From adventure racing to long distance kayaking. A slightly different post today.
David, Sean and I set off on Saturday morning with our safety boatman Paul for a new type of adventure and one I must highlight has rarely been achieved before. A 50km kayak of the mighty Lough corrib and on sit on top sea kayaks too. These are known for being sturdy but slow meaning this was going to be a long day.
We set out from Galway by boat at 5.30am and navigated in the dark for the first our making our way to the top of the lake at Maam Bridge on the Maam River. This was an interesting navigation in that we had good knowledge of parts of the lake, however the GPS came in handy on an occasion or two to fully plot our route. The boat journey took 1.5 hours and we arrived in Maam realising we were about to do that trip once again in reverse at a speed of 5 knots instead of 40knots. I am not too crazy about maths but if you think too much at this stage you realise there is one hell of a kayak ahead.
The first picture above is at the very top of the lake near a place called Castlekirk. As you can see the conditions were amazing for kayaking and we would have these conditions for a big part of the day. The first 2.20 hours took us down the lake, away from the mountains and into the open lake. We had covered 13km before taking our first pit stop. It was about this stage taht the wind came up and within seconds of stopping we were all frozen. Luckily Paul had the tea ready and we stuffed every sort of food in to fuel for the trip ahead. David even had tea/soup, a special new fueling mechanism when you accidentally put tea into your soup instead of hot water. Genius!
After a 20 minute break, and a quick sprint around a nearby field to warm up again, we were off. The next section proved one of the hardest with a head/side wind hitting us from the south west. We battled across the waves, passing Inchagoill to our East and then Inishambo to our West before landing on Cussafour Island for our next pit stop. A few passing anglers waved, being so friendly in comparison to those days on patrol when we pop out from behind a bush!
There was a sailing race on the lake on Saturday too and this passed us as we had our second break. A quick change of clothes, a few rocky road bars, and we were off again. I swear by food and dry clothes in long events as being cold really zaps your energy. The next hour and a half we paddled through some shallows, around islands and through some tasty looking fishing spots, before landing on Knockferry Pier for more food. I know it seems we have eaten alot by now but we have been kayaking for 6 hours at this point. We cooked up a meal with burgers and sausages, real elite athlete food!, and after some good banter hopped back on board and decided we could make Galway in three hours if things went our way. I knew the bottom half of the lake well and a few short cuts would aid the route as well as the minds.
After skipping through some rocky areas we reached the final, daunting, Lower Lake. To make matters worse in this long section, a head wind had picked up. I decided a quick stop, stretch and most importantly a caffeine gel was needed. With the gel on board I told the lads I would push on until the mouth of the Corrib river which flows a few kilometres into Galway city. I pushed hard doing intervals, 20 strokes easy and 20 strokes really hard for the full length of the Lower lake. I was totally buzzing. I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or the finish line but I got a serious burst of energy. After reaching the mouth of the river, the real end of the lake, I waited for the lads. I met my old boss Sean and his son Mark who very generously gave me a beer to celebrate the day. It went down easy! The lads arrived and we completed the final river section together, coming home in exactly 9 hours of paddling. Not a bad day out, finishing at 7.04pm.
Almost there, arriving at the mouth of the Cut, the area where the lake meets the River Corrib.
We made it!!
I have to say it was one of the greatest events I have taken part in, enjoying every minute and feeling a super sense of achievement at the end. Who needs a medal or a chip time.