18 March, 2016 - Kate CroninTo be honest, I was a little on the fence about whether or not to make the long journey from North Dublin down to Annagh Hill. But with the Wicklow Way Trail looming at the end of the month this 11km route with a 600m climb seemed like ideal preparation.
The day was sunny, the setting idyllic and I was delighted Iâ€™d made the journey. Well, delighted until I saw a printout of the race profile that is. Mick Hanney (course designer) talked my brother Damian and myself through the route and told us what to expect, including a 30% gradient on the downhill. Iâ€™m weak on the downhill at the best of times so the prospect of a steep gradient terrified me. I knew Iâ€™d have to work extra hard on the uphill.
Everyone was eager to get going and the atmosphere at the start line was the usual mix of casual excitement, typical of an IMRA race. Mick gave the course briefing at the start line empathising the need for caution on the downhill sections. I shuddered at the thought. And, we were off.
It was a quick start, we all knew that the first climb aka â€˜the wallâ€™ would cause a bottleneck so we were eager to get ahead. With legs already burning I put my head down and tried to pick my way up the hill. I wanted to make up some of the valuable places I knew Iâ€™d lose on the downhill. Eventually the top of the hill opened up onto the ridge. The combination of bog, rock and puddles made for some interesting running. Slowly I began losing the places Iâ€™d gained on the uphill. I realised that Iâ€™d spent too much energy on the first uphill and if I was to get through the next 9km Iâ€™d have to slow down.
No problem there as the decent down the back of Annagh Hill sent me screeching to a halt. The combination of leaves, rocks, mud and a 30% gradient terrified me. My quads burned as I slid my way down the slope. Needless to say I was losing a lot of places. I could see the marshal at the base of the hill attending to a runner. All I wanted to do was make it to the fire road with all limbs intact.
Once back on solid ground I focused on picking up the pace to try and catch up with the runners ahead. It was a solitary run until I reached the second and toughest climb of the day. Seeing the runners ahead almost at a standstill I knew this wasnâ€™t going to be easy. I took a deep breath and began the steep climb back up Annagh Hill. At this stage any race plan or targets I may have had was long forgotten. All I felt was my burning calves. As I picked my way passed Andrew Trafford on the climb I joked to him that Iâ€™d see him again in a couple of minutes. I knew heâ€™d come flying by me again on the decent into the finish.
Brian Oâ€™Muircu and myself pushed each other up the final ascent and eventually we made it back onto the ridge. Once again course opened up and I took a split second to admire the spectacular view before turning into the woods for the final steep decent. Only a minute had passed and Andrew, once again, flew by me at lightning speed. I vowed that he was going to be the last person to overtake me before the finish line. That didnâ€™t work out. Exhausted and relieved I crossed the finish line in 1.07.37. I joined the queue for the First Aid and compared war stories with the other race victims.
All credit to Mick and the volunteers for devising what was definitely my most challenging hill race to date (and to the Frist Aid team for putting us all back together again).
16 March, 2016Annagh Hill brought the Winter/Spring league to its furthest point south, out of its more natural confines of Dublin/Wicklow and in to my home county of Wexford. Pulling into the carpark at the Gap pub you get an immediate indication of what you are in for. The famed wall rises up to the heavens, very steeply before you. If that was the extent of the brutal climbing that was on offer today we would be well tested, but having checked the course profile through Mickâ€™s facebook posts I knew we could double that and add a bit more for good measure.
I was aware that a win today would see me take the league, if not it would all go down to the final race at Maulin. I had been having a good battle with Ben in the previous 3 races and knew I was in for another good contest today. I did a short warm up jog and then took the line to listen to Mickâ€™s pre-race brief. I was feeling a bit apprehensive at this stage, thinking about the tough course and the contest ahead so was glad when Dermot called the off. I eased along for a couple of hundred metres on the flat fire road, then rounded the bend and there was the wall, the first of todayâ€™s brutal climbs. Up I went, trying to keep the legs ticking over. Ben wasnâ€™t letting me out of his sight. Looking up, the top didnâ€™t seem to be getting much closer in relation to the effort being expended and Ben was still in close quarters all the way.
After many long minutes of calve burning effort, we reached the gate at the top of the climb and burning calves were given a chance to settle. Myself and Ben crossed over the wall and were now racing neck and neck. The gradient of the ridge soon started to drop slightly and was broken up at intervals by a few watery obstacles that were best avoided by dancing around their edges. Ben was going the better on the roughish trail and a small gap developed, and widened as the ridge progressed. At this stage the thought crossed my mind that the league winner would be decided at Maulin.
When I reached the steep, leafy, rock strewn descent by the wall Ben was well on his way to the bottom already. I threw myself into the descent as I couldnâ€™t afford to let the gap get any wider. As we reached the fire road section I increased the leg turnover, and managed to close the gap by the foot of the dayâ€™s second climb. The first 100 metres of climb was almost vertical, really tough, my feet were sliding back down the soft soil in places. Ben wasnâ€™t letting up and I had to give all my effort to keep pace. Eventually the gradient evened out a bit and on this more runnable section of the ascent I was finally able to pass Ben. I seemed to get a second wind now and while tired, I was going reasonably well back along the ridge and increasing the lead all the time.
Thoughts turned to getting finished now, just negotiate the final descent and all would be rosy. Just had to round the last pond first. A pointy rock at the bottom of a muddy puddle intervened at this stage to complicate matters. A sudden stab of pain to the heel and then every step was painful, not ideal with some steep rocky descending still to come. The heel just about cooperated and I was able to get down the descent and negotiate the finishing straight to take the win. One of the toughest and the best IMRA races I can recall. All credit to Mick for organising and to all the volunteers for helping to make it happen. Definitely worth crossing the Wexford border for this one.
14 March, 2016 - Gareth Littlehttps://summit2summit.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/imra-annagh-hill-race-march-12-2016/
Spills and thrills
12 March, 2016 - Brian O MurchuBased on my past participation, I only do Annagh Hill in Olympic years. This is a really super race, a leading sporting event one may say. Mick Hanney kept the race fresh in mind with plenty of updates, and with a variation in the latest edition, speculation was a hot topic ahead of the race start -what was the second climb going to be like?!
Having only done the race once previously, I was surprised how familiar the start area and course was. What was also familiar from the last edition, was seeing lots of runners fall over in front of me....yikes! I only managed one stumble while avoiding one of the "puddles". The last time around, the course was more wet, and attempting to avoid puddles was not an option.
The start is relatively flat, I declined to take the opportunity to sprint on ahead in order to save my energy for the first climb...."the wall". The wall comes very soon and running up it is not really an option due to steepness, and little room for passing. A walk became a very intense effort, and my memory seems to have blacked out some of the climb as it was much longer that I remembered. Once over the top, there was a comparatively gentle descent.
There was a runner just ahead of me I was keeping a consistent distance behind on the descent. Another runner passed me and caught up with the runner ahead, but did not pass. Then a second runner passed me and attempted to pass the two runners ahead. What happened next was like when Lidl opens a new checkout and there's a bit of argy bargy...
We descended quite a bit, and lots of the runners ahead disappeared out of sight. We had to drop a lot of height before we got to the second hill. I was wondering if I might be running alone for the rest of the race until we got to the start of the second major climb, then lots of runners ahead reappeared. They all looked so close ahead, but the climb was so steep we were all crawling up. I think I might have passed someone while I was on my hands and knees ascending....I was also trying to use the odd tree to aid myself against the effects of gravity.
At each corner on the way up, I thought that would be the end of the uphill, but it keep on coming. Corner after corner, various degrees of steepness! Eventually, near the top of the last climb hope returned that this was the last incline, as we were doubling back on the route out. I was closing in on a runner ahead, but couldn't quite catch them before the top. I knew they were a better descender than me, so when they disappeared ahead on the descend I assumed I'd have no chance of finishing close. Turns out, they disappeared ahead and went off course....meaning I gained a place. I struggled on the final rocky descend but only lost one place -a big success for me as rocky descents are my weakness.
I was able to stretch out the legs on the final run in to the finish, and a very rewarding feeling finishing such a tough and brilliantly put together race.
A superbly organised race by Mick Hanney, and I heard the First Aid officer got kept busy. A great preparation for Maulin....roll on next Saturday!
12 March, 2016 - Mikey FryThe hill
I'd been looking forward to this race for ages and now d day was here ...Mick had been posting beautiful pics up of the scenery which I new I'd be only enjoying from the pics and not in real time so maybe some day I'll need a wee and have to stop for a look:)
On my way down I could see a cloud over the top of the hill(that's what they call it)and took some pics but on nearing it cloud had lifted got out of the car a perfect day for a race ...so funny watching people pointing up to wall and wondering what's going through there minds I was putting there minds to rest by telling them there's was a hill worse then that one:)I was down for helping out so I arrived down earlier not far from my gaff but worth it for a little banter with the lads and ladies of which some will say mad runners...so only 74 runners in race a little bit away this race you guys missed out if it was the distance that you stayed at home...
Nice little warm to the start etc.. the usual pre chat from race "killer" director Mick Hanney then three two one from Dermot on lap top and we're off along the fire road to wall which didn't disappoint for me anyway... des Ben Adrian and Peter went ahead I just about managed to run all the way up to the top passing Adrian on the way up and on reaching the top levelled off to a nice flat then down hill to the out and back part of the coarse were I took after peters heals along some big puddles muck I went down into a sneaky one up to my knees this carried on for a while really nice runnable section(forgetting I'd be back this way)
Bernad then past me out and we were like the three amigos as we headed down I took a fall don't know how but just bounced back up I have to say the the next down hill which Mick mentioned in pre race probably the best bit of downhill in a race I've done ever it was covered in leaves and trees was a beautiful scenic place until you realised you were flying down at amazing speed Peter had to grab onto to a tree were Bernad and myself past him out it was like snowboarding down a mountain without snow a huge rush even better then drugs:)
We then hit fire road to the left(boo to fire roads but you got a little breath back)down down down Peter passing me out ...eventually we turned left to the four legged crawl on are hands and knees up the better hill then the wall ..I had some tails behind me so I kept pushing on I hit the top of the hill and my legs were like "mr whippy"I thought that was it for me but they levelled out thankfully and I keep on going taking a turn through the wall and back out again to keep on coarse Bernad and Peter were staring to disappear from sight I think pat was close behind I knew if I could keep him off till the downhill I'd be ok ...made it back to the top of the wall(was thinking of what I'd do to Mick when I crossed the finish line)nice down hill section with some tree ducking and jumping turning right down lovely steep zig zag rocky terrain then into the woods again a little flat muddy puddles nobody behind so then curving round to right another nice down hill to the left turn onto the fire road and a sprint with a high five with Peter just before the finish line ....chats and congrats with the lads in front ...one of best races of the year thanks to all to make it happen well done :)
Hope you all enjoy Maulin next week gooday ...
12 March, 2016Super race today. It's a tough course with twists and turns and falling on your backside into puddles the size of ponds and ups and downs and then very downs.
Back in the mists of time I did some rock climbing and the bould rock climbers had grades for everything - difficult, very difficult, severe, hard severe, very severe, hard very severe and then finally the big Daddio - Extreme.
This brings us back to the wall, which I had experienced before and the new downhill wall, which I had not. As Mikey says, it was only bleeding rapid buzz bud. The uphill wall was grand really, the downhill wall put me back in my box though.
As innocuous looking leafy descents go it was well up there, very severe.
Knockdhu is the original steep grassy descent in Ireland with Ben Gorm the boggy equivalent. I think we can safely say Annagh Hill is the leafy beside a wall version.
After being pushed hard by Ben Des eventually asserted himself, the spirulina is a great help apparently. His winning margin was a bit magnificent, sadly enough for the rest of us.
Mikey and Bernard and myself had a right ding dong for a while. The course had easy descending, technical but fast descending and then technical and slow descending. Unfortunately for me Bernard only seemed to encounter the easy descending as he kept passing me on the descents try as I might to engage the fleet feet. The climbs were going well which kept me in touch but sadly (again for me) the oul hill running races tend to finish on a downhill and Bernard once again passed me out. Boo hoo. Pride is a terrible thing, I was desperate to finish ahead of Bernard and avoid the (offical) first M40 tag, 3rd in the seniors would have kept my poor deluded self image happier.
Kate Cronin once again held all challengers at bay and Niamh and Cormac O'Ceallaigh got the biggest cheer from their supporters, they had brought the most supporters though.
I was idly looking at the ground before the race and could not help but notice the overwhelming success of the Inov8 marketing team. Everyone appeared to be wearing shiny runners but impressive sounding names and lugged soles. Including me.
Couldn't stay for either prize-giving or pints'n'pizza so thanks again to Mick Hanney and all his helpers for a super race on a super course.
For those that missed it, you missed out. Probably better fun than putting 9 tries past Italy.