We arrived for the Adventure Ireland race in Newry on 20 October 2007 with 2 clear objectives: to be back in time for a hot shower, and to be home in time to watch the Rugby World Cup final.
Result! Results of the Race - Victory! Albeit no girlie, no win!
Danger/Warning/Achtung! If you did not compete in this race (and possibly even if you did), this is perhaps the most tedious piece of literature you will ever have the misfortune to encounter. We record these events for OUR memory, not yours.
Still feeling brave? Read on...
Two changes to the "Tango & Cash Meets Thelma & Louise" team line-up were forced by injury, the ginger (but very nice) Davy/Tango (removed rib) replaced by brunette adventure racing veteran Ian, and our intended Lady Sharon (broken right meta-tarsal) replaced by pretty-boy and race virgin Phil J.
Race roles were agreed in the car-park:
- Al - navigator and natural born leader
- Ian - strategic advisor and technical consultant
- Phil - marketing department
- Rick - enforcer and team glutton
Blazing the trail
Flaffing about as usual, we were the last team to lock the car and leave the car park, and we headed out of town behind the directionally-confident Al. Loads of teams were fumbling around in the town at the traffic lights wondering where to go, and some were glad to hop on behind us in the uphill struggle for checkpoint 1.
From 1, out onto the main road, it was up and out towards the new road to Dublin, and a peel off onto the old Dublin road in the hunt for checkpoint 2. After a futile search on a road-side ruin with some other teams, and a more careful analysis of the co-ordinates and instructions, we finally worked out that the track in the description was not the train track. We were in fact on the wrong side of the railway line - fortunately there was a wee bridge handy that meant we did not have to double back, and we were in the right place in a jiffy.
Timing is everything
Searching round the crumbling ruin in vain for 5 minutes or so, we were again fortunate to be there just as another team found it precisely where it was noted to be - on tree (go figure, eh?!), but hidden behind the tree (grrrr), so we happily clipped and moved on. By this time, loads of teams had already given up the hunt and had left the checkpoint empty-handed.
Great Scott! I think Ian has just been killed!
Checkpoint 3 was an easy find round the road, and we barely stopped for it on the way to 4, which was on the railings beyond a VERY steep tarmac hill. Our main strategy guy Ian had brake issues at the 90 degree bend at the bottom of the straight, hit the bank HARD, left the bike, and took off head first into the brambles, just missing a tree - lucky, lucky chap - could have been killed, scuppering our chances of finishing!
After hauling a cut and bruised (but still chipper) Ian out of the brambles, and helping him to change his soiled shorts, we clipped at the railing round the corner and headed for the kayaks. Arriving as an even-numbered team (fortunately, we think, as it turned out), we were dismissed from the boats and sent on our way down the road for nearly 4K, before cutting up into the forest near Victoria Lock for checkpoint 6.
Where the Hell IS everybody?!
Having clipped at the gate, we headed on up the hill, but missed our left which we had intended would take us out of the forest and over the hill, so we just headed on up for the road (which was a lucky move for us, in hindsight) and looped round fast for the tough tarmac pull up Black Mountain.
We had not seen another team now since leaving checkpoint 5 at the kayaks, and we were beginning to wonder what was up.
Tight-lipped under interrogation
We were relieved to see some other race folk near 7, where we met the Army team coming down from the checkpoint, coyly dodging our queries as to the whereabouts of the 'cloister' of reeds, which housed the clip. What with all that military training, all they would give was name and rank!
No matter, it turned out to be a straight and easy dash to the reed cloister for the clip, and we lost no time. We decided to play it safe from there in our hunt for 8, and just headed back round the road to pick up the Tain Way instead of burrowing through the forest, which was our initial (and probably wrong) instinct.
A puncture in the marketing department lost us a few minutes, but time stood still anyway as we went on to enjoy the superb descent through Ravensdale Forest to the road for checkpoint 9, including some brilliant singletrack with jumps, berms, drops, etc - great craic!
We sat nose-to-tail and drafted the 4.5K along the road before cutting up for checkpoint 10, where we greeted old pal and often race adversary Mickey Laverty riding his local trails on a training ride, and we followed the Tain Trail back up into the woods.
The long tough climb was rewarded with the best biking of the day down a grassy path to the stile at the road, where our full-suspension marketing department was nearly destroyed by crashing into the gate at the bottom!
A snappy 2.5K of drafting took us to the bike drop, where we were greeted by Greg's smiling chops, ably and loyally supported by one of his patient offspring.
Surely you can't mean THAT hill?!!
Before the race, we had laughed at the thought of a mere 7K of trekking, but the smile was soon wiped off our faces by the climb up The Foxes Rock. A few rests on the way up (cleverly branded as planning sessions) helped us to mentally deal with the initial climb.
On summiting, we could see the Army folks ahead of us by about 15 minutes, so we gambolled on up to the summit of The Split Rock and clipped 15, lickety-split!
The Hounds of Hell could not have compelled us to head on over for the optional (and dreadful-looking) checkpoint 16, given how our legs were feeling by now, so we turned on our heels and galloped down for the forest. A quick stop or two to fill up our Camelbaks, take a 'comfort break', and tend our cramping pins, stood us in good stead.
We picked our way through a few hundred yards of thick bracken, took to the forest path back out to the road, and managed a brisk jaunt back to Greg and our trusty steeds, which had by now recovered from their earlier fatigue.
From saddle to paddle
Back in the saddle, Al kept us right as usual, navigating perfectly along the twisting roads down to 18, then down to the main road and the 4.5K back for the kayaking.
Having agreed pairings for the boats, Rick had already drawn the short straw of sitting behind paddle-virgin marketing guru Phil, but Phil soon got the hang of it, and both boats carved a deep and true wake on the way to Victoria Lock, into a strong breeze.
Cramping our style
Reaching the lock and feeling brotherly, having been through so much together so far, we decided to do everything as a team and all tried to get out of the canoes, but 3 of us fell immediately to become the twitching victims of the evils of cramp.
Checkpoint clipped and cramps back under control, it was a tough paddle back towards the dock, and any thoughts of paddling on for the checkpoint down towards the town gladly evaporated when Phil's valiant but questionable technique finally let him down amidst his fearful cries of "Me arms 'ave gone! Me arms 'ave gone!".
All that was left now to do was to admit we were spent, hop wearily out of the boats, hand in our card, chat for 5 minutes, and scoot back to the centre on the bikes for a shower. Job done.
Many thanks to Greg and team for a fantastic race, in what was a superb setting and a brilliant day all round. Great fun!!