Wednesday saw a number of Sportsworld runners do the midweek IMRA (Irish Mountain Running Association) race. This week it was the Belmont and Little Sugar Loaf, 8.6Km long with a climb of 360m.
After months of anticipation, IMRA summer races resumed this week with Belmont &“Little” Sugarloaf. Launch evening is perfect; sunny, mild, windless and in the beautiful setting of Belmont Demense. I find Deirdre and Eoin (fresh-ish from his car-nap) in the registration queue. Neil mooches along after a few minutes, looking far too relaxed. I’m keeping the head down and having a little panic as my phone (emergency navigation aid, registration details and camera for my first IMRA race) has randomly crashed and to my surprise, rubbing the screen and holding down buttons isn’t fixing it.
10 minutes later, we find Tim at the early start line – a cluster of friendly people in the long grass at the top of a field beside the car park. People seem to have come here of their own free will and are in good form. Anthony has arrived but he’s still in long pants and a jacket and doesn’t have the same fear of losing daylight that has some of us itching to make a start.
I kick off cocky enough. I’ve done longer runs and how bad can a few hills be if I take my time? We jog a decent pace meeting some downhill on the woodland track early on. I’m not sure how to run downhills yet but letting loose is the chosen technique this evening – relatively effective speed wise, but an absolute jackhammer on the body.
Within the 2nd km we start a climb and though it’s still a nice gravel track, my good feeling gets erased by the unbelievable calf burn on the climb. To add to the evening, my phone has somehow resuscitated itself on full volume and the calm lady in Garmin Connect is keeping anyone within 5 metres regularly appraised of my heart rate and average speed. Sunglasses on, head down.
The gradient eases and I stop to take a photo of Neil coming up behind but then I’m too tired.
Eoin eases past in power walker mode. Deirdre keeps glancing back at me with mild concern…like she’s trying to remember the emergency procedure should she be stuck with the task of getting me off the mountain. I’m consoling myself with the amazing views but really having doubts if I’ll get down in daylight.
The track ends and, after an oddly easier climb o
ver rock steps, we summit. I take some more photos to stretch the recovery moment then commence the bum shuffle over the short steep descent on rock and scree. It’s a relief to find a grassy path. Deirdre tells me it’s all downhill from here but also that she got lost on it last year.
Armed with new enthusiasm, we fairly “steam”
up the grassy path but that bubble bursts when the flags indicate another steep incline. Reluctant to follow any flags that don’t work in harmony with our current preference for downhill, we consult with some ladies trotting along behind. “The fxxckers!” someone exclaims, a reference to the designers of this trail who we will later be thanking for a lovely evening on the hills.
The fading light and tangible chill to the air push us on so we actually do ok on this bit and soon we are looped back to the calf-burner of a gravel track. Happily, this time it’s upside down so we can lash into it.
I carry on with the jackhammer technique of downhill running as if I’ll never need these knees again. I’m too knackered now to stop my legs flailing about anyhow. We traverse a field of unimpressed cows. Despite what I think is my blistering downhill pace there is no sign of Eoin or Neil, nevermind Tim. They must’ve been even more blistering.
The last 1.5k is more undulating than expected. Deirdre cruises past me while I struggle to stay moving at all. I finally fall over the finish line, last of the sportsworlders, in 1.09, narrowly missing out on being overtaken by 7.30 starter Anthony Gillen. (50 mins).
Much more challenging than anticipated but worth it for the views and the experience and if I recover in time I’ll be signing up for the next one.
The midweek races are an easy way of getting away from work, into the mountains and get a work out in some of the nicest scenery around.
To do an IMRA race you have to pay the annual registration fee (€10) and then each race is €7. You can enter online and you are given a chip at the race to record your results.
As well as midweek races there are weekend races too and the website gives the details on the length, amount of climb and difficulty of the race so you can start with an easy one.
Next IMRA evening event is Scalp
DATE:Wednesday 27 April, 2022TIME:19:30
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