Monday, August 24, 2009

Gale Force West Adventure Race

Gale Force Race

And so it begins. Standing on a beach with a bunch of other nutters, waiting for the off.
We are the second wave to go. There is a bit of banter but most people are bit tense at this point.

Away we go along the beach and up through the dunes to the tarmac road. Even at this early stage the group has strung out over quite a distance. The road takes a sharp left and continues uphill for a while. Cheering, clapping and shouts of encouragement from the next group at this point is a great buzz.
I knew that we would have to gain height but I was a little shocked to find that I was running back down to sea level.

Over a wire fence and onto the first off road hill/mountain.
Bog, running water, loose stones all combined to make this section hurt more than I would have liked at this early stage. I still managed to get some photos and another competitor offer to take my photo, fair play to him.

Here's the photo he took

A tight right calf was worrying but it seemed to go quickly as I wondered whether I was going to do the downhill on my head or on my arse. I was so glad that I have invested in cross-trainers as the surface was a greasy mix of mud, grass, rocks and water, the guys in road shoes were really having problems.

It was then onto a rough track, again the surface was shite but at least it was level (ish).
Running alongside Killary Fjord was spectacular. I managed to get some video here but it was mostly some blokes muddy legs and arse.
The track improved after a while and when a girl passed me I dropped in behind her and found that she was running at the perfect pace for me. We ended up chatting and this helped pass the last 3 or so miles of the run (thanks Debs). We also picked off plenty of other competitors on the way.

The kayak section was next, the arrival area had a timed out section in case people had to w
ait for kayaks. I made use of this to get some food and drink into me.
The kayaks were 2 man sit on tops. I partnered up with Debs for the crossing. She is a more experienced kayaker than me so she took the rear seat. Off we set across Killary Fjord.
I really had no idea what to expect from the kayak section. I had no idea how hard it would be, how long would it take or would I capsize and end up swimming.
It was much easier than I would have hoped we got into a nice rhythm straight away and sped across the water. The only disruption was from wake off a jet ski and that didn’t last long. Again we picked u
p a few places here.

Out of the water, drop the buoyancy aid and the paddle, on with the backpack and away again. Clamber up from the waters edge and onto still more bog. My shoes were full of water from getting off the kayak and stepping into the water but there was nothing to do but keep going and wonder if Gortex shoes were such a good idea after all. The run took me through bog, someones back garden and out their driveway (that was a little weird) onto the road to the Delphi centre.

I felt that I was comfortable with my running pace and I was reasonably fresh arriving at the
bike transition at Delphi.

I took my time at the bike transition, getting in some food and drink. I stuck a few gels and jellies in my pockets and started to head off, just outside the transition area I decided to stop and empty the water out of my shoes, I had a spare pair of socks in my bag, thinking of what was ahead I thought that it may be a good idea to change. As it turned out when I took my shoe off, although it was heavy and sodden, no water poured from it. I just put it back on and mounted the bike.

A pro looking chap on a decent road bike passed me just outside the Delphi Centre gate as I was taking some video. We had a bit of craic as he passed. I quickly caught up with him as I thought we may be able to work together but that went by the wayside when we hit the start of the hills and he disappeared backwards.

I had driven this section of road to Drummin twice this week, the first time without realising it was part of the Gale Force route, the second time I paid more attention.
I expected the long climb but what I didn't expect was the amount of competitors walking up the hill. I plodded steadily upwards passing plenty on the way. I taking a wild guess that this cycling stage wa
s the strongest part of the course for me.
I was dreading the downhill. It was narrow, grass up the middle, wet, covered in gravel and had a horrible drop off one side. I had visions of loosing control and crashing on it. What actually happened was that I got down without any problem, I was only passed by a few riders and I collected most of those almost immediately after the hill. I have to admit that I was delighted to have this hill behind me.
The following few miles were quite pleasant and I took several video clips and made a some phone calls, probably not the best thing to do during a "race" but I was clipping along at a good rate and feeling strong. The route hit the main road for a short while then turned left and was mostly uphill to the Croagh Patrick transition area. Again there were plenty of competitors struggling on the hills and a number of them we
re walking.

I racked the bike, dropped the helmet and went through the checkpoint, picked up a drink from stand and set off up Croagh Patrick "The Reek"

I was totally surprised to see Kevin just ahead of me, normally I see Kev at the start of a race then he disappears into the distance and that's the last I see of him until after the finish line.
I must have made up some good time on the bike.
Kev is half man half mountain goat and I managed to get some video of him descending on the loose rocks near the summit to prove it.
The options on the ascent were to head to the right away from the summit and take the less steep route to the pilgrims track or take the steeper, boggy route to the left. I opted for the more direct route
as did most other competitors.
The first section is soft, boggy and covered with heather. It is steep but soft underfoot. The fun really starts when you get on the pilgrims track. This is made up of a mixture of various sized rocks from pebbles to large stones and some dusty and extremely slippery bare sections.
I stumbled, slipped and tripped my way up, managing to stop occasionally to take video of the magnificent scenery

I eventually made it to the summit and here a strange transaction occurred. I turned into a tourist. I wandered around taking video clips and photos, I admired the view and I got some random person (non competitor) to take my photo.

This one here ---->

Islands in Clew bay in the backround

Eventually I got moving again. The descent on the pilgrims path was nuts, I don't know how some people managed to run down this without killing themselves. I slipped onto my arse on numerous occasions and was grateful not to fall head first at any point. It was easier once I got back on the heather section but I still didn't dare run until nearly back to the transition area.

I took my time getting back on the bike, it was nice to travel downhill. It was a short spin to the left turn that was the start of the track over the hill towards Westport. On way up to Croagh Patrick I had seen some of the first wave arrive at this point and immediately jump off their bikes and run the track. I figured they knew what they were doing so I did the same. While running along the track I was checking the surface. A case of "ahh fuck it I can cycle this" overcame me. Various stages of on, off and half on the bike followed. On some of the muddy sections I totally lost traction on the back wheel and pushed along one legged scooter like.

I was running one section keeping pace with a guy frantically peddling his mountain bike, he only went ahead of me when I stopped to remount my bike. As for remounting, it was a nightmare. I had swopped to toe clips for the event but the rough sole on my cross-trainers refused to slide into the clips which meant I had to try to lean down and use my hand to hold the clip. This is not really a problem on roads but I was travelling just above stalling speed all the while trying not to fall on my snot on the rocks and mud.

The downhill was too much for me - I nearly shit myself - back to running. I stepped aside to let 1 or 2 mountain bike pass, then I moved aside for another bike, a brief conversation ensued. It was something like this:

Cyclist: Thanks

Me: Jaysus, you're brave doing this on a road bike.

Cyclist: I hate running - ahh fuck, shit Ohh jaysus.

His last sentence was roared in panic as he slid sideways and weaved across the track. He did really well to stay upright, brave man.

Eventually it was out onto something that passes as a road in the west. I was nervous on the downhill bends as the road was obviously greasy and wet in parts with what looked like moss growing on it. I was slowly passed by a mountain bike here but I didn't care.

Out onto the Louisburgh to Westport road. What a brilliant moment, my wife and son were there to cheer me on. "Go on Dad, Go on Dad" A total buzz, I even managed a high five with my son as he ran along at full gallop. Good road and only a few miles to the finish - Way Hay - I went into road bike mode. As soon as I got wound up to a proper speed I lashed past that bloody mountain biker who had overtaken me a few minutes earlier - pass me would ya, take that - hard left and full pelt to Westport House.

I was alone along the last couple of miles. Small groups and individuals were dotted along the road cheering and clapping. It was great encouragement. I though I was Lance Armstrong - well without the drugs - unless yesterdays Guinness is a banned substance. Through the gates of Westport House, along the coned off path, I passed a few competitors here - not because I was flying but they were going slow - a steward flagging cyclists to slow down before a left turn, at this point I was expecting to take the left and pass over the timing mat. I was surprised to find a steward directing me to a bike transition area - Ahh shit another change to go.

Nothing different at this transition, I sort of plodded to a vacant spot on the bike rack and hooked up the bike. I started to run towards the finish line and then the vanity kicked in - bearing in mind that I don't have a head that suits a helmet - I returned to the bike and left my helmet and glasses there, must be photos at the finish line.... Sure enough after the short run on grass I was running towards the large inflated tent like structure that marked the finish line when the vanity thing kicked in again - raised arms or not, which would look better? A bit sad don't you thing. Anyway went with the arms up !!!! Crossed the line at 5.24.20 ish........

This was by far the most enjoyable event that I've been in this year. As it was my first adventure race I didn't know how to pace the stages. On reflection I could have made up time on most of the stages. I was worried about running out of steam but finished with plenty in the tank. I defiantly could have made better time if I hadn't stopped/slowed down to take videos and photos.

I'll know better for next year !!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

Sean said...

Great report Chris, makes me want to go there next year - as a spectator!