The Stone Cutter
28 November, 2009A personal report of the Sonecutters NC race.
Paul Nolan writes
I?ll start with an admission. In 1994 I updated the orienteering map which covers Tonduff, Ballyreagh, Maulin and Crone. While the forest has changed and memory has faded, I?ve probably more experience of the place than any of the 25 starters in today race.
With the start in Crone and the race title leading most to assume we?d be heading up or down the Stonecutters Glen I quietly pointed out the road option to Charlie O?Connell and Izzy Lemee 10 minutes before the start. Charlie didn?t dismiss it, a good sign I thought. When Joe Lalor made his pre race briefing and confirmed our suspicions by announcing the first control as a beehive, my mind was made up. I?d be going the public Road route, my second road run in 10 days, most unusual.
Moire O?Sullivan quite independently came to the same conclusion but surprisingly we were alone. To distract from the road I spent the time planning my route and counting off the junctions and vegetation changes to my right. Finally turning left into Ballyross and in great suspense rejoining the race I found myself with a 30 second lead over Gerry Brady and Gus O?Cleirigh. With the first control punched it was into the ferns and young trees that barred the route to the river.
Joe had mentioned that the river route was the better option, he wasn?t wrong. In ?94 I had painfully, very painfully in fact disappeared into head high heather just above the Ballyross Wall and was not going to repeat the experience. Having been up Stonecutters before, I managed a fast way out to the river, opening the gap to the two lads by a good margin. But path finding up the river valley had me zig zagging somewhat, allowing Gerry and Gus to cut the gap back down again. At last years Ballydonnell NC race I had made the mistake of sticking close to the river bank in awful ground so as not to miss a stream junction control. This time I stuck with the track even when it veered well away from the river, only moving back close to the bank when the contours and gut feeling dictated.
Finding control 2 without problem I continued along the river for 100m or so before turning left to straight line the climb to Tonduff South. The heather here wasn?t too bad and I managed to maintain a run until the ground grow steeper and my legs complained. Glancing behind Gerry was near and running every step. Much did I regret my winter of idleness as every time I checked behind he was still running and getting ever closer. Gus opted to follow the river in an arc to Tonduff and didn?t figure in my race from that point on, but was much in mind to Gerry who could still see us both.
Brendan Doherty cheerfully held the punch at the top of Tonduff. We had missed the summit stone by being too far to the left so his presence was welcome to mark the exact stone to head too.
With Gerry now only metres behind we began the long dash to the low point between Maulin and Tonduff, gateway to the fast descent by the Zig Zag track. The ground was wet and slippy with Gerry the most pressured of us 3. I was reopening the gap and Gus was closing him down, but Gerry was holding his own, losing ground much slower than he or I expected. It was very much a pressured run the whole way down with Wednesday night levels of effort. Just before hitting the low point and with the top of the zig zags in sight I veered left onto a sheep track hoping to cut a corner but this track come almost immediately to a dead end, giving way to waist high heather. I bashed on, sure that Gerry would now have the lead by virtue of sticking to the better ground. But fortunately for me he had taken the same short path, u-turned at it?s end to retrace his steps and lose time.
Down the fast challenging zig zag?s I was working very hard to maintain concentration as the various path junctions can all look the same if confused. I made clean contact with control 4 and then made full use of my previous days in these woods.
From control 4 rather than stick with the main track I continued east for 75m along the smaller path, turned left to follow a ride to the next road down. Ran along the road for 150m turned left again and straight lined the old walkers path to the finish. I took the risk of finding the first unmarked ride because in my mind were images of Gerry burning up the forest roads in his efforts to close me down. Sure enough he burst into the finish 2 and a half minutes later, feet barely touching the ground, with Gus just 5 minutes behind.
For me the toughest yet most enjoyable race of the year so far. Great to see some new faces in the larger than usual field. With only 8 minutes separating the first 3 and 36 km of racing to come, it?s going to be a superb end to the summer racing season.
Joe Lalor writes
This is a report of a race that very nearly did not take place. When I arrived early this morning in the upper Glencree valley to put out some controls I was meet by a helicopter, two police cars and several emergency workers on foot, searching for a lady who had been missing overnight in the area. I put out my controls and travelled on to Crone, the race starting point only to discover that the carpark was taken as an ?Incident Centre? and closed to the public. A quick call to Brian Bell had a note on the forum informing runners who had not yet left home and Brendan Doherty was to intercept runners at Powerscourt and redirect them to Knockree, the new starting point. When I got to Knockree all spaces were claimed by other displaced walkers from Crone. I was just about to announce that the race was off when I got the call that the carpark at Crone was partially reopened---race on.
After a briefing that warned runners of three hazards, bees, a very rough descent to a river and cliffs 25 runners set off. The first leg by complete coincidence covered that same ground as last Wednesdays trail race (NC1 was finalised last Nov.) lead to a track bend / beehive. Paul Nolan double guessing the planner had done his homework and had figured out that the route by road was .2km shorter than that through the forest and arrived first. Nobody got stung and runners had to decide whether to drop to the river bed or stay high. At the pre race briefing it was stated that the drop the river was very rough but once there, there were tracks, this warning unintentionally put some off who to their regret stayed high and suffered. At the second control, a stream junction, one runner was seen to crawl away through the undergrowth rather than lead the few remaining runners behind him into it. The direct route to control three (Tonduff South) appears to have been much more straight forward than its press. Here runners were meet by Brendan Doherty and had to quickly make the decision Maulin or the wall. Maulin was the choice of most, one pair who had prior knowledge of the wall route but who failed to find the all important track ended up in jungle. One enterprising runner who saw the leaders getting away from them took the risk of coming down Ravens Glen and lived to tell the tale. The last control was a track junction in Crone Wood and was easy to find, as long as you had the right map.
Incidentally the missing person was found by one of the runners in the Stone Cutters Glen. Many thanks to Brendan Doherty who stood in the cold on Tonduff and suffered the embarrassment of waving and calling to hillwalkers at the ?wrong? summit who were not part of the race and to Brian Bell who put out a control and dealt with the earlier flap.