Monday, January 24, 2011

art o neill challenge report

as can be seen by the long break between posts i have not been as good as i had hoped with my updates. Anyway i will try harder from now on mainly because it will serve as a good training log which was my main reason for doing this in the first place.
Firstly a roundup of how the AON challenge went
For anyone not familiar with this , it cosists of a 55km run starting in Dublin city centre and heading for the hills eventually ending up in glenmalure, starting at 2am. Navigation was a pre requisite as the route is not marked.
I drove up on friday evening with robbie with the plan of meeting Jeff at the luas in sandyford. the weather was brutal all day friday and i was questioning the sanity of what we were about to undertake but i suppose it just added to the anticipation. when it started to snow half way up the Motorway around Portlaoise i again began the questioning. As usual we got lost and coulnt find the luas stop so we got a bit delayed here. eventually jeff came to the rescue and we were off to his place to get changed and fuelled up. after a quick bowl of porridge we were on the road in to Dublin castle to get registered. We passed a steady stream of walkers who had started at 12midnight and were getting drenched by the seemingly relentless rain we were having. i found myself feeling sorry for them as they were obviously going to be out a lot longer than those running the event and already they were getting pissed on. then i snapped out of it and remembered i was going to be the one getting pissed on in about 90 minutes time.Registration was quick and all that was left to do was wait and hope for a ceasefire from the weather conditions. and low and behold thats what we got. Gearoid Towey gave a brief talk about what to expect and this was followed by a few words from the mountain rescue rep.
At 1.50am we got the go ahead and were off out the gate of the castle. i wasn't sure how quick to go out but i eventually settled in to a nice pace for the early road miles. Eoin Keith took off ahead of everyone else and after a mile, was only visible by the trendy flashing armbands he was sporting. i myself and  adrian tucker(who i met before the start) were next in line along with a couple of more lads i didnt know. after 7 or 8 miles through the suburbs we reached the more secluded surrounds and started to slowly ascend to Ballynultagh gap and the turn off at stone cross. Road coditions were quite slippy by now with a lot of slush on the ground from the earier bad weather. we started to meet walkers at this stage and they were quick to shout encouragement which was greatly appreciated and added to the sense of camaraderie that made the event so enjoyable.Maybe we were the ones who should have been shouting the encouragement as the walkers were going to be on their feet for a lot longer than we were. i was now running with adrian about 20 or 30 metres behind Eoin, still visible by those reflective armbands. The climb seemed to go on forever but i felt surprisingly good as i had now found a decent rythm and was it is probably easier to do this on a long steady climb than it would be if the road coninually undulated. The 3 of us reached Kippure house together and signed in at the checkpoint. Quickly upstairs to find our gear for the mountain section. The room was heaving with everyones extra gear and it took some effort to find our bags but with so many participating, that was to be expected. A quick change of tops and socks and a few gulps of coffee(mmmmmm cofffeeee!!) and off we went in search of Ballinabrocky. I must confess to my lack of navigational ability and thus the necessity to keep up with Adrian, who i knew was familiar with the route. In short, if it wasnt for him i would be still stuck on some exposed hill without a clue where i was going and by now frozen solid and preserved til someone came across me in one of the early season IMRA runs. Anyway Adrian was kind enough to let me tag along. After a couple of hairy navigational moments (during which i was positivey useless) we found our way and continued on to the next short road section to Ballynultagh Gap. Here we signed in again and began our ascent of Black hill. This again prooved difficult with such poor visibility and by now i was feeling more than a little sheepish about my inability to help with the nav( something i will need to have sorted before Lakeland 100 in July). We eventually managed to find Billy Byrnes gap and took a high line along the ridge down to the farm gate and on through a small forest section to the Wicklow gap road, where we were met at the forest entrance by checkpoint staff who had the porridge ready and waiting. i skipped this and elected to sample the flapjacks. i was pretty disappointed about the lack of coffee though which would have gone down a treat. you just cant please everyone, can you?!! We didnt hang around too long here and started the long drag towards table track. it was getting bright at this stage but looked like it was going to be a very overcast and foggy morning. and so it prooved as we made our way to Art's cross. Im sure my feet were frozen at this stage as we hiked our way up through the snow in search of three Lakes. Eventually as we came down the other side, the sun revealed itself and the view was nothing short of phenomenal. We must have startled a deer as we made our way to table track as it took off ahead of us and only added to the moment. The long decent down to barravore prooved difficult with the overly stony path not allowing for grip as most of the stone was frozen solid. But after a few near misses we got on to the flat for the last few hundred metres and to the car park where we were met by Joe Lawlor, who informed us that our finishing time was 8 hours and 40 seconds (should have upped the pace and tried to get under the 8) and happy to be finished. The Brew Crew had set up shop and were offering cuppa soup, the choice of champions after long events like this, and some much appreciated coffee. After a bit of banter with the lads at the finish we got on the bus up to the Glenmalure Lodge and continued the chat after a change of clothes and plate of scrambled eggs.
All in all a very enjoyable and well run event. Thank you to Gearoid and all the voluteers who madeit a success and everyone who shivered their backsides off, so that we could all have the craic.

Definately a race/event worth doing in 2012 for anyone thinking about it.

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