Pain & Rain – A Welcome Return to Cross Country Racing!

10k ray blog - dunboyne leinster novice cross country - race start

And they’re off! Pic courtesy of Kilkenny Athletics

The topic of discussion on the drive up from sunny Kilkenny towards Dunboyne, Co. Meath for the Leinster Novice 6km Cross Country Championship consisted mainly of the horrible weather, which was getting worse the closer we got to the race, and whether this Winter racing nonsense was really worth the hassle at all. Throw into the mix the fact I was full of food and wine from 2 previous nights of serious over-indulging at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival and I was surprised I managed to get myself out the door of the car at all…Figuratively and literally! The poor training and plenty of excuses not to do it were put aside for the hour however. On went the smile (along with the wellies) and I was getting excited to be back racing again after a 5 week self-imposed hiatus.

10k ray blog - dunboyne leinster novice cross country

The sun decides to shine after the race is over!

I had about 20mins to get my warm up in after finally making it to the Kilkenny City Harriers tent to get my race number from the team manager. The rain had lightened up at this stage so I stripped out of my winter woollies and into my race gear to start warming up the muscles. The 6km course was 3 laps of a 2km course so I jaunted around 1 lap to get my bearings. The course was as flat as you could get for a cross-country race but each lap had roughly 15 hard bends and each of them had been completely destroyed from the rain and a morning of junior races.

Standing in the race start pen I got a shot of ‘The Fear’. I really felt I had no right to be in this race with the sheer lack of training and half arsed build up to the race, not to mention all the greyhounds standing around me. The gun went, I lost my mind and broke with the leading group of 6 for the first lap. I have no idea why I did. It was a horrible mistake! I spent the first half of the first lap thinking ‘dig in Ray…you can take these guys…you’re going to win…’ but that quickly changed to ‘give up Ray…you’re getting dropped and passed by lads behind…you’re going to come last…’.

I genuinely wanted to give up so bad, the legs were drained, fatigue was at an extreme and everything hurt. It even went as far as running the different injuries through my brain I could pretend to have to step out of the race. Leg Injury? No, I’d have to keep limping all the way back to the car. Shoulder or neck injury? No, how would I have gotten it? Back injury? Perfect, and the easiest to get away with because of my back injury earlier in the season! But no, I came to race and finish it regardless. The 2nd lap was pure torture as I slowed and found myself dumped down close to 30th spot but as the 3rd lap started the idea that it was only once more around gave me a little lift and got my pace back to slowly claw back some places. The finishing chute never looked so good to me before!

10k ray blog - dunoyne leinster cross country - dirty runners

From this to this…

Overall I was happy with the performance, 21st place out of 72, with a very decent field competing in it. Onwards and upwards to the Leinster Intermediate Cross Country in Adamstown (Sunday 10th November) with a bit more focus on the training and hopefully there won’t be another food and drink festival on the 2 days before that race 😀

10k ray blog - dunboyne leinster novice cross country - take away food

A well earned reward of Bacon-Cheese chips later that night! Not an official part of the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival! 😉

Pictures of the day courtesy of Kilkenny Athletics available on their Flickr page

Full results from the men’s Novice race available from Precision Timing

Some more 10k Ray posts you might enjoy!
– Let’s Go Country! Online Articles on Cross Country Running
– Triathlon Ireland National Series 2013 Wrap Up
– World Triathlon Championships Race Report

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Lets Go Country! Top Online Articles on Cross Country Running

It’s October, it’s Winter, it’s the end of the tri season…time to take on Cross Country running (or X/C, as the cool kids refer to it). This is a must for all aspiring road runners and triathletes looking to head into 2014 a stronger, faster, tougher, and basically, better runner. The hillier courses over relatively short distances (anywhere between 3-10km) mean you will get in some of your greatest ever core and leg-strength workouts while keeping the joints in check due to lower mileage and being on soft grassy terrains. Check out the range of online articles at the bottom of this blog post to help you become a serious X/C racer and take a nice well deserved break from those firm track and even firmer road surfaces!

For those completely new to cross country running it may be a daunting prospect, offering a complete unknown in terms of racing, training, fitness and gear. I remember the week before heading to my first race thinking it was going to be mayhem, running through muck up to your hips, leaping over fences, ditches and puddles and putting myself through a completely unnecessary form of hell to finish last against actual cross country runners…you know, the kind of guys who live in the mountains and run up vertical slopes for a laugh. But I was completely wrong…

Cross Country Running - Muck - 10k Ray Blog

…Well I was right about the muck, leaping ditches and puddles and putting myself through hell but I was wrong about how much fun and excitement these races give, along with the immediate gains in fitness and running ability and not to mention the psychological gains from knowing you can take on and conquer bad weather and tough, changing terrain. It can also offer new runners, and particularly younger runners, a great taste of organised and competitive racing.

Training partners have said to me how my running has came on leaps and bounds since this time last year and all I could say was it was down to the 2012/13 cross country season, where I also managed to win the Kilkenny County Intermediate Championship and was on the winning team for the County Senior Championship with Kilkenny City Harriers. For the months ahead X/C is all I will recommend to anyone willing to listen to me! My own X/C season kicks off this Sunday with the Leinster Novice Championship in Dunboyne, Co. Meath, then rolling all the way through until next March taking in some A level races (National Intermediate, National Novice, Kilkenny County Senior) and a host of smaller B & C level races.

Cross country helps you improve, whatever your goals


I have searched through the world wide web to dig up some of my favourite articles on X/C running, covering topics for newbies starting off to those more experienced looking for some interesting training regimes and race strategies. Start digging into the links below, get in with your local running club, invest in a decent pair of X/C runners and enjoy your Winter runs through our mucky fields. Mo Farah started off as a cross country runnner…need I say anymore 😀


How to Run Cross Country (WikiHow)

Basic Cross Country Training (Everything Track and Field)

The Art of Running Faster (X/C section) (Human Kinetics)

Cross Country Specific Training Tips (RunnersWorld)

Cross Country Running – Specific Training Demands (Kinetic Revolution)

Hal Higdon Cross Country Training Program (Hal Higdon) 

Strategies for Cross Country Racing (run.isport)

Cross Country Race Strategy (Tips4Running)
Cross Country Running Tips (Tips4Running)
(Fixture List for National X/C races & List of all Running Clubs)

Here’s another one of my previous blog posts which may be of interest
The Off-Season – What’s a Triathlete to do?

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