DIARY: Taking a rest with Tonelagee

I had contemplated restarting my training this weekend after my post-Snowdon break but quickly discarded the notion. First, the doctor gave me the "all-clear", there were to be no easy explanations to my hill-runnig woes as all my tests came back with excellent scores: iron content, calcium, folate, enzyme levels, cholestorol, white and red blood vessel count, liver function (that in particular is a miracle, apparently they do regenerate!), and the inflammation test too was good.

My echocardiogram showed nothing unusual and the doctor's were generally were impressed with my fitness, blood pressure etc. Would have been nice if they could have pushed me past 179bpm as real trouble only really occurs beyond that but I can't justify further tests at this stage although the doctor was open to handing my over to a further specialist.

Since last week, I've developed a weak flu symptoms (sore throat, sneezing and the usual works), which together with tiredness from Snowdon and my weight gain is probably why the last few race performances have been particularly dismal. It's worth remembering how dire I was at Mt. Leinster after the good Snowdon performance last year, so why should I expect to be doing well after a bad one?

So, I've decided not to knee-jerk, after all, everything points to be being quite fit. I just forgot to stop eating when I exited my base phase and as the season progressed and I was meant to peak, I got heavier and slower going from 68 kilos and dropping to 71.5 kilos and up. I've managed to enforce a very strict diet and have already brought myself down to 70.6 kilos. However, this weekend, I'm off to Copenhagen for some rest and relaxation and forgetting all about running.

Tonelagee and Mullacor say farewell
I decided to test one of the potential routes for my new "long uphill" sessions, a winding road to Mullacor. It turned out quite well being 8.9km long with 735m ascent. However, I felt it was a little bit "flat" except for the last bit to the summit, so may shorten it and make it more direct to steepen the gradients.

Otherwise, it was a wash-out. My heart rate was only 155bpm on average, which seems ok, but I hated almost every minute off the run except for the final bit to the summit and it seems clear that having trained hard since January, I need a short but complete break.

The "complete" only lasted until today, when I suddenly felt an insatiable urge to drive up to the Wicklow Gap and run to the top of Tonelagee. So I did that, nice and slow but this time I enjoyed myself. The first part of the path from the car park near Turlough Hill is in dismal condition, wet and lacerated, but after a bit the path turns solid and enjoyable.

Tonelagee summits is one of the best in the county: it feels desolate yet is big enough to explore, has an impressive trig-point and the views are second to none in all directions. Since I was there and I still had about 90 minutes of daylight, I figured I'd jog over to Stoney Top as I always wondered about that peak and had never previously visited it.

The decent along the grassy crags overhanging Lough Ouler had all the qualities of a classical fell descent: Nice ground but steep and rocky. Stoney Top itself deserves it's name but cannot seriously be considered a "true peak" as there's simply too little climb after you drop down on the col between it and Tonelagee. However, the path off it seems to invitingly lead towards the Ballinacor and Mullaghcleavaun massiff. I ran down a bit just to have a look but didn't pursue it further as I knew the path would eventually end and that innocuous as the traverse seemed, some of the wettest and worst bogland in Wicklow would lie ahead for anyone venturing further.

Back at Tonelagee I savoured the feeling of solitude for a brief moment again before relaxing down the ascent. Great training ground for any hill runner and I need to come here more often (which I aptly demonstrated as I suddenly found myself lying on my side in the heather, not even seeing what hit me!).

A nice run, but now a four day break beckons and I can't wait to mentally switch off. See you in the Autumn season...

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