[RACE REPORT] Captain’s Log – #BeastofBallyhoura 2015 according to Mike

Race Report: The Beast of Ballyhoura, AR European Championships Final 2015

#TriHarderAR Team #47

 

 

0-24 hours: The Game Plan and the Fun Bits  

Ah back to my old stomping grounds, the University of Limerick. I have many happy memories here and a great place to host the HQ of the Beast of Ballyhoura, AR Euro Series final. There is a lot to be done the days before a multi-day race. Gear checks, bike checks, build bike boxes, prep kit bags and nutrition based on the route schematic for 72hrs, rope skills test, signing your life away etc… It was a busy but relaxed a fun day for the team. The excitement was palpable and the bike p0rn no less emphatic that a triathlon transition set up. It was interesting to see the types of towing rigs, tyre choices, paddle choices and how teams went about their business.

 

The 2 important meetings were

Ivan the RD

 

1) The Race briefing. It’s not like the 5-10 minute shout above the crowd before a triathlon. Its 1.5 full hours packed into the Jean Monnet Lecture theatre in front of a giant screen for all the competitors, marshals and RD. Ivan Park had the look of a man who had both worked tirelessly long days and months, yet still had the patience to handle the many questions from the throng of foreign teams. There was just one thing on everyone’s minds. The maps! When presented the team captains formed a mosh in front of the theatre table despite the maps and route book being packed neatly into an individual folder for each team. 16 maps total, plus one more we would receive during the race. The next few hours were all about planning our route and strategy, laminating the maps and getting dinner.

 

Spot #TriHarderAR!

 

2) The Captains Q&A. Sean finished off the maps while Kate and Shane attended to kit bags and bike down in the PESS hall. I attended the 30 minute Q&A with 49 others plus Ivan and his assistant RD, Mark. I found myself sat beside Sinead from team Arse. She was concerned about the swimming section but I reminded her that she had 3 teammates and her smile returned. The questions were varied and the quick gabble of translating going on around the room constantly tested Ivan patience. A French lad behind me was having difficulty with his northern accent and asked me about the tides in Waterford, “when is a good time to paddle?”… Your choice buddy! I was aware of the penalties for not completing special tasks and for crossing farmland but I had a very specific question about crossing road that were off limits to travel.

Nick Gracie from Adidas Terrex beat me to the punch and asked about an offset (by maybe 100m) “crossroad” somewhere on the main Cork road E30. Could you travel for just 100m and join the road  on the other side? No! I asked about a similar shorter junction at the Ballyhoura Mountains and the response was also, No! Ivan basically said that we would have to find another route at these points and crossing farm fields to avoid them was also out of the questions. Both of these roads were on our planned route so I made a note to mark them. Many teams would later fall to penalties on both of these junctions.

With the meetings done, bike and gear loaded onto trucks it was sleep time. Difficult, as the adrenalin was now on overdrive. Our strategy was simple. High Value mandatory checkpoints only and make sure we did all the fun special tasks. We had broken the 72 hours down to 6 sections with checkpoint times for the team. Our progress against that would determine more during the race. I was absolutely determined on this as I felt responsible for making some bad calls last year to go for tough bonuses that, along with Nav errors meant we missed all the fun stuff and were ultimately short coursed. In every way I wanted this to be better. I felt the team deserved better.

0430 race morning and we manage to swallow some coffee and eggs on toast. 4 Buses rocked up in a light mist and packed 200 excited Adventure Racers aboard for a trip to Curraghmore House Estate in Waterford. It was a simply stunning setting for the start of a race and the sun was shining. 0835, High fives, whoops and off we set on an 18km trail run around the grounds of the Estate. It would be easy to think it was just a trail run the way everyone took off “running!” up a hill. We dialled the effort back to a march on hills. Sean was filming with his Garmin VIRB and each of us was a TEN!!!* *We used this numbering system all through the race to guage the spirit of the team. If anyone was a 5/10 or worse, ultimate teamwork kicked in We started right at the back of the pack but had slowly picked off some teams. There was a section of the run on an old railway line and if you didn’t clear it by 11am you had to run on road. Running on road with a backpack and trail shoes is not fun for the Adventure Racer and it heats your feet up much quicker. It required a short choppy stride to run on the track sleepers but I enjoyed this bit. We passed the Munster Raiders Team, some of who whom I knew. Everyone was in great spirits. We cleared the railway and finished the run after 2hrs 14.

Transition was simply getting the backrest onto the boats and getting on the water, Kate and I in one, Sean and Shane in the other. We had to haul the kayaks down a steep muddy bank. Sean gave his a whoosh and it seems to aquaplane across the knee deep sticky mud and onto the water. Meanwhile I spent 5 minutes dragging ours inch by inch through the mud. We were caked in it stepping into the Kayak. Sean and Shane just decided to flip in and wash themselves to get it over with. This seems to be Sean’s initiation to partnering with him for a paddle The Munster Raiders had a better transition and were out on the water ahead of us.

The next 1.5 hours was a paddle down the middle of the river, avoiding some spinning eddies, passing a few teams. Personally I went from fat burning to glycogen burning. It just needed a bit more effort to keep up with the 2 boys. Kate was setting a good rhythm and we kept close for the most part. My right hip was a little sore after the trail run and it manifested to glute cramp and tight right hamstring. I had to stretch periodically and should really have eaten while stretching.

We arrived at Waterford to a hive of activity. The top teams had completed their urban orienteering and were flying down the ramp in a hurry to get back on the water. We stood on the pier holding our Kayak waiting for a half dozen teams to be given right of way. We dropped the Kayaks up the ramp and received our orienteering map. Sean took charge and we ran 5km+ around the streets collecting 3,000pts. It involved a run through a park and shopping centre much to the amusement of locals. Did I mention we were RUNNING! Again, in a 72 hour race we were running. This is something the top teams do right? I basically dragged my cramping glute around after the other 3. One of the controls on a Tower was fittingly for Ivan, located in the highest point in the town.

Less than 5 hours done and we were back on the water. People tracking us told we were back in 42nd place at this point. We thought we were moving along nicely! Just shows the pace that teams started out and the general level of competition in the European Championship Final. 67 more hours to go… when would this pace bite?

The next Kayak was the first of 3 ball breakers in the race for the team. It was a 32km paddle down the estuary to the sea and around the headland to Dunmore East. I knew the tide would turn at some point but not as soon as it did. We had about 13km done and had followed the river on to the wide open estuary and busy shipping lane and the going got tough. There was a Ferry crossing to negotiate at Passage East with the Ferry leaving every 15 minutes. You basically had to time it to clear the path as quickly as possible. Once beyond it was a further 6km or so to K4 on a beach. It was a slog, pure and simple.

The tide pulled us right toward the centre and the waves started to brake. A static wave of about 4feet stayed with us for a while and we also had the wake of big boats to negotiate. I saw a boat capsize further to our right (in the strongest flow). There was a coast guard on the river but the guys had flipped the Kayak back over and got back in by the time the CG got to them. Kate and I were shelved and the Boys were feeling it too. We pulled into a rocky beach about 2km shy of the Control to get some layers and gels on. We hugged the coast and took a better line to a tower that indicated the beach was next. Thankfully we pulled into the beach and flopped down. It was a brute of a paddle and we were still some 13km short of Dunmore East. We collected the 1,000pts at K4 before the Marshal told us that “Bad Weather Option B” was being put in place due to the conditions. Boats were now being directed straight across the Estuary to a beach where the remaining 8km to Dunmore East would be done on foot. Sean and I swapped boats and it was in better spirits we paddled the next hour across to the opposite beach.

Any boats behind us were being diverted across short of K4 and we were told only 2 of the leading boats actually got K5 further down the coast. A few other boats that got close to it would be credited with the points but also receive a time penalty. We were just happy to cut the paddling short and collectively went from about a 3 to a 7!

The Nav began once we were on terra firma. We bumped into the Munster Raiders again too. We had passed them on the river but they passed us again while we were on the rocky beach getting warmed up and fed. There were 2 distinct routes to Dunmore East. We opted for the slightly longer but straight forward route vs. the more off road hilly version the other team chose. We hit Dunmore East before them so that worked

The next stage was a run down to a rocky beach entry and coasteering around the coastline. It was a short section with 3,000pts on offer. These were to be gained by clambering over wet rocks and swimming between beaches. We collected the first 2 points on lifebelts and it was fun. We wore wetsuits with PFDs and helmet along with our shoes and bib. Only the bag with the GPS tracker had to be carried so we had that in a dry bag to be attached to the waist and dragged behind the swimmer. Shane took it for the short swims and I was to take it for the second last longer and longest last swim.

C7 was a special task. We had to climb up onto some rocks and jump 25ft into the water below. If you thought about it you would freak out so best to just jump! I knew Enduro both didn’t like swimming and hated heights so I wondered how someone like him got through this. He later told me he simply closed his eyes and had one of his teammates push him! There was a significant point’s penalty for not doing it and his team, Get No Sleep were properly racing at the pointy end. I

managed to have my palms facing toward the water when I jumped so I got a right stinging slap on both hands.

It was nothing compared to the pain clambering over the rocks to C8. My calves locked in a vicious cramp. Normally that’s enough to stop you in your tracks but when I pointed my heel, the shins joined the party. It was excruciating and there was nothing I could do. Shane was in the water already and came over to help. He grabbed my calf to find the trigger point and squeezed as hard as he could. I don’t know if he was under water or what but I was very grateful. After a few painful minutes it eased and I swam very tentatively to C8 and the longer swim to the final beach. Cramps aside, I really enjoyed this stage. It was great fun. We had our first transition with our kit bags and bike boxes next. It involved climbing a hill to get to them of course!

It was in TA4 we learned that the second 6km coasteering section was cancelled. Mainly on account of the brute of a Kayak stage. Teams would now cycle through that stage instead. Brilliant! This had us in great form as darkness began to fall. We fed up, stocked up and put the bike together. We left TA for a long bike after 12 hours racing. Spirits were high and this would prove to be a lucrative and fun section for team #TriharderAR.

We biked down the coast road to collect more points. There were 9,000pts available on the mandatory course back to TA7. B9 and B10 were easy as would B13. We did take a wrong turn to TA5 which was the start of the coasteering section. We were not the only ones to do so. It was only 7 mins lost though so quickly rectified. We dibbed C13 next and my chain broke when I stood up to push straight back up the hill we had just come down. Shane came to the rescue and we fixed it efficiently. We dibbed B14 near Stradbally after a nice full moon lit pedal along the coast, all the while chatting and laughing. It crossed midnight along the way and we were still chirpy and happy after 16 hours racing.

B15 was trickier to find. We cycled past it initially and continued 2km down the coast before I realised we must have passed it. Double back and it was through a hole in a hedge! We hoisted the bikes through to find a sign pointing us to B15 in a tunnel along the tracks. We cycled down to an old tunnel and easily one of my favourite parts of the course so far. We dibbed the control and continued along the eerie solemn tunnel. It felt like something from a Harry Potter movie. B16 was waiting for us on a gate at the end of the tunnel and it was only a few minutes to find B20. We had thought about a bonus control here that would have basically been a 4km climb up a hill and descent straight back down but decided against it. We saw the Comeraghs as potentially our biggest Nav challenge and wanted to get out on them with as much daylight as possible.

From B20 it was a straight shot to Kilmacthomas but it presented the first real critical Nav decision. We were on the bike for the bones of 50km at night when we hit a junction to the main E30 road. It looked a lot like a crossroad on the map and you are allowed to cross over these main roads but not travel along them. When I looked closer it was an offset crossroad and I could see the turn off to Kilmacthomas about 80m down the road to my right. 2 more teams arrived at the scene; a French and Czech team and promptly travelled down the road and turned left onto the Kilmacthomas road. This was exactly the junction that Nick Gracie of Team Adidas Terrex (The winners) had asked at the Q&A briefing. We decided to turn back and reroute an extra 4km or so around to a clear crossroad. I hoped the teams would be penalised and they clearly broke the race rules for a short cut. It turned out that junction was indeed a penalty so we made the right call.

At TA5 we dibbed in to collect our climbing equipment and wondered happily down to the stairs up to the Railway Viaduct. It was a spectacular night. Some light clouds shrouding a massive full moon. The army were on hand to ensure we were strapped in before we threw ourselves off a 100ft height. The first 10ft were off a wall then a clear drop for the rest. It was relatively quick but I loved it and the brake from the biking. So far so good. It was about 0430, about 20 hours in and we were still on great form. After the abseil are spirits were back to a bunch of 8-10s this stage was also a good opportunity to get food on board. We were sticking with an “eat every 45-60 mins” plan and were constantly reminding each other to eat and drink. I was drinking water and had quadruple strength electrolytes in my bike bottle. Somewhere along this route we took a 15 minute power nap under a hedge outside someone’s front garden!

It was a mere 20+km to TA7 and it brought us around the Comeraghs. It meant lots of hills, the worst of which included a sadistic hike-a-bike. We had a full 3.5 hour off road mostly pushing our bikes uphill over rocks, heather and mud. It was truly energy sapping on tired bodies. It slowed things right up and if the 2nd coasteering had not been cancelled would have really messed with our plan. 3 more teams of different nationality joined in the fun of lifting, dragging, pushing and carrying bikes. We eventually reach B21 at the top of the hill. Even though this was a slog of the highest order, I usually relish the descent and forgive the mountain. It was not to be. The trail was too rocky to descent to we cut downhill through thick green lumpy landscape to find a road that took us the remaining few kms to TA7. We checked into TA roughly 24 hours into the race. We had cycled the bones of 81km over the previous 10 hours, including the abseil and the 3 hour hike-a-bike marathon. We collected our targeted 9,00opts and were tired and need food and sleep. We knew the sooner we got out onto the Comeraghs the better so we agreed on 2 hours transition including sleep.
24-48 hours: Green Witches and the Moment of Truth…

It brushed 11am Friday morning as we got ourselves together for the next stage, the Comeragh Mountains. I had slept particularly well. After a recovery shake and some tuna stuff I lay in my foil blanket but slept no more than 40 mins. I awoke shivering. I think it was here that Kate handed me a hot chocolate. It was watery but warm and hit the spot and its one of the moments you cherish your teammates, like Sean taking over bike Nav when I got too tires to focus or Shane taking my bag when I was flagging climbing a hill.

We kited up for trekking and set off with Shane and Sean on Nav. It was a long walk to C22 and on reflection it’s the one part of the 16 maps I could have planned better. There was a more direct route but we stayed safe on road and trail initially. Once off the track and on to open terrain Shane brought us to the next 2 CPs within 3 hours. We met team Beast Mode en route to C23. They were on their way back and perhaps had 10-15 minutes on us. We dibbed the control by the lake and doubled back. The track took two options, a high contouring one or a lower more definite trail. The other team went low and we went high. Within a half hour we converged on C24 together. No extra effort, just better choice

We were now in a bowl in The Comeraghs at about 400m with cliffs surrounding us. It was both spectacular and daunting simultaneously. Beast Mode looked like they elected to get off the mountain and head back to TA8. It was about 4pm on Friday afternoon and we still had plenty of

daylight. We opted to climb one of the cliffs in a zig zag fashion to collect 3 more CPs on top. We had 3,000pts from this trek in the bag but there were 10,000 mandatory points on offer. We spent an hour beating our way to the top which was much more open and windy. The cliffs dropped off the sides of the plateau and peat hags hid the terrain from view at times.

The trouble started here. We took the wrong direction to C32 initially and it chewed time. I took out my compass to support the Nav but it seemed to be off with the orienteering compass and the ABC watches. We thought we were on the right Gully edge but seeing Mahon falls below which had C29 700m beneath us confirmed we were wrong. We hugged the cliff edges in search of the CP until we got to the right Gully. The wind had picked up now and it was scary to get close enough to look over the edge. We found footprints in the mud and knew we were on the right track. Sean dropped down onto a ledge which was covered in footprints. On the map we were right on C32 but it was not there. We searched for 20 minutes but no joy. The weather was closing in now and we decided to skip any more CPs and head back down from this height.

Over the next half hour a cloud quickly descended and visibility became more and more challenging. We no longer had anything to sight that was within 50m so I took a bearing and walked 50m then took it again and walked 40 etc… It was about 7pm and the Cloud now enveloped the top of the mountain and we were in the middle of it. Something was wrong. We should have been descending but we were not. We should have been heading northwest but we were going south. Stop to check and the wind is howling now and it’s getting cold and wet. My compass was the problem. I had a little magnetic clasp on my rucksack strap and it had demagnetised the compass! We were lost! Sh!te!

It quickly became apparent and there was concern. We could barely hear each other over the wind and visibility was down to no more than 30m. We entertained an idea of pitching the tents and waiting until morning or better visibility. Sean suggested we leapfrog on a bearing and He, Shane and I did just that while Kate just kept moving to try to stay warm. It was slow going. 40m at a time using two people in a line in front then looping over to traverse a dead straight line. It began to drop height slowly but not enough. We had run perhaps 30-40 reps of this relay when we reached a glimpsed a lake ever so briefly between some clouds. We were sure we matched the shape and size to one on the map and took another bearing. After 2 hours or so lost in the cloud we eventually found a stake, then another stake and followed down off the mountain under the cloud and to open terrain again. The relief was clear. Sean took out his video for a quick monologue as I fell over. We had found ourselves in a very tough spot but as a team, and only a team, did we get out of it. Again we went form 2s and 3s to 6 and 7s, ate for the first time in hours and pressed on back to the Community hall and TA8. Darkness fell as we got of the mountain and onto road. We still had 8km to go and in no form for running. It was therefore a 2 hour walk on road. Our spirits dropped back to 4s and 5s.

We had planned on sleeping when we got back from the trek no matter what happened. We collected 3,000pts so it was not entirely a waste of time but we did drop a few hours to tighten our schedule. We all hit a low walking along the road and I felt particularly sleep. The sleep monsters decided to visit. One minute I was talking to Sean, the next a little lime green witch on my right on the grass verge. I first thought it was Sean still talking to me but this witch was giving me a good scolding for endangering my team and jeopardising our race!

Shane asked how long we would be in TA for. I could hear the croak in his voice. It was 11pm Friday night. We had been racing for about 38 hours with a 1 hour sleep and had just been through hell. I called 3am for the start of the next stage. Up to each person what they wanted to do with the time. We usually had tighter role plans for TA but this was a case of the team needing a break. I think

Shane ate something, climbed into his sleeping bag and conked out for 3+ hours. Kate sleeps less than all of us anyway but still got some good kip despite taking a chunk of time to fill all the water bladders and bottles. I swapped a tin of creamed rice; yum and a recovery shake and went back to shivering for 2 hours in the hall. The real concern I had was my feet. I used cleaned and powdered them before sleep and again afterwards. It made a difference.

Around 0230-024 we all arose and it was immediately evident that we were in a stew. I felt rubbish. I didn’t want to get on my bike. Shane flat out said he is not trekking anymore. Kate (Our Queen Gru) looked wrecked but ready and Sean was wrapped in his sleeping bag until we were practically on the bikes. I brushed my teeth and snapped out of it, told Shane and Sean to get moving and quickly sorted maps for the next long bike stage.

While we got organised I noticed Ivan rise form a sleeping bag and tell a team on the way out the door that B39 was cancelled because of an angry farmer. Teams now had to take an alternative route through forest trails. I broke the new to the guys but they didn’t care much. Spirits were low. It was probably our lowest ebb actually and as such our moment of truth. Would we mentally throw in the towel and just bike back to the finish? I wasn’t sure. I felt very ropey myself.

We left TA at about 0310, more or less as planned. We were only across the road and I had to stop. I wasn’t fully awake yet and I wasn’t going to Nav my way into a maze of forest trails in the dark if I couldn’t even focus on the map. I pulled it together and set off. We were instantly uphill and my derailleur got caught leaving me on a big ring. The last thing I wanted right now was to mash up this hill and break the chain again so I stopped again for the second time in 10 minutes to sort it out. The others cycled on ahead to the next junction. I bolted up after them once sorted and realised it was another special moon out. There was some could cover but it was dry and calm.

We spent the next 1.5 hours slowly spinning up yet another mountain through forest trails. It involved some hike-a –bike but nothing like the previous night. We eventually ran out of trail and had to hop a fence to an open field. We first questioned if we were on farmland but there was no other way across and we were on top of a mountain. Another British team arrived on the scene and plugged on ahead through the filed toward the forest that fell down the opposite side to a river. We more or less followed suit and found the trails on the opposite side. It was some fun descending until we re-joined trails and Nav’d our way to the river. We crossed it and began to climb again as day began to break. The hills before came to view and we could pin point our target easily enough. Queue more hike-a-bike! We entered a field at one point that definitely felt like a farmer’s field and we were worried about penalties so we got out through a hedge as soon as we entered. We hit the top of a modest 300m ridge and followed a rocky trail. We were tired again. It was more the mental weight of not having punched a control in over 13 hours that was getting us down…

 

48-69 hours: Back in the Game! 48-69 hours

All of a sudden Sean shouted “Croosssss!” And the clouds parted to reveal a large cross overlooked an extensive view of south Tipperary. Our 5s became 6s and 7s as we dibbed B40, finally! We threaded our way down through forest trails again to find the Munster Way and B41 at a broken down castle. 2 controls within an hour and the spirit levels were rising. We were eating and drinking and laughing again. We met another Irish team at the castle and got a glimse of how teamwork does not happen. We had to cross to the other side of the river, through trees and up a steep bank. The other team worked as individuals and were going nowhere. Their Nav looked  frustrated and had a look of “here we go again”. Sean rallied them to action and we joined in, creating an assembly line to get all 8 bikes across and onto the Munster way on the other side of the river. We promptly left them behind afterwards.

Teamwork was one of our core objectives. We do things together. We tackle gates, hills, streams, transitions and everything between, together. We have room to improve but the communication and laughter was the glue that bound us. The Munster way took us through the sleepy town of Newcastle in Clonmel and Queen Gru spotted an open shop. We pulled over and she raided the place for coffees, ham n’ cheese sambos and a pile of chocolate bars to fuel for the final stages. Aah, picnic in the sun, burned tongues on molten hot coffee, liberal roadside application of chamois and waving a couple of teams on by. Over 50 hours in and we were on the up. 7 and 8s became 8s and 9s

Soon back on the bikes and we were cycling happily to our next CP. B42 was up another mountain in the Knockmealdowns on the Liam Lynch memorial. It involved some more hike-a-bike but on grass and much easier. The sun was out and it was a smashing view across Tipperary from the fire road up at 500m. The memorial was hard to miss and we dibbed our 3rd of 4 planned 1,000pt CPs. It was just so enjoyable at this stage. We felt great and were ever rewarded with a high speed switchback gravel descent down the mountain. Woohoo! TENS!!

At the bottom of the descent the Munster way met the Tipperary Heritage way and we needed to turn off onto the road to get off the mountain. Staying on the mountain meant entering Bonus point territory, forest trails and likely stiffer hike-a-bike. It was not the plan. The plan was to hit the roads and arc around a forbidden road to get to Clogheen and a good road we could follow to the end of this stage. We missed it. I saw it and just got distracted by the Tipperary Heritage way signpost and all of a sudden we were on single forest track threading more or less parallel to the forbidden road to our right beyond the trees. Crap, crap, crap. I thought I had made a grave error that would take us hours to get out of. I even entertained ideas of climbing back up steep hike-a-bike to to a viewing point to hit a bonus CP and a main road. Not the plan!

I focused so hard on the map an compass, the trails more or less all lead west. We just had to travel far enough to clear the 5-6km forbidden section of road. You were not even allowed to cross it so turning right too early would have meant a certain 500pt penalty. The day was going so well, I couldn’t bear to tarnish it. Shane was clocking the distance and Sean was backing up the Nav. We made shorter work of the single track than expected and spat out onto the road well clear of the forbidden road. It was even a fun trail so it worked out well. I figured it took roughly a similar time to the big road arc option and was infinitely more enjoyable MTBing Phew!

The rest of this long 76km bike was easy and we soon collected our last bike 1,000pt CP, B46 at Mitchelstown Caves. We arrived in Kilbeheny, 4,000pt richer, happy and ready to take on the Galtees. We had made good time and our schedule was still in play. Everyone was feeling motivated. We were further motived seeing some of the top teams in TA9 getting ready to head out on the Galtees. We felt like we were back in a race now. Shane had a steely look of determination and the whole team was switched on. I sat down to consider our plan carefully while the guys got stuff ready. I necked a tin of creamed rice, a shake and took care of the feet. They were in good nick. Just over 30 minutes later we were cycling up to Kinds Yard to begin the Galtees Trek.

We had come a long way mentally from 12 hours earlier at 0230 that morning when none of us wanted to even bike, let alone tackle another trek. At Kings Yard we tucked the bikes away and after a quick argument, set off. We were still a bit stung from the Comeraghs and set a careful plan of collecting the nearest CP and “seeing how we went” or rather “seeing how the weather went”.

While Shane and I debated whether to include Galtee Mor or not Sean grabbed the map and set of, man on a mission.

 

It was gorgeous day in the Galtees. I have never been up here in such fine conditions. We could see every peak clearly and it invited us. We set a time limit of getting back to Kind Yard inside 7 hours, so whatever we could accomplish in 6 was it. We crossed trails to the west and found a wall the curled up the side of a mountain. We followed it and bumped into the Sleepmonsters crew. We had great craic with them as they snapped pics. We knew they had to be on the route to we took stock that we were heading the right way and sure enough C47 on tree 50m south of a house just like the route book called it. 1,000pts on the Galtees inside an hour was sweet. Onwards to Galtee Mor then. It was a good hike away. Over a 500m ridge, back down and back up to a 700m ridge. Sean gave me one of his walking poles and it made such a difference to my hamstring. Until then my hip, glute and hamstring were stiffening up, sloing me down. With the support of the pole I found another gear.

2.5 hours later of very enjoyable trekking we were dibbing into C48 at the summit cross of Galtee Mor. It was an amaaaazing view and we were all buzzing now. We caught sight of 2 more teams in the distance to the next CP, B56 on a summit in a concrete building. It was basically a shed on a mountain top 3 peaks away. Less than an hour later we had descended to the right height, found the right trail and were dibbing in to another 1,000pts in the shed at B56. 3,000pts was as good a return as we had gained from the long Comeraghs trek and we wondered if that was it. We had made good time. We had 2 hours of our window left so to hell with it, go for the last mandatory control and get them all on the Galtees. It was on a massive Oak tree beyond another peak and down a valley. We quickly descended and crossed a river. I flagged a little contouring around the next peak and Shane took my bag. I was reluctant to hand it over but almost immediately I found another gear.

When we eventually caught sight of the huge Oak and 3 other teams running to it we were elated. Sean was nailing the Nav on this section and we were having such a laugh the whole time. Dibbing C57 under that tree was magic. We interacted with Beast Mode who we had met back on the Comeraghs and we had the maximum 4,000 mandatory points on the Galtees. We had pep in our step now and passed Beast mode and another French team on our way back to Kings Yard. En route we bumped into Sleepmonsters again and they caught pics of Shane carrying Seans bag and Kate carrying the map (Sean and I were taking a natural detour). We had some laugh with the Sleepmonster boys running down the hill with us and Sean trying to get his bag back. We wasted no time at Kings Yard, grabbed our bikes and flew back to the hall in Kilbeheney. It was not yet 9pm Saturday night; we were 60 hours in, had collected all of our planned CPs in the last 12 hours and were feeling great.

We had momentum and we were back in the game

The original plan was a power nap back at TA 10 in the hall in Kilbeheney but we unanimously agreed to push on through to Ballyhouras. We were on the home stretch and barring disaster were going to make it home to finish ranked having collected CPs on all stages. Best case scenario!

We quickly transitioned to the Bike as it got dark. I was on Nav again but only for the first 22km. Sean had the other map on his mount to take over for the remaining 11-12km. As we set off with the well wishes of the marshals, it began to bucket rain. Shortly into the route we had to hike our bikes  over a gate and following the map to avoid main roads we met a dead end at a hedge. We had a Belgian team with us for company. The route we had marked on the maqp looked like a clear cross road across the main road but we faced a stream and ditch. It was into a farmer’s field too so we had to reroute and Nav on the fly to avoid a penalty.

We took an alternate route up a climb with ever thickening grass in the middle of the road. It was raining heavily and visibility was poor. The map board could have done with a window wiper too. The Belgian team had bombed ahead but we reeled them in when the kept stopping to check their map. They jumped on our tail for the last km of the climb and even when I turned off to the left. I was careful too and the pace was slower as a result. We passed a left turn that the Belgian Team thought was the right way. I was looking for junction to turn left and continued on. The Belgian Team went left. I knew they had gone wrong but still for the briefest moment questioned my choice. We on the go for 19 hours since our last sleep and any mistake would cost us dearly.

It was slow going with occasional stops to check the route for the rest of my map. I handed over to Sean at Glenroe and we were close enough to Kates hometown for her to perk up and confirm that were on the right track. There was one tricky Nav choice left. The road crossing I had asked about at the Captain’s Q&A was coming up but Sean was on it. We missed a turn at Castle Oliver but quickly realised it and doubled back to climb up the south side of Ballyhoura. It was a steep relentless climb in the rain. We were cold and now awake 23 hours. It was over 63 hours into the race. We flew down the fire roads to the trail head centre and it was a hive of activity. There were head torches piercing through the trees all over the mountain trails.

Anything we gained now was a bonus. We chose the small Green trail loop to bag 100pts bonus for the cherry on top. We popped into the smelly steamy visitor centre initially to change batteries and raid the vending machine. There was gear everywhere, lights, nudity, snoring, you name it.

We soon hit the trail and completed the 6km green single track loop in under an hour. It included stopping for Sean to fix a mechanical, Sean falling off, me falling off and stopping to joyously dib the bonus control Back at the trail head centre the boys packed away the bikes into the boxes while Queen Gru attended to her feet ahead of the final trek/run. We dibbed out of transition at about 3am Sunday morning with bags of time to complete the 12km cross country to the finish.

Kate and Shane took off RUNNING for the first 2-3km on road and soft mud. Sean and I followed trying to keep up. We passed 3 teams in the first 3km at this pace. It felt insane to be RUNNING after 66 hours of racing. Nuts! The rain continued to pour but our spirits were high. Kate was reliving her mountain marathon win on the route and was positively bouncing. I faded after an hour and went into la la land. This route just meant following red arrows through mud, trail and fields but 25 hours on the go without sleep was taking hold of me. Sean had to force feed me with gels to perk me up.

With less than 2km to go we were still in danger of penalties. We entered a field with no apparent arrow. Kate and I were about to climb through a gap in a hedge when Shane spotted the arrow on the far corner. I just plodded in the direction of his voice. Having at one person lucid or semi lucid at all times had been crucial. If we had all hit a low point (like the march home on road after the Comeraghs), then a power nap was the least we had planned to do. No need this time, we ran most of the last km to the finish. It was an incredible feeling.

This was an awesome race. It’s a super challenging route no matter what level of team you are or how you approached it. Ivan Park and his team have not just put countless hours of planning an Adventure Race for the Adventure racers, but he is actively growing the sport in Ireland. Again it

was a special event. The volunteers getting sleepily out of their cars to greet teams, Ivan being disturbed from his sleeping bag in a smelly community hall every 10 minutes with questions, the marshals playing little jokes on sleepy racers. It’s all brilliant and what’s more is that I got to share it with Kate, Sean and Shane, 3 brilliant teammates. We finished strong in the last day to climb to 29th in the field and 6th Irish team home. It represented a step up in performance for team #TriHarder. It represents a new platform for us to build on to the next step. Stay tuned!

 

Watch some of what happened at the finish line in this video! Prize Giving is about to start!

Posted by The Beast of Ballyhoura on Sunday, 2 August 2015

#TriHarderAR finish video about 20sec into the clip..

Cliff

[RACE REPORT] Kate’s View: The Beast of Ballyhoura 2015 – The return of #TriHarder AR

This is Kate’s race report from #BeastofBallyhoura. Enjoy…

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[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!!”

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BoB viaduct

[RACE REPORT] Trekking the #BeastofBallyhoura (see what I did there? ) – Part 3

It’s just after midnight and the moon is out.

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Photo Credit - Beast of Ballyhoura Facebook page

[RACE REPORT] Awakening the #BeastofBallyhoura – Part 2

Ok so the first bit wasn’t really about racing, more about the preamble. This is the race proper.

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Bob Team photo

[RACE REPORT] – The #BeastofBallyhoura puts smiles on the faces of #TriHarderAR – Part 1

Ok. I’m going to keep this race report short….

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Getting Prepped

That’s a lot of boxes for a race!! The prep is well under way. Thanks to @DavidMahedy for the pic

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#TriHarder

 

Introducing the #TriHarderAR Team tackling the #BeastofBallyhoura 2015

As I write this, in just over 6 days, 10 hours, 17 minutes and a fistful of seconds, Team #TriHarderAR will be loading onto a bus at 5:30am to be brought to the secret starting point of the 2015 Beast of Ballyhoura Adventure Racethe finals for the 2015 Adventure Racing European Series (ARES)

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As they used to say before #TriHarderAR: “A lot done..

The SAS have the Brecon Beacons.

TriHarderAR have Moylussa & Keeper Hill.

ULAC was again the location for a secret sortie of night-time manoeuvres last weekend.

Meeting up at the carpark a very  excited Mike got to meet his new kayak which he carefully unwrapped before getting down to the business of the plans for the evening. With a bundle of maps showing CP’s from last year’s Beast and a strategy of bike, hike, kayak until tomorrow we got our gear and packs organised.

There were a number of systems being tested out; splitting navigation roles on the bike, with CP details (location etc) reverting back to the stand by NAV once Chief NAV had assumed command. Using map boards for the first time (we use Nordenmark map boards) we suddenly realised how easily life could be!! 🙂

NordenMark MTBo Classic

Of course though, I had to have my cockpit set up ‘just so’ with my bike light and VIRB tucked in nicely underneath the mapboard on K-edge mounts I was happy out!

Leaving Ballina we cruised over to Silvermines village on the back roads adhering to the rules of the Beast and headed up “The Step”. Appropriately named piece of steep road that goes up and up! Over the top we then had a section of MTBo to find the first CP which was a stake in the ground. A little bit of hesitation as the maps were old versions and Coillte shift fire roads around a little. A little bit of recall from the forest map and gut instinct lead us up a narrow trail to turn right and up to ‘find’ the CP and dib in (1) on my GPS track.

Coming back from CP 1 the decision to rejoin the Slieve Felim Way by cutting across a section of bog was made (in hindsight correct though map not accurate enough to be 100%) following a brief bushwhacking we turned and went for the fast option of dropping down the trail we know and out…

Sorry for laughing….. 😀 😀

Mike in the lead…. just ahead of me…. retracing over the swampy bog… suddenly upended! It was like something from a cartoon the way he went in slow motion over the handlebars as his front wheel went hub deep in bog. Getting up he had the look of something alien as peaty black mud was stuck to his face, clothes and hands.

This is the second time this has happened to him, right in front of me…sorry! Oh how I wish I had the camera on for this one! 🙂

Mike arising from the bog

A quick check that he was ok, a squirt down with water to clean him, the bike & maps and we were dropping down through a lovely tunnel of overhanging branches. I really enjoyed this as I’d powerful lights and could really let rip on the descent. Awesome!!

Back on the Slieve Felim Way we quickly made our way around on the Keeper Challenge route to nab CP2 which bore memories of us standing in the rain last year, facing a team meltdown and a mini tantrum (ok a right throw-down tantrum) from me over not being able to pump up the bike tyres enough.

Finding the CP on the bottom of a post 12 months ago was like a pressure release valve! Easily found tonight 🙂

Not so easily found was the route we wanted to Keeper Hill from the backside. Again the GPS shows we were doing ok, and even going for high ground out of the trees we could see what our objective was. Unfortunately we did not trust the maps enough and also did not want to be allnight on the way to Keeper. We wanted sunrise over Lough Derg. Decision made to drop back down onto the main road and a nice big loop around to connect at Shallee and across to Ballina to ULAC for the transition to the hike.

MTBo

05:52 / 71.5km / 1315m ^

Dropping the bikes and swapping over nav duties I took the lead for the hike section. The issue was this is so familiar to us at this stage it is hard to let go of knowledge and trust the map and compass but that is the point of the exercise so put memories out of mind.

Transition was slow as treacle. I changed shoes and socks as I wanted to try out a new combo. I also wanted long pants as with tick season on us there is no point taking chances with getting a nip on bare legs or arms. Definitely something to be worked on is smooth changes with a purpose.

CP1 on the hike was easily found even to the point of remembering the position in the bank on the tree. Continuing on we grabbed a quick snap of Lough Derg lighting up and a team selfie (lost forever 🙁 ) and rambled on up to tackle Moylussa. Funnily enough I felt tight and sore in my calves, I put it down to lingering Coast2Coast and not really backing off run volume, so the ascent was tough on my legs. I stopped and took another photo of Lough Derg using a post as a ‘tripod’ and retook the lead for the walk across the bog to the peak stone.

I would on any other day take a snap of Moylussa peak, but I have one. As destiny would have it I would probably have discovered here that my phone was gone and quickly retrieved it. I didn’t and as a result, didn’t.

We spun around and checked bearings to MP2 (Training CP2) and set off on a beeline over the mountain bog. Reading the vegetation I spotted water and potential bog holes so negotiated around them. The bracken is tough on the legs as you are having to high step over it. I called a decision to make our way to a track that on the map lead to the second peak and expecting something better than what we were in, lead the way over.

This was the wrong decision as the ‘track’ was a track but was mostly bog. We ended up hiking through the same stuff we had left and on a longer tack too. My bad 🙁

We got the BP3 which was much further away than it looked from Moylussa. Checking the map for BP4 we decided to cut it out and drop down to BP5. After a brief “it’s a cliff” objection we opted to check it out and leading the way we quickly dropped down approx 100m over bracken & brush and as I looked back to see the others I though “perfect photo! The team against the blue sky!!” reaching for my phone I discovered it was GONE!!

Not where I put it. A quick pocket check and pack check and I was gone scampering back up. The thought through my head was I’d promised to ring home at 9am so they’d know we were safe off the mountain.

I was gutted. I’ve never lost a phone. I went back to BP3, retracing my steps and carefully picking my way back down scoured the scrub for any sign of a nice, big, bright yellow phone.

No joy 🙁

Anyway pick it back up, it’s only a phone, and we finished the drop to the tree line which was deceptive from the top. Still rough, but a narrow belt of trees leading to a cleared area with young pines popping up.

I reckon we saved ourselves 2.5-3 hours of ‘easy’ hiking by dropping and beating our way to BP5 (4) skipping BP4.

From then on it was hiking around the trails working on skills like picking out features on the map and identifying on the ground and vice versa. Checking orientation and the like.

Nabbing the next CP and routing towards the last BP we spotted a potential shortcut. Identifying a trail that runs in the direction of the CP we could look to ford a stream to come into the back of the CP saving ourselves 30-40 mins of hike out and back. This worked out a treat and we ‘dibbed’ in and tracked back out and down to the lakeside for the next phase.

Hike

05:14 / 20.75km / 860^

Again we seemed to take forever on the transition from hike to kayak. More down to general jawing than anything else!

There was a nice little chop as we headed up lake. The boat was lifting and slapping down on the waves which thankfully were running perpendicular to our travel direction. Cutting across waves in these SIT’s is not pleasant and is a quick route to having to swim!

A little comms. issue had our boat heading straight up the Lough while Mike cut away to the left. He’d a nice tempo going and was moving along swiftly to the other island. We waited until it was clear which island he was going for and when we hit calmer water we cut across to meet him as he came around the island. Turning in the lee of the island was perfect, only a little roll in the boat but heading back to ULAC running with the waves and the wind behind us gave the illusion of not moving at all.

Despite paddling just as hard we seemed to be sitting still in the water. Weird sensation. Shortly after  the turn Mike started to drop off  quickly and looked very fatigued. We spoke about drafting and a tow but with no line (I intended rigging a line up and storing on board, just in case, but didn’t get time) he fell back quickly.

Paddling for shore my plan was to get a line and turn back for him however the current seemed to help as the waves picked up closer to shore and both boats rode in quite well on the surf so by the time I’d got the line and back to the boat he was pretty much ashore.

Kayak

01:55 / 10.3 /

An executive decision was made and we called an end to the session. We had talked about cycling to Tountinna for a spin around the trail but lack of nutrition, fatigue and lessons to assimilate meant we wisely decided to debrief in the morning sunshine 🙂

We learned a few things overnight, we worked out some new tactics, some new nav techniques and the need to eat more!!!

Link to Polar Training File

Link to Polar Relive

…more to do”

#TriHarder Kate’s report from the 2014 Beast

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.

 

Section 1:

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.

 

Section 2:

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.

 

Section 3

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!