Friday, July 20, 2007

Account of the Round Success by Tony

Wicklow Round Chapter -2

Well after our disappointing first attempt back in late May the team decided to give it one last go before we went our separate ways for the summer, some back to running sub 33min 10ks, some to an ‘up-only’ mountain marathon in Switzerland, while some needed to get in decent training? for the other sequel of the year, The Tour du Mont Blanc ‘Tallaght Fits Back’.

The date was set for 5 weeks time, 30th June for the following reasons :
· Longest weekend of the Year (max daylight, minimise the night time section)
· Full moon on the 30th.
· The crap weather we had on our first attempt would definitely be well gone after 5 weeks, hoping for the return of the summer sunshine we had when we were kids that would dry out all the boggy shite which epitomises the round………..!

We decided to get a few more reccee’s in before the 2nd attempt.

As you may recall we pulled out on our first attempt at Glenmacnass, so one Sunday we planned to go from there back to Curtlestown to exercise some of the demons / somewhat morally complete the round if you like….!

Well, it was lashing rain as we drove up to the start along the Military Rd towards Glenmacnass and didn’t stop raining for the whole day.
We had to do a 4-person river crossing of the Inchavore river as it was in flood, then we had to take a major detour around Luggala as we couldn’t cross the Cloghoge Brook due to it being in major flood.
Aisling went in up to her chest while trying to cross the source of the Dargle river at the base of War Hill and Tonduff , praying her new mobile phone was still dry.
To make matters worse we tried to take a different route off Tonduff and cross the Glencree river heading to Prince William Seat but again it was also in flood.

Anyway I dread what the rivers would have been like if we continued on the night of our first attempt in ever worsening atrocious weather conditions !.

The funny thing is, in my earlier life as a white water kayaker, I spent 8 years praying for rain every day, even the Irish white water guide book says “It doesn’t rain as much as people think in Ireland, most grade 4 or 5 rivers only come up a couple of times a year” and that only in winter!!.

The other reccee we wanted to do was a night time reccee from Drumgoff to Turlough Hill to finish at the Wicklow Gap.

We headed off from Drumgoff at 10pm and made great progress until we hit zero visibility between Camaderry and Turlough Hill, after some time wondering totally blind in the heater and bog we literally hit the fence around Tourlough Hill only coming into view when it was no more that 10mts from us. To make matters worse, Eugene Coppinger had to get Aisling out of bed at 2.00am to drive down to Glendalough as his car wouldn’t start.

As I said we had planned our second attempt for the 30th June, and I somewhat obsessionally began checking the long term 15 day forecast 2 to 3 times every day, my internet home page was changed to or

But no luck, June seemed to be the wettest month on record, it looked like we were never going to get a break.
The attempt for the 30th was cancelled with one last and final date of Sat 7th set, if it wasn’t going to happen for the 7th then we weren’t going at all this year.

The master of doom and gloom RTE weatherman gave a reasonable forecast for the 7th with light showers during the day becoming clear on Sat night with rain coming in from the west to reach all areas on Sun afternoon.

Happy days, a slight break in the weather, the round was back on!!!

As Aisling was on International duty in France she wasn’t able to take part in our 2nd attempt, this was to be a big loss to the team, no constant nattering, no photographs and a chance that without her (bullying) motivation the team may not find the final sprit to complete.

The big day again arrives:

Eugene Coppinger brought us to the start at Kippure for out 11.00am start and was to be in support with us for the entire round, a massive commitment on his behalf.
Finnula Doherty and Grainne O’Brion had planned to meet up with him at Drumgoff and all 3 stayed in support for the entire attempt.

I cant stress enough how vitally important your logistical support is, without them there is no round. Anybody thinking of attempting the round needs to very carefully plan and manage this to maximise their chances of finishing.

Anyway, we were met by Joe Lawlor and Nora at the start, 3-2-1 and we were off yet again !!

We had planned our times to hopefully complete around 27hrs and by the time we met Joe and Nora out for a leisurely stroll at the summit of Gravale we were 8 minutes ahead of schedule.

The ground conditions were very bad under foot and we slipped-slidded all the way to Ballinagee Bridge where we met Eugene bang on schedule at 4.30pm.

Visibility had been great with the most frustrating thing been having to stop to take on and off our goretex rain jackets 10 to 12 times as we dodged the rain showers.

Then the dreaded drag up Oakwood, across the boggy wasteland to the 3 lakes and onto Lugnaquillia via Table Mountain.

Just as we came down off Lug it was engulfed in a thick dark cloud, you could virtually reach up and touch it, it was so low over our heads. We dreaded what it would have been like if we had of reached Lug any later!!.

At this stage we where dreaming of Hot food at the base of Croaghanmoira where or next support stop was and made good steady progress through what seemed to be twice as high heater and grass (as our first attempt) as we came down off Carrawaystick heading for Slieve Maan.

Hot food and a change of clothing was the order for our stop and through the dim light of our head torches we could see the ever worsening state of our feet. After having wet feet since the very start at Kippure we all had various degrees of trench foot and blisters. My experience of trench foot at last years Rogaine worried me as I ended up hobbling in excruciating pain with it.

Anyway the night time section was now afoot so on we marched with our spirits lifted with hot food and dry clothes and a shit load of encouragement from the Eugene, Fionnuala and Grainne.

The drag up the summit of Mullacor after you left the fire road was a bitch and the section down to the turn onto the Derrybawn ridge was very bad due to the condition of the bog and very large sections of bog water we had to cross.
This was to pale into insignificance with the dreaded rocky gully section down off Derrybawn to the Glendalough track, this section is very dangerous at night and you could very easily do yourself an injury made even worse as the heather had closed in over the track making it difficult to see where to put your feet or how deep the holes were.

We eventually got down to our next check point where our support was being eating alive by midgets. Two of the team decided to pull out at this stage after 16hrs and live to fight another day.

We stepped off the track for a moment going up Camaderry just before the forest and found ourselves in head high ferns, were the hell did these come from, we were to meet these dreaded ferns may times over the next few hours.

The dawn broke just as we summitted Camaderry, this for me was a major milestone as I knew once you make it through the night we had a great chance of finishing. The sky was clear and the sun began burning off any mist that was still lingering on the hills. We had a great view off Tonelagee and I couldn’t see any signs of darkening clouds coming from the West bringing the supposedly forecasted rain.
We still had 3 rivers to cross and I hoped the rain would stay off until we were clear of them.

The problem is the wet bogs have no more storage capacity and is that it doesn’t take much more rain to bring up the rivers into flash flood possible making them impossible to cross.

Anyway the sun was splitting the stones as we rolled into Glenmacnass, the place we pulled the plug 6 weeks before, it was now 8am on a lovely Sunday morning, with the homeward section just ahead of us.

I believe the secret of completing the round is not to dwell to long at the support stations, get out of them and keep going, the longer you stay in the stations the more likely you are to pull-out.

Made good and steady progress up Scarr and down over Kanturk ? to the Cops area at the Inchavore river were we met a troop of scouts camping having a ball by the river.
Not us, we had a very tough time climbing up through those bastard ferns up to Knocknacloghoge
and also up Luggala.

Now came for me the most frustrating part of the round, we had decided to head West off Luggala and then North down to our next checkpoint at Sheepbanks bridge.
We found ourselves up to our neck in head high gorse, reeds and ferns and to say it was very slow progress was an understatement.
As in hindsight the route to take at this time of year would have been to head East off Lugalla down to Pier Gates and then up the board walk to Djouce.

We were then met by Kevin ‘ The old Man of Wicklow ‘ who it is rumoured knows more areas of Wicklow than Joe Lalor !. Kevin had been a marshal stationed on Djouce and when we didn’t show up on time came down looking for us. Kevin asked could he join us for a while and he stayed with until Tonduff North. Kevin is one of these guys that hillwalks by himself and never gets lost ‘he just re-locates himself’.

From Djouce to the Kippure Service Rd Entrance went fairly well, however our paced dropped significantly as the effects of fatigue really started to set in.
We were met once again by Joe Lawlor on the Military Rd heading for Glencree who seemed delighted to think that we might now finish the course that himself and Brian Bell had conceived over a few pints the previous year.

After reaching the long drag up to Prince William Seat we could virtually taste the finish, Garry was dreaming of a bath with a few can of Budweiser, I was dreaming of stuffing my face in Eddie Rockets. After 32 hrs of energy bars and drinks the thoughts of somewhat proper food was unbearable .

Now for the most boggest and wet section of the round, the route from PWS back onto the Military Rd via Knocknagun, we both agreed it summed up the whole round, wet and sloppy boggy shite all the way !!.

Now picture the scene:
It is now 8.42pm
We are 33hrs 42min on the go
We have approx 2km of slightly uphill tarmac road to the finish.
We can both barely walk let alone run.
We want to break the 34hrs !!

Off we went at a shuffle which seemed to us like a sprint , Liam O’Rian was driving beside us and kept us informed of the time minute by minute, we had to break the 34hrs, we just had to.

Finally the finish came into view, the support crew had pulled a finishing tape across the road and were shouting and cheering us all the way.

Was it to be Clonliffe or Tallaght AC that would take the glory, were we going to be able to keep running for the line or be forced to walk over the finish ?

And then suddenly the finish line was upon us and we both instinctively ducked for the tape…
Those 400mt speed sessions on the track had finally paid off !!

And it was all over,
We had done it, the time was 33hrs 56min 18sec.

4 months off planning, 2 attempts, and 52 ½ hrs later we had crossed the line.

How to sum it all up.

To go back to my kayaking days’
They said that all kayakers worth their salt should attempt and complete the Liffey Decent (17 mile race held in flood conditions over 12 weirs) at least once in their career. (I managed to complete 7).

Well, all Hill Runners worth their salt should have a go at the round at least ………?

As for our crew,
I cant and daren’t speak for the others but I will be back next year with Aisling to knock some time off the World Record.

The Crew for 7th July
· Garry Moralee
· Liam O’Riain
· Niall Coppinger
· Tony Kiernan


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