RACES: Mountain Rescue Benefit Run

Back over the hill.
Disease. Don't you hate it. It eats away your energy, and even worse, in the first day of recovery, you confidence.

Such did I feel yesterday, as we all embarked on the charity run of the mountain running season, a little stroll up over Three-Rock and Fairy Castle and back again to raise money for the brave lads and lassies of Dublin/Wicklow Mountain Rescue.

I was disappointed at first to see a small field of only 43 faces compared to the 90 that made it out last year, but apparently those who came did great work as they raised almost 1200 euros compared to the 1500 earned last year. It couldn't have been the measly 12 euros I managed to collect at Microsoft, so well done to those who brought in the cash!

The Race
Tonight's race was never going to be super-serious, but it was a great way to wind down after the mountain season, and say farewell to ever-popular Ticknock. The race was a short and fierce one, featuring 5.71km with a 285m ascent first over the iconical Boneshaker then equally testing climb to Fairy Castle.

Throw in that the average ascent grade is 10.5% over the short course, and you have a pretty nasty experience ahead of you if you're planning on firing the boosters going up...

I was unusually nervous, mostly because of my near-collapse at Sundays 12k in Denmark as flu raged through my body. I still didn't feel quite alright and had no idea if I could go the distance or would implode spectacularly on the hill.

The small field went of at a decent pace, however, and I felt myself hanging on to the top well enough until midway up the Boneshaker, after which I just couldn't push energy into myself, and I just toiled away trying to keep a good position.

The women's battle unfolded just around me, as first Orla and then Zoe overtook me on the later stages of the climb, Orla gaining a good 200m advantage while Zoe stayed straight in front. Coming up towards the Castle, Peter O'Farrell was bombing down closely followed by old rival Eoin Keith.

The pair of them later waltzed over the finish line in just under 27 minutes, almost 2 and a half minutes slower than Garry Crossan's demolition last year. The pair joined hands and shared victory in a show of great sportsmanship only witnessed in the early days of the tour. Coincidence? Show? Romance? I won't even dare guess!

Before that, however, I was coming over the top, and spend around 400m trying to recover my breath and gaining momentum on the flat descent just after Fairy Castle. As the descent turned increasingly aggressive so did I and first forced myself past Zoe, then Kevin O'Riordan and Orla on the Boneshaker. I may not have been top-tuned fitness wise, but technically this was one of my best descents and I thoroughly enjoyed skipping through the big rocks and the wide spaces they offer for your foot to land on going down.

I can't wait to move closer to Ticknock, as I will make the Boneshaker my altar. There I shall worship, sprinting up, and sprinting down in endless repetition, until it feels more natural than walking a set of stairs...

Back at the race, I emerged of the Boneshaker pretty spent, struggling to keep pace on the flat, and gazing nervously over my shoulder at more than one occasion, coming off the final descent to the carpark, it was interesting to be led on a little loop behind the forest, running on the tight forest trail, as this has not been included in any previous Ticknock races I've done.

As I sprinted over, and stopped my infamous watch, I heard cheers, and gazed back at a true battle unfolding, as Zoe was breathing heavily down Orla's neck, and my fellow Crusader only squeezed over the line with 2 seconds to spare on the Rathfarnham Runner. Not long after followed Kevin, Alan, and Gavan, still recovering from a short break in his running and not reaching the lofty heights of the strong Trail League runs he gave us.

I finished 9th out of the 43, an extremely pleasing result under the circumstances, and inside just about inside the top 20% of the field that I seem close to attaching myself to. More than that, though, I got some mountains back in my legs, saw face to face with my new old friend "The Boneshaker", and feel, almost, fresh enough to return to the hard schedule.

Thanks to Mountain Rescue for arranging this (and not needing you on this occasion!), great night out in the pub afterwards, and see you all soon in the mountains...