have taken it easy and consoled myself by thinking 'sure you've another race soon enough to make up for this effort' and thats how the mind works.  I'm not into just doing events and go for quality over quantity.

An early fall in the Trail Race meant I couldn't run to the best of my ability and because my pace was slowed the impact on my body was lessened and my recovery was quicker as I finished the race in better condition than I should have.  The injury seemed to heal quite quickly but there was still an underlying problem with my left hamstring which surfaced the following weekend after few short training runs.  I stopped training as soon as I knew it was getting worse and I phoned my massage therapist 'Peter Matthews' to arrange an appointment as soon as possible.  I met him on the Tuesday before the race and was back running that night on my club's grass track.  The juniors were training while I was running around checking my lap splits and comparing them with my heart rate to get a feel for race pace and the signs were good.
After finishing my run I was asked about my expectations for the race and I said I was going to win.

The night before the night before a race is the most important nights sleep and for some reason I didn't sleep too well and that was repeated on the night before the race which wasn't good because I had a full day ahead of me before starting the race and I knew it would be late on Saturday before I slept again.  Maybe those thoughts were keeping me awake but I tried not to think about it too much and because all my gear was packed and ready to go I decided to head for Belfast earlier than planned.

Arriving into Belfast I met with Ultra Running Ireland's John Collins.  John offered to crew my race and that was a big weight off my shoulders as I know from experience that it can be hard to make sensible decisions during these events and if you want to be competitive you need someone else to do the work.  John is very experienced at crewing and knew what to do which for me was a big confidence boost.  My job was to put one foot in front of the other and he would make sure I continued to do so.  We arrived at the track in good time and after setting ourselves up we met with some other competitors and friends including my team mate Marty Rea and training partner Jim McCormick.

Eddie Gallen, John O'Regan, Marty Rea & John Collins.

My plan was simple and it involved running at 2:10-2:15 per lap or less than 75% of my heart rate max.  This meant I was running well within my aerobic zone and using mostly fat as a fuel which lessened my need for 'too much food'. At the race start I positioned myself towards the back of the pack to avoid the fast start and within the first lap I was on pace and it wasn't long before I was lapped and it happened again and again...

My guess is some of the front runners blew up really badly because by the first turn around at 4-hrs I seemed to be in 2nd place which didn't sound right and didn't really suit my plan as I wanted to relax into this race and move up the leader board in the final quarter of the race.  That wasn't to be and before half way my steady pace had me in the lead and with that came a little bit of extra pressure..
Under Pressure.

 I stayed on my feet for the first 9 hours and then sat down by choice to eat a sandwich or should I say I was told to sit down by John as he was thinking ahead and wanted me to eat something solid.  To make the most of my break I used the opportunity to elevate my feet and check positions and timings to get an early feel for how the race was going even though it was way too early for it to be a true reflection of how the race could finish.  Getting back on my feet it wasn't long before I became the first runner to break 100K and then I broke 100 miles but to me these distances meant nothing as I'd been there so many times before.  I'm not being disrespectful to the distance but I know that if you set yourself an end goal and reach it then it can become harder to go beyond it.

Running through the night with Thomas Maguire

Night time temperatures dropped quite low so I changed into some warmer clothing and changed out of them as soon as I felt it warm enough again.  My timings were very consistent and I felt very comfortable running at this pace but as we started to get into the new day it got very hot.  I knew by my sweat rate and inability to take enough fluids on board that I could soon be in danger of dehydration or some form of heat related problem so I made the decision to ration my sweat by slowing the pace down.  I began to stop at the aid station to help with fluid replacement and I made extra toilet stops to monitor my urine flow and make sure it was 'still' flowing. For the last few hours I decided to do just enough to hold my lead and win the race but was prepared to stop if I thought it neccessary.  Eddie Gallen was closing in on my lead very steadily and I know what he's capable of doing having ran with him on a few occasions and the most recent being the 246K Spartathlon in Greece last September.  Eddie is the most consistent runner I know and he will just keep going and going until it's all over.

With 2hrs to go it was looking like I had done enough to keep my lead by just walking and that's what I did.  My family arrived around this time and Cian walked / jogged a few laps and kept me company as the end got closer.  Eddie caught up and we chatted through the final minutes and then it was all over.  I was declared the race winner with a distance of 213K / 132 miles and more importantly I was the Irish 24-hr Champion finishing just ahead of last year's Champion Eddie Gallen.  Eddie won the Irish Championship title last year with a distance of 223K in the 24-hr World & European Championships in Brive, France.

It's a strange felling at the end of a 24-hr race as there's no finish line and rather than getting that winning feeling I was just relieved it was all over.  I spent the next hour getting my photo taken and doing interviews with Deirdre Finn the winner of the Ladies Race with 181K / 112.5 Miles and then it was back to the clubhouse for the awards ceremony.  All competitors were called up individualy with their distances announced and it was nice opportunity to put a name with the face.  I finished the evening with a proper dinner and a few pints of Guinness back at the hotel and then it was lights out.

During the race I wore:

Saucony Pro Grid Guide
Teko Socks
Skins Shorts
Skins A400 Running Tights
Salomon Sleeves
Club Singlet Le Cheile A.C
Suunto T6D Heart Rate Monitor.

All my kit is available from Great Outdoors.

1 comment:

  1. Well done, John. Amazing! I'm doing the 24 in Llandudno in September. Moderately scared at the prospect :-) Debs x