DIARY: Kevin’s Way Run (and more..)

Our last Sunday long run turned into more of an adventure than any of us had bargained for, our plan was simple: run all of St. Kevin’s Way from Hollywood to Glendalough, allegedly a run around 30km.
One look out the window in the morning up towards the Wicklow Gap left no doubt that we would have none of the clear conditions enjoyed earlier in the weekend but the reasonable temperature and lack of wind made the persistent rain tolerable.

The incessant waters were laying another trap for us, however, as we optimistically set out around Slievecurragh. This stretch was wet but scenic and the back-road ideal for running with not a car in sight. Then followed a spell on the main Wicklow Gap road. As the signs read “Glendalough 21 km” we veered off right away from the main road and we looked forward to finishing the road stretch.

A bridge too few?
After 5km the moment arrived, only, the bridge across the river, itself only a feeder to the King’s River dominating the flood-plain, was gone and the water masses so powerful that after careful inspection we reasoned no other option remained to us than a painful slog back and the prospect of abandoning the run and returning to Hollywood or facing potentially a 39km run. The group was notably more silent trotting back to the cross-roads yet jokes were never far from ear and only Kevin decided to turn back as his cold was at him. Not a bad choice given what would follow…

We had put 18km behind us at this stage and did not get off the main road until the 24th km. “Car”, “Car”, "Car", was the constant chorus here, replaced by “I hate this road" from Jeff. As we finally passed Ballinagee Bridge and turned back onto trail, we took a look at the water-logged grassy path on our left which would take us further on towards Glendalough. “I want the road back,” said Jeff. Be that as it was, we slogged upwards on what normally would be a gorgeous grassy section. It remained pleasant yet unjustifiably wet!
As we crossed back on the south side of the main road and onto another forest trail, we saw another bridge. Only problem was that the bridge was lying on land and once again no spot could be found to cross. We could see the lovely path on the other side but had to slog through some branch-riddled undergrowth and crawl a fence back to the Wicklow Gap road to endure more tarmac before we finally hit the stretch of the way I am most familiar with as I can do it out and back from my house. From here mainly trail remained, but in the torrential conditions it had turned into quagmire and pseudo-bog.

Slippy slop
At the best of times, this part of Kevin’s Way can be slippy, today it was a mud-fest. Even once we abandoned the softer trail for the rockier parts, we felt like running in a river and the cold layer of ankle deep water did its best to hurry our progress here as the thought of losing toes began to fester in the brain. Then once again water blocked our progress. What is normally a shallow fort with barely any water was another roaring stream. Puzzled we looked across and Tim tip-toed into the water and back out again checking the depth. “I’ve waded across here countless times”, I thought to myself and then thought of Aoife’s home-made cakes and the tea waiting in the house. Oh, and also the European Handball Final in which Denmark were due to play Serbia (we won!). So, I decided to just plow through it. The water was thigh-deep and cold, which was oddly pleasant, but my footing seemed strong and I reckoned if I fell the others would fish me out (Jeff, remarked, I should have asked them to stand downstream first). Not long after I had crossed, James and Caroline helped each other across before the rest of us followed: Jeff, Martin and Tim, the six.

From here it was finally plain sailing and the stepping stones back into Glendasan provided a nice break from the monotony of slogging. The pace had been frisky at times, especially during the first 20km, and on the final tranquil kilometres back to our house, we upped it again and returned with spirits unbroken. “It’ll stand to us in summer”, said Jeff and mirrored the overall positive attitude of the entire group despite the overall misadventure our stint had turned into. No record attempt on Kevin’s Way should be attempted for a while it is safe to say! What is equally safe to say is that it is hard to quell a mountain runners never-say-die attitude, especially when he has the prospect of cakes, tea and biscuits to look forward to.

Run details: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/145658611

Another car “breakdown”
To cap out the misfortune, however, I returned home to a flat front-tyre only 48 hours after I had a full wheel alignment test done in Dublin. With the lack a pump, I have a head-ache to work out. Since me and that car seem symbiotically linked (we tend to break down with equal frequency) I am hoping this does not bode ill for me!

Only at New Year’s Eve, I dodged a bullet as I drove to Dublin and back with the nuts in the wheel almost totally loose. My mechanic had forgotten to fasten them after treatment! Luckily, the wheel stayed on during those 120km of driving and we discovered the problem before I took it out for another spin.