Day break on the campsite.
A check of the times and leader board put us in 29th position after the first day, not too shabby, but still a whole two hours off the lead! If we could stay in the top third both of us would be very happy, but a full days racing was left. Back to the tent and time for some breakfast, hot chocolate and half a dozen pancakes were on the menu. After stuffing our faces it was time to get packed up shake out the tired legs and get pumped for another days racing.
The first control wasn’t far from yesterdays last, and after 15 minutes plodding up a track we had dibbed the first control of the day. Probably the most annoying thing of the day was the massive bottleneck on the slim track leading to the first point, resulting from the mass start. Thankfully from the first to second point the class started to thin out and a bit of progress could be made.
From the first to the second control was the greatest ascent for the day, and in the morning sun and surprisingly little wind it was hard work. As we were making the slow climb over the heather I was roughly counting the teams in front of us and placed us 35th at that time, not too bad after spending the beginning of the race crawling and stuck behind others.
A quick map check and then it was a run down a thin peat path to the Mourne Wall, again we climbed on top and ran on the wall, but this time only for a couple hundred meters. Jumping down I managed to find a nice cushioned area of bog, sinking up to my shins, and completely soaking my previously dry feet. Crossing a stream, then dropping down to base of a rock face and then contouring onwards to the third control.
Onwards and upwards, following the wall up towards the peak of Slieve Commedagh, before leaving the wall for a spot of contouring. No doubt those out walking for a Sunday stroll on the paths below us must have though we were mad, running across the side of a mountain for no foreseeable reason.
Looking down to the saddle of Commedagh and Donard, pre race day.
Following the wall for another couple hundred meters before descending to the main walking path we both praised the walking poles again for helping us keep our knees and ankles intact, definately one of the most useful things we had brought. After returning to the marker at Hares Gap we descended the bouldery path to where I had fallen the day previous and continued on the Trassey track before leaving for the far side of Luke’s Mountain and more cross country ascents and contouring.
Shortly after getting the Seventh marker misfortune struck; Alan suffered a sizeable fit of paralyzing cramps effecting his hams and calf’s. Around 7 minutes were lost waiting for the cramps to cease and then trying to stretch the muscles out. Thankfully we were able to move on at a reasonable pace, but from here till the end nearly all running ceased. Fortunately we had made it over two thirds through the race before Alan cramping, but it was disheartening to see the mornings work going to waste; as teams that we had passed on the tough inclines were now overtaking us on the relatively easy declines. At least we knew we were on the home straight; crossing over yet another dry stone wall returned us to Tollymore and a couple of K’s until the finish. Alan was pushing himself as much as he would dare, and running when possible, stopping before the possibility of cramps set in again.
With the final marker dibbed all that was left was the “sprint finish” following the taped streamers. Possibly better described as a fast jog, all things considered it was still a reasonably swift end to the race, even if it seemed never ending at the time. Running in to the finish we recieved a small round of applause from those who had came in before us and after downloading and dropping bags it was time to get some fluids and food back into us.
For our first race with little preperation, we are very happy with ending up 28th of the 86 that completed, that said when we return next year hopefully we will finish less than 3 hours off the lead.
Day 2 - 16Km- 4:07:58 - 33rd
Over all - 10:36:25 - 28th
Read the full report on the Mourne Mountain Marathon