I wanted to start our super-short race reviews with Trooperstown Hill, a race on the Irish Mountain Running Association’s calendar and part of the very popular Leinster League. Originally this race was part of the Winter League only before being “promoted” in recent years.
It’s a real classic featuring some beautiful scenery, some of the best and most runnable open mountain paths in Wicklow and a fast and furious descent with parts suiting both technical descenders and parts beneficial for those with tons of leg speed.
Jason will be organising this race tomorrow together with Crusaders AC and he promises to put on a great show, so if you haven’t decided whether to go yet, perhaps that should sway you.
What’s your personal experience with the race?
I have run the race competitively twice and marked it on other occasions. I spend a year living on the backside of the course and ran most parts of it daily. So fair to say: I have a love affair with Trooperstown Hill, but it truly is a great setting without being quite as wild and exposed as other Leinster League races such as Brockagh and Seefingan.
What are the statistics?
10.6km length with 380m climb. Most climbs are gradual and runnable.
What shoes should I wear?
On a wet day grippy shoes are must as the middle part of the course can get very muddy in those conditions. The trails have plenty of little surprises such as rocks, camber and just plain rough and narrow patches, so the shoe needs to leave you feeling well balanced. On a dry day you can wear almost any type of footwear that you feel comfortable will be stable on changing ground. An aggressive hybrid trail shoe will generally do the job here while a road running shoe will fail miserably in wet conditions especially if you are heavy on your feet.
What makes it different?
The Trooperstown Hill massif stands quite alone in Wicklow, cut off from the rest of the mountains, but the real unique feature is undoubtedly that the route starts and finishes on wide forest track, with a brief spell of tarmac, before taking you for a big circuit of trails on more open mountain including bagging two summits. This gives the race a long fast downhill section in the middle before the final climb to Trooperstown summit.
Feared or loved is the short section of scree that takes you off the mountain trail and back to easier running. Some spectacular falls or decisive gaps have been secured on this very brief, but very technically demanding section.
What should my tactics be?
Sit back somewhat on the first mile of climb on the fire-road. Stay within reach of your rivals but be ready to attack on the flat tarmac or later on the climb on Trooperstown Hill itself were the gradient is more challenging. Run all descents aggressively and be prepared for a hard push to the peak of Trooperstown Hill (second peak) as the technical descent could slow you down. Aggressive descenders must gamble on the scree to win position. Be prepared for a very long consistent descent at the end that you must be able to maintain and run strongly. A lot of time will be lost here if you have spend all your powder on the hill itself.
Who will like it?
Anyone who likes any type of off-road will enjoy Trooperstown Hill; it strikes a rare balance between having almost all types of trail and path included along with that “open mountain feeling” and a brief spell of very difficult rocky descent. Only the greatest of mountain running purists will scoff at this race.
A top class IMRA race which we cannot help but view through rose-tinted glasses. As all their events €7 is a bargain. Still this is not “the perfect mountain race” so we cannot give it maximum stars.