Ciara receiving first prize from Jonny McCabe at Da Cooley Thriller
Not too sure if its a good thing that you have to check over the old training diary to remember what's been going on over the past two months! Anyways the 12 HR Bull raid definitely announced the start of the marathon "season" for Team Summit proper. A little blip in the endurance schedule came the weekend after the 12hr with the last XC national series race in Castlwellan. While it was a great course to ride round, the twisty techy nature of the descents and slippery slidey track meant it would be really hard to race on at any great speed. Both myself and Conor lined up for the start, but whether it was residual fatigue from the weekend before or just not being in the XC state of mind, both of us DNF'd with frustration on how the race was proceeding not really the kind of result you want but I guess these things happen sometimes.The next weekend we travelled down to Carlingford for the famous Cooley Thriller MTB marathon. Promising to be a long hard ride up over the Cooley Mountains, this is one of the best attended marathon races on the calender and this year proved to be even bigger. Organised by the masters of endurance - the McCabe bros and Co - we would be lead for nearly 50km and with around 1600m of climbing through forest roads, mountain singletrack and open moors, including the long steep drag up to the Ravensdale Mast. I was pretty lucky to get a good place near the front of the 200 odd strong field as the race was lead to the start area with a parade around the village and off we set along the base of Slieve Foy to start the long slog which would take some riders up to 7hrs to complete!
The start consisted of a run along the base of Slieve Foy forest and off towards Omeath before the long climb up to Ravensdale Mast. From the start my legs felt pumped and fatigued and all the fast guys dissappeared off into the distance but surprisingly I was able to gradually pull back places as we climbed up towards the Mast. Soon enough I came up to Myles McCrory one of Bike Pure's
founding members and we found ourselves pretty much yo - yo - ing between places as I climbed faster and he descended fast until the cord broke and he tired. Somewhere around the 30km mark I came across a fallen IMBRC rider who looked like they had a pretty bad crash and a touch of concussion. A 10min break to make sure the guy had no broken bones and was able to at least start moving towards an aid station I continued on and eventually caught up with Myles who had shot past me as I "first aided" but who seemed to have ended up with a slightly mangled front wheel. The last hour of the race was a bit of a torture session as tiredness set in, and although I could see that I had started to catch up with a small group of lads in the distance tiredness and frustration with the lack of speed meant the usual fun climb up the green mile was more of a slog. I had nearly forgotten the mental strength required for this type of racing!But the green mile represented the last climb of the day and it was a fast technical descent back down the mountain and into Carlingford to be greeted by the timekeepers, supporters and some not too tastey Monster Energy Drink, crossing the line officially in 3hr30mins - a little faster than my 2009 time so pretty cool. Kind of wishing I hadnt stopped to first aid as it looked like I could potentially have knocked another 5 - 10mins off that! But I hope the IMBRC guy got home ok! Conor came in later after 4.5hrs on the mountain, not a happy chappy as he suffered from cramping pretty much from the start but a good result nonetheless considering he doesn't ride for longer than 2hrs at any one time :-)
Last weekend saw the beginning of the endurance racing proper. I was feeling a bit run down at the start of the week between racing, travelling and running around the weekend before in Perth so it was a last minute sign up for the 12HR Bull Raid MTB event held at Bellurgan Park just outside Dundalk. Conor and I entered Team Summit as the mixed pair team in the 12 hour event on Thursday and on Friday evening got our shizzle together, packed the van each with our Specialized full susser bikes and headed down to set up camp for the weekend. The event set up was top notch, a pre-marked pitch for our gazebo and race equipment, timing chip between us and a pasta feed the night before. Saturday morning dawned after a little bit of a restless night not having slept in a tent for about 2 years, and after a quick race briefing at 7.15am the race was ready to start. Conor opted for the first lap out, obviously a better starter in the morning, and off he shot at what looked to me like XC race pace rather than endurance pace! I spent the next half hour trying to sort myself out and wake up, get my legs moving, all the stuff you need to have sorted BEFORE you start a race.... After about 40mins I spotted Conor coming across the one road crossing and into the final section of the course so off I headed to our pitch ready to take over. A quick swap of the timing chip and off I went. The course started off climbing almost immediately, including a torturous field climb which would gradually get harder as the day progressed - really hard on you when your starting cold. After that it was into the forest for a quick descent and a little double track relief before hitting the XC course which had been used at the start of the year for the first NPS (post here
). The XC course was a tough 5km route which included twisty draggy climbs, fun bermed descents, technical rooty and rocky sections and one or two rock drops - not a lot of scope for resting - after that it was a blast through some barley fields before hitting the final section of the lap through a narrow section of singletrack forest, not as flowy as the xc course and really bumpy in sections, and on into the start/finish arena. Having only just warmed up on my first lap and given Conor's first lap was a little off the competitor's pace I opted for a second fast lap XC style and bombed through the transition. Second lap was hard going, still a bit cold and tired but I reckoned we had made up some valuable time and handed over the next lap to Conor and readied myself to get some rest and a bite to eat. We'd agreed that come mid way we'd each do a two lapper to allow the other to get some lunch and some real food into us. So after lap 6 I took over lunch race duties and let Conor organise getting "the dinner on". Again laps 7 & 8 were a hard fought 1hr 27 of racing, enjoying the trails and riding hard on the climbs, always catching a glimpse of riders up front and enjoying getting to pass at "Ciara speed". I passed the buck onto Conor looking forward to a near 2hr lunch break and some food as hunger was starting to rumble. Having sat down, changed out of my damp gear, feet up, coffee on the go, a little risotto, ham & cheese bagel I started to get sleepy - gosh am I gonna be able to keep this up? After about 50 minutes Conor arrived back round looking a little out of kilter and hot and bothered "I cant take your 40 something minute laps!" he said exacerbated. It didnt seem like Conor was going to enjoy doing another lap back to back so I offered to go back out and let him gather himself together, got changed back in to my gear and off I went. Good job actually cause it seemed to have wakened me up after my little "sleep". Conor took over again next lap after which we agreed I'd do another double and we'd each finish on a single lap allowing me to do a final lap at around the 11hr30 mark. As the day wore on tiredness started to creep in and although mine and Conor's lap times were pretty consistent within a minute or two, my heart rate gradually declined until the last lap where I struggled to average more than 143 bpm. Both the legs, arms, neck, back... in fact entire body hurt, I was so glad to be on the Specialized Epic for this race! Last lap was a bit of a pootle in the park, and the slower I rode the more I started bumping into things and stalling over obstacles, good job I wasn't doing this for any longer. I crossed the line after doing 9 laps and a cumulative 15 laps between us, being handed a bottle of beer as I stopped - just like the Breck Epic, nice :-) Big smiles and hugs from Conor as we realised we'd made it through the day. Later as we queued for the BBQ after trying to get cleaned up a bit we waited to find out how we'd done. Unlike the other mixed teams we didn't really have a game plan for the day and weren't really paying a whole heap of attention to who else was out on the course when we were, just a case of gun it and see what happens. So it was a pleasant surprise to find out we'd won the mixed categories with a lap in hand, Conor's first ever race win so he was well chuffed - good work Team Summit!!
Later that evening we all crowded around a huge camp fire and everyone shared their stories of the day before eventually hitting the tent for some much needed snooze time. Next day we packed up and I left Conor to drive back to Newry to his folk's house while I took a little pootle back over the Cooleys on the bike - nice day in the mountains.
With the nationals over the next few months are going to be more endurance based with the 12hr Bull Raid MTB race, Cooley MTB Marathon and National Marathon champs all still on the cards.
The two weeks after the nationals was spent getting some more quality training in to try and increase my endurance power. The weekend after I met with Cait and Mel for a ride in the Wicklow Mountains guided by Cait who not only managed to get us lost but also escorted off some farmers field!
Still there was still one more potential XC race on the cards. Conor and I would be travelling with the Ulster & National Cross Country development squads to Perth in Scotland for a round of the Scottish XC league, myself as team manager/co-ordinator and Conor as trusty mechanic. The team's practice lap the day before the race revealed an exciting the well designed course again with killer climbs, mental steep descents and plenty of flowy singletrack. Hmm I thought, this would be nice to race! After consulting with the riders and the rest of the crew it was agreed that it would be a shame not to test the course and I signed up last minute on race morning. Lining up on the start line it was clear most of the elite riders were either on holidays or with prior commitments with only 3 elite women signed up. At these scottish races, ALL the females are set off at the same time, elite, junior, youth etc with the categories being gridded from elite back. So as the gun went off and we shot down the fire road it was hard to tell who you were racing against and what category they were in. A group of four of us headed up the first steep climb in top position, the other girls setting a blistering pace. As the lap continued we dropped a rider down to just three of us, and we yo-yo'ed positions. One of these girls Lucy Grant - an under 16 rider by the way! - was setting a blistering pace, racing me like there was no tomorrow. Going into the second lap i thought, holy moley I cant keep this up for another 3 laps and asked her what category she was in, only to find out she was doing 2 laps. After that she backed off a bit and I didnt see her again - I suspect we were both relieved I asked that question! And so I continued working hard on the climbs and having fun on the sketchy descents, finally coming in to win over 12mins in front of Morven Brown. The rest of the crew also had a good day with three more podium finishes so a good weekend had by all!
The National Champs were held in Kiruddery Estate just south of Dublin, a course which is one of my favourites and which always promises good riding. We headed down the day before for race practice and I wasn't disappointed. A 5km loop which doubled back on itself allowing for great spectating, loads of tight twisty singletrack, technical rock sections and the obligatory rock drop AKA Tombstone. Practice went well, a little cautious on the techy stuff as I was still nervous about re-injuring the wrist but good nonetheless
Race morning arrived and we headed down from the hotel to be greeted with a dull windy day which threatened rain. The course however was still bone dry and holding up well. Warm up went well until we were told it would be delayed for half an hour as someone had come down badly at Tombstone and needed to be taken to hospital. Finally we were gridded up, 7 other riders in the women's elite category including myself, Mel and defending champ Cait. Off we shot with junior Claire Oakley setting a phenomenal pace. I followed suit but was on a cold start so Mel and Cait both passed me going into the singletrack. I got stuck in behind Mel and we each passed Claire as she blew up on the first short kicker of a climb. Once the course got techy the two girls pulled away and I struggled to catch up. The next couple of laps I spotted them as I entered the start/finish, but going into the third lap my rear wheel came out of the drop out on a kicker section. I opted to change the wheel over in the tech zone as I didnt want a rear wheel indicent on a descent and ended up losing even more time as Conor searched the overly crowded feed zone for our wheels. After that I kind of lost my race mojo although I still worked hard around the course. In the end I came in 3rd sport behind Mel but 2nd in the Champs race as Mel is inbetween nations at the moment having only recently obtained her Irish
So I get back from Dalby and the next day head down to A&E cause my wrist is killing me. Three hours later and I'm in a cast after being told I have a broken scaphoid bone and I'll be out of action for at least 6 weeks - damn! Actually it wasnt so bad, two weeks later and I'm told it is infact another less slower to heal bone and am sent off for three weeks in a fibre glass cast and confined to the turbo once my knee gets moving again. The time off the bike wasn't a bad thing, I got my PT wheel serviced and concentrated on the tonne of work I had let build up. After 5 weeks I was let out of the cast and into a re-movable splint. That weekend I decided to give a local XC race a shot - Dunmore "Mountain" - part of the Ulster XC league. Legs were fresh, wrist not too sore. The course wasn't disimilar to the WC in terms of consisting largely of two killer climbs interspersed with smaller gradients, although not nearly as technical. Mel Spath made the trip up from Dublin for the day so would be interesting to see how I faired. The climbs were indeed a killer, I put most of my effort into steady climbing and feeding and was pretty wasted by the end - but not too exhausted. Finished 5mins down on Mel, not too bad considering the lack of consistent training I thought.
The next day I thought I'd give the Ulster Road Race champs a go since it was less than 10mins from my house. About 10 women turned up including ex National Champ Heather Wilson. From the start it was clear that my legs weren't gonna let me do much in terms of big efforts after the previous day, but what the hey just keep trucking! Heather kicked off middle of the 2nd lap so it was down to the rest of us to duke it out for 2nd/3rd spot. I upped the pace and broke the group into a smaller bunch of myself and 3 other riders. I worked hard for the rest of the race, a little too fast for the others to come through but not enough in the legs to break away! In the end it came down to a bunch sprint, which I never manage to get into.
The next weekend I heard of a race up north which included a mountain loop - interesting I thought. So off I headed to Ballymoney for the Ras Loughguile. Again about 10 girls showed up for 4 laps of a 10km course followed by a 30km loop around some lonely mountain in the middle of Co. Antrim. As usual I got impatient with the lack of pace coming from the group and I spent alot of time on the front and playing around with attacking on the 2km climb on the sort course. Come the kick up to the mountain loop and myself and Geraldine Gill kicked off the front. That road was steep! Whether it was the playing around on the earlier laps or poor gearing, Geraldine gave a little kick which gave her a gap of about 5 metres was we hit the first descent after which she pulled away as I struggled to keep my speed on the skinny tires. After that it was effectively a time trial back to the finish, every so often I would make up some ground only to be distanced again on a descent into a torturous head wind. I started to fade on the final 10km not bringing enough to eat as it was originally advertised as a 56km race! Second place again nonetheless.
Oops been a while since I posted any updates on the old blog, partly due to being so busy over the past few months.The Dalby BMBS race had been a great booster in terms of racing and I was looking forward to the World Cup at the end of May as a test on the course. The run up to the event
saw a mixture of training and racing, the last race being the Irish NPS at Tollymore Forest the weekend before the big event where I had a lead on Cait Elliott
for all of two laps after she had a slight mechanical, but where she caught me again on the last lap, something wasnt right, I was struggling to keep the intensity up. The week up to travelling to England was spent resting and preparing and myself and Conor as TeamSummit headed off for the long drive from Scotland to the northeast of England. We arrived at Dalby late on Thursday evening to see world MTB champion Jose Hermida spinning his way through the village. After a long queue to register on Friday morning it was time to get a couple of practice laps into the course. The course hadn't changed much from the previous round of the British Series with the sole exception of a slight change in the start area and the added section at Dixons Hollow through a cool BMX style course as well as a "Bus Stop" section out of Worry Gill. As the previous month I decided not to ride Medusa's and riding the drop out of the Bus Stop was causing problems, however I figured I had two days to sort it out so no worries - nailed it on my last practice!Friday evening was spent watching the ProSprint Eliminator in Dalby village, what a mental way to spend your world cup race prep! Conor had signed up for the Dalby Dare citizens event which took in the World Cup course and some more trails surrounding, so after another short practice lap on Saturday morning we got Conor ready for the Dare and off he went.
One and a half laps of the course and into the surrounding forest and after 1hr 2
4mins Conor was back with a big smile on his face - 66th position out of 208 riders, not bad for someone who doesnt train!Sunday morning arrived and I was feeling good after a good night's sleep despite having to move the bed into the living room cause of noisy neighbours. Warming up I was feeling a bit nervous but the fact that I had been here before at the British round made things
more relaxed. We were called to the holding pens and the top three lines were gridded leaving the rest of us to elbow into the back rows. Finally we were given the 15secs to go warning and BANG off we went like a shot with the obligatory tangle of bikes just infront of me which I managed to avoid but which meant a harder sprint down the road into the start loop where everyone bailed in at once and it was all argy bargy and elbows everywhere. Things started to spread out a bit after Dixon's Hollow and I could always see Cait Elliott just up ahead. Pace-wise I was struggling with the grassy sections around the feed zone and the climb out of Medusa's, although I managed to hold my position up the really steep twisty climb out of Worry Gill. So I could handle the steep stuff but for some reason couldn't keep my legs going for the other sections, the bike was feeling dead or maybe it was my legs! On the second lap between feeling a bit off after the climb and somewhat distracted by the argy bargy behind me I came a cropper on a technical descent around some rocks and went over the handlbars with a heavy thud, my right knee hitting a large dressed trail stone. After getting ridden over by upcoming riders I brushed myself off and headed on down the trail, but something wasnt right - my knee swoll up like a balloon and every time I shifted my gears my hand gave out to me. The next two laps were mentally and physically hard, just trying to keep going, little did I know at the time but I had broken my wrist and given my knee a serious case of bursitis, so whether it was a culmination of tiredness and being banged up I was finally pulled at the end of the 4th lap under the 80% rule just behind Cait, not great but to be honest I wasnt complaining either. After the race we spent some time watching the men's race and doing some promo work for Bike Pure - an Irish based clean cycling organisation which has some great professional rider supp