Stone Cross to Lug Relay
Always trust your compass!!!
03 September, 2018 - Conor O'FarrellAnother long, report from me. Apologies in advance.
So, a nice early rise at 05:45 to get moving to Stone Cross for the relay. I spun by the Old Mill to pickup Graham Bushe en-route and Graham regaled me of stories of previous editions of the race, and nutritional errors until we got to the start line good and early. There was a nice buzz around the start as people were chatting about possible route choices. For me the big decision was around the Kippure service road. The mist was down and I must admit that I was still feeling a little cocky following my recce a few weeks ago, let's see how that panned out.
After assessing the relay competition, I thought my team, "Slow, Lazy and Disgusting" were in with a good chance of the top 3. I was on leg 1, Kevin O'Riordan was on leg 2 and Matthew Sammon on leg 3. As we lined up for the start where passed by a man with a rifle, heading up through the forest - in this mist, we hoped he wasn't going to just shoot at random shadows in the distance.
Rachel gave us a brief speech and off we went. I went out of the blocks pretty quickly and hammered up through the forest. I noticed a few people taking a right to avoid the second forest section, but I trusted my recce and it appeared to pay off - as I exited the forest I could see the very same people just in front of me, including Graham. He powered on up the hill as I headed left to the place where we could cross the barbed-wire fence with relative ease. Paul Morrissey was kind enough to hold the fence for others as the hopped over. Once over the fence, I jog on up, resisting the temptation to walk, as I so often do early in races, as the body wakes up.
On, up to Seehan and there's a significant bunch hitting it together. I'm slightly ahead of the main ultra bunch, with Alan, Gordon, Graham and a few others already gone ahead out of sight (which could be 20 meters away in this mist). A quick check of the compass (oh, trusty compass, you are always so reliable), head directly east to Corrig. Picking up a bit of speed on the (minor) technical rocky piece off Seehan, I wipe the sweat from my brow - BANG!! I stubbed my toe and took a mighty spill. I manage to hop back up pretty quickly, I can stand, so let's go. I assess the damage as I continue on down the hill at a slightly more cautions pace. Hands grazed and a sore left quad and left shoulder, serious injury to my pride. Maybe no-one saw through the mist. Still, nothing too serious so I pick up the pace again and try to concentrate more.
Up to the trig at Corrig and feeling pretty good, I check the trustworthy compass and head south to Seefingan. All going good, I find the path easily enough and its a grand little descent. I have one of the ultra guys ahead of me, possibly one of the Polish guys, and we swap places a few times while avoiding the peat-hags. In doing this, I realise that I am getting pulled off the shoulder to the left and I have lost the path. I stop and reassess and head over to the right. In doing this, I converge with Paul Morrissey, Jason Dowling, Richard Church and a few of the other ultra runners. They are obviously managing their pace as I would normally never see these guys back at my pace. As we hit the climb to Seefingan I try to head up a bit faster that the ultras, but I only get up there a few seconds before the them.
Time to check the compass again, I can see the path that I need to take towards the east/south-east. But my trusty compass is telling me that is west. I look around, everyone is taking that path, and I knew it was the right path, but compass say otherwise. I had to make a quick decision or I may have been in trouble in this mist. (The last few times I was up here, I could see every peak as far as the Irish sea, today I don't think I could see 50 metres ahead of me). Decision made, compass is fecked, follow the lads. Now I would never normally do this and I would not recommend it, but there was no danger of these guys leading me astray between here and Kippure, plus we were running a different race. We should all take responsibility for ourselves on these races.
So, I ran with Paul, Jason and Richard to the top of Kippure. It was really nice to run with the guys, keeping me moving at a decent speed, and preventing me being lazy. Traversing the bog was not too difficult due to the fantastic summer and I was genuinely surprised when we hit the stay for the mast so quickly. Hit the trig-point and around to the service-road we go - whatever chance I had of going cross-country from here in this mist, went out the window with the dodgy compass. The ultra guys still had 40km plus to go so they were taking their time, but I was almost done so I opened up all the way down the service road. That road is a lot longer than expected, especially when the visibility is only around 100m at this point.
It was a good 6-7km road run to Sally Gap from the top of Kippure, and it felt like a half-marathon with fogged-up swimming goggles. It was impossible to see the end of the road. John Murray(ultra) popped out of the bog onto the road ahead of me. I expect he made a poor nav choice here as he would have been well ahead of me at Kippure and he seemed to think he lost some time to the guys ahead. I ran on ahead as I must be nearly home now, and I came across Graham Bushe. I was delight that I was able to catch not 1, but 2 of the faster ultras - even if Graham was tying his shoelace at the time. We chatted/ran for a minute or 2 and I realise that Graham was being kind running at my pace, so I told him to go ahead.
Finally, through the mist I could see the shadows of people up ahead. As it cleared,there was Kevin ready for the transition. Matthew and Petra were performing their papparazzo duties. Quick slap of the hand, and Kevin was off at a good pace, into the mist, not to bee seen again until the Wicklow Gap. Realising I did not leave a drop-bag of dry clothes, Matthew kindly loaned me a dry t-shirt to use while we waited for everyone else. It was encouraging to hear that only a few had gone though ahead of me 2 relays and only 3 ultras(I think). Navigation aside (as I didn't really nav from Seefingan to Kippure), I was very happy with my run. There's always room for improvement, but that will come next year.
So I was finished, but unfortunately for you the report is not quite done....
Connie kindly gave me a lift back to my car and I headed up to Wicklow Gap. The first 2 relays had passed through already. Colm had already handed over for the UCD lads and Adrian (who had completed leg 1 and 2) had only just handed over to Paul Mahon. Alan and Gordon soon arrived to continue on shortly afterwards, followed by Thomas. Kevin came in and quickly handed over to Matthew, putting us in a solid (relay) third place at the beginning of leg 3.
It was fun hanging around the transition for a while, watching everyone pass through. It was especially funny when the 3 Pauls and Karl settled down for a full-on picnic, before heading on to the final leg. There was a cycle race on the day with a lot of people accumulating at the Gap. Rachel (RD extraordinaire) was exchanging numbers with a garda sergeant who was none too happy that we had 30-odd people crossing the road over space of 3 hours, it was obviously a very boring cycle race.
On to Fentons, where the UCD team had finished (and left). Paul Mahon was already in for his two-man relay team with Adrian Hennessey. I went to order some food and a pint and when I came out, there was Matthew sitting down. I promptly handed him the pint and went for another. So 3rd place for our team, delighted with that considering the opposition. It's my first (probably only)podium in an IMRA race. Well done to UCD and Paul/Adrian on their performance.
It was great to see Alan Ayling take first place. He was looking strong along with Gordon at the Wicklow Gap and I had a feeling it would be close at the end. Well done to Thomas Roche for the 3rd place as well, fantastic result. Also, it was a pleasure to see Jason get the category win - it was well deserved. having run alongside for a lot of leg 1, he ran a very smart race and looked super-strong coming down off Tonlagee at the end of leg 2. Also, well done to Graham Bushe on his category win, I know he'll be a little disappointed with his refuelling misjudgement towards the end, but it was still an amazing run.
Retiring to the IMC hit for the evening, we had some much earned beers and a fabulous meal and dessert cooked up by Angela. We drank and chatted into the night, some slept under the stars, some in their cars, but most of us slept in the hut(I couldn't find anything that rhymes with cars/stars).
Thanks to Rachel, Fiona, Louis, Niamh and any other volunteers I have forgotten for a great day/evening.