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.

 

Connemara Adventure Challenge 2015 Race Report

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Myself and two work mates, Liam and Miko after race !

It was my 4th year in a row taking on this race and I have to say it was the most enjoyable today! A huge factor in this was of course the weather which was perfect for racing with little or no wind for the majority of the route.

The atmosphere at the start was a little quiet with most people not really knowing what lay ahead, including myself for some of race as the first run was changed. The first 4km was to be on the road before heading off trail and this would mean a really fast start. I wasn’t wrong about this as we headed off downhill from the startline and the first few kilometres were all around the 3.10 to 3.25 min/km. The views along the road were amazing of Killary fjord and apparently a few dolphins even waved as we passed by, however, being focused on running I missed that!

We turned onto the trail and the real race started. Soon I was at the front with two fellow racers and as it would turn out it would be a battle all the way to the line between the three of us. The trail joined the Western Way after some tricky ups and downs and a brief encounter with two sprinting lambs! The Lambs decided it was the best thing that had happened to them, ever, to see these guys running passed and started to race us. Unfortunately for them they forgot the number one rule in racing “look where you are going” They both managed to faceplant straight into a fence and the last I saw they were picking themselves up a little groggy!!

After a slog through some boggy ground, around the 10km mark we dibbed in and turned to climb the short but steep mountain. This was alot easier than previous years, mostly down to the training I have being doing of late, as well as the ground being somewhat dryer. I descended the mountain at a good pace and at the bikes we were all still within 100 metres of eachother. At this point one of the guys made up alot of ground on the off road section. I opted for the racer this year but I’m not sure it is of any great benefit in this race. After 9km of offroad hammering it was onto the main road for another 8km of roadbiking. At bike transition I was in second.

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A 1km sprint to the kayaks was next. This was tricky across bog with the legs refusing to change back to running muscles after the bike.

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Kayak stage, that’s me in the blue one.

I reached the kayak and set off across Killary Fjord. I was passed by guy behind me at the turning point half way and my body was starting to struggle. I hit the bank and started the last 1.5km back to the finish. At this point I encountered the guy who had been in the lead throughout and he was suffering from severe cramp. I really felt for him as he had a great race. I knew I had a chance to catch the guy ahead but in just over a kilometre I ran out of ground and crossed the line in second place. I was greeted by my parents who had so nicely come out to support and it was amazing to see them cheering me across the line. All in all 2.02 hours and 32km, so happy out.

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Almost there !

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Number one fans !!

Provisional results below and a few photos to follow.

http://gaelforceevents.com/upload/content/RESULTS/ResultsConnemaraAdventureChallenge2015.pdf

Race Report- Connemara Adventure Challenge 2014

At last I have a few minutes to put a few words together about my race on Saturday.

I arrived at 8.15am to a rain drenched Leenane with the rain sheeting down off the mountains all around Killary Fjord. As I boarded the bus to take us to the start line in Killary Adventure centre I could feel an air of gloom about the weather yet plenty positive thoughts flying about too. To add to this some guys on a stag with the main man dressed in drag were doing the race and they entertained the bus as we waited to leave. Preparation may have been a slight issue in their case and I’m not sure they realised what lay ahead!

There were approximately 100 in my wave and some familiar faces got me thinking straight away that this was going to be a tough race.

The countdown began 10.9.8.7 and we were off at about 5 ! The first obstacle after 5 feet is a bog drain and we all scrambled up and onto the wet bog to get the legs moving. I had decided to go at my own steady pace from the start and to my amazement I was out at the front very quickly. I would go on to hold this lead until 5km into the cycle when I made my first mistake.

The first 4.5km is along the bog and some bog/forestry track, over a few streams and wow was it soft. On more than one occasion i went into mud up over my knee and slipped in all directions. My Salomon trail runners were getting the ultimate test today, as were my dodgy ankles. I reached the first dibber in just over 12 minutes and hit for the mountain run/hike/crawl/scramble. I reached the summit in just over 12 minutes again followed very closely by two more competitors. These mountain runs never get any easier.The downhill mountain run was as scary as they come. I had two little falls and one bad tumble . I went for it as I knew the ground was soft enough that a fall wouldn’t be too sore. It took me 6.38 minutes from the summit to the bike transition. This included a run across a river in a decent sized flood. I reckon this is just to clean us off before the bike !

I grabbed my bike, a mountain bike this year, and set off on a tough 8km trail cycle. The cycle included another river crossing and some dangerous downhills but all in all I was feeling ok and felt my speed was decent. Let me mention that feeling ok in these races basically means there are no major muscle problems. Mostly you are in pain from pushing hard. At around the 5km mark another biker approached and overtook me but we agreed we could work together for a bit. That was when I had a minor chain problem and had to stop for 30 seconds. He took off and even though he was only 100 metres ahead I couldnt reel him in. My mountain bike choice was coming back to haunt me. But I was having fun! I reached the road section, which is about 9km on main roads and would take us back to Killary for the next dib. The road section was ok with a head wind for the first 2km and then you turn towards Killary and the wind was from behind. This would prove to be the easiest section of the race in my view.

I reached the bike transiton and ran about 1km across bog to find the Kayak starting point for our paddle across Killary Harbour.My time was at 1.16 at the kayak transition and I was feeling good . This would change rapidly in the coming minutes. My muscles of course were at tiring point and the combination of sitting in the kayak and the cold water took its toll. The kayak was a good 2km in very choppy seas. At the half way point another competitor overtook me and he was to be the eventual winner. The man in second place was just ahead of the two of us so the race was well and truly on.

On reaching the end of the Kayak section I was burning oil. I hopped out and could barely stand. Had my muscles seized or was I going to cramp? Or worse was I going to have to drop out. All these thoughts raced as I saw my rivals tear away up the hill. I slowly started to move and YES the feeling was returning. Within 500 metres I was into a stride and after 1km I was running at 4km/minute pace. My only problem was I couldn’t for the life of me run any faster. I was burnt from possible too fast a start to race. I kept the lads in first and second in view for the entire 9km run which includes 5km up hill. There was rain, wind and the occasional trip hazard and stream to navigate. At this point in the race a little stick can be annoying as the body really doesnt want to go on!

I kept my steady pace right to the end and crossed the line 1.40 minutes behind the winner Chris Caulfield and just over a minute behind Alan Kearney. Well done guys, ye were top class. As was every competitor that took part because the conditions were awful and it takes guts no matter what. It was great meeting all the competitors arriving home over the next 45 minutes. Unfortunately I was too cold to hang around to cheer all 400 people home.

A great day and a good race to start my 2014 Adventure racing series. Results can be seen below and I will post some photos during the week!

http://results.sportident.co.uk/home/event.html?eventid=03a5da0f-a50b-4793-ae74-00d62b0bf7f8