Saturday 24th May - Wicklow Way Relay – Team 23, Athenry Assassins

Published in Reports on 30th May 2014

So there I was @ 6:45am in the car park of Kilmashogue Woods in the lashings of rain and terrible fog…..  A Wexford woman, living in Dublin, running in the Wicklow Mountains, for Athenry A.C.!!   Quietly confident, as I had done my recce (twice), I knew exactly where I was going, fog or no fog. Leg 1 to Curtlestown Wood, 14.4K / 556m. I was slightly worried as I looked around and saw the other racers; they looked different than normal runners somehow. Couldn’t quiet put my finger on it, maybe it was their race attire (very little), slight frames, no fancy watches or bottles of water??  So the whistle blew @ 7am for the start of leg one and they all took off like mountain goats at break neck speed. That was the difference! Whoa there I thought to myself, what sort of speed is that to be doing at this early stage… UPHILL??! Knowing I was completely out of my league I made a wise decision to go at my own speed and let them off. Within 5 minutes they were gone, and there I was all alone in the mountain, cursing and growling to myself at getting dragged in to doing this mad race following a little yellow man through the forest & mountains!   The rain eased, and as I acclimatised to the thin air and got my breathing under control, I began to enjoy my surroundings and the beautiful smells of the early morning dew and pine trees while watchful eyes of deer and rabbits peered at me through the dense forest.   Walk, run, walk, run, burning calves, sweat dripping, soggy feet, soaked through… I finally reached the last climb and hopped and skipped my way down a very rocky path all the way to Curtlestown Wood where Valerie Glavin was eagerly awaiting for a high five to take off on Leg 2 to Lough Tay (15.1K / 763m climbing). Umbrella and car keys were flung in my direction and then she was gone for dust! I sheepishly went to the Stewards to check in and apologise for taking so long to finish (1:37). To my great surprise they told me there were still two to finish. “Impossible” I said, “I didn’t pass anyone and there was no one behind me??” The two had gotten lost. Brilliant!! 3rd last… by default!  
  Quick change into dry clothes and I was shortly met in the car park by Jim Leahy and Maeve Noone. Introductions were made and off we drove in convoy to Lough Tay to see Valerie finish. What an amazing sight to see all the runners in the distance flying down the mountain and in no time at all (1:48) there was Valerie at the barrier. High five to Frances who sped off on her Leg 3 to Oldbridge (8K / 126m climbing)   A mucky and slippery route for Frances but she made it in great time (00:45) and a high five to Maeve for Leg 4 to Glendalough (9.6K / 363m climbing). We gathered in Glendalough and had the craic with the other relay members. Deirdre Quinn was taking Leg 5 to Drumgoff (13.6K / 571m climbing). “How many miles is 13.6K?” she nervously asked. “Only 7” Valerie said as she winked at me. “Oh not too bad so”. Then we spotted Maeve looking very comfortable finishing her leg (1:03). High five to Deirdre and off she went up the steep steps in Glendalough.  
  On we went in convoy to the next stage. Fiona Doughan was taking this one. Leg 6 to Iron Bridge, (12.7K / 566m climbing) . We decided we had time to spare until Deirdre got back so we went into the Glenmalure Lodge for a chat and tea/coffee. Happily chatting away, someone looked at the time and said we better go out in case she finishes earlier than expected. A Steward spotted us and wondered why we had a runner with us… “There was a mass start at 1pm for this leg, did you miss it?” Oh oh… Yes we did! 15mins behind everyone else Fiona took off. Then bombing down the hill came Deirdre (1:27) with no high five to pass on but glad to have finished her tough almost 9 miles!!!  
  Next stop for us was the halfway point in Fiona’s race where we all dug in to the massive lunch box Frances and Jim brought with them! Ever so grateful for all the yummy snacks and sandwiches to keep us going till the end of the race. Fiona passed us and disappeared in through the forest so on we went to meet her at the far side.   On the back foot already due to the mix up of the mass start we were the last to start Leg 7 so needless to say we, and the Stewards, were glad to see Fiona (1:54) coming down the rough, steep track. A relieved high five in the middle of the bridge, poor Jim Leahy had a long lonely road ahead of him - Leg 7 to Tinahely, 22K / 651m.  
  There we were, in Tinahely waiting for Jim. “Oh we heard about Athenry” one of the Stewards light heartedly said… “We’re in for a long wait” he said. Word had spread about our mix up with the mass start! They kindly allowed us to get Annette Minou started on the final Leg 8 to Shillelagh, (9.2K / 283m climbing). Myself and Valerie went on ahead to meet her at the finish while the others waited for Jim to complete his leg ... In an amazing time (2:01).    Annette came powering in, close to an over-take in a super finish (00:58). Glad it was all over, the whole team met in the local pub in Shillelagh for some warm grub and a de-brief of the day. A very enjoyable day was had and I was made feel most welcome by the Athenry Assassins. A fantastic team spirit amongst us that really made the day special and one I will never forget.   Overall relay time was 11:36 and sure what did it matter about the position, it was all about the taking part (or so I was told!)….. Invite for next year??!   Flora McKnight.