Hi all , just an update on the Quest Killarney Adventure Race that I competed in yesterday in Co.Kerry. I entered myself in the longest of all the available courses, the 83km Expert Route. Yes it is as hard as it sounds. It was a bit different this year to previous years as we had a rolling start at 8am from the Gleneagle Hotel to the base of Strickeen mountain, a nice 8.5 mile cycle to warm the legs up for the tough climbs ahead. I led all the way from the hotel to the second transition. However, everyone is pacing themselves and usually I do not like to be the pacer, I like to follow behind and then attack so it was a new experience for me to be the lead man for everyone else, I do not like it all
I hopped off the bike and from previous races you gain valuable experience so I knew not to carry any extra weight going up Strikeen mountain, so I left my camelbak and other items with the bike. I hydrated with coconut water and off I went to battle the elevations for the next few miles up Strickeen. It is a tough climb as the body is not fully warmed up by that stage. Every year I am convinced that they move the dib in section (electronic check in for your times) further and further up the mountain but alas it is just my mind playing tricks. I reached the top within half an hour and I took a few seconds to catch my breath and take in the awesome views. The downhill descent is so much fun and I personally think it is one of my secret weapons. You really have to concentrate going down as one wrong move and you could really injure yourself. I met alot of traffic coming up the mountain but I passed everyone unscathed. Covererd in mud and with my heart pumping I was game for this race. I knew I was doing well as I glanced at my watch, I had gone up and down Stickeen within 57 minutes.
Back onto the bike and away I went to take on the mountains of Kerry. I had clear road in front of me and had a few lads behind me but I let them pass so they could pace me. I took time to hydrate and fuel up so I wolfed down a snickers, within a few minutes you can feel the energy surge, the body is an amazing machine and you really have to listen to what it tells you. I let the lads ahead pace me until the start of the climb section at The Gap of Dunloe where I took the opportunity to overtake them, which I did. The legs I wont lie were starting to burn at this stage but like everything you just have to get on with it. To my pleasant suprise at the very top of The Gap of Dunloe there was a group of lovely cheer leaders with pom poms and music blaring shouting out words of encouragement , it is the small things like this that give people a moral lift, thank you ladies for that. I then dealt with the tricky downhill section into the Black Valley, reaching speeds of over 40mph on the bike so you have to be fully focussed. For the next 22 miles or so I enjoyed cycling at a steady pace and tackling the likes of Molls Gap, Ladies View, Eagles View and Lakes of Killarney. Off the bike after 1 hr 37 mins on the saddle and away I went to run a quick mile to the kayak section. For the first time in over 8 races I had got to the kayak stage where I had the option of kayaking by myself (usually only an option for the leading group of first 10-15 athletes so I knew I was doing well) which I decided I would, BIG MISTAKE!!! Put it this way in this case 2 is defo better than 1, I still managed to kayak a mile or so in under 16 minutes but my energy was sapped and I still had the toughest part of the race left, Mangerton Mountain.
I dibbed out and off I set to tackle my arch nemesis Mangerton Mountain, I officially hate it! Its a half marathon up and down one of Kerrys most awkward mountains. I first had to make my way up Torc steps where every step feels like its 10ft high, the back of my legs were screaming and my knees were saying why oh why are you doing this to me! Everyone is in the same pain and it never gets easier. I chatted with a few people along the way giving words of encouragement as I passed them out, I thought I was only doing OK timewise but as I looked at peoples race numbers and waves I was quite taken aback as they were in wave 1 which started 30-35 minutes before my wave 2 so I was delighted but obviously did not tell them this. I paced myself nicely through the National Park until the base of Mangerton Mountain and as I looked up at her cloud covered summit we both said to each other "So we meet again".
I trudged my way slowly but surely up the muddy, steep, rocky, grassy. slippy, wet but beautiful mountain, even the mountain sheep were giving funny looks as if to say "dude you aint no sheep, this mountain is our domain" although I say beautiful mountain today, yesterday I hated it. As you make your way up Magerton you meet the first wave of pro athletes coming back down from wave 1, to be honest a very unfriendly bunch which I am disappointed at as any little word of encouragement really does give a moral boost to any athlete who is battling with their minds and finding it tough. Anyways enough about that. I reached the summit and took in the awesome views of Co.Kerry , worth the climb alone just to see it! I refuelled, took a few pictures and I knew I was on the home straight to the finish line once I descended. A few minutes into my downhill run I knew something was wrong, I had a very sharp pain in the sole of my left foot, I looked down and my runner had fallen apart and I mean disintegrated into bits. For the first time ever I was worried I would not finish and my mind was saying you are going to fail you are going to fail as I was in immense pain, I thought there were rocks or mud/grit stuck in the sole of my shoe, later as I discovered it was actaully a large piece of skin missing from the sole of my heel, lovely! I basically told myself you are finishing this race even if you have to crawl over the finish line, my mind was playing its usual tricks doubting my capabilities, I told it to go F*ck yourself. I hobbled alittle, ran alittle, walked alittle. Kept repeating this for a few miles and as other athletes passed me going the opposite way towards Mangerton I went out of my way to give them moral support even though I was in pain myself. I finally made it back to Torc waterfall to transition, it took me just under 2 hours to go up and down Mangerton, not bad for a lad with a mangled foot and ruined trail runners.
With adrenaline flowing and the pain being somewhat blocked out I cycled the last few miles to the finish line where all athletes are greeted with amazing crowds and music at the finish line. I finished in 77th place in a time of 6 hrs out of 2500 or so various athletes so I am very happy to finish pretty much in the top 5% , I love these races although this one was very interesting with a sore foot. The mind is a funny thing it can be your best friend or your worst enemy, it is up to you to decide which one wins.
These Quest medals are earned, not given.
Thank you to Ollie and Quest team for putting these events on, they are a great day out full of adventure and interesting people. Big up to everyone who took part you have my utmost respect as it is not easy, all ages, all types of body shape, all fitness levels, we all feel the same pain and battle the same struggles and that is why it is pretty much a level playing field.
For now thank you Quest Killarney Adventure Race Series 83km Expert route, until next year when we will cross paths again but with a back up pair of shoes
Link to view my race and what it involves - //www.relive.cc/view/1220726148