Saturday dawned bright and clear in Newcastle. I crawled out of my tent having only slept about 3 hours, but as usual, feeling fresh by virtue of just being outdoors. My team-mate John picked me up and we made our way to registration in Silent Valley.
Camp was wet and slimy so teams mostly hid in tents. There wasn’t the party atmosphere I had been told about, but we had good chat with the neighbours and the other lads from NI-wild forum. Cramps were threatening everywhere on my body so I shovelled my delicious food into me, along with some Ibuprofen and port. A herbal sleep-easy brew completed the feast and we turned in at 10pm for a fairly good sleep. Up at 7am, cup of tea (no breakfast for me), then time to pack everything away. There had been a lot of disqualifications (missed checkpoints) or dropouts due to the bad weather on day 1, and day 2 dawned with a similar forecast. The course planners dropped a few checkpoints for the day, in our case for safety as they were near a ridge of cliffs, or to reduce the effort a bit.
There were no clusters this day, although the first two checkpoints held enough route choice to split the mass start. We again went around the wrong side of a mountain, this time an error rather than suboptimal decision, but reoriented ourselves and quickly made up time. The rest of the day was spot on, if we forget the bog of doom that tried to eat us… and finally twanged my hamstring. Being unable to walk while slowly sinking is awkward. It was downhill all the way now, but I was nursing the hamstring and feeling the calves wanting to go as well. Why didn’t I bring electrolyte tablets?! John did a sterling job of leading me in and encouraging me all the way to the finish. When we got to the tent and finally stopped I was almost overwhelmed. Finished, completed, succeeded! 16km, 700m ascent, 3hrs 25mins. We were 3rd that day but held on to 2nd overall.
Soup, juice, sandwiches, biscuits, tea and the obligatory T-shirt were gratefully lavished upon us. Having placed in our class, we also won a generous gift voucher for Jackson Sports. John and I thought we might get some nice socks or maybe a base layer, so were very pleasantly surprised when we opened the envelope! I started a great chat with a fellow competitor on the courtesy bus back to Belfast, but soon fell asleep…
The event was very well run, and consensus is that the course planners had done an excellent job. I certainly had a great weekend, but really should not have listened to everyone about the classes. Yes, this year elite would have killed me, but I would have done okay in the B class: There is a massive cross-over in ability. I’m not saying I don’t deserve my prize – we worked really hard, and our team interaction prevented costly mistakes, but it wasn’t the reason I entered. With my electrolytes, and experience from this year I’ll be looking for a top 20 in the B class if my schedule permits entry again in 2011. Bring on the wall!!! (Mourne wall)