Although I’ve decided to give the Winter League a miss and not run the Crone Wood race in a few weeks time, I still found today’s recce, organised by Race Director and Irish National Coach Gerry Brady, an enticing prospect.
I had scheduled a 2 hour hill run as a my long aerobic workout for the week and thought the company on parts of it would make this an easier thing to see through, especially after a feverish night spent sweating out a lot of the flu I picked up on Wednesday and have been ably training through ever since.
I arrived 3 minutes late, having been trapped uphill behind a biker, but luckily Martin Francis, the former Wicklow Way Trail winner, was still at the car park and after short deliberations we concluded that Gerry would have left as a clockwork and we took off up the new Coillte trails in the hope of catching whatever gang of runners Gerry had taken with him.
The Art of Cultivation!
After moving from fire trail to the tenacious (indeed torturous) green grassy slope leading up to the upper trail in Crone Forest, we spotted Gerry and a band of runners returning from Maulin. Unusually, they were equipped to the best horticultural standards. Mick Hanney, Jim Fitzharris, and Sean Downey had been well-equipped with secateurs, thread-cutters, and saws and Gerry directed the band to clear the route in spots were fallen trees and other natural obstacles had made the route near impassable.
The route, surprisingly, moved away from the faster fire trails at almost every opportunity and will take runner s down some very severe descent grades on medium-difficult terrain. This race certainly will be anything but a push-over and you’ll have a long wait for the final elation of a fast few kilometres to the finish.
Breaking of the Fellowship
Once we had completed our first circuit, Jim bade our band goodbye and the rest of us took some water before moving back out again. I’d been out for less than 50 minutes at this stage and felt the route was too steep and to severe in its climbs to be suitable for a long training run like the one I had in mind. I had felt surprisingly spritely so far, but once we hit the steep ascents a second time my tank ran empty and everything but plodding was not an option. Seeing that the lads in front had a different pace in mind, I asked Martin to tell the others that I’d set off on my own for a different run and turned off on the fire trails for a long twisting, but less steep, ascent of Maulin, eventually emerging on one of the Western paths through the black heather further from the Maulin Wall.
I knew this part of the hill well from one of Joe Lalor’s Navigational Challenges and knew that if I had followed my trail West it would have taken me all the way to Tonduff. Instead I slowly made my way to the top of Maulin.
I had met Beth McCluskey and Gerry Lawlor earlier, out mountain-biking, and both they and I were heading to the Dargle river, albeit, following different paths. From the Maulin summit, I ran down the Powerscourt Ridge route, before diverting to into the grass, off the path, to avoid collision with a group of 50 so hikers. At bridge crossing the Dargle, I met up with Gerry and Beth again before I decided to cross the river and run up the Wicklow Way to the wall that marks the beginning of the final climb towards Djouce. Here I paused for a short minute before heading back down to the Dargle, turning off a rough trail along the river before rejoining the Wicklow Way after yet another of what now seemed an endless amount of ascending.
From there on it was finally all downhill, but arriving at the car park my Garmin told me I was still missing some running time, so I turned out the Ballyross route for a kilometre before heading back to my car and calling it a day.
This ended up being some run: 19km with more than 1050m of ascent and an average gradient of 15% (peaking at a tough 39.9%!). With that I only have 24 minutes of running left in my calendar for this week, and 5k. I say this with some relief as this was a tough run with a devious virus in the system waiting for its chance to strike. Ahead lies a tougher week, so now its key to get a decent rest on Sunday and Monday.