'Ah, but this isn't any ordinary 10K' - Ian Gaughran's bid to reach the summit of his fitness
With one challenge coming to a close, Ian Gaughran has been set another, quite different task: to negotiate the Gaelforce Howth Summit 10K run
I am fast becoming the ‘challenge guy’ of the Independent News and Media group — all sorts of weird and wonderful opportunities to really test myself are now coming in the door every couple of weeks.
From Herald Health features on altitude training to rowing in the Dublin Sculling Ladder — two polar opposites — I’ll soon be off on a different path, or trail, terrain. Get the gist?
When my friend Chris dropped into conversation that he fancied a crack at the Gaelforce 10K Howth Summit, I must admit I wasn’t too keen.
As someone who suffers with two creaking knees that have become damaged to the point of imminent surgical replacement within the next five years or so, a 10K run didn’t sound the most appealing. Hours pounding the pavement prepping for a running race wasn’t my bag anymore.
"Ah, but this isn’t any ordinary 10K," said Chris as he tried twisting my arm. It was when he uttered the word ‘Gaelforce’ that my interest piqued, as I’m well aware of the kind of event the guys put on, even though I hadn’t heard of the Howth Summit 10K.
In a nutshell, this is no ordinary race. In their own description of the race, Gaelforce says: "You will be challenged but you will never be bored. Sweeping views, varied terrain and a satisfying climb will keep you on track.
"This is trail running in Ireland, but not as you know it!"
That all sounds great, with one teeny, tiny exception — as far as I can see, there isn’t much satisfaction to be garnered from climbing over any summit, never mind Howth’s steep terrain.
Long story short, I accepted my friend’s challenge and set about putting a training plan in place.
As regular readers will already know, I'm currently in the final stages of a Regatta Challenge which will see me racing in a single scull rowing boat on the Liffey in the Dublin Sculling Ladder.
That in itself has been a massive physical undertaking and a major concern was how to fit the time in to prepare for the Howth Summit 10K.
Thankfully, my cardio levels are pretty high thanks to the hours in the boat and in the gym preparing for the race, so for the first few weeks of dual-preparation — that’s what I’ve been calling it — I hit the treadmill and started to bang out some fast-paced 5km runs.
The 21-22 minute bursts were keeping my heart rate high while logging miles under my feet, which will hopefully stand to me.
Running on a flat treadmill, however, will only get me so far and, while the numbers were good, we needed to start mimicking race conditions.
From a route perspective, we will start in Howth at Howth Castle and make our way across steep terrain and a narrow track to ascend Howth Hill.
Once reaching the upper part of the hill, we will traverse the south side of it until we reach a change of terrain to sealed road before joining the old railway track greenway.
If we thought the climbing was over and done with, we are sorely mistaken as, following that track to the end, we will once again begin to ascend Howth Hill.
Coming onto Greenhollows Quarry Road, the summit will, hopefully appear and we will, once again, ascend it. Then, it’s a ‘rest’ as the route follows the trail back down the hill towards the finish line st Deer Park Golf Club.
So the only way to start creating muscle memory for a unique test like this was to get up to the mountains and get moving. Fortunately, we live in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, so the stunning Tibradden Wood has become a training base of sorts.
Not only are the views spectacular — much like what we’re expecting on race day in Howth — but the terrain will be similar and, most importantly, just as steep going up and coming down.
Navigating over boulders, through the woods and over the mountain, one thing became glaringly obvious – it’s incredible how quickly your energy levels drain when running over a mountain trail.
Now we know, though, what to expect, and with the promise of spectacular views and the satisfaction of finishing what will be a real test of a race, it can’t come quick enough.
The Gaelforce Howth Summit 10K takes place on October 19. For more information, see www.gaelforceevents.com