Day 9 – The Accidental Half Marathon

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Due to some drunken, but not entirely desperate, housewives I didn’t get to bed until two am this morning, which was roughly four hours later than I’d intended. The reason for the early bed time was today was to be my first proper trail run of the year, 11km around the hardest loop of Kinnity in the Slieve Blooms, which had me very excited but also a little nervous. We’d went for a family walk/hike around there last summer and I remembered it being quite steep and relatively heavy going on the odd occasion that day when I broke into a little run. As I’m not going to be doing a huge amount of running this year I really need to make sure that what running I do is all quality work, and ideally on hilly terrain, as that’s where the vast majority of my races take place.

I was up and about this morning at nine and was actually a little giddy at the prospect of getting to run some proper trails, so after a lovely espresso (cheers Skip) and an almost equally lovely bowl of porridge it was into the car and off to Kinnity. Fifty minutes later, all of it soundtracked by Rage Against the Machine at ear splitting volume, I was out of the car and perusing the map of the various loops and walks available to me. One small hitch was that I (stupidly) hadn’t charged my Garmin in days so as soon as I turned it on I got the ‘low battery’ message. Seeing as it would probably only last me five minutes or so there wasn’t much point in lugging Deep Blue around on my wrist  so I left it behind. Anyway, I was doing a simple 11km loop, ending up back where I started so I’d know how far I’d gone and I had my mp3 player with me so I’d know how long it had taken me.

The hardest part of the loop I’d chosen to do is probably the first few kilometres, which are all uphill and pretty steep, so it was slightly embarrassing overtaking the couple with the buggy who were just out for a Sunday stroll at roughly the same pace as a lorry overtaking a tractor on a country road, only with considerably more panting. Regardless I carried on my way, slogging and grinding my way uphill, ignoring the increasingly insistent pleas from my knees and lungs to stop. After some time I found myself at the top of this particular trail and began what should be the fun part of the run, but oftentimes in a race is as much of a struggle as the uphill – the downhill section. Today it was as it should be though and I could relax and enjoy myself, downhill, through the woods, at a really nice pace, quick enough and sloped enough that it felt effortless but not so quick that it was hard to pick my footing.

This carried on for a kilometre or two before levelling out and I found myself on a nice flat trail running along the very top of the particular hill I was on. I absolutely love this type of running, all by myself in the middle of nowhere in the beautifully sparse and somewhat harsh Irish countryside with the feeling that I could carry on for miles. When I find myself in this type of scenario I can’t help but run with a huge smile on my face, which as people who know me can testify isn’t an especially regular occurrence. I was enjoying my run so much that I wasn’t especially bothered about the fact that I wasn’t really following a specific path, just following the little yellow walking man and his arrows, ignoring the fact that the arrows were often of different colour.

After about forty five minutes the terrain changed from hills and forest to a swampy looking field beside a river, but the little yellow man was pointing over the gate, so despite the disparaging looks from the herd of cattle on the far side of the gate I was up and over it without delay. For the next ten minutes or so the arrows zig-zagged over and back across the river, under trees, through the muck and cow dung before I scrambled up a bank and found myself in a field at the back of Kinnity Castle (I think). Again though little yellow man was there so once more I unquestioningly followed, across the field and up another steep path, back in the direction from whence I came (again, I think). Things were starting to get really fun now as the arrows picked out a fantastic route right through the trees which had me hurdling roots and broken branches like a less generously coiffured but far cheerier John Rambo in First Blood.

Not long after I came upon a gentleman hiker, who seemed slightly bemused to find someone tackling the filthy terrain in such sparse clothing as myself – he was fully waterproofed and Goretexed up with backpack, hiking poles and everything, I had my trusty Brooks Cascadias, shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt – and thoroughly amused when I asked him if this was the route back to the car park. He said I still had a couple of miles to go, but then asked if I was referring to the car park in Cadamstown. When I said it was actually Kinnity I was looking for he said I might be going for a bit longer yet as Kinnity was another three miles down the road from Cadamstown. I had thought this might be the case but I was enjoying myself so much I was actually delighted at the chance to stay out for a while longer.

My enjoyment levels actually increased over the next couple of kilometres as I negotiated the muckiest, filthiest trail I’ve encountered since the bog section of Gaelforce last year. This time though I had a beautiful river coursing through some woods on my left and I was all on my own to enjoy it, with no time or pace to concern myself with either. The trail was extremely narrow and slippery, requiring plenty of concentration when I was descending, and just as much effort when I was ascending, but despite this the kilometre or two it lasted for was possibly the most fun piece of running I’ve ever done. My huge smile had been superceded by slightly delirious laughter and actual hoots of joy when I got to the top of each incline.

Eventually though the trail came to an end and I suddenly found myself in a field in the middle of nowhere, with a little farmhouse at the end of it. My trusty little yellow man pointed towards said farmhouse so off I went, and just as I approached it I could see a road beyond it. Coming out on to the road I have to admit my heart sank a little as not only was my fun and games in the mud over, but there was a sign directly in front of me saying Kinnity 5km, and I knew there was another three kilometres or so to go after that before I got to my car. Still, I knew there was nothing for it but to set off and put one foot in front of the other, and despite it being an exceedingly dull run for the next half hour or so, not to mention it being a very damp and dull day,  it couldn’t dampen my spirits. I eventually made my way into Kinnity and after that all I had to negotiate was a long, slow, steep drag for the next three kilometres or so back up to the car.

I eventually arrived back at my destination, some hour and forty five minutes or so after I left, which equates to between twenty and twenty two kilometres at my usual pace. Despite me making a bit of a cock of things and running for roughly twice the distance I’d initially planned I was actually ecstatic when I got back to the car. I was a little perturbed by the apparent lack of miles in my legs this week and was starting to get a little bit worried about the Wicklow Way Trail* race I had planned for the end of March. Now on top of having the most fun I’d ever had while out running I was also confident that if I needed it that I could go out and run twenty something kilometres right now, never mind in three months time.

Best Run Ever.

 

Rage Against the Machine – Killing In The Name

*http://www.imra.ie/events/view/id/944/

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