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 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!