TRAINING: Weekend Hill Runs

Another weekend with mixed weather also brought with it mixed hill runs. I had been out of commission for a few days last week, only managing 14k light jog on Tuesday and some weight Thursday while trying to shake off the 5:30 training run from the week before.

My Sunday had been scheduled as off, so I was determined to do some running on both days to catch up.

Crone Recce
First off was a recce of Crone Wood, where I (shock-horror!) forgot my trusty Garmin and had to "run blind" well-accompanied by Dermot Murphy, a footballer friend of his looking to get into the hill running, and Geraldine.

There's not much to say about this 6k route as it is very short, but the new Coillte trails that go straight up through the forest are superb for steady and speedy climbing. They will take it out of you if you overdo it.

After a flatly bit, you hit the difficult part, Gerry Brady's little surprise, next to a small shed a huge wall of grass and trees rises up for m with an average ascent grade of . Knowing that only a long fast descent remains, the wise runner will try to find a balance between walking it quickly while not killing himself so much that he cannot get the best out of the descent.

Once you reach the top there's a narrow rocky road, mostly flat, until you reach the most enjoyable part of the course, a few hair-needle bends on a loose gravel path that brings you down faaast. This is the last chance for a technical descender to show his worth, from then on, it's all left to the road runners. Any road runner with something left once you hit the broad firetrail can fly in on the light descent grade and easy terrain.

Beware though, this final bit is alot longer than you expect, and an early sprint will mean a late finish...

Fell Drills
Dermot had the lovely idea of going for a few hill reps, or fell drills as the Brits like to call them, after the run. We had taken it extremely handy, doing it in 41 minutes, so I was curious about it.

We planned to do three (probably too few for a quality session), and would do first of the new paths straight up through the forest. I'm not sure how long it was, certainly long enough!

I was to take the lead for the first and sprinted up in full gallop, for a moment feeling like Marco Pantani, rushing upwards in light gear. Then midway up the air went out of my balloon and Dermot ran solidly past me. It had been a ferocious starting pace, which had all but killed off Dermot's friend who staggered up to the top.

I was destroyed now, though, and as Dermot took the lead on the second, I couldn't follow for long, and at the very end was reduced to a walk.

On the final, led my Dermot's friend, who had now recovered, the rejuvanted footballer set a strong pace, and while he, like us, ran out of steam about halfway up, neither Dermot nor myself could catch up with him. In fact, I was surprised by the magnitude of my physical collapse at this stage. It's been a long time since I did speedwork, and what a warning this was against the urge to sprint up the hills too quickly!

Paul Mahon Maddness
Sunday morning, left it late, and it felt good. Thankfully, my running partner for the day, Paul Mahon decided to warm up with 2 hours of MTBing, so I didn't arrive at the Djouce Woods car park until 12:30, raring to go out into the sunshine. The wind blew slightly shrill, but nothing be worried about at first sight.

Expecting it to be colder higher up (as anyone with even the faintest of notions of climate on the hills should), I donned my windproof, stocked up with water and powerade, but went for shorts, and didn't give second thought to the hat and gloves lying idly in my truck.

Paul had a good 14k run laid out for us with more than 600m of climb, most of it was nice and steady, apart from a ferocious point midway where ascent grade went up to around 35% before we could enjoy the super-fast grassy descent on the East side of Djouce.

Paul seemed able to find all kinds of little things to jump over, streamlets, fences, rocks and more, before taking me (skidding on my ****!) down to the Powerscourt Waterfall.

It hadn't been all rainbows and raisins though, as we had run straight into a gale of frost and hail on exposed East side of Djouce. My knees where so pink at that stage that I started to think my cryotherapy in Wexford had been a waste of money after all.

The run finished with Paul outsprinting me on the last 200m of steep descent up to the Djouce Wooods carpark. Regular runners will know this as the final sprint of the Djouce Handicap and Earl's Drive Trail Race (a climb at the finish, how sadistic!).

The clock said a good 1:36, quite a bit shorter than I had intended, but still gave me more than two hours for the weekend.