There were no marathon champs this year, so we had to make do with The Cooley Thriller, and it more than made up!
The race was organised by Cuchulainn Cycling club, and the start/finish was based in the scenic Carlingford village. Over 150 entrants showed up and as usual the masters category was probably the largest, despite my usual rivals not making an appearance.
The weather was, again, misty and damp, despite leaving Naas in Sunshine. We got to the yacht club for sign-on and spent the hour or so sorting out our bikes and chatting about what would be in store for us.
At midday we were escorted out of the village up to the Slieve Foy Forest where the racing kicked off. Again, I was down the back when we left the village so by the time the race started proper I was chasing people. First person I caught was Oisin just as we reached the section used in the NPS. Knowing he'd catch me eventually I passed by him - and within a hundred meters of single track that happened. However a few hundred meters up the trail I passed him as he slowed up to repair a puncture which pretty much ruled him out of the rest of the race.
After the single track we hit the tarmac - which was flat initially, but quickly became a serious climb, all the way up to the top of Black mountain and into the mist. At this stage I met up with some with another rider (who picked up my water bottle on a descent - cheers!), and between us, managed to get a little lost. Thankfully, local rider Johnny McCabe passed by and for the rest of the race we were pretty much wheel to wheel.
Once the main climb was completed, we worked our way across various peaks, hitting some seriously fun descents along the way. I wish I could say the view was amazing, but with the mist hanging so low, I could just about make out 50 meters up the trails. Sean caught up with us about half was through (had a pedal malfunction earlier in the race - that is, one of them fell off!) and we kept pretty much together until the last 5 km's where he pulled away (with Johnny).
To be honest, the course was so demanding I was not thinking about where I was positioned - I had Sean and Johnny ahead of me and thats all I needed to keep the pace up. The last 2 kms were an amazing descent down from the mountain. I wished I had a bigger, full suss bike to really enjoy it, but for now it was 100mm hardtail. Also at this stage the clouds lifted and sun had come out. We had amazing views across Carlingford Lough and into Rostrevor - another mtb mecca.
But before I knew it, we were at the finish line. And to find out I came 8th over all - which I was happy with, as 6th place was probably only a minute ahead. But the best news was that I won the masters category - my first win! I was delighted to win the race, but the fact that the main players in the masters cat were not there did dampen this a little, but you can only race who turns up!