One man’s take on the Spelga Skyline by Ryan Stewart

On the orange 7am Stelios wagon, all was looking well. For the first time in living memory, I could actually see the Mournes through the window prior to a race!!!! Training was flying along and I had high hopes of a strong day out especially since my map and compass would likely stay in the bag. As it turns out, I’d have been best staying on that flying death pencil and going straight back to Glasgow

With the hottest day in NI records on the cards, Barra Best was recommending we bust out the factor 500 and a fedora. I had no hat and with a completely exposed course, I had the sense of impending doom as I rocked up to Spelga Dam, already sweating from my butt. In the words of Sean Paul, “We be burnin”🔥.

A 20min warm up routine and a sneaky video diary to express the chances of me unintentionally navigating over the border into Europe, being picked up by The Guards and made to self-isolate in a Premier Inn were discussed (more on why this video hasn’t emerged later).

Ryan in better times on Ultimate Hell Week 🙂

By 11am, the start line on Butter Mountain was in full swing. Some folk had come dressed as Lawrence of Arabia whilst others had sourced bronzing butter to lather on to make the most of Irelands 1 day quota of sunshine for the year. 3,2,1 and off we trotted.

It all started well. I decided to lead to the 1st summit and that enjoying my own company for the next 3hrs sounded good. So off I went in search of Slieve Meelbeg by way of the crow flies. I soon realized that not 1 person had followed my line and given that there was no path of any kind, I did contemplate if I had forked it early doors. To my surprise/joy, I was first man to the top of Meelbeg. I held this lead until just over the half way point when Timothy “terminator” Johnston went by me and disappeared into the knee high shrubbery.

I have no idea if there is a genuine path to Pierce’s Castle but all I know is that the line I took required a machete and a sense of humour. Having stumbled through the greenery for what felt like hours, I was back on a trail. The only problem being I was now completely bust. The bucking knee high grass felt like lava!!!! So for 90% of the remaining course, I was walking.

Rocky mountain complete, I went for the crow flies tactic again to become reacquainted with the jungle vegetation that had broken me earlier. There was a fantastic looking trail/path but I empowered my inner Flymo and just went for it. If anyone saw this descent, the cartwheels that ensued where not on purpose. This grassy paradise also had enormous holes in the ground that you couldn’t see until you were in them.

By the time I had fell off Rocky, I was at melting point and low on aqua. Then came the only thing I saw all day which I liked the cut off. A RIVER!!! I decided to climb into this watery delight and submerge myself for a few minutes to take the edge off the midday sun off me. Hopefully, enough cooling to allow me to finish the final few Km.

Having just left the river to take on Hen, my heart sank. I just realised that my mobile phone was in my back pack. The same back pack I was using like I was scuba diving moments earlier. Something to worry about later. I was more than broken at this point and still had Hen and Cock mountains to summit.

I got up Hen fine but somehow ended up trying to descend down a vertical rock face and couldn’t be arsed going back to find a safer route. Thankfully I slide down rightly and more importantly, my shorts hadn’t fell to shreds otherwise the fast approaching race field would get an eye full. My spicy descent resulted in me dropping back to 3rd place….and to be honest I was utterly amazed that I hadn’t been passed long ago.

Cock mountain really did live up to its name. My tank was empty and I’m fairly certain I was close to heat stroke. Now feeling sick and dizzy. I had a wee sit down going up Cock on 2 occasions to stare off into the distance and contemplate a new career as a Gardener, for I had scythed more grass down than I ever thought possible. The final dibber had a photographer attached which is where these wonderful snaps of my pure joy appeared. I was for snapping that dibber over my knee but the photographer reminded me of the damage deposit involved so I thought better of it.

I walked my way home over the line which is probably the slowest race finish the mournes had ever seen but I was beyond caring. If I had got close enough to 2nd Place’s, Davie Hicks, I’d have sucked the sweat from his race vest to rehydrate.

3rd place secured….. OR NOT. Ye see wee Ryan was then informed that he had failed to dib in at 3 checkpoints and was DISQUALIFIED. Fantastic. 3hrs of absolute torture for nothing. And to top it all off my mobile phone was absolutely soaked to death from my lazy river experience.

You cannae beat a race in the hills….. well you definitely can, try walking on hot coals with crisp and dry on your feet or/ waterboarding for a better day out. The only good thing to come out of this race was the Mourne Ices van which provided a raspberry sundae ice cream.

Well played Spelga Skyline. You claimed my soul and my phone. If I had any fluids left in my frame, I’d still be crying.

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