So, firstly I have to congratulate all the people who took part in Gaelforce West at the weekend and hats off to Peter O’Farrell and Emma Donlon who won the race with a very impressive performances.
Especially those who took part on behalf of the Tania McCabe Foundation (over 100 competitors), some of which had never done an adventure race before. Well done to all.
With an early start on Saturday it was a welcome relief for everyone leaving Westport for the beach in Carrickduff that the rain was holding off! I was starting at 7am so the pick up was 5.30am. On the bus you could get a sense of anticipation building, plenty of positive energy around but also the nervous energy was to be seen. Once we got off the bus we had a short walk down to the beach. Like everyone I was asking myself have I done enough training to get around the course? What will the conditions be on the course? Will I make it around without getting the dreaded puncture?
About 400 metres from the beach we waited for the elites to come by at 6.30am. They where off 30 mins before our wave and when I seen them coming up the road I could see why they are the elites. Once they passed we began making our was down to the beach. I felt good. The girls at physiofusion ( www.physiofusion.ie ) had got my legs feeling great and I had done quite a bit of training over the last 2 weeks. We get down to the beach and make our way to the start line. I’m again going to be tipping around the course with my mate Alan.
The air horn goes off and we’re away, the first 10 minutes of the course is a climb and we struggle to get our second wind. I pop an energy gel at this stage to give me a kick. Once we break the hill we begin moving swiftly down the hill and in towards Killary little bay before we’re hit with another climb up towards Killary Bay. We get around the bend and we begin to make good ground towards the kayak section. The conditions underfoot are tricky on this section and I loose one of my runners while running through a bog! Runner back on and we get going again. After about 9km I see the kayak section but I know it’s still another 20 minutes or so away. At this point I take a gel on. We get off the trail and back onto the main road and begin moving towards Killary adventure centre, before moving back off-road and back onto a bog trail. It’s all downhill now to the kayak, so we push on.
We get to the kayak section and have a quick drink and set off on our kayak. Alan jumps in the front and I’m in the back. We get a migthy push from behind and next minute we’re underwater! We’ve toppled over in the kayak. The water is very cold and as I pick myself out of the water and back onto the kayak I don’t want to experience that again! The kayak section goes slow enough as every stroke we take to the left seems to leave the kayak unstable, so we nurse our way across the bay. Off the kayak, and we start up the bog and onto the road for delphi, I’m looking forward to the bike at this stage.
We grab our bikes and change shoes for the bike leg to Croagh Patrick. We’re under the 2 hour mark at this stage so we’re on target for a sub 5 hour mark time. We set off on the bike and soon begin our climb towards Tawnyard lough, the legs and body still feel good. We’re on the bike and get half way up climb with the lough on our right hand side. Alan gets a nasty cramp. I jump off the bike and get the tiger balm out of my bag. I rub the balm in and stretch out Alan’s calf. We soon get going again and reach the top of the climb. There’s a quick descent and we’re off toward Drummin. I get to Drummin and I look behind. I can’t see Alan! I stop and a wait and take on a gel and a drink. I begin to think that Alan may have had a puncture so start cycling back the way I’ve just come. To my relief Alan comes around the corner. He had another cramp. I quickly turn around and we push on towards Liscarney. Once we get to the main Westport to Galway road we can see Croagh Patrick in the distance to the left.
We soon turn off the main road and start moving up the road towards Croagh Patrick. The road soon turns to trail and I’m praying all the way to the bottom of Croagh Patrick that we don’t get a puncture. Luckily we don’t, and we arrive safe and sound at the base of Croagh Patrick. We’re just over 3 and half hours in, and I realise we will struggle to get under 5 hours. Croagh Patrick is a tough climb and we start by taking a gel and some energy drink at the base. We move up the right hand side of the Mountain and follow the trail. Once we get up onto the first ridge, the climbs turns into a real battle of attrition. We keep pushing on. We’re two thirds of the way up and I see two lads in their bare feet!!! I can’t believe my eyes to be honest. I get over the shock of that and move on towards the summit. Alan asks me if we’re near the top at this stage, and we are, to his relief. We get to the summit and I have a quick look around and the view is spectacular. Alan needs water so I ask the cameraman on the summit if he has any fluid. The generous cameraman helps us out and Alan gets a drink, and we begin moving down the mountain. We’re making great time down the hill but have to be careful as the conditions underfoot are tricky. Once down near the first ridge we go right and go straight down the mountain. Saves us a few minutes at least.
Once we get to the bikes I know we’re on the home stretch. I still feel good but I know that ahead of us we have a tricky cycle into Westport and I’m still praying that we don’t get a puncture. We set off from the base of Croagh Patrick and it’s not long before we’re back off the road and onto the trail. We get a few kms into the trail and we begin moving downhill. It’s at this point that we get off our racers and walk down the trail, it’s just too rough for our racers. The trail soon runs into tarmac and we’re back on the bikes. The pace picks up and we then come out on the main road into Westport. We’re nearly there, one last push and that’s another one in the bag, I think to myself. We soon arrive into the finish area and drop our bikes off. There’s a run of about 800 metres ahead of us. We can soon see the finish line after coming around the final bend.
We’ve done it….and we cross the line together. That’s the Connemara Adventure Challenge, Gaelforce North and now Gaelforce West in the bag, one more left in November to complete our task of doing all four Gaelforce events in 2011. It’s been a great adventure. The training over the last few months really did pay off.
After crossing the line we see Tony St Ledger (Gaelforce – Sense the Adventure ) at the finish line. We get a quick photo and a short interview for the website with him that will be availble on https://sensetheadventure.wordpress.com/ and the Gaelforce website in the coming days. I’ll also be working with Tony to upload some of the footage I took while we were out on the course, so keep an eye out for that in the coming days.
That’s Gaelforce West 2011! Again, thanks to all who competed in the event on behalf of the Tania McCabe Foundation (http://taniamccabefoundation.com/) and to everyone who has supported theFoundation, it is very much appreciated. I’d also like thank the guys at Cycleways (www.cycleways.com ) for all their help with getting my bike sorted for the race.
Keep up the training and keep on sensing the adventure. The focus moves on to Turf Guy 2011 in November! Might do the Dublin Marathaon as a warm up!!!
Yours in training,
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