Date: 2nd June 2012
Location: Rathnure, Co Wexford
Time: 03h 24m
This was a new race on the calendar, organised by a local community group as a fundraiser for Rathnure GAA Club. I only signed up 2 days before; as it suited me to have the race early on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend, plus it was on my way home to Waterford. Lots of people did TriAthy, but I way preferred the idea of running up a muddy hill in Wexford than waiting around for wave 36 in a packed Kildare town J
The race comprised of 3 sports: 3 runs, 3 cycles and a kayak. I chose the longer option, the 7 Steps (7 sections), but many chose the shorter 5 Steps which didn’t have the 2nd mountain run or final cycle. It was a great course, crossing the Blackstairs Mountains into counties Wexford and Carlow.
- Bohereen Run, Wood Trail and Mountain Run 10.5km
- Short Cycle to Kayak area 9km
- 3km Kayak on the Barrow River
- 25km Cycle with some tough climbs and sharp bends
- Blackstairs Mountain Run 6km
- Sprint cycle mainly flat 11 km
- Run to finish line 1km
I felt good about this race, as there was a small field of about 80 people and I figured there were 3-4 competitive runners, including Paul Mahon, who’d beaten me in Dingle Adventure Race last year. I got a real adrenaline buzz knowing that I was going to be at the front, in contention. Battling it out with a few guys is great fun, especially since I knew I’d probably be strong on the run, but the bike and kayak could see me drop backward.
I started well on the first run, out of Rathnure and up some country lanes. I settled into 2nd, alongside a local guy and got a few cheers of “Go Sonia” along the way. I pulled ahead up the forest fire road and descended through gorse with a good lead (I didn’t look back). I wasted time at transition, tying my runners together and onto my race belt, as I forgot to bring my backpack!
We cycled to Graiguenamanagh and jumped into kayaks on the River Barrow, and headed off up-river. I knew Paul and Derrick were good kayakers, so hoped that my run had given me a long enough lead. Unfortunately, I got caught just after the turnaround and exited the river in 3rd.
The bike ride was hilly, on really quiet country roads, which were well marshalled. The top 3 were close neck and neck, so I finished off the bike in joint 1st with Derrick. I again lost time changing shoes (doh!) but made it up on the steeper second climb (which had great views of the drumlins of Co Wexford).
By this stage, I felt confident in 1st and figured that Derrick wouldn’t close the gap on the final bike and run. However, it’s funny how your mind plays games and you imagine scenarios of what could go wrong. Punctures, falling into a hole, getting lost, etc.
I enjoyed the bike ride once I figured I was nearly home and dry. Only a 1km run to the finish, which I did barefoot (to the surprise of the local George Hamilton who was commentating at the finish). So after a lap of the GAA pitch I jumped in the air to savour the moment – what a feeling to win a race!!
The people of Rathnure were out in force to participate, marshall and support this race. There was a real community spirit which was great to see, even if everyone was disappointed the numbers were low. The local priest, Fr Tom, gave us a send-off and an army of GAA and local people marshalled the course excellently. I met a farmer at transition, who wished me well: “May the Blackstairs treat you well.” Afterwards, the grub and hospitality were excellent. I drank about 10 cups of tea and tons of sandwiches and home make cakes!
To be honest, I’d never heard of Rathnure before the race and relied on the GPS to get me there. It’s a typical country village near Enniscorthy and has a pub, shop, church and GAA club. However I quickly realised my ignorance, when I saw the Nicky Rackard Centre in the GAA club. The famous Rackard brothers are legendary in hurling circles, but I never knew they were from here.
This was a great race, with huge potential to grow in 2013. The friendliness of the people makes a difference, as you see it really is something that the community is behind. Anyone preparing for Dingle, WAR or Gaelforce should consider this race next year – you’ll definitely enjoy it (ok, maybe not til it’s over!).