From the gap, we made it down (a couple of hours later) to the start of a forest, and on to a trail. But, for the last half hour of that open mountain stretch – the most magical part of the event happened – you’ve probably guessed it – daybreak! Just a lovely transition from moolight to daylight as the vista of the rest of southwest Wicklow towards Table track opened up, just amazing – as had been looking backwards at the trail of head torches back towards Black Hill, and earlier – looking back to Dublin city and the sea from high up in the Dublin mountains.
After this, magical moments started to become thin on the ground (!), as the race was really taking a toll. I was dehydrated and under-nourished, and my legs were starting to get very sore, and my back/neck a bit sore too. I’m sure sleep deprivation was a factor too, but because we were running, or at least walking fast (on open mountain) we HAD to concentrate – I imagine sleep deprivation was a bigger problem for the walkers.
From here we had about 30 minutes of trail, until we arrived at the 2nd transition station. This time we kept it quick – just swiped in and out again (with our timing chips), a quick bowl of porridge, a coffee and a water refill, and off we went on to Leg 3.
This was to prove the most ferocious. For me, at least. Buoyed a bit by being finally in daylight (it was a lovely morning) and the porridge, this soon faded as we hit the open mountain route up to Art’s Cross. We hadn’t ‘recce’d’ this part, but Justin continued to do a great Nav job, and we did it in good time. But, the terrain was difficult and the final part up to the Cross itself was ‘hands and knees’ stuff. This had a couple of impacts – incredibly draining on energy and legs which were by now not functioning at all well, plus my gloves/hands got soaked for the first time, leaving me with cold hands for the remainder.
From Art’s Cross, it was a long flat-ish slog in a newly emerged fog (ironically visiblity had been better at dead of night!) across sloshy peat-hags and finally downwards to a trail and on to what even I could see was finally the Glenmalure Valley, and thus, not far from home!
From there it was a long (for me anyway) 4 or 5km on trail (with the river on left) to the finish. By now, I was running like a very elderly person, but at least I was still running, and 9 hours and 23 minutes after I left the city centre, I crossed the finish line. They had a proper finish line with banners, and everybody got a bit of a clap when they finished. The event organiser was there as I crossed the line, a chap called Gearoid I think, and I was glad to shake his hand and congratulate him on an amazing event. The toughest thing I’ve ever done? God, yes! Would I do it again? Possibly not. But -I learned a lot – about preparation, logistics, nutrition, pacing, and how to deal with a long race mentally. My plan now is to continue to be sensible about my running (my knees are doing ok, but I need to be careful) and continue to measure the impact of the products I take to help with not just my running, but my health in general, especially the Pro-Argi 9.
Post race, I caught up with friends in the Glenmalure Lodge for a bit, prior to the bus back to Dublin. Next morning now, and I feel ok actually, had a long nights sleep, plenty of food and a hot bath, with a massage to follow.
A big thanks to my fellow runners – there was so much camaradie out there, even though it was getting like a zombie movie towards the end, as people staggered towards the finish – and a huge thanks to the organisers and to Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue who were out in big numbers and made us all feel safe on this endeavor which some of my friends have described as mad, nuts, bonkers, you name it!
The last thing I’ll say is, I hope everyone made it safely through the night, and congratulations to Eoin Keith for winning the event, shattering the record (held by, um, Eoin Keith!) by 90 (count ’em) minutes – with a winning time of 5 hrs 26 mins.
See everyone on the hills again soon..