[RACE REPORT] The #BeastofBallyhoura – Out of the Darkness and into the Night – The Final Push

So sometime around midnight we arrived back in the hall to get some sleep, wrecked after a stressful day on the mountains.

It was not restful sleep as people kept banging in and out through the door, it didn’t help alleviate the fatigue at all and the floor was cold, but you know what? It could have been a whole lot worse.

We sorta roused ourselves, likely each of us hoping one of the others would broach the subject of stopping but that was not going to happen! If your name is Jose, then the answer was “NO WAY!!”

Getting up was a struggle, but warm clothes, a little bit of foot care, repack the gear and we were ready for the door again.

We did not plan on the Stage 11 All or nothing stage so we jumped right into…

Stage 12: Bike (74–80 km) Maps J, L, M Ballymacarbry to Kilbeheny
Long bike stage, during which teams will travel from the Comeraghs through the Knockmealdowns  to TA9 in the foothills of the Galtees taking in the East Munster way and Avondhu Way.

This was a dog of a section. No two ways about it. But we were going to bring this Beast to heel!!

We pushed off from Ballymacarbry sometime around 03:50, bidding adieu to the marshals and Ivan whose parting instructions were to avoid B39 as some moany individual of a farmer was giving out about the activity around the “Track / Stream Junction on Tree”.

Mike was naving the bike section and to be fair, with little sleep, a back to front (orienteering) compass, rejigging the planned course on the fly, dealing with our fatigued queries about the changes he was brilliant. He had his maps on the Nordenmark in front of him and I had the back up and route cards set up on mine so we cross referenced each other as we went.

A relatively short road section led us on to track and in no time we were mountain biking properly, off road. There were times where we had to get off and push, there were times where we lent a hand to each other and times where we simply spun our way up and over. I was coming real good on the bike and was starting to find proper power (whole other discussion about this on my own blog to follow) which made for much easier progress for the entire team.

We worked away through dawn and were on the right track for hitting our first CP at B40 following the East Munster Way. B40 was “On Gate Beside Cross” being Ireland and most crosses being at the top of hills we turned left off the EMW to climb to the top of the hill but stopping to recheck the maps I glanced down the track to see a figure appearing out of the cloud. First thought was: “here we go, the mad farmer is stalking us!” second thought was “CROSS!!!” appearing in the cloud behind him.

The others must have thought I was ‘cross’ and didn’t see it for a minute but then like something from the Old Testament a ray of light shone down and we threw ourselves down the hill to nab the CP. YES!! First 1000 points in an age!!

Photo Credit: Family Photographer off http://www.panoramio.com/photo/4667278

Our savvy navvy quickly lead us down along the EMW through Glenabbey and 30 mins later we grabbed B41 (1000 points) before hauling ass to Newcastle where Kate negotiated sandwiches, tea and coffee from a shopkeeper while the boys without a care in the world reapplied chamois cream to tender parts…


Pitstop over and it was time to get going, back on fire roads we danced along getting the Liam Lynch CP (b42 1000 points) before 10:30 and then with a combination of trail riding and hike-a-bike we did consider the bonus points around The Vee but seeing some other teams up scrambling around in the wrong places we opted for the direct route to the next CP at B46 (1000 points) and a run into the TA at Kilbeheny arriving there around lunchtime.

This is where the mind games began.

Stage 13: Cycle (10km) / Trek (20 – 55km) / Orienteering (6.5km) Maps N & O Kilbeheny – Kings Yard/Kings Yard to Kilbeheny
Teams start with a short bike section from TA9 to their bike drop at King’s Yard before starting to trek in the Galtee mountains, collecting controls on several high peaks, deep valleys and forests. There will also be a short orienteering section at R55. Teams will collect their bikes from the bike drop and continue to TA10.

Rocking from our powerful bike section through the night we were on a high as we swooped through transition. Seeing several of the top ranked teams like SWECO in transition gave us a lift too. Home strait! (nearly) There were also a few casualties too. One of the Dutch teams was out, normally I would have gone for a chat and chance to practise my Dutch, but, hell no we’re on a mission!!

In and out with bags stripped to the last, no excess baggage required for this section. We’re going to flatten those mountains.

Back on the bikes and the short spin up to Kings Yard where dropping the bikes in a haybarn we orientated ourselves and made some decisions. Type “A’s” were lets go for it!, Type “B” was a little more cautious so being the happy, chappy with his mappy I called the shots. Plan was go for the valley points, sight across to Galtymore, make a weather call and go for it our reverse back out picking up what we could off the trails.

My secret plan was we’re going for it! 😉

Down through the yard and onto a trail we made double quick time across to the treeline and dropped down onto a section of road at Templemicheal (religion again?) before jumping onto a trail that lead up to the first CP R47 (1000 points) where we bumped into the guys from Sleepmonsters who were well impressed with our trek plans. That gave us a great boost. They also remarked on how upbeat and well planned we seemed relative to some of the other teams who had gone ahead of us – bet they say that to all of the guys 😉

SM Galtees

Picked our points, spotted a route across the valley and following sheep tracks we contoured around to a point where we could drop down to a crossing point on the stream. A quick conference and we all agreed to bee-line straight up to a point about the saddle which meant we gained height rapidly and cut out the meandering drawn out effort on the tracks.

Height gained, vantage point gained and with promising weather we were on for the maximum points as planned.

A little over 2 hours from point to point and with some craic swapping bags around and carrying for each other we were on top of Galtymore or GM as we affectionately started to call it. Over the top and 1000 points richer we dropped down fast to the saddle and started running for R56 (you can see by the distance between GPS points the ground we covered, fast!)

Stage 13: Galtees Trek
Stage 13: Galtees Trek

Shane and Kate were first up as Mike and I approached from a more westerly direction to scout our exit line. As I came over the top Shane started shouting that Kate had dibbed and to get our wriggle on. Sprinting through knee high heather is no joke! I could have throttled her!! We got R56 (1000 points) and turned to drop down to the valley side (it looked steeper on the map) to cross over and round the contours of the next hill (centre of image above) to drop into an ants next of teams going to and from R57. We’d a height advantage and dropped down in the middle of some teams, napped the R57 (1000 points) before hightailing it out of there.

We passed two teams at a trot on the way out and at one stage I handed my bag to Shane as a comfort stop was required. Unfortunately running to catch back up to the group we spotted Rob and the SleepMonsters crew ahead an Shane was having a ball slagging me off, having to carry my bag for him over the trek etc. etc.

Cue a wanton race down the hill to catch him and the bag before we got down to the serious stuff of Rob trying to get some ‘broken’ team photos coming off the hills. We heartily obliged by doing some ministry of funny walks stuff, we literally could not see where we were going with the tears in our eyes!! It was hillarious 😀 😀

Poor cameraman 🙂

We landed back in the yard done and dusted under 6 hours and with the promise of a power nap we lured the team to push on back to TA10.

This is where we were driving for the finish so rather than breaking for next day we’re going to finish this off…

Stage 14: Bike (33km) Maps  P,Q Kilbeheny to Ballyhoura Mountains
Teams will cycle to Ballyhoura mountains to TA11

Mike was back on nav duty on the bike and on a high we stomped on the pedals as the weather started to close in. Good, thought I, there will be no stopping for sleep in these conditions, easier to keep going.

Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t suffering, or messing, we felt good, real good and it was a team call to get ‘home’ to Ballyhoura.

RFP became our motto and we repeated it to each other relentlessly – Relentless Forward Progression – we only stop if it helps us to go forward. We did have a rather cool  moment alongside a leading team of Dutch / Belgian and German racers as a cross road on the map led to a ditch and stream, looking at the map the stream was the Limerick / Cork border but splashing in the stream for 10 mins meant neither team found a way through so we took a round route.

Mike did a supreme job of navving to Glenroe, he was tiring from the concentration and I took over from there to bring us into Ballyhoura from the North side. I made one nav error shooting past a junction at Castleoliver but we quickly recovered and with Kate perking up as she started recognising familiar ground and with an extra spring in our step / pedals we spun onto the trails properly.

Arriving at the Trail Center sometime around 01:00 we dibbed to indicate we were going onto the trails. A quick snack and change of lamp batteries in the sauna like warmth of the Toilet block and we were onto the trails to collect some points!!


Stage 15: Bike (651 km) Maps Q Ballyhoura MTB Trails  
The MTB trails are laid out as ‘stacked  loops’ – this  means that each loop leads onto the next and rejoins it on the way back. The loops are waymarked in one direction and are graded from beginner to expert. They are coloured: Green, Brown, White, Blue and Red.
There will be one control placed somewhere along each of the following coloured sections. (Green, Brown, White and Red).
Teams will collect the controls and return to TA11/12

Oh baby yeah!!! Back where it all kicked off for #TriHarderAR. Our first team training session was on these trails, this was home-town for us!!

We had such a ball on this Green loop, picking up some bonus points. We passed another team at one stage and apart from the 3 rocks that attempted to upend me, one of which tried to fire me into a gully, this was a blast. We rocked the trail and arriving back into TA less than an hour later we were packing bikes away and dropping everything we did not need into bike boxes. As I pointed out to Mike at one point we’re wearing all the mandatory gear so empty bags with only gels is all we needed for the finish.

Stage 17: Trek (12 km) Maps N/A Ballyhoura Mountains to Kilfinnane (Finish)
After TA12 teams continue on foot following a marked trail to the finish in Kilfinnane.

You wouldn’t believe it but we found extra spring and started running the trek back! We ran out of Ballyhoura Trails, ran down the road, ran on the tracks, passed teams in the mud, we ran!!!

We didn’t run all the way but we were running.

Kate got chirpier and chirpier as we started hitting sections of the Ballyhoura Mountain Marathon that she won a while back, every trail we were on was one she galloped horses on. It was great to see her so lively. The spirits rose higher the more sugar she took on board.

We observed a transition in Mike as he started to crash, he got an injection of one of my 2nd surge 125ml Caffeine Espresso gels and like an inflatable toy being blown up he came back to life over the course of 5mins!!

Shane spotted the right way out of a field in the dark, how he spotted it with failing batteries we’ll never know, but it saved us from a penalty as the others were halfway through a ditch, a bit like that scene in The Commitments.

Ivan remained sadistic til the end though pushing us through forest paths, one line through the trees led straight through a big puddle, like a bear trap full of water, we missed it on the high side. We were rocking!!

Suddenly breaking through onto roads we were in Kilfinnane. Just like that we rounded a corner and there was the finish line!! We caught them napping as we trotted forwards and there was a scramble for the cameras.

Laughing and crying Team #TriHarderAR romped across the line at 05:10 on Sunday 2nd of August 2015. Having slayed our demons and putting the Beast to sleep for another year.

Watch some of what happened at the finish line in this video!

We appear laughing at 0:19 seconds into the video.

The final wrap up – Team #TriHarderAR – Mike, Kate Sean & Shane finished 29th from 50 in the European Championships and 6th Irish team home.

#TriHarderAR – 29th Team home in European Championships
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