The geology of Kerry is so different than that of Mayo. Cretaceous rocks formed which include quartz or red jasper may sound exotic but look unforgiving. They bite at your feet, snapping flags, Jenga’d together and require eyes on all the time, which is energy sapping from the outset.
I reckon there could be a claim and a certain Kerry man called Sean could be taken up the steps and brought under the harp to defend his statemnt that the initial 40k is just conversations and selfies. I beg to differ. The undulating black valley is as vast a valley that I have ran between opening up into a life like tapestry of interwoven fields filled with all those rocks and flags. Most natural, but some, placed there.
Many glide, just like Simone in the above image. A seamless manoeuvre of feet and poles rinsing through jagged toe crunchers whilst I felt and moved like the pieball that placed himself selfishly on a previous trail unwilling to move but allowing friendly nose rubs from competitors.
So focused on the task at hand, to get up and then negotiate down the part of the Iveragh we were on, I did not realise Carrauntoohil was to our right. Mainly because so many were descending so fast, while I was waiting for some sort of running leg semblance to occur.
Meeting Alma in Glencar I was hinting that I was fucked and today was not happening. Wanting to break a leg or ankle, something decent to allow a dignified exit. She rilled me up with a can of coke and tuna wrap getting me up and going again.
The terrain eased a bit, rocks and flags were replaced with forest trails and fields, interspersed with some sealed roads and trails. I could not shift the negative destructive thought process. It just waited, there for some unknown reason like a fog. It could have been burned away, there was options. But the overriding sentiment was to leave the fog there.
Running slowed once more to a hike, sealed roads became trails once more and the elevation gave way to amazing views. As the rocks gave way to the sea view of Rossbeigh and peninsulas jutted, it gave a false sense of gain and of a more gradual physical decline. As I dropped into Glebeigh now at the 56km mark the wheels were starting to wobble and again Alma got me going.
The only goal at this stage was to beat my previous run PB of 70kms. This started by negotiating a fairy forest. Which by all standards was apt. Meeting fellow runners becomes a bipolar experience smiling and talking shite whilst the horrors of inner demons work their own magic within the fog that will not lift. Because simply one wont let it. I’m gonna hold onto this fog and suffer.
What then became a walk hike second marathon, where feet now compressed and swollen due to the wrong running shoe option I believe are supported by what felt like brittle bones and warping fascia. Plod plod plod. Smiles and bipolar was only interjected by the sight of what I believe was my first civil war monument to a solider called Frank O Grady. With the weird chemical imbalance that comes with ultra endurance and at this stage of the race with my own mental state… the thought of Irish fellas killing other Irish fellas in this spot was extra morbid.
Still had the craic with another athlete for a brief sunshine and lolly pop moment before what would be my last climb at Drung hill. Probably one of the most amazing ultra scapes high above the N70 and the hum of traffic. Continually clipping rocks trying to summon some sort of decency.
As I crested I thought ‘fuck me that’s Waterville in the distance’… (It was cahersiven – I was off my head) I started to do all sorts of amazing calculations, that added to numbers that still make no sense, but if my calculations were correct I was still fucked and more than likely would be pulling the pin there in Waterville (which was not Waterville)
My running legs returned for a brief sojourn, but so brief it was a empty attempt. Feet burning and legs gone. Head left somewhere at Torc waterfall (10km into race)
No matter what Alma says this is it. It’s time to quit this bullshit of ultra marathons, what am I trying to prove running 200 fucking kilometres when I could be doing something way easier. Fuck marathon des sables…I’m gonna try and get my money back. I spent 30 pound sterling on a titanium spoon. Snake venom extractor, and I have a 400 euro sleeping bag specifically for the desert.
What in the fuck am I at.
Where the fuck is Alma?? I past 70kms. Wooop di do. 3 athletes came up behind me with poles rattling spread across the road like the 3 cork members of the horses of the apocalypse. Into a field that was just covered in lime it was the perfect place for a body to fall. The lime would just take its course. Then there she was, my wife, in a field, come to find me!! She had befriended all of the Kerry way ultra crews it seemed. She even had Rachel Kearns send me a ‘pick me up’ voice note, which was really sweet…But with 123km to go I needed steroids, angel dust or copious amounts of that horse de wormer. The best footballer in the country was not going to do it.
Alma tried. But I was done. I had come down a bit sick thinking the run would fix it or I might get fired up by the buzz. But no. And if I am to be super honest – I got found out. Much like a team meets another team and gets hammered. Areas lacking from preparation and recce. What would get one through other distances and courses simply will not wash in this Cretaceous landscape. I was humbled, so humbled I was nearly happy. Happy that I now know what needs to be done. Rather than dropping out prior to the race, using the excuse of sickness, having a lash and saying fuck it. This is where I am at, a pieball once more in its own jungle chasing skinny bastard stallions and Mares along the fairy forest highway.
This race, in my opinion wants respect. It wants to be fondled for a few attempts before it finally lets you finish. Some have that talent, some can do it straight away. But my back of the envelope calculations count 46 retired and non comp versus 90 finishers. That’s a decent support group.
So, if this is the way it is to be, so be it. I know when a battle is lost, sitting in Foilmore Gaa club in my electric picnic chair. But by fucking jaysis I will be back and I’ll get to Waterville and maybe have another mental breakdown there or maybe have that breakdown in Caherdaniel, Sneem or even kenmare. But some day I will stand in glory at Randall’s Nissan Garage on the Muckross Rd…where normal people go about their daily business, buying coleslaw for lunch, surrounded by half starved and fully demeneted pie balls, stallions, mares and ponies trying not to be run over by a whistling jarvey. It’s the normality of this scene that will make the feeling of accomplishment all the more worth while, having added 123 kilometres to Fridays effort.