Competitor Spotlight – Week 11.
Ever wondered what it takes to dine at the top table of Adventure Racing. To be regularly spotted in podium position photo. Well Barry Cronin, has taken the time out of his hectic schedule to let us know what he does in order to “Deliver the goods” each time (cryptic).
What is your name?
Barra O Chroinin is ainm dom, this is feeling a bit like a test already, an bhfuil cead agaim dul go dti an leithreas?
How old are you?
Let’s just say, “I’m no spring chicken, but I’m not quite vet category yet”, just about right for endurance sports!!
Where are you from?
Originally from Blanchardstown in the suburbs of the metropolis, but now living in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.
I’m a postman, which makes it real handy for training. I’ll never be a millionaire, but I’m rocking a very healthy work/life balance.
What got you into Adventure/Multi-sport racing?
I would have always been reasonably fit & overly competitive, so when things became more serious with my now wife around the time I was finishing college, I began to settle down. Then I started to cut back on the drinking and found I had a bit too much excess energy floating around without the hangovers!!!!
I took up mountain running & Adventure racing led on from there, needless to say I’m hooked.
How many races have you done?
I couldn’t tell you…. 35+ adventure races roughly & god only knows how many other types over the last five years or so.
I’m a firm believer in high volume racing, I find it more enjoyable to race as much as possible during the season & cut down on the training, because lets be honest, training can get awful boring.
When was your first race?
2010 West Wicklow Roar, now known as Moxie, followed shortly by Achill Roar, now Quest Achill.
But I really cut my teeth and became more competitive on the old WAR series that was based in Wicklow a couple of years ago.
Too hard to choose, Glendalough has the iconic location & scenery, Moxie has that fabulous open mountain, very technical run.
Honestly, it can vary from year to year depending on the previous years performance/experience, Killarney is a great race but I feel I’ve always underperformed there.
If you’re going to make me choose I’d go for Gael Force West purely based on the course. A pain in the ass logistics wise, but a fabulous route. Dawn start on Glassliuan beach, run around the headland as the sun is rising, down to kayak Killary Fjord, bike along lakes and bogs to the base of Croagh Patrick – the hellish scramble and terrifying descent off the Reek, all to finish with the cycle towards Westport Quay.
If you could design your own course/race, what would it be?
I suppose I’d try to make it biased in my favor to give myself the best chance of winning!!! Long open mountain technical runs, short bike sections and a nice long kayak.
If there was one thing I could change on the Adventure race scene it would be the kayak, it’s a shame that the kayak sections in most races recently have been shortened so much that they have relatively no influence on the outcome.
You are a part of the 53 Degrees North Adventure Team, can you tell us more about the team?
“Compiling of an eclectic mix of hard core endurance racers, brought together by 53 Degrees North & poured into Superhero suits (aka Skins Compression wear)”
Well that’s the official marketing blurb anyway, for me it was a case of right place, right time. 53 Degrees North were looking for some like minded individuals who were active on social media.
I’m exremely grateful to #Team53 for their continued support, as you know it’s not cheap to race, with incresed entry prices, travel to remote destinations & accomadation on top of that.
It makes it just that little bit easier if you can blag a bit of kit and the odd race entry….
On a more serious note, I have a lot to be thankful for, friends, family and good health. I should try not to take these things for granted, I’m very lucky to be able to take part in these events. I have seen more of Irish roads rivers and mountains in the last five years than I’d seen in the previous twenty five and made some good friends while doing so.
You are considered one of the big boys on the circuit. In order to get there, you must undergo a gruelling training schedule. What would your average training week compromise of?
You’re going to give my mother in law a good laugh with this one, she use to give me fierce slagging because I use to describe other competitors as the “big boys” in the past.
Swim/Run/Bike/Repeat over & over & over again, throw in some strength & conditioning, Pilates, rehab work. I try to mix it up & include as much shorter midweek races & events as I can, such as IMRA runs, club bike races. It’s important that the body is familiar with hard, high intensity sessions, I find it useful to make brick sessions out of events like the Howth Aquathons.
Of the 3 disciplines, Kayaking, cycling & running, which would be your strongest?
The run would be my strongest discipline, I seem to be able to suffer and push myself harder on foot than I can on two wheels, although my biking has improved in recent years.
The top guys are racing so hard now, you can’t afford to have a weak discipline and still be competitive.
What inspires you?
I’m not sure 100% sure about this one, sometimes when I’m tired, sore or injured, I ask myself why I do it and if it’s worth all the suffering. But I know when I’m not training or racing, I’m a miserable, grumpy git & a nightmare to live with.
I suppose it has to do with the almost indescribable feeling near the finish line of a race, not matter where you place, you absolutely empty the tank of whatever little bit of energy is left, 100% focused, a mind clear of any other thought, pure nirvana. The endorphins must be savage addictive!!!
What’s the plans for the upcoming calendar year?
Plenty more Adventure racing, a little bit of Triathlon. Strive too improve and close the gap to the top lads on the podium. Maybe finish the shed I started building out the back, many other DIY jobs around the house that seem to be put on the long finger…
What music are you currently listening to when out?
I don’t listen to music much and never when training, I like to be aware of my surroundings. Maybe some easy listening like Q102 when I’m in the car.
Runner of choice?
My wife tells me I’m the Imelda Marcos of the runner world, I’ve dozens of pairs of different runners for different races.
For adventure racing I’m currently wearing Inov8 Race Ultra’s.
Footwear can be very expensive, so I usually try to buy previous seasons runners online for half the price & if I find a runner I really like, I’ll buy a couple of pairs at the same time.
Bike of choice?
Are you taking orders?
I can’t really afford to be too flaithiuilach, some people have different bikes for specific courses. I have one winter/training bike & one race bike. The winter bike is a Lapierre Audacio, the first road bike I ever bought on the Bike To Work Scheme. It was relegated to training bike status after serving me well for five long years. Then I bought a second bike last year, again on the Bike To Work Scheme. Racing a Ridley Helium at the moment, for as long as it survives, it’s had a few spills…
Do you use GPS watch? If so, which one?
Garmin Forerunner 920XT, it’ll do pretty much anything you need, but I only use it as a rough guide for my training. I try to listen to my body with regards training & how hard I can push when racing.
Week before race…what do you do?
I usually train up to Wednesday for a Saturday race, low volume – reasonably high intensity. I try to avoid too much impact on the body; I also do a bit of rehab work to keep the muscles loose. Eat well & try to get a bit more sleep than usual as I rarely get a good sleep the night before a race.
Morning of race…what do you do?
Early start, I try and eat at least 2 hours before the race if possible.
I like to get to the start with plenty of time to orientate myself with the race setup, get warmed up and visualize the different transitions and stages of the race.
Any race superstitions?
Not really scared of cats or ladders or any of that nonsense, but I’m very particular & methodical in my approach to a race, I hate having my routines interrupted.
Even though I might be a considered a seasoned adventure racer at this stage, I still lay my kit out on the floor the night before and visualize getting dressed in chronological order and anything I might need along the way during the race.
I also like to have my nutrition organized for the day before & for the morning of the race, especially when travelling. I don’t care what I eat after (as long as it’s large quantities…) but I’m super fussy about what I eat beforehand.
Any embarrassing moments you wish to share?
No, not really, started a run once or twice with the bike helmet still on (promptly thrown in the ditch to be collected on the way back). I did have an upset stomach coming down Mangerton during Killarney Adventure race a couple of years ago; I won’t go into any more detail.
A frequent question from running or triathlon people, that’s one of the things I love about Adventure racing, no two courses are the same, distance isn’t a measure of an adventure race, it won’t tell you how hard the hills are or how rough the terrain is.
Post-race…do you spoil yourself, if so, how?
Not really, I’m fairly boring that way, usually too focused on recovery & planning for the next race. Occasionally I break my dairy-free diet & have ice cream or cheese. I’m kind of partial to a drop of the black stuff once in a while.
Strangest thing you have seen on a race?
I don’t know about strange, but you do see some silly things, helmets on backwards, people with big backpacks. In Gael Force West a few years ago I saw a guy cycling in the Quay road in Westport with a track pump sticking out of his bag!!!!
And no, I’ve never seen the lady with the flowers on the bike; maybe I should lift my head up and look around from time to time.
Most beautiful scenery?
We’re spoiled for choice, most Adventure races seem to be set in remote & beautiful locations.
Black valley in Killarney, Killary Fjord in GFW, Blessington lake in Moxie, Mt. Brandon in Dingle, Glendalough Valley, Keel beach in Achill, take your pick…..
Hydration/Gels? Do you use them? Do you use any particular brands?
A necessary evil in my opinion, as it’s hard to digest anything else at such a high intensity level. I try to use them sparingly during long races, and eat & drink more naturally when training. High5 gels & Torc energy drink seem to agree with me.
Not really into hero worship, I tend to admire and endeavor to catch those that are marginally ahead of me. The drive to improve has to come from inside yourself if it’s to be sustainable. Validation and kudos from others is nice, but you have to be live in your own skin and not be too easily influenced by other people positive or negative.
She’s not exactly a sporting hero, but my wife is incredibly supportive, she comes to nearly all my races, which is a lot, trust me!!! She also has the patience of a saint to put up with all the training, the grumpy fatigue ridden alter ego and all my borderline OCD routines that surround the racing. My life is dominated by the race calendar; nearly everything else has to fit around it.
Advice for absolute beginners?
Start with the mini or short course races, enjoy them and try to build from there, rather than suffering through a long course race and putting yourself off.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people, from race organizers, marshals & spectators to fellow competitors at either end of the field. Yes, even the lads and lassies at the sharper end of the race are approachable and happy to chat or offer advice (possibly not during the race though…). The types of people that are involved are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet!
In more practical terms, nobody needs a rucksack to race; you’ll be more comfortable without one!!!
- No bike shoes, runners with cages are faster & easier, trust me
- Any food or water you need you can carry on the bike, bring two big bottles if you have to and a cross bar pouch for extra food.
- Always have a saddle bag with spare tubes & pump or CO2 inflator
- Anything else you might need, including raincoat, buff, gloves, phone, gels will fit in the pockets of a cycle jersey… If it won’t fit you probably don’t need it!!!
Try to include exercise as part of your lifestyle, rather than doing scheduled training that you dread & suffer through just for the sake of it.
Do you have any social media links we can follow your progress on?
You can follow the “53 Degrees North Adventure Race Team” or myself on Facebook or on twitter @BC_AdvRace
If you know of anyone who would like to go under the spotlight, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.