Preparation As part of our preparation, we incorporated the 5 stages as part of our training. We had hoped to have covered some bigger miles before the event but alas life got in the way for all of us with our biggest pre event run being around 24 miles. David Turkington was flying in from Scotland to partake in the event so navigation was left to Dale and Michael.
The Start Friday 13th came around quickly, David landed in from Scotland and we made our way down to Newcastle on a clear Friday evening. First stop was a chippy on the way down for some much-needed calories. Next Silent Valley to drop off some supplies for the finish of stage 1. Finally, we landed in Donard Park around 11:00 and began getting kitted up. Dale had an issue with his head torch, we had a spare but this came back to bite us later on.
At 11:55 we made our way to the Donard arch, in preparation for the off at 12:01. We expected to be joined by 3 others runners who were down to toe the line that evening as well (We would see them later on!)
Stage 1 12:01 touch the arch and off we go. We started really steady. We had scheduled a Plan A of 20 min/mile pace, Plan B 24 min/mile pace and backup to get it finished under 24 hrs.
Within 30 mins from the off, Dale’s spare head torch gave up the ghost and he had to revert to his original headtorch which was stuck in its lowest beam. This caused no issues on the initial climb up Donard but really impacted us on the descents and faster run sections like the Brandy Pad. As we crested up Slieve Beg we looked back and saw some other headlights coming along after us.
We made our way towards Silent Valley and hit the descent off Lamagan, again we had to take this really slowly with the lack of light, at this stage the other guys who started behind us came hurtling past we said our hellos and wished them good luck.
Making our way towards Silent Valley we were worryingly behind plan B and our refuelling was far from efficient at the end of stage 1 but we were 1 stage down with 4 to go and bodies were feeling good. On a positive note, weather conditions were almost perfect.
Stage 2We made steady progress, and pulled the pace back towards plan B. Then we hit the bog between Doan and Ben Crom. It’s a brutal section which you have to transverse twice.
As we made our way down Muck we could see our support crew at Deers Meadow another lesson to be learnt here. Don’t make the stops too comfortable. We probably spent 25 mins sitting down eating food and getting a change of clothes.
Stage 3 Off we set still feeling good, although we had possibly overeaten! During this stage it came to our realisation that we were going to be tight to even make the halfway point in 12 hours. Stage 3 is difficult to pick up time on, sections which look runnable on a map tend to be covered in long grass or you have to scale through bog land.
Stage 4We met the Martins on Slievemartin, for some more food and drinks. Ham and cheese sandwiches went down very well. We knew that stage 4 is one of the more runnable stages. We had time to make up. Plan A & B were now out the window and it was now about getting in under 24 hrs. As we progressed through the stage we pulled back a lump of time and we were back on track.
Stage 5We met my father John at Spelga he had an amazing spread waiting for us. Unfortunately, we had to do a very quick stop as we knew what lay ahead on this stage…back into the sevens territory. We left stage 5 at 19.15 which gave us 4.45 hrs to complete in time. Luckily our bodies were still in reasonable shape as we needed to push harder on this stage than any other. Initially we made great progress, but as we approached Bearnagh our pace decreased with the bigger climbs.
I had recced stage 5 to Bearnagh the week before and I told the other lads we were home on a boat after that. How wrong was I! Bearnagh to Hares Gap was a real drag and we were now back in darkness with a heavy mist forming. Visibility was that poor we nearly missed the steps at Hares Gap. On we forged towards Commedagh. We hit the summit of Commedagh with just over an hour remaining and hoped we had it in the bag from there. On our decent to the saddle we met my father again and he led us down the Glen River. We took this at a reasonable pace rather than risk a fall. At this stage we just wanted to get to the finish. We jogged towards the Donard arch probably a bit closer to midnight than we would have liked but still within the time gap.
Denis Rankin – Done. The treble B challenge – Beautiful But Brutal!