After breakfast we drove to Westport where we were collected by bus and driven for over an hour to our starting location. A few heroes on the bus spoke of their previous experiences and gave advice on how best to tackle the various parts of the race making special reference to the feared Croagh Patrick, if we got that far (I put most of their banter down to mind games). On the way to the start line we met an earlier wave finishing their 14km run; when I say they were covered in head to toe with muck and dirt I am not exaggerating. The sight of them was met with absolute silence on the bus bar the odd gasp. The severity of the
challenge coupled with nerves was finally hitting home. In fairness, it was a bit late for second thoughts at that stage.
After queuing for toilet facilities with the other hundred or so participants on our wave and after the pre-race announcements were finished, the horn sounded and we were on our way, jogging off the beach onto the road. The run commenced with a
1 mile up hill run followed by a steep downhill run, lots of winding roads and then off road for a hilly, rocky, muddy, slippy, dangerous run that eventually brought us to a road that led us to the kayak section. With a 13.5km run in the bag, we grabbed an energy bar, drank some water, put on a life jacket and Ritchie and I proceeded to be allocated a kayak. We commenced speedily from the shore line and made some good headway, then (as everyone knows at this stage thanks to Tommy Byrnes) we turned the kayak stage into a swim. The kayak turned upside down assisted by the poor balancing skills of both occupants. We were eventually plucked from the water as we laughed uncontrollably like two little school boys. We decided to have another
go, got back into the kayak again and almost made it to the far shoreline before we again decided to go for a dip. Eventually we made it to the other side, drowned wet, spirits dampened but determined to keep going. We completed the bog run stopping every so often to retrieve our runners from the 2 to 3 feet of bog, oh and a fall head over heels by Ritchie into a stream (ha
ha). We then jogged along a road way to the transition area to collect our bikes.
After a quick change of footwear (bad advice) we moved off on the bikes, what was described as a handy bike run with a few hills turned out to be tough enough, a strong headwind proved to be problematic for some of the participants. The hills especially one of them was quite tough and long. 34 kms later we eventually we arrived at Croagh Patrick.
We took advice from Barry Hartnett prior to the race in relation to how to manage the mountain which was “pick a pace, a handy, steady pace and stick with it” and that’s exactly what we did. It was tough and long but when completed it was a magnificent
feeling. Something funny that sticks out in my mind – As we started the climb up Croagh Patrick I turned to Ritchie and pointed at a bird (feathered type) that was making an unusual sound and was standing unperturbed only about 20 feet from us, I asked “hey Ritchie, what kinda bird is that” he (Ritchie) kept his head facing down and replied in the grumpiest voice I ever heard “I don’t give a F**k what type of bird it is” a few seconds later we both burst out laughing. We were almost broken men. We completed the mountain and returned to our bikes. We now faced a 12 km bike/walk/run back to Westportto the finish line.
On the way Ritchie got a puncture, after it was changed we safely made our way over the line to loud applause by other competitors and onlookers.
Out of the Tipperary Wheelers I believe there were two others who took part, Martin Hickey who did a brilliant time and Barry Hartnett who burned the course up with his speed and endurance. Well done to both of them and everyone else who took part.
For Ritchie and I we absolutely enjoyed the day out, we suffered for a day or two afterwards with pains and aches but that is what we enjoy, pushing ourselves as hard as we can, doing challenges that are out our comfort zones and having a go. The t-shirt that each competitor receives when they complete the Gaelforce simply says “if you’re going to do one thing in life ….. do a Gaelforce” They are right. Brilliant experience, I will definitely do one again, the hardest part of it for me was the planning and preparation and not knowing what to expect. The good part now is that the next time we will.
One would think that we had enough punishment for one year, but no, we are currently training for the Killarney Adventure Race which takes place on the 6th October 2012. There are three races, the 25km, 57km and the 67km. Ritchie, Maurice
Crowe, Tony Delaney and I are taking part in the 67km and would welcome any other members to accompany us; Tommy Byrnes and Martina along with James and Nora Cunningham are competing in the 57km. Bring it on. (I hope I didn’t forget anyone)