'RACE': Croghanmoira Chase

The time for our Club Summer Party in Glendalough AC came up. I had planed a busy week for myself as I hoped to do the Roundwood 7.2 km trail run on Thursday and Arthur's Mile in Rathdrum on Friday before hosting an informal Club Hill Running Championship on a 'Surprise Course' Friday.

Unfortunately, Aoife's work called here away to Geneva those days meaning it was 'all dad, no running' time. So Saturday morning I was looking forward to blow off some steam. I had picked Croghanmoira mountain (a 667 m pyramid peak towering over the Drumgoff Gap) - an old favourite of mine from the Aughavannagh race in 2007. I remembered it as a 'mini-Snowdon' with steep gradients and a nice rocky descent.

We had planned to meet in Lynham's at 12 Noon to car pool to the 'unknown destination' and a few eye-brows were raised at the assuming peak as we parked at the Drumgoff Gap for the start. Looks are deceptive here - although the climb is tough and steep, you hit the large trig point after a mere 1.7 km. Our club members had a barbecue to be back for and from a coaching perspective I prefer shorter races for events like this as you can shrug them off very quickly. This proved true this time as well - although many gave the race a good lash, after 5 minutes , you almost feel like you could go right back up again. In Wicklow, we have thankfully retained the tradition of having many races in the 2 mile to 5 km bracket across the year - meaning people can race more without it interfering too much with training.

New club man Torben Dahl as well as Amidou were the natural favourites and it made for a nice showdown between the 'Lap of the Gap' and the 'Glen to Glen' champions. 'We're going by IHRA rules - no markers and first man home takes the time,' we dumped a stop-watch at the start point in a water-proof case with a pen, 'only one rule - you go to the top of the peak, touch the trig and go home. Whichever way you want'. With no cloud cover, the trig point itself could easily be seen from the road-side.

Since I knew the route I decided to take off in the lead and quickly realised I had forgotten to take off my t-shirt (I was wearing the club singlet naturally) so ditched it in the heather just as Torben passed me out and asked ' is the route easy to follow'. As it proves it's dead-easy - with noticeable trail all the way to the top. About a kilometre in the climb flattens a bit before the very steep final climb - at this point Amidou passed me as well and gave chase to Torben. They connected and I could see a tight battle would be on. There's two parallel paths back from the summit once you turn - a slipper grassier path and the rockier rougher path. Amidou and Torben flew down the rocks whereas I gambled on the grassy path as it turn right back towards the start a little bit earlier. On the day it proved a poor choice as the rocks were drier and quicker - Amidou took advantage and had the lead before the end of the rocks. From the distance to Torben I knew I wasn't going to catch them so just focused on keeping best possible effort. 'Swoop' and my shoe got stuck in some mud and pulled right off. I turned back, pulled it out of the goo and decided it would take me too long to put it back on, so finished the last 800m with a shoe on the left and a sock on the right. Thankfully this was on a mainly grassy section and apart from a few near-misses where the sock slid under me, I cruised home to the waiting pair of Amidou and Torben who had both broken the 18 minute barrier with 17:34 and 17:55. Amidou held on for the win despite taking a skid on his rear on the rocks.

As I turned around the others were arriving (results below) including Catherine Devitt who had run-walked the route with her dog on a leash after injuring herself recently in a bike crash. It had been a tough week of racing for many of our our athletes: Rachel Wisdom and Claire finished 1st and 2nd at the Roundwood 7.2 km trail race and Donna, Colm and Bruce did the Brockagh race AND the Roundwood double - so rest was well-deserved as the party proceedings started in the Glendalough Hotel in the early afternoon.

1. Amidou Dembele 17:34
2. Torben Dahl 17:55
3. Rene Borg 19:13
4. Derek Cullen 20:19
5. Marcus Murphy 20:40
6. Rachel Wisdom 21:22
7. Yvonne Brennan 22:08
8. Colm Kenna 22:36
9. Catherine Devitt 22:56
10. Claire O'Callaghan 23:04
11. Donna Quinn 23:28
12. Bruce Philips 24:02
13. Sorcha Griffith 24:27

These short races have always fascinated me since reading of the Guides Races in England (I had the pleasure of watching Ambleside twice while - ironically myself opting to do the longer Fairfield Horseshoe race). Most are 2 miles - the same length more or less as our Croghanmoira Chase which can now join the traditional IMRA HellFire Flicker, Sugarloaf Rush and Bray Dash on the list of what I like to call 'middle distance hill running' races.

The challenge with reviving them in a more official capacity is that the large fields that hill running now attracts doesn't support it and many consider it inefficient to drive a noticeable distance for a short race - so until circumstances changes these races will likely happen more often as they did this Saturday - as an informal club race with a small field.

Details of route here: https://www.strava.com/activities/621305275