Monday, April 19, 2010

Wicklow Adventure Race - WAR

I wonder when in the future I reflect on this race what will my memories be.

Will I remember the beautiful sunny day, the well organised and marshaled event, the stunning course, the fantastic atmosphere and mad craic.
I suspect the more likely is that I will remember the twisted ankle, falling on the Miners track, puking, falling off my bike and the debilitating stomach cramps.... what a day !!!!!!

The race started in Glendalough at the upper lake with a short run to the steps/boardwalk that ascend the Spink. I knew this was going to be extremely tough and had no intention pushing hard this early. This is max heart rate territory but I tried to keep steady away. My only worry was that because of the narrow board walk I would hold others up but I had a few words with the lads behind and they were happy with the pace.

Plenty of gaps behind me...

I was happy that there were still plenty of people behind me at this stage.

I'm not great on downhills. I thought I was going reasonably well but I could hardly believe how easily I was passed by some of the others - maybe my little legs are not designed for running down rocky mountains !!

On the last rocky section before the miners village I let out an involuntary expletive as my left ankle twisted under me, I thought I had wrecked it but kept going in the hope that it wasn't totally ruined, it was noticeable for the remainder of the day but didn't have a negative effect, much as I would like to claim it did.

At last, off the rocks and on to the gravel track. I was very conscious that I had lost a lot of ground, I was reminding myself that the first bike stage was only a few miles away, when I managed to trip over a small rock sticking from the track and went sprawling along the road, as I picked myself up and trudged on, the thought occurred to me that in all the months running in the dark I'd never had more than a slight stumble, what timing for my first fall.

I finish the section with 2 girls and a guy called John.

I totally faffed about in the first transition taking over 5 minutes to get my bag and bike sorted. I wasn't worried at this point as I knew there was still a long day ahead.

It was on this first bike stage that I realised all was not as it should be. I had been really looking forward to the bike, I had ridden most of the route on the two previous Sundays and I was confident of doing a reasonable time, I knew I wasn't going to compete with the real cyclists and tri-athletes but, hey, I could push out a decent time.

A few miles into the stage I was passed by some "real" cyclists, normally when this happens I would put on a bit of power and try to grab a wheel, get some shelter for as long as possible, today however, I had no power, jaysus, where are my legs.

Anyway still a long way to go maybe things will improve.

Transition 2. Rack the bike and run along a track towards Lough Dan, grab a buoyancy aid and head for the kayaks - the short run here felt odd, I put it down to running straight off the bike, something I haven't done before.

The Kayaks were 2 person sit on tops, I paired up with a guy called Keith, he had no kayak experience and was running the Belfast marathon in 2 weeks time so he wasn't pushing himself too hard, this suited me fine. We had a very pleasant chat and a gentle paddle around the course.

Back on the bike, there is steep climb from Lough Dan, again I could only spin along with no speed, at least I wasn't dropping places here.
The next climb to Lough Tay is tough, In my mind it's broken into 4 sections, a drag followed by a slightly flatter few yards followed by another drag, then you turn the right hand bend and "shit" a 10% climb disappearing into the distance, there is a slight leveling off before the last short sharp climb.
On the first part of the climb I was spinning up and hoping to close the gap to the 4 or 5 riders strung out along the road ahead, I wasn't doing too well when one of the guys got off his bike and started to push it up the hill.

Oh yeah, at least I'll have him.

I couldn't believe it when he got to the flatter section, remounted his bike a continued on his way, I was still no closer to him... What's going slow was I going ??

My stomach was feeling a bit dodgy, especially since transition 1, where I swallowed down a bottle of sports drink in two large gulps but I thought I would just work it off.

I was on my way up the 10% section when I was overcome by a sudden and uncontrollable wave of nausea - I could understand if I had been pushing hard but I was only spinning and barely even breathing hard - I had to lean off the bike and puke, I managed to unclip my foot and stop. I dismounted, leaned against the stone wall and had another look at my breakfast.

Ahh well, at least things can't get any worse.

I was a bit pissed off by the amount of competitors that passed me while I was getting sorted. Maybe this had something to do with me attempting to remount my bike on a 10% mountain. What was I thinking? I clipped in my right shoe, pushed off, tried to clip in my left, failed miserably, foot slipped and I promptly fell. I think I hit the road with my right shoulder and rolled onto my back to break the fall, as I watched my wheels lift into the air I remember thinking "Chris, you're a fucking idiot"

Idiot or not I tried once more to remount before I copped on that it would be so much quicker and safer to walk the short distance to the top of the hill... doh !!

Ahh well, at least things can't get any worse.

Transition 3 led to the run to Djouce mountain and White hill.

I suppose that it was here that things did get worse.

I had run a couple of hundred yards up the track when I was doubled over with stomach cramps, I was heaving but had nothing left to bring up. This repeated several time over the next miles. I was totally drained.

I seriously considered abandoning, I convinced myself that if I could make another mile or two it would be easier to finish that backtrack to the transition area.

I didn't even bother to keep ahead of people at this stage, if anybody came close behind me I would just step out of the way and let them pass.

There was a guy sitting on a chair in the sun half way up the mountain- I have to say he looked very comfortable - he had a large first aid kit beside him. I asked if he had anything for the stomach cramps, we chatted briefly and I ended up sitting on the grass beside him for 5 or 10 minutes drinking dioralyte and having a nice chat - thanks Wayne from Wicklow Mountain Rescue.

I just plodded along as best I could for the remainder of the run/walk and continued to step aside if anyone got close.

All thought of a decent time had gone out of the window a long time ago, now it was just a case of getting home.

The last stage was a cycle back to Glendalough.

I really was just plodding along but I couldn't be bothered to try to go any faster.

I ended up behind a girl who would attack the downhill but struggle on the uphill. I passed her on the steep uphill to the Sally gap, I offered her a wheel but I actually couldn't go any slower and I lost her. I knew that I would see her again soon enough.

The check point at the Sally Gap was brilliant, we had to a small stick like object - worn on a wrist band - into the checkpoint monitors at various points on the course, these had all been fixed on poles in the ground. As I approached Sally Gap I could see a guy with a checkpoint pole, when I realised what it was I held up my right arm, he moved out onto the road as called out "keep peddling" he ran along side me, checked me in and then, best of all gave me a big push - thanks mate.

Not long after the turn for Laragh I noticed a rider closing on me, at this point I was only interested in getting to the finish, I didn't care if I was passed or if I passed someone. I wasn't surprised to see it was the girl from Sally Gap. She was trying really hard, I hope she got the time she wanted.

The only other thing of note on the road to Laragh are the few sections of gravel in the steep descent from Glenmacnass, the previous week some of these were dodgy but the traffic had bedded a lot of the gravel, however, I was still taking it handy on those bits. I was surprised to find a guy flying by me, with one foot off the peddle, he managed to stay upright although I don't fancy his chances in the future.

The bridge into Glendalough caused me a moment of excitement. I swung left and was forced to take the right wide because of a car coming in the opposite direction, a combination of the narrow road, loose gravel and the car caused me to nearly run into a bloke walking along the road, I did shout, well, I think it was more of a "ohhhh shit" he managed to hop out of the way but the woman behind him had a total panic attack and grabbed her kid behind her to protect the child from the mad cyclist.

I actually strolled from the dismount area and into the bike rack area at the finish. I'm not sure if it was because I didn't care or I was so tired. I did make a effort to run the last twenty yards to the finish line but I still had time to take out the camera for some video and then give it to Kev to take some photos before I crossed the line.

The event was fantastically well run, the course and weather were perfect, everything was in place for a great race.

On the day things went disastrously for me, I will have to work out why that happened before the next adventure race because I will not put myself through something like that again if I can help it.

A lot of soul searching went on out on the course but more is needed.

To finish on a more positive note, I'm still smiling...

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