Djouce (Earl's drive) trail

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Earl's Grey misty evening

The Trail League. That small group of hectic paced dashes through various wooded areas. Usually held after the Leinster League, when I have had a chance to build up a bit of training. As a late arrival late to the IMRA scene I quickly found out that the M40 category is hugely competitive. At the last of the Trail races in 2017 I managed (just about) to get in ahead of Angus Tyner. Back then I had been harbouring a bit of a secret. I had it worked out that I would be M50 for 2018, and at last, hopefully, have a bit of a chance to register the odd category win. In my moment of weakness (ie after running the Downshill) I blabbed my ‘secret’ to Angus. He had obviously done a lot more homework than me and was able to list off names of other runners who would be competing in the M50 category for 2018, including himself!
To add to that shock, this year sees the Trail races scheduled before the Leinster League. So now what will the plan be? I’ve ran Adrian Tucker’s Clover in February, The Glacier Lakes in March, Maurice Mullins in April, then straight into the Trail League.
Wednesday night comes, and with it, the excitement of racing. You know it’s going to be fast and tough. The ground conditions are quite different to my previous attempts, and there is an eerie mist shrouding us all as we arrive at the car park. A combination of first evening race of the season and an earlier than usual start could mean delays and confusion, but in fact it is quite the opposite. I join the queue to sign-in and before I know it I am ready, last year’s race timing chip registered and all. A quick warm-up and then back to the barrier to chat with a few of the regulars (aka assessing the competition)
Without much fuss we get our race instructions, and it’s 1, 2, 3! Wow, did I say this was going to be fast? It was an understatement! The front runners sprint off down the trail and I am wondering if I should try to follow. Without time to think, I chase, wondering how far I will get. I’m just about keeping up when Angus zips past. He is clearly stating his intent, I’ve only run about 400m and already I can’t respond. Further along I’m passed by another runner, and we haven’t reached the right turn yet. Eventually, we reach the bottom of the descent and start the small bit of an incline, but no sign of the pace easing off unfortunately. Cross the river and into the muddy forest. Zig-zg, zig-zag, zig-zag and I’m trying to count them, don’t ask why, I don’t know how many there are, but I count anyway. After the last sharp turn, I see a small opportunity and manage to get past Mikey Fry and Rory Campbell. Out of the woods and there’s no sight of the runner in front of me (I’m going to say that this is due to the very heavy mist and not because they have opened up a considerable gap!) Around the old reservoir across the river again, and I see a feint outline ahead. A young lad on a mountain bike comes up behind me and the noise spurs me on, until he passes, and I realize my error. However, he has helped me and soon enough I catch and pass the runner ahead on the short steep climb. I’ve a pretty good idea of what’s left so try to keep pushing ahead. As I pass the turn for the upper car park I meet some short course runners. Then through the gloom I spot it a yellow Glendalough AC vest. Could it be? Am I gaining ground? Had Angus started off too quickly and is now feeling it? I close in, nearly there… Oh *&%^$! my joy turns to despair as I realize it is a Junior on the short course. Again, there is nobody to be seen ahead, but the job is not done yet, back out onto the main trail again and try to get to the finish, occasionally looking over my shoulder half expecting someone or something to emerge from the mist…
Another great night, thanks to John Bell and all the volunteers. Not forgetting the marshals who were waiting out in the mist to guide us safely around the course. Come to think of it, I probably looked like the “something emerging from the mist” to them - poor brave souls.
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