This year’s Kerry weekend was my third and second as an organiser and we kept with the Kenmare venue we had selected as an alternative to the Killarney weekends that had preceded us taking over the reins.
We had changed to a seaside venue on the other side of town which proved even nicer than last year’s with bigger bedrooms and nicer living rooms and had added a few layers to the organisation by booking a venue for the yoga at the Nom Nom Cafe, an inspired choice as we dined there on Saturday as well and the food was terrific.
Day 1 – Good Friday 5 mile
We had the offer up for people to sign themselves up for the Good Friday 5 mile once again. It’s a nice event and numbers had increased by almost 100 from last year with some top quality finishers in Linda Byrne and Sean Connolly. For one of the group, Sarah, this was her first race and she seemed delighted with it!
Day 2 – Natural running and Carrauntoohil
During these “camps” we like to start the morning with some activity before breakfast to make it a proper training holiday and Saturday morning began with a jog to the park behind the golf-course in Kenmare and 30 minute of squatting and other “natural movement” exercises including a powerful demonstration of just what happens to your body when you stick your head out on a descent.
The main course of the event was once again Carrauntoohil and we settled in for the traditional 1-hour bus drive to remote Bridia Valley before parking at the Stepping Stones and embarking in three groups: a running and two walking groups. The running group quickly splintered and I hung back when Amidou, Brian, James, Sean and Rob Cross pushed the pace. My calves were hammered from the previous day and I settled in nicely in my own pace until I found Sean sitting on the ridge, now deep in mist, waiting for me. Brian and Amidou had reached the top well before everyone else and James and Rob followed off the top soon after. Unfortunately, as Sean and I took off away from the top we made the classical mistake of following the early parts of the Devil’s Ladder trail which runs parallel to the Caher ridge trail for the first few hundred metres. Only when the mists lifted to reveal the lakes below did we see our mistake and by then we had put in place the foundations for a detour that would add up to 18.6km instead of the 12.5km planned.
Matters got more concerning when we met the different groups all micro-navigating their way through the mist. Aoife’s group managed to make a small mistake coming off as well but corrected it earlier than we had. One of the group had decided to turn back at the fence as the challenge had proved too much. She called Aoife on the mountain having wandered from the fence line and gotten lost. I took a phone from one of the walking groups and after a few quick calls I got confirmation that she had found our hearty bus driver and was now making her way safely down.
The little groups scattered in over the next 4-6 hours, some too late for cake and coffee on offer in the Stepping Stones. Eventually, everyone was safe back on the bus but we had to push dinner out until 9 o’clock due to the delays but at least everyone got off safe. The mists had given us a rougher ride than expected.
Day 3 – Yoga and Kerry Way
Suzanne Kenny has been good at “loosening up” the battered bodies in this and last years weekend. As a professional yoga teacher and runner she keeps a good flow and got us all prepared for the day ahead. Some of the chaps even had the wherewithal to jog back and forth to the Nom Nom Cafe.
I decided to save the legs for the 31.5km run from Sneem to Kenmare on the Kerry Way with the Gortnamullin hill late in the otherwise reasonably flat run. Compared to the Wicklow Way and last years Kerry Way run, the climbs were easier but it turned out to be a testing day as it was. Brian Furey set off ahead of the group from the start while Conor Murphy, Sean, James, Amidou and I ran together for about 13-14km. At this stage, Sean and Conor fell back a bit and settled into their own pace, while we continued onwards. I felt quite tired at this stage so it was to my relief that by the time we hit the last climbs the legs popped back into some semblance of life and I chased Amidou off the top. James had stopped for a quick “call of nature” and we only saw him again once we had settled against the fence in Kenmare town square, eagerly anticipating the feast we would have in “Jam”, the top local cafe. Other groups, having taken the 10km or 10 mile options, had long been back, and some had both feasted and gone for a cycle before we made it back just under the three hours.
The run had been enjoyable and with a few extremely scenic spells of both rough upland and bayside forest trails but overall it did not hold a candle on last years section of the Kerry Way which was much more dramatic and remote.
Come the evening, it was fine dining in the Lime Tree once again and they did not disappoint. Rachel C’s house followingly got hijacked by runners, some of whom, reportedly, did not leave until 6:20!
Day 4 – Muckross
We awoke, worse for wear by some margin, to a dreary rainy Monday and all hopes of gathering a small group for the “farewell trot” around Muckross Lake in Killarney evaporated with the last rays of sunshine.
Even Aoife and I gave up on the affair in the end but as we drove from Kenmare the sun suddenly made a return and as we looked around at the splendour of Kerry we felt we could not leave without seeing a bit more of it. So at least two of the group of 30-something managed to complete the full schedule after all, as I first hobbled around the lake park but eventually settled into a nice restorative trot. The route itself could best be described as “lovely” despite most of the loop being on tarmac path. The highlight was crossing the quaint little bridge between the smaller and larger lake which offered terrific views and happened to still be sunny when we passed it. 11.1km was the tally and the four days totalled up to 80km of running or 20km per day. Not a bad weekend’s training but I struggled early in the week to get going again and just about managed to sneak myself back over the 100km barrier (102km) by this Saturday.
Now all I need do is pick myself up for another long run today, easy!