Gaelforce West was going to be our first adventure race. Training plans, if you can call it that way, came to a crashing halt 2 weeks before the event due to an achilles injury. But as we only started training a month before the actual event, and as the injury happened after 2 weeks of training, we still decided to go ahead with the event and enjoy it. Finishing time didn't matter to us as it was our first event
And we must say, we are hooked. We loved it from start to finish, although that last 2 km through the grounds of Westport House were maybe a little bit to much "fun" or should we say "soul destroying" . More about this stretch later.
After having registered on Friday evening and having dropped off the bikes to Delphi, we decided to head to bed early to get a decent rest. Our bus would be leaving at 6.30 in the morning for our 8am start at Glassilaun beach, hence us going to bed early. Problem, the nerves made me wake up at 4.30 am and do you think i was able to go back to sleep, nooo . The excitement had kicked in.
We stayed in the Westport Woods Hotel, and the nice people in the hotel had organized a very early breakfast for all the competitors. So after a great breakfast, we headed to the bus which would bring us to Glassilaun beach.
After a short briefing, we started our 14km run towards the kayaks. The run itself started on tarmac roads towards Killary Harbour. After a few kilometers, we reached Killary harbour where we ran along the shores on the old Famine roads. The views were breathtaking. And as novices, we had planned our event in great detail. We would take our running shoes off at the kayaks and keep them dry which we thought would be important for the remainder of the competition. Only thing we didn't take into account is that the old famine way had been exposed to rain for prolonged times during the summer months and had turned into a swamp, hence a 1 minute run along the track drenched our shoes,socks,... . So gameplan changed, don't avoid puddles, muck or rocks, just run straight through them. Also, don't take shoes off for the kayak session, but hang feet in the water and clean shoes.
After the run, we entered the kayak crossing which was great fun and a chance to rest our feet for a mere 10 minutes. And the great advise we had received from Martin Duffy from West Coast Kayaking made us cross Killary harbour in no time. The choppy waters didn't stop us from admiring the beauty of Killary harbour and the mountains surrounding it. Across the bay, we had to run through a bog (muck, muck and more muck) and then towards the bike section past Delphi. During the bike section, you are exposed to views which are ever changing and the sun even wanted to break through the clouds for about 5 minutes. The last 5 km of the bike section is off road. We had been lucky with the prevailing wind pushing us along until we hit the bog section where a headwind made progress slow.
We reached the last big task of the day, climbing Croagh patrick, but we were told that the top part to the summit was closed due to the weather. And it was understandable why. Fog, clouds and a very strong wind at the half way point made us wonder if it was August or December. Feeling a little bit disappointed that we couldn't reach the summit ( and the reason we have already decided to do it again next year) , we headed back downhill towards the bikes. We started happily the last section which is an 11km bicycle ride towards westport. Some of this route was on an old section of bog road which was great for draining our energy levels even further. After the cycle, we knew we had an enjoyable 2 km run through Westport House. How wrong could we have been. It was a track through the grounds of Westport House, but the track had turned into the most slippy track (or should we say slide) which made me wonder, why am I doing this?
And do you now what, it is the organizers along the route, the competitors, the scenery, the camaraderie and the cheer satisfaction of completing such an event which made all of the pain and muck worth 110%. At the finish line, you were handed your results immediately and between some hot food and a nice cup of tea, you were quickly warmed up again.
And that evening, we enjoyed the banter in Mat molloy's where the stories of the day were shared with many of the other competitors.