And now a report about my latest adventure: the “Da Cooley Thriller”, held last Saturday in the Cooley Mountains around Carlingford. I was a little reluctant to go racing up there again, painfully remembering getting lost on its course (as did many others) due to poor marking a few years ago. But a long time had passed since then and I had a 4 hour mtb spin in my training plan, so I decided that doing the race would be making the training that little bit more interesting. And so Oisin, who gave me a lift up, and I arrived early in the morning in the beautiful picturesque village of Carlingford at the race to some very breezy and quite fresh weather.
After the briefing the ~200 riders for the short and long course set off through the village towards the ominous looking mountains. It was a bit of a rolling start and I wasn’t quite sure where the race proper started. Unfortunately I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the stream of riders squeezing through the narrow roads of Carlingford, mainly keeping an eye on Cait Elliott, who was my main competition in this race. I should have been positioning myself better to the front, so that I didn’t have to fight through or be pushed around by a mass of overexcited roadie-goobers in world champion gear and with funny dangerous bar ends. Finally the people strung out a bit on the first bit of climb and I was able to work my way up through the riders. But then we hit some simple single track and the people ahead of me started walking!! It turned out that there were a good few roadies doing this race – not one I would have chosen for my first mtb race experience because I knew it was becoming a lot more technical than that!
Once we hit the tarmac it was important to keep with a group to be sheltered against the strong headwinds up the hill. I managed to stick onto a good group for a bit, got dropped on a climb, fought my way back on and kept going with them up towards the masts. We were making good progress on the windy road. My legs were feeling fantastic and I knew that this race would be a good one. Just before the last off-road ascent towards the masts I stopped at the first feedzone for a handful of haribo provided by the organizers. I overtook a few more people on the ascent, grabbed my bottle from Dave and started the long downhill section. I had a lot of fun and witnessed two spectacular looking (but harmless) crashes of two riders. The weather kept up mostly, the trails were sweet, the climbs were hard and my legs were pedaling without effort. I really loved the singletrack, just technical enough to keep you on your toes not too scary so that I was even able to enjoy the spectacular views around the Cooley Mountains. Time flew by and I had to watch my clock to not forget to take a ZipVit Gel (new recipe flavours are fantastic) every 45minutes. There was so much nice singletrack that it was hard to find a place to even drink!
Finally, after endless amazing singletrack I arrived at the second feedzone station at Windy Gap, where Aine provided me with another bottle and I gobbled up another handful of sweets. Then it was up the last climb – I remembered it to be long and draggy from the last time I did it, but today it was over in no time and I found myself on the last long and fun descent through the ferns towards the finish. I couldn’t believe that it was over when I arrived after 3h19min of riding, as first Elite women and 9th overall. I felt so great I could have done another lap. I wish I had had those legs during the World Marathon Champs. Married life is good for you!
I really really enjoyed this race – maybe I should switch to marathon racing? The trail marking and race organization were perfect, with free and tasty pasta provided after the race, and early results were even up that evening with full results the following day. The ghosts from a few years ago have been well and truly chased away and I definitely will be doing this one again next year!
Thanks to the organizers for putting on such a great event on such great trails, thanks to Oisin for the lift, thanks to Dave Gill and Aine Conneff for feedzone support and thanks to the weather gods for keeping the rain at bay.
Results can be found here.
More photos here and here.