Irish Mountain
Running Association

Nav challenge 2 Black Hill


Angus TynerRuairí ShortBrian O MurchuGerry BradyGreg ByrneJohn Bell

Out to 2 and back

I didn't even make it to 2nd control, but I certainly found the brook it was on, or did the brook find me...

Glorious day, Glorious views and a great crowd but still enough maps. We got the send off from Don and immediately faced with route choice, when to cut down to road. There was a ride leading direct to control later on but I decided to get out of the crowd early and get to road asap. I had thought of going back to main road, but others had already gone that way and were way ahead. There was an early ride down through forest but I missed this and I beat my way down through he trees and then through the thinned part to the forest road. No sign of anyone in either direction, so got ahead of those that had gone back to main road. As I neared control others were dropping down from forest. Ahead up the track away from control were Conor and Greg followed by John. Just ahead of me were Maeve, Brian and Mike. On the climb that followed I could feel the previous days Parkrun in my legs.
No. 2 was up, across a saddle and then down. Conor good bit ahead. Greg took left route and the rest of us were spread out heading up to saddle. Greg and John were pulling away. I got ahead of Maeve and Mike. I was with Brain approaching control 2. We were at brook junction before. Brain went left and I went to follow brook which quickly became a little gorge and before I had time to react my foot went towards some heather with no ground underneath and I knew I was a gonner even before I went. I could see it was water underneath, so my first thought was not to drown...and then before I hit the water I knew this could be really bad.

Got totally submerged but clambered out still clutching map, compass and si-card. Then the pain hit, as well as the shock of the drenching. No-one saw me going in and it was at least a minute before anyone else arrived. I knew very quickly I was finished for day as it was a huge struggle to move a step. Rob I think was first to see that I was in trouble. What timing for a docter to arrive!! though I did not realise that fact at the time. So I weighed up in my mind did I really need help. I confirmed I had nothing broken. My knee probably looked a mess and probably with a lack of conviction and certainly a lack of confidence I reckoned I was good to make my own way back. As my route back was the way I had come, I met plenty others, Eileen, Aonghus, Ruairi, Philip, Gerard, Paul, Pat, Mike, Brendan, Stuart, Gerry, Maike and others, and with each passing person, many offering coats, gels, phones etc, my mobility was increasing and my conviction and confidence that I was fine to return myself increased.

So I managed the 5k back over Black hill in about 75 mins. Didn't feel the need to put coat on. Even got back before Conor. Could have brought in short course controls if I knew they were finished with, recorded some Bumble Bees.

The knee looked bad but it was only a surface graze causing that. Internally not so good. Was confident of running by following weekend, but now that's its Thursday, that's not looking likely..

Well done to Ruth and Don and thanks to all the offers of help. I was glad both for myself and to all other offering to give up their run that my call to decline assistance proved to be sound judgement.

Get number one right!

Planned by Ruth & Don this was going to be a tough one. All the big guns were there, Conor, ColmM, Angus, Greg who was 5th last week, John Bell who was 6th so it looked like it was going to be interesting. Sunny clear day so running in groups could also be very likely.

I took off first and led for a bit but Colm and Conor passed me on the hill up the road. I kept climbing to try and find the path to the left while Conor peeled off. I climbed more but the going looked good so I cut and did get the path. Couldn't see the ride into the forest and Conor looked like he just dived into thick green so I decided to stay high with ColmM. Climb was tough and then he wrecked himself. Twisted ankle. Offered some help but was declined, even though he really needed it later it turns out. Going was rough then through the open and I lost 4 mins to Conor already by 1 and in 12th place. Terrible start.

I was well down the pack and motivation was low. Slogged up the hill, Aonghus flew past but I was picking up one or two people. Nice run down to the river junction where I met an injured Angus. Again offered help but was turned down. He made it back ok. Passed a few down the hill and up to 7th. Could see people up on Mullaghcleevaun but no real idea of my position at the time.

Absolute killer climb out of 2, behind Mike Jordan, Maeve and Aonghus. Aonghus was flying and put time into me but I stayed fairly level with the other two. Decided to save climb and go around Mullaghcleevaun instead of over and caught them at the lake. Got past Maeve and I did hesitate a little finding the skelps but I could see where Aonghus and a blue guy were running down towards 4 so found it ok, moved up to 5th.

Wanted to be ahead of Aonghus by 4 as I reckoned I'd put more time into him towards 5 on the downhill so worked hard to catch him. There was a blue guy really low. Turns out he broke his SI card and DNF'd. Stayed really high and got Aonghus just at the crest of the ridge, then blasted the descent. Hit the river high and followed it down to the control. Blue guy had disappeared and no sign of anyone else. Actually into 4th place.

Solo run across the hill. Legs dead, lungs in agony, I apparently looked strong to Aonghus and pulled away from him across the gentle slope uphill that seemed interminable. Eventually got there and picked a line that ensure I had continuous downhill as much as possible. Stayed left of the river, took a gel and suddenly found a little life in my legs. Took a small sip of water from the river and it was fantastic. Popped out on the road and there was Greg. Big surprise. What on earth was he doing coming from the left? He told me he thought we had gone too far down but I knew where I was and ran down the road to the river. I wondered who was ahead, and he told me Conor for sure and maybe Angus. I heard Conor and then some other names but didn't realise he didn't know Angus was out. Battled up here for a bit but the system collapsed again and I was really suffering. Switching sides of the river and I got caught out and had to cross back and lost some metres.

Greg flew up the hill it seemed to me. I pushed as much as I could, worried Aonghus would be coming back. It wasn't fast for me. Took some more water from my bottle too. Eventually hit the fire road and could run a bit before cutting up the ride and sinking up to me knees in mud. The last bit across the open was tough and I nearly fell in the marsh but managed to run to the line.

Bluffing it

Control 1: Don't follow the person in front
There was clear skies for Nav 2, the perfect weather for following the person in front. There wasn't any time between receiving the maps and the race starting, so instead of looking at the map, I spotted two people who looked like orienteers and followed them. This was rookie mistake #1, as I ended up going the long way to control 1 probably losing around 5 minutes

Control 2: Don't get distracted
Most of the field seemed to be ahead of me after punching at control 1, so there was many runners ahead spread out, but mostly going the same direction to control 2. Most runners went high, but I decided to go slightly to their right. This meant that most runners went out of sight when I was going over the Billy Byrne Gap....and there was blueberries, lots of them all around me. How could one not pick a few?

Control 3: Orienteering zone
After punching at control 2, and seeing lots of runners around. I took the unusual decision not to follow them and pick my own line around Mullaghcleevan. I went to the right of the summit, without actually getting to the trig point. Once I started descending I found a very runnable line to the Skelps for control 3 and strangely all the other runners seem to have disappeared from view. This leg was seemed like what orienteering is all about.

Control 4 & 5: Bunch running
At control 3 there was a bunching of a few runners and we stayed together going in a direct line to control 4 and to the forest edge just before control 5. I think I went faster with this bunch than I would have on my I might not have been looking at my map.

Control 5: The Wall
Getting to control 5, I crossed rivers (or maybe it was just the one river) so many times I lost count. In fact, when I spotted control 5 I was in the river at the time so I just wadded up for the punch. This is the point at which the freshness left my legs, and my mind advocated for bathing in the river for a siesta. Tiredness was setting in. As the bunch of runners from controls 4 & 5 were now splitting up with variant speeds and route choices, I had to keep going to avoid looking at my map otherwise I would lose sight of the other runners. Oops, is this an anti-nav challenge attitude? I scrambled through the bullrushes and decided to stop following other runners when I hit the fireroad. At this point I was thinking that control 5 needed a beer station, and I was going to follow the longer but more runnable fireroad to the road and then finish.
When Ger popped out in front of me, and then turned left through the forestry firebreak, I had been rejuvenated enough by the fireroad running to follow him. I knew the finish was close, and one last push through shin-shredding heather I was on to the dirt track to the finish. Then welcome puddle to bath in after punching at the finish control.

My first ever Nav Challenge, and seems I did pretty well with a bit of bluffing on the map reading part!

A Sunny Day in the Hills

Just over four years since my last race, I decide it is time to get out again. In 2011 two falls in two navigation races resulted in some injuries followed by some laziness! My preparations have changed in the interim and I bring a small backpack, some food, bottles of water, and a jacket – the weight of it all! I meet Philip Brennan at the car pool and travel up with him. By the time we leave to go to the start, I still have the backpack but it is lighter. Up at the start, the weather is good and I drink the water! The cagoule goes on under my top, a few jelly beans in my shorts pocket, and I go to the start without water or backpack.

Don Short and Ruth Lynam are organising and the long course is 15 km with navigation. Don’s pre-race brief contains a few useful hints such as in the forest, it is easier to follow streams than cut through the woods and that timber machinery has made some new forest tracks. The maps are handed out and we can see the control descriptions on the back of the map. Our first control is a path junction which indicates it is probably in the forest which is a surprise as I was expecting a stream junction behind Black hill! The race starts and the path we are on is too tempting. Runners are peeling off to the left but Aengus O’Cleirigh has thought me to stay with the route plan although now it is only Mike Long and myself on the path. I climb for a good while and then descend into a clearing east of Black hill. The descent is rough (for me) but a small gap in the clearing extends almost down to the forest track. I come out on the track with a clearing to the edge of it and decide the control is to my right. Strangely there are a lot of runners from the short course there already. Did they start early? No … hmm …… means getting onto the forest track much earlier was faster (it turns out to be around 6 minutes faster).

Control 2 involves a climb up over the Mullaghcleevaun-Moanvayn ridge and then a descent to a stream junction. I keep a little high in hope of better going. The short course runners keep south-west to the summit of Moanvayn. A few runners are stretched out well ahead of me but their visit to the control is visible as I descend saving the need for navigation.

Control 3 is a crag on the ridge running north off Stony Top. The decision is contour to the left around Mullaghcleevaun or keep right towards Stony Top and descend the ridge. The control is just below the contour Cleevaun Lough is on so that sounds safe. However as I climb, the shorter straighter route towards Mullaghcleevaun becomes more tempting as the underfoot terrain is friendly. As I gain height, I veer more east towards Stony Top. I see a few runners making the same choice but they descend more directly towards the control. I keep higher but then have to descend as I get closer to the ridge.

Control 4 is the start towards home although we have to head north-west to a stream bend on Lavarna brook. The runners ahead contour but I gradually descend from early on. As I see the brook, I can see contourers following the stream downhill and they guide me straight down to it. Some runners have lost time here and gone past the control without noticing it – it is not easy to stay close to the stream bank when the vegetation is rough.

Control 5 is a stream junction in the forest and will definitely require entering the forest at a known location! There is a nice chunk of forest jutting out just north of the ideal entry point and that seems a good option. As I approach the forest I am with Stuart Scott and Barry Moore. A quick consultation with Barry and we agree we are entering the forest at a small piece of jutting-out forest just south of where the river the control is on emerges from the forest. We turn right onto the forest track and a small bridge appears before us and everything is good! Niamh O’Ceallaigh joins us and we follow the stream banks in. Still no control and I begin to wonder whether the assumption that it will be very visible or that one of us will see it is valid. However 30 metres later and it is there.

The run to the finish means crossing the forest. What should be a small track is quite overgrown and hard going. We reach a clearing and I keep a little right hoping some logging machinery tracks might save me time. Alas none to be seen and my group have slipped away. On the forest road, I opt for the easy run around option by heading for a small track just north-east of the finish. It turns out to be more of a ride than a track but it brings me out onto the road and the finish.

Conot Short has won in 1:58:36 followed by John Bell in 2:05:54 and Greg Byrne in 2:14:01. I am almost an hour behind the winner but the body has held up and a combination of first and second gear has got me around. Thanks to the organisers for putting on an excellent event.

Clear skies, but a cloudy brain

We gathered on Black Hill with beautiful blue skies above and a placid lake below. The long course would be 15km and 5 controls to be collected in order. All the signs pointed to a test of endurance, fast running & faster decision making. That said the faster you run the faster you make mistakes!!! Who would fall foul of that old chestnut?

The start at Ballynutagh Gap gave everyone 360 degrees of route options. Maps were distributed under the watching eyes of Don Short and Ruth Lynam. No peeking was allowed until the everyone was map ready. A few jokes were shared and the field started to sort. Then the proverbial ‘bang’ and we were off. CP1 was located on a fireroad near the forest edge towards Billy Byrne’s gap. From the startline the crowd quickly scattered in in three directions. A large bunch headed up the road to Black Hill, Colm Moran leading the charge. As the incline increased runners started to scatter as smaller groups chose different points to cut cross country. As some of the lines reformed I was on the track along the forest edge trailing Conor Short with Mike Jordan & Brian O’Meara. Another group was going higher probably taking a contour around the forest corner. Mike was suggesting a forest break should appear on our left. Conor found it first and disappeared from view. Brian was next and then I followed. The same order was held until we got to the control where John Bell joined us and runners came hurtling up the road from another route choice, but no sign of the higher group? Unfortunately the early pace-setter Colm had a badly turned his ankle and was forced to turn back. Hopefully it heals quick.

At the time we weren’t to know Colm’s predicament and so we set off up the trail leading out of the control. I was pressing hard to stop Conor getting away. The next control was at a stream junction on the far side of Billy Byrne’s Gap. This leg had too many horizon lines to let him get a gap. As we climbed there was a fence to be crossed. On the far side of the fence we hit a good path heading for Mullaghcleevaun. Wrong way, but good running for the climb so I went with the fence. On my right I watched John & Angus go for the main Black Hill to Mullaghcleevaun path on the crest of the ridge. At the top of the rise I could see the main path as it weaved onto the Mullaghcleevaun ridge. A quick reading of the map indicated that a line parallel to this path, but 100 m west should take me over the ridge in position for CP2. Just in front I had the comfort of Conor confirming this choice. The chase was on…

Coming over Billy Byrne’s Gap it was possible to see the main scar from the target stream and another from the adjoining stream coming off Mullaghcleevaun, so a helter skelter descent ensued. Conor took the control and headed back up in the direction of the shoulder off Mullaghcleevaun. As I turned to pursue I met John Bell coming over a tuft of heather and looking fresh enough to keep up this pace for the foreseeable future. Would pace or route choice decide it? I decided to see and headed directly for the summit of Mullaghcleevaun. As the paths diverged it became obvious that John was following a similar line to Conor contouring around Cleevaun Lough. Less climb, but they would not benefit from the fast running higher up.

As I ran along the top of the crags above Cleevaun Lough I could see Conor below. He was ahead, but the gap had not opened and in fact was closing. As we hit the Skelps the gap disappeared and we began a brief search together for the kite. We left CP3 together, both aiming for a high line across the shoulder of Duff Hill. Conor stayed 20 metres higher and benefited from flatter ground to open up a decent 90 second lead as we entered ‘fern valley’ surrounding CP4. Our high line give us a position into CP4, but Conor managed to take a much better line out of the control and by the time I regained the ridge I was looking at a moving shadow some 400 metres further ahead.

The perfect visibility and the line from the ridge meant it was easy enough to spot the main brook junction just north of the smaller junction we needed to hit for a path to CP5… but the features of the forest edge flattened as the height was lost. With the gap not closing I made a call to go straight for the path into the forest… a plan that requires perfect execution, but in my haste I landed onto the forest edge 150 m south of my desired location… and proceeded to turn south… and then to follow what is probably best described as a sloppy irrigation ditch. Some 11 minutes later I emerged from the forest & turned north in search of the correct stream. Confused and uncertain I was met by Ruairi Short crossing the road. Strength in numbers? We trotted up the road 50 metres and found what can only be described as a Shannon-like torrent by comparison with my previous choice. Ruairi led the way up the correct stream asking who was ahead… I could only say it might be everyone, but probably Conor, John, Brian and Angus…

We achieved CP5 without too much trouble!!! Exiting the stream junction I pushed up the forest ride to the road from where I could not see Ruairi’s pursuit. On the road there were some obvious machine tracks heading straight up and so I took these, conscious not to let them wander. The map indicated that ‘up’ was the way to go and finally I emerged onto the track along the forest edge. From there it was a sprint, fall, trip, tumble, run and stutter to the finish. Conor, John and Angus all stood there… but unfortunately Angus had been forced to turn back from CP2 so only one place lost, despite my best efforts.

The finish line was a buzz of activity as runners emerged from all directions. The line nature of the challenge meant there was a number of sprint finishes to be enjoyed over a cup of tea and a Kimberley.

Another great job by this week’s organising team. Well done to Conor & Roisin on the long course. Well done to all the adventurous souls who braved the hills. It was a shame to hear about the bad luck that struck Brian O’Meara who was going well until his dipper disappeared… Agghhh!!!

All the runners at the finish were grateful for the solidarity shown by Keith Fitzsimmons & Co who helped Colm back down off Black Hill.

Is that The Skelps?

After Nav 1 in the rain and with low cloud, it was a nice change to arrive up to Ballynultagh Gap with some good sunshine but it was still cool enough. Don gave us our race briefing, but chatting to Niamh O’Ceallaigh, we missed some important info. Some kind fellow competitors filled us in that the main point was that it was ok to take the direct line through the forest and no need to using the streams, firebreaks and tracks. Maps were handed out and were off. Initially following the track leading to Black Hill before turning down towards Ballynultagh Woods. The first control was in the forest at a path junction, and there were a number of route options. I aimed for a fire break that led to a forest road and on to the control. The break was well hidden and I nearly missed it, but Brian O’Meara showed the way. The direct route would have involved army crawling under young trees. Thanks to the fellas for filling us in on the race briefing.
Next onto Control 2. This took us over the saddle between Black Hill and Mullaghcleevaun to a stream junction in Glenbride. I attempted to contour around rather than the more direct route which involved more climb. It didn’t prove to be any quicker. Conor Short was first to the control showing the way followed by Greg Byrne and myself.
From here is was up and over Mullaghcleevaun or contour around to cliffs called The Skelps. Again I chose to contour around to Cleevaun Lough rather than climb an extra 150m over the top. I saw Greg climbing straight up and I was sure contouring would be the better option. After passing Cleevaun Lough and scrambling over peat hags I came across some cliffs. I thought it was too soon but still the doubt made me slow right down to double check the map. By the time I was sure and got going again I could see Conor and Greg a good distance ahead at the cliffs. Greg’s route up and over was obviously the better option. On reaching The Skelps I found myself at the top of the cliff looking down at the control, so I backtracked a bit to find a reasonable place to jump and slide down (not as risky as crossing the rivers last week but still a bit dodgy).
Next control was a stream bend to the North of Duff Hill. I used the mast on Kippure to keep a reasonably direct line and when descending to the stream I caught a glimpse of Conor and Greg racing down along the river. That was the last I was of anyone until the finish. Concentration was needed here to avoid failing into a bog hole to the streams below. You’d disappear over your head in some of them. When I got to the stream I wasn’t certain if I was upstream or downstream of the control. Taking a gamble I headed downstream slowly. The further I went the more doubt I had and I was dreading the thought of having to head back upstream. With a bit of luck I had guessed correct.
From here it was across open mountain to find a stream junction leading back into Ballynultagh Woods. I took a straight line using Black Hill beyond to keep my line. Once up from the gully the running was good. Hoping to open a gap on anyone who may be behind, I made the most of it. I reached the forest exactly at the stream junction. The route into the forest along the stream was a bit of fun jumping across and back, landing in it to cool off a few times, and ducking under trees.
For the home straight I followed the firebreak straight up. Legs were tired but I but knew the finish was near. When out of the forest there was just one last bit of boggy ground to cross. The challenge was trying not to fall in full view of everyone at the finish. Dibbed in and over to Ruth to download the results where I was told I finished 2nd behind Conor. Where had Greg gone?
We were treated to tea and biscuits at the finish, where it was good craic hearing of others adventures or misadventure. (Angus, hope you make a quick recover).
A big thanks to Don, Ruth and all of the volunteers for putting on another excellent Nav Challenge.