Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Carlingford Lough Endurance Challenge 2007

It started in sunshine, a bright saturday with the wind blowing briskly onto Carlingford Lough. Some had camped by the start point in the grounds of the sailing club, others choosing, as Roadkill team mates tony and dave did, to drive up from the capital on the morning. Kevin, the local member of Roadkill, had slept poorly in his own bed less than 200m from the action. The dublin boys arrived after the registration bit but before 9 leaving plenty of time for nervous chatter and last minute gear checking. All was not perfect in the camp. Dave, our leader and mtb expert (relative to kevin and tony who had between them less than 8 months and 300 km experience) had been ill all week and had not slept well. But he’s the man and never did the thought of not competing enter the golden one’s head. Fluids were downed as if we were in PJ’s up the town.

We hoped our preparation would see us through. From a base of zero in march tony and kev had over 3 tough training sessions in Wicklow and Louth gone some way to becoming mountain bikers rather than just runners. Dave had purchased a decent pair of running shoes and done the hard yards including a run over the full 10 mile course. Kayaking technique had been developed on a bic tobago in mad rough waters dodging the racing boats on the lough about 5 weeks previous.

At 10.30 following a parade through the streets behind a pipe band we were off. The looks on the local faces gave the game away. They may have been clapping but they thought we were mad. We decided to take the run fairly easy dawdling out rooskey road past and up into the forest to maeve’s gap (barnavave). Crossed barb wire at 28 minutes, five minutes down on proposed pace. We walked the last section to the peak conserving our energy. Dave, as expected was feeling (to quote his good self) like a bag of sh*te but keeping an ok pace. We passed some teams and were passed by others. Crack was good. Chatted to loads including “not the sunday run” contingent and another tony, seen emerging from an impromptu waterfall shower. Running along the ridge was a treat and from the shoulder we headed down to the corner of the forest. Unfortunately, followed other team through forest and came out too low onto fire road adding at least half a km to the run. Long run up to ca rparks in slieve foye forest park. Free water at top was timely, dispensed by entertaining volunteers. Weather still great and run down through forest on road took no time. Dave upped the pace and we even passed a number of teams. Checked time on leaving forest and found we were still only 5 minutes down on expected time. Delighted with this given dave’s health. Headed back along main road turning right to head up onto small road parallel to main bringing us back in to carlingford past viewpoint motel. Passed womens team struggling on the last running section. Later we would meet them again on their favoured mountain bike leg. Over castle and on round to sailing club. All in all run took 1hr 50 minutes for the 16km and bodies were feeling good. Guessed we were at least half an hour down on leaders but did not care. Ours was a different race and we were happy. Little did we know that things were about to change.

Brief but very enjoyable lunch with family in attendance. Checked the bags which were crammed with drinks, nuts and fruit, and then it was on the road again for 40km cycle. First minor climb (180m) around carlingford and back up the fire road to the forest park car park went well. Good pace down around back of second carpark and down on road following tain trail. Were passed by same womens team as encountered earlier, this time travelling at great speed, knocking tony clean off his bike. Recovered and headed on main road to ranch house for the horrible but beautiful 500m climb to black mountain. First part of 150 m climbing went ok but road up through tullaghomeath brought the first trouble – tony cramped. In terrible pain but he continued. Got onto long final famine road to top still with 250m to do. Then dave’s chest gave way – the poor body had had enough. Stayed together and had to walk a decent bit. Struggled to top with chest and cramps and knees giving dreadful trouble. Collapsed at top. Thank god for the volunteers giving out water and food and no little support for us strugglers. Dave definitely traumatised by now due to shortage of oxygen to all areas of body and brain. But met some great people on the ascent. All thought this year’s route much tougher. Inspired by one guy completing event for 6th year in a row despite severe arthritis.

Good rest gave us energy and descent from black mountain through annaverna along puck fada route was a thrill. Dave showed his form destroying two team mates and a lot of others on the downhill. Great route bringing to mind the legendary hurlers who have competed in that most peculiar of irish events, the puck fada. Underestimated speed of descent just about avoiding disaster at bridge on downhill.

Out on to main road and through sylvan ravensdale. Locals again out in force to wonder at the peculiarity of those from the other side of the mountain. Continued with nice pace to start of slievetuscan climb (350m) in ballymakellet. Then the bodies rebelled once more, this time causing real trouble for tony – cramps in both legs and no longer able to stand. Collapsed in middle of forest road halfway up. Great encouragement and offers from assistance from fellow competitors but it was up to the man himself, and boy did he respond. Lazarus-like he rose again and again cycling/walking a few hundred metres between attacks. At the top we crossed various terrain but all brains and legs were too tired to enjoy. Met marshals on top saying that we needed to get a move on to skull alley section to avoid cut-off route. Speeding up a bit, we downhilled well to make the cutoff, which strangely in the intervening 5 minutes had been pushed out an hour. We struggled through skull alley, a section I had been looking forward to. Exhaustion brings a radically different view of the world. Rang team support, Beth, to let her know that mountain bike element would take much longer than the expected 3-3.5 hours. How much longer she asked. “We could be talking days” was the response.

Picked up some time on the road section from long woman’s grave to start of glenmore climb to slieve foye saddle (300m). Again climb brought pain. Field seemed to be thinning out with just 2 or 3 similar level teams with us. Route that before would have taken just 15-20 minutes took nearly 45. Tony still in bits but still somehow managing to keep up with the team’s admittedly slow pace. Reached ridge point with elation of knowing no more climbing to be done. Dave and I downhilled quicker than tony to complete mountain bike section in nearly five hours.

Great support for us from friends for the kayaking. kids from local soccer team were cheering us on. Spirits were lifted, despite the onset of rain, and with a shortened kayak leg we got into the rhythm of things and fairly powered through the water, pulling at least 400 metres ahead of our closest rival. All found the run between the castle to the sailing club harder then the actual kayak. The six legs of the kayaking were over in no time leaving just the final run.

With what energy we had left we struggled over the last 2km run to keep pace with our entourage consisting of half the local u10 soccer team (aidan, jordan, joe, jack, eoin, christopher, conor, niall, cian), supporting their manager Kevin. With the arrogance of youth they wondered when we were going to stop jogging and start real running. We would have kicked them if we’d had the energy. As we passed the other teams they wondered if they were about to be beaten by a bunch of fresh-faced kids. We collected the last check and returned, exhausted, in 34th place out of 49 teams to a mighty reception at the sailing club. Our CLEC was over with the clock stopped at 7hrs 37 minutes The bodies had stopped long before that.

About Roadkill

Roadkill are Dave, Tony and Kevin, a novice adventure racing team formed in March 2007 to compete four months later in the annual Carlingford Lough Endurance Challenge (http://www.clec.ie/) in Ireland. They are using the event to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society and donations can be made at http://www.mycharity.ie/event/david_mcguinnesss_event

The event combines 18km trail running, 40km mountain biking and 6km sea kayaking. Neither Tony nor Kevin had mountain biked before. Following four team and numerous individual training sessions Roadkill thought themselves ready for the CLEC challenge.