Thursday 4th November 2010

Night Rider:
Round 1 of the The 26 Extreme Winter Series
Dedicated adventure racer Michael Regan shares is experience of the challenging new 10km Stormont Estate course, the first race in the 26 Extreme Winter Series...

Thursday 4th November and I arrived at the already very busy car park at Stormont Estate at 7pm. There was a great atmosphere and it was great to see a lot of new faces from last years series. The26extreme team had everything set up and ready. Registration was a fast process and once I'd got my chip and number it was off for a quick warm up before the race briefing.

Ian welcomed everyone to the 2nd 26extreme Winter Series Race 1 and talked us through the course, a clockwise lap of the trails around Stormont Estate. The loop was 5km and we would do this twice. The trails were mainly hard packed gravel through trees with one section on the tarmac road running down the hill.

I was around the front and sat with the lead group as we left the start line. We crossed the road at the main gates to Stormont and into the trees at the other side. The trail was very wet with puddles dotted around the flatter sections. The trail surface was hard packed gravel with only a few soft sections where water had been laying. This section was proper dark but everyone’s head torches lit the place up well. The trail took us along the left side of the grounds climbing all the tim with a few sharp hills opening up the pack. I eased up a bit here and started to run my own race and let the lead group go ahead. Lets be honest, I was never going to sit with them for the whole race let alone this lap!

Crossing the road at the side entrance we rejoined the trail and headed up to the top bridge. Finally a good descent to get the breathing back on track and try and open the legs up a bit. We followed the trail down to the road turning left onto the tarmac where Rowan from 26extreme was standing on the sidelines cheering us all on. Then it was a short climb to the roundabout and a right turn down the main road.

Rob from überdog magazine was there taking pictures as we passed and shouting some words of encouragement. The pace picked up again on the down hill. Good light and the descent made this section fast for most. We crossed the road and joined the trail again heading into the right of the grounds. This took us out along side the football pitches and back through another dark wooded section to the start finish. 1 Lap complete 00:20:59mins.

Ian from 26extreme was also cheering everyone at the halfway point and taking photos as we passed the chip timing station. I got a few words of encouragement from a mate who had come down to see the race which helped me pick up the pace again. I pushed on feeling o.k. apart from my breathing. My legs felt o.k. and wasn't tired yet, although second time round the hill did feel a lot longer! Rounding the bridge for the second time I knew I had to make up some lost ground so I got my head back, sucked in as much air as I could and took off down the hill. I had my eyes closed as the light from the head torch reflected off the moisture from my breath making it really hard to see. I knew the path was straight and just kept going taking the odd look to see if I was still on course. Thankfully I had a clear run coming out of the trees and onto the road section. I even managed to pass a few people that had passed me on the climb and kept a steady pace going into the last wooded section. Rounding the last corner three abreast we took off for the line. One passed me and I managed to stay ahead of the other guy. Second lap was a much slower 00:23:35mins with a total time of 00:44:34mins. A fair bit of my PB for 10km but a tougher course than I had anticipated.

Thanks to Rowan and Ian at 26extreme for another excellent event. The new course was good and as always the organisation was top class. Thanks also to Surf Mountain for the discount vouchers and also überdog Magazine for covering the event.

For more race blogs from Michael visit http://causewaymarathon.blogspot.com/
and www.26extreme.com