Wicklow Way Race
16 June, 2019Reserving the Reserve and Finding the Sisu in You- The Story of Solo-Part 4.
Have you ever heard of the word Sisu?
It is a Finnish word. Simply put, Sisu begins where perseverance and grit end.
It is the ‘second wind’ of mental toughness, after the individual has reached the limits of their observed mental of physical capacities. It is an extraordinary determination, courage and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity. Its potential exists within all individuals….
So how do you find it?? Or maybe it finds you??! And how do you know what it is when you meet it??!!
This year’s Wicklow Way Race was my 4th time completing the race and I have yet to get bored of it. It constantly surprises me and that’s what brings me back each year!
Last year I ran the race in 17 hours and 18 minutes, four weeks after a 15hr/ 89k slog at the World Champs in Spain. I ran with only one goal last year and it was to have fun, no thoughts to time, position, competition, no pressure. The following morning, having sworn to my mum after the race I was done with this long distance running, I lay in my bed and thought… I know I can break the record of 16.50 (set by the amazing Sarah Brady that year) and decided that’s what I would set as my goal for 2019!
I knew if I was serious about this I needed a really good crew! I am terrible for asking for help so a few tentative messages to Emma and Leah along the lines of “would you mind helping me out for a few hours for the Wicklow Way, even to be at one or two aid stations??” Resulted in my two oldest best friends Emma and Leah crewing with Emma’s sister’s camper van for the entire race. Both ultra-runners themselves they just knew exactly what to do. I was in excellent hands!
Training wise, I did VO2 max and lactate threshold testing in Trinity in February and I pretty much stuck to the heart rate guidelines and weekly sessions set out by Bernard Dunne who did the test. After Maurice Mullins 50k Ultra in March I just doubled the distance of the mid-week stuff when I could and notched up the long runs at the weekend. Having teamed up with Mick Hanney for some training runs, trying to keep up with Mick on the hills definitely paid off at the weekend! In the middle of all this I was in the process of completing the final assignments for my post –graduate diploma in UCD and 3 all-nighters got me through 8500 words. Plus work and family life. I put it all down as training.
Not one to get nervous about races, I did wake up the morning of the race and think “Oh Jasus!” Into work until 2.30pm and into Tesco to get the last of the food shopping, home to pack the drop bags, with the teenagers helping everything was done by 6pm.
A few days before the race I sat down and looked back at all my long runs and the pace of them, I jotted down the pace required for a few different times and with a few over and back texts to Emma about what do you think about this and that, I set a goal of 16hrs 40mins (10 minutes ahead of course record) thinking 16.30 was a bit too ambitious. I am big believer in you can only run the race you have trained for and I knew there was some top competition this year. My main goal was to get in under course record. I printed 3 copies of my time chart, one for home and stuck it on the kitchen wall, one for Emma and Leah in the camper and told them this is Plan A, if this falls apart Plan B is sub 17.18 and Plan C was to finish. I had a smaller version in a plastic pouch that fitted into the front pocket of my back pack for my own reference.
Driving up with John Mc Cann and Mick Hanney, my phone beeped, a selfie of Emma and Leah already in Marley Park, big smiley faces on them and it was like “Right… we are going to do this!!”
Marley Park to Crone. 0-22k into the race.
12 midnight and we are off. The weather was hard to work out, mild but a little chill. I had my jacket on and a long sleeve and shorts but stopped up along Kilmashogue and took off the jacket and shoved it in the back pack. With I think 13 or 14 women listed on the Primal Tracking, I wasn’t too sure who was in front or behind. Claire, from Canada, was beside me and she had the most amazing tattoos! Up over Fairy Castle, I take a quick glimpse of the city lights before we head off into the darkness of the countryside. Arrived to the Glencullen road a few minutes before my little time chart and hiked the hill up towards Prince William Seat, jogging the few flattish sections. Down at the entrance to Curtlestown, Claire in front goes the wrong way and I call her back. The night so far has been really nice and clear. Into Crone Aid Station. Shout 44 in! The girls kick into action, swapping my drinks and making sure I had enough to eat, the orange segments and watermelon were the absolute favourites for the whole day! 44 out! Ahead of time.
Crone to Glendalough.22k- 51k.
Run/hike/run/hike up out of Crone Woods and around Powerscourt Ridge, Claire is just ahead and Eilish and Aoife I know are ahead too, I wasn’t too sure who else. Just over the Dargle River, up the climb by the wall and over the stile to the left, I can see Claire and the person in front of her on the wrong side of the wall and I shout at her to get on the right track. I decide then I need to make a little break away. I put back on my black jacket as I could feel the wind picking up, and having been up since 7am the morning before, the cold can set in in the middle of the night even if you don’t think it’s cold. Jacket on, hood up, head light down and I push on past a few runners into the fog on Djouce. Up along to the shoulder, visibility minimal, I am glad I know this well and the weather doesn’t bother me anymore (first year I ran this I was terrified of this section in the dark!). Here I meet George and we have a little chat and it was nice to have his company. Once we hit the board walk I put the foot down and push on. Down to Ballinasoe to the T-junction where the Wicklow Way goes right and then a quick left, I could see the way marker sign was missing. Down at the forestry gate to the right I could see head lights and I wondered what was going on. Up along this section, absolutely no others around, I start to worry that maybe I missed a “detour sign” and I should have gone out on the Sally Gap Road early where I saw the lights but then I stopped worrying and just ran! I was able to take my head light off along here.
Down to Piergates and I love this part of the morning where the birds start singing and you settle into the new day, there is no one around on the trails. Up through the woods and I meet Graham Colmer, we run along-side each other and have a catch up, Graham was eating a roll and I was having fruit bread! I push on towards the farmer’s fields and down the road towards Oldbridge. John Murray is out supporting his friend Tom and his girlfriend Ivana and I shout “Congratulations on the Round!” When John passes in his van a little while later, I know that Ivana is not too far behind. Up over Paddock Hill and a bit of a chat with Tom, I pass a few runners along here, I am watching my pace and time and know I will be a little early into Glendalough. Into the aid station at the interpretive centre and check in. I run straight over to the girls and they swap about the drinks, take a mouth full of coke, some fruit and stock the bag. I ask how many girls ahead and Emma tells me just Aoife. Oh really! Take a rasher sandwich and hit the Green Road, eat yummy sandwich on the up out of Glendalough! Out ahead of time.
Glendalough to Ironbridge. 51k-79k.
Along here I meet Rory and we have a bit of a chat. He wasn’t feeling the best at this stage so it was great to see that he finished. Pop on the iPod and turn up the music loud to keep the pace. It used to take me 1hr and 20minutes to get up out of Glendalough and I know now it takes me an hour so I keep at it and hit the boardwalk at Mullinacor, cool and windy but otherwise nice, down the Devils Steps, I stop and sit on a tree trunk and stick a Compeed on a tender spot on my right foot. Hit the half way marker feeling good. I run a lot up around here now and the climb up through Drumgoff just doesn’t seem as terrible as before! Back out on the Military Road, it is one of those rare times you get a good chance to look back and see if you can see anyone behind. No one!
Along here I catch up with Tom and we stay together, running at a nice pace down into Ironbridge. I know here I am going to change into road runners, change socks, change into a t-shirt, change my wet jacket in the back pack for a dry one and eat a bit more. At the aid station, Avril, Mick and Dermot Murphy have a huge spread and Mick offers a sausage, I just couldn’t stomach one! I drink a hot coffee which was absolutely gorgeous and get the runners etc changed. Aoife is about 35 minutes ahead and I am told she is looking really strong. The other girls are a good bit back now.
Ironbridge to The Dying Cow. 79k-100k.
Sun cap on and feeling great, I hit the road up to lots of cheers. Arriving into and leaving aid stations is so encouraging. Up through Sheilstown, the wind blowing as I reach the top, music on blaring, running at a decent pace down, I wave at Tom through the trees as we near the forest entrance. Toms stops to sort himself out and I sit and put a Compeed on the other foot that was starting to feel like it could get a blister. We run together all along the road towards Ballycumber Hill. This can be a really long boring section and it was really nice to have Tom’s company. Tom is aiming for sub 17 hours and I tell him we are well on track for that at this stage. Tom tells me his tummy is not great and I offer some Motillium. Tom says wait until we stop again to get it out. About a kilometre from the forge, I head on, at the top of one of the hills I look back to see if I can see Tom to shout at him about the Motilium but no sign. I have it in my hand and decide I will leave it for him on the next stile. Wondering how I will get him to notice them I first grab some yellow Buttercups, nahhh they look a bit withered! Grab a few Bluebells and two rocks and tuck them all together with the sheet of Motilium in between on the top of the metal stile. He is bound to see them!
I have Joe Cockers “Summer in the City” literally blaring in my ears as I run down the far side of Ballycumber Hill in the sunshine and I have one of those “this is a fabulous day” moments. A little look back and I can see Tom behind so I know he is moving ok.
Arriving down to the bridge at the Derry River, an Ice Cream van! Lillian Deegan you are a gem! Opting not for the 99 but having a red/blue mix Slushy instead was heaven, Imogen and her lovely daughter filled up my water bottle and I grabbed the slushy and kept going up the new “Steps of Sorrow” to Cookoo Lane with full blown brain freeze from the slushy. I had a quick check of the tracker here as I had taken out my phone to let the girls know I needed a new watch at Dying Cow and could see Aoife had not checked in yet so I knew I was gaining a bit.
The road up to The Dying Cow is the pits! It is always longer than you think and each corner I thought I was nearly there, I pushed quite a bit up along here and when I arrived I was starting to feel a bit over whelmed. Leah is waiting for me on the road, check into aid station and Leah brings me over to Emma, I tell them I need to just catch my breath and calm the fuck down. More fruit and food and the girls restock my bag they are so slick I barley even notice. They have Calipos and I shove one down my bra, half to cool me down half to eat in a while. Take Leah’s watch and she has it set to exactly the screen information I like. Paul Higgins is here too and we leave about the same time.
Dying Cow to Raheenakit. 100-111k.
One foot in front of the other, repeat… slow slow slow slog up the fucker of a hill. (and no this is not Coronary Hill yet!). I am in total “lock down” now, sun hat on, sun glasses on, ear phones in. No thinking. No talking. Not able. Paul is a bit in front. It is raining and I hit a slump along here and struggled to run the flats, my pace was terrible. In my head I could feel my 16.40 time slip away from me. At this point I hadn’t really registered the time when I arrived at the Dying Cow as I had turned off my own watch to save data. With Leah’s watch on, counting down the kilometres to Raheenakit, I was trying to work out in my brain the roads to it, over the Tullow Road, up the hill, down to the left, up the lane to the right, 5k done on the watch. How is there 6k more? Feeling generally confused and deflated, I was really trying to remember what roads and I just couldn’t ….. next minute I am at Coronary Hill and then I realise, Leah’s watch was in miles (no wonder I was freaking out about my pace!!) and I was already at Rahenakit ,the last aid station of the race. One of the best surprises of the day!
Emma and Leah are waiting for me at the top of the hill, cheering. They tell me Aoife is looking tired and is slowing down and I am to move through this aid station quickly. They tell me if I have anything in me I could go for it. But it is up to me. Two bottles of tailwind and another Calipo down the bra and I am off. No faffing with food or anything else at this stage. Joe and Nicky are the volunteers at the aid station and I barely said hello properly at all! Sorry!
Rahenakit to Clonegal. 111k-127k.
Up out of Rahenakit, run a bit, hike a bit but moving all the same. I wonder how far away Aoife is and is it possible to try and catch up with her? And then I think do I even want to? Then I think I might give it a bash!
When I ran my first ultra in 2013, the Connemara Ultra 64k, I went out way too fast and crashed at 42k, walking to 50k where I sat in a porta-loo , had a little cry, then gave myself a very firm talking to. No matter what, you have to finish this damn thing. I finished it and I have stuck with that belief ever since. (The day will come I am sure but so far 19 ultras and no DNF’s).
It can be hard to put into words. I absolutely love the challenge of long distance running and everything that it brings but it is also time consuming and I train around my family as much as I can. I do early starts before anyone is awake, I run when they are at their own training, I run when they are at friends, I throw the dinner in the oven and nip out the door, I run when they are asleep! But at the end of the day, the running takes their mum away, that’s how they see it. No matter what, I am going to finish a race that I spent time away from home to train for.
It is the best I can do for the girls.
And so I know, deep down, I always keep a little of myself, just so I know I will make it to the end. When I know the end is in sight, I have this little reserve kept banked away, I am able to let go and just go for it even though at Ironbridge, I really thought I couldn’t go any faster and at The Dying Cow I was beat, but from somewhere, and I am not entirely sure where! I am able to put the foot down and go. When it is so hard to run and the energy is spent, the quads are screaming at you , your lungs are tired and your shoulders are aching after carrying the pack for 16 hours, somewhere there is a reserve within the reserve, if you get me??!!
And so out of Raheenakit and down the road.
There is a good bit of down-hill and Paul (who is near-by) and I make the most of it. Into the last woods, it is so important to keep your eyes peeled to the way makers. I quickly check the tracker on my phone and I can see that Aoife has not left the woods yet. I can’t believe the time on the watch. Slogging up around the back of the woods, I stop for a quick wee! Eventually out on to the road and its 5k to Clonegal!
Running at a pace (seemed fast but probably wasn’t that fast!)
Around another bend in the road and it is more endless road! Running alongside Paul, I ask him can he see the steeple of the church, yes, he has spotted it. Oh thank god! Trying to break down the last kilometre and just dying to see the town and hear the cheers .Paul says I am to go ahead as he is not racing this. Stopping, just to catch my breath and calm myself down, I tell Paul to go on, he is clearly stronger and he is so kind and says, just take a minute. Off we go again and then the cheers start and that feeling of this epic day nearly being over, it will always be so special, no matter how many times I do this race!
Hit the board.
16 hours and 16 minutes. I can’t actually believe it! 2nd female and 14th overall. My Raheenakit to Clonegal was the 5th fastest split of day. WTF?!
Hugs and photos, laughs and congratulations to Aoife, 1st lady. My mum arrives with the girls not long after and they can’t believe I have finished already! Tom arrives in getting his sub 17 hours, I am absolutely delighted for him.
Emma and Leah, my absolute super star best friends and crew, I could not have done this day without them. From the moment I started the “WW2019” Whats App group, I said whether it is going to be a record breaking day or not it is going to be fun and it absolutely was. Thank you x
This Wicklow Way Race, every year it brings the most amazing group of people together, race organisers, volunteers, runners, friends and families, old friends and new friends, making life long friends. Over the hills in the dark and the fog we find comfort in each other, at aid stations we laugh and cry, we enjoy the sun in our faces in the early morning and the shower of rain in our faces in the afternoon, we help each other out and get each other through, whether it is to the end or not, if only for brief chats along the trail or hours of running together or pushing each other against the clock. And when it gets really hard, because it does, and you start to wonder why ……find that reserve and trust in Sisu!
11 June, 2019Wicklow Way Solo
“Run the first part with your head, the second with your legs and the last with your heart”.
So, there I was standing in Marley Park at midnight with Ivana and John ready to run to Carlow. John was crewing for both of us as he had only completed the Wicklow Round a week earlier. A few words from Lillian and Eoin Keith and we were off. I held back for the first climb and hiked/marched most of it as I knew it was going to be a long day, up and over Fairy Castle/Tibradden and onto the short road section to begin the climb up Glencullen Mountain which is always a killer. I got chatting to a few lads on the Glencullen climb/descent all of who had a lot of experience in endurance events like, The Race, Western States and TDS. I felt I was punching way above my weight running with these lads. We continued chatting and on the steep muddy descent from Knockree to Glencree river I slipped and went out on my hole in mid-sentence, I'd say I gave the lads behind me a good giggle. No damage done I got up and continued to Crone Woods for a quick stop to get some food and water refills from John and was on my way again.
My legs were feeling a bit sluggish, but I just put it down to not running for the last week and was sure they would come good in a little while. The climb up out of Crone woods carpark is tough, so again I adopted the walk/run approach teaming up with Paul Higgins who was struggling with an ankle issue but still powering on. The climb up Djouce was awful, my legs were not coming good and I was starting to feel sorry for myself but there is a nice single trail and board walk at the end of the climb which I like so the spirits should be lifted (or so I thought). The cloud was low, so visibility was down to about a meter in front of you and it got very cold coming across White Hill and I just wasn’t enjoying this at all. I really wasn’t expecting this sort of head game this early in the race. When they said run the first part with your head I’m sure they meant run smart. John was at Pier Gates for some much-needed moral support and reminded me I was still on good time. I got chatting to Rory on the next section and he was feeling the same way “why on earth did we sign up for this”. I was not in a good place and the legs were not ticking over as they should be so Rory headed on with Paul toward Oldbridge. I navigated the tricky descent to the farmers' fields thinking if I couldn’t get my head in the game soon there was no way I was going to continue, not for another 12 or 13 hours. John was waiting at the road section just after the farmers' fields before Oldbridge with some words of encouragement plus the sun was coming up, so I said I'd give it to Glendalough and see how I feel. The Oldbridge road section is long and boring which didn’t help the humour, so I just got the head down and got it over with. Clare Keeley caught up with me on Paddock Hill and we chatted all the way to CP2 - Glendalough which started to lift my spirits. Another quick visit to Johns van to re-stock and nearly have my eye taken out by John and I was off again.
The climb out of Glendalough is tough but it was made easier when I met up with Rory again and we chatted all the way up to the Devils Steps where he told me to go ahead while he took a rest at the top. The legs were starting to come good and I was enjoying my running now with a good turnover down into Drumgoff. John was at Clohernagh Brook, but I didn’t stop I just gave the thumbs up and continued not wanting to waste a minute of the good spell I was having. I was on my own for this climb, so it was head down time again and get it over with. Clare had caught up with me by the time I reached the military road and we continued together to Iron Bridge at a good pace. John was again at the checkpoint to ensure a quick visit. I changed my long sleeves to short sleeves as it was getting warmer and Avril brought some water melon over, which was delicious. I took some food with me but knew I wouldn’t eat it as the stomach was starting to do somersaults.
I was out of CP3 a few minutes before Clare but knew she would catch up soon. On with the headphones and some old school 90’s hip-hop for the climb up and over to Shielstown. Just as I turned on the last zig-zag I spotted Clare coming down the trail and waited at the barrier. I was delighted for her company on the road section plus her experience that she gladly shared as we chatted all the way past Moyne, my stomach was still upset so Clare said she would give me Motillium when we stop again but I started to fall back and told Clare to head on forgetting to get the stomach tabs off her. With Clare gone, the stomach turning and hunger setting in, the mood was starting to dip. I stopped at a stream running off a field and filled my water bottle with fresh cold water. A hundred meters down the road and I notice a farmer out spraying the fields. Oh shit!!! What have I been drinking?! Maybe it was in my head but suddenly, I started to feel very sick. The next section as you come off road was a drainer on the recces so I wasn’t looking forward to it especially with the hunger set in and the upset stomach and very little water, up through the fields and over stiles I was hitting a low and thinking this maybe it for me as it was about 10km further than I had ever run before. As I approached a stile I noticed some rocks on top. I thought it was weird as some of the other runners should have already kicked them off when climbing over, as I got closer I noticed a flower on top then some stomach tablets underneath. Clare! What a STAR! Even when she wasn’t running with me she was still helping in my moment of need. With a big smile on my face I skipped my way down to the Tinahely road/Derry river where I saw John and a volunteer. I remember Lillian saying we might have a surprise at Tinahely but when I was offered an ice-cream I was speechless. Unable to eat anything for the last few hours and 95k into this race it was the nicest ice-cream I ever had. My only regret is I didn’t get 2. With a renewed sense of life, I bounced my way to The Dying Cow-CP4 texting family and friends as I went along. I finally reached CP4 in great shape but I knew John would find it difficult to make the last 2 checkpoints as he was crewing for Ivana too so I had arranged for 2 friends (Tomasz and Dave) to meet me at CP4 but realized I was earlier than I predicted (thanks to Clare) when I didn’t see them there so I refilled my flasks and had some coke.
Not wanting to waste any more time I thanked the volunteers and headed off on the long road section to CP5 with the dread of Coronary Hill in my mind. Stuck in the earphones again and pounded the tarmac to some Ice Cube tunes texting the lads to make sure they could make CP5. Although I had been on my own for the last few hours I was enjoying the solitude and the quite country roads. With no wrong turns I was at the dreaded Coronary Hill in no time, as before, I just put the head down and got stuck into it. Just as I was almost to the top Tomasz and Dave appeared in the horizon but instead of clapping and cheering they just start laughing, took out their phones and start recording my struggle for the last few meters. That’s what friends are for. I made it to CP5! "85 checking in!" I swapped into my road shoes and clean socks which was a welcomed change, refilled the bottles and took some Cliff jellies with me. "85 checking out!" I screamed as I skipped out of the last checkpoint knowing I was about to complete the Wicklow Way.
Onto the trail for the last 16k and passed a sign that said, "be the best you can be". With the last CP behind me all I had to do was keep the concentration to stay on the trail and I would complete the Wicklow Way. I checked the watch and seen it was 3 o'clock... mmm .... could I make it sub 17hrs? On with the earphones again with some old dance tunes on full volume and I marched the remaining hills with purpose while running the road sections as fast as my legs would take me which to an onlooker was probably like slow motion but to me felt like Killian Journet pace as the KM's ticked by, calculating the time left against the distance left kept my mind occupied. Out onto the road for the last 5k road section that leads to Clonegal and I really put the foot to the floor 1k, 2k, I see the sign "Clonegal 3km" finally the legs gave out and I slowed to a painful shuffle (I call it the 100k shuffle) but it didn’t matter I was about to complete the Wicklow Way. Dave and Tomasz were at Clonegal with the phones out again cracking jokes as I trotted by to touch the sign in under 17hrs. I was happy to see Clare still at the finish and gave her a big hug and thanked her for the company and the tabs which helped me out no end. I changed into my tracksuit and walked down to the chipper to get my well-earned burger and milkshake. While I sat there at the window looking out at all the other runners hobbling about dazed, limping, with mouths gaping open, it looked like Clonegal had been invaded by zombies and believe me I didn’t look out of place. I shuffled my way up to the finish again to see Ivana come in and thanked Lillian and the crew for memorable day out in the hills. My friends have been onto me the last few days asking about my race report saying "it’s a sad day when you can run 127k quicker than you can write a race report".
Thanks to Lillian and the crew for organising and running such a great event and thanks to John, Dave and Tomasz for giving up your time to support me at the checkpoints, also Ivana for all the long training runs and recces and all the other runners who shared some miles with me especially Clare who probably ended up sacrificing 1st place just to drag me around the Wicklow mountains.
Nearly as long as the race...
10 June, 2019 - Gordon PlaceThe Wicklow Way race was a notion last year and thankfully Lillian gently advised, at Tonelagee I think, that it needed a lot of miles in the legs and a long hard think before taking it on. Glad I listened and forgot about it then.
Over the winter, kept up the training, along with following Barry Murray's nutrition advice, with long runs before breakfast and ditching the carbs. SGM was a big step up which went fairly well and got me thinking about the WW again.
But a bad couple of months around the MMU gave me second thoughts before deciding to give it a lash and start cramming. Ballyhoura was a lot harder than I felt it should have been and put me off again but finally said feck it, now or never. Peter signed up too so that was encouraging, he seemed to be doing less than I was!
Decided to actually take a rest before this one so took it easy for the last two weeks, with little or no running in the week before, sure I should be hopping off the walls by Friday night..…. Volunteered at PWS to remove the temptation to run and was starting to feel a bit cold and snivelly that evening. Head cold the next day and getting worse. Felt crap Friday but had the day off so got stuck into the Lemsip and Vicks First Defence, and went back to bed, on the fence about whether I'd be fit to run. Woke up in a pool of sweat at around 7pm but felt a bit better and said get dinner and see then. Still holding to the lower carbs with bacon & eggs for breakfast, buckwheat pancakes and mascarpone for lunch, salmon and veg for dinner. Feeling no worse by 9pm, it was decided! Too many months training and thinking it might be bad to pull out on Peter in case we might be of some help to each other at some stage. Well that all went one way in the end.
Filled a couple of bottles with Tailwind (not sure Barry would approve, my thinking being if the brain was kept topped up, I'd be grand…) for each check point, a few Clif Nut Butter bars just in case and the makings of a small Purition Macadamia & Vanilla shake for Ironbridge.
Reg went like clockwork but being up and about didn't improve how I was feeling, was glad I left it fairly late and didn't have time to hang around and think too much. Chatting with Peter quickly passed the time until briefing and we were soon off after a countdown from Eoin Keith, at the back of a very orderly queue through the gap in the wall. Was feeling cold so had the raincoat on already, was half thinking the Columbia was overkill, Peter was in short sleeves rearing to go, but was glad of it later, even though it had to come off fairly quickly going up the hill.
We didn't set out with a plan to stick together but that's how it went from the start. First few km was fairly handy, passing people all the way up the hill until we turned for Fairy Castle and there was no one left in sight. A couple of distant lights occasionally visible ahead on the hills. Picked our way down the hill to the road with Andre hot on our heels by the end. He passes after a brief chat and pulls away a little with Peter, I can feel the chest tightening and think it's too early for this crap but try to tag along until the downhill. Peter slows and I catch up and we start the climb to PWS, which always seems longer than I have in my head. Seem to be keeping up kind of OK and we start the run down the fireroad, passing someone on the way, maybe John.
Going OK now and soon at the turn down to the river but when we get to the bottom, Peter quickly pulls on and I just can't keep up, heart monitor in the red just jogging along the river. Peter slows again at the bridge and I'm feeling fairly fed up to be like this already, waaay too early. Into Crone, and just want to keep going as too cold to stop, had half a Clif nut butter bar on the way out to see if it would help.
Keep jogging most of the way to the top and then thread carefully down the steps to the river and from there it's mostly a walk towards Djouce, Peter slowing to my pace, until it levels a bit and we jog on until we get to the boardwalk. It's lashing and blowing mist making it hard to make out the boardwalk holes and steps. Just keep jogging but feeling cold and miserable. We nearly miss the left turn before the relay handover but hear a whistle just as we cop it, thanks John (I think), and cut up to the path, meeting Andrew out in support at the top. Take my eye off the path to say hello and run straight into a tree stump but luckily no damage done. Just glad it was too dark for anyone to really see.
Down the boardwalk steps and out on to the road, eating a few flattened Chia seed energy balls somewhere along the way. Think these might have been in a burst packet in the top pocket of the backpack ever since the last Circuit of Avonbeg and the source of later woes.
Slogging away and getting slower on the up hills and feeling worse, I think I start telling Peter to head on from here but he says he's happy to hold back for later and see when we get to Glendalough. Fair play to him. Going only gets worse and by the time we are crossing the road on the last stretch into Glendalough, I feel rotten, stop for a painful leak and nearly get sick. Never happened before so I'm blaming the old balls. Peter is waiting, so have to keep going and eventually get to Glendalough feeling shite. Peter is ready to go fairly quick and says he might shoot on… go for it, thanks for waiting and sorry for holding you up.
There's only five gone through at that stage.
Still feeling sick, I try the toilets on the off chance they are open but no, good job or I'd still be hiding in there. It was too cold to hang around and there was no where else to go at 5.30 but onwards. John passes and looks to be in high spirits so I start walking, trying to eat a Pain Au Chocolat but after a couple of bites it goes in the next bin. But still supping on Tailwind. Not sure about this stuff early on, whatever about later, but ended up eating very little overall. Andre quickly passes and then Marek is ahead by the time we turn from the lakes. Three places gone in the space of a few minutes, f*ck this!
Get to bridge and start running again, pass Andre and Marek and keep just ahead for the next while. John is pulling away up the hills. Andre drops back but as I start down the fireroad after the stone steps, I can see Marek catching up from Mullacor. That is one long long run down to the Lodge and Marek is alongside for most of it. Finally beginning to get warm again, we stay within a few metres of each other chatting a bit all the way to the descent into Ironbridge where Marek flys on. Shane has passed us climbing up from Military Rd and tells us he's suffered a bit since 40km in and has taken a few wrong turns, but he seems back on track and is quickly gone from sight.
Down into Ironbridge and Mick, Dermot and all the volunteers are busy looking after everyone. John is getting ready to leave and Marek has plenty of help so is gone very quickly. Fabio & Lonan arrive in. I'm still farting around with bags and Mick advises me to get the finger out. Dermot helps out with the bag, I have to pass on the sausage sambo but remember the shake, tell all to avert their eyes while I lash on some badly needed body glide, and then some mag spray on the calves and get off again, just ahead of them. Fabio & Lonan catch up after a while and we start chatting, I hadn't met Lonan before and eventually we get around to introducing ourselves, I recognise the name immediately as Ann's friend was only talking about Lonan the week before at dinner. She asked if I knew him as this WW race thing we were talking about sounded like it was right up his alley. Turns out Ann's friend and his Mam are besties since school. Small world!
The chatting continues and carries on for the rest of the day. We know Aoife is flying and hot on our heels and mention we could all be in for a top ten if we can just keep moving. I decide to do my best to try and stick with the lads for as long as possible if I've any chance of keeping going.
It's all a bit of blur from here so hopefully what follows is more or less right. I think we passed Andre somewhere around here, he had mentioned earlier he was a bit light on distance and hill training, somewhere near where Lonan points to the cattle trough he had sat in during the 2017 race!
Not sure exactly where, but I think in the last section of forest before the busy road crossing, we see what looks like a lad just sitting on a log in the middle of nowhere. As we get closer, we can hear the cowbell and see it is Padraig out to give a bit of support. That was a nice lift and got me to forest entrance where Pol was waiting with more shouts of encouragement which gave another boost.
A nice surprise to see the icecream van but all 3 were afraid to risk a curdling icecream in the belly with the heat rising. The new steps were a less welcome sight but were soon over and it's on up the field tracks. Fabio says he's feeling it a bit here but it's ups and downs all around, except maybe Lonan who seems in better shape, and keeps the drive forward.
Pol seems to be at every junction now with a shout which is great, but every time he passes quickly afterwards shows just how close Aoife is behind.
Lonan suggests they intend to get in and out of The Dying Cow as quick as possible if I want to stay on and I agree. If you leave me now, you take away the ....
Great help from all the volunteers, Padraig sorts out my bottles and bag so I can get out with the lads again grabbing a few jellies on the way. Pol says we've made good time on that last leg which is encouraging. Think it was before the Dying Cow or just after that talk of finishing together and hitting the sign at once comes up and we all quickly agree.
Up the hill out of CP4 and at Coronary Hill before long, a sickener but not as long as I'd been dreading, having only heard of it.
Raheenakit comes quickly and more great help from the volunteers, apologies to the girl that was left with sticky Tailwind hands after my awkward bottle filling. Grab another couple of jellies and get out. Every move is a serious struggle now and the feet are burning, can't feel my right toe and the right leg seems to be going from under me every so often. The never ending fire road eventually ends, not too hilly but anything above level is a walk, we are picking spots now, get to a tree here, a pothole there, and we are out the final section of road. More encouragement from Pol with shouts of only 5km to go. We feel like we are really running but not so sure, but there's no walking now! We pass the first Clonegal sign, 3km to go, see the church, and after what's seems a lot longer than 3km, we see a green sign, oh no, it's not the last sign, Oh Yes, it is! At last, almost there and hear a few cheers. And that's it, run into the WW sign and 3-2-1 we all hit it together.
Lillian gives us our granite yellow men and there's time for a few photos before Aoife flies in for the win and new record, well done! Quickly followed by Clare who was really flying on the last two sections.
A nice rain shower and wet grass for the feet feel like heaven along with the water melon. By the time I've changed, dropping the lovely granite plaque on my toe in the process, I'm completely seized up.
The bus arrives quickly and while I shuffle over to it, a Saint runs off and gets me a bag of chips and an ice cold can of coke for the trip, delivered to the bus just in time. Thank you!
Thanks to Lillian, Barry, and all the volunteers for a great experience, a big thanks to Peter for sticking by for the first 50 and Lonan & Fabio for the company and driving on for the remainder, and Padraig and everyone for the support.
Thanks to Ann and Ada who after a long day of dot watching and Ada wondering who the hell that leap frogging monster Fabio is, prepared a heroe's welcome complete with finish tape across the door, flags, party poppers and the Rocky soundtrack, followed by two days of pampering, which included the making of the world's longest ever daisy chain..... made in a bed.
Congratulations to all the winners and the new record holders, Aoife and Robbie, and all the finishers.
Already thinking of the reverse…..