The Granite trail race (GTR)

Part of the Mourne skyline weekend the GTR is the warm up race on the Friday night before the main  event on the Saturday.

Uphill and in the darkness with only a head torch for light it seemed like a great idea when I entered it after the MDS.  I wanted to have a few races to keep me focused over the summer and as I have never raced in the dark before thought it would be something a little different.

Walter (my camper van) was packed up and off I headed country bound with my new Alpkit head torch only just being switched on in my kitchen to test it worked.  I had the unfortunate timing of having a tooth out on the Friday morning of the race, I foolishly thought by 7pm the pain would have subsided.  This was an error as it was still bleeding and two co-codamol did take the edge of the pounding in my mouth but the pain was still unreal, add to this my inability to eat made running flat out, uphill in the dark somewhat stupid.

Not to be put off though I sucked on a soda with lashings of butter and hoped for the best.  The start was on the promenade in Newcastle, a brisk night but dry, opting for a vest and shorts I went as light as possible carrying nothing except my key to the van.  Runners were stretching and talking tactics, I planned to go off hard and try to get to Millstone Quarry in under 25 minutes.  The route was simple, after a flat 300m section it was up, up and more up then keep going up to the finish.

Teeth gritted finishing.  Photo credit Jayne Bell

Off we sprinted and went into the darkness, I passed a few familiar faces knowing full well my weakness is climbing and they would soon catch me so I aimed to get as far ahead as possible.  The next mile was harsh but I was working as hard as I could spitting out the taste of blood every now and again.  Once we hit the long straight section of the Granite trail someone shouted to me ‘2nd lady’, flip me, this was a surprise but soon two girls passed me.  Hanging like a bat, up this steep, lung burning section I kept them in sight knowing that it was about 400m or so to the finish once it turned right to the quarry.

My finishing rock.  Photo credit Jayne Bell.

The pain in my mouth was now diverted to the pain in my chest, my heart rate was hammering and I felt annoyed but still happy that I was going to be fourth.  This didn’t last long and I guess  the saying ‘once a Withers always a Withers’ makes sense now.  I told myself to wise up and I cannot let myself loose my only ever 2nd place finish.  Increasing the pace it was now the home straight, I overtook one then two girls not even looking at the rocky ground under foot. I now set my goal on a guy in a red and yellow Newcastle Athletics top, I lifted the pace again overtaking him on the last 20m to finish teeth clenched, euphoric and relieved.

Pain pain pain.  Photo credit Jayne bell.
Finish line craic.  Photo credit Jayne Bell.

I staggered over to a large granite rock hugging it trying to take in some air, 24.50 clocked and I did indeed get 2nd place. After about 5 minutes I managed to scrape myself up off the rock to congratulate the other runners, the rain started on cue and everyone started pulling on their jackets, I then felt under prepared as I had only my camper van key!  Off I went back into the darkness to the carpark to clock back in.  What a race, short, fast, uphill, dark and a great change from the normal races I do.

The Mighty Mourne runners, 1st place lady on right.  Photo credit Jayne Bell.

The Country fried chicken is always a highlight in Newcastle, my three piece dinner box with a super chip and coke was delicious as always, a great way to refuel the body Mourne style.

Thankyou to all at NI running for organising the race, if you want something a little different, get that headtorch dusted off and get entered for next year.