This one was a bit like a thriller – it starts out positively, things get a bit hairy, but the intrepid heroes somehow pull through to live happily ever after. The movie was a cross between Twin Peaks and Cape Fear – 15km or so of mountain running on Maulin and Djouce, and the wind, oh god the wind.
Everyone was excited at the start in Crone Wood car park, but race director Lillian set an ominous tone when she said that IMRA legend Joe was on the top of Maulin and he wasn’t sure it was safe. And Djouce may be worse, so they would see how it went and maybe cut it short.
The Sportsworld crew were dispersed – Tim showed up early, and avoided the epic car park congestion, I met Liam on the grassy ride going up Maulin before he upped the pace. John and Phillip were also flying the club colours in the large (200+) field, and Bruce was leading us out – he is kindof a Caballo Blanco figure to me, always that bit further ahead.
It’s a stunningly beautiful course, and even though it is rated 3/3 for terrain, ascent & distance, it’s a very enjoyable mix of tracks & trails, okay underfoot even on the steep up and downhills, and relatively little water to deal with. There were three climbs in total, so you needed to pace yourself and keep something back for the second ascent of Maulin and the final dash down the fire roads. But the real story was the 50+ kph wind, which many people said was the strongest they’d experienced, certainly while running.
And so we were grateful to complete the full route, including the loop around the peak of Djouce which someone compared to standing in front of a jet engine. You know the way people go to Wicklow on a spa day to relax and maybe get a facial – like that, except the facial involves the top layers of skin on your face being peeled off by ballistic rain, and you wish you invested in better jacket, hat, gloves, everything really.
Which made the mostly downhill return through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country around Powerscourt especially powerful. We were greeted by an intense double rainbow descending from Djouce, and everyone finished the race with a broad smile, more invigorated than they started – the wind made us all feel more alive.
So despite or because of all that, it was a brilliant start to the weekend, and superbly organized by IMRA as usual, with some fruit, drinks and banter in the car park post-race. The day was all about survival and digging deep, and enjoying a great running experience you’d be keen to share – d’you remember the time we did Djouce with the crazy wind …