Sorry but even the mere sound of this post’s title already puts me to sleep: this stuff is technical and boring and very detailed, so please feel completely free to ignore it.
However, it is the sorta thing that fellow runners do ask about, and it is the kinda thing I needed to know before I even started getting into this ultra mountain running melarky.
So, purely for posterity’s sake, here is an account of my Wicklow Round logistics.
What I wore
Starting from the top, to avoid any chance of feeling cold on the Round, I always had my favourite Craft Pro Zero long sleeved top on. There was a wind chill on most of the first day, so above this, I donned my North Face Diad jacket. In reserve, I had a buff and Berghaus hat in my bag, just in case of any additional cold spells.
Below, I wore Pearl Izumi tights with zipped ankles – the zips allowed me to pull the tights up when it was warm, and to have their additional protection during cold or long heather moments.
I had smartwool socks on, which were permanently wet and muddy. Inov-8 Roclite 315s were my shoe of choice given how comfortable and reliable they are, though admittedly the grips are slightly less than ideal. Laces were duly duck-taped together. To avoid stones and debris from floating into the shoes during the river crossings, these were all capped with Raidlight mini-gaiters.
What I drank
I’ve had some really bad bonking experiences due to dehydration. So for the Round, I made sure I was well watered. For every hour out there, I drank a half a litre of water. Note that it was just water – no sports drinks or powders. Just plain old water. This meant that on the sub-23 hour run, I got through just over 12 litres of H2O. I opted not to drink from streams as I’m not so sure of the state of the Wicklow Mountains. However, this is a purely personal choice. Also I preferred to carry the water in my Inov-8 bladder and not be bothered about water stops along the way.
At each support stop, of which there were a total of eight, I drank a pint of full fat milk. This got a nice lot of calories into me. Milk also settles my stomach and helps me contemplate eating food again.
What I ate
Before starting the run, I drank a made-up banana milkshake of 2 bananas, a pint of milk, and frozen yoghurt. During the first twelve hours, I tried to keep to ordinary, savoury food and clocked up: 3 cereal bars; 2 egg sandwiches; half a cold marguerite pizza; 1 pork pie; 2 packets of crisps (different flavours); 1 chocolate caramel square; 1 packet of peanuts; 1 chocolate muffin; 1 large oat yoghurt-topped flapjack; 1 cheese and pickle sandwiches; and 1 banana.
After all that, my stomach was feeling a little fragile. So I started to switch to sweeter produce, as well as gels and energy bars which I find easier to swallow at a later stage. So for the next half of the run I ate: 1 Torq cereal bar; 1 chocolate and almond bar; 2 Torq gels (different flavours); 1 caffeine powerbar gel; 1 cinnamon swirl bun; 1 brownie; 1 seed bar; and 2 bananas. This is all in addition to the seven pints of milk I ended up drinking. Admittedly, I found it really hard to keep eating as time went on, and this is probably why I got more tired towards the end.
Basically, I ate one piece of food for every hour travelled. I also tried to never have the same thing twice. It was after much trial and error that I discovered the type of food that I can eat on the run: this is only possible to do during long training runs by bringing along different types of food.
I opted for the Inov-8 12 litre rucksack for the majority of the run (from Sally Gap to Tonduff North). At all other times, a small bum-bag (the Inov-8 4 litre) was all that was required. I went for the 12 litre option because, given that I was on my own in the mountains, I carried quite a bit of safety gear just in case of any injury or mishap. So safety wise, I had a survival bag, a GPS spot-tracker, and my mobile phone (in a waterproof bag) at all times. During the night, I carried in addition a spare top and my Berghaus waterproof trousers.
During the night section, I was also really glad to have the latest Petzl Myo XP headtorch that simply lit up the night. Just to also say that I didn’t stop to sleep: all I did was plod, plod, plod through the night.
Pace / Heart Rates
My training times between summits were taken by travelling at the bottom of my aerobic zone (a heart rate of 140-145). My proposed splits for the actual Round were these training times plus 10%. These were very generous splits that made me go slow, especially at the start. In addition, it meant that I never got behind time or had time pressures on me, which was great at relieving any sight of stress.
Towards the end of the Round, it became harder to raise my heart rate. For what felt like an effort of 140 beats per minute, my heart was only beating around 120. By the end, maximum effort produced a reading of around 138.
So there you go. All the minute details of my Wicklow Round. What I forgot to say was that the most important part of getting around is to eat your pride, drink lots of courage, wear confidence in yourself, and so prepare for one of the most life changing experiences ever.
Want to read more about the Wicklow Round? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears”.