Truth be told, I had completely forgotten this race. At about 15:00 today it dawned on me: Today is the long anticipated "Man vs. Bike Race" sponsored by Outsider magazine, and I forgot to sign up!
Challenges for Charity
To sign up for the "Man vs. Bike" you had to donate EUR10 to charity, as the race is under the umbrella of Challenges for Charity, so I power-surfed to the website got signed up, rushed home from work, grabbed the nearest Southbound taxi, and arrived well early for the 7pm scheduled
To see the spectacular pictures from the race taken by John Shiels, click here.
To view the photos of me that John send me go here.
Man vs. Machine
The Man vs. Bike challenge seems to be loosely inspired on the British tradition of "Horse vs. Man" where riders are pitted against trail runners. In this case, we all congregated at Three-Rock Mountain (where I went just this Monday) to see who would come out stronger on the rocky, hilly 8km route over the summits of Three-Rock and Two-Rock mountains (featuring 398m of ascent).
Mum I'm in a Magazine!
There was at least four separate photographers out on the day, one was Outsider magazine's own (so I'll have to get my hands on the next issue), one other was our own, IMRA's, ever-present image Chronicler John Shiels.
A Bit of History
Supporting the "Man vs. Bike Race" was made even more special by the fact that the event is only in its second year. Last year the biker's won by quite a bit (10 minutes to the fastest runner, I believe), so this year's route was tailored to give the runners a better chance.
Optimism was within bounds, however, as IMRA was represented by quite a few decent mountain runners, but not the real speed-devils who would have relished a route of only moderate technical difficulty such as this. The two runners who split the Winter League between them, James McFadden and Ronan Guirey, would have been a welcome addition, especially as James had been the second fastest runner on last years course, beaten by about 7 minutes by Ireland's leading Mountain Biker: Niall Davis.
Even they would probably have struggled in vain, though, as the mountain bikers had several big profiles among them, including eventual winner Neill Davis (apparently, Ireland's leading mountain biker). Neill eventually finished in slightly more than 21min (an fabulous time for 7.92k).
Last year's top runner, renowned Marathon and mountain runner Gary Crossan from Letterkenny AC, proved his mettle again, and ran the Mountain Bikers close, finishing less than 5 minutes after a rampant Niall Davies.
My legs were still quite sore after the last week's tough runs, but I settled quickly into a quick stride. I never felt truly bad going up (didn't stop up once to power walk, which is a first), in fairness, this might have been one of my best uphill performances so far as I was actually gaining positions both up (highly unusual!) and down.
My body is still showing the wear from Donard, so I kept some energy in reserve, and tried not to push it, giving me a solid finish of 45:43min (positions are not out yet). For all the suffering and humiliation I had to suffer at the hands of Slieve Donard I thank the mountain now! I think the hardships on the mighty ascent in the Mourne's will start to pay off big-time.
I finished 33rd out of 58 and managed to keep 11 Mountain Bikers behind me! Some with almost 20 minutes!
Of the runners I was 14th out of 28, and was beaten only by runners that have so far performed at a much higher level overall in the IMRA races. Only exception is IMRA veteran Justin Rea whom I was fixed on for the whole race. I've had many intense duels with Justin in the first 4 Winter League (losing with 54 secs in my comeback race on Hellfire, winning with 1:57 on Ticknock 3 Rock, and 1:18 on Trooperstown Hill). Yesterday my over-trained legs could not quite make up to him, and had to concede a loss of 9 seconds. But its these tight duels that make the whole thing worthwhile.
I won't be fully recovered for a race before Round Mountain (at best), so only there will I be able to judge the full extent of my progress from a result point of view.
The first phase of the race saw us brave the "legendary" Boneshaker Path leading up to the masts towering Three Rock, and this was possibly the most satisfying part of the race, as me and a few fellow runners were eating Mountain Bikers by the half-dozen.
Feeling the might of the Boneshaker!
Our relative progress was quickly undone on the top, sadly, as we rushed down a very plain fire road only to see the bikes torpedo past us.
The rest of the race was a superb mix of pebbled paths, pseudo-screes, forest trails, and fire roads. I couldn't help but praise a younger lad running up the mountain with what appeared to be a broken lower arm. This is the stuff real fell-runners are made off, at least if Richard Askwith's "Feet in the Clouds" (more of that book later) is anything to go by!
I managed to keep a few bikers behind me in the end (three cheers for that!), but was forcefully overtaken by two bikers just 30m before the finish line! As they passed by, I did a quick check of my legs (and then my head), and something told me a sprint would not be feasible!
Well, only 22 more kilometres to go before this week's tribulations will come to an end.