DIARY: Running into the New Year

The period between Christmas and New Year is one I use to recharge my batteries and have rare catch-up time with the family back in Denmark. New Year’s Eve is the biggest party of the year in Denmark, and the Glendasan Cottage saw a great bash indeed. To strengthen our fortitude for this rare type of ordeal (at least for us!), Aoife and I were joined by Caroline for the last mountain run of the year. Building back from injury, I have mainly run on the mountains without strict pace or time targets to rebuilt strength and confidence.

Evening run: Djouce

The first of the big Christmas mountain runs was the informal IMRA run done by IMRA up Djouce on a stormy Tuesday night. We were a huge group of more than 30, faces were hard to make out, runners were just voices with bobbing head-torches.

Trooperstown-Paddock Hill Circuit

I’ve raved about this run in an earlier post, but today we decided to do it again. This time I did feed myself some Orbana before although I usually don’t do this before aerobic training runs. With at least five late nights over the Christmas and New Years period and unsteady eating, I did not want to risk another blow-up.

By the time my watch gave out (at the 10 mile point on Paddock Hill), we had been running over 30 seconds faster per kilometre and this time I ended the run tired but pleasantly so. It remains a great run and will be on my list of Sunday runs planned with groups for January.

Brockagh pandemonium

Another advantage of our house’s location is the direct access to the Wicklow Way, and we took advantage of this to follow the steep ascent up towards the Wicklow Gap road and further on up the zig-zags to the fire road that takes you past the lower flanks of Brockagh mountain.

Two days before New Year’s, we decided to do a short run from home to Brockagh East top (not the one used in the IMRA race) which is only about 4.5km of climbing from the house. Once we hit the open part of the ascent, however, it became painfully clear that even the winds on Djouce a week previous had been mild compared to the gale now blowing across the mountains.

We battled through a pandemonium that threatened to burst eardrums and left you running with hands on ears while at the same time flapping back and forth on the grassy path to avoid being blown into the heather. We got a short respite as the path curled inside the higher flanks of the hill only to be hit full-force on the final stretch to the summit. With less than a few hundred metres to go, we simply had to give up as the wind tore at flesh and sanity at ever higher level and no prospect remained of even a brief triumphant stay on the peak. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it and today was one. Coming home with the wind in the back was a relief and had we bothered we could probably have set some pretty good times down the fast grassy descent to the fire-road.

Camaderry Circuit

The last run of the year proved one of the most rewarding: we struck West out of Glendalough on St. Kevin’s Way up until the old ruins close to the Wicklow Gap. Instead of continuing along the Way, we followed a small path left towards the old Luganure mines. A rocky path carries you halfway up, a nearby stream always your companion, before the final section of wet grassy steps and mud-path before you can gain the Eastern summit of Camaderry. 

Some of the views here had an almost “Lord of the Ringesque” quality to them and the gentle shrouds of mist made me feel completely isolated. Traces of men could be seen in age-old quarries but they seemed so faint they belonged to another age. This is one of the best paths I have seen in Wickow and one of the few to mirror the splendour of the best Lakeland ones.

The descent was quick, wet and enjoyable. The wind was strong but not as strong as in previous days. The route was 9km long with 535m ascent and took us about 70 minutes going at a gentle pace.

The Stick!

Aoife bought me a new gadget for Christmas called “The Stick” and it probably would be my favourite if she had not bought “A Dance with Dragons”, the fifth of books that the new acclaimed HBO tv-show Games of Thrones is based on, an intoxicating story featuring storytelling and writing of the absolute highest calibre. She also got me a Kindle, so “The Stick” probably only ranks third among the presents but it may prove the most valuable.

Using it I found some awful knots in my calves in several places and managed to quite easily relieve a lot of tension. It’s important to keep those muscles from getting to tense, especially on a chronic basis: tendons are passive tissue and cannot cause any trouble on their own. It is the tenseness of the muscles attached to them that cause all the problems. Definitely an innovation to recommend to anyone with tight calves.

I have had much to do creating programmes for CE over the holidays so my usual annual review and other articles on my list have not yet manifested, hopefully I will find time for it all eventually. The most important thing for me is to begin every year with a pretty blank slate and that goes for running too: most of my injuries are under control and the highlights and lowlights of the last year are now just reference points for future decisions: they do not truly matter anymore. The training to come, the achievements of 2012 are what is important. A good marathon in May is my first objective and then I will decide where to focus my energy and interest for the summer. Autumn may feature another marathon but I certainly want to attempt another go at the cross-country as well.

Apart from my own hopes, on the coaching side, there is much to strive for: we had a very successful 2011 in terms of wins and PBs but mistakes were also made and we could have done even better. This will be the challenge for 2012, to consolidate the gains and take a major push-off to the next level for everyone involved with our Lydiard system.

Until the next post (hopefully sooner than the last), Happy New Year to all and see you at the races of 2012. May they be many…