Two days ago I joined a gang of Adrian Tucker, Greg Byrne, Zoran Skrba, Richard Nunan and Kevin Grogan for a night-time recce of the section of the Art O’Neill Challenge running from the foot of Blackhill to Ballinagee Bridge. It felt a bit awkward to finish so close to home yet leave the car at the other end of the hills in Lacken but the allure of trying out the crossing made the evening car ride worthwhile.
We set off armed with head-torches and reflective gear up the rocky incline of Black Hill, the path flanked by wet mush, every step made uneven by moving rocks. Yet the mood was chatty here and only once we left the hard section for the wet grass did my legs feel the burn. The four races had left me with less in the tank than I thought and I struggled somewhat with pace until we crested the top and made our way downwards. The first descent was all dark grass, but largely even, and my Inov-8 BareGrip showed themselves ideal for this type of descent. At no point of the 10km traverse did my feet even threaten to sprain and the improved postural work I have done definitely paid off as I felt more stable than ever. While I stumbled twice (a good ratio on the day which featured tumbling all around) this was from catching a tip of dirt with the front of the foot.
Adrian planned to lead us over Billy Burn’s Gap at the highest possible point trying not to drop too far down the flanks of the gap. Wetness was everywhere and dry feet only a fleeting memory but the further down we went, the soggier the slog. A few stream crossing provided ample entertainment: jumping from rock to rock by torchlight has a certain charm to it.
More fun descended followed through slightly heavier vegetation and earlier than I had expected we arrived at the edge of the forest lining the long road of the Wicklow Gap. We followed this past another stream crossing and back onto a very hard-packed fire-road. By the time Adrian’s son picked us up we had only been out around 90 minutes. Starlight had helped, the early mist and wind receded during the middle section of the trek and the shapes of the surrounding hills stood out clearly in dark silhouettes.
When we changed at the car I chugged my watch carelessly into my backpack and we all headed into the car. Greg checked that we had left nothing behind on the ground and off we went back to Lacken. Here I grabbed my bag, unzipped as it would prove, and jogged over to my car. I scrambled through my back for some more dry clothing and stuffed everything back into the boot before putting the heater on maximum and dreaming about my hot bath as the old Toyota brought me home.
Next morning I looked for my Garmin to check out the route details. No where to be found. I searched my car, then my jackets. Then my water-proof bags and the laundry basket. Still no sign. Panic set in. I checked the backpack again. Nothing. Eventually, I could bear it no longer and took the car out to Ballinagee Bridge in the early morn’ and looked around where our car had been parked. Nothing there. I continued my search in Lacken scouring the street where the car had been parked. No watch. Gone was the ForeRunner 310XT. I left a note in the local shop and phoned up Blessington Gardai station in case an honest soul should find the watch and find it in their conscience to return it to its rightful owner.
The others in my party looked in their gear, in case I had stuffed it in the wrong bag and Adrian had a look through his car but again to no avail. Mentally I’ve written off the 300 euro plus watch but its painful (as if someone had shot my dog, in front of me) and with Christmas time coming up I cannot replace it immediately. This leaves me in the strange situation that for the first time in many years I will have to train for a while without a Garmin? How will I cope. And where is the ForeRunner 310XT? On some forest floor? In some random person’s possession? Or lost somewhere in my house I do not have the imagination to search?