“Bruises, Muck and Muckfest 2017” Marathon Training part 13

“From the mountains of faith, to a river so deep
I must be looking for something something sacred I lost, But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross, And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore, And I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for, In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep”
Billy Joel and “The River of Dreams”
GOOD POINTS: I completed Muckfest, it was a tremendous event and it will be a crying shame if 2017 was the last one. ***Delighted to have broken the course record also, did it in about 25 minutes.***(Note: This may not be accurate)
BAD POINTS: Even though I did my first 10km run, it proved to be a bad decision, as I ended up with enflamed tendons and had to do Muckfest on one leg, I then spent a week waking around with a ridiculous limp instead of just going and getting it sorted.
So where to start with this post, I guess there’s only one place: Valentine Muckfest 2017!
Firstly, what a brilliant community event to have on our doorstep folks. It completely surpassed anything I had imagined. I think one thing we are very guilty of in Carlow is being down on our own people and local groups. Whether it’s our footballers or hurlers or our county council, sometimes people write off the thing closest to them. It’s an inferiority complex of sorts, how many times have you heard someone marvel at a facility in a different town or county and maybe say: “Oh you wouldn’t get this in Carlow?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, not for one second was I ever uncomplimentary about Muckfest, but being local, it was hard to imagine it being so good, so professional, so organised, I mean, in your head you do kind of think, “Jases I’m gonna run around in a field in Ardattin!”
Do you know what I mean? Like, if you went over to a bog in Conemara and ran around it you’d hear people say, “God isn’t this unreal!” Well no, it’s just a bog, actually the field out in Thornhill was absolutely brilliant! Between natural water hazards, manmade muck pools, electric fences, warped walls, ice skips, straw bale tunnels, water slides, steep hills, gates… who needs to travel any further than Carlow?
Now while I want to thank all those who were involved in setting up Muckfest, I also want to curse the day every single one of you was born. By jases it was bitter cold, and absolute torture!
I did Muckfest with Trevor, who you’ll all be familiar with at this stage as my older brother. We arrived at about 10.45am and there were hundreds of cars already there. We walked up to the registration area and got sorted out. One thing that impressed me at this point was the amount of people I didn’t know, they seemed to be coming from all over, I heard a couple of Cavan accents at one stage!
We collected our wrist bands and our T-Shirts and having run up to the start of the course we felt adequately warmed up and we were about to plough ahead when we bumped into some family who had just finished the course. DJ Buggy, Alan Kelly and David Buckley looked like the coldest, most miserable and satisfied people I had ever seen.
Alan came up to us, a broken man, “lads, just listen”, he said. “Turn back now, it’s torture!”
DJ was next, “Right now I feel like I’ll never do it again!” he said, “but tomorrow I’ll get up and I’ll still say the same” he laughed.
Buckley, was a real man though, “Ah lads yiz will enjoy it, it’s good craic!”
Initially you’d think wow, Buckley must be one tough cookie, however we’ve always thought Buckley was slightly unstable in the head, but the truth is, he takes pleasure in watching the O’Donoghue’s suffer, the sick, twisted man that he is!
We let the lads set off to warm up and we set off on our Muckfest adventure.
So, the first few hundred metres was just field and a straw bale tunnel. Not too bad, got through it handy enough. We passed out a load of “Chung wans” and we were flying it. We came around a bend, over a gate, and then came the first real obstacle. It was a 50m squared pool of mud and it was about 18 inches deep.
It was heavy, wet, trudge, trudge trudge… it was real physical effort to pull your feet back up to the surface. Trevor tried to pull a fast one and kept to the edge where it was a bit more solid, but he kept his head down and didn’t realise the pool had a bend so he was eventually forced to fall more or less on his face. Now he was still ahead of me, but I was in deep shit, like, it easily took me two full minutes to trudge through the mud. I had to hook my toes up into my runners and then pull my leg out of the mud, just to keep moving. It meant every step you tried to take was about quadruple the effort of a normal step.
So, you come out of that and you’ve to step through a load of pipes that are suspended at various heights along about 10m of space. Then there were tyres to dance through. Bear in mind at this stage you are carrying an extra stone of mud and wet and just nastiness. Roughly about 1km completed.
You come to the bottom of the field then and there’s a stream at the bottom of a rope that you have to negate your way through. Then it’s up hill and across, over and under more bales, more gates more tyres and mud. You come to the far side of the field and there’s another stream at the bottom of a rope. This time it’s not just across the stream but it’s down along it, up to your knees in water and under a bridge that you have to more or less crawl through.
Out of that then and up the steepest hill in Ireland, I’m not even joking. It’s at 90 degrees to the ground. Fact. (Note: This is an alternative fact) 
Over 2km through at this point and you’re going over more gates and tyres and bales. Actually, the bales were a huare of a thing altogether. I’ve more cuts and bruises from straw than I can count. We get half way up the hill and Trev comes over to me:
“Do you know what?” he says. “It’s not too bad, is it?”
As we approached the top of the hill he spotted the electric fence.
“Ah fuck this, Jesus there’s no sense nor meaning to that now is there!” says Trev.
Talk about speaking too soon you know? The way the electric fence was set up there was horizontal wires at about chest height and then strips of plastic hanging down every few inches, getting shocked was almost unavoidable! Trev tried to fly through it on his knees and got lifted out of it right at the end. I laughed, out loud. I got on my knees and managed to wriggle my ass through it without getting shocked, delighted!
Down at the bottom of the hill then there was another stream, after more tyres, gates and bales and you again had no choice but to get drenched up to nearly the waist.
Out of the stream and there it was, the cursed warped wall. My new arch nemesis. Replacing Fintan Phelan. Trev took one run at it and got the leg over. No problem. I took a run at it with Lorcan O’Toole bellowing out the instructions.
Three big steps up the curve in the wall and then reach out for the lip at the top… I reached…. there was no lip.. I slid, like a fat, wet, harp seal back down the wall, to the bottom. Then, my inner William Wallace kicked in and I ran at the wall with more vigour, this time I reached the lip, with both hands, but my tiny arms were not able to pull my 18 stone frame up.
I appealed to the two lads on top, “Jases, grab me quick!” I’d say their backs are still wrecked because they were under pressure trying to pull a beached blue whale up a warped wall. Thanks though lads!
Delighted to be over  the wall it was down to earth and run along with the head bowed down in satisfaction. When I lifted the head though here wasn’t there two skips full to the brim with ice cold water and Shane Rohan and Eoin O’Toole dishing out encouragement and abuse in equal amounts.
Down into the skip and the air is just zapped from the lungs. Your mouth opens appealing for air to come in, but you’re so cold, even the air escapes you. Finally through the skip, it’s back down into a stream and up into the next field.
You can see the finish line but still you’re so far from it it’s painful.
There’s a water slide pretty soon after the skip, and I think there’s a knee high pool of water first.
The water slide was class though. I’m not quite sure how they kept the water flowing on it but it was pretty impressive. Actually, I’m going to appeal to the Mayor of Carlow, Cllr. Fintan Phelan to please upload the video of him doing the water slide, it made me cry laughing before and after the council meeting on Monday. My god it’s hilarious.
At the bottom of the slide is a muddy pool of water that you could swim in, Fintan hits it face first, it’s gas!
Out of the pool then and I can’t remember what’s next until the final two obstacles. First I think is a big bank of piled high mud and ditch. Its about 12ft high I’d say and there are dints and holes where you can bury your feet and climb up. On the far side of that is a huge muddy pool of water where Elaine Byrne is sat taking pictures, thanks Elaine!
It’s up to the finish line then where you’re handed some chocolate, protein milk, water and a pat on the back!
There’s a short queue then for the hot power hoses, and then it’s home, proud as punch having completed the 2017 Valentine Muckfest, battered, bruised and frozen to the bone, but satisfied nonetheless.
Well done to all involved. I am truly disappointed I didn’t take part before this year, I am pleading with the powers that be, please let there be a Muckfest, even if it has to be an Easter Muckfest or summer Muckfest…. It’s just too good an event to not run again!