With only a week to spare, I finally accomplished my goal of running a race abroad! On Saturday, I completed the Dingle Half Marathon on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. I wasn’t expecting much (I set no goals other than to enjoy the scenery and finish feeling good) since my training has been a little sporadic and I never ended up following a plan even though I was thinking about it, but the race went much better than expected, and I was happy to find that I have kept up my fitness better than I thought. That, and the scenery was just so damn beautiful that it was easy to get distracted and the miles went by fast.
I haven’t written a race report since March (and I’ve had bad race fever ever since, and it’s even worse now after Saturday. I’ve been googling races like crazy) so I feel out of practice, and I’m not one of those people that can recall a race mile-by-mile. I’m actually really impressed when people can do that; I usually zone out or forget which mile stuff happened at. But here I go.
Jeremy and I flew into Dublin from Bordeaux, France on Thursday (we spent a few days in Bordeaux beforehand then went to Spain with two friends from home, but that deserves its own post), and rented a car at the airport. We drove to Dingle, which is across the entire country. Jeremy drove and picked up the whole driving on the left side of the road thing really quickly.
We arrived in Dingle in the evening, and met our host and arrived at our perfect little house on the Dingle Bay. I don’t even remember where I found this lady’s email address because she doesn’t have a website or pictures of the house online, but it could not have been more perfect, and since she is just starting out the price was much lower than what she could actually get.
On Friday, we went to pick up my race packet from the harbor, and it was super fast and easy. There wasn’t really an expo since it’s a small-town race, but I didn’t mind because I don’t particularly care about expos anyway.
We walked around the harbor a bit and I took my traditional pre-race photo.
After packet pickup, Jeremy and I drove around the peninsula on the road that the race would follow, called Slea Head Drive. I took some pictures since I figured I wouldn’t during the race.
Needless to say, it was beautiful and I was getting pretty excited about running the course. There were lots of sheep and cows along the way, mixed with ocean views, cliffs, and countryside.
That evening, we took it easy. I had a lot of bread and a small salad for lunch, and then soup for dinner, which worked out for my race in March so I replicated it this time. I stretched some and wore my ProCompression socks, and laid out my stuff.
The race didn’t start till 9am Saturday morning, which was great. We were only about a five-minute walk from the start, so I had a nice and relaxing morning. I’m not a good sleeper in general and the night before a race can be notoriously bad, but I slept really well the whole time we were in Dingle. It was definitely the best sleep I’ve ever gotten before a race (and our entire trip so far, I’m pretty sure). I set an alarm for 7am but I never actually need alarms to wake me up, and got up around 6:30. I ate some porridge (we thought it was oatmeal when we bought it) and a banana and a cup of coffee. We left the house at 8:30am, and I didn’t use the bathrooms before the race since the lines were long and I didn’t feel like I needed to. I got in the corral (there were no waves) and realized I was kind of close to the front after seeing how many people were behind me. The race started right on time, and at 9am we were off.
The problem with starting so far up in the corral was that everyone was running faster than I was planning, but I didn’t realize it. After seeing my time of 9:04 for the first mile even though I thought I was going much more slowly, I worried that I would screw myself over if I didn’t slow down. But I didn’t like getting passed by a bunch of people, so I kept up my pace. At around mile 4, I saw some portapotties with no lines and figured I should stop since I had to pee pretty badly, and it would be good to get away from the faster people so I didn’t hit a wall later on. This was the first time I’ve stopped to use a portapotty during a race. I didn’t think it would affect me by much, but I think I may have been able to PR if I hadn’t stopped. But that’s okay, I didn’t know at the time how strong I would feel later on.
I ended up taking some pictures along the way, which really helped me mentally. For some reason it gave me a big boost of energy whenever I did, and it was actually pretty fun. During the first few miles, I was staying on the left side of the road to avoid crowds. A nice older Irishman sought me out to let me know that I should stick to the middle of the road since it was slightly slanted on the side and it would hurt my legs later on. I thanked him and moved to the center. My left quad ended up kind of hurting at around mile 10 and I realized I was on slanted road again. I moved to the middle of the road and the pain went away. I thanked the man in my head again.
I only stopped to walk twice, and for only about 5 seconds (if that) each time. I learned from my past half marathons that if I’m really feeling tired, I should stop and compose myself for a few seconds, and pick it back up. This worked, and the second time I stopped to walk on a hill, an older Irishwoman tapped me on the shoulder and told me there was a photographer at the top of the hill so I shouldn’t walk. I thanked her, and started running again. Everybody that I talked to on race day was SO nice and really made the whole experience that much better. I took a mocha Clif gel that had caffeine in it around mile 7 I think, and that gave me a much-needed boost of energy. The gels always take me a long time to finish, so I think I wasn’t done with it until a mile or so later.
I never ended up hitting a wall, and I was able to sprint the last half mile to the finish line. The race finished at a pub, and everyone was already drinking beer. I couldn’t find any water at the end and I was really thirsty. I finally found a few bottles under a table and grabbed one. My race medal broke a few minutes after I put it on, so a volunteer gave me a new one. My Garmin matched up pretty perfectly with the mile markers and I stopped it two seconds after I crossed the finish line, so I knew my official time would be pretty spot on with my watch. I finished in 2:05:45, one minute and 42 seconds away from my PR. I WILL break two hours soon!
There were buses waiting to take the half marathon finishers back to Dingle, so I waited in line and ate some snacks, and talked to two really nice people from Ireland that had just run. The bus took about 45 minutes because of how slowly the driver had to go on the small roads, but it was fun because the scenery was beautiful, and we were driving past the full marathon runners so we could cheer them on from inside the bus.
I met up with Jeremy back in Dingle, and he was waiting for me with chocolate soy milk and pretzels. The best.
I’m usually not that hungry right after a race, but it was different this time. I really wanted something salty and unhealthy, so we got fish and chips, calamari, and mushy peas. It hit the spot.
We were going to go out to the pubs that night to hear some traditional Irish music and celebrate with all the other racers that had come into town, but I was way too tired and instead sat at our house, drank wine and ate cheese from a local cheese shop, which was made with seaweed. It was really good.
Overall, it was a great race with some beautiful scenery, and I would definitely run it again. The weather was also perfect, it was pretty chilly and windy at the starting line but the wind died down and it was overcast and about 55 degrees and never warmed up. The shirt is also really nice, it’s a long-sleeved performance shirt that has a zippered pocket. It’s pretty big since I went with a unisex medium when registering for some reason, but I still like it.
The only things I didn’t particularly like were the fact that they handed out water bottles at each fueling stop (which were every three miles, which wasn’t that bad for me since I brought my own water), and everybody only took a sip or two and then tossed the rest, so there were basically full bottles of water everywhere, going to be thrown out. I also didn’t like that they didn’t hand out water at the finish line and I had run out of my own.
Oh man, for the first time ever, I took a few good pictures during a race (I actually tried this time). I’m going to buy a picture, I’m thinking this one:
Or this one:
I swear I was sprinting as hard as I could in this one, but instead I kind of look like I’m la-di-da skipping to the finish line:
Anyway, half marathon #5 was really great, and now I’m looking forward to #6, in Santa Barbara on November 8th!