Western Way Galway

The highlight of last week was a training session on the Western Way with my good training buddie Sinead Keogh. Sinead is taking part in the Wicklow Way Race so no better person to talk strategies with over a long run.

20170517_202449Sinead Keogh cruising on the Westrn Way.

After a long days work, starting at 4am and finishing at lunch time, I managed an hours sleep before setting off for Oughterard. The Western Way is 179 kilometres in length and someday I may take this on. It goes from Oughterard in Co. Galway to Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. Last Wednesday was more of a “time on the legs” training session. We decided to tackle 21km of the Western Way from Oughterard to the end of the boardwalk between Maam and Maamcross. We would return on the same route to Oughterard. A total of just over 41 kilometres on my garmin in the end but I didn’t count the first 500 metres walking at the start and the finish!

The full route and stats can be seen here for those interested. The course took us along the Gleann road with Lough Corrib on our right all the way. The evening was gorgeous and the anglers, enjoying the peak of the mayfly season were staying on the water a little later than usual. We would follow the road along the shoreline for 15km before a short bog run and then a few miles on the boardwalk. We met sheep, lambs, lots of flies and the odd local wondering what we were at heading out the road this time of the evening. Everyone was really friendly although one car did stop suddenly thinking we were larger than we looked. After leaving the road the boardwalk was tricky and our pace dropped considerably. Keeping in mind we were running slowly as pace was not important on such a run. I tripped and saved my fall about three times on the boardwalk, while Sinead only had one mini tumble. We were proud of our saves rather than the expected face plants. We followed the boardwalk along the river, passed some mini waterfalls and through the forestry meeting two people and their dog at one point, as surprised to see us as we were them.

As the western way meanders around the Maam Turk’s and leaves Galway it passes through an old haunt of mine on the Erriff Fishery at Aasleagh Lodge in Leenane. The Aashleagh cottages have recently been taken over by friends of mine. Joanna and Richie are setting out on an adventure of their own as they will take care of the running of the cottages and hope to attract fishermen to stay there during the fishing season and over a longer season hikers, mountain runners and adventure enthusiasts. The place is a perfect location for setting out on day trips to the Ben’s, the Turk’s, Mweelrea and various other mountains, not to mention Killary Fjord and it’s adventure centres at Delphi and Killary. The area is so beautiful and a few days holiday here ereally does take you into the wilds.

Check out the link below for all the information needed.

Aashleagh Cottages

We reached the end of the boardwalk in around 2 hours, refilled our water bottles from a local stream and turned for home as a shower rolled in across the Maam Turk’s. The rain left a nice film of water on the boardwalk, which went from trippy to slippy in seconds!

20170517_202548Coming off the boardwalk and onto the trail leading back to the Gleann Road.

The Hill of Doon is in the background of the photo above. Some of you may remember this from my training sessions last summer before the ITERA adventure race. My kayak training took place here. It was, quite ironically, also the exact location where the race finished for us, competitively at least, during that stormy night.

We began to slow a little around the 30km mark and were amazed at the amount of hills on the way back. I never realised that a seemingly flat road going one direction would be incredibly hilly in the other. Then again we had done 30km already in the middle of a weeks training. We ran all the hills, some slowly and Sinead mentioned screaming calves once or twice, but we kept moving nicely. I ate one mars bar during the run and drank nearly three bottles of water but generally felt good. Our tactical race chats were great as well as general random stories. The time flies when you run and chat. As we both said, there is no way we would run 42km alone on a Wednesday evening without good company. The topic of racing disappeared and the idea of food and getting home began as we saw the finish wasn’t far off. I mentioned soaking the legs in the Corrib before we went home and Sinead agreed it was a good plan. We arrived at the car as the light faded and popped down to the pier for a freezing soak before heading for Galway. Not a bad Wednesday evening.

As my manager said after we got promoted on Saturday. “sure your going alright, a marathon between soccer training on a Tuesday and Thursday isn’t too bad”. A massive shout out to all involved with Maree Oranmore FC on our promotion to the Premier division. What an effort by everyone. A proud day for myself and a few of the older lads as well, we have fought long and hard to get back to the top after 5 years in the first division.



Lough Corrib Kayak, IFI Challenge 2015.

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.

Next up Killarney and a little paddle

Check out the next adventure race series race. The Killarney adventure race is one I have yet to take part in so why not this year. After all I am specializing in new races at the moment. In the past I haven’t raced much in preparation for Sea To Summit race in November. Things have however been shaping up well of late, so why not throw another one in. As you can see in the link below this race is a tough event. It starts with a 7km mountian run, then a hilly 35 km on bike, a short kayak, a 19km mountain run and a finish of 6km on the bike. Lots of runnning which should suit although this is going to be a hard race with all the elites showing up.


The next two weeks training are important and it really is a matter of keeping up the transition sessions, my new aerobic threshold routine and a long run/bike or two thrown in. I am just in the door from 13km on the hills on what was a stunning September afternoon.

Myself and two work colleague’s have decided to take part in a big challenge on Saturday coming. We are hoping to complete a kayak of the entire length of Lough Corrib. Somewhere in the region of 60km’s. It looks like a 10 hour day on the water but we will see how things go along the way. I will blog about this event at the weekend and hope to have a few videos to entertain. There will be some challenging moments and the urge to quit many times along the way but hopefully I can document the day without using the language we will most likely be throwing around by the time the afternoon arrives.