RACES: Ticknock (Orienteering)

Sunday comes and again it's time for some rest and relaxation!
Jackie and I continued our running joke by signing up for today's orienteering event as Team O'Hagan-Borg, eager to defend our glorious 26th spot from last weeks race: Nightmare at Glendasan.
Today the venue was my favourite spot: Ticknock, well-organised by the 3Roc Orienteers. As always there where mountain runners galore present: Doherty Senior and Junior ("Junior" apparently doing a savage time of 70 minutes today), Fergal Reid (back-to-back on his adventure race in County Down yesterday), ever-young Mick Kellett, Mike Long, Joe Lalor, Roisin, Dave, and there was probably more whose names evade me just now.
Starter or Finisher
In business, they like to do personally tests to tell you if you're a good starter, a good finisher, a good coordinator etc. There's an element of that in running too, and while I'm a better finisher than starter in regular "all-physical" races, Team O'Hagan-Borg seem to have fallen quickly into a pattern: Blistering start, big midway mess-up, and a decent finish leading to an overall less than stellar time.
But the great part about this orienteering is that I find it a place to relax from all the races, so while we were focused enough, we kinda bumbled around at our speed, not exerting ourselves more than necessary, taking in the landscape and giving the challenge of looking for the posts full attention. As "navigators-in-training", it doesn't get a lot better than this.
A Place Called Home?
I have called Ticknock my "home turf" for a while now. I do a lot of training runs here, and have had some of my best race performances on the steep sides of the Boneshaker and the windswept rocky paths leading to and from the magically named Fairy Castle.
The beauty of this is that you can run around and you start to recognise every little part of the seemingly endless paths winding their way through the scattered bits of forest of the Ticknock area. My knowledge is far from perfect yet, however, and I will shamefully admit that I once took a wrong turn leading Sharlene on a training run here, ending up doing 16k instead of 8k (obviously I later told her: "You looked like you could handle more.")
Walking back to Dublin after that incident, after Sharlene had left me behind on the car park, I had plenty of time to reflect, though, and today I seemed to pick the right paths when needed, and my usually faltering eye-sight was giving us several quick posts before Jackie took the helm and helped us out in the later stages. Seems the business manual is right: Teaming is good!
The Late Ones
After having endured a frustrating spell with control 14, we where finally on course for the final three controls. Behind us lay the rest of the Blue course: Zig-zagging our way up through the forest, out on the open sides, South of Fairy Castle, and then down it's wide rocky main path before turning first towards Kilmashogue and then straight back into more woodlands.
We didn't have any great problems with 15, 16, and 17, and knowing the finish was close, we jogged back towards the ladies waiting there to take our time. While they offered encouragement they were none to impressed and dropped a hint that maybe "the Green course" would have been more to our liking. Well, maybe they had a point, but I quite enjoyed an ultra-slow 3 hour and 35 minute trod. Just what the doctor ordered for the marathon: I am now almost fully pain-free and ready for a final few training sessions next week before my final rest day on Sunday.
As I enjoyed a healthy meal and half-pint of Guiness in Lamb Doyle's pub, I could look out the window feeling contented: I'm fresh, uninjured, and ahead lies six days of light training, then a rest, and then it's the big day.
When I next write a race report, the marathon will lie behind me! And in front of me? Well, there'll be endless mountains...

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