Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Annual Donegal Epic - Aranmore 2009

Yaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! As if 100-odd KM in hilly west Donegal terrain wasn't enough...

(I didn't spill a drop... unlike the labrador!!!!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Six Seconds! Rat Race Victory 2009

Rat Race 2009 - champions again!! Tango and Cash and the Warrior Princess just manage to nick it by 6 seconds over about 5 hours of racing, thanks to a mighty long-jump success from Karen.

RACE REPORT – the usual warnings apply

Back to defend our title as Belfast Rat Race 2008 champions, our expectations of success this time were not so high, as this was our first competitive outing, of any sort, in 2009.

Due to the time freed up by not racing, the flower-beds at home were nicely weeded, and our family obligations and domestic chores all completed; but amateur botany, shoddy DIY, and the pastoral mentoring of young children were unlikely to be of much use to us during the race.

So we decided to bolster our team with the addition of some female intuition in the form of Karen Duggan, racing this year as Tango & Cash and the Warrior Princess. Karen’s presence turned out to be a masterstroke, as her mighty long-jump, after grim failure from Davy and me, secured the vital points that meant we retained the title as champions once again.

Mean streets foot section, Saturday evening

It was great to see so many familiar faces, competitors and Rat Race crew alike, in preparation for action in the MeanStreets foot section on Saturday afternoon.

Following a unique dining experience of subs, sausage rolls, crisps and cake from M&S, we marked up our map outside City Hall, colour co-ordinating all the check-points according to their open and shut times, and planned our route.

By the time the race started at 5pm, we were in good shape with route choice. However, it seemed everyone else had the same plan, so that soon sobered us up for the task ahead.

Surprised at how quickly we were clearing checkpoints, we soon realised we were going to arrive at some of them too early for them to be open. So a few adjustments were applied to our plans and we hared off in our own direction, away from the seemingly preferred route.

Davy was greatly looking forward to the tattoo parlour task, having already settled the design in his head for a naked lady wrapped in a python plastered up his back; but, given the queue, he had to settle for the Rat Race standard.

We hadn’t a clue how we were doing after this, as there were folks running in all directions all over the city after half an hour or so, so we kept plugging away and cleared the course in pretty good time, arriving back as maybe the fourth team.

Job done for the night, and looking forward to the task awaiting us the next morning, we scientifically replaced lost nutrients in the form of a massive feed in Zen Restaurant, before retiring happy and excited.

Nine2Five bike section, Sunday morning

We were conscious of being a tad off the pace on Saturday evening, having been pipped by a few teams, and marked up our map with the usual vigour and were ready for action when the race started.

After lapping the City Hall on foot, running after a surprisingly speedy and durable ‘rat’, and messing up our maths a couple of times before getting access to our bikes, we hit the road in maybe fourth or fifth place.

We were now in the zone, race-focused, until I realised outside the Albert Clock that I had left the instruction sheet at my backside in the bike compound. We considered going back for it for about two seconds, and decided to just plough on and wing it; we had our map marked up pretty well and could just follow any other special stuff by what other teams were doing.

The kayaking was the usual bundle of laughs, and memories of the clear azure waters of the Lagan in Rat Race 2008 came rushing back as soon as we put in, especially when nearly capsized by the wake of the speedboat that was zooming up and down the river.

Delighted to be off the boats, and having slipped back a couple of places, we headed for Belvoir Park down the tow-path, and were passed by a couple more teams along the way. Davy managed to get us round the memory map course without a bother, making us up some time.

Up to Shaw’s Bridge, the water was slightly more inviting than down in the city, and we clawed a bit more time back against those around us. We were quickly at Mary Peters’ Track for the scoring tasks, legging it up the track on the 100m as best we could. Thankfully, the sprint was not a failable event!

Long jump, and Davy and I fancied our chances, no problem; Karen, stand aside, the athletes are in town. I set off on the run-up like Carl Lewis, but jumped like Thora Hird and barely made the sand-pit! Davy then did the run-up like Thora Hird and jumped like Carl Lewis, but just fell short of the target distance. Mourning the sure loss of the bonus points we knew we would badly need, Karen pretty much cleared the target MEN’s distance, easily securing us the bonus, and we were off in good form, to the shot-put.

The shot-put was never going to be a problem, as Davy had dutifully maintained the physique that saw him take the school record three years on the trot, 1974 to 1976, just in anticipation of this day, so Karen and I kept running whilst Davy put some ample ass behind it to take the bonus points easily.

The biking was slippery but great fun through Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park, and we were soon out onto the road. We made great time back into the city, managing to pick off a few teams on the way down, and on tipping the bikes off at City Hall, were glad to get back to having our instruction sheet for the rest of the race.

Back on foot, we shuffled down to the abseil in the Victoria Centre, which was one of the highlights of the day, once safely off at the bottom! The bike maintenance task we ripped through and were soon on our way out to the velodrome at Orangefield. We worked well as a team here, sticking together and rotating the front, made great time, and managed to steal a march on the Average Joes as we headed out towards the Ice Bowl along Comber Cycleway.

Davy, our resident Big Lebowski, cleaned the bowling at the second attempt, and we sprinted round to the handguns to quickly learn that Karen couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a banjo! Some patient tutoring from Davy and she got the hang of it no problem.

Out onto the Newtownards Road, we were too early for the Football and Cricket tasks, and were told by the marshal to carry on, so we pushed on up the hill to Stormont before striking for home via Connswater. Again too early for the task at the Fitness First activity, it only remained to get back to City Hall as fast as we could, working hard to stick together and grind out any extra time we could.

The Final Hurdle saw Karen chucked in and out of the inflatable enclosure rather unceremoniously, and Davy and I doing Thora Hird impressions again, but somehow managed to get in and out, and dipped to finish.

All that, and it came down to 6 seconds. We were the third team back, just under ten minutes from the front team, but once the bonuses had been applied, we just managed to nick it by 6 seconds.

Acknowledgement has to go to Ivan Park, Peter Cole and Paul Mahon, whose team No Frontiers Abu beat us well on the ground over the race, but just missed one bonus and were then victims of a wee bit of confusion that they had the good grace not to make a big deal about. Also Billy Reed, Gerry Kingston and Taryn McCoy of No Frontiers Passing Wind, who also beat us over the ground, and were in only a few seconds after Abu, but just missed a couple of bonuses.

Things were rounded off nicely with a massive feed of chips from “Big Mo’s” chip-van.

Our thanks to all the Rat Race team for organising another fantastic event. Looking forward to 2010 already!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Secret Weapon for Rat Race 2009

Tango & Cash are teaming up with the Warrior Princess, Karen Duggan, for the Belfast Rat Race 2009.

If last year's dizzy heights at Rat Race 2008 are to be reached, she'd better bring a couple of tow-ropes. Mush! Mush!

The two-day race kicks off on Saturday 8th August. See the Rat Race Adventure website for more info.