The week of this race was meant to be my last hard (20h) training week, after building up from 16h to 18h the two weeks before, but halfway through the week my legs packed in, so I decided to take it easy for the rest of it and use the Ulster XC Champs as my last high intensity session before the Ras na mBan one week later. Ryan and I both went up to the beautiful countryside of the Mourne Mountains - memories of my Mourne Mountain marathon adventure welling up. And during the race I remembered that I raced mtb here years before, in 2006, as a non-contender in the open National XC Champs, when I was still a beginner....
Anyhow, we arrived in the lovely forest park (why don't we have more of those around Dublin???) on a nice sunny day and got ready for a practice lap. Word of the mouth was that the course would have been fantastic in the dry, nice and fast and flowy, but the wet weather beforehand had made it into a muddy slidery course - damn, I got the wrong tires on my bike! The practice lap confirmed it, I think I washed out about 10 times and came off the bike about 5 times. There wasn't much climb but there were many corners, with the course sweeping and swooping around the trees, so it felt a little bit like cyclocross.
Unfortunately I was the only Elite woman signed up, which is a bit disappointing, as I was looking forward to having to push myself hard. So my aim for this race was just to ride as smooth as possible, and practice clean cornering. However, when the race started, some of the later categories caught up with me and I had a bit of a battle with Mick from EPIC for most laps. The race itself was good fun, with me concentrating on my skill and I felt I was conquering the course more and more with every lap. Some nice features of the course included a steep switchback climb, that I almost made a few times and a fun bomb hole.
In my last lap I got an extra incentive to go a little faster when I saw Ryan catching up with me, so I sped up and made sure he didn't get me. While the racing was less exciting, I really enjoyed riding the course and still got a great workout out of it since the fairly flat nature of the course meant that there was not much time to recover. I'll do this one again next year, but hoping for more competition then!
Full results can be found here.