Sunday, 7 November 2010

Causeway Coast Adventure Race Round 1

Cootehill Co. Cavan
Saturday 06th November

Team Surf N Turf
Andy Lyle and Mickey Regan

We left Belfast around 7am and headed south to Cootehill. The morning was beautiful blue sky and a nice fresh feel to the day. We arrived at Tanagh Outdoor centre and went for kit check and instructions on the course and the bike drop. A bit of time for a VERY light warm up. A warm up I don’t think you would find in a personal trainers guide book. I think it was more of a gentle sway from side to side. Race briefing by Ivan detailed some of the route and what we would face along the way. The race would start with a 9.3km Run with 11 check points, Transition to bikes, The 38km bike loop with 16 check points with 9km of this a bonus bike loop with 4 checkpoints, the 3km Kayak stage. The first 14 teams to the kayaks on the run would do the kayak first. The remaining teams would do the kayak during the bike loop.

The Run:
We lined up and got ready for the start. Crossing the start control we got our first dibber checkpoint and were handed our maps. we jogged down the lane across the main road into a forest. The trail we followed was single track and very soft under foot. We tried to look at the map as we ran but then decided to take our time, find out where we were and take it from there. We looked at check point two and headed for it. When we arrived we realised with other faster teams only getting there now either we made a great navigational move or we had made an error. First mistake of the day and to be honest I think it was our only mistake all day. The dibber at the start control wasn’t checkpoint one this was just the clock starting. We took a closer look and spotted checkpoint one. I sprinted off meeting teams coming towards me who had obviously already been to the first control. I got to 1 and turned back picking up again at check point 2. We had a look at the map and the other points breezed by. Andy having confessed to not being a runner was doing better than I had imagined and kept up a steady pace. A few stops to look at the map along the way give us a breather and we reached the kayak section. The first task and what a task it was. We were handed a packet of cream crackers and told to eat them all. This was tough going having just jogged about 5km. We wolfed them down us taking water to try help the dry crackers go down. Nice!!! Ironically I had been eating crackers and cheese the night before for the first time in a while. Think it will be the last cracker I have for a bit. The remaining checkpoints were a return to the previous ones and back to the HQ. Task number two was an obstacle course. First was a water splash and a wall climb. Then it was into a tunnel that I just about fitted in let alone scramble to the other side. Andy is bigger than me so I can only imagine what it must have been like for him trying to squeeze through. Next was a rope climb and last a balance beam.

The bikes:
We got to transition and changed shoes for the bike section. We were feeling good and said we would go for the bonus loop. It took Andy a bit to get his legs going on the bike after the transition. After the first few checkpoints he was fine and pushing on well. I had made a map board from old light clamps and a place mat from the dinner table. This worked until the first checkpoint when we took the card off for the punch I bent the pins putting it back on. With nothing to hold the maps on it was map in hand and a waste of my unique map board. We over shot one junction but not by much turning back and finding the road we past. Two nice steep climbs in the middle really got the legs working. We joined the main bike loop at checkpoint 16 and could hear from other competitors that they hadn’t done the bonus loop. This was a bit of a confidence boost and helped us keep going at a good pace. The next section was back into the forest. The trails were mucky and sticky but with a generally flat course we managed to keep pedalling well. I could feel the front end loosing a bit of control and realised I had a flat. We were close to another check point so I continued pedalling to it. Andy went looking it as I changed the tube. Tyre pumped checkpoint got it was a race around the forest that was like a maze at times. Andy was great on the map reading and we had no problems finding all the checkpoints. A few were less obvious than others but with a bit of team work we found them all. Check point 26 and another special task.

The Blind folded rope line:
We got the instructions which told us we would be blind folded and taken to a rope. We had to follow the rope to the end. On the rope at intervals was different objects we had to work out what they were from touch and then remember them to write down what we thought they were at the end. 1min penalty for each we didn’t get right. Lets see if I can remember them now. Hanger (I wont forget that now as we did on the task) Sunglasses, toy plane, sharpener, pine cone, hat, Mug, Fork, CD and ..... There always one I forget. This wasn’t easy with obstacles in our way in fallen trees branches etc. Then to try and remember the objects at the end. We got nine and handed our answers to Shirley and it was back on the bikes for another few checkpoints before the Kayak stage.
On arriving we had another task before the paddle. Fill a vertical pipe with water to get a ball out the top. The pipe had holes so as I held the holes Andy filled the water. Only took a few buckets and with Andy’s long arms we were off and into the Kayaks. 3km of paddling was really sore on the shoulders. This as I have said before is my weakest discipline in Adventure racing and one I really want to improve on the future. Having said that we managed to get into a decent enough rhythm and kept our heads down passing one team on the way to the checkpoint. We turned at the check point and headed back. We were like a well oiled cruise ship rather than a torpedo. We got there and had the worst over us before the rain started. Already very wet at this stage a spot of rain wasn’t going to bother us.

The final leg:
We hopped on the bikes after having a bit of banter with Steve. 4 more checkpoints to go and then the finish line. We had a bit of a road ride picking up a checkpoint at the gates to the forest. Then we were back into the forest for a bit of back tracking over ground we had already been on. Out to the furthest point in the course then one last push to HQ. The lane leading to the finish line was feeling quite steep having spent 5 hours on the course. I heard a shout behind me but with the head down I didn’t want to stop to the line. I turned to see Andy pushing the bike. He had snapped his chain on a gear change. Thankfully this was at the end rather than the middle of the course. The final dibber and Race 1 complete.

Thanks to CCAR for another great event and all the Marshals and helpers for making everything go smooth apart from the crackers down our throats ;-)

Also thanks to Action photography for covering the event.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Bull Raid 12 Hour SOLO

Friday night I arrived after driving through 1 hour of rain. It did not look good on the journey to the event. The race HQ was already set up. Start/finish line, Pit areas for each type of racer, Solo nearest the line then two person then 4 person teams. There was a number of bike washes with all cleaning products needed. Hot showers for after the race and a great PA system. I pitched my tent and had a quick check over the bike. Registration was fast Name and category and I collected my race kit. Computer chip for timing a t-shirt and an assortment of Lucozade energy gel products. The organisers had some pasta and chicken for us for dinner. I had mine then decided to get to sleep.

Number 105 Solo Raider. I didn’t have the best nights sleep as it was the first time I had camped in a long time. 5:30am I had breakfast early so it would be settled before the 8am start. Thankfully it was dry and was to get better as the day went on. Another bike check and then I took my race kit to my pit area. I used a plastic box with a lid so it would stay dry if it rained. (Next time I will bring a chair and a gazebo) I had tubes, tools, water, gels, energy bars, bananas, spare shirts and rain gear.

I thought as it was only a 10km loop I would take one water bottle a spare tube, small tool kit and a gel, Stopping to get more if and when I needed them. We had a race briefing about the course and about some of the features. The drive into the race HQ had a bridge crossing seen below. On first look I thought no way are we going up or down that. At the briefing they told us yes that was on the course. It turned out easy enough and not as steep as it looked driving passed. We would travel up the left side and then on the down side we had a 90 degree corner. It just took a slight brake and a bit of concentration.

The Race

We had a le mans type start with a run across a field to the bikes. We traveled around the pit area and across the start line. 11 Hours 59mins to go.... The first lap I decided to use as a sighting lap. No point pushing to hard and burning up to early. We travel around the side of a field and onto the MotoX track. The track was very fast at the start. Berms and jumps then it levelled out with a few steep climbs that would be jumps for the mx bikes. Another steep descent with a berm and then a climb up off the track.

This was a great start to the course. After the motox track there was a steep lane leading to the field with the bridge crossing. From here we had a small natural wood very narrow but all very flat. A few tricky sections with stones and muck but nothing to serious. There were a couple of bridges to cross. At the start were easy but as the day went on and the stone ramps moved made for a tricky crossing at times.

The course now joined a lane that took us back to the other side of the HQ field. We travelled along the side of the field and into the forest. This section was both my favourite and my worst part. The trail started on freshly laid gravel. As it had not bedded into the ground it was hard to pedal through in places. The course started to climb with switch back corners leading up into the forest.

The climb felt fine on the first lap. As the pack was fairly close together the chat and the craic seemed to get us up without noticing the climb. There was a few sections that people walked and as the pack slowed it was hard to keep the momentum around these corners. More climbing and with a few walls to cross the pace had slowed quite a bit. The course had the usual technical sections like roots and step ups and rocks. Which were fine after the first lap. First drop was about the size of 4 big steps. Hitting it with speed was the way to do it and the rocks mad it feel like going down steeps. A tricky exit as it was on a corner but again after the first lap it was fine.

Some more climbing and a section that was very mucky with rocks all around it. First lap it seemed there was no way crossing it on a big and most people jumped of and ran over it. After this a final climb before a big drop onto a wooden north shore section that passed over a wall. I had no trouble on this section and got faster as the day went on.

The course now started to descend around trees with rooty corners and a few rock drops. The course was very fast in this section and I think Technical descents and the downhill sections is where I made the best time. Half way through the first lap and my gears stopped working. The mud, grass and branches just stuck to the bike. I pushed on and as the gear was a comfortable one I could climb and descend without to much bother. We now turned back along the edge of the forest heading in the direction of Race HQ. This part was rolling with stiff climbs and long flat sections. The next part had a mixture of rocky crossings to climbs to technical descents. The first was a step off camber with a rock drop half way down then a tight corner onto a bridge with a steep climb on rocks and roots. An Army Helmet marked marshal was our marker point to remind us of this descent.

The next technical section here was a steep drop over roots, over a rock and a final rock drop. The rider in front of me rolled it and didn’t lift the bars. He went over the handle bars and crashed quite hard. I helped him up onto his bike and he said he was ok and for me to continue on. The next bit was a climb and then a very fast section of open trail. I really got the legs going here. No brakes just hard pedalling and sideways around the corners. This was one of the most enjoyable sections. There was another section with small climbs and also a technical wall crossing. This was a steep incline over the wall then a wooden north shore slope off the other side. The final section was just a flat section through the trees and then into the Race HQ field. We crossed the field around the pit area and lap one was over.

I continued on without stopping now I knew the course and with the pack spread out I could ride at my own pace and take the technical sections faster. Lap 2 was a great lap and after a brief stop at the end of the lap for a water bottle and some gel I set of for lap 3 faster again on this one as I knew I was going to take a small break. Then I got a puncture in my rear tyre. Most people that passed asked if I needed anything or I was o.k. which was nice to hear but thankfully I had a spare tube and my pump in my pocket. I got the wheel off got the tube out and checked the tyre. A thorn sticking through which I removed put in a new tube and off I went. I pushed hard and caught 4 riders that had passed me as I changed the tube. This give me a great feeling but I still had to resist the temptation to go too fast and burn up. I had one main stop for something to eat and after two mouthfuls of pasta I couldn’t face any more. I knew I was hungry but couldn’t eat the pasta. So Bananas, energy gel and water was my lunch. Pushing on at a steady pace I got another puncture front wheel this time. This time it took longer to fix as I was getting tired and there was a lot more muck on the tyres. I took my time cleaning out the inside of the tyre. I didn’t want to put a new tube into a mucky tyre.

The day rolled on slowly and I took a lot of punishment both mental and physical. The bike took a beating. No gears and two punctures. It took a lot to keep going but keep going I did. I crossed the finish line having done 9 laps at a distance of 95km I was happy with finishing my first 12 hour solo event. I have learned a lot from this event and can go to the next better prepared both mentally and physically.

Have to say a big thank you to Tony Kelly event Organiser and Cuchulainn Cycle club. Also all the marshals out on the course as I'm sure it was a long day for them. The event was well organised and had everything you could need for 12 hour race. Great course and a great BBQ after.

Here is a video from the 12 hour race. Have a look for me at 1:20 and 3:04 What memories. I cant wait to take part again this year.

Entry is open for this years event. Anyone in Ireland on Saturday 6th August 2011 why not give it ago. More info on the 12 hour Bull raid website Here

Sunday, 18 April 2010

W.A.R. Wicklow Multisport Race April 17th 2010

Race Morning
am alarm went off and I went for a continental breakfast. Alpen with milk to start. Toast and wheaten bread with marmalade. Washed down with orange juice. The weather was amazing clear blue skies and a light breeze.
The setting for this race was amazing. Glendalough
(Irish: Gleann Dá Loch, meaning "Glen of Two Lakes") is a Glacial valley in the heart of Co Wicklow. Renowned for its early medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th centure by St Kevin, a hermit Priest, and destroyed in 1398 by English troops. The upper lake car park was the starting point just a mile from the Glendalough Hotel where we stayed. I got my gear and we walked the mile up to the upper lake car park. Atmosphere was building and a cheer went up for the 8:15 wave. I checked the bike and got ready on the start line for my 8:30 start wave.
Spink Mountain Run
Distance: 8.6km
Meters Climbed: 575m
We lined up and got a race briefing then got the call to start. Spink mountain run was first a brief start on a winding uphill path getting steeper the further up we climbed. We took a right turn and the steps started. An amazing path made from railway sleepers. Two laid side by side facing up the mountain. The run slowed and then stopped when we got into the steeper steps. With a full day of racing ahead walking fast rather than running the steps stopped burning out to soon. The steps went on for a long time but the craic was good and took our thoughts of the climb. When we emerged from the forest the views were stunning. This felt like the top but we still had a lot of work to do. Another steep climb of steps before the trail started to descend. Two Deer bounding across the mountain and skipped across the trail in front of us. They passed over the heather with speed and precision I could only dream of. If I could run like these deer the run would have been a lot easier. First check point and the railway sleepers made way for a rocky path. This twisted down the valley to the side of the lake. The rough path changed to a gravel track on the descent back to TA1. A quick change of shoes and on to the bike.
Cycle to Lough Dan Distance: 15km
Meters climbed: 165m

We cycled through Glendalough and Laragh. This was the first time on the road bike since august last year. What a difference it was to the mountain bike. Feet and knees close together and the pedalling felt so different. I just thought pedal and stop thinking about the lack of preparation. I got into a rhythm and was going well until a large white dog along the road jumped at me. I really thought he was going for my leg, a snap but thankfully no contact was made. I was thinking just how bad it would have been if the dog had got my leg. Thankfully no bite and I got a great feeling when I seen my partner Marga cheer me on from the next village. Even with this boost I could feel the legs tightening. I tried to get into a rhythm that prevented cramp at this early stage. The more I got on the toes the better I felt. We turned off the main busy road and started a climb on a rough country lane. I was joined on this part of the cycle by two lads Rob and Dave. I had remember chatting with Rob on the first climb and the company was welcomed. We pushed on then took a left for a welcoming descent to Lough Dan. I got into a tuck and resisted temptation to brake. It was the right choice as there wasn't any major corners. A very bumpy road but I enjoyed passing others a little less confident on the descents. I got to TA2 changed the shoes and made the short run to the Lough.
Kayak Lough Dan
Distance: 2km

Lifejacket on and ready to paddle. Only one problem there was no one else to pair up with. I could see others approach but they all where running in pairs and I was left waiting. A long wait watching others set off when eventually a fellow competitor grabbed the kayak and we were both out on the Lough. We got into a rhythm and paddled out around the first buoy. We got into a good rhythm and the paddle went by in a flash. On the run back to TA2 I got a water bottle filled. Was I drinking too much or too little I didn't know. I took a gel and hoped it would help.
Cycle to Lough Tay viewing point. (CAT1 climb)
Distance: 8km
Meters climbed: 284m

I quickly changed the wet socks before I mounted the bike for the big climb back up the road I had such fun on descending. A long pull up the hill took it's toll on my legs. I took terrible cramp in my calves. I tried to ride it off but the fear of coming of the bike while in the spd's made me stop. I stretched and pulled my toes but every time I tried to step into the pedals I would cramp. I heard a voice behind Rob and Dave encouraging me onto the bike again and with a lot of effort I got back into the pedals. With cramping legs I battled on best I could. Eventually I caught up with the fellas and the chatting took my mind off the sore legs. Switching between water and powder lucozade sport bottles. I had made it before the start but the more of it I drank the worse my stomach felt. I stuck to the water from here on. The chatting stopped as we hit the CAT1 climb. As I started to climb my legs felt better the more I got on my toes. Perfect for climbing and a big relief for me. As I looked up I could see many competitors get off and walk. Cheesy as it sounds I thought of Lance Armstrong’s books. I got my head down and started passing the guys who opted to walk, to my shock I was also passing others pedalling. I topped the climb and kept pushing to TA3.
Djouce Mountain Run
Distance: 9.5km
Meters climbed: 450m

I changed into my trail shoes and started the run into ballinastoe wood. Cramp cramp cramp! I started to walk but a competitor passing spurred me on get up on the toes and run it off. It worked and slowly I got into a jog. A familiar voice behind was Barry the savage Sullivan a mate from work. Barry had started 15 mins behind me so was going really well to have made up this time. He passed me as I struggled to run. When I met Rob from earlier we ran together for a bit. I was looking around me more in this wood as it has single track mountain bike trails. I will be back some day I thought in less demanding circumstances. Out of the forest and onto djouce mountain climb. A trail took us up the mountain but with a steep incline I was back to walking pace. When we reached the top it was back to a swift jog. The railway sleepers showed the way and another amazing trail across the mountain. The trail was busy with walkers. I thanked anyone that stepped of the sleepers to make way for us. When I jumped off to pass others the ground was wet and I lost a shoe twice. Annoying thing was I wasn't getting the courtesy I was giving back. I choose to forget about people like this. I didn't have right of way and nor did they but it's not hard to say thanks. As we reached TA3 again I got a drink and changed shoes for the last time.
Cycle over Sally Gap to the Finish
Distance: 29km
Meters climbed: 114m
Meters descended: 438m

Onto the bike and pedalling hard downhill this was a very fast section. The road was a busy with tourists and other fellow cyclists. A sharp corner right and a sharp corner left I had chosen to take it not braking. First corner was fine knee out Rossi style. On the second corner right on the apex I saw a pothole. I swerved to avoid it but it took me very wide. Thankfully I was in control and missed the on coming car that was on my side of the road. The last big climb up to sallygap and the check point. It was nice to see a few cyclists that had passed us stop on the gap to cheer us over. Someone told me it was all down hill from sally gap. This wasnt exactly true and pedalling hard I soon found that out. When I hit a small climb my legs started cramping. A guy who was passing shouted a few words of encouragement and I got on the toes to get rid of the cramp. Later up the road he was stopped. I shouted if he was ok and he said it was his chain and to keep going. As I looked back I saw him get back on the bike and pedalling hard to catch up. Turned out it was Ronan a friend of Barry’s. The road was mostly downhill with one really fast section. I was off the brakes all the way down. A few heart in mouth moments on loose gravel but I could feel the end was near. Seeing Laragh village was a welcome sight. The Garda and marshals give us a clear road at each junction waving us through. A familiar face on the road to home was Ken from the kayak. We both pedalled hard back through Glendalough talking about food the whole way. Into TA1 again racked the bike and ran to the line. Cheers and claps from people on the finish line was a nice way to finish.

Mad dogs, Cramps nor a CAT1 climb could stop me. What a day! 73 km in 05hours 18mins. Tired, sore but happy and delighted to finish strong.

Big Thanks to:
Paul and Brian for organising the event. The Marshalls and the Garda for keeping the biking safe and enjoyable. Also all the other competitors for the craic and banter that kept me going.

Thanks to Marga for coming down getting up early and cheering me on.