By Damien Kelly – Race Winner!
I had two races planned for the first half of the year, the first being the Donadea 50km and then I decided to give the Wicklow Way Solo a try this year.
The first race was the Donadea 50km on the 11th February. It was a disaster for me as I went out too fast and bonked after 35km. My main fuel during the race that day were Cliff Shot Blocks. I got to the finish with a mix of walking and running in a time of 3.57.36 which I was disappointed with.
This was a wakeup call for me and if I was to have any chance of finishing the WWS I had to get my nutrition right. I booked an appointed with Barry Murray of the optimumnutrition4sport.com. I had a 1 and ½ hr meeting with him and got brilliant advice on my diet and tips for my long weekend runs, it was the best €159 euro I ever spent. Thanks Barry.
Friday the 9TH June.
My two mates John and Ken arrive at my house to collect me at 9.30. I said my goodbyes to my wife Carol and daughters Abbie, Isabel and Alex. A few tears were shed as they didn’t like the idea of their Dad going out running in the mountains in the middle of the night.
We arrived at Marley at 9.50pm and I get my gear ready for the Kit Check. I then head over to the Tent to get it checked and disaster. My Inov 8 AT/C Storm Shell Waterproof Jacket was refused and I was told it didn’t comply with the required Kit, I was thinking to myself the race was over before it had begun. I went back the lads and tell them that we might be heading to the pub instead of Clonegal.
I said to myself Damian calm down and think. Ken give me your phone for a minute and I clicked onto the INVO 8 Website and it confirmed that the Jacket was indeed waterproof, back over to the Tent phone in hand and the Jacket was accepted. Ok I thought to myself forget about the Jacket and prepare to race Damian.
11.58 Jeff gives us a Race Briefing and off we go. My plan was to breathe easy and stay as comfortable for as long as possible. If anyone wanted to Race ahead I was not going to push myself too hard as 127km is a long way to go. It was raining hard enough from the start but I knew when we got onto the Hills it was going to get a lot worse.
My mate John and Ken were going to drive from Marley to Clonegal and give me some support on the course, which was brilliant. Got through Prince Williams and over to Crone in around 2.20. Now I was dreading the run up to Djouce and down the Boardwalk as I knew the wind and the rain would be bad but nothing had prepared me for what I was about to face head-on.
Going over the Dargle I got passed by Rory and Baterdene, then onto the side of Doujce we had rivers flowing down the trail, visibility ranging from 4ft to 8ft and gusts of wind well I can only imagine but it seemed like 100km plus. I lost sight of Rory and Baterdene, then on to the other side of Djouce and onto the famous Board Walk that ended up in the High Court! This part was brutal as you couldn’t really see where you were putting your feet and the planks drop a step every now and again, this is where your mental battles really start to kick in. Carol (my wife) your mad doing that race Damian you will kill yourself, well Carol you are right and please transport me back to my cosy bed!! Damian cop on and get off this section and down to Lough Tay and you are out of the worst of it and I did mission accomplished!!
Through the farmers field and over to the road to Oldbridge and the birds start singing, a smile came to my face. I felt good but I had no idea what place I was in the race. I met three runners heading down the hill to Oldbridge and they told me I am looking fresh and a lad is just ahead of me.
I passed Baterdene on the section of Paddock Hill on the way down to Glendalough. I arrived in Glendalough around 5.20 and John and Ken are there with words of encouragement, I see Adrian and this surprises me as I thought he was well ahead of me.
Jeff and the lads are brilliant Bacon Sambo and bottle change and last out of the Station out of the three of us in 4TH Place. I am only aiming for a finish and a top 10 so happy days after 49km.
Up the long climb to Derrybawn, at one point I can see the three Leaders in view I’d say around 1 ½ km ahead. Got to the top then myself, Baterdene descended down the grassy section and like Trapeze Artists both of us go up in the air and luckily we only landed on grass and not rocks!!
Now Fire Road for around 4km, going well now I said I will push myself a small bit on the downhills. I passed Baterdene and then Adrian soon after which surprised me as Adrian is a top Mountain Runner. I then meet two lads from base camp just at the end of Fire Road and they gave me lots of encouragement and let me know the leader Rory is not that far ahead (thanks lads).
I arrive into Ironbridge feeling good and see Rory just heading up the hill out of the checkpoint. Again John and Ken are there giving me encouragement and off I go.
At this stage I am telling myself that you have a small chance of winning this, no not you Damian!! Onto Ballycumber Hill and Rory comes into view. I had a quick chat with Rory then I decided to push on but it’s a long way from the finish.
I arrived into the Dying Cow and the lads are there again, they tell me to get in and out of the Station so no time to take off my Rain Jacket as my number is pinned to it. Quick bottle change 3 pieces of orange 2 jellies and a small banana and off again.
I arrive at the bottom of Coronary Hill and I had to walk around 95% as I tried to run up a small bit but the legs refused. Arrive at the last Aid Station and Ken and John tell me no time to stop in and out, so bottle change and two more Jellies and off.
Into Raheenakit Wood and I kept expecting Rory to come into view but no sign of him. My plan for the rest was to walk and run up the hills and try and go fast on the downhills.
I went fast going town to Grassy Lane of Raheenakit Wood and when I looked at my watch I was doing 5 min km. Finally out of Urelands Hill and 5km to go on Tarmac to Clonegal.
John and Ken appear again in the jeep and shout more abuse at me sorry I meant encouragement.
I was still expecting Rory to appear but I was finally starting to believe that I could win this me No!
Around the last bend and touch and kiss the Wicklow Way sign in a time of 14.24.30.
Right sorry this has to be done now time for my Oscar thank you and don’t worry I will leave God and Jesus out of it as I thanked both of them enough while running around Doujce!! Thank you.
Jeff and Robbie and the Volunteers.
Amazing job done by all and to brace the elements at the checkpoints during the bad weather, it is nearly harder than running the race!
Thank you for the support at the Checkpoints you were amazing lads. It really meant a lot to me, even though you gave me a bit too much abuse at the business end of the Race, that’s what best friends are for.
Thank for the Long Training runs we did together.
Sadly Richie passed away last year, many of you in the Mountain Community will know Richie. I worked with Richie for around 5 years and It was Richie that introduced me to IMRA a big thank you to Richie up there!!
Richard Healy Sculputre.
When I finally leave this world and I don’t plan on it being soon, I now have the 1st place Trophy for my Head Stone!! An amazing piece of craftsmanship Thank you Richard.
My wife Carol and daughters Abbie, Isabel and Alex. Thank you for putting up with me and my training for the race and the support you gave me love you all loads.
Well done to all for participating and finishing, the training alone deserves a Trophy.