Section 1: Night MTBo with some hike a bike: ~ 75k in 6hrs
Last big training session before the Beast. I met up with our new teamie Shane on Saturday evening and we drove down to Limerick. Mike had been slaving over a hot stove all afternoon to ensure we were all suitably fueled before we set off which was very much appreciated. We set off to ULAC shortly after 10pm and we had the bikes organised and were good to go by 11:15. We headed into Ballina on our way up Tountinna towards the Graves of Leinstermen. There were some fairly sharp inclines on the way up and it was pretty warm.
CP1 – “Graves of Leinstermen” – Signpost
From the signpost we turned up the Ballina way. A steep narrow path which had lots of rocks, gulleys and ledges. I hiked my bike most of the way up. It was hard work! This path brought us up to the mast. There was a biting wind up here and we had a quick practice of using the bothy before we began the descent.
CP2 – Tountinna – Mast
I’m not too mad about descending on the trails when it’s dark especially when the trails have gulleys in them. I use the breaks too much and the bike doesn’t travel very well. The front wheel slipped off a grassy ledge at one stage and I fell over. After that I got a bit braver and let go of the breaks a little and the bike was moving better but all the same I was glad when that section was done. The nav was a bit tricky around here but we were working really well as a team and there were very few mistakes made as we travelled into Killoscully. I think this was were we cycled through the town in the early hours of the morning and a couple of lads who’d been out socialising did a double take as we went past. It was funny
CP3 – Killoscully – Stone Sign “Cill Ó Scolaí”
From Killoscully we made our way to the Clare Glens. In the Beast last year there was a transition area here and we had to change into our wetsuits and walk a couple of kilometres up to the Clare Falls where there was a canyoning stage. Unfortunately when we got up to the CP last year we were told the canyoning had been cancelled because the water level had risen too high. That was a low point in the race for us as we could have used a fun section to lift the team spirits. It was much quicker and easier on the bikes last night and in no time at all we had reached our CP.
CP4 – Clare Glens – Clare Falls
The dawn was breaking as we headed out of Clare Glens into Newport. We practised drafting on the bikes and this section seemed to fly by. There was a guard in the tower at the railway station who seemed intrigued when four cyclists rocked up to the platform and abandoned their bikes briefly. They loitered on the platform eating jelly snakes before gathering up their bikes and disappearing!
CP5 – Newport – On Bridge
CP6 – Birdhill – Railway Station sign “Cnocán an Éin Fhinn”
We made our way back by the main road to ULAC, packed away the bikes and got ready for the kayaking.
Section 2: Kayak ~ 10k in 1hr 40
The plan was to do 5k out to this little island, change around the pairs and then 5k back. I started off with Sean but I had this notion that I would be better in the back of the boat. This was definitely not the case because we ended up going aroung in circles for about 5min. We had to take a little detour back to the slip and change around Once we got going then we flew along. The lake was a little rough on the way out but we kept a good enough line. I was much more comfortable in the kayak today. My paddling was better and we were keeping in unison and the first 5k seemed to pass quite quickly. Once we got to the island, I swopped with Mike. The way back was a lot more difficult. The swell had increased and the waves were crashing into the boat and into me and I was properly soaked. Mike and Sean were by far the stronger paddlers and although they waited for us a couple of times we were still about 5 or 10 minutes behind them getting back to the slip.
Section 3: Swim ~ 250m
The guys were pretty cold by the time Shane and I had finished the kayak. It’s scary how quickly your body temperature drops when you’re soaked and you stop moving. There was talk of abandoning the swim but I really wanted to do it because I’ve never done an OW swim in a lake at 7:30 in the morning when I’m cold and sleep deprived and I wanted to make sure I could handle it. In fairness Mike didn’t need much persuasion and once I had him on side it was a done deal I was first in and OH MY FRICKEN GOD did I get a wake up call. It was bloody cold and I started hyperventilating pretty much straight away. Luckily this happens to me a lot and I’m kind of used to it so I didn’t panic but I know it sounds kind of alarming. I tried to make it stop by swimming like I do in the pool and exhaling underwater but I was only making it worse so I I had my head out of the water all the time. We swam a little square around 4 buoys and that was plenty!!!
It took ages for me to stop shivering uncontrollably but by the time we had reached the service station for our full Irish breakfast and the team debrief I was pretty much recovered. Very happy to have another good session in the bag and we had a lot of fun.