Monday, July 30, 2007

Down a Hole in Gortatole - View From 6th Place

Tango & CashCCAR Race 5 - Gortatole Outdoor Pursuits Centre, County Fermanagh, 28 July 2007.

It was always going to be hard for Tango and Cash to reach the podium if no-one would take any of the spiked Jelly Babies we were distributing before the start.

And so it turned out, with us recording a creditable, if ultimately lucky, 6th place, just pipped by Uphill Struggle.

WARNING! The rest of this is probably mind-numbingly dull

But leave us a wee message anyway!

Grizzled old campaigners who had scuppered our plans in previous races included Not The Sunday Run (NTSR), Passing Wind, the chameleon form of Rory Finlay (this time as Home Race Heroes), the Monsters from Dublin, and the tenacious lads from Uphill Struggle.


Ivan's brief at the race HQ was the best one to date by a distance, and as soon as the gun sounded, the 'peleton' headed off at top speed to be greeted by the first surprise of the day after only 200 yards - Uncle Steve on the Ulsterbus.

For the next 4 miles, all teams were within 9 metres of each other, and Ivan took his opportunity to bring the race briefing down to its usual standard before we disembarked and set off on the race proper.


The first climb could have been a contender venue for the world bog-snorkelling championships, with one of the Monsters losing a slip-on loafer in what can only be described as a thick soup of bovine excrement.

By half way up the hill, the field was well spread out, totally filthy and puffing hard. After dismissing the first checkpoint as not even worth clipping, we struck for the summit trig point.

Shovel Musky

The only sign of Passing Wind and NTSR by this time was a musky twinge in the air, as they were up and over the hill like shit off a shovel, hotly pursued by The Monsters and local lads Home Race Heroes, who we just about managed to keep in sight.

Coming down off the mountain was treacherous and really quite painful through long heather and hidden holes, and it was only by some miracle that no-one was maimed or killed on the day.

Pacing ourselves, we picked our way down the hill 20 yards or so behind the chaps from Uphill Struggle, and it was with no small measure of delight that we witnessed poor Jonny Gallier disappear up to his neck in the bog, confirming for us the route NOT to take, hehehee.

Little House on the PrairieRattled

The mountain now well behind us, the run down the farm-fields was easy going, and we could see in the valley below the Monsters and the Heroes heading across the fields, fresh from the log-carry task. We were running free and grinning ear to ear alongside Uphill Struggle until we arrived at the log-carry, whereupon we picked the post most resembling a tooth-pick and rattled round the circuit.


Arriving back round for the checkpoint, the rest of the teams were on us and baying for blood like a pack of hungry beagles, and we skipped into the forest lickety-split to escape their snapping jaws.

Next was the first of the dangerous river climbs, and we started our Gollum-like ascent as the now wheezing Monsters were leaving for pastures new. It was alleged by a race insider that the Monsters left the green light in the wrong place in the cave to slow up others following, but nothing could be proven.

GollumFollowing a further gallop through the forest, it was with some relief that we took to the bikes and struck for the Marble Arch Geopark entrance to lift map 2 and head round for the special tasks.


Whilst Tango was abseiling down the cliff, the most unsavoury episode of the day was unfolding deep underground. After picking my way down the cave to the punch, I was set upon by one of the Monsters, who blocked my path, bullied me into clipping his card, and left me crying in the cave, cold and alone. As he coldly struck for the pin-hole of light above, he put his foot on my ear for extra leverage.


Rallying spirits, Tango and Cash were a pair once more at the cliff foot, and we clambered upstream with renewed vigour, our loins chilled frequently by the nutrient-rich waters, in hot pursuit of those damnable Monsters.

Back on the bikes, it was a short strike down to the Geopark for a quick checkpoint, and then to the isolated car park, where we were disappointed to see the snarling twisted face of Ivan instead of the intended sweet smile of Shirley for a special task.


The longest skids of the day did nothing to impress the surly race organiser, and so we headed off down the long sweet switchbacks (exhilarating stuff!) to the parked bus, and the checkpoint up in the cave.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth could be heard for miles around as we suddenly realised we had not clipped checkpoint 14 on the mast up the mountain, and it was with a heavy heart that we began to haul our gearless steeds back up the hill. At least we got to enjoy the descent twice! Pleasantries were exchanged with Uphill Struggle at the checkpoint and, from there, we knew it was a fun free-wheel back to the centre and into the boats.


Forty English Pounds, half a Bounty and a damp handkerchief were just not enough hard booty to encourage a pair of strapping adolescents to do the canoeing for us, so we set off, grumbling into a stiffening breeze. The paddle was brightened only by a polite greeting with the enthusiastic leaders and eventual winners, Passing Wind, followed by highly enjoyable, albeit fleeting, opportunities to drench the lads from NTSR and Lying in a Heap in separate attacks.

WildebeestA final 'time-saver' gamble saw us frantically chased by a herd of cattle across a field with the canoe in tow, followed by a slog through reeds in 6 inches of water for what seemed like an eternity, and we convinced ourselves in defiance of Father Time that it had been a good move.


With the finish line practically in sight, we carved it up back to the jetty for an impromptu photo-shoot from Shane, who insisted that was just the zoom-lens cover in his pocket :-o

After the short gallop to the finish at the centre, we were greeted by the 4 teams who had finished in front of us, who had obviously already had time to shower, change, eat, and read the Fermanagh Herald cover to cover.


A quick change into civvies allowed us to enjoy the craic and cheer a few more folk over the line whilst devouring the great food laid on, including Joan’s now legendary raspberry and white choc muffins.

By now, The Monsters were feeling understandably contrite for their earlier gamesmanship, but all was forgotten in the smoky haze of burning burgers.

BarbecueThanks to Ivan, to Steve, and to the cheerful CCAR support team, for another great event. Looking forward to the County Antrim race already!