It will be on runs like today that survival in the Lakeland challenge to which I am committed late this summer will be built. Aoife and I had the rare luxury of being able to share a run together, something our very scheduled training rarely allows (as we run different paces and different places).
We had done another hill circuit yesterday after helping out at the WMRA Youth Trial (more on MST on this!) and after standing for ten minutes in the river behind our house, it seemed that my legs were able for the first real long run after the latest injury healed.
The amazing sunshine just beckoned us out to take in some of the more spectacular countryside and eventually I opted for a shorter version of my “Six Summits and a Spink” training run. 24.2km and 860m ascent seemed to be pushing it, so we cut a good six kilometres off by excluding Lugduff and the Spink descent which is impractical on glorious days anyway due to the heavy influx of tourists of walkers most of which use the Green Road of the Spink.
I have been enthralled by this run since I first followed around the paths in the order that eventually formed the incarnation of the run I use the most and the inclusion of Cullentragh, a peak that does not get nearly enough love but sports a fittingly huge cairn and which is marvellous to approach from all sides and offers rewarding views on all but the foulest days, and, if approached on such a day, more hospitable terrain than nearby Mullacor.
Most of my muscle-fibres were torn, stiff, or borderline necrotic and thus less useful than fat coming up the hill, so I was surprised to be climbing reasonably untroubled. There is a theory that recovery runs and other runs in a “fatigued” state is useful for performance because it forces your body to recruit whatever fibres happen to be available. When running easily like we did, even on the uphill, it teaches our weakest muscle fibres to do some work that they may well be called on to do sometime in a race.
After a level run-in, we took the Pink Road start of the climb (rather than the Wicklow Way/Green Road) which leaves a three kilometre ascent from the Upper Lake park with 363m climb. You break off the Wicklow Way very early on, taking the direct grassy (later rocky) path to Derrybawn’s northern-most summit. These final rough 1.25km are the toughest with a 16% gradient attacking you until you catch sight of the little cairn at the top. From here you have one of the easiest most enjoyable ridge-runs in Wicklow but keep a watchful eye as the path turning left to Cullentragh is easily missed (we put down a little cairn there for future usage).
We lapped up sunshine and varied terrain with gusto but coming off Mullacor and going down by the fire-road was a real anti-climax and our legs did not appreciate 7km of hard pounding. If up for it, this route should absolutely be done with the technical descent off Lugduff and the Spink path down to the Miner’s Village.