Wild Windy Wha? – The Wicklow Way 50

It was just as the slabbers left the end of my chin that I perked up & tried to act like I hadn’t been sleeping. We were about to embark on a run that I did not want to do. Not one bit of it. It’s cold. It’s windy. I’ve been up from 3am. Honestly, as Ivan sat there beside me with his bobble head nodding about the place, he’s lucky he didn’t just end up with me spooning him & going back to sleep.

This was only the journey to the start line & I was being a complete primadonna.

I love the Wicklow Way but me & the good lady have never really seen eye to eye when it comes to the conditions that she presents me with. So far, I’ve had zero visibility & mizzle, then zero visibility & 2 foot of snow & now I’ve had whatever the heck that was at the weekend. To put it into context, I think Saturday was the first time I’ve actually been able to see Lough Tay (All be it a fleeting glance – as the wind on Djouce piledrivered & bodyslammed me across the mountain)

So, back to the bus. There was definitely a collective ‘What are we doing lads!?’ thing going on on the bus with statements like ‘Aw, I’m just glad to be making the start’ and ‘I’m not aiming for anything today, just see how I go’ and ‘Paul. Stop spooning Ivan’

We arrived at Shielston forest at about 7.30am and took off in the darkness straight up a hill. This was to be a theme of the day. It was actually pretty pleasant at this stage and to quote my granny t’was ‘a wee bit clammy’.

I ran with Ivan for the first few miles & discussed said claminess, y’see I had decided to wear tights this year after past serious errors in judgement on this very trail. He remarked that he was glad that he wasn’t wearing tights as he’d definitely be overheating right now. I thanked him for that insight & promptly started to overheat as I stared at my stupid, annoying lycra-clad legs.

Ivan then strode off into the distance and ended up winning the race with a fantastic run in 9 hours 25 minutes. The lack of tights certainly didn’t harm him but dear me, I wouldn’t have fancied having the oul bare legs out on some of the sections of the course!

The Wicklow way is quite a runnable wee route but there is quite a bit of climbing as you’d expect! Because of this, I was adopting a good walk a bit/run a bit technique on the climbs which seemed to be in perfect sync with my BARF clubmate Jackie Toals hill climbing. I’m bound to have been so annoying for a while though – it was like the chuckle brothers to me, to you sketch. I’d pass her, she’d pass me etc. until we settled into a good wee pace that kept us both moving rightly. It was great to have the company on such a minging day too as the tendancy would easily have been to let the wind suck the soul outta ye! I say we ran together but let me just be clear –  I did not keep with her on the downhills. Her feet pick their way down a mountain like Eddie Van Halens fingers on a fretboard!

We landed into Glendalough aid station with 4hrs 45mins on the clock. We got ourselves warmed up with some soup, chilli & sandwiches and  I made an absolute beast of myself but sure, when in Rome. (I’m aware that didn’t fit the situation at all)

The aid station staff were so very awesome. A bunch of more positive people you couldn’t meet. Constantly checking were you ok, giving you buns, giving you hugs & only for the lack of swearing I’d have thought I was in my grannies house!

A wee bit damp at Glendalough. Pic credit - Stephen Mooney
A wee bit damp at Glendalough. Pic credit – Stephen Mooney

We met in with a lad called Duncan around the 25 mile mark. I was aware that the biggest challenge of the day would be Djouce (mountain) so we were all apprehensive of when we would hit this big dirty baste and constantly debated when it would appear. It was that windy – we guessed it may have been blown further away.

Before we got that far, we came across a row of fallen trees, maybe about 10 of them down & the trail was impassable so we had to climb up round. Proper adventure like. Jackie told me afterwards that one of the other runners saw a couple of them falling so that’ll give an idea of the conditions on the day!

And so it was. We had ran 30 miles. The next 3 were going to be much harder than any of that. We had arrived at Djouce (I just heard snakes hiss when I typed that). Just before we started the climb we came across a prophet who foresaw terrible suffering up there.

‘Be prepared for 45 minutes of pure hell’ sayeth the prophet. He performed some kind of ancient ritual & blessed us with the blood of an Ox before sending us on our way. (Here, if you’re the lad handing out Coke & Haribo out of the back of a Polo at Djouce, cheers mate, it worked a treat!)

Anyway, the prophet/lad with the coke completely underegged the ‘pure hell’ thing. I honestly have never experienced anything like what went on on that mountain on Saturday. I actually think I was crying at one stage but the wind was blowing the tears back into my tear ducts. Myself & Jackie made it to the open mountainside together & the gust just hit us. There’s nothing to Jackie & I thought she was away for a second but nope she got the head down & started running up the boardwalk. I followed before I realised it was impossible to stay on the boards for any period of time. Thus commenced 30 minutes of us staggering about the hill like drunks. It wasn’t long before Jackie disappeared from sight (Finishing 3rd Lady!) as I was having serious issues staying upright. On several occassions, I ended up crouching down & grabbing handfuls of grass  to keep myself rooted to the spot. This is what I imagine that big yoke that astronauts use to get them ready for space to be like.

Th'on spinny yoke.
Th’on spinny yoke.

That’s all I have to say about that. I’m getting all primadonna again.

I was on my own again now for a class wee run skirting over Powerscourt Waterfall into the aid station at Crone wood where everyone was so very amazing again. I got hugs & some of that amazing Chilli as well as a load of chocolate. I was in a good place again & knew the rest of the route from here in. I didn’t change my clothes all day as I just have this thing that if things are going well, why change them? Not even for a dry t-shirt. I got moving again after about 10 minutes & was heading for Prince Williams Seat.

I ran with Clare Muphy Keeley & John Buckley for a good chunk of this section of the course until we got to the top of Prince Williams. Fantastic, positive people to be around which always gives ye a lift. It was just getting dark now so we put our headtorches on & descended to Glencullen & turned left. We had only about 4 miles to go now which was basically under a mile of road followed by a 0.5 mile climb up Fairy Castle and then it’s downhill all the way to the finish.

This was all going well until I reached the junction from where we were to descend from the top of Fairy Castle. Unfortunately, one of the runners ahead had went straight on up the mountain instead of taking off down towards the finish. The wind was incredibly loud and was acting the wild thing so my screams and whistles were doing nothing to get the runners attention so I ran after him – there was a tailwind so I was practically being lifted up the mountain which would have been handy on the actual course!! I flashed my torch at him as I thought I saw him turn around but after about 5 minutes of running after him I realised he was away on & I was never catching him. He could have went anywhere. I made the decision to descend as I wasn’t familiar with this part of the course in daylight never mind night & then warn a member of crew at the finish of what had happened. Turns out he ran an extra 7 mile in the wrong direction & DNFed, but at least he was safe. Just a shame as he would have been well placed.

So as I may have alluded to, I finished! That descent overlooking the city lights coming from Dublin was spectacular. I came in in 10hours 20minutes for 7th place & couldn’t have been happier considering the mess I was on the bus at the start of the day.

An absolutely brilliant day put on by Don Hannon & his gang at RAWultra. The happiest, cheeriest bunch ye could meet given what an absolute hallion of a day it was. I am sore but my legs will recover & I’ll be able to tell the grandkids about the day I did a drunken dance across the Wicklow hills.

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