Day 96 – The Song That Almost Killed Phil Spector

Posted: April 25, 2012 in April
Tags: , , , , ,

So, if anyone has a list of things that you really shouldn’t do when hungover (you know, like looking for lost suppositories down a toilet, joining in on the bouncy castle fun at a kids party, line dancing, that sort of thing) here’s a new one to be added to the list – mountain running. I know that it seems like hangovers have been a bit of a theme of late but in fairness it’s only two, and that’s probably half my quota for the year. For a large portion of the year I won’t be drinking at all.

Anyway, we were on holidays, no kids, no work and my wife and I ended up having a few drinks. Quite a few drinks. As I’d previously mentioned one of my main reasons in coming to Westport was to get in some practice on Croagh Patrick and a fuzzy head and slightly noxious stomach wasn’t going to stop me, so after breakfast we hopped on our bikes and cycled the 12km out to the big grey bastard. It was actually really nice to be able to cycle around there at a very leisurely pace, as any time I’d been here and on a bike before it was as part of a race. On arrival we locked up the bikes, sorted our gear out, did some stretches and then set off to run up that mountain (well I did, my wife declared that to be “mental” and said she was going to take her own sweet time getting up there).

From the car park there’s a couple of hundred metres of a path then a long series of steps, all sloping gently upwards, before you get to the proper base of Croagh Patrick.  By the time I had made it to the top of the steps I was already sweating profusely and wondering how I was going to make it up there. I would have actually stopped my silly running and started walking there and then but there were some people looking at me so I kept going for a little longer at least. I spotted something on the ground just ahead, which on closer inspection turned out to be a camera. There was a family not too far ahead of me so I ran after them and, after catching my breath, asked them if they owned it. They didn’t, so I just stuck the camera in my backpack and called myself the new owner of a nice Nikon Coolpix (I jest, I was going to hand it in to the shop at the entrance on my way back out).

The first kilometre or so isn’t a particularly steep climb, but even there it’s quite rocky and there’s no one clear path. It was quite warm too at this point and I was already hurting and cursing each of the drinks I’d had the night before. By the end of that first kilometre I’d given up on my silly notion of running up the mountain and instead switched to a power hike/quick as I could walk. Although I felt dreadful, and was a little disappointed that I wasn’t running at this point, I was still moving considerably quicker than anyone else I passed. Admittedly none of them were red faced and covered in sweat but then this wasn’t a beauty pagent, so I just put my head down and kept grinding.

Twenty minutes or so into my hike I was reminded of what (surprisingly) hurt me most both times I’d climbed Croagh Patrick previously, which was my lower back. I’d presumed it would be my legs but once it starts to get steep (from about a kilometre and a half in) you adopt an unnatural stoop, which you then maintain for the next hour or so, which causes this horrible, dull, throbbing pain to worm it’s way around your kidneys and lower back. Anyone who grew up in a boggy region and had cruel, sadistic parents who worked them like dogs down the bog footing turf would be familiar with the sort of lower back pain I’m talking about. I knew at this point I wasn’t too far away from what’s known as The Shoulder on Croagh Patrick, which is a short levelling out at roughly the halfway point, just before it gets really steep and nasty. Despite telling myself that I could rest there and to just keep pushing on until then my legs and lungs had other ideas and called a momentary halt to proceedings.

After catching my breath for a minute I pushed on to The Shoulder then, where I stopped for another breather. Reaching The Shoulder lifts your spirits for a bit, you are at the half way point after all, and you have a few hundred metres where it’s almost level and you can actually run again for a bit. When you get to the end of that though you’re entering a world of hurt, and that was never far from my mind. The running stops, the grass disappears, and almost instantly you’re confronted by a wall of loose, jagged shale with a rough path wending it’s way up through it. There’s roughly a kilometre and a half of this to go but you can only ever see about a hundred metres or so ahead of you and it’s really quite disheartening. I remember during this section on Gaelforce there was bodies just scattered all over the place, people stopping for breathers every few yards and the only words you heard was “is it much further to the top?”.

The sweat was now running down my face and into my eyes like one of those little cartoon rainclouds was over my head and, just to mock me I’m sure, the sun decided to come out, to make it even hotter. As all the alcohol and toxins were leaving my body I was actually starting to get a bit dizzy and light headed and had to stop a couple of times just to focus. I was finally at a point though where I knew I only had about ten minutes more climbing and a couple more corners to turn before I could see the top, though seeing it and getting to it were an entirely different matter. After just a couple more episodes of whimpering and moaning and feeling sorry for myself though I finally got there and dragged my sorry arse up to the little church at the top. The ascent took me 1:02 (that’s an hour and two minutes, just in case there’s any misunderstanding), which was two minutes slower than my Sea2Summit time (for Gaelforce the first half we came up from a different side, which was slightly shorter, but I had a longer rest at the top).

Edit to say I’ve just checked my times and Sea2Summit ascent was 1:01:52, this time was 1:01:49. Dying of a hangover and three seconds quicker. Woohoo!

I had half a cereal bar at the top while I waited for my wife and took a couple of pictures, though they never do the view from up there justice.

It’s funny how quickly you forget the misery of the ascent when you’re at the top, so after a few minutes of waiting around I headed down to meet my wife and help her through her pain. Judging by the colour of her face when I finally did get to her she was in quite a bit of said pain, which to be fair probably wasn’t helped by me telling her it was another fifteen minutes to the top. She got there though, and after a brief chat it was time for the real business of the day, which was the descent.

I was pretty disgusted with my descent at Sea2Summit. I had a couple of really wobbly moments on the loose shale right at the top and I never felt at all comfortable or in control and just really pussyfooted my way down to the flat section. This time round I was determined to get down there quicker, and despite some slipping and sliding I zipped up my mansuit and just got on with it. I managed to get to the flat(ish) section in one piece and could actually think about running then rather than just staying alive. I absolutely love this bit of Croagh Patrick, on the way down it’s slightly downhill so it feels almost effortless to run it, and it’s not quite as rocky as the lower section so you can get your head up a bit and actually enjoy your run rather than just concentrating on the next three or four yards ahead of you.

The section after The Shoulder is sneakily steep though, and I’m nowhere near skilled enough at mountain running yet to be able to descend freely. Because of that I’m always trying to slow myself down, which absolutely kills your quads. Despite my best efforts on a couple of occasions gravity almost got the better of me and it was only by some extreme zig-zagging or jumping up on to a big rock that I managed to halt my downward progress. Ideally you want to get into a nice rhythm, keep your stride nice and measured and (here at least) keep picking your feet up nice and high so you don’t stub your toes on any rocks and send you sprawling (which is what happened to me at Sea2Summit but I miraculously managed to fall and slide on about the only three metre patch of ground that had no rocks in it). This sounds reasonably easy in theory but picking your feet up high and quickly is not especially easy to do when your quads are burning.

There’s definitely quicker, more direct routes than the one I followed on the way down but I stayed upright for all of it, and once I got past the shale stayed running for all the rest of it. I even managed something of a sprint finish down into the car park once I got past the steps. Finishing time was 33:45, which compared pretty favourably to the 40:28 from Sea2Summit, and had me absolutely delighted.

As soon as I got to the bottom it started to rain so I reached into my pocket to grab my hat but there was nothing there, or in any of my other pockets. I’d put it in there once I’d started running on the way down but it had obviously come out somewhere along the way. I was a little miffed as it’s a perfect hat for running, but on the other hand it does make me look with a penis with a neon condom on it, so I wasn’t entirely distraught. I popped into the visitor centre to see if anyone was missing a camera and sure enough an Italian lady had been in earlier to say she had lost it. The lady behind the counter had actually told the owner of the camera that she was virtually certain that it would be handed in as anything lost or found up there invariably did get handed in.  I told her that I hoped it held true for me than as well with my hat, and she assured me it would and took my name and number.

I went for a little walk back towards the bottom of the mountain to wait for my wife, stopping at a monument there to stretch for a bit. While waiting there an English chap who was there with his kids came over to chat to me. We were just making smalltalk for a few minutes, well mostly it was his kids grilling me about whether I’d run up it/down it/how long it had taken me/how my Camelback worked etc, when another gentleman (who I’d seen at the top and turned out to be a relation of the English chap) came over to me and handed me my hat. His nephew who he was walking with had spotted it on the way down and he’d recognised it as being mine. So what goes around, comes around, one good turn deserves another and karma and all that.

Once my wife (eventually) made it down to the bottom it was back on to the bikes and an even easier spin back to our lodgings. I had at one stage semi-seriously suggested doing Croagh Patrick again but on the cycle home we both agreed that maybe discretion was the better part of valour and just doing it the once was enough for this trip. We were supposed to be on holiday after all.


  1. Lupton says:

    I started reading this under the impression that you were just running up a bit of a hill. Then I saw the views from the top.

    So, to conclude, nuts to that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s