04 September, 2012
Last Wednesday night, Keeper Hill in the Slieve Felim mountain range in County Tipperary provided the venue for the penultimate race of the Munster Wednesday League. "Keeper" or Sliabh CoimeÃ¡lta as Gaeilge, is the highest peak in the Shannon area - standing at 694 m (2,277 ft) and is definitely the most testing of the eight races in the league. As cars left registration in Killoscully village for the starting point, the imposing Keeper stood to the left, extending into the clouds above. A big thank you to all who carpooled - space was tight in the carpark.
After Colm gave pre-race instructions, 44 athletes assembled past the metal barrier after the carpark, when a mountain-biker came bombing down towards the group and pulled off an elaborate display of braking/skidding in front of us. After all the excitement, Sharon proceeded to do the countdown and we were off. The race took compeditors along a waymarked route from the western entrance of Ballyhourigan Woods, winding up a forest fire-roads initially on the "Ballyhourigan Woods Loop" along the lower shoulders of Keeper Hill, before branching off towards the summit as marked with the red arrows.
As members of the regular Limerick-based training group emerged above the tree-line, they would have passed the familiar winter "turn-around" point before continuing the climb into the cloud-capped peak of Keeper, which is designated as a National Heritage Area. It was a pity it wasn't a clear evening as The Reeks, The Galtees and Mt Leinster can all be seen from this section of the ascent. Still no one was complaining as conditions were dry and the impending fog and cooler temperatures at this altitude gave over-heating athletes some respite. Many would have been shocked to see the top two runners in Michael and Tim thundering back down against them so soon, which lulled people into a false sense of security about how near the summit was. In reality, both had already knocked minutes off the fastest ascent seen previously on this route in a bout of phenomenal running.
Out of the fog, came the telecoms mast which signalled to competitors the vicinity of the turn-around point after 6.5km, and some pay-back for the push to the top. The descent on the fire-roads was fast for the most part, with just a few rutted sections. After the race, the group headed back to Killoscully for well-earned complimentary tea and sandwiches, with talk switching to Galtymore on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend.
Michael Carmody of Limerick AC took his first win on the hills in style, holding off stiff competition from East Cork AC's Tim O'Donoghue, with Mike Cunningham in third. Loretto Duggan was first home in the ladies race, followed by Sinead Rickerby who was visiting from Wicklow and Georgina Ringrose taking the final podium spot. Full results can be seen at:
With a great range of photos from Jane Griffin at:
Thanks to everyone who helped out at the race, to race-director Colm Phelan, Sean Harte on results, and last but not least our three non-running volunteers Sharon Lucey, Jane Griffin and Deirdre Finn who did registration, time-keeping and photography in their usual friendly way. Thanks a million ladies!