This is a short report about the Circuit of Avonbeg mountain race, which I took part in today. It's a race on the calendar of IMRA (Irish Mountain Running Association), and is one of the longest, toughest ones of the year. Check out www.imra.ie for more info on this great sport - much of which, in this country, takes place in the Wicklow mountains.
It was a truly spectacular race today. Relatively lucky with the weather, at the start I didn’t think visibility was going to be good, but it picked up, and from the top of Lugnaquilla we could even see the sea! Otherwise it was chilly, windy, sunny at times, and about 3 big showers, but could have been worse.
Anyway, thanks to Aidan for all his navigational help around the course – we kept apace with each other for most of the race, and when we separated, I did get a bit lost I must confess, and wasted quite a bit of time scrambling around in miscellaneous forests near Conavalla, including falling on my ear more than once!
But, to start at the beginning – we took our time going up Lug (the first of about 6 peaks we were to climb), making it in a comfortable 90 minutes.
From there, we had the most enjoyable part of the race - must have been quite a few miles of the most blissful downhill mountain running you’re likely to come across.
From there it was up to Camenabologue, the first manned checkpoint, and then down to the bottom of the valley, from where my aforementioned adventures happened.
But, no harm done (apart from getting soaked and a lot of minor scrapes on my leg), and managed to catch up with Aidan somewhere between Lugduff and Mullacor (the final manned checkpoint).
By that stage the whole field (35 runners) had got very spread out, and indeed I hardly saw anybody throughout the 2nd half of the race – of course by the time I got to Mullacor, the winners – and well done to Colm Hill on a sensational winning time of 2.30 ish (I think) would have long been in the clubhouse (so to speak).
Anyway, from Mullacor, it was basically down to the Wicklow Way, and a slow trudge back to the finish line, which I crossed in a not so impressive 4 hrs 35 mins.
But, hey, at least 30 mins of that was spent going the wrong way!
The entire race is approx 1100 metres of ascent, and is approx 26 kilometres in length, although I reckon I ran closer to 30.
So, lessons learned for next year (brush up on my navigational skills), and a great day out in the Glenmalure Valley (the most scenic part of Wicklow), albeit maybe the toughest single sporting event I've ever taken part in.
Highlights – the great descent from Lugnaquilla and the descent/flat parts from Conavalla through to the saddle between Lugduff and Mullacor.
Lowlights – I don’t mind the sore muscles in my legs, but I could do without the 2 big blisters (one on each toe!).
Most of all though, I’d like to say thanks to the volunteers, especially the race director and the summit marshalls.
Looking forward to cracking 4 hours next year.