WAR Powerscourt was my first adventure race in Wicklow and I really had a great time. Those hills and mountains feel like my backyard, as I train there so much, but it was nice to have a big race in familiar settings. Still I managed to get lost…but held onto finish 3rd.
“You’re doing surprisingly well” was the first bit of encouragement I got from a marshal in WAR Powerscourt on Saturday. I didn’t know whether (a) he recognised me and thought I was performing way beyond my station, being 2nd on the run up the Sugarloaf or (b) he hadn’t a clue who I was but wasn’t expecting us pesky runners arriving on the Sugarloaf so soon. Sure wasn’t he only getting set up and what’s the rush?
Anyway, I hope it was the latter, so I took it as encouragement and kept plodding up the steep loose rocky incline. The panoramic views around the summit were spectacular – running north you could see Killiney Hill sweeping down to Bray and inland was Enniskerry and Kilmac somewhere underneath. With clear blue skies, this was a great autumnal day to be out for an adventure race around Wicklow.
The course involved a loop through the Wicklow Mountains, starting in Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry and covering ground on bike to the Sugarloaf, running up said rock, then onto Roundwood Reservoir to paddle around in a kayak. Back on the bike and up the Sally Gap, then flying down Glencree Valley (weeeee!!!) with a 2nd run up Maulin, before peddling back to Powerscourt. Sounds easy right?
I really enjoyed the race, the course was through some beautiful countryside and we were so lucky to have a nice clear & fresh day. Pity I didn’t have time to stop and take some snaps. I got race #4 from Brian, so figured he’d estimated I’d have a bit of work to do to catch perennial winner Peter O’Farrell, local favourite Noelie Kavanagh and 2:17 marathon runner Barry Minnock. So a podium position was my target.
I figured my running would keep me in touch but Peter could pull ahead on the bike. I also forgot that the kayak section was on 2-man kayaks, unless you brought your own. Schoolboy mistake. The lads had their own kayaks – fast nimble single kayaks, whereas I had to trudge around in a 2-man kayak – on my own! I lost over 7 minutes to the lads, which was disheartening – lesson learnt for future races. My hill runs were strong and I was close enough to Peter and Noel on the bike.
Moments of Panic
I did have other moments of panic (after the kayak drama). First, on the Maulin run, I was comfortable in 3rd, on my own for ages, but thought I’d missed a turn on the mountain when we started descending over a gate, rather than climbing to the top of Maulin. My mind was racing and cursing myself for getting lost (it’s a trend in my mountain running!). So I had given up but kept going and only after 5mins downhill, did I see a timing point and realised I was still on track. My spirits rose again and I was still in 3rd. On plan!
So I cycled back to Powerscourt and relaxed as I entered the estate. I was home and dry. Like the last lap on the track, this was when I could soak it up. Screech, not when I missed the last turn about 300m from the finish and did an extra 1.5km loop through the estate. Again I was cursing myself for poor attention to signs or knowing the course from the map. Agh. Such a sick feeling. So I crossed the line with a scowl rather than a smile. There were loads of people around, so I’d assumed I hadn’t even come top 5. But then Mossy and Noel from DAR congratulated me and I realised I had come 3rd – Barry wasn’t breathing down my neck so I had time to make all those dramatic turns around the estate.
Ok, back to a high again – my heart and emotions can’t put up with all these highs and lows. So now I could relax in the sun and watch everyone run (some with helmets still on) or cycle (they forgot to rack their bikes!) over the line. It was such a nice tranquil setting to finish in. I finished it off with a nice Avoca lunch on the terrace of Powerscourt House. Yum. The prizes from 53 Degrees North were excellent, so well done Brian and crew. WAR is on the list for next year.