John J Barry
10 June, 2013It was another wonderful return to the Knockmealdowns Mountain for the Munster Championship race. Yet again Brian Flannelly, Tom Blackburn, his family and the rest of the volunteers put on a wonderful event. Like last year we had wonderful weather with the sun splitting the rocks and one could fry an egg..... One of my fellow competitors actually said the breeze was even hot.
The route was changed this year to remove the majority of the Avondhu Way from the route which in my opinion was a good call. I didn't mind the run up the Avondhu way last year but it was heavy going having to run back down it after coming of the mountain proper. This yearâ€™s Registration was at "The Vee" with the start a further 700m down the Avondhu Way at Beal Lough for the start. A very good plan where we had a relatively easy 700m at the start for the participants to get into their relative positions prior to the Sugarloaf climb.
Prior to the start Brain gave us the race instructions which were good & clear and he informed us the run up was very easy navigation since we had the 'handrail' of a wall the whole way up and over Sugarloaf mountain and on to Knockmealdowns summit. He also informed us that the only piece of navigation required was on the way down where one did not have to climb Sugarloaf mountain on the return leg but veer left and contour around Sugarloaf mountain from the col. The warning was NOT to go straight down from the col.
Experience of this route from last year, listening a bit more closely this year and the frantic waving of Bernard Fortune (who after completing his race went partway back up the hill to act as marshal) resulted in me taking a better but not perfect route as my Garmin showed.
Unfortunately Bernard's warning of intending doom and loss of many places and the winning honour for Laura Schwirz was not heard by all where five runners took the "straight Line" theory down to what looked like a car park which to be honest it was. But alas it's not the car park we wanted!!!. They had a few hundred meters running on the road for the 'scenic' route to the finish line and we estimated afterwards it cost them 3-4 minutes. Due to Laura's unfortunate deteor Loretto Duggan went on to take the ladies title, Laura second and Patrica Blackburn taking third.
On the initial climb I had a bit of "Deja Vu" from last year where I noticed Patrica Blackburn behind me and on the descent of Sugarloaf she quickly passed me, only for me to catch her on a subsequent climb prior to Sugarloaf. After a few minutes of chit chat, I informed Patrica I wanted to try to catch Paul Grant so of I went to 'run' up the next false summit in my futile bid to catch Paul (Seefingan next Paul :-) ).
One of the nice things about the out and back courses is that the back markers get to â€˜seeâ€™ the top guys in action and yesterday was no different so during my solo effort I saw the leaders returning and first two into view were Mike Cunningham with Tom Blackburn 30 odd seconds behind. It was interesting to see the styles of the top two where Tom Blackburn had short steps but a very high cadence where Mike has a long slow stride. A muscle strain later for Mike cost him the title where Tom was the subsequent winner in approx. 52 minutes for a ~8.6km route. Bernard Fortune was second and race director Brian Flannelly taking third.
The Cairn / Summit Marshall / Bottle Water were a welcome sight. For the descent I veered out ten paces from the wall and quickly found the same quad tracks I used last year. This year I 'found' the hard turn left as described by Brain on the col below Sugarloaf and I was delighted to make good time on my downhill until the path I was following began to fade out (me going wrong again? not sure) to eventually vanish. With nobody in front to follow I was at a loss for a short period. I proceeded on a downward / contouring route through awful heather until I saw Bernard as mentioned above. Lucky enough I did since I lost too much height in my contouring and I was on the wrong side of a river that was was turning into a deep gorge. Upon seeing Bernard I climbed back up the mountain to get above the start of the gorge. When I reached Bernard he told me about my potential mistake. But I was now back '"on track" and proceeded to the end without too much trouble.
For this run I used my Inov-8 Mudclaws which were a total overkill for the conditions but I must admit I enjoyed the security they gave in the final "scree / sand slope" to the finish. I could really feel the studs on the shoes biting through the sand trying to find a grip. Good stuff indeed. They should get a more challenging work out on Seefingan on Wednesday if the weather changes like it's supposed to.
One has to admire the effort some people put into hosting events. We had a bit of a picnic at the finish line where Mary Begley and the Blackburn clan had a huge spread of food laid out for us. Tom even had a gas stove in the boot of the car right beside the petrol tank (!!!!!) to boil the kettle for the tea and coffee.
All of this for only ten euro..
Once again a huge thanks to everybody for a wonderful day in the Irish mountain and a speedy recovery to Mike and the one or two other people with grazed hands and knees.