INTERCOUNTIES – LADS LEAP
* The behind the scenes report *
Zak Hanna, (the youngest member of the team) was causing trouble from the moment he stepped into the airport as he was swiftly pulled aside by security when they spotted something unusual in his hand luggage. Much to Zak’s dismay, the security team found and removed his extra large tub of Nutella spread!
Meanwhile, Ladies Team Captain Shileen O’Kane was also causing quite a stir, as she narrowly avoided being arrested for fraud after quote “accidentally” using her husbands PayPal account to book her flight – We like your your thinking Shileen! The experienced International runner was quickly forgiven and even received the first round of applause for the Northern Ireland team when she successfully managed to remove her oversized suitcase from the overhead lockers upon landing in Manchester. – Later, Shileen admitted it may have been due to the number of shoes (none racing) she was carrying!
– The sound of music, sleeping arrangements and… snoring –
Vice Captain Martsje Hell kindly arranged the accommodation but with little choice available the team were apprehensive about the “Laughing Badger Inn,” which promised room for 8 people but only advertised 4 beds! With 4 ladies and 4 of the 5 strong men’s team, plus the appropriately appointed Team Manager Ricky Hanna needing a place to kip, (do the Maths) the sleeping arrangements were certainly interesting.
Arriving in Hadfield we found our ‘Air BnB’ to be greeted by the live-in landlord, a singer songwriter, artist and Irish enthusiast Mr Sean Wood. Sean gave us a whistle stop tour of our weekend retreat including fully operational (and to Shileen’s delight) full stocked Irish bar. Zak and Men’s Team Captain David Hicks were equally delighted with the fully stocked fridge and freshly baked soda and scones made especially for our arrival. It’s safe to say the team felt at home with the Irish theme running throughout the house, even the dogs, Guinness and Connie (short for Connemara, if you hadn’t already guessed) paid a visit from time to time.
Whilst apprehensively waiting on Luke McMullan and Timmy Johnston to arrive after a car hire disaster almost left them stranded at the airport, the rest of the evening was spent carb loading at the local pub, sharing general running banter and marvelling at how much food Zak could put away – all in the name of fuelling! Fed and watered it was time for bed – but not before hunting out the nearest corner shop to purchase an extra large tub of Nutella … so Zak could sleep easy!
– Race Day…
The last lady to arrive was Esther Dickson, who was eagerly knocking at the doors of the ‘Laughing Badger Inn’ in the early hours of Saturday morning, before Sarah Graham had even got out of bed! Full of life and energy even after a 4am alarm and a red eye flight – we don’t know where she gets her energy from – but we’d all like some please!
Some carbs and caffeine later the men and women were ushered out the door by Team Manager Ricky who led the convoy on their 20 minute drive to race HQ where the final member of the team, Gavin Mulholland, waited patiently. An absolute scorcher of a day, the factor 30 was put to good use, which only highlighted the standard Northern Irish complexion apart from Sarah – who much to Ricky’s confusion always manages to boast a ‘healthy glow’ on any given race day.
The out and back course which took in the well known ‘lads leap’ covered approximately 11km – rather than the 9.5km originally advertised – a nasty but not uncommon occurrence in mountain racing. The initial steep climbing levelled out onto a narrow heather covered path which one of the locals (seemingly chuffed with his knowledge of the Mournes) proudly announced could be compared with our very own Brandy Pad. As always the ascent wasn’t over, with another leg sapping climb to negotiate before a long stony descent to the turnaround point – where the race marshals wickedly sent runners back along the path just trodden.
– The Ladies Race –
With the ladies race starting first at 12pm, the team proudly pulled on their Northern Irish kit and carried out a thorough warm up which included a quick peek of the start of the course, which as explained above.. went only one way… up! A quick pep talk from the men, a badly rehearsed ‘high 5’ between the team, a shot from the gun… and the ladies were off!
The team were assured the hot weather wasn’t ‘the norm’ for this part of the world, but all the assurance didn’t stop it feeling like racing through the Sahara Dessert. We’re pretty certain Shileen would have given up a glass of Prosecco for the smallest sip of water – for those that know Shileen – you’ll understand the enormity of this claim!
A strong run by the ladies team saw Esther Dickson storm home in 59.36 and 15th position – one of only 15 ladies to finish under the hour! Experienced international Shileen was hot (quite literally) on Esther’s heels, clocking 1.01 and securing 18th after another awe-inspiring performance on the descent! After a blisteringly fast climb Martjse finished her run with an impressive descent to cross the line in 1.02 and 21st position. Last but not least, Sarah sprinted home to complete her International debut in a time of 1.03 and 26th position. An exceptional performance from the ladies to place third overall in the team classification
The Men’s Race –
Following the all-out effort and the side effects of heat stroke, when Sarah finally remembered where she was and what she was doing in an international vest, the ladies gathered themselves together to watch the men depart. Meanwhile Team Manager Ricky ‘just about’ managed to gather himself together after watching the flurry of fit young women throwing themselves at him as they hurtled to the finish!
Zak and Gavin (both bouncing like excited kids at Christmas) took up a good position at the front of the pack while a super focused Timmy, laidback Luke and ‘daddy cool David’ gathered nearby ready for what promised to be a fast start.
As expected, the men surged up the beaten path and onto the Dales. Many a jaw dropped at the rate in which they covered the ground. Each member of the team stuck the pace on the way out but it was Zak who led the Northern Irish men on the climb where he maintained this position – rubbing shoulders with the well-known Rob Hope and beating him to the line in an impressive time of 49.42 to take 23rd place. Clearly the Nutella kicking into action! Similar to the ladies, the men were tightly packed at the finish with Timmy arriving home with a huge smile on his face (and rightly so) after a super strong run clocking 50.30 and 30th place. Experienced International Gavin Mulholland followed suit and recorded a cracking time of 51.52 and 34th position. Later that afternoon during the prize giving, with energy to burn and arms stretched out wide, Gavin performed a football themed celebration when his name was announced as winner of the Vet 45 category!
Next to finish, it was Team Captain David who upon promise of chocolate ice cream after the race, hurtled down the descent to the line in an impressive time of 51.52 and 43rd place. Finally, International debutant Luke, wrapped up a superb performance for the Men’s Team in a time of 54.01 and 57th position.
With the ladies medal haul, Gavin’s category prize and successful performances across the board – the Irish bar in the Laughing Badger Inn didn’t stand a chance! 😉 Although possibly more impressive than race times, was the time it took Shileen to find a glass of wine, Zak to finish the newest plate of fresh scones and Martsje to start executing a plan for a 9 mile run the following day! …Until next time…