Our team cordon is on the move, and park at the Military Road in the shadow of the Fananierin Ridge where most teams take the chance to shout abuse/support at their runner or put them on their way in the right direction. Leg 6 is another place where bountiful junction choice equals plentiful mistakes.
I test the tape Jimmy Synnott has professionally wrapped around my left leg to keep the Achilles locked. “That’ll tear,” Joe Lalor said, “it’ll hold,” I shot back and jogged the first running steps in four days. I wanted to save every last step I had in my ankle for the long trek ahead.
“I’ll need a seven minute cushion on Mick Byrne,” I told the team as we drove along leg 6, knowing the Wicklow man’s 82-minute pedigree on the course. Little did I know that the Wicklow man would not be within striking distance and that far different threats would assail my race. But, for now, Des was doing the running and his blue singlet came into view on the Drumgoff trail shortly after.
It doesn’t take runners long to get from here to Iron Bridge, so we didn’t wait around to see if Paul Nolan had made in-roads. He hadn’t. I rushed my warm-up purposefully to keep the bad leg rested but get the heart rate in swing and Des, maybe the calmest runner of the relay (if not the coldest, as can be seen below), send me on the way. 31km remained. 21km of them were mine to bear.
The others could keep score: When Paul Nolan arrived, the class of Des’ run became clear. He had beaten everyone, even the Rathfarnham runner, and reclaimed two of the eight minutes lost to Colm Hill on leg 5.
Results (target): 53:58 (55:00) Team in 2nd
My turn. In pictures:
The story in between to follow in my full personal race report tomorrow.
Results (target): 1:35:15 (1:30:00) Team in 2nd
But as I stared at the inside of my eyelids and Jason attempted resuscitation by spray-water, Declan Horgan, the fastest true Crusaders veteran, we have managed to field in the last years, strode up the final off-road section of the day’s travails with only three minutes to spare on hard-chasing Boards AC.
“Go on ahead,” I yelped at Ian and Jason. Knowing Dec would be nervous about getting lost after a previous mishaps despite dutiful recces, I was eager to get a team car out to lead him to the terminal station. Much good did it do, as our team car duly got lost.
Happy! But lost!
Moaning and complaining Tony and I staggered after Aoife to her car at Cross-Bridge and hit the road to rendezvous with Declan. We passed Declan, nodding excitedly at each other seeing his progress, only to briefly despair as Boardsie Ian McGrath passed our parking spot after much to short a time-interval.
Frantic calculations followed as we drove on to warn Declan: “Dec’s a 37-38 minute 10k runner, the leg’s about 10k, so this chap needs to be a 33-34 minute 10ker to catch him.” We parked again, timed the difference to 1:45, then saw Paul Nolan and Izzy behind us, performing similar duties for their runner. “It’s hard to chase, hopefully he went out too fast,” I said trying to assure myself and the others. “Should we tell him the exact time he’s got,” I queried? “F**ckin ‘ell you tell’im"!” Tony roared and the next kilometres were spent yelling ever more depressing times: “A minute. Forty seconds…” and then we drove off. “The quick descent must be here,” Aoife said but before we could smile, a depressingly long flat stretch opened around the corner. “It’s too much,” I gasped, re-running every second I “had wasted” in my head, the whip of self-flagellation prepared itself.
Not able to bear further tension, we drove into Shillelagh, parked, and ran up to the bottom of the descent. Then we saw them. Declan first! And..the gap was too big! No one could close that! Ecstatic, and crazed, Aoife and I ran and roared Declan across the finish line. Nine seconds later Ian followed, obviously disappointed. It was a cruel way to miss out on silver, but I argue it would have been even crueller to lose the silver in such a way having held the position from start to finish.
Joy and pain are the emotions of any sport, and as Ian put it, the WWR has it all: “It's a medal and a memory I'll cherish, the feeling of achievement was greater than the bronze I won (Raheny B team) in the Nat. RR a few years back, because in the WWR there's far more organising, cajoling, cheering, pain and joy. The margins are great and minuscule in the same breath.”
Hard to summarise it better…
Poor Declan, harassed by lunatic team-mates throughout!
Results (target): 39:25 (42:00) Team SILVER
Team finished: 2nd-1st-10th-4th-5th-1st-7th-3rd on their respective legs.
The Silver medallists 2011, a step up the ladder