Wicklow Way Ultra Race Report

Posted by on 4 April, 2010
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It was probably sometime mid December  after had been a hectic year of Mountain Running and adventure racing (1ST Year AV racing for me and finbar) that we headed out on our 1st run. It was from Lough Tay to Johnny foxes. It was a windy day, a day I would forget the keys which meant we had to run back to the car , which added an additional 2-3km to what was planned to be a 21km run. Karen and I ran 25km that day and the i guess the Chaos stayed right up to the finish really. Continuous  snow and injuries cut the training in half and left one team member (Finbar) unable to run the event at all.  So onwards we went and it was really until 6 weeks before the Ultra that we kind of ran in a way that we reckoned we could complete the Ultra. This was our 1st cut at the new route. JFoxes to ballinastoe, it was a tough tough day, and although the injuries were still prominent. Finbar was out and Karen and I were going to finish it.

Along the way we saw alot more Snow,  saw alot more of a girl called Gina (Massge Therapist) , alot more of the Wicklow way and the birth of my beautiful baby girl JT. (Future Adven Racer). The training for us was mainly a long run every weekend up to the Ultra and our own bits inbetween. Out there there was much chat about what it would be like on the day, what we would drink,who would be racing and what it would like to be running without snow …two weeks off before hand consisted of Karen getting the winter bug and my hamstring not  repairing as I hoped it would.  Eventually the day we had obsessed about came.

Finbar and Karen picked me up around 8:10. I would say breakfast was normal and i had a steady plan from the training run what drinks gels I would leave where. Luckily for us Finbar had volunteered s we had someone that we could trust to deliver drinks to the stops. I went with 4 500ml bottles and 4 gels- Karen with Camel Pack, Gels and finbar had  a supply of Jelly Babies and lucozade sport tucked away on standby. As we  pulled up to the carpark – it was packed compared to last year. Well last year was 4 cars, this year about 12 and the beer crew . . . i mean brew crewe.

Registration consisted of many people at gasping at others who were going to do this. Susie, Cormac, Karen was a suprise to many. The serious competition was out – you could nearly anticipate how the race was going to finish. Couple of friendly faces Greg, Taryn, Martin, Paul,  Caroline and Eamon (from the support group)  and not smiling as much as last year Eoin Keith. Eoin is worth a mention here as he is a looney. The boy only realy made his mind up Wednesday that he would run. Eoin is a good friend and one who is great for advise no matter what your level. With about 3 weeks of training on foot, and weeks of laser treatment on his Achilleas he was here to race !!! Another well know duathlon/24hr  bike racer Keith Heary was also here to race. All handed finbar their drinks gels and in Hodgeys case half the contents of his house, French chocolate , plums and the RTE guide i think …

In seconds it was 9:30 and we were lined up in front of Johnny’s listening in the cold to Dermots instructions and Eoins new route description. So the time had come, a time for pacing and pain. I looked at Karen we were both cold, wished her good luck and we were off.  Looking from behind I smiled as Eoin took off as if he was running a 400m race with Paul Mahon and Keith Heary in persuit. The Ultra is broken up into groups over the 1st mile and as you are approaching the 1st hill i could see the race space out in front. Eoin, Paul and Keith were drifting up the hill – I turned to wave to Karen as we had discussed previously that this would be the point that we would drift slightly apart so that we could run our own race.  You could see as we went up the hill how people were making their pace decisions and settling themselves into their own race. Well maybe except the front 3 who looked like they were just pushing one another on the way out. Ahead was Greg , Chris and Dale. Niall and ED i think and then other Paul, Martin, Keith and Eoin moving out of site. Its not a good thing to be seeing too much of the lead group on the way out.

As we climbed I was joined by my race companions. Marty, Quentin, Brian and Paul. There was lots of introductions along the way. Its funny that way, we may as well have already been in the pub the way the chat was going. I had met Marty before midway through the causeway coast marathon. He was out on a training run for Connemara so i was happy for him to tag along. Paul moved away from us at the top  of curtlestown and I think we didn’t see him again until Crone. As we jogged along the river by the hostel the chat continued. I was surprised some of the support team hadn’t joined us at this stage. My stop in Crone was brief just a quick hello to mary, picked up a bottle with a gel strapped on it and off i went. I had warned them all there was a long climb ahead and that the chat from me would be much less as I put my head down to get through the next section. Thats the climb up as far as Djouce. Marty and Quentin joined me and we plodded off up together. As we climbed up Djouce, quentin left us and i started to feel my leg a little. It was a little earlier than i expected but i was happy that it was pretty much flat or downhillish on into ballinastoe. Across the bottom of Djouce i was very happy with my choice of shoe wear. It was rather slippy and a slip in an Ultra hurts almost twice as much.  The Wicklow way glacier as we had referred to it over the weeks was totally gone and I was glad the sun was shining before we hit the strong winds that tend to blast you over the beams.  My body was feeling good going across the beams as I looked at my watch i was surprised that we were just over the 2 hour mark. Much faster than i anticipated but with the 2 people running on my shoulder of the beams I was reluctant to slow down until we reached the end of the beams. With the drafters on my back and keepin in mind that I wanted to be off the beams before the trail runners started meant I ran probably slightly faster than I wanted to.  Finbar was at the end of the beams, taking our numbers and offering support. I was happy to see him but didn’t expect it to be 2:15 minutes into the race. He probably taught i had come out to fast, but i was happy at this stage to have cleared the beams before the trail had started.  I came off the beams with a bit of a hobble , Then came a familiar voice of a lad that shouted, thanks we have all just been drafting off you for the last 4km across the sleepers. B**stard!!! Is all he got.

We chatted going down the hill, there was a spring in his step and a spring was starting to tighten in mine, it was starting to pain. Eamonn was advising me to pull out as i could do more damage than good . . My response was that I was finishing no matter what . . which wasn’t really the way i felt coming back out.  We ran on with Marty and we were chatting away when a sight caught site of a lad that looked like he had only just started running. Eoin was flying up out of Ballinastoe, attempted HIGH-5’S and we chatted anxiously to see who would be next behind. It took a few minutes before we saw keith, and then a few surprises  from memory Martin, Niall and then Ed and Paul who were still yaking. Dale was next and then Gerry pouncing out of the bushes for a Photo opp. Eamonn was pushing on at this stage and the way I felt I was happy to let him go as there was a whole half way to go yet.  At this stage we met greg who yelled that a fanclub was waiting below. Took a second but i guess he was refereeing to the Trail runners who hadn’t started yet.

Coming down behind Eamonn i could hear the cheers starting as I watched Eamonn take a bow . I stumbled into a Bowl of fresh runners all wanting to pounce on the trail ahead – u could feel the breathing on your skin as I stumbled in search of my half way bottle. We got a great cheer and a clap and I wished all the best of luck,and telling them they were in for a great run. The response was see you in a minute. I turned back out after Eamonn don’t know where Marty was. I left the half way mark walking drinking and wondering where the rest of the support group was. Karen and Caroline. I taught the break at half way would cool my pain a little, but eh not really – backup the hill the party had started the trailer runners were off.  Through the crowd i saw caroline 1st then a few minutes later Karen. Both looked good and i reckoned Karen must have been happy with the time she had hit the halfway mark at.

I was I reckon around 13th in the race and was contemplating once i got to the top of the ride would i ask finbar for the keys and call it a day.  Eamonn continued to go out of sight as more and more trailer runners passed us.  The trail runners encouragement was what drove me past Finbar. Finbar offered a bottle of lucozade, i needed a new leg but with the trail runners all around I was in a new race.  I pottered on up where marty passed asking was all good !! Slipped into 14th and off he went. It was now all about maintaining pace and getting home.  I walked the uphill parts of the beams much to the delight of my legs. The pain started to drift off as i moved slow enough out across the beams among the trail runners.  Without noticing i caught Chris who was again to pass me as we headed off down the side of Djouce. This was slippy and i went at an even enough pace not wanting to slip and cause further pain. As we bounced down into the Valley i had a stitch so i was looking forward to the walk uphill on the other side. This is a bit of a necessary rest as you prepare to pound slowly down into Crone all the time picking the trail runners off one by one. I In the distance i could see Chris. From the way he was running I could see that he was hurting. So once I maintained pace i would catch him. As i passed Chris i could see his eyes were read and his inury demons had come out to get him. We hit the Crone water stop together, picked up my last bottle and off I went. Drank and consumed Gel probably too quick as I had another cramp up my back as i shuffled along the dargle. Picking off trail runners walking up on to prince Williams i was moving now slow enough for the odd chat here and there. The trail runners were really suffering in parts. I passed Marty who told me he had bonked a bit near the hostle. I felt bad for him but there was nothing I could do but tell him he only had another 9km to go , walk up curtlestown and its downhill from there. He was still smiling and joking about me being a tour guide.

I knew curtlestown was close as we passed the Donkey rubbers retreat . As i got there I felt so much better than the previous year. I was surprised with how much I ran of it.  I gave Brendan o Doherty a quick push up the hill as I joked with him going up the hill. My brain and body were ok, but no one could help my legs  . ..  again the walking helped the recovery as I got closer to the top of curtlestown I could see Quenten Tarentino, and now in 12th this spurred me on. Past Jason on the way out who should have been running this race and i started to gain on Tarentino.  Passed him moving into 11th. The best part was walking up curtlestown had paid off and my legs had energy in them to move at a pretty good pace on the downhill. A glance at the watch told me I was much faster than I had anticipated and on I motored down picking off another couple of Trail runners ahead when i spotted Hodgey sheep gazing in the distance. As usual he was yapping away to a new found love. He made it through the second gate where I taught he would look back and see me and then boot off. But too busy yaking – the spring was gone from his step and mine had returned as he cursed at me as I passed him going over the bridge. Around 2km left and I reckoned I was back into 10th but wasn’t 100%. From there I maintained the pace expecting Hodgey to do a sprint finish at any minute. This ddint occur surprisingly. At last it was the finish the legs could stop, cease , cramp wobble I looked at my watch but was so whacked i could hardly do the maths.  It didn’t matter I was finished and i just hobbled around to find a seat to wait until the rest of the runners returned. I knew Eamon wasn’t too far behind and had to keep an eye out for the others. Eamon was in shortly after me then Carloine who as 1st woman got a great cheer. Followed in was Chris, Martin, Quentin, Paul and Brian. Followed closely behind by Taryn and Karen. Karen was banjoed, i got a dazed hug. Joan Colins as she headed for a lie down, the Vom bug had come back to get her but still mananged a great 3rd girl overall.

Its a long long race. I like Chris had forgotten how hard it actually is. I had got the Fuel right this time and now its time to get the leg fixed and get training for some Adventure Racing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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