Novice XC Champs 2017

Grimacing faces at the top of the long climb. Photo: West Waterford AC Facebook page

WIT Arena, Waterford, 17th December 2017

44th in 21:37 (3:45 pace over a muddy & hilly 6km course)

Pure racing. Raw sport. No bells or whistles. Cross country needs a muddy field, a car park, tape to mark the course and start/finish line. Bring along 2,000 runners of all ages and let them at it.

The Grand National Start

So one of my favourite races was back in Waterford. 6km and 20 mins of pain, in all it’s muddy glory. I love this racing, from the mass start: it’s intimidating having 250 men in spikes all sprinting from the gun. One stumble, trip or push and you’re face down in the mud. Trampled in a spiky stampede is not how I want to go towards those pearly gates in the sky.

The Obligatory Hill

The course was 4 laps of a fairly hilly field. The hill was tiring, as it was one long slog of over 200m each lap. The crowds and atmosphere were great though. Like the Tour de France, with people either side of you as you grimaced up the hill, except muddier and less asthmatics.

At your limit

Running toe to toe with so many club runners is exhilarating. The margin for error is tight – going around tight corners at full speed. It’s like skiing on a narrow piste when you’re at your limit. You know you’re going too fast, but it’s impossible to pull the brakes without crashing out.

The mud was so deep in places, feet became separated from brogaí – no runner stopped, it was a fruitless exercise. Better run on with one shoe. My trick is to triple tie my shoe lace knots (learnt from experience on boggy mountain sides).

Rathfarnham WSAF AC Novice team 2017. Photo: Adam Jones

The Competition

Racing against familiar faces is nice. Club mates from Rathfarnham and then battling with friendly foes from the mountains and triathlon world. I’d a good battle with Jason Kehoe, mountain runner. He’s normally stronger than me, but I managed to sneak ahead and hold it over the line. I also beat champion triathlete Chris Mintern, probably the only time in my life I’ll do that. The only one who get away from Des Kennedy – revenge for Abbotstown a few weeks ago.

Well done Waterford AC

Everyone was impressed with the WIT Arena venue. Coffees, toilets, event warm showers for all. Not your typical XC – you’d be lucky if you got a hose down for the mud. We finished with a cool down on the Greenway along the River Suir. It’s definitely on the list over Christmas – running all 46km Waterford to Dungarvan.

Thanks to all the volunteers and organisers – by 4pm it was as just a muddy field again – like nothing had ever happened there.

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