Monday, September 01, 2008

2008 National Marathon Championships

I have competed in a lot of marathon type races so far this year, three UK 100km NPS Marathons (another in two weeks), the World Championships, Bontrager 24/12 and Mountain Mayhem so I went into our National Marathon Championships pretty comfortable with the idea that I could go and win the race if I pushed hard and wasn't too unlucky. This is the story of the 2008 Nationals...

The course was going to be two laps for a 31km course that included 850meters of climb. The 850 meters really does not tell the full story as there was very little easy meters gained – almost all of the climbing was tough off road with the major ascent (up Sheahan) being only the second time in the last 2 years that I acutally had to use the granny ring!


After the hill climb champs and all the driving I was pretty tired when I got to Dublin and set about getting ready for the race – getting the bike ready (changing a rear tire - to a previously used, known good one), getting food ready and trying to relax a little took me to midnight – a little later than I wanted with a 7:30am wakeup call for the race.

The Seahan Climb

Race day arrived with blue skies and my brother Mark arriving at my place. He had given up his day to give me some support (mental, food and mechanical) during the race. We arrived and signed in – there was going to be around 100 starters for the race. Shortly after 10am we rolled off. The first 5 minutes or were on a slightly rolling tarmac descent to the first climb – a really beautiful single track climb. James McClusky, Evan Ryan and myself went to the front and kept the pace pretty steady, that is until about 500 meters from the single track entrance. I didn't want anyone holding me up on the technical climb so I had all the motivation I needed to go quickly. The first 7-8 got in clean anyway (Joe McCall lead us in with me on his wheel) and we all settled into a high tempo pace. After the first singletrack climb I went to the front and tried to control the race from there. Due to the nature of the terrain, speeds were not going to be very fast here so I rather control the tempo from the front. A group of 6 (I think) of us rode the first 15km to the feed zone together where flying Junior, Liam McCreavy and myself broke off the front. This carried on around the open mountain traverse and then up the difficult ascent of Seahan. At the top of Seehan, I had about a minute on James (in second position for the senior race. The junior race was only 1 lap so I was not too bothered with them). I was enjoying the descent being pretty careful not to clip anything and go easy on the bike and I started to think to myself – this isn't too bad. I blitzed down a section of fireroad that lead to a road section when I heard a massive pop – damn! My rear tire was sliced open – on a fireroad. I was actually pretty calm, spun around the bike and started going about throwing in a tube (I use tubeless). For the race, I had everything planned very well but I forgot one vital thing – my CO2. I only had a tiny mini pump with me that I brought only if everything else failed. I continuted to put in a tube as I watched all my competitors fly by. I knew that I could be strong on the second lap so I didn't want to make any mistakes so I was very careful putting in the tube (no more spares) and pumped the tire to a high preasure. Eventually I got going, about 5 minutes behind the lead. (Tubeless is amazing – but you do forget how to change tubes quickly!)


I got back to the start/finish for the first lap cleanly and went about changing the rear wheel to one of my spares – I flaffed around at this and ended up wasting a bit more time (Thanks to Mark and Sean for handling me :)). I hit the road and knew I was about 7 minutes behind James. I knew that I could make that up in the 31km lap but it was going to be tough. With that, I sped off (being careful not to go too hard). As the various climbs came, I picked off people until I saw James on the Seahan climb. At this point, barring mechnical problems, I knew that I would catch him. A few minutes from the top of the 20 minute climb I caught and passed him and worked hard to distance him a bit before the descent. With the lead secured – I was very careful descending. I did not mind if he caught me as there was enough climb at the end, and my legs felt good enough that I could attack again if I had to. I rode the rest of the lap well and arrived at the finish line with a 6 minute lead over 2nd place and my first Elite National Championship.

James, myself and Evan

IMBRC hosted and ran the event (with a little help from EPIC on the day) and it ran perfectly. The course was challenging and super well marked with marshals at lots of locations along the route. Food, tea, showers etc... after the race went down well, and they even managed to organise some sunshine for the day!

So, with the National Champion jersey for the year, I guess that means I will have to do a few more marathons next year :)

Many thanks to Shane in Cycleways (bicycle support etc.) and my brother Mark and Sean for helping me out on the day.

There is a report and results available here as well as some photos (two in this post) here.

1 comment:

Fergal R said...

Wow - congrats!
Well earned! Great race report too, very exciting reading :)