Race: Wicklow Way 100
Runner: Yvonne Naughton
Race Date: 12/07/2018
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Results: 22:39:33, 1st Female, 4th Overall
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The event is a ‘grassroots’, low key event! It’s basically a ‘fat-ass’ style race where you provide your own aid with a two person crew that can meet you anywhere along the route. If you’re traveling in from out of country the RD is very helpful in helping you to organize local runners to crew and pace.
- The race follows a 50 mile section of the Wicklow Way, a 127k trail from Dublin through Wicklow, the ‘Garden of Ireland’ and ending in Carlow. The race offers a variety of terrain from fire roads to technical single track to slick wooden boardwalks to village streets.
- The local December weather offers its own unique challenge with the possibility of a constant downpour, gale force winds, snow or even rare winter sunshine.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
As a winter race in Ireland, you’ll find yourself running in at least 16 hours of darkness. It starts at 2pm so within 3 hours you’re reaching for your headlight. If you finish later than 27-28 hours you’ll find yourself running in darkness again.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
This is the first race that I put together a crew and two pacers with the aim of finishing as fast as possible. The RD was hopeful for a course record which would mean going sub 21:45. However, the World 24hr Champion and Record Holder and Course Record holder of Spartathlon ended up entering the race, providing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to winning the event. However, between my experience with mountain 100 mile races and my crew and pacers who kept me happy, motivated and moving, I managed to finish as first female.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- The race doesn’t have a ton of climbing, less than 20,000 feet, but there are technical rocky sections and long sections of slick wooden boardwalks. While I didn’t feel the need for poles, as none of the climbs were really steep enough or sustained, being comfortable on technical terrain was certainly helpful.
- Being comfortable in harsh mountain weather is a must. This includes rain, wind, fog and possibly snow. You are required to carry emergency gear as well as a map and compass. The course is marked only by official trail markers, which I felt was completely sufficient but there are no extra confidence markers. Definitely be familiar with the route beforehand and consider downloading a GPX file to have with you during the event.
- Consider arriving early to scout some areas of the course and have your crew drive the route. Some of the roads are remote and narrow so it may be really helpful to have your crew be comfortable with the environment before the race.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
- Crew and pacers are invaluable to running a fast, competitive race.
- It’s better to over-prepare for a winter mountain 100 miler. There really is no bad weather just bad gear!
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
- Read the information on the website carefully and don’t be afraid to contact the race director. You’re expected to have a two person crew but if you’re traveling from out of country the RD is very helpful in providing course info and volunteers to crew. The race is essentially a ‘fat-ass’ style event with your crew providing your aid.
- The trail is marked but you must be comfortable with navigating and using a map and compass.
- The weather can be brutal and long sections of the course are totally exposed. Expect to carry required mountain gear and to be comfortable in harsh mountain conditions.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
The course is ridiculously pretty…depending on visibility! There will be about 16 hours of darkness so obviously that’s something that should be taken into account. Also, the winter weather in Ireland at that time can lead to poor visibility in the mountains with fog and rain. However, there’s the potential for brutally beautiful mountain view’s with heather meadows, lakes, waterfalls and ocean views. The first trails are absolutely enchanting to the extent that you wouldn’t be surprised to see a fairy or leprechaun! And as you descend to the finish you are greeted with panoramic views of Dublin city and the Irish Sea. Between the gorgeous trails you’ll travel on narrow country roads through tiny villages and it’ll take all your willpower to not abandon the race and retire to the local pub for a few pints beside a warm hearth!
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
The race has a reasonable amount of climbing on sometimes technical terrain. However the real difficulty lies in the need to be comfortable with navigation and harsh mountain conditions.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
- The event is well run and the RD is very helpful and accommodating. The website is a little fussy, however; all the pertinent information is easy to find, especially course maps and crew driving directions and maps.
- The start/finish area is at a local high school campus which provides shower facilities after the race. The finish line festivity’s are basic but there’s food, drink and a heated tent.
- Each of the runners carry a very efficient trackers device and the live tracking for crew and friends following at home is excellent.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Once a more local, low key event, this years race saw an international field including sponsored elite athletes. The event is a UTMB qualifier and is awaiting approval as a Western States qualifier.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Application occurs on the race website rawultra.com. The price is very reasonable. Flights from the US can be surprisingly affordable, costing less than a west coast to east coast return flight. Dublin is a wonderful city and accommodation is available from all ranges including hostels to bed and breakfast to hotels. The city is well served by public transportation so car hire is not necessarily required.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
As mentioned previously, each runner must have a two person crew to supply all aid.
Weather and typical race conditions
As mentioned, weather can range from mild temperatures and partial sunshine to thick fog, rain, gale force winds and even snow.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
There is a required gear list so expect to carry typical mountain gear such as an emergency blanket, waterproof jacket and pants, hat and gloves, dry base layer, cellphone, map and compass. The race provides a tracking device.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Yes! This race centers around crew and pacers. The website provides an excellent crew map and suggested meeting points; however, the RD encourages meeting your runner at any point along the route and that each crew should help each other and each runner. This leads to a real sense of camaradarie and festivity during the entire event.
How’s the Swag?
Each runner receives a technical material race shirt while finishers receive a medal. The top three male and female finishers receive a trophy.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
This is a wonderful, grassroots style local event and totally deserves 5/5 stars!
Yvonne Naughton is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Yvonne, check out her coaching page.