In the week before the race myself and my two relay team mates (Ronan and Brian) were getting the mandatory kit items together and hatching plans. Ronan is an excellent cyclist, having recently done the Ring of Kerry. Brian was hoping to take on some of the running, but an injury meant he couldn't so he decided to do the kayak stage. That left me to do the two mountain run stages (1 and 4). I was going to do the whole race on my own, but during a discussion over christmas drinks last year we decided to do it as a relay. We did the 57k route, which consists of: Mountain Run - 7.5km, Road bike - 35km, Kayak - 1.5km, Mountain Run - 8km and Road Bike - 4km. There's also a 67k route (adding another 10k onto the second mountain run) or a 25k route, but that one isn't open for relay teams.
I decided to take the Friday before and Monday after the race off work and I'm really glad I did...
On the Friday, I got an early train down to Killarney from Dublin and got there around 1pm. I had lunch and got a taxi out to the apartment we had booked. There was lots of room to lay out all our kit and make sure we each had the mandatory kit items along with food, water, gloves, hats etc.
By the time my buddies had made it down it was about 8:30pm so we went straight to registration. All of us had to be there together to pick up the race pack, bib numbers, dibber and goodie bags. (The dibber is an electronic chip timer attached to your wrist. You have to scan it in at each checkpoint along the route, some of which were at the tops of mountains.)
After getting back to the apartment, attaching bib numbers and double/trebble checking the kit we went to the pub. I guess we needed to relax, well that's my excuse! We only had two beers before calling it a night (early enough).
I reckon I got about four hours of sleep, mind racing, nerves etc. Not much you can do about that though. Alarms went off shortly after 6am and we scoffed breakfast, got all our running/cycling kit on and drove to the bus pickup point. This was also the finish line, so we posed by the finish line...before the start.
That's Brian, me and Ronan pre-race. Yes, it was cold!
After the bus brought us to the start line I did a short warm up run. As I hadn't been able to run recently, it was the first chance I'd had to run with all the race kit on. I made a couple of quick, small adjustments and felt good to go.
Me with most of my kit on, including camelbak, arm warmers etc. Not included in this shot are gloves and hat (mandatory).
I wore a long sleeve tech top and a short sleeve tech top over it along with arm warmers. For the start of the run I also wore my fingerless gloves and beanie hat, but took the hat off later when I warmed up. I was debating whether to wear my jacket (mandatory to have one with you), as some did, but once I got running I was glad I hadn't put it on.
After we got our kit checked (some people weren't allowed to race due to failing the kit check!), we waited for the start, it was cold!
And we're off!
I decided not to push the pace too early and that was a wise, wise move! We ran about 500m on a back road and then we went onto the single track of Strikeen Mountain. Some parts were rocky, but quite a bit of it was mud, in some places half way up to our knees. Of course that slowed us down going up and made it slippery going back down. I was wearing my VFF KSO Treks with Injinji toe socks. I don't think any type of footwear would have prevented slipping in all that mud, but I found the Treks to be great. I didn't bring the camera on the runs as looking off the track for a second meant a slide or worse. I told the guys I was hoping for 45mins to cover the 7.2k or so. It took a little over 50mins, not too far off.
Me coming in to the end of stage 1
A closer shot, note the muddy ankles/feet
As I was running into transition I was taking off the dibber. Ronan was already sitting on his bike so I put it straight on his wrist and he was off...
Ronan starting stage 2, a 35k hilly bike ride
My feet after stage 1...
Stage 2 took about 1:45 and Ronan handed the gauntlet to Brian for the kayak, stage 3.
Brian going out in his kayak (blue top)
Brian just finished, good job! You can see the dibber on his wrist.
After Brian finished stage 3 it was my turn again, this time to take on Torc Mountain. I thought this would be 8k or so, it wasn't...
I ran out of the park, across the road and started running the trails and rocky steps to the mountain. After a while I came to a fork in the road and couldn't see anyone in front. A sign indicated to go straight, but neither option was straight! I decided to take the left and shortly after I looked back to see other runners stopping and looking confused, they ended up following me. Then the road started going downhill and I was tempted to turn back, but didn't. I rounded a corner to see other runners and a course marshall, phew! After about the 2k mark we went off the fire road and onto single track that was very rocky and slow going. Some sections were covered by two railway sleepers bolted together, which was great, but anytime a runner was going the opposite direction you both had to come to an almost total stop to let each other pass. My legs were feeling tired by now, but slowing down would just make it last longer. I got to the summit in 45mins, which was 5.5k. There was a small queue of about 5 runners to check in so I took in the sights and once I checked in I started on the return journey. The downhill was sooo much easier, but it was tricky on some rocky/muddy sections. Once I got back to the fire road I opened up the legs and took off. I was feeling tired at this point, not just in the legs though. Then I realized it must be lunch time and I had only eaten a few cereal bars since breakfast. The mountain runs took a lot of calories! (Update: My garmin reckons I used 550 calories for the first run and about 800 for the second run.) There was a water refill station near the end of the run, but I kept going to make good time. I had water left in the camelbak anyway. Once back in the park I sprinted over to the bike drop, checked in and passed the dibber to Ronan again.
Ronan on his bike waiting for the next stage
He was off for the final 4k bike section pretty sharp-ish. I grabbed some food from Brian and took more water on. That 10.5k mountain run had taken 1hr 40mins!
Me after the second mountain run stage, that's the mountain in the background
We walked around to the finish line and met up with Ronan to get our finisher's medals, and free portions of chips! There was free physio sessions, hot tubs for the legs and a tent for Helly Hansen, the main sponsor. After chilling out for a bit we drove back to the apartment and chilled out in the pool/sauna/jacuzzi for a while before dinner. The whole race had taken us 4 hrs and 42 mins, not bad for our first adventure race! The winning team did it in 4:23 I believe and the overall solo winner did it in 3hrs something.
Finish line photo - Team Misadventures!
During the prize giving in a local pub that night, we were told that the last competitor finished at 7:15pm, wow, lots of respect for someone to keep going that long especially when it must have been getting dark!
That evening over beer and food we discussed next year's plans and how best to approach the race. We'll be back...
Elevations and profiles for the two run stages, distance in KM, height in feet (for some strange reason!)