I needed a good dose of Ireland’s mountains when I got back home in April. So where better to head than to Wicklow, and to the Valley of Glenmalure?
I have a habit of following the IMRA race calendar when I’m away from home, looking at the up and coming races, checking out the results and race reports. In recent years, a few new race routes have come on board, ones that I would have loved to do if I was still living on the Emerald Isle.
The Circuit of Avonbeg in particular looked like my kind of race – 26 kilometres with 1,345 metres of climb, with 6 summits to bag including the province’s highest one. So, seeing that I had a few days spare, I decided to go out and run the route for fun.
The owners of the B&B where I was staying in Laragh was kind enough to drop me to Drumgoff crossroads. I then ran part of the Wicklow Way backwards to get to the base of the zigzags and the race start.
The last time I had been at Art’s Lough was on the 2008 24 hour Rogaine. Beautiful though it is, it was just as wet and boggy as I remember it back then. The ramp up towards Clohernagh was easy enough to find. However my rusty navigation (not used for over 2 years now) meant that I took not a great line to the summit.
Once on top of Clohernagh, the memories came flooding back. It’s the silence that I miss most when I’m away. The only sounds that kept me company that day were the wind, the odd bird song, the rhythmic sound of my footsteps, and the gentle rub of my backpack shifting around. What I don’t miss though is the cold. I hadn’t even reached Lugnacoille and the hail stones came pelting down. And then the sun came out. Ireland’s schizophrenic weather kept me guessing throughout the day.
I ran on to Camenabologue. God I forgot how wet and muddy and slippery the terrain up in Wicklow can be. But then, with terrible conditions underfoot, I was the only one mad enough to go up on the mountains that day. I had the whole place to myself.
Again, more bad navigation meant taking not a great line to Conavalla. I now know why last year’s race winner contoured to higher ground (his route can be found here). Hitting the tops of the forest landed me in peat hags galore that had wet sloppy bog between them that I sunk into. I look forward to the day when I can again be using my map and compass more competently and not getting into such messes.
From there it was Lugduff, a ridge I had not run along before. And, instead of running up Mullacor, I turned off the race track and ran back to Laragh via the forest tracked Wicklow Way.
I was glad I took the route for two reasons – first, the heavens opened and hailstones came down in force. Better to get hit by hail in a forest than on open mountainside. Second, I unexpectedly ran into a herd of mountain goats that were also avoiding the shite weather at higher altitude. And the mountain goats had little baby goats, cute little things that clung to their mothers’ sides.
Overall, great run out and fun race course that shows off the worst of Wicklow’s terrain but the best of Wicklow’s views. It was good to be home.