This event is the brainchild of 3 people, Ivan Park the man behind the Beast of Ballyhoara, Avril Copeland a prolific Adventure Racer (who is retiring again!) and James Thurlow has organised over 100 Adventure Sports events in the UK over the past 11 years with Open Adventure. The idea of showing off the country at its finest is what motivates the team behind the ITERA.
ITER – Latin for “journey”.. and the “A” stood for little more than the ADVENTURE (where on that journey the outcomes are uncertain)…
The teams will be racing through Ireland over five days in August 2016. The race will finish in Killarney – and the start – you will have to wait till August in 2016 to find that out..
An early morning start for the drive down to registration in Killarney. When we enter the INEC, there’s a giant map of Ireland sitting in the middle of the hall and a dotted line leads from Westport to Killarney, with the different disciplines represented by different colours.
Collecting our maps and route books at registration we felt we predicted the course accurately enough and thanks to smart training decisions by Captain Mike we had covered some of the ground we’d be racing over.
Peter is his usual stoic self and Sean seems confident but Mike looks slightly apprehensive and we’re all worried about how his collarbone will react to the stresses of races. TriHarder have pizza for dinner and then settle down for the night at the campsite (Peter disappears for ages to have Shower #1). It’s really humid and I’m sweating so much, I’m starting to stress about being dehydrated so I can’t wait for the morning to come!
Wednesday 18th August (early!!):
We get a tasty breakfast bap and a food bag at the INEC and we’re bundled on the buses for the 5 hour bus journey to Westport. It’s a damp, grey morning and any hopes that it will brighten up as the day goes on are dashed by the time we spill out onto the lawn at Westport house.
After a captain’s briefing and a few photos the teams line up and at 12 minutes past 12 we depart on the journey of a lifetime.
Stage 0 is supposed to be a 5k run around Westport but due to Garda restrictions on closed roads it ends up being about 5 miles. Westport is hilly and it takes me a couple of miles to settle into a comfortable pace. Thankfully we were able to leave our backpacks at Westport house. This feels like a long run but we keep together as a team and after picking up our backpacks off the lawn, we head through the forest to the kayak put in. I fall on my ass down a slippy mud bank on the way.
The kayaks are arranged on the lawn in our team numbers but they’re not the same as the ones that we saw at registration so we have to spend a number of precious minutes adjusting the seats before we’re ready to go. The sea is calm in the bay and I’m lulled into a false sense that this stage is not going to be as bad as predicted.
Mike and Sean are in the first kayak and Peter and I are behind, trying as best we can to follow their line. The waves are high and we have to work hard as soon as we leave the shelter of the bay. There’s a few other teams around us and we seem to be holding our own. After a while the conditions worsen and we’re hit with 7 and 8 foot breakers attacking us from all sides. Peter and I are struggling to keep our boat straight (it keeps drifting out to sea) and to keep up with Mike and Sean and they have to wait for us on numerous occasions.
At the captains briefing before we started, we were told that there was a strong possibility that this stage could be shortened and when we see a couple of teams pulling in to the beach ahead we follow in the hope that we’re being taken off the water. Alas, it’s only teams taking a break but it’s nice to get out of the boats for a few minutes and get some respite from the conditions. The tide is ferocious now and we’re all knackered. Mike keeps yelping like a monkey as his collarbone is dragged to and fro and his broken ribs are given a jolt. It feels like we’re never going to finish when a boat pulls up beside us and we’re told that the course has been shortened and we can pull in at the Clare ferry pier. We’re all soaked through and the wind and rain is relentless but there’s a small hut near to where we put in that we can use for shelter while we change for the 15k trek along the beach.
It’s lovely to be out of the kayaks and we quickly warm up as we jog along the new route. We catch 3 or 4 teams that finished the kayak ahead of us and do most of the trek with Basecamp AR. In a couple of places we have to cross through deep, fast flowing streams that are coursing down to the sea. The current in these is incredibly strong and it’s difficult to know see how deep they are so it ends up being a blind walk across them and we have to link arms to ensure we all get across safely. It’s an enjoyable trek and by the time we reach our kayaks again we’re well recovered and ready to do battle with the sea again.
We have a long walk with our kayaks through streams before we reach the sea but thankfully the kayaks float most of the way and we don’t have to lift them too much. The current is unreal when we reach the sea and it takes a while to get ourselves into the boat, with Peter and I turning over and taking a dip before we get ourselves sorted. The 8k paddle has been shortened to 3k because of the conditions and even though it’s dark now and Peter and I are thankfully able to stay in Mike and Sean’s slipstream as we cross the more sheltered waters of Killary fiord.
We have another short trek along the old famine road to then to reach the first transition at Killary Adventure Centre.