The Double-Whammy
This weekend I went to Mayo to contest the Connacht Championships, two gruelling mountainous runs over Croagh Patrick and Ben Gorm. It's a story of a Danish atheist striding up Ireland's holiest mountain (and being stricken bloody to the ground!), of fantastic green mountains encroaching upon a super-leisurely adventure centre, and of some of the great hill running performances of the season by the likes of Bernard Fortune, Peter O'Farrell, and Eoin McKenna.

DAY 1 - Arrival
I was luck enough to catch a lift with always cheerful Conor O'Meara and his better half, enjoying a good ride to the West and arriving around midnight.

We noticed how the darkness created a "hound of Baskerville" feel around the whole region between the Twelve Bens and the Mamturks, the core of beautiful green Connemara.

The Delphi Adventure Centre proved to offer absolutely impressive accommodation, and I did my best not to wake up Bernard Fortune who was my bunkmate for the night in the 5 bed rooms we were sharing.

See the pictures here.

DAY 2 - Croagh Patrick
There's so much to say about this race, that I think I'd better say little with fear of cluttering the report!

The opening chapter of Richard Askwith's book "Feet in the Clouds" is named "A Hard Place". Well, no title describes Croagh Patrick better than that...

I feared it would be hard, and I was right, but not the way I had thought! The climb is long and consistent, featuring an almost 3.5km of constant climbing with a very steep 16.5% ascent grade!

I held in a lot better than expected, though, only giving way to the, as expected, much stronger "uphill walkers" (which is the term I use for those runners stronger than myself once the grade get's so hard that it reduces all of us to a walk), such as Moire and Vivian. In fairness, we were all a poor excuse for mountain runners at this stage as we quickly gave up on any kind of uphill running and power-walked along (with the notable exception of Peter, Eoin and Bernardt who were duking it out big time at the top).

Coming down, I felt fairly fresh and was expecting to gain a lot of places, but my technique let me down on the first kilometre and a lost several runners almost out of sight. I did not manage to find a proper technique to maneuver the loose scree when you come off the top, but Eoin Keith was describing his own technique after the race, and I was eagerly taking notes. Next year!
Once off the technical part, though, I really picked up speed and picked off Henny, and Cormac, before finally having Justin Rea back in sight. Too much in sight, as it proved, trying a hazardeous takeover my foot caught a rock and send me flying knees and elbows first into the hard rock surface. Welcome to Croagh Patrick son!
Justin checked that I was ok for second, and looking at the big boulder which my head had missed with 20 centrimetres I could confirm this, and slowly collected myself as I saw him rushing back down the mountain. I was hobbling slightly for the first 100m, cursing loudly "stupid" to myself.
Slightly further down, I had regained contact, not only with Justin but with the lite Eva Fairmaner who seemed to have lost pace after her impressive ascent.
100 metres before the finish, I accomplished part of my "mission" sprinting past Justin to finish 23rd out of the 42 hardy souls who had braved the trip, the heat, and the hard mountain...
At the front Eoin had narrowly beaten Peter O'Farrell, who had taken the lead at the top, but for the tale of the frontpack, I urge you to read the Peter's own account of the titanic battle.
First Aid
Special thanks goes to the Mayo Mountain Rescue man who treated us all after the race. I'm waiting for some photographs from Conor showing me being treated in front of the pub after having washed myself in the nearby stream, so hold out for those!
The gashes didn't seem to bad at the beginning, but the impact caused a very heavy swelling shortly after, meaning I had to hobble around like an old man (no offense meant to any!). The first aider assured me this was normal, as the body treats bruises like these as burn wounds, and pours fluid into the tissue to aid regeneration.
Sadly, this put my participation in day 2's "Ben Gorm" race very much under threat, and with it, my chance of finishing the Connacht Championships.
DAY 2 - Coming Up...