Clontarf Half Marathon

The day dawned bright and cool, but without the icy bite in the air that's been making itself known of late. I was excited for my first winter race here in Ireland: for the past few years, Dublin Marathon has marked the end of running-year. Coming from a much milder climate, these Irish winters have been very hard on me, and my running has suffered as a result: hibernation from November until at least February has been my pattern for the last 3 winters, meaning I start the summer season from scratch every year. So this year I'm excited to keep moving despite the cold. Now that I have the encouragement of my club and support of some wonderful new training partners (who make sure I get out and about in the cold, dark winters mornings!), I'm looking forward to an active winter. Clontarf was the official start of it all (with formal races being less frequent since Dublin Marathon, I'm not racing every weekend as I was doing in the summer: I'm still running though). 
Except for a portion of the route being flooded (and the wonderful folks of the Clontarf Half Marathon team did a sterling job of organising a dry alternative path for us!), this was the exact same route as the July version of this race. Fast and flat, and surprisingly mild by 10am.
I went in planning to take it slow and easy, as I've been fighting an injury: little over-enthusiastic in last weekend's long-run, 26km that included the Raheny Parkrun 5K smack in the middle, and my competitive streak wouldn't allow me to hang back and do an easy 5K - I pushed myself on to run a pretty decent 28 minutes. Cue strained muscle, week of rest and a painful physio session. By then I was more than ready to tackle Clontarf. As usual I started out at the very back, to avoid the temptation of getting too caught up in the vibe and starting out to fast. I tried to keep my pace steady at 6:15/6:30 per km.
Towards halfway I found myself dipping below 6:00 per kay, and had to make a conscious effort to keep my pace nice and slow. The problem was that I was feeling too comfortable at the faster pace (thank you Bray Runners for all that speed work - at the start of the summer I was struggling to maintain 6:15, and now I'm quite comfortable at 5:45!). The beach helped to keep my pace in check, though thankfully the sand was fairly hard-packed due to the lack of regular foot-traffic in these colder weeks. Then back onto the tarred road and footpath, the turnaround point came way too quickly. Retrace our steps back to Bull Island, over the back and along the Clontarf Promenade for a sprint-finish. Then off to the soup table for some much-needed energy top-up.
The hot soup was heavenly after the run, and helped keep me warm now that I had stopped running and had started to cool down again. Nothing tastes quite as good as a cup of soup or a sandwich after a good long run!! Even the plainest fare is heavenly!!!

Additional information