Wickow Way Ultra- Trust in your own self..

Wicklow Way Ultra 2015 – Trust in your own self….

I am not very good at running up mountains, in fact I just can’t run up mountains, I don’t like it at all. But, what I am good at is walking/hiking very fast up them and I just LOVE running down them as fast as I can.

Last Saturday was my second year in a row to have done the Wicklow Way Ultra and you know what? I think I am starting to love it…….

But it is hard work.

Saturday morning at Johnny Fox’s was super social, there was the weather for it, warm and sunny (a cool enough breeze), hand-shakes and hello’s, cheer off the early starters, sitting out, bums on bonnets, having the chat.

This year I wasn’t as nervous, I knew what was ahead, I had felt great all the way along last year, this year should be fine………okay so I hadn’t done as much hill work as last year and I started training later than I had hoped and I definitely missed out on a long run where I should have been doing one, it’ll be grand, all I want to do is run it a bit faster than last year…..good luck!

9.20am and we gather around for Dermot’s race briefing, I am struck by the lack of women runners, I turned and had a good look around, could there have been seven, eight maybe nine? I’m not sure. I did spot a few girls at the early start too. Clapping, good lucks and we were off….

Off up the road we went, the sun shining, all is good. Down to the left off the main road, a little smile as we are now officially on the Wicklow Way. Here goes……

The first climb up was fine, running a good section of it, taking off my layers of tops (I had gotten cold standing around waiting to start and layered up a bit too much) and trying to stuff them in my back pack. Temporary equipment failure for the next few miles as my jacket kept coming loose from the elastic straps of the backpack and I could feel it falling, doing my best to stuff it back while running as fast as I could down the trail after Prince Williams Seat, I then had to stop as I dropped gels and bars. Once I got going again all I could hear was a little creaking squeaking noise from inside my pack and it started to drive me nuts!

Although it seemed minor this got me addled and irritated and I proceeded to have a back to front, topsy-turvy race where the first 8-12 miles were pretty shitty to the point where I thought I might stop at the half way and get the bus back. I hit the bridge at the Glencree River 8 miles in at the same time as last year but I was already feeling tired, my stomach felt sick, my hands were completely swollen, my legs were not in the flow (I had skipped my ritual of a pre-race massage which I will never do again!) and more important, my head was not in the groove and I was getting really pissed off….. with myself.

But this is the beauty of ultra- races that I most adore. The great adventure is not just getting up and down off those mountains and hills and getting to the finish but meeting yourself, your absolute own-self along the way. And trusting that person that you meet, that whatever decision you take will be the absolute and true one for you at that very moment on that very day, it is just you and your own self (in the depths of misery and total self-pity!)

So I made a decision and trusted myself…..

I love it around Maulin and I started to feel better and at that point I knew I was going to continue and finish. It was around here that I met Pat Rogers and it was great to have a chat and although I didn’t realise it at the time it was such a welcome distraction from my inner moaning, so thank you Pat!

I knew once I got over the other side of Djouce that there was a great runnable section down to Ballinastoe and I decided to look forward to seeing my friends come up on the trail and my goodies in my drop bag waiting for me.

So from thinking this is not my day, I can’t do this today, to thinking you know what I am going to get this done, I just don’t care now how long it takes me, to the realisation that I am now going to get to Ballinastoe ten minutes faster than last year, how the hell did that all happen in the last few miles from the Glencree River?!? This is what I love about ultra-races, its nuts!

Wow meeting the trail runner’s moments after they took off was like coming face to face with a herd of gazelles, I had to let out a roar a few times, in fairness it would be terrible to get trampled down after only just deciding to stay in the game! So I grabbed my drop bag and hit the trail for home eating on the move. I had no space at all in my pack so I pretty much ate everything in my goodie bag. Stuffed to the gills I hiked my way back up out of Ballinastoe, over Djouce and ran as fast as I could all the way down the other side.

All the way to Crone Woods car park was great, I took a drink of water and an apple and kept running knowing I could run all the way to the Glencree river bridge, along the river bank up to the grassy hill. It was around here that I realised if I kept at what I was at I would come in faster than+- last year.

Along the river bank there was a few of us running along- side each other, there was a bit of banter going on, my run/walking strategy was described as “strolling” by a fellow runner!

I took a couple of Jelly-Babies from Mick and his boys at Curtlestown, thank you! Up the last of the climbs, “strolling” as fast as I could up the hill. The excitement kicking in that this day, which started out so hard, was nearly over. The excitement kicking in that I was actually going to do it faster than last year. The excitement of trusting in yourself that all would be ok when you felt so terrible 20 miles ago, 20 MILES ago!!

I have a strategy for the day, walk/hike as fast as I can up the hills and run as fast as I can on the flats and the downs. It works well so when I got to the top of Prince Williams Seat I knew I could run fast down the hill to the finish. There are two things that I just love about this point in the race, coming around the corner and seeing the main road below through the trees, I could hear the cheering from the finish. Oh my god I am nearly there! And being a road runner normally, hitting the tarmac on the track down……bliss at 30.5 miles!

Up to the main road, maybe half a mile from the finish, I am working out in my head if I have half a mile left and I can go whatever pace then I might actually get this damn thing finished in-under 6 hours.….. 5hrs 58 minutes and I am finished a happy girl.

It can be hard to describe the day in a few words….it’s this crazy, adventurous, compellingly personal, wonderfully sociable yet largely solitary day in the hills and I think that’s why I am starting to love it so much!



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