Irish Mountain
Running Association

The Sugar Bowl


Greg Byrne

In at the deep end...

Sugarloaf at the start of the Leinster League, an interesting way to find out if the brain and legs could remember how to descend with ferocity.

No form to indicate our new rivalries for the coming summer meant for interesting glances as the runners warmed up along the roads and tracks. Kevin Keane, Peter O’Farrell, Gary Crossan, Bernard Fortune and numerous other past winners/contenders were to be spotted stretching their legs. Joe Lalor asked about who was not turning up… I could only hope my legs had turned up as the racers gathered at the democratically selected start line.

From the start Peter took point with Kevin closely following. Through the first gate and Michael McCarthy with his bright yellow jacket decided to test the lads with a turn on the front. This trio broke away and led for the remainder of the race. As the climbing continued Iosac Coleman gave chase and the gaps that would remain until the end of the race began to emerge, the yellow jacket up ahead giving the marker for progress with each upward glance.

As we turned onto the climb up the cone I found myself alongside Ben Mooney. As usual my short running stride was no match for Ben’s longer gait. On the final climb we met the leader’s; Kevin clear, Peter intent, Michael chasing and Iosac focused. Nobody showing any signs of slowing or losing interest.

At the top I ran for the cairn, Ben rounded the marshal. Amateur mistake and costly as I was now sheepishly following down the same path rather than enjoying the clear view and unimpaired route choice. As we left the steeper ground Bernard made his move. While Ben and I argued over the inside line, Bernard casually strode by as if passing two walkers discussing the view.

Down, down, down… my stomach was churning and breathing was shallow. Juniors lined the descent as they stood aside upon hearing the approaching footfalls. Eventually the track widened out and I made a move passing Bernard on the right. Then came the realisation that I was no longer following, but with a clear view I was now running hard and watching for tape. I wrong look and I was no longer looking for tape, but looking at the sky. I let out a cry, not so much of pain, as annoyance for the wasting the recent effort. Bernard enquired on my health, but my quick response gave him the encouragement to push on for the ‘sting in the tail’. Crossing the final stream we found that ‘around the pitch’ was not going to be a lap of the manicured GAA grounds. I determined to stay in contact with Bernard, but not nearly as determined as John Bell who showed his superior strength to pass at the crest of the final climb. Up to speed quicker he gained position on the single track and showed keen racing sense to accelerate at the potential passing points. And so it finished…

Looking at the photos I suspect John might be on for descent of the night taking quite a few positions from the cone to the finish.

On my warm down I was coming back around the GAA pitches at 8:40 and found it quite dark. Certainly I found the visibility of roots and rock in the vegetated single track was much reduced for those coming in around that time. While the single tracks wouldn’t suit an early start, it is a great course which could benefit from another hour of daylight.

Thanks to the Henny & the volunteers. The hard work to ensure we all get home suitable exerted is much appreciated.