Monday, October 17, 2011

Connemarathon 2006

Originally written 29MAR2006.

26MAR2006 Ireland
The Connemarathon takes place in the Connemara region of western Ireland.

Travel was a nightmare for me. My early troubles were self inflicted for mixing up flight times and not getting to the check in counter earlier. Let me just say that if you are flying Ryan Air I recommend you get to the check in counter at least one hour early. I had many difficulties including a missed check in time, a delayed flight, missed connections, and a cancelled flight. These all added up to about an extra 200 euros in travel expenses for me. That's enough about travel.

The Connemara region of western Ireland is beautiful and if you ever get a chance to visit western Ireland I recommend you take it. There are rolling hills speckled with farms of cattle or sheep here or there. The region I was in is called the Gaeltacht region. In this region the Irish(Gaelic) language is still spoken as a daily language and the locals can switch between Irish and English with ease. I learned that if there is only a light mist or sprinkles with a breeze that it constitutes as being a good day weather wise. There were maybe only 5 hours total that there wasn't some form of precipitation while I was outside during my 3.5 days there. It was truly an international marathon and I talked with people from all over the world. I was complimented twice when people mistook me to be a local Irishman myself. Once it was by a local so that really meant a lot to me.

There was approximately 80 runners for the ultra(39.3), 500 for the marathon, and 1500 for the half marathon. Each race had a separate start area all about 13.1 miles from each other. Race day started with some rain of course. This stopped though and other than some strong wind before the start it was ideal temperature wise at the starting line. That wind was a tail wind when we started running. The first few ultra runners came through before the marathon started. With only 500 runners at the start I was able to settle into my own stride quicker than any other marathon I have ever done or will probably do again.

My first mile was about 8:50 followed by a 8:35 and another 8:50. The first half of the marathon was over what seemed like rolling hills and you had a tail wind at points here and there allowing me to keep averaging about 9 minute miles. I was at 7 miles in 1h 1min and half way in about 2 hours flat. This gave me hopes of a possible sub 4 hour or at least a sub 4.5 hour marathon.

Then the second half hit starting with an approx 1.5 mile climb. This was the first of the real climbs. Adding to the difficulty of the second half was the head wind that started at mile 14 and stayed with you the rest of the race. I saw my split times falling, but with a strong wind in my face I was unable to salvage them. At about mile 17 I was greeted with a new foe in the form of a steadily rain that also stayed with you the rest of the race. The wind and the rain continued to batter me and my splits. I was so cold I was numb and so numb it hurt. It just shouldn't hurt when you are numb. At mile 22 I was at the bottom of what they call the Hell of the West. Yes they mean HELL especially with the elements. It is an approx 2.5 mile climb. After that it is supposedly a gradual descent to the finish. I never noticed any real descent though.

I was mentally beaten from the elements so I walked from 22 to 26. I tried to run once after getting up the hill, but my legs cramped up right above my knees so I walked until the 26 mile marker. I could see the finish from the 26 mile marker and that helped get me there. I sprinted from 26 onward because I always at least sprint the last .2. After finishing and picking up my shirt and medal I immediately got my clothes. Even after putting on my clothes and downing my soup I was still shivering strongly. I didn't completely warm up till I went to my hotel and soaked in the tub before getting under the blankets.

In summary the course was challenging, but not too difficult. The hardest part was the wind and the rain. I won't fault Ray(race director) for the weather though, especially not in Ireland. I believe it was actually the wind and the rain that claimed the life of one of the runners that day. I do think there should have been less automobile traffic on the course even though I realize you can't shut down all the county for the race, but still there was too much traffic on the course. The other problem was the lack of food on the course. Water points were good, but there needed to be more energy drinks and much more food on the course. Fortunately Dublin 2004 taught me to carry my own food, but runners shouldn't have to carry all their own food. I would do this marathon again and I would recommend it to others, but there is definitely room for improvement here too.


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