Irish Mountain
Running Association

Tibradden/Sliabh Thigh Bródáin


Dave Docherty

What are we like?

The last time I ran this race in 2017, I was recovering from a chest infection. I really shouldn’t have togged out for it at all, but ya know what we’re like, us runners and I needed to make up my race quota to qualify for the league. I remember it well, I lined up at the start which was much further back than this year’s race, feeling good. I hadn’t ran in probably 3 weeks and was eager and nervous as to how I would perform. Tanya gave the race brief and we were off, I told myself I’d take it handy and be happy to just trot through it, but ya know what we’re like, us runners. Off I went like a young buck calf up Tibradden, feeling great, nimble, loose, bouncing up the giant granite steps, no bother to me. We meet the first marshal, who I think was Patsy and left up the hill on the Wicklow way, right round the bend to that wonderful techy trail leading up toward Fairy Castle. And then half way along this trail, the coughing starts, at first just a few tickles but soon I’m doubled over hacking up lumps of my lungs. Belated apologies to anybody who may have slipped on my exputations during that race. I carried on, running where I could and walking when couldn’t, while plenty of concerned runners ran past asking if I was OK. Like I say, I shouldn’t have togged out for this one, but, ya know what we’re like.

Contrast, with this year’s race. I have been running pretty well this season. Lost a bit of weight, new bouncy shoes, but lately the only training I have done is one crazy IMRA race after another. Too sore and tired in between them, or busy with the rest of life, to do any training. So I was dubious as to what kind of condition I was in for tonight’s race. Also, the heavy rain that was promised weeks ago for this race has arrived and it was pissing down so we should expect some slips and with Tibraddens history and granite terrain, slips could mean nasty road rash or smashed bones. The rain lashed down, we sign in at the new barrier a few hundred meters down the carpark (shorter race this year?). Fair play to the RD Martin and volunteers who managed the rain in their stride, lots of umbrellas over the laptop and chip reg.
Early starters are off, still in the rain. Con and Shane take refuge in Cons car, I join them, but it’s a two seater, so I climb in to the boot, scrunched up in the fatal position around his gym bags and bike, happy not to be getting lashed on. About 5 mins before the race starts, we venture down to the start line. The rain has almost died away. I’m feeling a bit stiff so I do a quick warm up. Still wrapped up in the raincoat and a baseball cap I use to try keep the rain of the glasses while running. We take in Martins race brief, while all the fast lads strip out of their coats. I decide to keep mine on. And we’re off. I’m swept up in the flurry of pounding feet up the fire road. I’m finding it hard to gauge my pace, I always do at the start, so I just run by feel, which tonight is fast. The young buck is back and I nip past others where I can. In the cocoon of my damp jacket with the hood up I can hear my heavy laboured breathing and I know this won’t last and will only come back to bite me. I drop the hood and feel a bit better. We turn off the fire road and do two quick hills. I still feel good, but hot and I look around. To my amazement I’m surround by IMRA legends, I know we are only 1.5ish kms into the race but this is ridiculous. This young buck is running with the Bulls!! I instantly think of Brian Kitsons brilliant race report from last week ( highly recommended) and then the man himself appears behind me along with Graham Bush. We pass through the new split fence and up the giant granite steps. About now reality starts to kick in, my watch beeps for 2km and I’m still running beside Eoin Keith. Legs are starting to complain a bit and my torso is on fire, there is a boil Dave in the bag situation going on here and it needs sorting. I slow down and peel off the jacket. Ball it up in my fist for now as the legends move off gradually away from me, I’ll tie it round my waist if I have time. I think to myself “ let them off, I still have about 8km to reel them back in” (reality obviously not engaged yet).
Feeling better at a more normal pace, but tired from my foray in the peloton, I plow on, I begin to assume a more realistic position in the race as a few more powerful runners march past. I hit the first marshal Caoimhin, take a left to the Wicklow Way and head for the nice techy uphill. Its wet but not bad, with tired legs I push on choosing to tramp through the dark puddles rather than dance around them. Next marshal, Mike, he tells me I’m 25th and that’s Rory right behind you. Not for long, now 26th I try to motivate myself and promise to do my best to hold this position while still grasping the sodden jacket.
Up to Fairy Castle and down towards Tickknock, I know this trail well and love this descent but there is a niggle in my mind that I have burnt myself out too early in the race and am a bit paranoid I might face plant. There are pounding feet approaching from behind, closer and closer. We hit the next Marshal and take sharp almost 180 degree turn left, the pounder bumps into me on the corner as we both try to slow just enough to get round it. Its young Rian MacMaolain, I push him on in front of me and tell him he is now 26th. We are now running fast down a pretty technical furrow of a trail. I am right in Rians shadow now and I can hear someone not too far behind. I try to match Rians steps and its not easy, this lad can run, its impressive but mentally demanding to match the guy. I’m starting to get into a bad headspace now and this jacket is pissing me off, what was I thinking. I glance up ahead and see a raised bank of grass to the left of the trail, an easier bit to run on I think and leap onto it. I slip, my legs sweep from under me. I control the fall and get back up pretty quickly. Rian shouts back to see if I’m ok as does Kevin Glennon who was chasing me down unbeknownst to me. “I’m grand lads, drive on”, they do. I get going again and take the left, now back on the WW. This is a slow climb uphill and that fall has taken a bit of wind out of me and morale is low. I blame the jacket, which is my fault.
Back at marshal Mike now and there is a large gap between me and Kevin. Right turn, back to the familiar techy trail. I’m sore, tired and angry at myself, I want this race done and the jacket to disappear. I try to pick up the pace and dance through the granite stones, my toe catches the top of one and I almost go over, but recover, this race is hell.
Then the memory of the 2017 race comes flooding back. This is where I spent 5 mins mid –race choking up yellow slugs. And look at me know, killing it like a rock star, a midpack one, but killing it. It’s amazing the emotional saga we put ourselves through in these short races. Feeling more optimistic now, but still carrying the poxy jacket I get through the techy stuff. Down the hill and I think I am closing the gap on Kevin. I get to marshal Caoimhin again take a right and heading for Tibradden.
Chatting with Damien McParland in the carpool up from the pub (thanks for the lift James Higgins) he reckons this bit is a pain in the arse, you think all the uphill is done, but no. I found it tough but it did feel like I was closing the gap so I pushed hard up it.
Crossing the flat summit now and Kevin is putting his kick in by the looks of it, as we approach the descent, he gets past Fergus Scott (I think) . At this point I start to reassess my expectations, I might not catch Kevin but this guy will do. I dig deep and start the decent towards the steps. Then roll my right ankle, ahh here, not now. I slow right down and assess the damage over a few steps. Its fine, get on with it. The steps are slippy, real slippy. Fergus lets out a roar up ahead, he is still on his feet but he’s not happy and slows right down. As I pass him he warns of the slippyness, I take note and slow a little. At the bottom of the steps, through the split fence and I go, almost over now, give it everything you have left. The gap is closing with Kevin, down to about 20m by the time we hit the final fire road. But we have run out of road and the race is over round the corner. I still sprint across the line because ya never know who is hunting you while you are busy hunting others. Ya know what we’re like.
Good chats in the pub and well done the RD and volunteers. It’s a race I won’t forget. Bring on the Ayling Abyss.