" By way of a short introduction, I’m Dave Gowan. I’m a runner, a cyclist, a kayaker of sorts with my sport of choice being Adventure Racing. I’ve ventured into the realms of ultra on a couple of occasions with varying levels of accomplishment and enjoyment. I certainly would not consider myself anywhere near the level of some of the other contributors on the Qilta blog but have aspirations if nothing else! 

I spoke to Jim from Qilta over Christmas and the conversation naturally swayed towards race plans for the year ahead. I was delighted to say I was taking on the Art O’Neill Challenge on 11th January. For those who don’t know, the AON Challenge is a 53k run from Dublin Castle to Glenmalure in Wicklow with the latter half being self-navigated across open mountain and crucially starting at midnight. This results in multiple river crossings and traversing knee-deep bog and suffice to say the feet and calves take some decent punishment. This would be my second time taking on this event, so I knew exactly what I was in for.


I met with Jim a week or so before the event and we had a great chat over coffee. I was intrigued by the claims that Qilta were making in terms of race prep and recovery and was eager to try them out. To say I dubious that some socks and sleeves could live up to the stories. Jim handed over a set sufficient for the race and gave me in-depth instructions on how I should use them to get the full benefits – a fresh pair going to bed the two nights before the event and a pair for afterwards, three in total.


With the race being on Friday night prep starts at bedtime on Wednesday, socks and calf sleeves on and I just into bed. 5 mins later and I’m up again! I’m not the sort to wear socks to bed at the best of times and with the combination of menthol and compression it’s a strange feeling. I’m very tempted to remove them but given I said I’d follow the instructions, so I get on with it, pick up a book and eventually nod off. Thursday night is less eventful, fresh socks and sleeves on and hop into bed. This time the menthol cooling is nice, something you could get used to!


Race night arrives and apart from the inevitable prerace nerves which are not helped with all the hanging around, the race begins as expected. There’s a group of use planning on travelling together and we settle into a comfortable pace towards the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. Stage one passes fairly uneventfully as we leave solid ground and head for open mountain. A change of shoes and some dry layers being priority and with our group all accounted for we hit the hills. I’m navigating for our group, so we really need to stick close together especially as mist and fog descends as we cross the first climb. The open sections tend to be notoriously wet underfoot and although it was significantly drier this year the mountains certainly didn’t disappoint.



Wet, cold and muddy feet normally lead to unhappy feet, but I cruise along but all the while knowing that where I’ll really suffer is the last descent to the finish. We cross the last of the boggy sections having fallen into more holes than I care to count and make our way to that dreaded final descent. Strangely I’m feeling ok and our group starts to spread out a bit but I’m feeling good and comfortably cross the finish line.  


Having very comfortably knocked circa 45mins off our time from last year we’re delighted and most importantly feeling fairly fresh. I’m not in the same discomfort I was last year, my feet are absolutely fine, my calves aren’t screaming at me. I certainly hadn’t put in any more training than last year, maybe these Qilta guys are on to something…. With the Glenmalure Lodge being the obligatory port of call for race finishers and being “only” another 5k away I hand my drop bag to my wife so she and the rest of our group can get the shuttle bus back to the lodge... With last year’s 53k being my furthest run to date I’m determined to add a few more kms this year. I set off on foot with and while I’m certainly not going to break any records I’m moving well and cover the last 5k reasonably comfortably.

 (Pic from Dave)

At this stage it’s Saturday and a nap is well overdue, we head home, grab a shower and on go a fresh set of Qilta socks and sleeves and I jump into bed fully aware that the discomfort won’t kick in until the next day or so! It’s Sunday and I’m feeling surprisingly ok, stairs aren’t the enemy I was expecting them to be. If I’m this “OK” today, it’s going to hurt like hell tomorrow!! I jump on the turbo trainer and see how the legs are, I’ve a race planned for March with a lot of cycling so every opportunity to get some kms in the saddle is jumped at, legs are ok….

Monday morning and while the tenderness is certainly there it’s nowhere near what it should be. Stairs are still fine… I’m baffled. Nothing has changed year on year, possibly even a bit less training than last year…. But I’m not the broken individual I should be! The most telling point for me was on Tuesday morning, a fellow marathoner rocks up to my desk to see what had happened on Friday night, had I not started or worse DNF’d??? Confused, I ask what he means, and he replies; “I saw you coming down the stairs yesterday and there’s no way you ran 58k at the weekend and were able to trot down the stairs two days later!”

I honestly cannot put this down to anything else, believe me I’ve tried, but Qilta really is on to a winner in terms of recovery. It really is ground breaking. I can’t wait to see them hit the market!! "






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