The Wall Duathlon
Sometimes I should listen to my body!!
Thursday I got recurring back pain that had me walking hunched like an old man. Because it had eased a bit on friday I decided I would still give the race ago. Saturday morning and the pain was still pretty bad but armed with deepheat and ibuprofen it was on.
The weather gods were on our side a beautiful day in the mournes clear blue skies and a perfect race temperature. We arrived at silent valley reservoir for the registration and our dibber (electronic timing chip which we dib at checkpoints) The bike transition was at the side of the dam wall. With the bikes racked we all walked down the steep slope to the foot of the dam. With everyone stopping half way down Ian shouts "we dont do easy", promting us to move right to the bottom of the sloping green. Ian give us the race briefing on the course and it was time to start. A roar went up from everyone and we climbed the slope around Rowan. Striking pains in my back I would see how the run faired before deciding if I will continue.
The run was a 3km clockwise lap of the nature trails on the far side of the reservoir. I was running at a consistant pace and everything apart from the back felt good. I got to transition and didnt think twice about grabbing the shoes, helmet, stuffing my trail shoes into my pack and dragging a leg over the bike. Hunched on the bike I took off down hill to exit the silent valley park. First up hill and out of the saddle felt a little better than in the saddle, so I just got the head down and kept going. The ibuprofen didnt seem to be doing much but the legs felt ok. The head road was a series of rolling hills steep climbs and steep descents. Stone walls spread through the countryside hemmed in the green fields in a patchwork like landscape. The sun was in our faces and it was hard to see in places. I had a few near misses with cars on blind corners. the other issue was gravel on corners. Twice I almost lost the front wheel tipping into corners. I wasnt pedaling well at all slow on the ups and couldnt put enough power in to get going on the downs. I was moving though and that was the main thing. My mate Barry came storming past and joined a group in front. I couldnt get onto any group and joined the newcastle road and pedaled this section on my own.
Turning into donard carpark I dibbed and racked the bike, kicked off the bike shoes and pulled on the trail shoes. Drink of water and an ibuprofen to try do something for the pain. The run followed the river path through donard forest and up onto glen river path. The first section is through the trees on a very rough path. Roots of trees rocks and stones littered the root. The shelter from the trees give a nice bit of cover to cool down a bit. I was jogging slowly and walking the steeper sections. As I got out of the forest I could see the route ahead lined with walkers and other competitors. It was hard to gauge who was who and how far ahead some people where. Although still in beautiful sunshine the temperature dropped the higher we climbed. Plenty of encouragement from walkers saying it was a tough enough walk let alone run. The climb wasnt getting any easier as wee got onto the steep section below the saddle.
I met a couple of DH bikers ready to blast down the trail. Asked if I could borrow the bike for the way down one replied "if you carry it up". I can barely get myself up!! Just under the saddle I met the first place runner on his way down. He was skipping down the stones like a mountain goat. Shortly after that second and third place in at a similar pace. I shouted to keep er lit and got myhead down determained to get to the top... Sometime today. I got to the dibber on the steps crossing the wall and up the last climb. This bit was tough as I could see more and more on the way down. I kept going trying to stretch out my back but the pain was there regardless of what way I moved. I kept thinking I could make up time on the descent so keep at it. Finally at the top I dibbed and took a minute to get my breath, took a few pics and down I went.
I moved slightly to the right of the steps and onto the softer mountain for the descent. Down was starting to feel worse than going up. With every foot I planted a sharp pain was shooting up my back and down my legs. I wasnt going as fast as I had hoped but still moving. I dibbed at the saddle and back onto the stone steps. No avoiding them this time and the pain increased. I just kept moving best I could. As I reached the flatter section I tried to pick up the pace. The pain wasnt any better but it wasnt any worse. I thought better going quicker to get down than being in the same pain going slow. It was on reaching the river trail I took the first fall. I stepped onto the rock and my foot shot out in front landing me on my arse.
I gathered myself and tried to be more careful jumping from rock to rock and hopping over the roots. Then just when I was getting a good rythym I went again stepping off a rock to drop down to another my foot slipped and I landed right on the tail bone the exact spot the pain is worst. It took my breath for a second but knowing I was nearly at the bottom I limped on. It was now I thought about pulling the plug with the pain I was in. I didnt think I could pedal. I ran to the transition telling myself if I could get the leg over the bike I would give it a go. I took a bit of water and an ibuprofen had a laugh with Rowan. Or I should say Rowan laughed at me. Shoes changed and helmet on this was it could I get on the bike.
I got the leg over the bike, into the pedals and onto the road. Pedaling was worse than running it felt like what ever was causing the pain was being rubbed together. I kept going at a steady 15mph out through bryansford and the climbing began. It would be a long climb from here to spelga dam. I was keeping a steady 15mph even when climbing. It was getting warm again on the bike with a very calm day, only a very slight headwind. The real climb started as I turned onto the slievenaman road. I slowed to about 10mph but could see the flag at the fofanny dam check point. At the check point I took a few cups of water and tried to eat a bit of cake but it was far too dry. I got back onto the road and got into the steepest part of the climb. With the legs feeling ok I got out of the saddle and tried to push to the top. It was a struggle but the sight of spelga dam told me it was almost all down hill from here. As the road flattened I took a large drink from the water bottle hoping the high 5 would give me a bit of a boost. I looked down and could see the speed was 25mph on the flat. I dont know how I was keeping this pace but even on the slight incline it only dropped to 20mph. At the top of the descent I took a last drink and got the head down. 45MPH without peddaling and with a hydration pack on my back gives you an idea of the descent. Normally this would be a time for relaxing and recovery but the pain I was in it was hard to hang onto the bike. Every bump in the road was like a knife in my back.
I turned into silent valley park and met a few runners just heading out on the run. I got to the transition and almost fell off the bike. As I stretched out I took the decision to call it a day. I could have struggled on around the run but didnt want to get half way round then need to be taken off the mountain. I am dissapointed to have to stop before completing the route but surprised I got as far as I did.
The route was stunning circling and summiting the mournes. The weather was perfect the mournes where glowing a golden colour and the craic at the finish line was mighty. I have never seen so many people looking so broken at the finish line. Smiling and joking but broken and busted. Just how you should look after a 26extreme event.
Great event once again by 26extreme, all the marshalls, the med team, sound function DJteam and everyone who helped.