Adventure racing European Championships – Beast of Ballyhoura

Posted by on 17 August, 2015
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The race came kind of out of nowhere – Eoin 2 weeks previously had won his national title for the 24hour Ultra running race, Finbar was spinning up some great podium positions on the bike, Taryn had actually answered emails and filled out the kit list and I was arriving on the back of a ligament tear, damaged on a Bob Graham attempt.

So we picked up from the previous year really and from the Tuesday before the race we got all the kit list and gear sorted. The team hadn’t seen too much of one another, having met up with Eoin a few times on the kayak and also with Taryn for a trip around Ballyhoura Trails and the Reeks. The entry list was savage with over 18 nations now entered the Beast of Ballyhoura. Our talk was the competition referred to by Sleepmonsters as ‘friendly rivalry among the Irish teams’. Being the European Championships we felt with Teams like SWECO, Adidas Terrex, HALTI, Fenix Multisport – Adidas, Yeti and Polska AR there was going to be a good battle up front to keep Ivan and his crew in tow, while we focused on our race of trying to retain our spot of top Irish team at the Beast, for the 2nd year in a row. We did a few days of guessing where Ivan would bring us. Waterford, Comeraghs were places we had never been, and we guessed the Ballyhoura Trails would be in there somewhere.
start beast

Arriving to Limerick the organisation and setup was superb. Finbar had gone to college there so he knew his way around. Having chatted to lots of friendly faces and Thure, it wasn’t long before we were on the bus to Delaware, near Irelands oldest city (but we would say its Cobh), Curraghmore house. It was fantastic, we could have been anywhere and having listened to team Halti chatting the whole way out on the bus it really felt like we were in a different county.

The race started with an 18km run, we were off !! We didn’t blast off to the front as there were cameras to be ran in front of, instead we went off steady but it wasn’t long before teams who were finding their pace came creeping back. Running would be the main strength of the team, so it was nice to get off on the trail run and have some chat with other teams on the way. We spent most of the 18km with fellow Irish team Outfront, with good banter on what lay ahead over the next 3 days. Together we pushed on which gave us a choice of Kayak on arrival. We were the first Irish Teams onto the water and we were the first Irish team to get to Waterford where we did the short 5km orienteering. We lost a place to Endurance Life here but it wasn’t long before we passed them again on the water. Taryn Kayak
We were moving surprisingly well on the water, passing 3 teams and catching up with the Czech team when we pulled into K4. Heading up to the gate for the cp we saw Team Yeti on their way back so we knew we were in good shape on the water. As we left K4 the guys put on full cover. Mark Cummins did say to us that teams in front were all putting on full cover too, but sure its Irish summer, I stayed with the shorts and rain jacket as we powered out over the waves. We pushed hard to overtake a team that had left K4 before us. As we rounded the headland the wind and waves upped their game with the wind and water coming over the sides of the boat, the back of the kayak was becoming a very cold place. I was looking forward to beaching on K5 as the time for sunbathing ones legs was clearly over. As we paddled approx. 1km from the K5 control we could see a rescue boat go to Taryn and Finbar and they were instructed to go straight to TA3. We were shortly told the same and we obeyed, we felt the whole race had been turned upside down. This was enhanced by paddling now into the wind, against a spring tide and with waves continuing to drench us. I was freezing now and we were moving forward at a very slow rate. I was shivering so hard I thought it was the reason the boat was going off line. It was very much the lowest part of the race for me and we shivered uncontrollably as we exited the kayaks. Lillian tried to warm us up by telling us that we were 1 of only 10 teams who exited the water after K5.

It was strange how getting into a wetsuit and back into the water can actually warm you up. Dunmore East was looking cold for an Irish Holiday resort. Eoin wasn’t really looking forward to this next stage but the short coasteering section and swim seemed to start off better than planned. Eoin with his anxiety was motoring through the water with Taryn on standby in case he needed rescuing. He was flying until we came to an abrupt halt at the cliff edge. After we had dibbed at the Life belt, we were met by a Marshall for a spot of cliff jumping. Eoin was going nowhere, but taking a 250 point penalty wasn’t an option. Somewhere in our pre-race ramblings I had been given permission by him to chuck him in if needed, so once he was close enough to the edge and enough words of encouragement or words of distraction, safely and soundly he was encouraged into the water by a gentle hand!! He was thankful, as were we, when we were told the next coasteering was cancelled.
Now it was decision time. When mapping out the route we had already decided the dunes of Tramore sandhills weren’t worth doing. Next we had to pick up B10 and CP13, so with the water sports section over it was time to ride. We kept good pace and were in great spirits when we hit the rope section for an abseil. The Army guys were good craic, even if they were Kilkenny and Tipperary hurling supporters. Eoin had no problem with the abseil, a cool descent down off an old Viaduct in the dark.

As we headed off in the direction of TA7 we knew it wouldn’t be long before the sun was backup so we made the decision to grab some hot food and get straight out onto the Trek in the Comeragh Mountains. We collected all the mandatory controls, the scenery was spectacular, with many hidden lakes in this lesser visited yet incredible mountain range. We had great battles here with Gallaecia Raid, Halti Adventure and Karlstad multisport. We basically would hit controls together, then head off on different routes and reach the next control congratulating who ever hit the control first. We exited the mountains in great form and were now heading back to the community centre for a well-deserved sleep. Our transition strategy was discussed at length on the final descent, amazing the different opinions one can have on recovery drinks when they haven’t had their snickers. At this point we were told we were the first Irish Team and we were 5th on the leader board, but we knew there was a long race to go and it’s a score event, so it was more important to get our heads down without delays and get back out on the bikes. Looking at how time was going and what was left toward the end of the course, we made a decision to skip the Kayak and Bike – the quick fire round – we estimated it would take 9 hrs for 1200 points deciding we would be better off going for the Bike stage and see what we could achieve on the Galtees. We had a firm plan post Galtees in terms of how long it would take to complete the Trails, the Orienteering and the last 12km.
Hike A Bike
The next bike section I had flagged in the route book as SLOW !! and B39 was proving to be difficult. There was little cycling and a lot of hike-a-biking. We seemed to be hiking with the bikes for a long time with a team who were also searching, but lucky for them they were bikeless. It was dark and eventually we picked up B39. We hike-a-biked again to B40. Being honest the ground was savage going. It was dark and there were trenches, ditches and fences everywhere we went, which was having an impact on my ankle. We decided to backtrack back down the way we came in. We eventually got cycling again as we came across a field of cows and then a man opening a gate. I thought he was most kind and thanked him, the response came – “get the f*ck out of here.” I stopped as Taryn was yet to come. The guy basically arched his body and put his face in hers and repeated the same. Taryn just shrugged it off, she obviously had a hurley hidden in her bag if things got nasty.
Further down the track we met DAR who had been turned around. I told them we had been in there for around 2 hours but had found the control. We learnt afterwards that teams were allowed to go straight to CP 40 and that we were to be given extra time to complete the course. Unfortunately for us, even though the organisers tried their best to locate us, we didn’t find out about this until after the Galtees. We went around the road to CP40 moving onwards to the Knockmealdowns. At night things started to get interesting, we had been racing around 45 hours and the aul sleepmonsters came a knocking. Taryn decided one way to keep from sleeping was to cycle into a bunch of nettles so that the stings would keep her awake for the next few hours. After the Liam Lynch we did try and take a power nap for 10 minutes. 3 minutes in and the midgets were insatiable, while some of us thought they had been asleep for an hour, we got up and moved on to clear the bike bonuses on that section.
Back into the community centre before the Galtees there was was talk of grabbing 30 minutes sleep on the way in. This was distracted by picking up team SWECO who seemed to have taken a wrong turn. They arrived with us to transition. The sight of SWECO leaving the transition for the Galtees, also Outfront and after some affordable biscuits, it seemed to make the sleepmonsters disappear and we were off down the road at speed to Kings yard to drop the bikes. Beast Galtees
We ran to the Galtees picking up the first control with Team SWECO. The Galtees we know well, and after a quick chat with Eoin we decided to climb in straight lines, as the zig zag contouring was killing my leg which had been aggravated with all the hike-a-bike. We definitely put the boot in and hit Galtee mor Summit ahead of SWECO, then bounded off in the direction of Outfront. Outfront had skipped 2 bike bonuses so we knew we were again 1st Irish team. We moved at a decent pace across the Galtees, however my ankle was swelling so we slowed down on the final descents as I was worried I may not be able to bike properly. We made a decision on the Galtees to drop 300 points, confident we would clear all that was remaining in the given time.
The final descent of the Galtees my ankle had flared so the painkillers were being popped, I was looking forward to the bike again. As we hit the Community Centre we were told there was some good news and some bad news. The good news was we had been given a time extension for having picked up CP39 when other teams had not been able to gain access. The bad news was there was only 3 sections left on the course which we had already given ourselves enough time to clear. Well we couldn’t go back out to the Galtees to pick up the orienteering now, so it was time to move on. We were happy though with what we had collected and decided to head for the trails and see what we could do in daylight rather than bank some sleep.


We got to the trails at about 8:00pm which gave us 2 hours of daylight. We went for the red loop so that we would pick up all bonuses. We had done this on a previous day in approx. 4hrs. With the tiredness, the darkness and the lashing rain it took us just over 6 hours. We were again cold and wet after the trails. Tired, but there was nowhere really to sleep. It was good to bump into a few Irish teams after completing the trails, Moxie and Leave no Trace, so we completed the Orienteering section together. I was delighted as this meant we had people to chat to and the going was slow enough for the pain in my ligament to subside a little. Greg and Eoin lead the charge and all controls were picked up in little time, all that was left was the 12km slop to the finish line!!!

At the finish line we were wiped. It was photos, beer and where are the breakfast baps. The good thing about a score event is that all the teams finish close together. As we walked down the final descent we were left with unanswered questions. We were nervous about having finished with the extra time yet dropping controls, how it could have affected us. We were on a bus at 9:00am back to Limerick. I remember only waking up on the bus floor having fallen out of my seat as the bus rounded a corner. We were all unconscious. From there it was a short sleep before a banquet fit for kings, the food was awesome and very appreciated. Ivan made a decision to hand out each team their results so that everyone could review their own scores. This was when we found out that we were likely first Irish Team, based on the slips that were handed around. We then relaxed a little, delighted with our progress and waited for the European Series winners to get their prizes. The organisers decided to do a count down from 50, everyone that had made the fantastic journey got a well deserved round of applause for completing the Beast of Ballyhoura.
Beast Finish
We were thinking after the countdown that we would get presented the first Irish Team prize and so the countdown continued. As we approached the top 10 things got really interesting with Defence Forces 9th Outfront 8th and DarDingle in 6th. As it got to 5th I was expecting team 19 (us) to be called. It wasn’t. We were already ahead of our dreams to be 4th but that wasn’t us either. We were 3rd !!! 3rd place in the Europeans – we headed to the stage like rock stars !!! This was amazing, truly amazing. It could have been any of the top 5 Irish teams in this position, but here we were and it was us !! We got a great cheer with lots of smiles as we approached the stage. I think there could have been tears. It was emotional, and everyone already knew it was Halti and Adidas to follow. Such an emotional roller coaster to follow 70hrs of straight racing!!!

So we would like to say well done to all the Irish teams who completed the 72hrs of racing at the Beast of Ballyhoura, AR European Championships. To have 18 home teams competing an adventure race of this magnitude emphasises how many strong and adventurous people are enjoying this sport in Ireland. It was a Beast!
It could have been any of 5 teams on the day to take the podium. 4 Irish teams in the Top 10 at a European Championships is an amazing accomplishment for adventure racing in Ireland and makes us proud. Well done to Team Adidas Terrex on their win, an inspiration to us since Terrex in 2010 and who we’ll always be grateful to for lending us the bike in Costa Rica in 2013, and well done to team HALTI Adventure, hope you googled those hurling links.
Huge thanks goes to Ivan Park on being the main driver of this event and of adventure racing in Ireland! Thanks to Mark, Nigel, Lillian and all the crew who spurred us on the whole way, last year and this year. We look forward to making it 3 in a row at ITERA in 2016.
Lastly thanks to great team mates, we seemed to have found a good balance to keep us moving under the super nav and constant pushing of Mr Keith.

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