Monday, August 27, 2012

The Knockmealdown Mountains Run

I went with the irrepressible Kevin Ring for a run on the Knockmealdown Mountains on Sunday morning. It was a delightful morning and the view across to the Galtee Mountains soaring up from a bank of fog was wonderful. We met up at the village of Kilworth and headed off to Araglin. From here we went a couple of kilometers north and found a suitable parking spot for the car on the narrow road. We had no set distance or circuit planned but from our parking spot on the Avondu Way we decided to go as far as Knockanchuillan and take it from there.

 From our starting point under Carran Hill the first few kilometers were along delightful country lanes. We were both feeling good and as usual my biggest problem was trying to ensure that Kevin didn't speed ahead with that long easy lope of his. When the first opportunity to break onto the open mountainside arrived we took it and headed up fairly gently sloping but slippery heathery ground for the top of Farbreaga and then to Crow Hill. After this came a delightful section when we rejoined the Avondu Way and ran gently for three kilometers uphill on fine tracks to the top of Knockclugga and turned north across rough ground to Knockshanchuillinn, at 652meters the highest point so far. Feeling good we opted to continue on to the next unnamed top three kilometers further on. This was tough going as it was across boggy ground with long grass and heather. Eventually we stood at the 630meter summit and looking down at the "Vee"  and being gluttons for punishment decided to drop down and go as far as Sugarloaf Hill. This meant a steep drop of 300 meters and an even steeper climb of over 330 meters up the other side. Eventually we reached the summit at 663 meters and sat for a while and had a bite to eat and drink and enjoyed the view.

We were tired (at least I was) and quite impressed with ourselves on reaching this point in two hours five minutes. After our rest it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity  to summit the highest in the range Knockmealdown itself at 794 meters. It was a mere three and a half kilometers away and didn't look that far on the map and only required an extra 250 meters of climbing. So almost predictably off we set. Fairly soon I was beginning to regret it but the dye was cast. We had estimated that it would take an extra half hour to get there and we arrived bang on time. A quick about turn and we retraced out steps to the col and down wet boggy ground to the road. From here we opted to follow the Avondu Way back to the car. It was tough. The many kilometers we had already travelled had taken their toll and I now found it impossible to run uphill so we walked those sections and ran the flat and downhill ones. Eventually we reached the car well nigh exhausted but really pleased with our effort. A total of 36 kilometers travelled, much of it across trackless wet bog and 1600 meters of ascent in four hours forty five minutes made for the toughest run both of us had ever done and I have no doubt it was in fact (in difficulty if not distance) a mountain marathon. Perhaps a bit of overkill as a training run for the Dingle Marathon which is on next week but a worthy day out in its own right. I think that this was near to the maximum effort I am able to make now but Kevin is a different animal. I suspect that even he is not aware of his potential and I know that he is capable of super feats in the future. I suspect though that we will not rest on our laurels.

One think I have to say is that despite the hardship it was, as always, much fun to have a day out with Kevin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fanore Burren Half Marathon Weekend

Fanore Half Marathon

August 17th;

What an action

Not as close as it looks
Glamping ?
Glaikit and Crabbit
I set off from work on Friday afternoon and picked up Frank and we headed to Fanore in the Burren, County Clare. This is one of my favourite places in Ireland and since I rediscovered the area last year is one of the areas I most look forward to visiting. Already in May this year I had been there and run the Ballyvaughan Marathon. That weekend I was blessed with beautiful weather and I was delighted to see that this time the weather once again looked set to behave. A very rare thing in this miserable summer (weather-wise) we have been having. We were in great spirits and when we arrived in Ailladie and looked out across the Atlantic towards the Aran Islands and across Galway Bay to the Twelve Bens we felt the holiday had begun. We parked our car and just wandered about soaking up our surroundings. There were quite a few people fishing from the ledges along the shore and we were looking forward to wetting our lines over the weekend. We set up camp and after a bite to eat went down to the shore to try our luck at fishing. I put it down to lack of practice the face that we came away empty handed after a couple of hours hard graft. Upon arriving back at the tents we discovered that another group had arrived (who had passed us going fishing as we returned complete with bottles of liquor) and that they had brought a pile of wood for a bonfire and a barbeque. This gave a pretty clear indication that a late and possibly loud party was planned so we decided to decamp from this spot and opted instead for a spot about 500meters north which although closer to the road offered the prospect of a quieter night. Re-erecting the tents didn’t take long and we enjoyed a peaceful night.

August 18th;

I hope nobody peed into that
Oops too late Frank

Happy the end is in sight
Mo who??
What a poser/plonker
All Scotsmen are giants
We awoke to a beautiful morning with clear blue skies and the promise of a warm sun-kissed day. We enjoyed lounging about and taking in the beauty of our surroundings. Yet again I was seeing The Burren at its stupendous best. I know I have said it before but it is a place that is unique in Europe and the rugged bleakness of the landscape is offset by the abundance of wildflowers that decorate everywhere that a bit of soil manages to cling to. Even without having the excuse of the half marathon to go to, the area is well worth a visit for its own sake. We enjoyed a filling breakfast of porridge and banana and coffee and rolls to follow. Quite the feast but we had two hours to go before the 11am start so the tummy would be well settled. Frank was entered for the 10K run and he had a great assortment of pre-during-race booster gels with him. I decided to carry two gel sachets with me. We strolled about and wandered deeper into the landscape and eventually left in good time for the village of Fanore. I say village yet it is really a pub and a shop at a crossroads. There were a few people milling about when we arrived but it was again clear that there wasn’t going to be a huge turnout. I was a little disappointed at this as in my mind it is an event that should draw people from far and wide. However the advertising of it is poor and the website isn’t great so I suppose a lot of people would be put off or be drawn to other slicker events. Still there was a nice atmosphere building and the day was glorious and both Frank and I were looking forward to it.

I left Frank to his own devices and went for a warm up jog. Back again and all of a sudden the start time arrived and we were off. I set off at a strong pace and covered the first two miles in just less than fourteen minutes. I was pleased with this and felt I had time in the bank for the more difficult sections that lay ahead. The route was altered this year and instead of going along the sea shore we wound our way instead through a caravan park set in sand dunes and after a short section running along a rutted track we arrived back on the road for another mile before again heading off road and heading uphill to join the “green road” that returned to the church at Fanore bridge. By now we had gained about 300ft to attain the “green road” and returned to sea level at the church. Any illusions that we had that this was an easy run were now well and truly dispelled. From the church we turned and ran up a beautiful little road that wends its way alongside the delightful river Caher. The going was fairly steep for about a kilometre where another 200ft was gained before easing off for the next few kilometres when the route joins the Burren Way. Here the steepest part of the route arrives and over the next mile 600ft is climbed across the shoulder of Slieve Elva. This is too steep in parts for me to run so I walked a fair bit of it and ran where I could.

Braving the chill
 After all this climbing comes the reward. A long flat section along the hilltop enables one to recover and enjoy the glory of the views. I was feeling fairly good and determined to have a good go at beating my time of 1hour 53mins from last year. So when eventually I reached the road and the long descent I ran as hard as I was reasonably able all the way to the finish. I covered the last 4.38 miles in 27minutes exactly. I finished in 1hour 47minutes and in fourth place. I was welcomed back by Frank who despite a pulled hamstring had finished the 10K and really enjoyed his outing. I walked about a bit and did some stretching and made up a protein drink for myself which I find greatly aids recovery after exercise. We then wandered the couple of hundred metres down to the rocky shore with a view to having a dip in the sea. A nice rock pool was soon spotted and I gingerly braved the water. It was bloody freezing and I limited myself to standing waist deep for as long as I could bear it. Still it was good for the legs and by the time I was back at the car and changed I was feeling good and I confess basking in the afterglow of what for me was a very satisfactory effort. Soup, tea and sandwiches were supplied and well fed and rested we headed to Ballyvaughan for a few supplies (tinnies) and back to Ailladie and our campsite. Another couple of hours fishing followed (Frank caught one mackerel) and an enormous portion of pasta was enjoyed for dinner. Then we sat and chatted into the darkness sipping our beers and had a great evening.

Sunday 19th;

Nice an easy

Not as easy

Nice climbs up the cracks

Lovely arret
Yet again we awoke to another excellent morning. A little more breeze was about and it was a little cooler but after the weather we had endured this summer any dry day was a bonus. A leisurely breakfast of coffee and “KitKat” and we packed everything up and went down the road for a few hundred metres to the crag to try our hand at some climbing. With all our travelling and the rubbish weather it had been quite a while since we had done any rock climbing but there were enough climbs at the easy end of the scale to ensure we would be kept busy. I led the first one. A nice easy 10metre arret they was an easy Diff or VDiff. It was just the job to ease back into things and we were off. Another shorter (maybe 7 metres) but more difficult route followed which took a bit of figuring out and rated perhaps a Hard Severe grade. We top-roped a few more before I led another 10mtr route at Severe. We were having a blast and we indulged in a late second breakfast of porridge and feasted in the wildflower meadow at the base of the crag. Back to the climbing and we got a couple of more routes in before the increasing cloud cover decided to remind us that rain is never too far away in this part of the world. So we packed up and readied for home. We didn’t mind the interruption and were very happy with our trip. Amazing as it seems and despite knowing him for years now, this was the first time Frank and I had managed to get away for a trip. We were soon on the road home listening to some music and reminiscing and planning for another trip. It was a lovely weekend, thanks Frank.

Led up right and toproped left
Loving it

Friday, August 10, 2012

Galtee hillrun and a little bi-athlon

Sunday August 5th;

Last Sunday I went with Kevin Ring to do the Galtymor Run. This is an Irish Mountain Runners Association event. About fifty turned up for the run on a cloudy muggy day. All the recent rain ensured that the mountain (boggy at the best of times) would be really wet and slippy. The route was a tough one. Starting in the Clydagh Valley it went up over Cush, down again then a long steep pull to the summit of Galtybeg and then along to Galtymor. Then turn around and retrace your steps back to the finish. 12Kilometers and over 1300mtrs of climbing. Kevin was struggling a bit with the effects of a cold and was still with me when we reached the summit of Cush, then though he started to feel better and took off and the next time I saw him was at the finish. He finished in an excellent sixth and I was very pleased to come in fourteenth in 1hour 58mins. From Galtybeg to Galtymor and back was horrendously slippy and mucky and just staying upright was a real challenge. I did have one fall coming down towards Cush when I went head first into a roll and sprung back to my feet all in one motion. It was fun. Back to a pub for tea and sandwiches afterwards ended a nice outing. I think Kevin has got the bug and I'm sure we will do more of these events.

On Tuesday with James Moore I went for another trail run over Bweeng Mountain. This was a 10.5 mile run with about 400mtrs of accent. We had had torrential rain overnight and about half a mile of one section was completely flooded and we had to splash through nearly a foot of water. Still it was good fun and we really enjoyed it. James is really coming on in fitness. The day is not far off when I will really struggle to keep up with him.

Thursday August 9th;

I decided to take advantage of a rare beautiful summer day and went for a bike ride this afternoon. I took my trail runners with me with the intention of climbing Mushera Mor and  making a biathlon of the outing. It felt great to be out on the bike. I'm not a great one for cycling in poor weather but on a day like this with no wind and glorious warm sunshine I was really enjoying myself. I took the road to Banteer and then the big hill up into Lyre and from there up to the large and impressive wind farm above Kilcorney. Here I left my bike and set off along the "Duhallow Trail" which wend its way through the woods and way down to the road to Rylane. From here it was another big pull to the pass at the top of the "Butter Road" at 460mtrs. Off road again here and across open ground with great views to the west and back to the bike. From here it was steeply down to Nadd and another hill and home. All in all I was out just over three hours with the run taking me 1hour 15mins. It was just great to get to enjoy the outdoors in glorious weather.