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Archive for the ‘Races’ Category

I was on the hunt for points last weekend at Outfront’s Achill Roar Adventure Race. It was race number five out of the nine race National Adventure Race Series, with four races in total to count. I already had two wins and a second place in the bag from three races this year, so I needed just one more race to complete my tally.

The descent off 15k Mweelin mountain run on Achill Roar adventure race. Photo courtesy of Juju Jay.

The descent off 15k Mweelin mountain run on Achill Roar adventure race. Photo courtesy of Juju Jay.

It was a simple race format compared to the others I had done. There was a 2.5km kayak (or 1.5km swim if you preferred), followed by a 15km mountain run, with a 45km bike to finish. Nothing as complicated as the run – kayak – run – bike – run – bike – run format of Gaelforce West just three weeks ago. Also Achill Roar’s kayak section was substantially longer than other adventure races, which suited me down to the ground. I even hired a single sea kayak off Total Experience to make sure I went extra fast.

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The alarm went off at 4am. I felt sick. Not just the normal “sick with nerves before a race”. It was a nauseous feeling, a feeling that something wasn’t completely right with the body.

I wondered if I should even get up and get the bus to the starting line. You shouldn’t race if you don’t feel well, should you? But then again, I had paid the 88 Euro entry fee. I had paid for a full tank of petrol and two nights’ accommodation down in Westport. Not to mention all the training I had put in over the months, as well as the new puncture proof tyres I had recently purchased.

The start of Gaelforce West.

The start of Gaelforce West Adventure Race on Glassilaun Beach.

So I hauled myself out from under the covers and put on my racing gear. I figured if I got moving I’d feel a lot better. By the time I had settled myself on the 5am bus for the hour’s journey to the start, things had definitely improved. The banana cake was settling in my stomach and my headache was nearly gone. So I lumped myself in together with the 200 other athletes that had signed up for the elite wave start of the 68km adventure race known as Gaelforce West.

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There’s nothing like a race on home turf. So when I saw that the next race in the Adventure Race Series was up in County Donegal, I definitely planned on entering.

The last bike section to Bunbeg, with Mt Errigal conquered already.

The last bike section to Bunbeg, with Mt Errigal conquered already.

Gaelforce North’s course goes through parts of the county I’d not been to in 20 years. It starts with a 15km run through Glenveagh National Park, taking in its castle and beautiful gardened grounds. Then there is a 2km kayak on the waters of Lake Gartan, followed by a bike to Mount Errigal. Despite having lived in the north of Ireland for over half my life, I still hadn’t managed to climb up that local mountain. And with a final bike west to the Atlantic coast and Bunbeg, it is a mouth-watering route that I knew I would relish.

Unfortunately I wasn’t going to be allowed to go sightseeing. The Form Guide released a few days before put me as firm favourite. I emailed Paul Mahon, its author and runner of the Series, to dampen his expectations. However my second place in Dingle apparently showed I was in “good form” and so “hard to beat”. I also had distance on my side. Donegal is the far end of the country, a four hour plus journey for Dublin residents. For me, it was an excuse for a trip home to see the parents and the bonus of a weekend adventure race thrown in.

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It had been nearly 18 months since my last IMRA race. In the interim time, a baby and a move to Northern Ireland had put pay to my mountain racing days.

How to hurdle, mountain running style. Winner of Annacurra race showing it how it's done. Photo courtesy of Mick Hanney.

How to hurdle, mountain running style. Winner of Annacurra race showing it how it’s done. Photo courtesy of Mick Hanney.

But then Mick Hanney started posting pictures on Facebook. They were of rocks and mountains and muck and puddles. There were views from descents and trees to hurdle. It was too much to resist. I had to attend his mountain race.


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“I’m going to do an adventure race before my maternity leave is up.” It was a promise I made to myself before my baby was even born. It was a goal I needed to mentally make, something to get me back on my bike and back wearing my running shoes within a few weeks of the birth.

Heading up Croagh Patrick on the Sea to Summit Race. Photo courtesy of Damian Faulkner.

Heading up Croagh Patrick on the Sea to Summit Adventure Race. Photo courtesy of Damian Faulkner.

I initially signed up for the Rugged Peaks race in October, close to home up here in Donegal. But when it was cancelled at the last minute due to low entry numbers, I had to find another race to aim for. The only one left on the calendar was the Sea to Summit race. It was scheduled for the start of November in Westport, County Mayo. I had seen the photos from last year’s event, lads in skimpy triathlon suits running up the snow covered peak of Croagh Patrick. It looked cold and painful, but it would have to do.

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Who would have thought there were orienteering maps of in and around Derry? But on Saturday, I was treated to a fast sprint series around Gransha Estate. And then on Sunday, a technically difficult stint around Magilligan’s sand dune system.

The sprint prologue around Derry's Gransha hospital.

The sprint prologue around Derry’s Gransha hospital.

The sprint was staged to select the Irish junior team for the European Sprint Orienteering Championships to be held in Finland later this year. This meant that there was a fair contingent out of young fast runners wanting to make the team. Some had even travelled the six hours from Cork in the south to Derry in the north, from opposite ends of the country just to make the team roster.

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Since moving back home, I’ve had a chance to explore the corner of Ireland where I grew up. I now live on the Inishowen Peninsula, which is lodged on the north-west tip of Ireland. It houses the island’s most northerly point, Malin Head, as well as harbouring some of Ireland’s most rugged, wild countryside.

Peter Crommie, race winner, running down towards Carndonagh on the first leg of the Shore-to-Summit race.

Peter Crommie, race winner, running down towards Carndonagh on the first leg of the Shore-to-Summit race.

So when there was a chance to race across the Peninsula last weekend with Extreme North Events, I couldn’t help but sign up. Starting on the east coast’s Redcastle, the plan was to spend the next 62 kilometres biking, running, and kayaking across to Buncrana on the western side.

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