Wicklow Round Report 2013

Posted by on 15 June, 2013
This post was filed in Adventure Racing and has 2 comments

Jeff The Wicklow Round isn’t a race report, but a report of a challenge course of 26 peaks totaling over 120K and over 6,000M climb inside 24 hours. This year it was a much easier call. With zero growth up to the end of March and low temperatures in April we were guaranteed no growth and with following weeks been so bad the grumblings were around that another year would pass. Recce’s done for last year’s attempt had made it far less stressful, and around the 21st of May the weather Models looked as if they would deliver the normal Sunny weekend of the Wicklow Relay. This was to be followed by a dry warm spell that hasn’t been around in 4 years. We made the decision on the 21st of May that the 7th of June was to be date and the plan was put in place. In our excitement we had overlooked people’s availability for support, but lucky for us Jason Kehoe came to the rescue and how outstanding he was we will cover as we go.

The importance of recceing can’t be overstated. But bad weather had prevented us from getting out on as many as we planned together. But the advantage of 3 people means you can distribute them which we had to do due to work and family commitments. So last Wednesday I flew in from Italy, Zoran from France and we got together at Jeff’s with Jason to go over the logistics of the weekend that was upon us. Admittedly when the support doesn’t own a map and doesn’t know where Ballinagee bridge is one does worry a little, but we got to work on the maps and the schedule and what we all needed to pack. We had planned a 2:00am start which was long debated through Thursday, but with the clear skies and the promise of the soaring temperatures continuing we opted for the 1:00am. We would have went at midnight (which would be our recommended option) only Jason had a family commitment which we wanted to respect that given the time he was giving up for us.tRANSITION


Friday night came really quickly, and with little sleep Finbar awoke Jeff, I picked up Zoran. It was 14C in the car. Already plans were changing. Leggings were left behind. As we approached Kippure there were fires burning in the surrounding fields. It looked like our route was going to be artificially lit up. But the route up Kippure was clear. Aoibheann and Finbar were responsible for getting us to the start line at 12:54, few quick pictures by Aoibhean and Finbar and at 1:01am we were on the way. There were hoots and holars as we finally made our way on the Wicklow Round. We talked the whole way up the road – keeping the conversation going is an important pacing technique, which in this case made no impact. We had set a fast target time of 21:15 minutes. We had done out splits to achieve this time, with a real target of 22:15hrs. The purpose of having the fast time splits was to tell us we were going too fast. We knew this was a danger with “Zohan the mighty” (Zoran) he had a reputation from let’s say another Round expedition so we needed to be careful.

As we headed up Kippure it was an awesome sight, the fires a clear sky and 3 smiles as we remarked that we were finally off. This time without a chest infection, and it wasn’t long before we were bouncing up Kippure on ground that none of us had experienced before. It was bone dry !!! We travelled with a bottle only as Finbar headed to the sally Gap. We were there 1:37:30 which was already 7 minutes ahead of schedule but it made sense to move a little bit quicker over the first few peaks as we didn’t really know what damage the sun was going to do later. No picture here but we descended down the service road in continued merriment. I had two comments to the lads, the fact that I hadn’t dry wretched on Kippure was a significant improvement and that we really weren’t on the round until we started to climb Carrigvore.  Finbar awaited us at the end of the service road where jackets were discarded and it was off to Sally Gap. We had gained even more time, we reckoned already 15 minutes ahead of schedule. We picked up our bags from Finbar and headed up into the darkness to climb the first real summit of the Wicklow Round “Carrigvore”. We were buzzing along on what is a short climb. Growth was noticeably low and we moved quickly to hit the top in 2:55am which had us 25 minutes ahead of schedule. We covered the next 4 peaks of Gravale, Duff Hill, Mullaghcleevaun East and Mullaghcleevaun with consistent chat of the remote helium balloons that would be great to have as support so it could blare out music as we ran along…… Jeff….  Still 25 minutes ahead at Mullaghcleevaun we stopped to take some photos and admire the Sun as it started to light up the sky against the now purple smoke from the fires in the distance at Kippure.round9

We also sent a txt to Jason to warn him we were going to hit Ballinagee bridge 25 minutes ahead of schedule, we had made up good time and moved a lot faster than expected across Billy Burns Gap. This is easily the driest and shortest in terms of growth we had ever witnessed. Up on to Moanbane didn’t take long and it wasn’t long before we could start to feel the sun starting to burn on Silsean.  Here we made our first nav check of the day deciding to not follow the fence down off Silsean but head to the right down toward the forest, from there it was onto Ballinagee bridge via the road.  This route while it had a lot of growth was far more runnable than previous routes. As we got to Ballinagee bridge, Jason was in position, as were 1000s of midgets. This meant we moved very fast in, wanting to get out of there. Poor Jason had a world of delights, fresh coffee, fruit and allsorts of pastries available. But the midgets were too much and we decided to move on rather than stand around refuelling. Zoran delayed a bit getting water and paid for it in red lumps all over his body. This was of great concern for The Zohan as we shuffled up the long winding road to Oakwood.

round4Oakwood looked pretty high on approach and this was consistent throughout the day, hills became mountains. Once we climbed Oakwood the sun really was starting to burn, visibility for the first time was at a maximum. We could see the 3 lakes from a long distance, a first for Jeff who had been there many times before but never seen the lakes without mist. An hour later we were on Table Top mountain, running through the dry peat hags. This was a considerable saving on the legs. This is normally a slog and one I wasn’t looking forward to. Dry peat hags give a whole new sense of love for the hills, they were warm and looking like they would be nice to lie on. From there we went across to Camenabologue, where the anxiety of the climb up Lug in the sun was being discussed. The descent was magic and we flew down off Camenabologue with great speed as if we were in the middle of a 10km race. The dry descents were a lot of fun and then it was the long climb over on to Lugnacoille. It was warm dry which waterless – as we climbed up lug we were light on water and were conscious of having enough down to Glenmalure.  The top of Lug was like we were close to the finish, well we seemed to take a lot of pictures. Jeff this time decided to try and work the Self Timer on my phone, so that would give you an idea of the horsing around we were doing. It’s still a great Photo and you can see how bright the sun was burning in the sky above our heads !!  It was 8:30am. We had been running for 7 hours and in great spirits as we headed for Corrigasleggaun.  This was an unexpected climb and the water was now close to empty. However this didn’t matter to Jeff who made the mistake of telling Zoran we had 10 minutes to Carrawaystick, this had the not required result as the Zohan took off into what felt like the mid-day sun. He was making a beeline with speed and deciding to take in as many peat hags as possible even though there was a straight pat similar to that of the Wicklow way available to him, the reins were released and we slowly roped him back in with a bit of foot stomping J We re-grouped, took a quick look at the map and aligned ourselves off the plateau to follow the forest until we came to a gap in the forest and followed the path through. Navigation this part was a concern for us and we were beaming to have nailed it. This carried us, as our throats dried, down the long long long long zig zags to Glemalure. As we approached Glemalure we could hardly talk with the thirst and my right knee started to pain from the long downhill…… We walked up the hill from the pub looking at the Wicklow 200 Markings on the roads. We thought there was a bike pit stop ahead only to see the smiling faces of Joe Lawlor and Jason. Jason had a canopy and chairs available to us. The shade was welcome, we all sat as we picked through our bags, hydrated and refilled our bladders. Our plan originally was to go light from this point to Glendalough. The heat changed our strategy we all chose to carry a litre of water, even though we were only going over Mullacor to Glendalough via Derrybawn.   We were still 15 minutes ahead of schedule and the challenge had begun. We targeted Glenalough as the half way point and after some bacon sandwiches from Jason we began the horrible walk up Mullacor.

round10The uphill which we all have run in past was no longer attractive. It was a long long walk in the sun, the trees not providing any shade. As we climbed Mullacor I reached for the Nuerophen as my knee was really starting to throb. For me it was a slow slog of Mullacor, Zoran and Jeff seemed to take it more in their stride. We got there eventually and then enjoyed a nice run across to Derrybawn. With dry ground we bounced across the hill tops again shouting and remarking about the incredible scenery that surrounded us. From there we took a fast descent again down into Gelndalough and you could feel the legs were starting to need refuelling as we approached civilisation. It was great to see humans again as we felt like we had been out for a long time at this stage. The sun was hot and we were greeted with smiling faces by 3 Generations of the McGurrens. (Finn, Finbar, Mr McGurren and Karen)  along with Jason who again was all prepared with canopy and ICE cold wet towels. We ran in strong, were 15 minutes ahead of schedule. But I have to say, I really needed to refuel before we were to do the bastard climb that is Camaderry. At least we didn’t need to get in the Lake, but Jason was fantastic, offering runs, towel rubs, coffee, croasants and fresh cut melon!! Jason was incredible and this was the same service offered to us at least 5 times that day. Standing Ovation!!!! Finbar decided to join us up Camaderry. It was a tough slow climb, definitely my worst climb of the day. My knee was throbbing the sun was hot and it was a warm drag off up Camaderry. We did lose a bit of time between Glendalough and Camaderry but it just had us knocked back to the fast target, that of 21:15 minutes.  It was a slow section but that wasn’t surprising given it was between 12:30 and 1:30 in the summer sun.  We moved fast again down to the Wicklow Gap where we said goodbye to Finbar McGurren.

Next it was Tonlagee with fresh water melon in our mouths. This section went pretty fast and it wasn’t long before we were again with Jason in Glenmacnass. I think that it’s the speed that you see the transition again makes the next section so long. From Glenmacnass it was up on to Scar, the sun was still wild hot in the air but as we bounced down off of Scar a cloud crept in which enabled us to pick up the pace a bit better. My knee was still throbbing but more nerophen was keeping it at bay. As we headed in the direction of Knocknacloghoge. Zoran chose to lead the way through a pretty defined fern collection. He likes the aul fern and he made sure to maximise it on this section. Things were still pretty soggy as we headed down toward Logan’s way. This combined with the ferns is a great test for the souls of ones feet.  In terms of Navigation we had recced these sections well and knew the climb up Knocknacloghoge well. Over the river and up through the trees again a hill became a mountain. Up through the silver trees over the ferns we eventually made it to the top. It was a longer slog than we had remembered next up was Lugalla we were 20 minutes now behind of the fast split time. This meant we were 25 minutes off our 22hr target. We were starting to sail close to the wind, however we kept it steady moving up on to Lugalla loosing no time here.

From Lugalla we could see the bastard that is Djouce. We knew once we were over it we would have the back, or shoulder of it broken. pathsThis gave us an energy boost and we covered great ground heading back to Sheepsbank bridge. Jason’s red canopy could be seen as we made our way. There was cold coke and wet towels waiting and we were in a hurry to get them. We climbed over the ferns and hit the bridge on target. Here we were greeted by two Aoibehaen and Jason singing and dancing screaming words of encouragement to us. We were starting to get close but really we still had 4 or 5 hours to go and man we were feeling it. Sausages in one hand – wet towels over the head and coke in mouth we were in pit stop mode. Needing a full service this time including blister plasters after some time we got moving again. Djouce is a hard hard climb, I had recced it, the lads hadn’t been so lucky and I think it thought them both a valuable lesson J We hit the top 20 minutes inside our 22:00 buffer. With such a slog of a climb, we decided now we need to maybe stop taking photos and get on with the run over the final 4 peaks – We were counting them down at this stage and we descended like we had 3 weeks ago down onto Warhill. We moved as if we hadn’t been running that day a move that probably cost Jeff to eat a bit more into his reserves that he needed to. From Warhill which we had gained 5 minutes on we took the path down rather than do it Zohan style. In other word not traverse the Ferns. The route far quicker than the one we had recced 3 weeks before. A brave move, but one that worked. Up on to Tonduff we were still within the buffer of 25 minutes. We then followed the ridge to hit the part that Jeff had been dreading from 2:00am that morning. True to form Jeff slowed down to his road speed. The descent off Djouce had burnt deep and he was not a happy man on the road. We got to the lough Bray stop where we had planned to grab a bottle and go. Our strategy changed as there was a need to refuel. Coke was needed and after a while we were back to the place Jeff loved so much. It’s a very long section on that road even though it was downhill. I had recced it a few times and was lucky enough to know what was ahead. I didn’t fancy not knowing exactly how much was left that late on the run. We encouraged one another on as we made our way in the direction of Prince Willies.

TonalgeeThe final section was going slower than anticipated, the day had taken its toll on Zoran who was getting cold – but some abuse and some coke and he was soon back to where he had been all day. Marching out in front on the descent from Prince Willies. We had lost more time between Tonduff and Prince Willies. We were now 13 minutes under the buffer but Jeff was starting to come back a little. We got a run going between Prince Willies and Knocknagun. It was surprisingly soggy in parts. I for one sunk straight into a bog hole, shouting out to Zoran for a hand to pull me out from where I was up to my thighs in mud. The reply came, “can you sit down or something “. We were tired boys and at least this mindless muttering gave us something to laugh at. It was badly needed and we moved on again. We took a great descent from Knocknagaun watching the watches as we were descending. It was starting to get dark and we had only 1 head torch between us. Jeff was prepared. As we hit the forest trail we had 13 minutes and we reckoned 2 km to go. Without speaking the silent running began. Breathing had turned to constant grunting but we were moving. As we came to the end of the fire road we walked the slight uphill onto the road only to be greeted by a road with a slow climb ahead. Nooo!! But off we set running, we reckoned 1.5 kilometres left. There was no chat no sound of civilization just the darkness and 3 bodies shuffling and grunting to the best of their ability.   A fear of collapse, was the pace to fast are we ever going to get there racing pacing and then seeing those fires again in the distance. We knew we were near but on a long straight road we couldn’t tell. The watch said 10:55 we were still rolling and then through the smoky air we saw lights in the ditch. We ran towards what seemed to be questioning voices. It was them, Jason, Aoibheann, James Tucker and Brendan Lawlor. We were relieved we ran to them. No fancy finish line, no gantry, no medal but the smell of the burning hills.  The Hills of Wicklow that we had conquered over  the 21hrs and 57 Minutes.  It was over we had done it and the pain and cold immediately rushed in as Jason and Aoibheann once again rushed to our every need, wrapping us up and taking us away for a well deserved beer !!TEST

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2 Comments on “Wicklow Round Report 2013”

  • Billy
    15 June, 2013, 22:13

    Great report Richard.

  • Ken Cowley
    18 June, 2013, 19:31

    Excellent report Richard – anyone who does the WR deserves much more plaudits than they get (as well as their heads examined possibly!)
    Congratulations to the three of you!

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