Race Report, The Race 2017

The question is, how do you account for a race of this time and distance in one blog post? A total of 247kms over 15 hours and 21 minutes. Can I try and account for this in a single post. I will give it a shot and hopefully give those of you interested an account of one of the toughest and most amazing days of my life. What an event to be part of. All proceeds going to Gorta and all the people organising it on a voluntary basis. It really was a privilege to be involved.

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After a journey up to Donegal, accompanied by my sister Lisa, we arrived at the bike drop in Rathmullan and from there travelled to the box drop and start line in Garton Adventure Centre on the shores of Garton Lake. The organisation was superb and I had all boxes for 4 transitions and registration sorted by about 4pm. Plenty of time to settle in, get some food, attend the race briefing and get a few hours sleep before things kicked off at 5am. There was a great buzz about and everyone was in even better mood as the forecast was good for Saturday. I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep before the start. The start can be seen in the video above and the buzz is felt even in the video as we set off on our 23km road run to Ramelton for the kayak stage.

Stage 1 23km road run.

The run began at a decent pace and I found myself running with Shaun Stewart and Marty Lynch as well as another competitor early on. We were running a pace of 3.50 to 4 minutes per kilometre. This was way too fast for my intended time so within about 4km I backed off a bit and settled into a 4.25 pace for the remainder of the run. This was more comfortable but I also intended to save my legs as there was one hell of a day ahead and my intention was still to finish and wherever I found myself position wise would be. The run really had little to write home about as it was dark until the last few kilometres. I finished in 1 hour and 43 minutes and cruised into transition feeling nicely warmed up. I met Shaun as I went in the door. He was already on the way to the kayak and going well. Of course having raced and trained with Shaun and having become good friends, I was hoping the day would go really well for him and he would take the victory. I entered transition in fifth and exited in less than 3 minutes in third.

Kayak Stage 2. 15km.

I ran from transition with my paddle, buoyancy aid and backrest, grabbed a kayak, clipped on the backrest, almost slipped on the slipway and hoped into the boat to paddle away. The crowd were cheering us on with great vigor. I turned the boat towards the course and on my first stroke disaster struck! My carbon fibre paddle split in two. With disgust I through half of it away. I paddle back to shore with the other half and I roared at the marshal for a paddle and they quickly through down another one. I heard later that Shaun’s brother, Patrick, actually helped grab a paddle for me and get me going again.I had to laugh at this point of the chances of such a thing happening at the start of the paddle. My luck of course was that it happened here and not 5 miles out to sea. I got going and soon settled into a bit of rhythm. I could see Martin Lynch was only about 200 yards ahead and Shaun was almost out of sight. I was happy to push hard during this section but there was no need to go into the red. The sit on top kayaks only do a certain speed and time gained would be minimal. Energy could be more adequately spent later in the race.

The water was like glass as we paddled down the river and estuary into Lough Swilly. The tide was in our favour and the morning was close to perfect. A seal popped it’s head up between my boat and Martin’s about half way across the bay. I’d say he was unimpressed by 78 kayaks moving through his territory first thing in the morning. I decided with my luck so far it was most likely the seal would land on the front of my boat at any minute, but unfortunately it never happened. I had this experience while kayaking in New Zealand. Probably not the kind of thing that happens twice. So to this point it probably all sounds like a walk in the park. The legs and arms had a good warm up but the real race was about to start as we pulled into the Bike transition at Rathmullan. The final few paddle strokes were fun as we paddled under the pier with crowds of people looking down at us, including Lisa. I shouted up at her ” we are sucking diesel now”, which got a good laugh from a few of the locals. Out of the boat and a run up into transition for the bike.

Bike 1. 96km

I changed into cycling kit, out of pretty wet and cold kayaking gear. There were about 5 of us in transition with Shaun gone ahead and Martin soon got going. I took an extra two minutes to eat a jar of overnight oats and have a coke and some water. A good breakfast at my usual time of about 8.15am!

I came out of the transition trailer, left my box at my bike and grabbed my bike. At this point I realised there was no helmet with my bike. Disaster number two at transition number two! The marshals quickly got on the case and started searching. One of the race directors was straight in on the action and said he would sort whatever time I lost, as it was their mistake. Lisa was there and shouted that she had the car and could grab my spare helmet. Obviuosly an unsupported race but on this occasion it was not my mistake and they said go for it and get a helmet. Lisa found the helmet and 3 minutes would be deducted from my finish time. I didn’t get flustered by all this as I knew this was only the start of a long day and no point getting stressed and emotional so early on. Stick with your own plan and all will be well, start trying to race those around you at this stage and I could have a really bad day.

Once out on the road I found myself swapping and changing with Peter O Donnell, another of the local guys. We were in 4th and 5th throughout the cycle with Michael Mchugh, Martin and Shaun ahead of us. I was happy  to spin up the hills and try get some speed up on the downhills. The average speed was decent but the hills, well what can you say about this cycle. I suppose my cycling experience, apart from some multisport races, a few sportives and charity cycles and my own training really isn’t that amazing. I haven’t cycled in multi day events and since I started adventure racing in 2010, cycling has been my second sport to running. Therefore I may be corrected on this but in my experience this 96km is the hardest 96km you can do in Ireland. If anyone knows harder, give me a shout and I’ll come for a spin! Hill after hill after hill, relentless in and out of the saddle. One man said to me after the race that the hills were so bad that he couldn’t spin out his legs to shake the lactic acid as the gradient was too steep. Slow and painful on the ascent followed by teeth gritting and elbow tensing fast decents, far too fast to spin your legs out.This was the case for 4 solid hours on that first cycle. I actually feel like I enjoyed it so much more than my first experience of the area when training. Maybe I was fitter or maybe the weather played a part. When I looked up from the pain of the hills there was nothing but beauty around me. The beaches, the hills, fields full of lambs, small country cottages, everything was in it’s finest spring glory. The sun was splitting the rocks and the fluids were leaving my body faster than I could replace them. A local pulls up along side me in his car and says “this is a long one, keep her lit”, as I start the ascent of Lough Salt hill. A long long gradual climb to the finish at a steep short climb. Almost all the locals i met said “keep her lit”, a saying you hear all the time in Donegal. I decided I better take local advise and keep on pushing. The top of Lough Salt is only about 20km from the end of this stage. I thought the last 20km would be ok, I was far from correct. The climb from the valley up to muckish was relentless. My legs were beginning to burn and the hills were annoying my head. I stayed positive when I saw the sign for 130km’s gone. This meant of course that I was over half way around the course and anything positive is good when the tiredness begins to set in.

The signage throughout the course was top notch and the marshals and support at every turn in the road gave the whole race a more positive feel. The sections where you go for hours without a seeing anyone are by far the hardest. I arrived at Muckish mountain in just under 4 hours and looking at my time I was about 45 minutes ahead of my predicted race time already. A quick change of footwear, a bite to eat, some tea and a toilet break saw me in and out of transition and off up the mountain by about 12.10pm.

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Thats me at the base of the mountain.

Stage 4 Muckish 5km mountain hike.

Muckish would be my strongest section on the day but my plan was not to expend too much energy trying to go up and down fast, risk injury or burn out. This was a race to finish. I started the hike in 4th postion. The ground was soft and pretty nasty in areas. I met a lady half way up that was supporting Michael, her brother, who was up ahead of me. She was full of enthusiasm and like all the support on the day her encouragement pushed me on. I reached the top feeling strong and the legs were loving being off the bike. What a view from the top. A picnic would of been fantastic but it was time to start running. I ran the majority of the downhill, landing on my ass twice, but luckily on the slippy boggy sections further down. I passed Michael on the way down and came into transition a minute or two before him. I sat down to change for the bike and my first and only bad cramp of the day  hit on the inside of the leg. A good lesson to keep moving and probably not sit down at all if you can avoid it!

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Bike transition for stage 5 and my helmet was found.

Stage 5. 68km Bike

Stage 5 would be a total unknown stage for me. The first 10km or so were mostly downhill with some nice rest and good speed picked up. I managed to take on lots of fluids, a few gels, some coke and some cake during this section. I knew from the race profile that more hills awaited so I needed as much fuel as possible. My second jar of overnight oats and cake at the muckish transition area wouldn’t be enough to get me as far as the marathon. This bike stage is almost a blur to be honest. I was probably tiring but I do remember the climbs going into pretty remote areas, down worn country roads, though marsh and bog land, along the coast, through small villages and up more hills. The locals were out to say hi, while some of them really didn’t seem to know what we were doing there. I was of course only the third bike through the area that day.Michael passed me half way around the stage but I quickly passed him again as he had a few punctures. Somehow he managed to fix 4 punctures and arrive into the next transition only minutes behind me. Amazing you might say.. My bike was performing well until with about 5 km to go one of the cables became fraid. I couldnt change down gear but luckily I wasn’t far from transition. Once again the timing of this was in my favour. After battling the hills and the backroads the final few kilometres were also on the main road, so my gears got their first rest in hours. I arrived in transition 4 in about 2hours and 43 minutes. My total time at this point was around 11 hours, giving me plenty time to try hit my goal time of 16 hours in total.

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Garton Lake

Stage 6. 40km road and trail run.

I stayed in transition 4 for about 13 minutes, to get some decent food, some tea, soup and overnight oats into me. The volunteers were so friendly and helpful, giving us a table each, having boxes laid out and ready and offering as much tea as we wanted. I can’t thank these people enough for thier kindness at every transition. I changed, stocked up on food, grabbed an all important can of coke and started on the next stage. I was once again so happy to be on my feet, although my legs were pretty much spent at this stage. I brought my poles along as an aid, I could run and keep the weight off my knees once I had the poles. “Who’s yere man with the sticks”, was a line I heard a few times from some of the locals! As I made my way along the small road at the start of the marathon, I realised I was way overdressed. There was no breeze and the evening sun was warm. I decided to ditch my warmer long sleeve top and go with one layer, plus I had a jacket in my bag if things changed. One of the relay team guys pulled up along side me near the start and offered great words of encouragement, said i was doing so well. Another couple pulled up and told me I was an inspiration. Another family stopped and all jumped out to clap and cheer me on. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced such encouragement during a race and these people are the reason I managed to keep going.

The first 15km were on the road, gradually climbing to the start of the minors pass, a section of about 10km of trail that runs down to Garton House and along the lake. The trail then takes a turn right up over a hill though some bogland with more small lakes to one side before descending back down onto the road for the last 10km. As I did in the Race I will take this run in sections. The first as already explained was monotonous, on the road. The views were nice but the road really takes it out of you when there is little left in the legs. The trail was a welcome sight, with some downhill and I started to gain a bit of speed. I was averaging 6min/km on the road and soon brought this down to 5.30’s or so on the trail. A competitor came out of knowwhere at this point, passing me out at great speed, but withing 100metres I met him bent over getting sick on the side of the trail. Like so many others he had possibly pushed too hard and the body said no. He did manage to finish the race but lost alot of time at this point. I was still holding third for the time being with Michael, and his crew, now in sight behind me. As I made my way along the lake I could see the trout were on the evening rise and wished I could stop and drop a dry fly over them. The Moon was coming up and was huge over the hills while the sun was going down behind me. Boy was I glad I was half way through the marathon before it got dark.

I left the lake to climb the section of trail back up over the hill. I hiked the majority of this section, knowing that I still had a small lead on the group behind. I wasn’t really worried if I was passed out as I knew I was going as fast as I could and I wanted to finish and not blow up this late on. Lisa once again met me as I came off the trail and met the final road section. I would say I was at my lowest point at this stage. I was in pain. My right hamstring was sore and all my legs were screaming. My feet were good though and once I went from hiking with poles to running and back to hiking I could manage. I adopted the run the downhills and parts of the flats to hiking the uphills method. Michael passed me soon after I had met Lisa and she told me I was doing so well, was in control of my position and had only 10km to go. Lisa ran along side me for a few hundred metres and then said she needed to go to make the finish line. I laughed thinking she would have heaps of time as this was going to be the slowest 10km of my life!  The thing that saved me was that I was prepared. I had told myself in the lead up to the race that if I got this far that the last 10km would be torture.

There was no doubt it was torture but there was support out on the junctions and I had a brilliant experience in the middle of it that made me laugh and got the spirits going! As I ran through a forested section of the road I saw 6 eyes bearing downing the trail at tremendous speed. Once in view I saw that there were 3 badgers closing in on me at full tilt. The badgers ran passed my feet and on down the road as if I wasn’t there. Had I been on the trail a few days I would say I was hallucinating. There was a sight you don’t see mid race too often. But then this is a full day of adventure racing in Donegal and anything can happen. The final few kilometres on the road were sore and slow but I found myself on the home straight before I knew what was going on. I could hear the mike call out my name and the crowd cheering as I made for the line. I flashed my headlight as I crossed over and felt an amazing relief lift from my shoulders as I realised I had just finished one of the toughest 24hour races out there. All the training and all the effort came down to this. It is only now three days later that I am starting to understand what an incredible achievement it is for everyone that takes part in this race. To test yourself this way is amazing both physically and mentally.

At the finish. 15hours and 21 minutes later!

All in all the Race couldn’t of gone more to plan for me. My transitions were good, my fueling was good, I had no stomach or intestinal issues and I made the finish line. This was all I could of asked for and hopefully it will give me the confidence to try some more of these long distance events.

I have to thank Emma, my family and friends for all the support in the last few months. The training effort since Christmas has been pretty massive but the encouragement from everyone top class. A huge congrats to my training buddies Rachel Nolan and Sinead Keogh, Rachel who won the ladies race in a course record time and Sinead who came 4th. They are  incredible athletes and it has been a pleasure to train with them and make friends with them along the way.

I have to mention the battle that took place ahead of me all day. Shaun and Marty fought out to the death for the win. In the end Marty finished stronger on the marathon and Shaun came in behind him. The effort and times they put in were unreal. Both of them smashed the course record and I’ve no doubt without one pushing the other on this may not of happened. Shaun will be back to fight another day, but for now I hope he is in recovery for our High Peaks Challenge FKT in April. A far more important few days out!! .

The race stats! 4th place!

http://www.therace.ie/the-race-2017/2017-results

A few more pictures to round up The Race 2017.

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A Week Ago

Time really does fly. I am finally coming down to earth a week later. I am so grateful to everyone who wished me well. I never expected such a reaction.

I spent the week wondering what is next, how do I up my training next year and do I totally ease off now for a few weeks. All great dilemmas of course, but at the same time my head has been going a little crazy. I have finally come to the conclusion that I will carry on where I left off but take a little more rest than the previous few months. After all I would go crazy without my training. It is as you all know, an addiction!

So what made the difference this year?

Outside of power sessions on the bike, mountain runs, long mountain races and more training I did start to perfect a few minor details that may have given me an edge on other years, or at least given me the confidence to push harder and believe in myself more than other years.

I invested in tri bars (Token aero bars) for my road bike, an aero helmet (Giro Advantage) , and new trail runners. I didn’t break the bank on anything, however, the bars and helmet adjusted my position on the bike and have brought my average speed way up. The runners are amazingly comfortable and light, yet top class on the mountain. These Salomon S LAb runners are a little pricier than your normal trail runners, but worth the extra little bit.

Giro helmet, token tri bars.

Salomon S LAb trail runners. amazing !

The final tweaks in my armoury were physical ones. I have been going to my physio, Patrick Kearney @patrick88ie, now for a year and he has worked wonders. My ankles have become stronger and more flexible with concentrated work on my Soleus muscle in the calf. Here are Patrick’s details for any locals interested.

My next big step, which is possibly the most important of all, is diet. As explained in older posts, my diet has always been reasonable but I have made more of an effort this year to up my game a bit. This has seen a total reduction in high carbohydrate foods and more of a focus on proteins and fats. I find lots of vegetables, fish, halloumi, other cheeses, dairy, eggs and add quinoa, buckwheat and lentils to bulk up the meals. This is a very brief idea, but all in all, cut out as much processed foods as possible. It may just of helped. A massive thanks also has to advice I received from a nutritionalist, Bridget Wing, also from Oranmore, that gave me a few extra tips and helped me understand the workings of my diet on my training. You can find Bridget on her website http://www.mindbodynutrition.ie/

Then there was this little beauty. No I don’t own one, but thanks to the top class gym I am a member of I have had the use of one for the last few months. I would put my great progression on the bike down to the watt bike. I am still learning how to use it to it’s greatest potential. Anyone that has a chance over the winter give it a go. My gym is Club Vitae in Oranmore and I would like to thank everyone there for making it a great place to train. There are some great athletes and personal trainers involved in the gym and always a thing or two to be learnt along the way.

https://www.facebook.com/ClubVitaeOranmore/?fref=ts

A wattbike !

Accessories

On race day I keep things very basic in terms of accessories, having learnt from the people around me in the past. We all start adventure racing with a pack on our backs, a big plastic bag full of food, about 20 bottles of water and 5 coats ! It isn’t long before we are stripped down to the bare essentials. A buff to keep my head warm if needed, a flipbelt with the manditory kit, a few gels, and a bottle of water with electrolyte mixed in. These few things I carry and the helmet is the only thing I change in transition.

 

The trek bar is for immediately after the race along with the nuts and seeds. I also have these nuts and seeds with me at work for snacking during the day. The gels are essential, however it is for each indiidual to test out what works for you.

I will try and do a few blog posts similar to this one, to give some information and ideas to those of you interested in progressing in any sport. I have a huge amount to learn yet but I hope for those coming up the ladder that this will be of some help.

My Day Arrived, Sea to Summit 2015

We woke up at 6.20am on Saturday morning, fingers crossed the bad weather was staying south. Emma quickly informed me it was dry out and the morning was suddenly more inviting. With an 8.15 race start I decided a little porridge and a banana was loads to fuel up and with a light 1.5km warm up around the block I would be good to go. Emma wasn’t starting until 9.20 but came along to support as well as my parents who had travelled up from Galway early in the morning. It was Emma’s first ever adventure race and first ever time racing on a bike.  The buzz around the start line in the Castlecourt Hotel in Westport was fantastic with the first wave in the Supreme race ready to go. I met my fellow competitors briefly, we all shook hands and before I knew it we were flying off down the street to begin the first section, a 4.5km run to our bikes.

As a background to this race I would like to mention that I never really challenged in Sea to Summit before, however recent form and formguides suggested I was in with an outside chance. No pressure at all.

I suddenly found myself out on front, running quite slowly I might mention, and not really understanding why the rest stayed behind. After the first kilometer the pace had picked up and we were in a group of about 10 runners. It was starting to feel like a race. Sometimes these long multi discipline races can be tactically tricky with some deciding to go out fast. At this point I realised everyone had their own tactics in mind and I was determined to stick to mine. In a nutshell, I would run a steady pace with the front runners to the bike, reach the mountain in the top ten, come off the mountain in top three, hang on for dear life on the cycle and try to finish stronger than recent years in the hope of a top three finish. All this in less than three hours . What would happen, well I will try and tell my story.

We reached the bikes at the quay in Westport in about 15 minutes and I left transition in second. We were quickly gobbled up by a gang of bikers. Thanks lads, this was good. I stayed at the front,swapping and changing with the top three bikes as far as the mountain. The first four on the mountain can be seen in the photo above, with me sitting in third. The rain started to fall at this point and it got really nasty for a while. It was cooling in a good way though as the mountain started to take its toll. No matter how often you go up Croagh
Patrick it is one hell of a hike. The four of us ascended in 34 minutes and I descended a bit quicker than the rest to come off the mountain in 1st place. 51.40 up and down, my own adventure race record. Now things were getting a little scary, decision time! Would I tear off and hope for the best or was Shaun Stewart only seconds behind. I looked back and there he was, this could really help us both. I knew that the Cavan club duo of Dessie and Killian were not far behind and our only chance was to work together as they would be doing the same. Adventure racing like any sort of sport includes tactics and now was a chance for me to learn from mistakes in the past.

 

Just off the reek.

I cruised and fueled up until Shaun caught up and we quickly decided to work 30 seconds on and off together and try keep pace on the lads behind. Both of us had aerobars fitted and would be of similar strength on the bike so this could just work. A passer by informed us that the others were 45 seconds back as the cycle started. Our heads bowed low, arms tucked in, our teeth gritted and off we went. We would make them work for this race, if nothing else.

The Maum hills were next and we knew if we could hold the lads off as far as the top the race was really on from there on. All hell would break loose on the descent and the final 15km would be a sprint. I thought about my watt bike training, my hours on the hills in Castlehackett and the months of training over the last year and decided it was all or nothing to the finish. The hills are the make or break part of the course. My heart rate was up but my legs were feeling good and we reached the top in about 34 minutes. No sign of the lads behind us and our interested follower informed us that Killian in third was 1.15 minutes behind with Dessie in fourth joining him.

On the final 5km of the second bike stage.

We continued to work together until about 6km from home when Shaun said he was hanging on. He tucked in behind my wheel. I knew this wasn’t a ploy to save energy for the run as he is an honest guy so I put the head down and ploughed on. We reached transition in Westport after 1.08 hours on the bike. A pretty fast bike leg when it included the Maum hills. Things were now getting very interesting. as I racked my bike I saw Dessie enter transition only seconds behind and I left transition with shaun on my heels. It was looking like a sprint finish but I was feeling as if this was a big chance. The final 4km run takes you along the seashore, up a grass track, through a car park and onto the Greenway path that leads to the finish in the town centre. 4 kilometres may sound short but for anyone that has completed this race you will understand the feeling over this section. My feet were almost frozen solid from the bike on wet roads and my legs were beginning to scream. I reached the car park and picked up the pace. There was little reaction from Shaun and I opened up a small gap. I reached the Greenway and Shaun was slipping back a little, with no sign of Dessie. Concentrate and don’t look back, you stupid idiot is all I could think. Obviuosly I used this lovely language. I opened up the gap a little more around the 2km mark and I was running under 4 minutes per kilometer. This soon fell to 4.10 per kilometer but the gap was still there. I will be honest I felt excited and scared but most of all emotional. I knew, bar a fall, I was closing in on something huge in my life. I could feel the emotion building inside me. I ignored it and said “posture, stride, quick feet, keep moving and concentrate until the line “.

At 3,5km a guy ran towards me and said I was in the last 500 metres and the rest was down hill. I stretched the legs one last time, flew down the hill, hopped a few foot paths and there was the finishing straight. There were so many people but I saw my parents straight away. I did a fist pump, followed by lots more as I crossed the line. I had done it, I had won my first adventure race. I had also broken the course record in 2.47 hours. I felt like crying but was quickly asked to do a tv interview.

I joined the folks, a proud pair, and we waited on Emma’s arrival. I was so happy for her  taking part in her first race and at this stage was dying to tell her what just happened. Within a short time Emma cruised in, beating her expected time by 20 minutes and she was over the moon. A massive thanks has to go to Emma as part of my achievement. She has encouraged every training session and every race I take part in and is a real motivation.

I have worked hard this year and I have been improving over the past 5 years but I never saw myself winning. I hoped I could get there but the competition is so strong and my knowledge of the sport really only improving because of these competitors. The main reason I have reached this goal is by looking up to all these people around me and athletes I am learning from. I hope I can continue to learn from them and improve and maybe win again in the near future. It is a real eye opener to anyone out there that is willing to put in the work. So much is possible in a short time.

Crossing the line. What a feeling.

 

Top three.

A cracking shot of transition and the mountain.

Here is the proof, a link to the results.

http://www.sportsplits.com/Home/QuickResults?clientId=74&raceId=10350&raceName=Westport+Sea+2+Summit

A massive thanks again to the crew at Sea to Summit for organising a classic event. The marshalling and support was top class the whole way around.

So what happens next? A question so many have asked me since. I say a little break and start thinking of the challenges ahead in 2016. Hopefully I can continue to improve. Things might be different now I have a win under my belt. As they say in the states, I got the W. How corny does that sound.

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