We had 4 races in Avondale at the weekend and we have 3 writers covering their races. We had a few first time cross country runners, a number of team and individual cross country medals and some getting their first ever cross country medal.
Have to admit, I was dreading this race – not helped by much talk of mud and ‘brutal’ hills. With no sign of a hurricane/cancellation and no creative get-out clause, it was all systems go on Sunday morning.
Liam, Anthony and myself travelled together, arriving at the stunning Avondale House venue just as the under-age relays were finishing. Joined by Noel and Bruce, we did a recce of the course. This was a great idea, as it highlighted a few trouble spots, notably the slippery surface at the bottom of the steep downhill stretch. It also allowed us to enjoy the scenery, pain free. A few tactics were discussed along the way, boiling down to ‘just run through the pain’ (source: Anthony). Right, anyone just fancy climbing the viewing tower instead?
Unlike the Dublin XC, the Masters and O50s ran together over 6k ( 2 laps of 3k). The course is a real challenge with a mix of hills and several flat-ish stretches. Mud featured in spots, however, not too bad and helped by the ideal weather conditions. The race started at a fair gallop uphill towards the finish line. My initial thought was, ‘whatever you do, don’t fall here, there are plenty of opportunities out on the course where nobody will see you’. Over the brow of the hill and down into the valley, with 2 short diversions down side sections. The route loops back up towards the starting line for the second lap. My aim was to stay with Anthony and Liam and hang on with them as long as possible. The first lap was straightforward enough and I still felt ok at the 4k mark. From here, I concentrated on my breathing and maintaining a consistent cadence (Liam’s very sound advice). I managed to push on for the next 1.5k…until…the home stretch. Brutal doesn’t do justice to the final 500m of the course – a very steep hill (1st cousin of cliff), followed by a deceptive uphill drag, a short flat stretch and the final mind-bending, leg-wobbling uphill finishing surge. And finish I did, my post-race prone position resembling the course layout (see below).
Despite my not-well-disguised aversion to XC, I was delighted to complete this race and it was a bonus to run a faster time than the Dublin Masters. Thanks to Anthony and Liam for keeping me going and the good advice, before and during the race. The support from the Sportsworld crew was fantastic (as usual) and really makes a difference when the pressure is on. Thanks also to Myles, Paul and Emily for the pep talks and organising the teams.
I have many happy childhood memories from traveling down to Avondale for picnics with my family so I jumped at the opportunity to run in the Men’s Intermediate race. Memory is a funny thing though because I always thought Avondale was flat! Thankfully, I was forewarned this wasn’t the case beforehand. With this knowledge in mind and buoyed by the success of the club in the earlier races Conor, Ben, Timothy, Stephan and I headed down to the start line.
The men’s race was 8km and involved two relatively flat 1km loops, followed by two hilly 3km loops with one particularly steep climb. The flat start encouraged a quick pace and the field spread out before we got onto the longer loops.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect the ground to be like but it was not too soggy in most places. It was definitely much firmer than Tymon was for the Dublin Intermediate race last month which is the only other cross country race I have done. We were told beforehand that some people slipped in one spot during one of the earlier races but there were no repeats in our race.
The race was won in just over 27 minutes by an athlete from Mullingar Harriers. Conor lead home the Sportsworld troops in 24th place with a time of 31:13. He was followed by Ben in 26th place, Timothy in 28th, me in 29th and Stephan in 33rd.
This was the last race of the day so many thanks to Emily, Myles, Paul and everyone else from the club who stayed back and offered words of encouragement to the five of us! It was a big help, especially towards the end. A common refrain was that I should pump my arms so I’ll have to bear this in mind in the future!