Just recapping on our past racing and bringing the story somewhat up to date. Plans are well and truly afoot for racing in 2015 and the whole team is training away for different Spring targets. More details to follow, but here’s Kates’ race report from last Summer
The Beast of Ballyhoura 2014 – Team Triharder:
I saw the Boards.ie thread on this race last year and at the time I remember thinking how cool it looked, so when Mike posted that he was looking for a hoochie to join his team I didn’t have to think twice before jumping in. Training was going really well up until May when I damaged the tendon of the middle gluteal muscle and couldn’t run at all. I started swimming ,after about 6 weeks and that helped with the healing and to get me fit again. The last big training day was on Sunday 13th July. We spent 5 hours on the bikes and 2 hours in the kayaks and I was happy enough with my fitness.
The week before the race was extremely emotional for me as my mum passed away on the Sunday. She had been battling with cancer for most of 3 years and although we knew she was dying, it was still a big shock to me when it happened. We were very close and she was my best friend. I know she would have wanted me to do the race though because I had talked to her a lot about it and the Beast is a race that embodies a lot of characteristics that defined my Mum – endurance, mental tenacity, resolve, determination
I headed down to Blackwater Castle with Mike around lunchtime on Friday. The place was a hive of activity when we got there with the teams doing last minute preparations, checking gear and building the bike boxes that we needed for the race. Sean was late down because of work but Warren, Mike and I attended the race brief where we saw a brief fly through of the mandatory checkpoints on the race route and a teasing video of a grade 5 white water descent which got all our hearts beating a little faster! Sean arrived soon after and we got the bikes packed up into boxes, all of the tracker devices attached on and the rest of the gear sorted out. We had brought way too much food and our food box, which would be available to us at each of the four transition points ended up as a giant food filled lucky dip. After we had organised our stuff it was time to get some dinner. Luckily for us the marshals had some leftover chilli con carne that we were able to tuck into. I got stung by a wasp on my neck while I was having dinner. Didn’t even see the little fecker. One of the organisers was very kind and put some anti-histamine cream on it for me which I was very grateful for. We then had a couple of hours to get some rest before we got the bus to the as yet unknown start point. It was pretty difficult to sleep with the excitement and Sean playing random German techno music but Warren managed ok. I think he may have been a bat in a previous lifetime though!
Friday 11:30pm bus to start:
The teams were awakened by a loud trumpet call and quickly made their way to where two buses were waiting to take us to the start. I think I slept for about half an hour on the bus and I felt much fresher when the buses stopped. Team triharder was definitely the happiest team at the start when we got the maps for the first section because we were on very familiar territory – the buses were parked in the layby near the UL activity centre and we would be hiking up Moylussa which, thanks to an inspired decision on the part of our captain, was where we had done our last big training day.
Minimum distance:13k trek, 300m swim, 13k kayak
With a loud cheer and a 3-2-1, 28 teams set off to climb the highest peak in Clare in the darkness. There was a light rain falling which made the trails slippy and some of the really steep ascents difficult. I was struggling to keep up with the lads here and my left quad was feeling a bit tight. The 5k trail race I did in Donadea had aggravated the gluteal tendon a bit and I hoped it wasn’t going to be an issue. I was kind of thinking it would be ok anyway because section 2 was mostly biking and by the time I got to the 25k trek in section 3 I was probably going to hurt all over. We made good time up to M1 and M2 and we decided to skip the three bonus points on offer because they looked like they could be time consuming and difficult to find. When we got to the bottom of Moylussa we thought we might be able to find one of the bonus points but after what felt like an hour of searching we were no closer and we abandoned it and headed back to the UL activity centre for the swim. The lake looked cold and dark and I was very happy to be the one carrying the gear to the end of the swim section while the others swam.
Then we all headed down to the kayaks where we fitted in the canoe seats and prepared for what would be the longest and furthest I’ve been in a kayak in my entire life. The kayaks were lighter and flimsier than the ones we had trained in a couple of weeks previously. Sean was feeling bad for me because I was the only member of the team who missed out on the swim, and knowing how much I longed to experience the chill of the lake water, he kindly capsized the kayak getting in. I think this is where I sprained my wrist when I fell onto a rock and tore a hole in my waterproof trousers. The kayak section itself was grand though. We had a few steering issues all the way through as our kayak was constantly moving to the left. I think this was because of the way I was paddling. At the end of the kayak my wrist was quite sore but luckily we had reached TA 1, the first transition area in Larkin’s bar, where a giant breakfast bap, tea and coffee were waiting for us. I was cold and wet and I think this was possibly the best cup of tea I have ever had. I took some ibuprofen and some paracetamol and after a change of socks and some food I was like a new woman. Mike and Warren got stuck into marking up the maps we were given from the control map and marking out the checkpoints while Sean and I headed out to the beer garden where all the bike boxes had been left, to start assembling the bikes.
Minimum distance: Bike 35k, Water task 3.5k, Bike 35k, Foot task 1 – 5k, Bike 28k
It gets a bit blurry from here. Night, day, roads, trails, mountains, bogland all becomes one kind of amorphous blob in my mind. I can’t remember much about the first bike section until Warren spotted one of the control points hidden on a style with some sharp navigation. We had to lift the bikes over the styles to begin the ascent to the millenium cross. The terrain was rough and boggy and the paths were very narrow and covered with brambles and little trenches in places. We hiked the bikes pretty much all the way up. At one point I remember we had to lift them over a river as well. I don’t remember it being too wet at this stage because I didn’t have any problems with my footing. Sean had got us all brilliant Ronhill waterproof gear and I think we gave it a good old trial run over the 40 hours and found them to be of exceptional quality.
I think after we found the control point on the millenium cross we then went for the two bonuses up Keeper hill. A bit of a misnomer because it’s actually a 694m high mountain. The sun was out now and it was lovely to be out. We biked all the way up except near the summit, where it was quicker to just hike. A mist descended as we reached the top and it was very damp for a while. It was easy enough to find the control point once we were at the top and I think we all felt a sense of euphoria at what we had achieved. On the run back down to the bikes I started to feel a bit dizzy. Not sure if it was the change in altitude, low blood sugar or just general tiredness but I had to walk for a while. Sean stayed with me and gave me one of his emergency gels. Can’t remember what brand it was but it was coffee flavoured with extra caffeine. Perked me up no end I can tell you!
We missed the turn off for the second bonus on the way down. This cost us a bit of time and meant we had to bike back up again but once we got on the right road we had no problems finding the second bonus point we were looking for in a car park. Things started to go a bit haywire from here. We got a bit lost and had to retrace our route a few times to find the next control point as well as having to hike our bikes over a couple of bridges that were closed due to storm damage. I think this was the worst bit of the race for the team because as well as losing a lot of time we were physically knackered from all the extra biking we had to do and it was also mentally very draining. Once we found the next control point we made our way to the water based task.
This was the Clare Glens canyoning stage that we had seen on the video in the race briefing. Thankfully instead of canoeing our way down the river we would be going on foot and jumping down the waterfalls. The last waterfall was not big enough for the race organisers so they had built a walk the plank just to make sure we all got enough of a challenge. We had to change into our wetsuits which Sean and Orca had very kindly provided for us. It was nice to get out of our damp clothes but I found it quite an ordeal getting the wetsuit on. I have really broad shoulders and it was a bit of a tight squeeze. I felt like it was welded onto me! On the way up to the start we met a team coming back who said the task had been cancelled because the water level had got too high. That was a big disappointment because it would have been so much fun. We went to the start anyway and got dibbed in for the checkpoint then it was back to the changing rooms and onto the next task.
Can’t remember much about this. Think it was biking around Cahir and this was the part of the race where Sean and Mike got really competitive on the bikes with a few other teams who were with us at this stage. There was a checkpoint where we were supposed to do a shooting challenge as well but because it was so wet the electric guns were no longer working. The poor marshals were asleep when we got there so I think this was maybe very early on Sunday morning. On we went to the next transition area which was a pub in Golden and the welcome sight of some hot tea and our food boxes. Warren conked out immediately on the floor of the pub and after some food Mike and Sean joined him. We were well behind time at this stage. I think it was about 6 a.m. so I only let them sleep for another 15min before they all got rudely awakened to get up and help me pack up the bikes and get the kayaks ready. My wrist was a bit sore again so I took some more ibuprofen and the lovely lady who had given me the antihistamine put a bandage on it to give it some support.
Minimum distance: 20k kayak, Foot orienteering 25k
I think it was about 7 a.m on Sunday when we started the river kayak. We had the wetsuits and our bike helmets on because there are a few weirs and rapids on the way down the river Suir. This was fun. Sean and I capsized 4 times. I think anyway, I know I definitely fell out of the boat 4 times. The last couple of times we negotiated the weir ok but then we got taken out by trees just after. The last time the current was quite strong and I couldn’t reach the bottom with my feet and I had to grab a hold of my paddle and my bag so by the time Sean got me back into the kayak, with the help of Warren and Mike I was pretty cold. It took us about 4 hours to get from Golden to Cahir and while it was really enjoyable it was also very long and technically demanding. Several times in the last hour I started to nod off, my weight would go to one side and the kayak would start to tip which would wake me up again or else my paddle would drop into the water. Usually these nodding off periods were followed by a dunking in the river which is more than adequate to wake anybody up. The last weir we had to do is just before Cahir castle and it has the biggest drop. There is an option to walk the kayaks down it but since Sean and I had been in the water so many times anyway we said we’d give it a lash. The plan was to paddle as fast as possible to the edge of the weir, dip forwards to raise the back of the boat over the edge then quickly lean back to get the weight to the back of the kayak to keep it from going under. We got a bit stuck on the top of the weir and had to rock the kayak over and there was a little wobbly moment right at the bottom when the kayak thought about going under but we did it. Saving our best performance till last, we pulled it out of the bag and nailed the biggest weir on the river! So much fun! I was shaking with the cold when we’d finished and one of the lovely marshals who was waiting for us got me the best cup of coffee while I was changing. That was so sound.
Next up was foot orienteering in the Galtee mountains but a team decision was made to skip it and just head straight up to TA4 and the bike boxes. We had a little quarrel here because I was the only one who wanted to do it even though we were going to finish late and get time penalties. I think I was feeling the strongest at this point. I certainly had the most energy anyway and I guess it means more to me to be satisfied with what I have done than to be a few places higher on a leaderboard. But once the decision was made I was happy to go along with it so we set off on the trek up to TA4. Sean was in a good bit of pain with his feet and the further we went the worse he got. It took us about 2 hours to do 6k and then a decision was made to call the medics. Mike sat down on a kerb and rang Ivan the race director and once the call was finished he promptly fell asleep on his rucksack. We waited for maybe 10 minutes for one of the organisers to collect us in a van and take us to TA4 near Kilbeheny and on the way up we also stopped for another team who were in trouble.
I had a lovely surprise waiting for me at TA4 as my Dad and Claire and her husband Ian were all there waiting for me along with my old school teacher who is the mother of a guy in one of the other teams. Familiar faces are so nice to see when you’re wrecked tired. We said goodbye to Sean who was being attended to by the doctor and started getting our bikes assembled for the last bike ride back to Blackwater castle. I think it was just after 5 when we left. We went via the main road and although it was quite undulating I found it very enjoyable because we drafted all the way which was good fun. We stopped in Kildorrery for a drink and an ice cream and we bumped into one of the organisers and it was half seven when we rocked into Blackwater castle. Dad was waiting for me there and after we got some pictures taken and sorted out our gear we headed home.
Although we didn’t get as much out of the race as we would have liked I had an incredible weekend and it was one of the best things I’ve done. My team mates were fantastic and I think we all bonded really well as a team. Huge thanks to Sean and Amphibian King West for organising all our gear, to Orca for the lovely wetsuits and Ronhill for the brilliant raingear that saved our skins in every sense. More details about all our gear here. Thanks to Warren for stepping up to navigate and to Mike for being a brilliant captain and a great friend.
And finally the only thing left to say is …… I’ll be back!