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XC Marathon Championships – 26th August 2012

Before the off, David T, DavidC and Brian Mc. Fortunately we don’t have the “after” shot, it wouldn’t have been pretty!

[Report by David Conway]

Team Ballyhoura Facebook Status sometime last week: “Due to popular demand the 2012 XC Marathon champs course has been extended from 65km to 75km.”

I nearly spilled my tea. “WTF? Popular demand? Who in their right mind…?”

Damn this was going to be tough, but I had been targeting this race all year and I wasn’t going to be put off. This was going to be my comeback race after many months with a dodgy back. My goal was to at least match and hopefully improve on last year’s performance. Sunday dawned, bright and sunny. The Tullywagon picked me up bang on time and before we knew it we were lined up at the start. We were joined on the line by  Brian McElwee doing the marathon for the first time. David T, like me, was hoping to improve on last year.

The whistle blew and away we went in a mass start. The Ballyhoura MTB trails are Coillte’s finest contribution to Irish outdoor life. So it was something of a surprise when the peloton headed straight out the gate onto the public road! Very odd to be bunch-riding on the road in an MTB race but thankfully it was just a short loop to spread out the field before we headed back into the trail centre and the singletrack.

The first 30-40 minutes were tough, but soon I was up to operating temperature and cruising, loving the descents, and finding some nice rhythm on the climbs. Brian Mac and I rode together for the first 30kms or so  (we lost Tully in the melee at the start) until Brian announced he was feeling a bit ropey, stomach cramps from putting too much electrolyte in his bottle. I thought a little plain water would help so I gave him some. Little did I realise it was magic water! Within minutes he was miraculously cured, upped the pace and left me behind. I tried drinking some plain water but funnily it didn’t work for me.

In fairness I didn’t help my own cause. It started to rain about the same time, and for some reason it never occurred to me to remove my cycling glasses, even though I couldn’t see a thing through them. I rode for about 20 minutes with the glasses perched on the end of my nose looking out over the top of them. I was hitting rocks, misjudging corners, clipping trees and wondering wtf was going on. Was I so tired already? Finally I copped on. The problem was simple, the glasses were blocking my peripheral vision, which you don’t realise you need until it’s taken away.  I pocketed the specs, gave myself a lecture and soon I was back in the groove, but by this time Brian was a speck in the distance and I never caught him again.

The first half of the course had been a nice mix of fire roads and trail centre singletrack, with a few bits of tricky natural singletrack thrown in to keep us on our toes. Things changed a bit as the day wore on. The outer limits of the course were bleak and windswept, with endless rutted muddy lanes and open clearfelled hillsides. The organisers were clearly aware that this could seem depressing, and in an effort to cheer us up (or mess with our heads?)  someone had deposited half a dozen rubber ducks in one of the bigger puddles/lakes. Made me smile anyway.

The rain stopped for the last 15kms or so and I found myself in the thick of some racing drama. The elite women were having a right old battle for the final podium position. I decided to stay out of it but I reckon I could have taken that third slot! I finished bang on target in just over 5 hours, 22nd in my own Vets category, and 4th in the Elite Women’s race.

Brian had finished 2 minutes before me but he was a bit glum because he had lost his car key out on the course. He needn’t have worried. In his second miracle of the day someone found his key and handed it in! David T finished soon after in a much improved time from last year.

Team Ballyhoura ran a fantastic event once again, with the nicest friendliest marshals you could ever hope to meet. Thank you one and all. Thanks also to David T for the lift.

Race route on Strava

Results: Vets | Masters | Elite Men | Elite Women

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