Devil's Glen

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Burning muscles in the Devil's Glen

Week 2 of the trail league and the weather is looking good. I have just about time (thanks to the traffic) to nip in home, get changed and collect my son Kevin. Each time I go to this race I expect the car park to be closer to the road than it is, but as always, just as I am beginning to wonder if I have the right forest road I see a few cars ahead. They are pulling in to the side to park, so I guess there is a large gathering tonight. We walk the last bit to get registered and meet the gang. Chatting with Mikey I find out that Angus will not be running tonight. My excitement lifts and I start to work on a plan. This lasts all of about 5 seconds as I turn to see Ben Mooney arrive. What’s going on here? For the past couple of years, I have been told how competitive the M40 category is etc etc I couldn’t wait to move up. What I wasn’t told is that the M50 isn’t any better! All too soon we are at the start again and I have a fresh wave of worries. We get off to a great start even if the countdown from 10 seems to take an age. I’m about second place as we turn for the first climb and push a bit to get a good start. This soon becomes third, then fourth, fifth etc as the front runners Greg, Ruairí and Brian get into their stride and all easily slip past one by one. As the ground levels off I get an encouraging push from Barry as he too zips past. My thoughts and efforts now drift to trying to hold on and I’m only about 1.5 Km in. Thankfully, and at last, we get to the first descent, keeping Barry in my sights, just about, I hear someone else close on my heels. Down, down we go, pushing all the way. Eventually we’re back onto the fire road, near where I parked, so I’m trying to figure out how much further to the start/finish area. The gang cheer as we dash past and lose some more elevation. All the way down the zig-zags to the river. The red shirt that has been hovering in my peripheral vision is that of John Bell as he sails by. Hot on his heels is Rob Costello. I’ve lost count of runners who have passed me at this stage. The meandering path by the river is sooo looong. I’m sure this is a beautiful walk on a bright summers day, but when you’re dodging puddles and branches, gasping for air, and desperately trying to keep up it’s an entirely different experience! After what feels like an eternity, we eventually reach the turn. If I can just keep moving. As I get ready to settle in for the climb I get my reminder! For there he is, right on my heels; Ben Mooney, temporarily forgotten about, back into focus with a bang. I don’t know how many times before, he has powered past me as if I were out for a leisurely stroll. “I could really do without this now!” I throw everything at the climb, knowing there will be a cost at some stage, but I take the gamble. I catch Rob, but not John. The path levels off (and probably even drops a bit, but I’m so shagged I can hardly tell the difference now) As I take the last short climb I have a quick look over my shoulder. It seems clear, but I don’t want to take any chances at this stage… “Run forest, RUN!” The ‘up and over’ is shorter than I thought, and much to my delight I reach the finish line. I ache all over, but somehow I’ve managed to get in ahead of Ben, but there’s only seconds in it and Ronan King is snapping at his heels. What a great race this is. (I can say that now, well after the event)
Thanks to Mikey and his crew of volunteers, once again giving the rest of us the opportunity to enjoy (or more accurately) exhaust ourselves on the trails.
And for us? My first M50 category win, and Kevin’s MJ for the long course! Casually overlooking the fact that he was the only one, we got chips on the way home to celebrate ;)

The Devils Climb

Now that I am a Munster renegade , it was nice to be back in familiar surroundings of Wicklow. Always have loved the mid week races for a blast up the hills in the evening. The 2nd race in the trail league, Devils Glen, isn’t a mountain race but its still testing and still hard. All these races are as hard as you want to make them !

Old boy Mikey has been running this one for a few years now and makes it seem easy to put everything together. He had so many volunteers that he didn’t know what to do with them. I had my self down as a “running volunteer” so I was on race number duty. Plenty of newbies and first timers of this season so it was 7.15 by the time I got my kit on. Usually like to get a bit of a decent warm up in especially for a race like this that goes off fast and hard and stays like that !

A great set of Glendalough AC juniors went of 5 mins before the seniors. Nice to see more and more junior races happening. Mikey gave us a quick debrief and we were off up the Seamus Heaney hill. I had plently of familiar faces to gauge myself off this time and it was Greg Byrne and Brian Flannelly that went off ahead of me. While Mikey is an old adversary but since he wasn’t racing this time, I had another good one, John Bell just ahead of me too. Man of many talents, Graham Bushe was on my shoulder aswell. The one fast young lad, Rory, had shot off the front and was pulling away up the first hill. At least we have some fast youngsters to beat all us M40 and M50 men.

Having raced the course last year I knew that the 2nd section had a hard slog up the river so I didn’t want to go off too fast. Greg and Brian crept away from me, and another friend, Luke Lennon was just ahead of me too. By the time we were running down to pass the start/finish area, I was just ahead of a pack with John and Graham, and still within eyesight of Luke and Greg.

The 2nd section has some nice tracks and zig zags. A bit wetter underfoot than last years race in August so a tad bit slippier. I knew that the river path was where I could maybe put the foot down and catch up with the lads. Everyone hates this path as it looks flat but isn’t ! it also goes on for maybe 2km…. and it feels like there are several false summits… where you think you are about to turn left back up the hill. I had Luke or Greg just ahead of me but couldn’t pull them in. I didn’t hear anyone behind me so knew I must have pulled away from John and the others.

Finally back up the hill to follow the route back to the finish area and I wanted to step up a gear but couldn’t. Just no spring in the legs. It happens….. for whatever reason, where the legs just feel a bit dead compared to normal. I started to hear feet behind me and was surprised as I thought I was 30secs or so ahead of the next guys. On the last bend I could hear breathing behind me but I was just focusing on putting in the last effort to the finish. On that last little steep climb up, Mr John Bell goes sprinting past me ! I think I was too shocked to react quicky ;-) …. So once he went ahead, we had reached the top, and then it was just a sprint downhill to the finish. I think he is going to hang up his boots now after that one ;-) I had to settle for 6th…. But with only 40secs or so between me and 2nd…. It was a close race.

A good old blast and always great to have a little battle with friends. That’s what the IMRA races are great for if you do them regularly, no matter what end of the field you are in. It might be a while though before I can come back up to Leinster for revenge ;)

Big crowd for the prize giving and raffle back in Ashford. Great to be able to catch up with everyone. I didn’t even mange to win the M40 with Greg just ahead of me but managed a raffle prize of a bottle of vino so how bad :-)

Race number and a jacket please…

As a fully signed up member of Club 100, I’ve no excuses beyond stupidity. And so, with chip in hand, voucher in pocket, but jacket in Dublin I approached race registration wondering how to handle the awkward question. Being a Dub I chose brazen. “Race number and a jacket please…”

The shoulder rolled defensively in expectation of a choral rendition of the well-established kit list. Instead I walked away with #1765 and Barry Murray’s spare jacket. Oh, how do I repay the generosity…

Devil’s Glen is class route. Manners are put on the exuberant, gains are made by the daring and prizes are won by those who can suffer most in the last 2k.

I tried to dissuade Ruairí from winning by suggesting he not try anything new… forgetting he won his last race… handshakes and pleasantries proceeded the race briefing. Everyone asking awkward questions to scope out who actually kept their resolution to do some training this year.

From the gun the intent was clear. Everyone wanted to get to the narrow track first. I got an elbow, I gave an elbow. Socialising could wait. Luke, Graham and Brian showed their ambition early. Ruairí was stalking and made his move on the sharp turn before cresting just ahead of Luke. Looking back down the climb might have induced vertigo so I stayed fixed on Luke, who stayed fixed on Ruairí. We chased and chased. Eventually the left turn came, a shout from Yvonne Brennan kept Luke on track, but no of us were ready for the descent of Brian. Like a cyclist passed by a speeding juggernaut we visibly swayed as Brian took the ‘direct line’ over and through. I latched on and used Brian’s momentum to pull me past Luke.

We hit the road and raced to the car park… all anxious to get back to the trail where we each thought we had an advantage. Through the switchback I blindly followed Brian’s every turn. Along the river I blindly followed Brian’s every turn. From the tarmac to the start of the final climb I’d swear I closed the gap from 5.2835 metres to 4.987 metres, but that doesn’t account for calibration error.

Hitting the last climb Luke made his move. His stride shortened, but his cadence stayed high and he glided past my heavy gait. The ease of his first success spurred on a move for second and Brian was the next victim of his surge. Cresting the climb Brian was latched onto Luke and they seemed set for the duel. Brian responded to being caught with an attack off the top. The determination in his mind got his leg stride going 20 metres earlier than Luke and his reward was a 5 metre gap, which stayed as we raced across the balcony.

Coming through the concrete gateway Luke’s full stride finally returned and my hopes of third were gone… I chased to the line knowing I too was being chased to the line.

The battle for fifth and sixth was epic to line, well done lads. While the M50’s showed that there is going to be busy racing season ahead for the categories.

Handing back the jacket to Barry I was stuck the thought, is it ungrateful to beat the generous soul of saved my race? Then he won a bottle of wine in the raffle and any guilt evaporated like a nice viognier on a sandy beach.

Well done to Ruairí and Becky, both convincing winners on the night.

Thanks to Mikey and the volunteers. Great night. Fabulous job getting the hordes to park and run on time.
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