Nephin is over there somewhere
05 July, 2018 - Mick HanneyThe day dawned in Mayo, grey and overcast, a complete contrast to the previous day at Mweelrea.
The forecast said cloud and as myself and Andy drove towards the registration location it was evident that the cloud would be low. Then it started to drizzle. Not a good start when running a mountain you are not familiar with.
There is at least the consolation that everyone is in the same boat, so to speak, and everyone is equally tired after yesterday’s race and post-race socialising.
Numbers were down on the previous days race, which is only to be expected, but the usual hardy souls were there in body, if not, spirit.
As the race start ticked down Eoin showed up a picture of what the mountain normally looks like, when there isn’t a cloud on it! Looking up across the boggy field all we could see was a very low cloud across a boggy field of sheep.
Started off with a shuffle across the bog towards the edge of the forest and the gully where the stream from the top made its way down. There wasn’t much running in evidence from early on, except for the leaders who moved out of sight into the gloom. Crossing the stream we were faced with a wall of heather on our right to climb up. After a near vertical climb, the gradient eased out into an uncomfortable ‘too steep’ for running setting, which you got familiar with for the rest of the climb. In contrast to yesterday when you could see the whole running field around you, today I could barely make out the odd 1 or 2 shadowy figures ahead and behind.
On and on I shuffled and surprisingly started to gain on the ‘runner’ ahead who turned out to be Brian Flannelly. On the basis that 2 heads were better than one we stuck together in the mist heading up into what was turning out to be increasingly rainy and windswept conditions. Towards the top the wind was almost gale force. We were joined and passed by Michael McSweeney who would go on to have a very good descent - well done that man. Fair play to the marshal manning the top in those conditions, a very lonely station on a day like this.
Before the race we were told the route will take an anti-clockwise loop around the top, that we run past the trig point at the top until we reach a small cairn and at that stage turn left, on a north direction towards the finish.
Running at the top was difficult with the wind, rain and rocky underfoot conditions. Cairn duly reached myself and Brian turned and picked our way down the ridge, being careful not to stray to left where the ground becomes very steep. On the descent there was a lot of checking of the compass and the bearing to ensure we didn’t stray off. Surrounded by low cloud it was difficult going even on the downhill but we were glad to be in possession of the compasses and 2 proved handier than 1 to verify our progress.
After what seemed an age we popped out from beneath the cloud cover and we saw other runners emerging from various directions. Crossing a fence onto the boggy pasture the various runners all congregated into a line heading quickly down towards the finish. At last we have a nice piece of running. I made decent progress across the tufty grass. Results show a bunch of us cross the line within seconds of each other. Brian opted for a slower jog to the finish, clearly feeling the effects of a harder day than me yesterday.
Possibly the hardest, shortest hill race I’ve ever done. Would love to be back and running when we can actually set the mountain!
The volunteers had a great selection of post-race treats afterwards and the mug of tea was only great to lift the spirits. The brother Andy finished soon after happy with his days work. No photos from the mountain top today. Thanks to Eoin, Daniella and their helpers for a great event and fabulous weekend of running.
Overall winner of the day, and the weekend, was Brian Mullins. Becky was first lady home. Great running guys.
Its Not About The Run
03 July, 2018 - Barry MurrayPart II
After the prize giving and raffle at Mweelra, it was back to the campsite at Old Head to prepare for arguably what is the biggest event of the whole weekend, the beach BBQ !
As much as I like racing, the Connaught Champs is more than just running. Its a festival vibe and its summer time. After the effort up and down Mweelra in the heat, we needed some downtime back at the campsite. A few of us congregated in the Bells tent and cracked open some beers. It was almost 7pm by the time we started the move down to the beach for the bbq. The setting for this is sort of like Leonardo Di Caprio's movie "The Beach". When we arrived, Alan Ayling was chopping wood like a madman. We had an upgraded bbq, Stuart's one was laid to rest. Rachel, thanks to the generous IMRA committee, had orderd a tonne of burgers and jumbo sausages. We then had a big fold out table with plenty of salads and dressing, even a happy pear hummus for gods sake ;-). Some homemade sourdough by Maikke, and plenty of buckets of sea water and ice for the beers.
We had 4 x cooks, myself, John Bell, Becky and Donal..... it was a hot pit, my eyes are still red from it. A bigger crowd than last year, so thankfully we had plenty to go round. As the sun set, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, but we had a big fire going to keep us all warm. We even built a 2nd fire for the outsiders, those MMRA people ;-) . As per usual, there was more than just beer going round. In fact, wood chopper Alan, kicked off the evening with some of his finest Buckfast, not quite the connoiseurs choice but thats how Alan rolls. Peter Bell had some of the finer stuff, a 10yr old scottish single malt, which was being passed around. As the darkness set in, the entertainment kicked off with Feno and his six string. He belted out some great tunes and we had some good sing alongs. Feno too was enjoying the single malt in between songs but he still remembered his chords and words. The fires got bigger, and buckfast Alan seemed to enjoy adding bigger pieces to an already blazing fire. Tom Blackburns daughter was making these "Smores" which I never heard of before, melted marshmallow in between two chocolate biscuits. Feno lasted a good while, but the single malts took their toll and he had to retire.
The numbers dwindled but there was still a good crew around the two fires late into the night..... I had managed not to take too many single malts myself this time but was still well over the limit. My other half had enjoyed the strong stuff a bit more so I had to escort her home ! It was well into the early hours of sunday morning but it marked the end of another brilliant bbq and beach party.
The next morning, reminded me of the previous year. Grey clouds, a bit misty, and about 10C cooler than the previous day. There was a lot of slow moving bodies and sore heads. I had more or less decided before the bbq that I was going to give Nephin a miss. Myself and Mary wanted to climb Croagh Patrick instead. Plus, I knew Nephin was going to be a slog and I didn;t want to tarnish my 3rd place result from the day before ! Maybe I wussed out and I know I'll get abuse no doubt.... but I guess thats why I wrote the title of these reports.
It's a slow grind packing up and taking down the tents with a sore head and in the grey misty weather. It's even a slower grind for those that managed to clear the beach up and all the bbq stuff after the party. I don't know how they did it. I know Gavin arrived back with his Range Rover full to the brim with all the stuff so all I can say is fair play and fair dues. I normally would like to help out with these sorts of things but I find packing up our own stuff was a struggle !
The head and the weather didn't make Nephin any more appealing to me. But it is an adventure and fair play to everyone that did do it. Eoin and Daniella deserve a special mention as they are not only part of the festival thing and camping out themselves, but they organizing everything for the races and heading off a few hours earlier than everyone else. Another special mention is to Brian Mullins, who did the double. Now maybe he was staying in some luxuruious B&B and was early to bed both nights with his herbal tea ;-) So we'll have to get him out camping next year and out to the bbq to see if it is possible to do well in both races ! I had stats man Rene Borg look up results and apparently Peter O Farrell and Brian Furey have done the double before. Were they camping and at the bbq too ??
Maybe we should have a seperate category next year. MBBQ and FBBQ. ;-)
So I started these reports with the intention of not getting the CC to "sell out" !! Maybe I have failed.. but remember, its not about the run.