Alarm clock went off at 8am, got brekkie sorted (porridge, 2 eggs, and juice - all in the same bowl ;) ) and car packed. Picked up Gavin and we were off. despite the distance, it was only and hour and 15 minutes to Carlingford.
We had to park halfway down the course as the car park was full from early, so that meant lugging bottles, bikes up the hill. But it was our own fault for not getting there till 10.45.
The lap was a figure of 8 (kind of). As I was late I only manged to pre-ride the first section, but the lads were buzzing about the singletrack on the second section, so it sounded like it could be a fun day. The race was going to be a long one though - close to 30 km's, rather than the 20-25km race. That had me a bit nervous due to little training over the past four weeks and a dodgy leg. I also had a problem with the bike. The Specialized Control tyres are not good in the mud, or even remotely damp ground, but I did not fancy having to change tubless tyres. So I dropped the pressure right now to under 20psi, to make up for the lack of knobbly's.
I lined up on the second row, I was happy enough there as there would be plenty of tarmac road to get into a good position before we got to the singletrack. Meself and Oisin were discussing big or middle ring for the start. It was a very steep ascent and I had doubts whether I could keep it going to the single track, but if Oisin was going to give it a lash, I might as well too. The whistle blew and we were off, and straight away there were problems - well, not for me but the fella in front who managed 3 pedal strokes before his chain snapped - bad luck there. Experts, vets and juniors all took off before us (a change from last year when you had Elites, Experts, Masters and Vets), this meant that the slower vets where only a few hundred metres up the climb when we kicked off. The leading group formed quickly, and as we rounded a bend we could see the vets working their way up the hill. At this point I was 8th or 9th, but when I saw the slower riders ahead, it struck me that if I could get a few of those fellas between me and the rest of the masters I could make a gap. So I took off to the front and pushed on for a bit, getting by a few riders, but unfortunately, there was one vet I could not pass before we entered the single track. He was gingerly working his way down the wet trail, stopping at one point - which stopped me also. Then Alfie and Oisin went by. After that I just hung on to Oisin's wheel for the second climb up the tarmac climb and to the entrance of the second singletrack section. As expected, things slowed down here. We were already up with Experts, Elite women and juniors so it was a case of just being patient and overtaking when the opportunity arose.
The second singletrack brought us south, behind Carlingford village. Fergal passed me but stopped further up the trail with a mechanical. A little further I passed Alfie with a mechanical too. I think this put me in second place (but I'm not entirely sure). But I drove on, heading back to the start/finsh.
On the second lap tarmac climb I started to get familiar pains at the top of my calf and behind my knee. I should have given up then and there, but I was really enjoying the course and was feeling really fresh. So I pushed on and had a better singletrack section.
At the start of the 3rd lap I knew I would not finish, the pain was more pronounced (and I could have sworn I felt a pop), but once I got the tarmac climb out of the way I thought I'd just get one more timed lap and leave it at that. So I tootled along enjoying the singletrack However my decision to run low pressure came back to haunt me. I rolled the tyre wall twice which burped out most of the air. I think I only lost a couple of minutes getting the cannister out and re-inflating. However, only a couple of hundred metres up the trail the chain got caught behind the big sprocket, so another couple of minutes lost there trying to yank it back out.
After that it was a case of spinning up the fireroad to finish out on lap 3. The first aid jeep kindly lent me an ice pack and I spent the next 10 minutes icing, stretching, icing etc.
Oisin won the masters race comfortably, with Alfie coming in 3rd. It was a tad frustrating in some ways as I definetly felt I could have made the podium (even with the mechanicals), but not half as frustrating as not being able to straighten my leg out fully this morning. So off to a (different) physio tomorrow to see what can be done.
So that's about it. I'm delighted that fitness-wise I'm in a good place (maybe the lay off from training has helped out there), but the leg is still a problem - not quite back to square one though