Maurice Mullins Ultra

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Maurice Mullins 2018

My Strava is trying to be very nice to me. It tells me I had 11 “Third Best” attempts at various sections along my race route. It did, however, also tell me it was my third time to run this route…
So let me start by getting my excuses in early.
The persistent chesty cough kicked in Wednesday night interrupting any chances of a good night’s sleep followed by a morning ritual of phloem clearing, this was repeated Thursday night and to a lesser extent Friday. I foolishly thought I was getting better. (wishful thinking!)
I decided to go with one drop bag this year following last years attempt to save time by not stopping. By Friday evening all food and clothes were carefully prepared and laid out. Race gear, outer layer for car-park duty and post-race for the hurling match (this is starting to become a habit, rushing from one to the next)
Saturday morning, up nice and early, eat my bowl of porridge, grab the bags and hit the road. Up to Johnnie Foxes, shortly after 7am, in good time and plan how best to arrange the cars. Thankfully this year they seemed to come in a steady flow rather than a mass arrival. Thanks to Brendan and Alistair all was going nicely, so I reckon I ought to get ready, slip off the outer layer. (One year it was raining and I was soaked through before I got to the start line)
Up to this, I had been trying to decide which runners I would wear; the shiny new Feline Dynafit (only worn twice) or the tried and trusted, if a bit worn, Soucony Peregrine 5. Decisions, decisions. Only in the end, there was no decision to be made… for I had left both pairs on the chair in the porch!! (Thanks Chris for offering to cover my car-park duties if I wanted to dash back home) “Ah sure I’ll just have to run in these!” I said holding a brave face while pointing to my 3 year old 20 euro lidl ‘runners’ that I’d never actually ‘ran’ in. “It’ll be interesting!”
With the car-park filling up nicely I head up to register, and realized I had missed out on a mug, oops. Back to the car-park, direct the last couple to the overflow up at the Christmas Trees. There didn’t seem to be many late arrivals this year thankfully.
I make my way up to the start and following Dermot’s instructions we’re off. As we trot out along the road, I see I’m in the group of usual suspects. Paul Mahon, who abandoned me to my own fate at Lough Firrib, two weeks ago. Billy Reed, Barry Drennan, Zoran Skrba and many more. And already some are starting to make a move. By now I’ve already realized that I’m overdressed but carry on anyway. The run out is going well, nothing too stressful. The Granite boulders coming off Prince William’s Seat don’t provide too difficult an obstacle for my footwear, however things get a bit interesting though as I get to the grassy descent to the Glencree River and all along the slippery muddy track. Once I get safely onto the trail after the bridge I decide to remove my top layer, repining my number to my shorts. It’s a long slow climb through Crone Woods, I have a banana. This is a new approach for this year. Usually, I wouldn’t eat until much further along. But I reckon that since I last ate at 6:30 it’s probably no harm to have something now. The last bit of a climb before the Dargle valley is a bit tougher than usual and I am reminded of my cough as the ground levels off and I try to get moving again. By the time I go through the gap in the wall and look down to the river I know that I’m off the pace, with my usual suspects now well out of sight. Easy does it on the slippery descent and especially as I see another poor unfortunate slip and fall ahead of me. On the climb after the bridge I start to take on some more food, contemplating how I am going to tackle the grassy climb to Djouce. Thankfully without any slips I carefully negotiate my way up the climb. When, eventually, I get to the ‘Goat’s Pass’ I catch up with a group of hill walkers. As I pass a couple my ‘grip’ goes and I end up in a heap. (So much for competent, well prepared mountain athlete showing of his stuff!) Carefully, I pick myself up and desperately try not to fall again. Thankfully I made it to the boardwalk in one piece. Being able to relax (a bit) about where I put my feet is a relief. From there to the turnaround is problem free, meeting some of the front runners just after I leave the Wicklow Way. It is not as easy as the Clover to count the returning front runners. Firstly, there are a LOT more and there are also early starters amongst them. In the previous 2 attempts I arrived at the turn in just under 2:25 and was out again before the trail race. This time I am about 5 minutes slower and meet them all coming out just as I approach the turn-around. I grab the drop-bag and start to eat again, with a half bottle of warm flat cola. Yum! Having said that, I am feeling much better at this point than my 2 previous attempts (maybe the whole eating a bit earlier thing worked). The return climb past the JB Malone is rewarded with another coughing fit (this is probably the first race where my stomach muscles started to ache before my legs!) The whole climb-cough cycle is to be a recurring theme to the finish. There is a bit of mist over White Hill and a few drops of rain as we levae the boardwalk for the last time. Once again I am back to over-cautious planning and stepping trying to keep an even stride and pace, which isn’t easy on the side of Djouce. Once again, my thoughts are on that grassy slope that this time I would be descending. “Why did I forget my B*$%^£ runners?! As I turn the corner onto the goats pass I see a fellow runner with phone at the ready to snap a photo. I realize that it is none other than Action Photographer John Shiels. Mustering my best smile for the briefest of moments and breeze past. What is it they say comes before a fall? A photo? Needless to say, down I go! I somehow manage to scramble to my hands and feet, but no further. My feet decide that a diagonal glide down from the path would be perfect. My hands can only follow as the alternative would be to completely fall on my face in the mud. So, I continue for a few meters or thereabouts looking like some sort of human-sized version of a pond-skater. When I do eventually recover and get going I pass John again who takes another photo. I can’t remember if I smiled or not. He mentions something about the ground being slippery. I was just hoping that he used the opportunity to get past; rather than get a few snaps (I guess I’ll have to wait and see). After that, the descent is almost easy… almost. Refilling my bottle with water in Crone with thanks to the volunteers out in the rain helping us all get out stuff together and get on our way. I grab a few jellies and press ahead. Before long I’m back by the river picking my way carefully through the muck and grass. The Water is ditched for a coke kindly provided at the last pit-stop before the climb to Prince William. Slow and steady was the approach last year, so I repeated it and even had a bit of a chat with one of the trail runners. Once I had successfully navigated those granite rocks again I was glad to get out onto the track and get running again. One of the great things about this race is the long run down here getting closer to the finish, where I let gravity do its thing and hope my legs can keep up. But for me, one of the worst things is the long run down on that hard stony surface. My knees were starting to feel the effects. As the road comes into view I desperately try to look for the GAA pitch in hopes to set my marker, but much to my disappointment I can’t see it. I cross the bridge and the optimist in me thinks the slope isn’t as bad as I had been thinking, then I turn the bend! Eventually I make it out onto the top road there are a few runners scattered along all seeking the long awaited finish line I manage to pass a few and then to my delight I see the propellers of the wind turbine. “Almost There!” I grin to myself and drive on, well internally anyway, to anybody watching there probably wasn’t any difference in my pace! But as I round the bend and see the GAA club I don’t see a welcoming group. “Where are they?! “Oh B^%$£&”^!!” I mean, it’s only a few more meters, Come on I’ve done 50K, I can do a bit more. Thankfully I spot Inigo directing us all up to the finish where James is waiting patiently to sign us all in. The 5:30 has just escaped me by seconds, but I finished feeling better (in some ways) than previous years. One last little coughing fit, a quick chat, then dash to the car and off to the match, though this time back to my assistant coach duties.

Yet another Super event, well organised and planned. Last minute changes appeared to be seamlessly incorporated. Well done to Dermot and the crew of volunteers who worked hard, not only on the long day but before and afterwards.
There is something very special about these events. The last time I ran the Dublin Marathon, I thought “Never again” and it wasn’t really all that bad in hindsight. I’ve had more challenging experiences in IMRA races and can’t wait to get another shot at them! Can someone please explain?

Social run at Maurice Mullins

This year I decided to help out so Dermot assigned me to help with the parking. So got to Johnny Foxes around 715 and chatted with Graham Bushe for a while before the first runners started to arrive. Graham usually flying by me in the races so nice to have a chance to talk - only down side is that with Graham running the solo again this year so I'll have to wait till I'm 60 for any hope of a category win in that race! Anyway I took the easy and social job of directing traffic in so great to meet up with some familiar faces - John Joe Barry, Ray Lawlor, Joe Berney and many more. Leaving Alastair and Graham, quick grab of gear and down to reg before the start.

Perfect running conditions but forecast for light rain so was hoping would not be as warm as last year. Given the weather this year to date anything was possible. Everybody very relaxed at the start so was fluting around at the back of the field before I realized the race had actually started. Off down towards the bridge with John Joe Barry and could see the lead runners already flying up the hill. Eased of the pedal (sounds good but a relative term!) and settled down for the drag up to PWS. First year I ran this all the way but old age and more "sense" permits a walk on the steeper bits. I'm crap at the technical bits but the sun was shining as headed down towards Curtlestown Wood. Paul Daly flew past me as did a few others. I'm crap at downhills as well! Met up with a Polish runner over near Lacken wood and nearly missed the turn down towards the Glencree river as talking too much. Path down to river and along not as bad as feared so on into CP at Crone. Packed away the gloves and hat as warm now. On up towards Powerscourt nice and steady - met the missing dog running in opposite direction but didn't know it at the time. GPS watch lost signal at this point but I never pay much attention to it anyway - just looks good to be checking it. Down and up the Dargle and onto Djouce. Lots of very polite hikers on the shoulder of Djouce - one even called me a "Gentleman runner" because I was so clean - wouldn't have thought so 2 hours later! Goal was to get off the boardwalk before the main group of trail runners came up but met some of the early starters and lead runners still. Nearly did my ankle in getting out of the way - mental note don't be so nice! Anyway down towards Balinastoe - meet and greet section. Great to see Brian Byrne, Stephen Brennan, JuJu, Mark and many others on way up and plenty of encouragement both ways. Much cooler down in the woods but a few lads bare chested (don't have the body for that crack anymore!). So 3 hours to the turn - thought I was doing better but par for the course on outbound leg though I don't do negative splits!

Got my drop bag, topped up water bottles with some flat coke and ate a few nuts on the way back up. Quick wave to Vivian at turn then on up boardwalk. Heavens opened near top of boardwalk so on with my ultra bright orange jacket, hat and gloves. Feeling good as head across shoulder of Djouce bracing for slippery grassy section but Djouce and I have a long history and in a blink I face planted. So what's new on Djouce except this time the right knee is covered in blood. Now can't pour coke on a wound but feels okay so carry on but much more cautious. Take to the heather over the rock section and a runner behind me thought that was I was been over cautious until he slipped on them. On down the grassy sections with a few slipe/slides past the group of scouts - need new trail runners. Then over the stile and come across Sarah who has fallen badly. French girl (name?) has called Mountain Rescue and I talk to them to give location details. Other runners arrive and get Sarah wrapped in couple of foils. Then some hikers arrive and stay with her as we are all getting very cold rapidly. I know the scout group are not far behind and turned out they had 2 doctors with them. We get moving again but Mountain Rescue keep calling my number but my phone screen is wet now and can't answer despite numerous attempts. We're all ultra careful now. Meet first MR guy in jeep at Ride Rock - that was such a fast response. He heads up trail so I keep going down to Crone. While talking to lads in Crone my nephew and 2 nieces turn up heading for a walk - pure chance. Option of a lift is tempting at this point as cut off close but my nephew withdraws the offer - go finish the race!

Sun is shining now so trundle off down along the river and up past Paolo I think who was in great form - singing along. On up to Curtlestown and top up
water - thanks to these guys for staying out so long. Head up PWS - did I say I suck at uphills as well. Over PWS and catch a few lads on down/up to finish just over the 7 hours (thought the finish was at GAA so that cost me the race!) but in good form and in one piece more or less. Becky offered to clean up my knee so I don't get in trouble when I got home. Ran back to the car to a few shouts of the race was over but didn't want to be late for dinner. But my nephew and nieces were sitting in Johnny Foxes and pulled me in for a pint (I'm making a habit of drinking during races these days!).

Thanks Dermot for all your hard work over the years. Great old race regardless of how fast or slow you run.
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