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!!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Five hours of very tiring racing, all in the teeth of a gale - an epic struggle resulted in us claiming the coveted second place on the 2008 Kilbroney Challenge.
Given that it was a marked course and we were pretty much neck and neck with three other teams for much of it, it was the only race we have ever done where we have been completely knackered for the WHOLE race – it was HAAAAARRRRRD work.
WARNING! RACE REPORT AHEAD
(All pictures are shown courtesy of Shane Kelly)
Just before the start on Saturday, nobody wanted to race – the weather was as bad as we had ever experienced on the hills. The inclement conditions were something that we should have been prepared for, though, as ALL the cows were lying down in the fields on our drive down from Antrim to Rostrevor!
The seafront in Rostrevor just before the race
On arrival at Carlingford Lough Yacht Club, the normally jovial NTSR crew were completely stressed out, as the weather was causing all sorts of logistical problems and worries, most of them around people not wanting to get ready to race!
Rowan of NTSR used all his best gags to entertain the crowd
Against the odds, we all lined up ready to start at 11:00am and, counting down from 10, we lit off along the shore in the middle of the pack towards the boats with a mass cheer. We reckoned there would be a bit of a bottleneck at the boats, so we struck on as hard as we could to get up near the front to avoid the crowd, and hit the water as the third boat.
Some of the boats were clearly quicker than others, but we were fortunate in having one of the decent ones, and we just about managed to hang onto the coat-tails of Haribo Joes, Passing Wind and Castor & Bollix and a few others, in the dash for the pier. The small lead the guys had built up on the boats evaporated on beaching though, as there was a lack of clarity around what to do onshore and where to dib, so we managed to get on the bikes and out the gate as the second team.
Steady on, man! I think she's gonna go!
Soon we were into Kilbroney Park into the forest and puffing hard along with everyone else. The singlespeeds are normally OK on hills with a bit of effort, but that first climb was just too steep, so we were off and pushing before long, but managed to make as good time on foot as anyone else did on the bikes. Clearly in a different league to the rest of us, Wagon Wheels soon powered up past us and on down the single-track in first place, and there they remained for the race.
The stampede up the first hill in the forest
Ourselves, Haribo Joes, Passing Wind, Give It A Go, and Team Purple 2 were neck and neck all the way up to the river at Yellow Water for the river climb, but we could see Wagon Wheels up ahead on the river bank, ahead by a just few minutes. Haribo Joes, stepping round the wrong side of a tussock, missed the checkpoint halfway up the river and had to go back for it, which lost them a precious few minutes, and the rest of us battered on, pushing each other hard just to keep pace with each other.
Left a bit, right a bit
So began the tight technical section on the northshore and the hike a bike, with nobody giving ground or placing, and we all stuck with each other for most of it. Battling the bikes up the final climb in the open on Slieve Martin, Passing Wind just ahead of us but out of sight in the mist, it started to get extremely cold in the mist, wind and rain, and we stopped for a while to don our coats. We were fortunate enough in being able to find our way to the mast OK, and were surprised to see that only one set of bikes was against the wall, so we knew that Passing Wind must have gone straight on at the top and missed the turn for the mast. We were also perplexed as to the whereabouts of Team Purple 2, who, as it turned out, had had to retire from the race before heading out on the run.
We set out on foot, heading for Knockshee, and as we got down to the saddle, the mist suddenly cleared completely, offering up the fantastic view – we could see the tent on the summit, and on turning round, we could see the rampaging Passing Wind and Give It A Go bearing down on us fast. We are not too hot at the running generally, so we were sure we would be overrun soon. Passing Wind passed us just after the bath checkpoint, and Give It A Go nipped past us too just after the gorge, arriving at the archery just a few seconds ahead of us. We timed out with some relief and got ourselves cooled down for the shoot, disappointed that human targets were not permitted.
Big Barry from Give It A Go prepares to bury a bolt in Gerry from Passing Wind
We somehow managed to gain a delightful bonus of fifteen minutes at the archery, and we set off a few hundred yards behind Passing Wind and Give It A Go in the dash back up towards Slieve Martin. The pace just seemed relentless – we knew Passing Wind would keep steaming, but Give It A Go just kept battering too on without a let-up.
Haribo Joes had just arrived at the archery as we were leaving, their mistake on the river climb having cost them dear, but we knew we needed to keep pressing on, as they are faster than us on foot, and we kept checking behind us at intervals to see if they were gaining. We managed to stick within a few hundred yards of Give It A Go, and they made little ground on us, albeit Passing Wind had struck on strongly and seemed to be well ahead.
We reached the cairn then the mast about a minute behind Give It A Go, then set off for Fern Gully. The wind and rain were truly horrendous at this point, and the thick mist made sight navigation impossible. We caught Give It A Go just immediately after the steep bit of Fern Gully, just as the mist cleared once more, and on turning back through the gate into the forest, were surprised to have also caught Passing Wind. Billy Reed of Passing Wind, we learned later, had taken a nasty fall from the bike, and took a wee while to recover.
We were on familiar terrain through all the singletrack, and we knew we could put some time between us and Passing Wind if we kept the head down and if our maths was good at the special task. Both of us took falls and crashed into trees on the singletrack, but emerged with scrapes only. Having delivered the number total to the marshal, we contoured the hill along the wall at good speed, but both of us started to suffer from cramp on the grim slog of a climb up through the ferns before entering the forest once more.
We could see Passing Wind and Give It A Go at the bottom of the hill about 10 minutes behind us, but gaining on foot, and we knew we would need to make up more time if we were to be able to stay ahead through the orienteering loop. We had nothing left in the legs, and the Passing Wind chaps are fast on foot. We made great time through the forest singletrack again, and were back at the boats quickly to drop off the bikes. We were DELIGHTED to learn that the paddle back had been cancelled, so we knew the orienteering loop was our last real effort, and we gave it everything we had, which was not much!
Our loop of Kilbroney Park could not be described as a run, as we were both reduced to an awkward shuffle for the entire thing. With only two checkpoints to go, we stumbled upon Give It A Go doing the loop going the other way, so we knew if we kept trucking, and kept Passing Wind out of sight, we should hold second, unless they had shot bullseyes at the archery.
On the final run down the hill to the boats and on the cycle back, I was suffering badly with nothing left in the legs, and we drafted all the way back with Davy in front and pushed as hard as we could; so Davy was justified in being a slow-ass round the rest of the course! We arrived back at the yacht club with great relief at finally getting the opportunity to get out of the wind and rain, and getting some grub and a shower.
Our thanks go to Rowan, Henry and all the crew and marshals who helped out on the day, which must have been an absolute nightmare in the weather conditions. An extremely tiring but very rewarding race. The Kilbroney Challenge is getting a name for itself!!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
THE ULSTER WAY IN SIX CONSECUTIVE DAYS
On foot and single-speed mountain bike
David Creighton & Rick McKee
3rd – 8th May 2008
The Ulster Way is a 600-mile meandering loop of Northern Ireland, covering minor roads, paths, tracks, open mountain and bog-land, and taking in many of Northern Ireland’s Way-marked Ways.
On 3rd May 2008, Rick McKee and David Creighton embarked upon an adventure that had never before been attempted; the completion of the entire Ulster Way on foot and by bike in only 6 consecutive days. To add further spice to the challenge, the journey was undertaken on mountain bikes without any gears.
DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT (pdf, 2.5M)
Why did we attempt The Ulster Way in Six Days? We did it to see if we could do it, to have fun with something different, to have an adventure, to see more of Ulster, and because nobody else (to our knowledge) had done it in that timeframe.
We knew it would be hard work covering six hundred miles in six days over all kinds of terrain, but we were sure it was doable. Six days was just too tight a time-frame to fully enjoy it, though. As it was, we were arriving every night late, completely wasted, just collapsing and waking up too few hours later to do the same again – we just had no time to relax.
The single-speed bikes were a mistake, in hindsight. It was fine for the first day or two, but it soon started to take its toll on our knees and upper bodies, as there was only one way up the hills unless we wanted to walk, and that was to get out of the saddle and just haul up. After a couple of days of it, we were getting pretty tired and lethargic, which is no mood to be in on a single-speed if you want to make any progress.
We completely underestimated the amount we would need to eat during each day, and the time it would take us to eat it. We tended to take a long lunch break and stuff ourselves with chips, beans, chicken and a tall coke plus chocolate and crisps, and the days were further punctuated with plenty of other shop stops and eating breaks.
We wanted to take our time, take pictures, enjoy the route and enjoy the trip, and other than meeting our six-day target (which was all we had booked away from work and families), we were in no rush each day - we would just finish when we finished!
The Ulster Way in Six Days is a trip we will never forget, but we have no immediate plans to repeat it, as it nearly killed us!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Congratulations to Mickey Laverty and Davy McKeown, who completed this year's Wicklow 200 on the Tango & Cash post-bike. That's a 200 km loop through the Wicklow Mountains, with 2,800m of vertical climbing! :-o