Coast to Coast race, Ireland 2011

Posted by on 23 May, 2011
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First time to do this race – a lack of any real pre race training meant it was gonna be tough.  Perfect prep for our next big Adventure race, the 3 day Slovenia AR. Getting support crew was  more of a challenge than anticipated, but thankfully through our social network that is Facebook  Cormac Power came to the rescue – and I am sure I will say it as I go on, did an outstanding  job!!! My packaing was done in a rush late Friday evening. I managed to pack all the race gear  minus socks n jocks…oh  and I forgot my cycle jersey but luckily Finbar had a spare Trailbadger.

We only managed one proper training session on the bikes for this race. That was a 48km cycle  out to Blessington the weekend before to check out our new boat for the race. Thanks to Eoin/  Brian we had the Elio. The rudder was banjaxed but we fixed her up and finally got the hang of  navigating it around Blessington lake. Another 48km cycle home after the paddle, our minds  now at ease after getting to grips with the Elio, we were ready for the C2C.

Friday night came quick and we set off in the direction of Sligo at 7:25 to make the Race Briefing  at 10:15pm. We arrived late to be greated by a large crowd at race briefing. Race numbers were  certainly up this year… should make for some good racing :) Rowan and Ian were in full swing  and with the briefing out of the way, some quick food, we were checking into Iasc Na Mara B&B  (thanks Ivan) for 5 hours sleep.

Up at 6:00am it was onto Enniscrone Beach for the 5km run. At 7:15am the horn sounded and we were off to a run straight into a strong head wind – the first battle with the elements of the day!!! The wind blew but it didn’t stop the race setting off at a pretty fast pace. It was nice to see Marty running with his normal race ethicate – sprint start :) It wasn’t long before the  crowds started to draft off Finbar and I, well maybe just Enda. Thoughts of how we were going to cycle 107km in this wind was all that was in our minds at this point. The 5km on the beach seemed to go quickly but the 6:00am Fry wasn’t happy where it was sitting. I was happy to get onto the bikes and it wasn’t long before Finbar was in Time Trial mode beating down the road in the direction of Easkey. There was no early morning surfers about as we cycled out the road and into the wind.

Halfway point seemed along way away as we headed to Dromore west. Although we had come off the beach run in good positon we know it wouldn’t be long before the Cyclists would pass by – I kind of hoped we wouldn’t have to many as I knew Finbar would be in pursuit and I wasn’t sure I was ready for the injection of pace. First to join us was Mickey but we settled and began pulling away from him. Next to join us was Enda and a lad from West Cork. They were moving well, using one another for wind cover, swapping wheels, it was a lesson for me as I tucked in behind Finbar. We chatted to one another checking pace and we were going well. Finbar had one eye on the clock and the other firmly planted on Enda (rather than the road) we had them in site for another 10km or so before we were over taken by a big lad on one of those Tri Bikes with a milkshake on the front. He had a big smile for us as we panted into the wind. 30KM in a group of bees assceded on us – well it was 4 cyclists – two to our front and two behind before  eventually taking off ahead of us. Finbar set off in pursuit as I busted a gut to remain in tow to do the same. We seemed to race up and down hills at a pretty fast pace – the race was on and we weren’t letting go!! We peddled hard with this group and before we knew it we were at the half way. Cycling in the group made it go from pain to being there in a flash.

A quick dib at the halfway cp and a bottle swap with Cormac we were off again. Enda left transition at much the same time so smiles alround. He was impressed to see us making up such ground on the bikes. The group got separated at the transition – some just stayed there to put on their windblockers as we raced off in pursuit of the nearest rider. Enda had headed off but we could see him trying to group with another rider. This wasn’t working for him so after about another 20km of riding in the wind and the rain we caught up to him. We rode the last 30km of the day together still moving at a hard pace – faster than our Adventure Raceing pace but I guess we were on roadbikes for a change. Team Get No Sleep were now in motion (without the girl) The rain and cold got worse as we approached the end of the cycle leg. Our hands and feet were getting really cold!!! We turned on to the Kingfisher Cycle trail and cycled over the speedbumps in the direction of the kayak transition.

At the transition we needed a quick change of gear as we were soaked and numb. We pumped the food in as we scrumaged for shoes and bouncy aids. Cormac already had the boat next to the water. My back was crippled and I needed to stretch it before getting into the life Jacket. We sardined ourselves into the boat and wobbled out into the middle of the water. The wind was minimal an we headed off for the first lock gate.

As we hit the  gte, we tucked in and had our first experience of carrying the boat out and over the  gates or “Portage”. Luckily for Enda he had his brother close by and we gave him a hand in the first one. I don’t know how Enda did the 26km in a single in that wind. Fair play lad!!! As we headed toward the gate there was another double kayak in front of us.It was Mark Young and Paul Cole. We’d meet up at each of the lock gates but the lads would pull away slightly in between. They reached the  lough Gardice before us and we followed them out into choppy waters in the middle of the lake. The wind howled across the lake as we continually re-asserted ourselves on the water. Our steering was good and we followed the others out across the lake passing two singles. At this point we noticed a buoy off to our left, we had been warned in the briefing that nav was tricky at this point. We had made a small error but quickly corrected ourselves. The only problem now was the waves were coming to the side of the boat so our momentum was much slower as we took great care not to topple – middle of the lake isn’t really the best place for this. Other racers weren’t as lucky. We heard stories of at least 5 people taking the plunge!!

We hit the halfway point on the paddle with the other pair who had broken their rudder and were struggling to keep control of their boat. Luckily for them the hardest lake was behind them with only 3 small lake to battle with. Cormac was at hand again, bananas, oranges, dibbed and we were off again. This was the last 13km and the longest 13km we have ever kayaked. The lads pulled away kayking out of sight as we started to fade a little – our lack of kayaking over the winter was starting to kick in. At this point I was bursting to use the toilet and being surrounded by water wasn’t helping my mental state!! Eventually after passing multiple ports we hit Ballyconnell to be greeted by some Cavan supporters!!!! Finbars parents!! We hadn’t much time for chit chat. “Mam we’re on the clock, chat to you at the finish” We jumped onto the bikes for a cold cold cycle across the border into Fermanagh reaching the finish of Day 1 at the Share Centre after almost 8 hours racing. We finished in 4th place overall and we’re 10 minutes down on the second pair of Young and Cole. Pauls brother Peter was well out in front along with Peter Crommie. No one was touching these lads! A quick massage, a trip down the chipper (food of champions) and then off for a much needed shower. That evening we had a huge meal, good craic with fellow competitors and support crew. At the meal positions and start times were handed out. We were 4th last to leave the following moring. After a lot of tactical conversations the heads were put down.

The following morning we were up at 6:45 with a lot of anxiety on how the body was going to perform. But everyone was in the same situation. After a fry we headed off for a 7:40 takeoff. Our exit strategy was to save ourselves on the bike and try and pull back whatever time Mark and Paul would put into us on the bikes.We were hoping to hold out until the half way point on the bike before anyone caught us, and when they did we were going to hang on to them, I think that plan went out the window after about 2 minutes. We put the boot down and sped off :) The wind was less but the course seemed to have a lot more hills compared with the previous days racing. Could have been tired legs also. As we passed through Aughnacloy and Caledon we could see the different support crews coming in and out of the laybys. As we approached the halfway point we were moving well, swapped bottles and told Cormac we would not be requiring a refill until we hit Kilbroney Park. It was a sign we were feeling well. Around the 70km mark we caught up with Sean McFarlane, He was in 2nd position in the individual race. He asked could he jump on and we said no problem as we headed into Armagh. In Armagh came a long  climb – as we started the climb we heard the noise of Peter Crommie, Cole and Antoine upon us. Peter Crommie was in front with Antoine stuck to “his wheel” reminding me as we tried to duck in behind Peter Cole. These guys were moving at a fair pace and we tucked in at the back. I wasn’t able to hold on as we climbed further and further up the hill out of Armagh and so we eventually had to leave the leader group go. It wasn’t worth killing ourselves as we still had the Mountain Run to go.

Soon after, Antoine pulled to the side of the road with a punture. His support crew were on the scene immediatly switching wheels out and he was back up and running. We passed  surprised by what had happened…. support being received outside a an official support point? It wasn’t long before Antoine was passing us again… this time stuck to the wheel of the support van drafting?..or maybe it was just the traffic :)

At the 80km mark the Mark and Paul were still 3 minutes back, and at this stage they weren’t going to catch us. Ivan was encouraging us along and we knew it wouldn’t be long before the transition. It was a killer hill into Kilbroney, a quick change, food and runners on we set off up the hill stuffing our faces as we went. We didn’t rush the first 1km, settling ourselves for the long run ahead. The beginning of the run was mostly fireroad and it was nice on the odd downhill. 32km wasn’t really on our minds – more that we knew we had a 4.5hr run ahead of us and we were doing good. As we hit the first CP, we met Cormac and Ivan who were able to tell us that we were 10 minutes ahead of the lads. We were movong at a good pace on the hills. It wasn’t long before we were on Sandbank Road and heading up the hen track where we needed more food and a gel to get us on to Spelga Dam. Here we met Cormac for the last time in the route. Finbar had a shoe change – he knew what was ahead, although we had only 16km left 10km of it was pretty horrid to have at this stage of the race. We ran on down the road reminiscing of the Cooley Raid race which passed through the same area. As we got to the end of the road , Rowan pulledup informing us that we had put 25minutes into the lads in 3rd. This gave us a good lift and we headed into the mouintains in high spirit. We moved at a good pace over the hills until Hares gap, this is an awful climb at this part of the race – but because we were prepared it really didn’t seem that bad. At the top of the Gap the wind was there to greet us and we ran along the brandy pad until we came to the Castles and then it was up over the col to the stile and the end of any climbing.

Downhill from here but what a descent, 4 billion steps as we Irished danced our way down the hill – its hard to concentrate when your tired. Again we had been here previously, but in the opposite direction for the Cooley Raid. This descent went on for a long time, but the legs didn’t mind too much. From there it was the final descent and on to the promendade!!! Reality!!! The run along the promenade is a little surreal after two days hard racing!! We were happy to see the large black arch in the distance. Finbar managed to lift us one more time with a sprint crossing the line to finish in 2nd place?…. fingers crossed. We had an anxious 16 minutes to wait before we knew for sure. A few wind up merchants playing games but we were happy with our performance no matter what the result! 16 minutes later 2nd place was confirmed.

All in all 2 great days racing and excellent preparation for our next adventure in Solvenia !!!

Big thanks to Cormac for being a super support crew . Ian and Rowan and Volunteers for a super organised race!! We had a great weekend among friends and look forward to doing it again. Finally well done to all that competed, and to Peter Crommie and Peter Cole on a fine WIN!!!

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