Both the Flying Flynns have at some point suggested I tour Ireland and run races, as something they’ve enjoyed in the past and today not only was I continuing to follow their advice, but I met a man who knew them. John Walsh was helping organise the Shanagarry 5, the second in a series of 4 5mile races in the Ballycotton area. It’s not actually free, but at 5 euro and with a long prize list it’s pretty generous, even if some of the prizes were of kitchenware rather than cash for a change. With nearly 600 entered this was the biggest race I’d run in Ireland, and too competitive for me to pick up a prize even had I kept my time under 30 minutes. I was the cause of the arrival of an out-of-town bandit who picked up a prize in the ladies’ race, though.
We arrived early, so early we could warm up for a few miles and still have time to relax/get nervous before the start. My ‘want to get there early’ stretches also to the start line which is often a tactical error, as a good position two ranks in becomes a tougher one five ranks in when the late and deliberately (so as to be on the front line) late quick ones arrive. Here we hung back and did alright, standing right next to the one wheelie athlete. In the event he was set off first, with a Garda accompaniment on a bike; he was not the quickest wheelie, so this was to get him clear. Plus he got a great ovation that way.
We went. The race starts slightly downhill, and this is not flat country so we soon climbed. I wasn’t sure how my legs were, but they were okay early on and I made some ground on the fast starters. Some time before I’d decided that it would be useful to see my half mile splits, to see if my theory that I have a slow first half, then a quick mile, then slow again, was true-looking at mile splits can’t show me that. I changed my autolap on the garmin then didn’t race for some time, so kept getting lap beeps annoyingly quickly. This time they were useful, but the theory is still unproven, with the terrain too up and down to tell. The race was a bit of a struggle, though I was moving up and down relative to people of about the right standard, having a particular battle with a v50. A long upward mile to 3 did for me, though, both half splits around 3:15, some way outside my 2:59 target average. Finally we reached the top and I used the fact there was a sharp corner and then a downhill to get some momentum. Unbeknownst to me, Linda had been closing so saw and envied my acceleration downhill, though both the people I passed there were to catch me later. I held on to whatever speed I could, and in the event was happy with 30:14, closer to the half hour than I thought I’d get. Linda was First Lady under 30seconds behind, and convincingly ahead of second. They won’t have minded too much, as there are prizes for the series, too, and they’ll be in for those.
Race hq was a GAA club house, so while we waited for results what seemed like half the field cooled down with laps of the football field, whilst we chatted to a couple of locals. The welcome was faultless, as ever, with those taking registration curious about our clubs and those talking at the end told us all about the prize Linda was about to receive-100euro voucher for the army and navy store-and who the local personalities were.
Prize giving, added to the working out time took a while, as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a variety of age categories picked up a voucher, laptop tray, can opener, wok or whatever else. We headed for Cork to find somewhere to stay only to find the obvious candidates full. ZZ top gig was blamed, but it may just be a busy city. Eventually a b&b owner gave us a tip that another b&b up the road had a room left, so we headed there. The road we were on seemed to hold back entrances, so I felt quite conspicuous ringing the bell at 11, but although the owner looked us up and down and said he didn’t normally take people after 10, it was never said in such a way as to suggest he wouldn’t take us, and he showed us in as warmly as anyone else did, plus he opened the garage door so I could stick the car in, away from parking restrictions and the like. Finbarr, at the Park view B and B, is a great guy. Linda and I went for a couple of pints in Cork to celebrate and wind down.