Wicklow Way IMRA Race 2017 / 1st place, 1hr 56m (Strava activity)
Third time lucky on the Wicklow Way. Today I was happy for loads of reasons. One, the warm sun was shining. Two, I got to run in the mountains. Three, I love racing and had a good race. Four, my ankle injury is history – first race in 4 months. Five, I met some nice people who speak my lingo. Six, I came out on top. Seven, my nutrition plan worked. Eight, the Waterford Greenway officially opened – Kilmac has never been as busy.
IMRA races are great for the social, friendly atmosphere, combined with tough mountain routes and the spectacular scenery we get to run through. The Wicklow Way Trail, renamed after pioneer Maurice Mullins for Skerries (read this Irish Times report on the man or well worth watching this 13 minute video on his life.), is a 26km race from Ballinastoe in Wicklow to Glencullen in Dublin. You climb over 4-5 valleys in that time (800m+) – up Djouce mountain, over the Dargle Valley, past Powerscourt Waterfall, down Crone Woods (halfway), around Curtlestown with a final push up Prince William’s Seat and then downhill into Glencullen Valley.
This year I was apprehensive, as it was my first race since December, when I sprained my ankle. I missed the cross-country and duathlon season, so was keen to get back racing.
I’d been 3rd in 2013 and 2016 (race report here) – behind clubmate Brian Furey on both occasions. I knew Brian wasn’t racing but you’re never sure who’ll show up. Mourne runners from Co. Down or young bucks from UCD. None showed thankfully.
From the start, I was ahead. Passing ultra-runners who already had 2hrs in their legs makes you feel good and fresh, but also a bit shy as you’re “only doing 26km”, not 52km.
Friendly faces on the trail, plus encouragement from other runners. Beautiful views all round. Snow-capped peaks on Djouce & Kippure in the distance. Contrasted by sun overhead, bluey skies and calm seas behind Bray & Greystones. It was a stunning place to be. I was jealous of the hikers, who had time to stop & take it all in.
My mind wandered. I was comfortably ahead after 5km on Djouce shoulder, but by halfway at Crone Woods, a handy triathlete, Andy Gray, was only 100m back. So I got into gear – I figured I was stronger on the climbs than the descents. I pushed up those steep climbs and built a lead, passing Ultra runners along the way. I tried to visualise chasing an imaginary runner ahead – Brian Furey since he was my nemesis before.
My nutrition plan worked well. Since I met Barry Murray last year, I’ve adapted what and when I eat. I trusted my belief that a fat based diet works. A simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, ½ avocado and crackers with coffee. Tasted good. No food or water in the build-up.
Race nutrition was light – just 2 dates with nut butter in my pocket, plus ½ banana and water at the food stop halfway. I felt strong and didn’t crave gets, bars or drinks. I’m glad it worked. Fat adaptation can work – thanks Barry.
Race finish was lovely in Star of Erin GAA Club, followed by nice pints in Johnny Foxes Pub. Talking to people who’ve run UTMB and plan 20hr races in northern Italy or around the Lake District. It got me thinking – 26km is just a warm up. What’s next?