Well, another week’s passed, and so have another couple races in the Euro trip. While we’ve settled down a bit since the wild night in Letterkenny— in small part due to some willingness to flatter myself that Ray may have read my last blog and that his encouragement to stay focused and I’ll have some new PRs was a subtle-but-not-subtle reminder that I’m here to run and rest, not stay out clubbing and eating fried chicken to 4 am and getting standing room only tickets for GAA games on a bad ankle. Of course, there’s probably some healthy medium between that and being an absolute monk this entire trip, and that’s what I feel we’ve found since.
My ankle’s good and well; I’ve gotten massive amounts of sleep going into the last few races, and Julian and I are ready to tackle the next challenge. I’ll outline the last few stages of our trip here, as well as where to follow us in the future.
Always a Good Feed
As you read in the last blog, after Letterkenny we headed to the village of Liosdubhog in the great County Mayo (Maigh Eo) to visit Hugh for a week before a meet in Leixlip on the 12th. The best way to describe the Armstrong family’s amazing hospitality is by attempting to illustrate exactly how impossible it would be to go hungry in that house. We came in around 11:30 from the GAA match and were greeted with steaks and spuds. Breakfast would often be heaping servings of porridge, eggs, and toast, followed by a mid-afternoon lunch, and a variety of amazing dinner dishes from fish and rice to lamb chops to other beef dishes, with, obviously, no shortage of spuds. Once we’d finished our first plates, we’d often be offered seconds so convincingly we’d have no way to refuse. As Ollie would say, “you’ve got to be eating, lads.”
Other highlights include the Salmon Festival in Ballina, a tough workout on Hugh’s home track, watching Spider-Man Homecoming, a broken fridge and the ensuing call to customer service, and going to a Sinn Fein rally in commemoration of the hunger strikers who fought for Irish rights under english rule.
Also, apparently if you put a chocolate flake in a soft serve it’s called a .99 here in Ireland. I was craving one so bad it’s become a bit of a joke among the boys, but I still maintain that enjoying one of those will bring you all the childhood joy in the world.
Le Cheile International
Our first contest of the last two weeks was Le Cheile International, and Irish Miler’s Club meeting in Leixlip. Julian and I had initially not been accepted into a full mile field, but the meet director emailed me back at 9:30 that morning saying we’d been entered off the waitlist. Good thing we’d already left Hugh’s and I no longer had Wi-Fi! Fortunately, we ran into the meet director as we were checking in for the 3k and waited around a few hours to run in a world-class 1500.
Unfortunately, Leixlip saw winds north of 20 mph that day, which, as we were waiting for the race, seemed strong enough to threaten to bring down the entire warm-up tent! Needless to say, no one was setting a PB on that day. After I got out in around 2:00 for 800 (and running a couple big gaps that had opened surprisingly early in the race), the field slowed a ton in the third quarter, and by the last lap I was happy to close for 3:49. To be honest, knowing I was so far from a PR, I could barely be bothered to sprint all out for the finish and was pretty indifferent towards the ending result. I guess finishing 3:49 in a race where Robert Domanic and that Australian 13:19 kid run 3:44 ain’t all bad, right?
After Le Cheile, we traveled to Drogheda, just north of Dublin, to stay with our old teammate Aaron Hanlon. While our stay here was much shorter than that at the Armstrong’s, we still had a great time and had a massive appreciation for their hospitality. Between Aaron’s mom’s sunny side up eggs and his father’s persistent offerings of beer, we couldn’t have possibly felt unwelcome for a moment. We also saw some of the nice running in the area, including some beautiful golf courses, some rugby fields and a 440 yard (in Ireland!) cinder track that Hugh did some tempo repeats on.
Cork City Sports
After our day in Drogheda, we headed down to Cork for the famous Cork City Sports competition! Julian and I were entered in the 3k, so we’d have a slightly more fair showdown than our 1500m race earlier that week. The pacers were instructed to aim for 4:08 for the first mile— 62 seconds per quarter— which is absolutely flying, so it would no doubt prove a good opportunity for a PB, right?
Well, I guess it went that way for most everyone but myself. The race started inauspiciously for both the Ocean State boys, as Julian had forgotten one of his spikes at the accommodation and was forced to borrow a pair of flats (Shouts out Aaron Nelson from Zap) 15 minutes before the race. Soon after that, I was nearly left behind on the line when the gun went off. Apparently Ireland has responsible gun control laws or something, so maybe that’s why they use something that sounds more like a false-start buzzer than a starter’s gun. Still, it confused the crap out of me, and my start to the race was far from stellar.
The race played out simply enough: a few of us— PC Grad Ben Connor, Welsh Marathoner Dewi Griffiths, Julian, Joe Stilin (from Princeton and Zap), and myself— who didn’t feel compelled to chase 62s got out quickly enough. Sitting on Ben’s shoulder, I felt pretty good for the first few laps, actually, and out in 4:12 or so for the mile, I thought I was surely destined for a PR.
Unfortunately, that feeling only lasted through about 2750m. Maybe getting out so quickly after being a second back on the line took a *little* something out of me; maybe overcommitting to Julian as he flew by me (in his flats) around the 300m mark took something out of me; maybe I was just tired, and 7:56 was my limit for the day— all of these scenarios may be feasible, but even so, that last 200 meters was ugly. I basically went from challenging for the win in our group to getting passed by everyone down the home straight. Actually, I’m pretty sure Joe, who ran 7:54, put both of those seconds on me in the last 125 meters. And believe me, I was trying really really hard.
Well, I was pleased enough with the result. To be fair, I was only a second off my PR, and freezing at the start line is probably worth that much anyway, so I’ll save 7:52 for next year. And of course, McDonalds and a couple beers with the boys after.
Small Crisis and Next Race
Julian and I accidentally booked 6 AM flights instead of 6 PM flights, so we left out of Cork at 1 AM, only sleeping on the bus to the airport and on our flight. Well, and in a 3-hour nap in later on in our hotel in Amsterdam. It seemed like a bit of a nightmare, but things have worked out pretty well from there. Our next challenge is the 5k in Heusden, Belgium on July 22. I’d say this is a good chance to set a new 5k PR, and my last and best chance to beat Julian out here on the European track circuit. I’ll report in after— wish me luck!