Posted by: summit2summit | April 13, 2016

IMRA Wicklow Glacier Lakes Relay – 2016

This race was originally dropped for the 2016 race calendar which ruffled a few feathers amongst some of the good folk of IMRA. The omission was pointed out by several fervent glacier lakers on a thread about the upcoming schedule and the very kind people on the committee were able to slot it back in, which delighted both myself and many others. I find it very hard to pick a top three list of my favourite IMRA events but this one has to be close to making that list. It’s got the relay element to it, the navigation can be tough, the weather can play a huge part in it and it’s generally just a beast of a challenge, whether it is you doing a single leg or the whole lot as a soloist.

With the event now firmly back in the calendar, I registered my team with Gerry. This year’s line-up was to be Brian Flannelly for leg one, Bernard Fortune for leg two, myself for leg three and Mikey Fry for leg four. We had a potentially winning team on paper but as the event neared, I could see some other strong contenders emerge. There was an orienteering team which were strong, Don Hannon’s team looked like a threat, especially with Suzanne getting a time advantage and then there were a few vet teams that were due to start a lot earlier than us. I knew we would do well but just how well was still a bit of guess work.

Our race kicked off at 09:40 with Brian setting off. Leg one had some big names so the top of that pack would be a nice battle. I was still at home at this stage trying to get updates on how the race was unfolding. My days of disappearing off to the hills all day are finished now that the little lad is knocking about the house😉 Brian had a magnificent run and came in close second to Adrian Hennessy. Pacing is obviously not a factor that Adrian has to deal with and this sure did show when he came in 7th overall and ran each leg like it was his only leg.

Brian leg 1

Brian (leg 1)

Brian handed over to Bernard at the Wicklow Gap carpark and he set off up the service road. Bernard knew all the short cuts up to the top and knew his way over to Lough Firrib but was not 100% sure of the Three Lakes area. This is a notoriously hard area for navigation if the weather is down, but as luck had it, we had a smashing day with excellent visibility. Leg two had yet more big names and the competition was fierce. Bernard later told me that he tried hard to catch Ben Mangan but no matter how hard he tried, Ben was just unbeatable on the day. (Ben got a sub one hour for leg two which considerably beat the leg record I believe)

Bernard leg 2

Bernard (leg 2)

I had left the comforts of my home at about 10:30 and was due to arrive at Barravore at 11:20. I was not expecting to see Bernard until about 11:50. Upon arrival, I was busy chatting away with Gerry Brady (who was the brain child of the event), Liam Vines and Rory Campbell. Both Liam and Rory along with Peter Bell and Adrian Hennessy were due to tackle leg three, so I knew I had stiff competition. I realised I had better do a warm up so headed off up the Table Track. No sooner than I did, I caught sight of Bernard barrelling down towards me at serious pace. With that, I turned on a sixpence and darted back to the start line in a bit of a panic. I was not expecting Bernard for another ten minutes!

With a slightly pressured start I was off. I was fumbling a bit with the mandatory kit and getting it packed away. I had a map and compass but by looking at the day, I knew they would stay in the bag. I decided for two tech t-shirts and shorts and I broke out the big guns for my footwear choice, the INOV8 Bare grips! More on them later….

I got to the river crossing and crossed the ankle deep water. Once over the river there was a huge climb ahead. Having done Annagh Hill and Maulin this year, I felt comfortable with the steepness. I passed Jason Dowling along the way and said a quick hello. Once I levelled off I could see the lake which I touched with my foot. After that, it was off towards the ramp.

Near the top of the ramp, I know people opt to keep ascending and take a more direct line to Kelly’s Lough but I chose to go through the bottom of the bowl and then cross the walkers track at the 650m mark. This decision was purely because I am more efficient and traveling on flat or downhill and as soon as I start to climb, I tent to lose time.

After the walkers track, I kept right and ran hard for the lough. I saw IMRA stalwart, Joe Lalor to my left and Adrian Hennessy higher up to my right. After this initial sighting, I saw neither again until the finish. After Kelly’s, I descended to the river which I would handrail closely until Leolasia Brook. I knew at that brook that that was my marker to start to veer left a bit and pick up the faint walkers track that leads to the Zig Zags.

It was this point that I knew all the hard work was done. I was running at speed downhill on open mountain in glorious sunshine and was absolutely loving it. As mentioned previously, I opted for the INOV8 Bare Grips for footwear. For heavy duty open mountain wet and mud, these just can’t be beaten. Even though conditions were excellent overall, the ground was still quite wet but I was able to make light work of it. The only downside of the bare grips is that they have a very thin sole and I was soon to feel the discomfort of all the loose stones on the zig zags!

I crossed the style and powered on down to the head of the zig zags. I had not seen anyone else really so was not sure who was ahead of me or behind me. I ran as fast as I could down the tracks and emerged out onto the road. I knew there was only a kilometre to go so dug deep and ran hard all the way to the changeover point. I saw Mikey and hander over to him and then quickly fell in a heap! As soon as I got my breath back myself and Bernard headed back to the start/finish to see the outcome. I knew we were in second place but Mikey had about a 10/15 minute gap to close down so it was all to play for!

WGL leg 2 route

My leg 3 route

We parked up and made our way to the finish area. Gerry Brady was there and was eagerly awaiting Mags Greenan who was his leg four runner and Mikey’s target to beat. It was tense and we all did not know who was going emerge first. In the end, it was Mikey and he sealed the victory for ‘The Glacial Lakers’ and to make things even better, we smashed the course record by nearly 30 mins in a time of 4:05:55!

Gerry’s team came in close second and Ben Mangan’s team was in third. Adrian Hennessy took the men’s solo victory in an amazing time of 4h35 and Maike Jurgens took the lady’s solo victory. So overall it was a great day out and there were lots of happy faces. Special praise has to go to Rachel and her great crew of helpers for putting on such a cracking event. Like all IMRA races, they would just not happen without helpers giving up their time, so thanks again!

Until next year and maybe a sub 4 push😉

Posted by: summit2summit | March 14, 2016

IMRA Annagh Hill Race – March 12 2016

This was my 3rd time to race on Annagh Hill so there was no question for me of whether it was worth the long drive or not. It was a no brainer. This race is nice because it is outside of where I normally compete so it offers something a little different in terms of the location and the terrain.

I was having a look at the route info about a week before the race and noticed the race was ranked 9 out of 10 on the difficulty scale. I knew there was a fairly savage climb at the start but I did not remember it being a 9 previously. It may be a soft 9 I thought to myself but how wrong I was to be! Mick Hanney and Bernard Fortune had plotted a beast of a route with the now infamous initial climb followed by a mix of bog, fire road, branches, fallen trees and puddles the size of lakes.

Annagh route map

Annagh Hill route

I arrived just in time for registration and quickly got signed in. I made my way up to the start line and did a warm up with Mikey Fry. Lots of familiar faces around at this stage and a very relaxed atmosphere, typical of any IMRA race really. Mick gave us our final instructions as we set off bang on midday on the nicest day of the year so far. We plodded along for a few hundred metres and then got stuck into the climb. It is just a case of sucking it up and trying hard to ignore the agony of burning calf muscles.

Annagh 1st climb

The ‘Wall’

I got to the top and was relieved to be running of flattish terrain again. That climb is really something! From the top we crossed the wall and passed Patsy McCreanor who was on marshalling duties. We are then on the long out and back stretch which is on a mix of fire road and tracks. It was a funny race for me at this stage as I had people in front of me in the distance (19 to be precise) but they were in and out of view. I looked back briefly and saw no one which does not tend to happen so soon into a race.

Annag straight

Doing my thing

After heading south west for a couple of kilometres we got to the end of the straight and veered right which would take us down one of the gnarly-ist descents! It was racing as I liked it most, right on the cusp of control versus out of control. I find if I just let loose and allow a small bit of ‘recklessness’ to come into play, that usually gets me down the hill rather sharpish!

There was still no one around me and I could not help but think, had I missed a marker or done something stupid like that, but I just ran on and was happy to see the next marshal soon afterwards. I was on nice fire road now with a gentle decline so I opened up the throttle as I knew I had some tough climbs coming up. I am much better on the downhills so wanted to maximise this section in case I was being chased up the next hill!

Annagh puddle

The water features

The next hill came into view and it was a tough hill so I just got into climbing mode and huffed and puffed up the hill. I had people ahead of me know for the 1st time in some time which was nice to see as they gave me more motivation to up my game and try and catch them.

We got to the top of this section and that drew a close to the back loop of the course. My legs were feeling good so I was able to run all of the next few kilometres uphill towards Annagh Hill. I got up the highpoint of the route after passing one more person. I was in 19th at this point. Alan Ayling, whom I’ve had some fantastic one on one battle’s with over the years, came into view but I knew he was too far ahead to catch and I was quickly running out of course.

I soon got back to Patsy who was around the 452m mark and he guided us left and onto the last section of the route. I heard no one behind me but still decided to give the downhill 100% as I just love the downhills! I had to duck under a few fallen trees and mind for all the branches but that is all part of the fun of it really. I took my last right turn of the day and powered downhill towards a group of volunteers and finishers and then turned left to cross the line 1:10:09 in 19th position.

Annagh finish line

Finish line

You can’t beat the feeling at the finish line. The adrenaline mixed with the exhaustion creates some buzz! It’s that feeling that keeps me coming back each week!

I have to hand it to Mick and Bernard for devising this route, for an 11K’er it really does have a nice blend of everything you could wish for. It is definitely a race that I will be back for. Many thanks to all the volunteers as well for giving up their time so we could all race. It was just a pity I could not hang around for the prize giving but parenting was a calling!!

Posted by: summit2summit | May 15, 2015

Wicklow Glacier Lakes Relay 2015

It all started with a mail from Tim Chapman to myself, James Clancy, Mike Jordan and Ronan Hickey. Tim had stated that he was going to give the WGL a bash with a solo attempt and was looking for an old .gpx file of the route. This was to be the seed that would be planted in my head that led me to enter a team into the event. After a few back and forth emails contemplating a solo attempt, Ronan had to bow out so that left the four of us. Seeing as there are only four legs, I suggested that we enter a team…

James and I were keen, Tim was due a new arrival soon and Mike had some plans so the latter two could not commit but I was adamant that I would pull four of us together and enter the race. As it turned out, Mike had to pull out. We still had three so no problem I thought. Then, Tim’s wife had the baby and with the event only around the corner we were down to two. Me entering the team was now looking unlikely, but I did not give up! I pestered lots of people, and to my Luck, Mickey Fry came on board. After then hearing that we only had three runners and that I was going to cover two of the legs, he suggested Ronan King. I did not know Ronan but after a quick chat he came on board. Alas, we have a team!

After a quick email to Gerry Brady, the event organiser, we were officially entered and could now concentrate on recces and logistics. Having done the event twice before as a solo, I knew all the legs well so could share out good advice to the team. Ronan was to tackle leg 1, James leg 2, myself leg 3 and then Mickey for leg 4. Early on I set the goal of a podium finish so we all knew what we had to do.

The 11th of April came around fast, after what seemed like endless turmoil trying to put the team together. It was a sunny day, not too windy either, a big contrast to previous years where the weather had been quite poor. Ronan set off on his leg and was soon disappeared off into the distance. Myself and James jumped into his car and set off for The Wicklow Gap. The thing I love about these types of events is not just the running part, but the buzz of following your team along the way and seeing how the event is playing out in real time.

After a few chats to the folk waiting at the gap, Ronan came in strong and tagged in James. James started up the access road which would take him up onto Turlough Hill where the fun of the notorious leg 2 would begin! Leg 2 is a tricky leg as more often than not, the mist is down and the lakes that need to be touched as part of the event rules tend to play a game of hid and seek. But as luck would have it, we had a very nice day and James made short work of his leg.

Ronan

Ronan

During the time James was running, myself and Ronan were making our way over to Barravore where we would watch James come in from his leg. It was nearly time for me to get going so the nerves were starting to kick in. I knew we were doing well so the pressure was on to do well in my leg. Just as the sun really started to beat down, James flew in and tagged me in. I took off like the clappers and began the fire road assent. I always find it strange when I am in a race but there is no one around me as tends to happen during these relay type races as the field spreads out over the course.

While I was basking in the sun, I could see a mass of dark and angry clouds coming my way fast. Things were going to get hairy I thought and with that an almighty hail shower erupted. At this point I was making my way up the step side of Fraughan Rock Glen en route to Arts Lough. The hail was like hundreds of needles lashing into my exposed face and legs. I was completely at the mercy of Mother Nature here but just had to suck it up and get on with the climb. After Arts Lough, I made my way up the ramp towards the spur. There were two guys heading up this spur but I knew my way was quicker so I ran below them and contoured around the spur and into the bowl shaped cliffs. The weather was back to blazing sun again and the visibility was just perfect. When you can see where you are going it just makes all the difference to your speed and confidence.

I came out of this bowl up onto the main spur that leads to Clohernagh and crossed it at about the 600m mark. I then headed in a south westerly direction as fast as I could hoping that Kelly’s Lough would soon come into sight. Soon after, I could see the water glistening so I locked onto it and ticked that off the list. From here, I knew I had a good downhill run ahead down along Carrawastick Brook.

After a short while descending I approached the top of the zig zags. Last time around, I tried to go in more of a straight line down them but this year I opted for speed so stayed on them for their entirety. After I zipped down them, I only had the road section to go but I was very tired at this point and I had to use all the strength I had left to power along the last kilometre or so to cross the line.

End of leg 3

End of leg 3

I tagged Mickey in and then quickly fell to the ground in exhaustion. I then learned that I had come in just 4 minutes behind Zoran Skbra who was in the team ahead of us. I was delighted to keep pace with them and not lose too much time on my leg. I knew with only one leg to go that we could get anywhere from 2nd place to 4th. It was way too close to call!

After I got myself back in some sort of order, I hoped into Mickey’s car and made my way back to Glendalough with James and Ronan in tow in James car. We all got to Glendalough and made our way to the finish line where there were crowds starting to gather. The nerves were flying now, I knew we did not have a chance for 1st but 2nd and 3rd were still well on the cards. All our hard work was paying off and we had a real chance to meet our pre-race goal of a podium finish. Richard Nunan’s team got in just before 2pm and clinched 1st place. They were soon followed by Joe Lalor’s team who clinched 2nd place. It was all down to the last podium spot. Who would come in next we all thought!?

I knew both Mickey and Adrian Hennessy would both be pushing hard for 3rd spot so it was impossible to call. Then, to my delight Mickey came into view and crossed the line securing us 3rd place overall and we had the added bonus of setting a new course record as the first two teams had early starts due to the age and sex of some of their team members.

New course record holders ;)

New course record holders😉

This was a brilliant feeling, from getting a team on the verge of extinction entered on time and securing our pre-race goal all the while setting a new course record of 4:32:52, it does not get much better than that.

Once again, a huge thanks to my team and to Gerry for coming up with this class race and to all the helpers who made it possible. Definitely one race to think about as a team or a solo!

Overall results (using actual time of day and including time bonuses):

1 13:58:10 (Richard Nunan, Adrian Tucker, Zoran Skrba, Donna Mahon)

2 14:07:52 (Joe Lalor, Roisin McDonnell, Joe Lalor, Roisin McDonnell)

3 14:12:52 (Ronan King, James Clancy, Gareth Little, Mikey Fry) 4 14:19:11 (Adrian Hennessy)

Posted by: summit2summit | May 15, 2015

Ballybraid 2015

I had never run this route before nor had I really looked into it in any great detail until about two weeks before the race itself. From looking at the map, I was fairly sure I needed to do a recce as two of the peaks were new to me so I was unfamiliar with them and their surrounding areas. I had the day off on the May bank holiday Monday so decided to go and have a mooch around.

I set off from the pub at the bottom of the infamous Shay Elliot Hill and headed up towards the car park where the road levels off. I decided not to bother with the initial fire road and Mullacor sections as I knew that part of it well. I went through the gate and turned left and followed the track downhill where it veered to the right. This was to be the route I would take on race day but in hind sight, I think through the gate and straight is the slightly quicker option. I made my way up to Kirakee and then recce’d the best option to Carriglineen. After Carriglineen, there are several route choices, I picked the wrong one and got a chase off a dog for my troubles! Buy hey, I got the recce done and was looking set for race day.

The race start was at 12 which I liked. Not too much of an early start. I left home at 10:30 after breakfast and made my way to the pub. I arrived at about 11:30 and got registered. Then I had enough time to catch up briefly with a few of the other runners. There is always a great atmosphere before these weekend races which you can’t beat.

Paul gave us our final few words and at the stroke of midday we all set off towards the Wicklow Way. The start was nice and relaxed compared to some of the Leinster League races. We were only on the Wicklow Way for a short time before we peeled off and made our way up the track system. The climb here is a long one. It was pretty much all climb until we hit Mullacor about 4/5k after the start.

Pre race brief

Pre race brief

Just before we hit open mountain, everyone had pretty much found a good rhythm. I was a bit slow on the tracks for my liking but I knew I had a nice downhill section coming up so was not too concerned at this early stage.

As soon as I reached Mullacor, the mist was just coming in. I was fairly confident of the line I needed to take off the top so did not bother with a bearing and just took off as fast as I possibly could. I soon passed Becky Quinn and Barry Moore who had overtaken me on the track system so that put my mind at ease for my lack of uphill strength. The downhill section towards the Shay Elliot car park was lovely. It was a nice constant decent in bouncy bog and suited me well. I got towards the car park and I could see that I was gaining on some runners ahead.

I passed across the road at high speed as I knew there was a big bike race on and did not want to get caught out by a bike barrelling down on me! I crossed the gate and turned left. There was a runner looking very confused in front of me, looking back and forth at his map and the track but as soon as I passed him he took off in pursuit of me.

We headed up towards Kirakee on the fire road. We could not get quite to the summit as the trig pillar was just over a fence in a farmers field so I just touched the fence and did a 180 and headed back the way I came. There were two left turn options that will get you set up for the last summit but after my recce I knew the 2nd left was the best bet.

As I was climbing up towards Carriglineen, I could see Barry Moore and Becky Quinn close behind me and that sight kept the pressure on me. I could also see two lads not far off and then Dermot Murphy just ahead of them too. I knew we would all be close at the finish line!

We hit the summit and this is where your route choice really opens up. It’s one thing to recce it on a calm back holiday but it’s another thing to remember where you are going in the heat of battle. I veered slightly to the right where I caught the two lads. Dermot was next up in my sights. We were going at a blistering pace now, half in control, half out of control. The two lads veered right which was the way I knew and then Dermot veered left. I had to make a call and decided to follow Dermot.

As quickly as I made that choice I realised that I was about to pass Dermot and did not know the way ahead of him so I veered back right and popped back in line just behind the two lads. That zig zag manoeuvre had cost me some precious metres but I still had about a half a kilometre to go down some extremely step slope to make up for it.

I am a confident downhiller and coupled with the fact that I had on my INOV8 Baregrips, I knew I was in with a shot of some overtaking. I managed to pass one guy and was directly behind the next. The slope was crazy, unreal steepness when you are traveling at that speed. I was now more out of control than in control but just about hanging in there. I had been going flat out for nearly 15 kilometres at this point and the adrenaline was pumping. I knew the end was close.

We hit the road, with one guy just in front of me. The other was not far behind and I did not know where Dermot was at this stage. We were down to the last 200m with the guy in front still leading me. I decided to sprint and really give him a go right to the end. I was side by side at the bridge with the finish in sight. My body was screaming out in agony but I had no choice but to push on. We were neck and neck as we crossed the line and I was sure happy to take my foot off the gas and catch my breath the second we finished. I then learned I had lost the head to head by 1 second!😦

Sprint finish!

Sprint finish!

As soon as I was somewhat composed I noticed Dermot Murphy in ahead of me. He had been in for good 30 seconds so I picked his brain about his route choice already thinking about next year’s race.

Tired but happy!!

Tired but happy!!

Overall I was happy with my race. I just need to sharpen up a bit on the climbs and there are one or two minor route choice changes that I will make for next time. The route was fantastic too. It is a real old school mountain running event whereby you are told the start/finish point, a list of summits and then given free route choice. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Cheers Paul and all of the helpers for a cracking day out. Until next year…

Posted by: summit2summit | May 15, 2015

The Wicklow Way Trail 2015

I woke up to a beautiful day outside, perfect weather for mountain running I thought to myself as I began to pack my things. I grabbed a bit of breakfast and then jumped in the car and set off for Johnny Fox’s pub. Upon arrival the traffic was manic. I thought the event must have grown to such an extent that we had taken over the whole area but I later found out that there was a funeral on at the same time which made things somewhat chaotic!

I got the car parked in the end and checked in with Dermot and got my race number. Dermot, the race director for the day was cool and calm, even with all the traffic chaos going on around him. A true veteran race director! After registration, I jumped on the bus to the start which is always a bit of craic. There were plenty of war stories being exchanged and there was a real buzz about the bus.

We got dropped off at Ballinastoe and began our warm up. This event always draws huge crowds so there were plenty of familiar faces knocking around at the start. I had a slight feeling of trepidation about the race as I was only back a few months after an extended spell on the side lines due to a broken ankle. I had not really run any distance in previous months and 25K was sure to be the longest I have run in the best part of a year.

WWT Start 2

After a few words from Dermot, we were off. There was little wind, it was not to warm and it was sunny. Perfect! The start was good, I got off to a steady pace on the uphill. I was shouting a few words of encouragement to the ultra’s who were passing me on their way to the half way point. I had done the ultra the previous two years, but this year I was very happy to only have 25k on my plate!!

WWT Start

The top runners had already headed off into the distance by the time I reached the boardwalk. After 5K, which had all been uphill so far, we turned right at the shoulder of Djouce Mountain. This section is lovely for running, one of my favourites in fact. After a stretch of narrow path, the track opens up into a nice wide grassy track where you can build up some nice speed. We got to the two styles at the end of this track and then headed downhill and crossed the river and began a short but steep uphill ascent.

There were not too many runners around me at this point as I was passing Powerscourt Waterfall. I was still happy with the race so far, I was going strong but all the while knowing that I still had a bit to go. I got into Crone Woods car park where there was a lot of activity going on around the feed station. It would have been nice to stop for a chat but I was in full race mode so just darted on through. After Crone, there is a lovely section along the Glencree River. The weather was still cracking so this area was extra scenic looking.

After the river, we started to ascend up towards Knockcree. I passed a few more ultra’s that I knew and knew that they would be starting to feel the distance in their legs at this point. I was again happy to be only doing half of what they had set out to do!

I got into Curtlestown where I was meet by Mick Haney and his kids. They were manning one of the aid stations along the route. I stopped briefly and grabbed a quick drink and a few jellies. I did not pack and drinks or food with me as I would be fairly comfortable to run 25K without, but in saying that the jellies were a welcome treat!

After this point I knew there was a long stretch of uphill fire road that leads to Prince Willima’s Seat. I was still feeling strong here so pressed on and attacked this hill section. I never stopped running and kept up a good pace so was happy with that. Towards the top, I passed a big bunch of scouts who were shouting words of encouragement at me. In my mind now, the hard part of the race was done and I was happy with progress thus far.

I hit the top of the rocky steeps heading along just below Prince William’s Seat. I knew I had about 3K or so of downhill fire road ahead so I decided to really go for it at this point. I notched it up a gear and got in some really fast kilometres and was able to pass a few other trail runners at the same time. My legs were beginning to tire but I knew I had enough left in the tank to make a strong finish.

Nearly at the finish!

Nearly at the finish!

I crossed through the last couple of gates and knew I was on the home stretch. The last kilometre is all uphill and a bit of a sting in the tail for trail and ultra-runners alike but I just had to suck that up and keep moving. I crossed the line and was delighted with things. This was a big test for me after such a serious injury and one that I passed with flying colours in the end. The feelings of trepidation I had earlier in the day were well and truly gone now.

I picked up another finishers mug to add to the collection and then basked in the sun for a while. After a few chats with some of the other runners, I had to make my way to the car as I had to get home to take care of a few errands.

Overall, this was a great day out for numerous reasons but the big too for me were the weather and the fact that I was back doing long-ish hill running after my injury. Happy days!

Thanks to Dermot and all of his helpers who without, so many people would not get to enjoy such a class day out!

Posted by: summit2summit | May 30, 2014

Wicklow Glacial Lakes Solo – April 2014

          This event got the better of me last year so I was really eager to make it right this year. Last year I underestimated the weather and got caught out soon after the start in full on winter conditions. I allowed myself to get wet before I put on some rain gear which resulted in me getting cold, a cold I would not recover from. I made it halfway and pulled out. If I had have gone on it would have been a dangerous move on my part as the hills were less than hospitable that day. So with that in mind I was determined to complete this year’s event without any hiccups.

The idea behind this race is very clever, the runners must traverse around the mountains and touch a pre-determined list of glacial lakes as part of a team or as a solo runner. It is much the same as an orienteering event except the lakes are used instead of traditional controls. What makes it more interesting is the fact that runners are given time bonuses based on things like age and sex. The idea behind this is to level out the playing field which it does nicely.

My start time was 09:40 which meant I did not have to get up at the crack of dawn which I liked! I arrived in at the Glendalough Hotel soon after 9am and signed in. I was chatting to a few of the other solo’rs and everyone was in a relaxed mood. We were discussing last year’s conditions which were beyond poor and comparing it to the relatively nice day we had above our heads.

Image

09:40 came around which saw us set off down St. Kevin’s Way. Although the weather was nice I was not taking any chances and had on running leggings and a big jacket. It’s a nice run along this section of the way and not long after we were on the road heading in the direction of the Wicklow Gap. It was at this point that the runners must leave the road and make there way to the first lake of the day, Lough Ouler. We all took slightly differing routes up the hill which was interesting to see but we all made it up to the col roughly at the same time. From here it’s a steep decent down to the waters edge.

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One lake down and six to go, with all still going to plan. There was a group of us all contouring Tonelagee en route to the Wicklow Gap car park. I decided to take a higher line and try and catch the main path a bit earlier where as the rest of the pack contoured a bit lower than me. The lower line turned out to be slightly quicker but ultimately we all got to the car park within a matter of minutes of each other. So that was leg one done and after no hanging around I was on my way up the Turlough Hill service road for the trickiest section of the race, leg two.

The service road is straight forward with a few shortcuts thrown in for good measure. At the top I bumped into Alan Ayling who was with a few others. We were running over the rough terrain towards Lough Firib when we meet Moire O’Sullivan who had gone awry in the heavy mist. She joined us and the four of us made tracks. We hit Lough Firib fairly easily and then dialled in The Three Lakes on our compasses. The conditions were very challenging at this point so I was glad to be in a group. The peat hags make it hard to follow a bearing and we were slightly off course. Alan noticed this and changed the direction of the group and not long after we were at the larger of the lakes. Another one down and things were still going good.

I split from the group here and made a run for the next checkpoint. This section of hill was still fresh in my mind from this year’s Art O’Neill challenge so I made light work of it. We hit the track head after some slip sliding in the mud and began the run towards checkpoint two.

After a brief stop to resupply I headed off to start leg three. I had now made it further that my ill fated attempt last year and was enjoying the race so far. I knew now that only an injury could force me to drop out. Myself and Moire crossed the ford and began the steep incline that would bring us up to Art’s Lough, the third of our seven lakes. It was a tough climb and there was little room for chit chat as the physical demand was that high. I eventually made it to the top and touched the lakes chilly waters. After that we headed towards the ramp that would skirt us up and around Clohernagh and towards Kelly’s Lough.

Moire had gone on ahead and opened up a gap on me but I was just concentrating on the terrain underfoot and making sure I was on the right bearing. The ground was rough in places but not that bad overall. I made it down to Kelly’s Lough and got that one ticked off the list. I took a small break at this point and got some food into me and quickly checked my trusty East West map.

It was a lovely run from here to the start of the zig zags and I enjoyed it a lot. I was getting tired but I knew I had the hard part over with. Just before I hit the zig zags I passed two hikers and then had a spectacular fall. I ended up on my back with my legs up in the air while sliding down the hill head first! I was able to swing my body around and lower my legs and then the grips of my runners got traction in the mud and I gracefully landed back on my feet in one smooth motion and was on my merry way once again.

I got down to the road and ran along to the last check point. I only stopped here for about 10 seconds and quickly stated my way up onto the fire road system. A really fresh and clean looking runner passed me by with ease and made me jealous. I was looking rather worse for wear and covered in mud at that point! I battled on however and was nearly at the gap in the forest which lead up towards Mullacor. It was then that the spritely looking runner passed me by again after having taken a wrong turn. It is so easy to do when you are in full race mode!

I got up to the boardwalk and made my way back onto the fire roads. My stomach was starting to give me trouble here and I had to make a ‘pit’ stop. I have never really gotten a good handle on proper sports nutrition and always just reach for the jellies and coke. Not ideal but it’s a case of whatever works for me……

I eventually appeared out into the upper lake area looking quite dishevelled now. I am sure I was a scary site for some of the foreign visitors! I ran over and touched the upper lake and made my way towards the lower lake which was to be the last lake of the day. I was tired now and looking forward to the finish.

I touched the lower lake and then all I had to do was make my way over to the hotel and the finish line. I crossed a bridge but this was not the optimal route looking back. When I got to the other side I found myself running in the opposite direction of the hotel! I had to scale a wall to get onto the road and ran the last few hundred metres back to the start/finish line.

I crossed the line in 5:57:28 which earned me a 5th place finish. I was delighted to make amends of last year’s race with a strong finish this year. I quickly got changed out of my muddy attire and into fresh clothes and enjoyed watching the rest of the field cross the line.

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Many thanks to Gerry for organising and creating such a unique event and also to his great band of volunteers who helped out on the day. Next year I think I will give this a bash as part of a team just to see what the other side is like!

 

Posted by: summit2summit | May 29, 2014

The Wicklow Way Race – May 2014

About three years ago I had set myself a goal to do most of the longer based Wicklow races that were on the IMRA calendar and my success in this year’s Wicklow Way Race saw me complete that goal which included such races as the WW Ultra, Stone Cross to Lug Solo, Wicklow Glacial Lakes Solo and the Wicklow Round.

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Having completed all of the above mentioned races either last year or the year before, the WWR was big on my agenda for 2014. I knew about this race last year but had other things on my mind so shelved plans to do it until 2014. Although not fully committing to the race until a few weeks before, I always knew deep down that I would be lined up at midnight at Marley Park on the night on May 23rd alongside all the other crazies.

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The planning for the race was left quite late and it was only at the beginning of the week that I really started to look into it and make a few plans. I was only familiar with the WW up until Tinahely, after that it was all new to me but I did not have the time to explore beyond that so would just wing it on the day and see how it panned out. On Wednesday I laid out all of my bags on the table and then on Thursday I went to the supermarket to get a few bits and pieces. I always find it amusing when the checkout assistant is looking at the vast selection of foods and liquids, all mainly junk food, and wondering what he or she is thinking!

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As the week played out, I ended up staying up late for various reasons most of the nights and by the time Friday rolled around I was quite tired. But that tiredness was set aside by the buzz of activity and excitement that was happening in Marley Park car park. The weather on the night so far was not ideal and consisted of some light showers and a misty rain. Little did I know we were all in for an absolute deluge of rain, the likes I have not seen in some time….

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All the runners were now gear checked, signed in and ready to go. Jeff gave the 29 brave souls a final race brief, wished us on our way and at the stroke of midnight we set off into the darkness. The start pace was nice and relaxed and consisted of a light jog through the park trees following the little yellow WW men as we ran. At this point the rain was a bit more constant but everyone was just getting on with it. We crossed to road and headed up towards Kilmashouge and up onto Fairycastle. The pack had spread out slightly now and the top runners were already creating a gap between them and the middle of the pack. I was running with Mike Jordan and Pól O’Murchu at this point and we were in a comfortable rhythm heading towards Glencullen.

We meet Donna Mc Loughlin along this stretch and were chatting for a bit before she headed off into the night and on to her eventual win. The rain was coming down quite bad at this stage and I was starting to feel the cold. I had over thought my food and under thought my clothing choice. I had worn two technical t-shirts and an outer shell only and all I had in reserve was a wool long sleeve t-shirt.

We ran along the fire road by Prince Williams Seat and then down towards Curtlestown. I had chosen to wear road flats so was not looking forward to the steep section down to Glencree River! That whole area just before Crone was a mud bath and the river next to it was roaring in anger. The three of us hit Crone together and although very wet we were in good spirits. We chatted to Richard Nunan who was manning the checkpoint and then re-stocked with some supplies and set off again. I knew Djouce would be cold and with that thought I remembered my extra wool top and started to fear for its safety! I took it out and placed it into a zip lock bag to protect it from this onslaught of rain we were running though.

I have never seen Djouce like this before, it was a river and we were always ankle deep in flood waters. To say this section was challenging would be an understatement. The dark, wind, rain and ground conditions were just crazy. I for one was sure happy when we hit the top of the boardwalk as I knew we would have nice running for the next few kilometres. We hit the next small road section and then were back onto the fire roads. The darkness had faded but the rain was still torrential.

We were coming up towards Oldbridge when we caught sight of Robbie, he took note of our numbers and then we set off for the lane that lead up to Paddock Hill. It’s always a beautiful run off Paddock Hill regardless of the weather and my spirits were high. My only complaint at this time was that I was feeling the tiredness. Two runners who had passed us earlier on were just ahead of us so I split from the trio I was in and gave them a bit of a race into Glendalough. It was lovely running along the WW through the forest and down into the next checkpoint. I was feeling good and this was one of the high points of the race for me so far.

I cruised in having passed one of the runners and made a quick pit stop. At this point I think I was in 9th so was happy with things so far. I ran up towards the Polaris Waterfall but had to make an unscheduled pit stop, all the junk food and pizza had caught up with me! Mike and Pól passed me by unknown to me, so I would have to catch up with them again later. My good spirits that I was enjoying suddenly disappeared and I was feeling cold and tired as I plodded up the endless fire road that lead up to Mullacor.

I hit the boardwalk but I was shattered. I struggled to make any real progress here and even on the downhill fire roads towards Drumgoff my legs were starting to fatigue. I was only coming up to the half way mark and was beginning to doubt my ability to finish.

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My brother in-law Richard was there at Drumgoff to meet me so I was glad to stop for a few minutes and take stock. I took off my two soaked t-shirts and put on my dry wool top. I discarded some other items that were weighing me down and set off again. As soon as I turned the corner I saw Robbie and Jeff so I used this as another chance to get a break. Robbie offered me a freshly made bacon sandwich with red sauce and a coffee, NOM! A quick chat to the lads and yet again I was on my way. I passed the half way mark but was still feeling tired and full of doubt.

The next kilometres were tough for me, fire road, more fire road and then a muddy trail, all of it seemed to be uphill! I was approaching the section where you have to cross the road and bumped into three lads that had been trading places with me for the last little while, they had taken a minor wrong turn and were just coming back up the track. I felt for them as even a minor detour can be devastating to the mind. Suddenly and without warning I got a huge boost of energy and a lift of spirits. Maybe it was the bacon sandwich kicking in😉

I crossed the road at a nice speed and let my mind start to think about the finish line even though that felt like an eternity away. At that time I spotted Mike and Pól and was able to reel them in. We all hit Iron Bridge at the same time and I was feeling great here. The best I had felt yet in fact. I ate a ton of food here, pizza, bananas, jellies and had some coke too. I was chatting away while packing my bag with more supplies and then ran off with the two lads full of confidence. I had tired legs and was feeling tired generally but was still running on happily under the steam of my recent change in mood. I recognised the start of this leg from the WW Relay and knew we had a few hills to tackle shortly. This leg is a bit of a drag and has a long road section too before it meets up with a long section through some fields. We had been caught up by a group of four runners and were running as a group of seven for a time. Three of the runners dropped off and four of us went on ahead. Laurence Colleran was now the fourth member of our group. I was happy to be running with others as on your own, when you are that tired and have so many kilometres to cover, it can be tough to manage mentally.

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We made good progress up and over the fields and were wondering when first of the WW relay runners were going to pass us. We were nearly at the road at Tinahely when Brian Furey whizzed past us. I was jealous of his speed which seemed Usain Bolt like, compared to my trudge. All of the good spirits I was feeling the last few hours began to wean, what I had put my body through up to now was starting to surface and take its toll. I had one gear left now which was slow and could not go any faster even if I wanted to. The lads were pushing on and all I could do was just about keep up. I had a pain developing in my left shin that I was starting to notice but I just ignored it as I already had plenty of other pains to deal with!

We got to Tinahely and meet with the WW Relay crowd who watched us pass by them. They cheered us on but for me it was even hard to break out a smile as I was that wrecked. The next checkpoint was the Dying Cow pub. I was in a weird place mentally now, I was too close to the finish to stop but I was running on fumes both physically and mentally. I just kept on going but it was a real battle for me. At this point Laurence had made a break from us and soon after the two lads were disappearing into the distance. The pain in my left leg was ever increasing and I just did not have the speed to keep up with them as a result. I had done the short off road section and was onto roads at this point. The roads were long and straight and with each turn, I was meet with the view of another very long stretch. I was starting to lose it now, I just needed the pub and a break. Not because I was hungry or thirsty, it was just a mental waypoint that I needed to get to. I was convinced the pub was closer but all I got was long road after long road. I rang the lads at this point just to make sure I was still on track but alas, no answer.

Any wrong turn now and I was done, that would have been a fatal blow for me. Onwards I kept going when Niamh O’ Ceallaigh drove by me. I asked her was the pub this way and she said yes, ‘just up the road!’. As soon as she left I started to think what pub she actually meant, was it the Dying Cow or the pub at the end of the WW Relay, where was she going!? I was kicking myself for not asking. I kept seeing the WW signs but something did not feel right. It was then I meet with Donagh Mc Grath, I think I was babbling at this point, not making any sense. I was muttering ‘pub’ and ‘where is it’ over and over again. He said to me, keep the faith and it will fine and with that the pub appeared at the top of the next road. I sat down and had some food and some lovely ice cold water. There was no way I was not going to finish it now but I had no clue how I was going to make it as I was at the limits of my endurance. My leg was killing me now and I was afraid to take any more ibuprofen for fear of an overdose! I was told I had about 30K left, it may as well have been 300k as far as I was concerned.

I dumped my bag and coat now as it was warm and ran on with just my wool top and a couple of bottles of water. It felt like I had the weight of a car lifted off my back but that still did not make me feel any better. I was just zombie like now trying so hard to put one foot in front of the other. I was back ‘running’ with Pól and Mike now which was good but again, I was struggling to keep up with them. The kilometres were passing albeit very slowly. My time I would have liked to finish in was well gone, I was just case of limping over the line now. You could tell everyone was suffering but the end was in sight so everyone was pressing on though the pain.

The last checkpoint was coming up but it was at the top of a massive hill. I could have cried here but was probably too dehydrated to even shed a tear. I got to the top in a daze. My feet were sore with blisters, my shin felt like it had a knife plunged into it and I was mentally defeated. This was pure torture now, there was no enjoyment for me at this point….

We had a quick stop and Jeff outlined what was left. My body was screaming for something to give but that was not going to happen. I had to finish as I knew I would never attempt this again and did not want to make it this far just to drop out. That thought would have haunted me for the rest of my days!

I made it to the last forest trail section, I was down to waking pace now, I could not even get up to a light jog. I was on my own in the forest, the tracks were endless and I was not in a good place mentally. Each turn just presented me with another 3/400m of forest trail, each turn I thought I would see the end but there was no end in sight. I felt like I was in a maze with no exit. There were some downed trees that were in my way which felt like mountains to overcome. At one point I saw a gate but it was just some fallen branches playing tricks on my mind. I was going through real mental anguish now and just needed it to stop.

After what felt like an eternity, I made it out of this tortures maze of tracks and back onto a road. A man told me I had 5k to go but that did nothing to ease my pain. I figured I was down to 12 minute kilometres so had the guts of an hour left. I tried to jog just so the suffering could end sooner but each time I did my leg pain just made me stop. Cars were slowing down and offering me a lift, this would have been so easy. It was like those stories you hear when someone has died and has to fight the overwhelming urge to follow the light, that’s what the offers of a lift were like to me then. I had to snap out of it, I could not take a lift, I would have never forgiven myself for going all that way and giving up at the last hurdle.

I figured I had about 2k to go and to add to my misery it started to rain. I was beyond rock bottom now. I saw a sign for Clonegal in the distance, I got closer to it to make sure my mind was not playing tricks again but it was no trick, I had made it to the outskirts of the town. Then, in the distance I saw some people and then Jeff and Robbie. I forced myself to jog the last 50m and on the verge of collapse, I touched the WW sign which meant it was all over. I was too far gone to really enjoy what I had just achieved but somewhere deep down I was beaming with a big smile, even if I did not show it.

I was sure glad it was over as I really did not enjoy the last 4 or 5 hours. I grabbed a hoody and a hat and crawled into the back of Robbie’s van clutching my well earned stone carved medal. I was so exhausted that each tiny breeze that hit me chilled me to the bone. I got a jacket off Robbie which was a lifesaver. I drank some water and ate some food while chatting away to the lads. My lift was still a bit away so I was able to get myself back to some normality in the mean time. I was able to see some more runners cross the line too which was great to see as the event was such a huge undertaking. My lift arrived and I was whisked away much to my delight. All I needed now was a hot shower and my bed, I was done!

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On reflection, this was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The only thing I could try and compare it to was the Wicklow Round but in hindsight the Wicklow Round was easy in comparison. In addition, I probably should have stopped when my leg began to hurt but my mental stubbornness got in the way as it tends to do. I ended up having to pay two visits to the hospital and was told that my tendon was shot and that I would be off running for 1/2 months. Buy hey, at least I can say I have ran the WW end to end😉

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Massive thanks have to go to Jeff and Robbie, absolute gents and they got the whole event spot on. They could not have done it without the backing of many other volunteers of which a lot of thanks needs to go to too. And what I found most humbling was all the ‘private’ support crews offering all the other runners that they were not supporting, food and water and moral support all of the way from start to the very finish. It was true IMRA spirit in motion.

I normally sign off these things by saying until next year, but I can safely say that I will never be doing this race again!!

 

Posted by: summit2summit | May 29, 2014

The Art O’Neill Challenge – Jan 2014

Billed as one of Ireland’s toughest ultra races, the Art O’Neill challenge is a mouth watering prospect of an event. It’s a real stand out race on Ireland’s adventure calendar, not just because of the history behind it but because of the challenges that all entrants face. Any race that is 55K is tough, but add in the fact that it takes place in the middle of winter in the middle of the night and you get a recipe for quite a challenge!

I was no stranger to this event, I had guided groups of trekkers across the hills at this event in 2012 and 2013 but this was the year that I would take on the ultra! Rumours were rife that the AON is coming to a finish soon as the National Parks just won’t budge on the amount of numbers they will allow on the hills. This makes the event not as economically feasible as the organisers would like. So with that in mind I signed up for the ultra as I did not want to miss out on the chance to run one of Ireland’s toughest events.

Registration for the ultra closed at 00:30 and I was off work at 17:00 so had a good bit of time to kill. I decided to go straight home after work, eat and then try and catch a few hours of sleep as I knew I would be up all night. I got to bed at 18:30 after my dinner and managed to get some broken sleep. I got up again at 23:00 but I felt whacked out of it and my stomach did not feel great after sleeping on my dinner. Maybe I should have just stayed up I thought to myself.

I had a quick shower to wake up, gathered my things and made my way to Dublin Castle for registration. Just as I was arriving I saw all of the trekkers leaving at midnight sharp. It was some sight to see them all depart at once.

I made my way into the castle and was greeted with many familiar faces. I had a lot of running friends there and a lot of my colleagues from the Dublin/Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team were also there. I had about two hours to kill but this time flew as I was busy chatting away.

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2am was fast approaching so all the ultras made there way outside to get a race brief. Declan Cunningham, the head organiser, gave us our final race instructions and wished us luck. Then off we set at the stroke of 2am.

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It was a very strange feeling to be running through the streets of Dublin City at this time and I noticed a lot of revellers having to do a double take at all the runners in high-vis vests and head torches running past them.

The road section consists of about 30K. It was flat at first but then after about 10/12K it starts to get hilly. I ran the first 10K quick, probably a bit too quick looking back now. I started up the hilly roads towards Stone Cross and veered left up a narrow road. It was around this point that we started to catch up with the trekkers that had left before us.

I was about 20K in at this stage. I was still feeling fairly good but could definitely start to feel my legs to tire. I broke from my running rhythm for the fist time since the castle to eat an energy bar and take on some water. After about three minutes I was back running. My friend Ger Lawlor had caught up with me at this stage. I could tell he was running strong as I could not keep up with him! We chatted for a short time and then he disappeared off.

Towards the end of this road we all had to go through some private land for a shortcut. It’s always a surreal experience as we were pre-warned to be quite and not to wake the landowners who were fast a sleep not far from the stream of runners and trekkers. With everyone reduced to a whisper, I glanced back and witnessed a huge line of headlamps behind me snaking down through the farmer’s field. It was an amazing sight, one which I would have loved to have captured on camera had I not been racing.

We navigated through the field and were back onto country road. My legs were feeling very tired now which was not good as I had the toughest section still to come. My lack of training towards the end of 2013 was starting to hit me now much sooner than I thought.

I was reduced to a walk/jog uphill all the way until check point one. I arrived at CP1 feeling somewhat tired but glad to be there. I got my bag which had been pre-dropped there by the event organisers and sat down for five minutes. I changed out of my INOV8 F-Lites and put on my INOV8 Mud Rocs. At this point my friend Mike Jordan had just arrived in a CP1. We both grabbed some food and checked out and began our way up the fire road.

My stomach was in a knot at this point, my decision to eat and sleep earlier was coming back haunt me. The lack of sleep, my stomach and my sore legs were becoming a bit of an issue for me now. Myself and Mike left the track system and moved onto open mountain. We grabbed a quick fix on our location and dialled in south on our compasses. Mike was feeling up for a run but I was reduced to a walk. I told him to go on and that I would see him later.

To add to my woes I was starting to get really cold. I needed to do something ASAP to get myself back in the game. I stopped, used the ‘facilities’, threw on two tops I had in my bag and got some water into me. Who knew that this quick five minute stop could turn things around for me. I was warm again, my stomach was feeling a bit more normal and I was able to break back into a jog.

I had recc’d this section well and was able to navigate it in the dark with ease with the use of only my compass. The terrain was tough however and consistent running was hard at times. It’s an awesome sight to see so many headlamps dotted around such a baron part of the Wicklow Mountains.

I made it passed this mountain section without too many more issues and arrived into CP2. There was nothing I really needed here so I pretty much just checked out and started up the fire roads which would take me up the second and last mountain section.

Soon after, I bumped into my future brother and law Richard, who was with his friend doing the trek. He had left the castle at midnight and was making very impressive time. I walked with them for about ten minutes and left them at the gate where the fire road ends and open mountain begins. It was getting bright at this point and unusually for this time of year it was looking like it was going to be a really clear day.

I decided to not visit the cross on this occasion and cross the river early and head up towards the Three Lakes. The climb was tough and draining but it was somewhat offset by the lovely morning sunrise. It took a while for me to get up towards the lakes after several false summits. I quite like the run from here to the start of the track system, its just messy, muddy and fun downhill running.

I reached the start of the track system which was good as I was close to the end but the track is very tough on tired feet. It is quite rocky and tough on the legs but there is no other option. I ran down the tracks while taking in the cracking sunrise at the same time. The lower I got the steeper the sides of the Glenmalure valley got. It’s a spectacular part of Wicklow! Soon I was past the hostel on my left and then it was just a matter of the last few hundred metres and over the bridge to cross the finish line. I meet a lot of friends there and was enjoying the atmosphere and my legs were definitely happy the running was over.

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Not so long later Richard made it across the line to ‘win’ the trek. He completed it in a super time considering there was no running for him. We grabbed a lift onto the Glenmalure Lodge and enjoyed a lovely fry and a pint of Guinness, no better breakfast!!!

As always, a super event whether you run or walk it. The level of organisation is superb. I really hope that this event stays on the calendar and that the shadow of doubt over its future is lifted. If you get the chance to do it, do it! You will not regret it.

Posted by: summit2summit | January 17, 2014

Donore Harriers Jingle Bells 5K 7/12/13

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I had not done a 5K flat road race in a very long time and was really interested to see what my time would be. My last 5K was about 19:30 or so but that was well over three years ago so I knew I could do a lot faster.

With those thoughts in my mind I signed up for this event and then soon after got my race pack in the post. Race day rolled around and it was a nice crisp, calm and bright December’s morning, ideal for running. I jumped on the bike and cycled the 20K to my friend’s apartment, he lives beside the PhoenixPark and was also doing the race with me. I left my bag in his place and we both headed for the start line.

I recognised a few familiar faces at the start line from the mountain running scene which is always good to see. I was feeling good at this point but was unsure how the race would go. I had a sub 18 target in mind but had done no specific training for this race so would just see how it played out.

I got as far up front as I could before the gun went off. The main pack took off at blistering pace. When I run at this speed while training it feels really fast but during a race when everyone around you is going at the same pace it just feels like a regular jogging pace!

My first kilometre was done in 3:22 which I was happy with. The field had spread at nicely by that stage and I was no longer treading on peoples heels anymore, I was able to get into a good rhythm. I find when you run at this speed that you begin to experience a pain all throughout your body, it’s like it’s your bodies way of telling you to stop or slow down. But that was not an option, I had to battle through it and press on.

I had just completed kilometre two in 3:37, slower than my first but still quick enough to get my target. My breathing felt very heavy as I was pushing my self to the limits.

I hit the three kilometre marker and glanced at my watch, it read 3:47. I knew I would be close to sub 18 but not convinced I could do it. I was only three kilometres in but my body was screaming out in pain.     

I was very happy to see the 4 kilometre marker, it was a big mental boost for me. I was really feeling the burn now but knew the end was close. I had also managed to run my fourth kilometre in 3:40 which I knew would go a long way towards my sub 18 goal.

I was coming up the last 500m of the race, all I could think about was the finish and not having to run at this pace anymore. My body crying out for me to stop this madness but my mind was saying to go go go on and suck it up. I knew I needed a strong finish so had to big really deep and summon every last ounce of energy and push on over the line.

I bolted over the line, hands waiving in the air. I immediately went to the grass on the side lines and lay down to take stock. The relief to be stopped was nearly overwhelming. I had that feeling of pain mixed in with the joy of crossing the line after a tough race.

My watch read 17:53 and my official race tag time read 17:56. I was not sure which one was correct but I did not care, I had got in under my time target and was delighted! I also learned later that I got into the top 7 or 8% of the field which I was more than happy with!!

Job done! I have plenty of mountain running goals for 2014 but next target for me on the roads is a sub 40m 10K…..

 

Posted by: summit2summit | August 17, 2013

Stone Cross to Lug Relay – July 2013

This race is always a classic on the IMRA calendar and one with quite a lot of history behind it too. The race dates back to the 80’s where the start point was originally located at Stone Cross. The record for the race was set in mid June 1988 by a group of three elite orienteer’s that were part of the Irish Army. Amazingly that record has never been beaten and stands at 4 hours 32 minutes and 38 seconds. The above mentioned trio consisted of Wally Young (Leg 1: 88:50), Aonghus O’Cleirigh (Leg 2: 88:57) and Pat Farrelly (Leg 3: 99:51)

This was the third time I have taken part in the race and the first time that I was going to attempt it as a solo runner. The previous years have seen me paired up with Kevin O’Riordan and Gerrard Buttler. Our best position was a second place overall finish. I was not the only one this year with solo ambitions, Mike Jordan (his second solo attempt), Alan Ayling and Pol O’Murchu all had similar plans.

The week before the race we had been hard at work organising the logistics. Being a solo runner meant that I had to organise my car to be left at the finish point and grab a lift back to the start in order to be able to get home after the race was over. Thanks a million to Rachel Cinnseaalach for helping co-ordinate the pre race logistics!! I had to also plan what sort of food to bring as well as organising some water drops so we could fill up along the way.

Race day came around and I woke up early in order to leave my car at the finish. I had meet Alan there too and we jumped into Rachel’s car and proceeded to the start area. It was now about 07:40 and there were about 14 runners at the start on a beautiful summer’s morning. The atmosphere was great and people were full of chats. As 8am came around Philip Brennan gave us our final race instructions and we set off.

The start was very relaxed and people were still chatting away. I was not planning to dash off at the start as I had a long way to go that day so just got myself into a comfortable stride. Myself and Mike ended running alongside each other from the start. We were to run together until the decent off Kippure where we were then joined by Alan. We had not planned this but we would end up running the rest of the race as a trio.

The start

The start

We arrived at the top of Seehan where the sun was very much shining down on us and we then made our way across to Corrig. We were still bunched up with the main field at this stage with the exception of Greg Byrne who was racing on at pace. On the way up Seefingan I could not help comparing it to the last time I was on that stretch of mountain when the conditions were extremely wet but today was the complete opposite with near perfect dry conditions. We had left Seefingan and while we still had some height we were plotting our route up the back of Kippure as once we dropped down to the saddle we would no longer be able to see our desired line.

We arrived at Kippure in great spirits, it was a truly lovely morning to be out on the hills. From Kippure we decided to make use of the dry conditions and made our way to the Military Road via the open mountain route as opposed to the longer but easier service road route. The three of us hit the road and ran the final two kilometres to the Sally Gap. There was a bit of a crowd gathered there and we got a good cheer when we arrived in. We replenished our water and packed some more food and set off up Carrigvore.

Sally Gap

Sally Gap

Carrigvore was to be our easiest climb of the day and we go to the top in just under fifteen minutes. I had not eaten much up to this point as I did not feel hungry but when you run long distance over mountains it’s really important to eat whether you are hungry or not. As I was climbing I started to fell a bit of weakness in my legs so I pulled out a bag of sour jellies and proceded to wolf them down and soon enough I was back to full strength.

From the Sally Gap to the Wicklow Gap can be tricky if the mist is down and the ground can be treacherous if wet but we were lucky enough to have neither problem today which made the going very good. At this point we had summated Gravale and were then making our way towards Duff Hill. We were very aware that we needed to keep left on the approach as you can easily drop down too much and just end up having to climb more than necessary. We saw some other runners make this mistake and were able to overtake them.

We got to the top of Duff Hill and were sure glad that climb was over. All was going very much to plan so far and we all felt very strong at this point. We made our way up to East Top and then across to Mullagcleevaun. We were all wondering what the Barnicullen Ridge would be like as this stretch of mountain is notorious for holding onto water and can be very tricky to navigate but much to our delight it was fairly dry. We still had to dip in and out of bog stacks but were able to get across it without much bother.

We were now on our way up to Tonelagee and knew that we would soon be at the leg two changeover point at the Wicklow Gap. At the trig of Tonelagee we could just make out the car park in the distance. This section from the top to the car park is one of my favourite places to run so I temporally broke up our trio and made my way down at speed. I knew I still had a bit to go on the race but could not help but open up the throttle a bit.

Again there were some crowds at the changeover point and we got good cheers upon arrival. We stayed here for the best part of 10 minutes basking in the sun and eating some food. Once were felt ready to go again we said our goodbyes and set off for the final leg of our journey. We were straight into the climb up the service road and we had no real intention to run this so a lot of it was tackled at walking pace. We had a leg three runner in our sights so we said we would try and stay with him as a goal. We had gotten nearly as far at Lough Firib before we headed left towards Conavalla.

We were able to pass by the leg three runner that was ahead of us and took the direct route off Conavalla and crossed the Table Track and were en route to Camenalologue when we got a shout from the runner that we had just overtook. He was pointing to his right but as we could not hear him we were left a little confused. Not wanting to put all this effort in and miss a nominated point I pulled out my phone and realised that we had made an error. When we looked at the list of nominated points that needed to be visited we misread “Table Track junction 690m (no requirement to go to cairn at Table Mountain)” and read it as a point that did not require a visit. A simple but rookie error but luckily for us we corrected it early and it only cost us 15 minutes. Thanks for the shout leg three runner!

After this slight mishap we were soon running along towards Camenalologue where we passed a huge group of hill walkers having lunch at the summit. My legs were not feeling as fresh as earlier but I knew I was on the home stretch so I just put that tiredness to one side for the moment. The section from Camenalologue to Lug is a bit of drag but we just had to get on with it. We were caught by another leg three runner who ran with us for a bit before using his fresher legs to run off into the distance.

We eventually made it up to the summit of Lug and were very happy to have reached that point as we knew that it was all downhill from there. This section was still fresh in my mind from the Lug Irish Championship race that I did the weekend before so I knew that we just need to navigate the stony section and then would have some really nice fast running right to the end. The decent was fun and the spirits were high as we knew that the end was near and our time was good.

We crossed the line in 7h40m which was a great result for us. We joked at the race being the most uneventful race we had done in a long time. Bar our minor error around the Table Track area we never once had any hassles along the way. The maps and compass stayed in the bags for the duration, the weather was perfect, the ground was very dry and the fun we had along the way was fantastic!

So overall a really great and memorable day on the hills. One I will not forget in a long time. Many thanks to Alan and Mike for running with me and thanks to Philip Brennan for organising and a special thanks to Rachel for picking me an Alan up at Fenton’s early that morning even though you were not racing that day!!

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