Saturday, June 29, 2013

Agony and Ecstasy..The Sheep's Head Run

Some days are just great. Pish weather turns to glorious sun, several hours spent running in astounding surroundings enjoying great company. A nice and really necessary feed afterwards and home to a lovely woman, a good meal and a brew. Does it get better??.

Never too despondent when he 's holding a banana
This morning my alarm went off before 06.30 and I rose blearily to ready myself in good time to get the train to Cork to meet Kevin at 08.00. We were heading west to beautiful west Cork to have a run on the Sheep's Head peninsula. We prevaricated the previous day as to whether to head there at all due to contrasting weather forecasts but when I checked in the evening it looked promising so we were set. Dull was the best description of the weather in the morning but we set off in great spirits and full of optimism of better near the coast. Our optimism seemed well founded as we entered blue sky territory about an hour before we reached our destination. Our delight then turned to, well less than delight, when we entered a bank of sea fog just as we entered the area for our run. Ah well we were here now so even as we parked the car with nothing in the way of a view to be enjoyed we decided that the fog actually made the whole experience more atmospheric.

Down below the fog nearing Kilcrohane

So shortly after 10.30 we were off into the wild landscape and we were immediately delighted with the good condition of the trail and how well it was signposted (quite important in the conditions). We were quickly into a good rhythm and we twisted and turned and went up and down in a torturous topsy turvey route that required our full attention in order to make steady and safe progress. One thing for sure we were enjoying ourselves. We planned to run from the carpark in Tooreen near the end of the "way" not far from the lighthouse in an anti clockwise direction towards Kilcrohane, first of all along the southern side of the "Poets Loop" and then the southern side of the "Cahergal Loop" before finally joining the "Peekeen Loop" and returning along the northern side of these three. I know we had had some dry weather recently but the general condition of the route was superb. Almost nothing in the way of muck and bog barred the way and where we did come across some there was usually stepping stones or a bridge to east the way. All was going swimmingly until we reached BallyRoon where we took a wrong turn and followed the wrong "Loop" and we had ended up running on the road for 4 kilometers into Kilcrohane followed by another 2.5 to the col west of Seefin Hill. This meant we had an uphill pull of nearly 150 meters so when we reached the crest we had a nice rest and a bite to eat.
It was a long uphill pull to the col

Still a bit of energy left..don't ask!

Another half a mars-bar

Heading for the sea

By now we had covered approximately 17 kilometers climbed around 500 meters and been on the move for about two hours. I have to say though that it is almost impossible to really talk about actual length covered or height gained because as I said earlier when we were off road we were constantly switching back and forth and a few steps up were immediately followed by some down. This as you can imagine takes its toll and I was already a bit fatigued, Kevin however seems to be like the energiser bunny and appears to have almost boundless energy reserves, but then he really trains hard and looks after himself very well. He is good though and never lets me dwell on my lesser abilities and is never less than encouraging and up-beat. Anyway after our rest we were off again, this time along the Peakeen Ridge where we were once again off-road and we were still climbing for a considerable while all the way to the summit of Caher Mountain (not I hasten to add the third highest peak in Ireland at 1001 meters found in the Reeks in Kerry). Again the trail was rough but immanently run-able but fatigue was starting to become a factor as was the fact that my calves were inclined to become prone to cramping. I guess that dehydration might be a factor as I only took .75 of a liter of water with me and by now the weather had turned out glorious and a warm breeze and sun were the order of the day. Still there was nothing for it but to go on and lets face it everywhere all about there was so much to draw the eye and inspire the soul. A long downhill section followed across some of the toughest terrain of the day and eventually we rejoined the northern side of the Cahergal route. Wow!, from here things actually got even more stunning. We were now near the sea and we passed some ruins of an old mining community and we were on some of the best, most fun and inspiring trails that I have ever been on. Now the sections when I had to walk became more frequent and Kevin had given his knee a nasty jolt so it was easy to take it a little easier and with scenery like that which surrounded us walking gave us a chance to lift our gazes and drink in the views. There was soon a lovely stretch of just over a kilometer which went gently downhill and a straight springy turfy trail ran all the way to a rocky inlet where there was a poignant tribute to three young girls that lost their lives in this spot over a century before. Breaking waves of aquamarine sea resounded and a stream met the sea with a beautiful little cascade so we rested in this haven for a bit. Ahead the trail rose and fell and hugged the cliff edge and we started to wonder whether we would see the lighthouse that marked the extremity of the route appear after each crest we passed. Wow we were tired by now and the end seemed, and was, a long time coming but eventually we reached the lighthouse and after a quick little explore we sat and basked in the glory of the surroundings and the day. We were pretty exhausted but proud of our efforts. Oh dear, but the steps back up the hill were torture to my rapidly seizing legs and after a while I decided that it was just as easy to run/shuffle along the remaining kilometer to the car.
I bet life was tough here at one time

Tragic past but a glorious spot

This is typical of the type of ground especially on the last six kilometers

A view back from near the end

Little lighthouse

Little Poser :o)

No pictures I can take do the place justice
So after about 35+ kilometers of up down round and about in the most wonderful surroundings and after a bit over four hours we were done. Exhaustion and hunger were prevalent but nothing could hide the smiles.
A rapid replenishment of fluids and a big bowl of soup with a homemade scone was quickly followed by a huge portion of Apple pie and cream and tea and soon hunger was sated and I started to feel vaguely human again. I think we were a source of some bemusement to the other visitors in our disheveled and exhausted state but the lady in the cafe treated us well, hence the huge portions etc. I felt a bit sorry for Kevin as he had to face into the two hour plus drive back but I loved being able to sit back and relax and enjoy the views on the way home. Back in Cork we said our goodbyes and we are really looking forward to our next adventure when we are off to Connemara in the West of Ireland in a couple of weeks for a few days, if we have one day that is anywhere near as good as today it will make it a great trip. Now where's my Van Morrison CD..."When its not always rainin--there'll be days like this....oh my mother told me--there'ed be days like this..na na na nanana"