Eight athletes, three on their first International competition, headed off on Thursday to Palentina Spain for the above competition, the first time for it to be hosted by Spain in its 17yr history.

While the weather was OK by home standards, rain on race day is not quite how you plan for racing in Spain during June – so much for the last 3 weeks heat training and our new Ice Vests – they were left to melt in the team tent while the athletes raced.

The N.I.& Ulster Team may not have won any medals, but there were solid runs from every member of the team, having good battles throughout the race with their International competitors. Team managers, Nikki Graham and Phil Hodge were very proud of how they raced and conducted themselves throughout the trip – a credit to their families and clubs!

Olivia Morgan on her first International provided an athletes perspective of what it was like to run a Mountain Race for NIMRA – 

After the first day, living very close to each other and travelling to and from the hostel, we bonded quickly as a team. 

Some of the more experienced members of the squad shared tips and race tactics with me which I found very helpful in the race. 

I still made tactical mistakes in the race, like going out too fast, and also when I chose to walk, but I did so with purpose, using how Phil taught me to push my knees and not lose any places, keeping up with those around me. Also to watch experienced runners and follow their steps and pace. Also to focus on heart rate and breathing to judge effort levels. I also know where I can improve: like not to panic and go too fast at the start, and if I felt I needed to walk, count to 20 and then decide if I still needed to after that. However, I think some aspects of the race went well for me, especially parts I dreaded, such as the river and the rocky downhills which I used to make up some places.

The weather made conditions very similar to cross country with mud and rain which made it more familiar to home and was an advantage to our team. Running across the river was a point many of us dreaded, however everyone remembered the advice from Phil and Nikki about pace and how to land and all crossed successfully. Despite ups and downs in the race, everyone in the team finished and tried our best for the team.         

This team spirit was felt especially after the race. Everyone relaxed and felt proud after racing hard for each other and we had a great time in the town square. We enjoyed lots of dancing with other teams and got to know people very well from the time we spent together negotiating kit trades and singing. I made very close friends on this trip and it was amazing to see all the different country flags and kit and gear all the different languages and trying to communicate with other athletes.

The people in the Kyomu Resort were so kind and welcoming from when we first arrived late that night to when at the end, the kind chef asked for a picture with his daughter and me and said, “incase you ever became world champion”. It made me very happy and determined to keep trying my best. Throughout this trip, during the race helping each other on and all the fun in between, I had experiences with new friends I will never forget. Thank you for the great opportunity.
Olivia Morgan .

Well done Olivia and all your teams mates on a fantastic trip – your were great ambassadors for NIMRA and N.I. & Ulster in general.

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