A great day’s racing in the Donegal hills on Saturday 28th June was fraught with all sorts of drama for us in what turned out to be a very close race, and we all finished utterly spent.
The results placed us in second, just behind the unputdownable Average Joes, who made up all their time AFTER the race!! As the results say:
PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WAS AN APPEAL FROM AVERAGE JOES OF 20 MINUTES FOR TIME LOST ON CP.1. DUE TO AN INCORRECT GRID REFERENCE HAVING BEEN GIVEN TO THEM. ALTHOUGH THE SAME INCORRECT REFERENCE WAS GIVEN TO TWO OTHER TEAMS (one of which teams was us!) THERE WAS NO OTHER REQUESTS FOR ADDITIONAL TIME AND THE APPEAL WAS UPHELD SO 20 MINUTES HAS BEEN TAKEN OFF THEIR TOTAL.
Well done to the Average Joes - our inexperience meant we thought the race finished on Saturday when we arrived at the finish line! :-)
Anyway, ... A newly-formed team, a late start, grim problems with punctures, a bad fall off the bike, some good head to head tussles and a miserable paddle all made this a race we will remember for a long time.
Karen Duggan deserves a special mention. She agreed to be on our team having had no prior knowledge of our criminal records, and kept us laughing (and at times worried!) all day. A terrible fall off her bike had us worried sick we would be sending her back to Dublin in several pieces, but luckily she was only partly smashed to bits, and showed great guts to go on and keep pushing.
WARNING! RACE REPORT – UNSUITABLE UNLESS YOU COMPETED IN THE RACE
Our team for the race comprised Tango & Cash (naturally enough), Enda from adventure racing team ‘Meet the Spartans’, whose usual partner had gone to see Neil Diamond in concert :-/, and Karen, who travelled from Dublin for the race with a deserved reputation as a great mountain runner.
We completely missed the race start, relaxing at the car as all the other teams shot off. Davy was on the toilet at the time, so we left the centre in last place, and then went on to mess around for ages looking for checkpoint 1. Having finally secured it, Davy had a blow-out in his rear tyre, which turned out to be ripped. We then discovered our pump was broken, and we had to wait for ages for Average Joes (they had hunted for point 1 for much longer than we had), who kindly gave us a pump. We cursed Jonny Gallier’s pump for being rubbish for about ten minutes of frantic pumping, when we finally discovered that both our spare tubes were punctured, so we had to get the repair kit out. All in all, we lost nearly half an hour with all the messing about.
Back in action again, we were clawing back some time and closing on some of the teams heading up the track from Glenveagh Castle to the road, but another puncture and tyre wall repair set us back again, so we steadied ourselves for a frustrating day.
Our big break came on the first run section, where some brilliant navigating by Davy saw us stay off the high hills, contouring left rather than following the other teams over the top, and this saved us loads of time.
Karen’s skills as a mountain runner became clearly apparent on this section, as she let fly across the mountain, but thankfully the going was so rough underfoot that it slowed her down a bit to the pace of the rest of us! The value of Karen’s medical training also showed on the run, as she performed major eye surgery in the howling gale by fixing my folded-over contact lens. We all stuck together back to the bikes, satisfied we had made up lots of time and passed a few teams.
A great tarmac descent on the bikes had us back feeling we were making good time, and this was confirmed as we started to bump into the guys at the front of the race, but we hunted around for far too long for checkpoint 9, up to half an hour, trying to apply some lateral thinking to find the darn thing, but to no avail!
On the second run section, ourselves, CCAR and Average Joes ended up neck and neck for the checkpoint on the post at the track end, and it was a hard old slog on foot from there back to the bikes, which we greeted as if they were long-lost family.
The legs were starting to lose their vim at this stage, but we pushed hard, stuck together and helped each other along with a mixture of pushing and drafting, Enda setting the pace. Things were looking rosy until we were descending the rough rocky double-track before the road back to the boats.
On the fast downhill, Karen took the worst fall off a bike I have ever witnessed, striking one of the gullies hard and suddenly pitching over the handlebars. Somehow she managed to roll into a ball, which definitely minimised injury, but it was a terrible fall on an awful surface. Karen was clearly badly shaken and had really hurt her shoulder, but after steadying herself for a couple of minutes, she was back on the bike again, and showed unbelievable tenacity to grind it out to the kayaks, which we arrived at as the first team.
The kayaking was horrible as the wind was howling, but we set off down the lake with the strong wind on our backs. We scrabbled around for a long time for the first checkpoint, and CCAR were right on us in the confusion, and from there, it was a long hard slog up the lake to the church. Karen and I were making terrible progress, actually going backwards at one point, but we kept the head down and ground it out as best we could, relieved to see that Davy and Enda and CCAR, some way ahead, were not going for the bonus.
Davy had worked out that, given the distance already paddled and the time it had taken, the bonus section was definitely not worth going for in the conditions, so we struck off back for the centre. Team Average Joes had clearly made much better progress than us up the lake, as they took the decision that it was worth striking on for the bonus...
The wind on our backs again, and the finish in sight, our spirits were lifted and we pushed hard in one final effort. After 7.5 hours of hard racing, CCAR hit the shore first, and we followed about 20 seconds later, very tired, very cold, and very hungry.
It was a great effort by the team, especially given that it was our first outing. We pushed as hard as we could all day, we stuck together from start to finish, we supported each other in our various moments of adversity, and we had a great laugh all day (apart from the kayaking and Karen’s fall!).
Many, many thanks to Greg and Pauline of Adventure Ireland, who ran a brilliant event with hardly any manned support, and laid on a fantastic spread of food for after the event. What a great day out!!