OK so next quest is the Christmas Cracker.
Run by neighbouring club Newcastle AC, the route is nothing short of challenging. Each year the route changes and spans anything from 8 to 10 miles.
That’s alright if on road but since its Christmas, it’s a bit of Craic and sure we’ve plenty of hills on our doorstep they might as well throw in Slieve Na Slat and some muck too. I imagine this may be on par with Causeway Coast and as a Christmas Cracker Virgin I say this might just be the death of me.
Also the great thing about this race is the fact you do it in pairs! So who else fits the bill other than similarily mental running buddy extrodinare, Caitriona who I am desperate to get off the bench and back out there doing crazy things with me.
So the only way to train for this is really to embrace the hills. I’m still trying this embracing concept. In fairness I like hills and mountains and have walked too many of them the past few years. However I just don’t think I’m cut out to run up them.
Though when has that ever stopped me from doing something?
So a Saturday night chat with Caitriona resulted in us deciding that instead of going round the lake to break her in again…we’d go up Slieve Na Slat. Sure it’s only 220m elevation. Not a patch on Donard or the likes more of a hill.
So as I woke on Sunday morning and looked outside, a heavy frost had descended upon Castlewellan and it was starting to look a lot like Christmas.
Though the clear blue skies meant that on a hill you’re sure to get great views so in a bid to take advantage of the weather and get back up where I am happiest the time was set and at 10.30 Caitriona was there ready to rock n roll.
Layered up and ready for a few hours passing a Sunday morning. We headed for the hills. It had been brought to my attention that Caitriona had never been up SlievenaSlat so I was looking forward to the stark realisation of what exactly the cracker was asking of us as we began the short but steep climb to the top.
It wasn’t long before her face was as picture. Each corner brought another even steeper hill and even though I’ve been up it a hundred times it never gets any easier.
Though as the tough bit was over and more stunning views came into full view, she began to see the reason why it’s worth it.
It was like a winter wonderland. The trees where thick with ice and as the ground began to thaw you could hear the leaves crunching and crackling. Icicles fell like rain drops and as you looked up beyond the trees there was a low mist engulfing the foot of the mountains as they towered above the white fields surrounded by cleat blue sky.
That’s it right there. That’s the feeling I love. Nothing beats being up the mountain..fact. Standing there, there was no denying the existance of a God. There was no way this can all coincidently occur at the same time.
The walk was finished with all wee tour round the hills and down into the Cyprus Pond finishing the lake.
I returned home less than 2 hours later; refreshed, content and realising I’ve a hell of a lot of work to do for the Cracker in 5 weeks.