Competitor Spotlight – Week 15.
There was 25 minutes to go before registration for Gaelforce West was closing. I saw someone parking up in a packed car park just outside the registration office and there was just enough space for myself to get squeeze in behind. In unison, we both hoped out of our vehicles, exchanged a “crap we better hurry up and get registered look at each other”, scrabbled for our printed online registration papers and briskly walked in and got signed, received our race packs, put our bikes up into the holding area before the 10 cut off with mins to spare. That was close. So, in passing on the way back to the questionably parked cars, I asked, “how are you fixed for tomorrow?” On which, she replied, “hopefully better than last year. It was a disaster”…. Forward 24 hours and this lady was on the podium…
Ladies and gents, I give you Ciara O’Neill.
How old are you?
33 (and not too happy about it).
Where are you from?
I’m from Castleknock in Dublin and have lived here for most of my life.
Full-time mother of three children and part-time Sports Therapist
I started running three years ago and did a few of the IMRA races, which I loved. So, I suppose these led me to adventure racing. My main focus for the last year is actually triathlon but I love the mountains so I’ll probably always do a few adventure races each year.
How many races have you done?
Not many really, I’ve done Gaelforce West twice now and Quest Killarney last October. I also did the Gaelforce Women’s adventure race in Wicklow which was very enjoyable and I was delighted to be in first place. I would race a lot in triathlon and running races though and in the last few weeks I have raced in Tri an Mhi, TriAthy and I did my first half Ironman distance race in Lough Cutra a few weeks ago.
When was your first race?
My first adventure race was Gaelforce West last year and I was so clueless, lol. I didn’t even understand how the gears on the bike worked (having not been on a bike for about twenty years previous). It was a tough day with less than ideal weather conditions and as I clung to the top of Croagh Patrick in the wind and cloud, I was fairly certain it would be first and last adventure race.
It would have to be Gaelforce West last weekend as it was just so much easier than the previous year and of course I was delighted to place as third female! I also loved Run the line which is a 26km mountain race.
The Dingle Adventure Race sounds like it would be my dream adventure race. I love Kerry and the format of the race sounds like it would suit me, although I would probably move the kayak nearer to the start if I could. There is also a race in Edinburgh that I would love to do in a few years called Rat Race City to Summit.
What inspires you?
Lot’s of things. I’m inspired when I see really fast people that win lots of races but I am also inspired by the people that do the races in twice the time. It would probably be accurate to say that I am inspired by effort more so than results.
What’s the plans for the upcoming calendar year?
I have a few triathlons coming up over the next few weeks, including the Hardman Middle distance in Waterville and the Lost Sheep in Kenmare. I’m hoping to be able to race Sea2Summit and possibly Quest Killarney too. Mostly though I’m just enjoying my training!
My running and cycling are probably fairly equal but in both of them I would be quite cautious on descents so I always lose a few places here. My granny could probably have got down Croagh Patrick quicker than me, lol.
Runner of choice?
I’m a bit funny when it comes to runners and have never found a pair that I really liked. I was pacing a half marathon a while back and realised I had forgotten my runners (as you do) so I ran it wearing my Skechers Go Walk slip ons that I had worn down to the race. I have never been so comfortable on a run so now I keep opting to wear these and love them! They look like I’m wearing slippers but they make for a fast transition and I love the minimalist feel. However, I do have a light pair of Inov8 trail runners which I wore for GFW but I find them heavy compared to my Skechers.
Bike of choice?
I have a secondhand Cervelo P2 TT bike which I love. It is set up like a road bike and then I use clip on tri-bars for triathlon, but I can remove them and use it as a road bike for an adventure race or club cycle. I’m not sure though that it was the best choice of bike for GFW as I really struggled on the rough sections and had to get off and run/hobble with it for quite a bit. I’dlove a cyclocross bike but I might be shot at home if I mention another bike lol
Do you use GPS watch? If so, which one?
I have a Garmin 325 but I don’t really like using and prefer to run/cycle based on effort. I didn’t bring it to GFW but I will use it in training sometimes to record distance and pace for speed sessions.
Week before race…what do you do?
I only decided to enter GFW on the Tuesday morning, the week of the race and that evening I had a fall off my bike when I took a corner too sharp on some gravel. I was quite badly grazed and sore on my right side so I had to ease back on my training for the week. It was probably a bit risky to turn up for the race not sure if the niggles I had from the fall would be ok but thankfully my body held up well.
Morning of race…what do you do?
I left it until the last minute to book accommodation so all I could find at a reasonable price was a hostel. While the hostel itself was fine, I only got about 2 hours of broken sleep before getting up at 4am to have a much needed coffee with a bag of Organix baby rice cakes (these are one of my favourite training foods lol).
Any race superstitions?
Not really, but I do think that your frame of mind going into a race, or training session, has a huge impact so I try to put myself in a happy frame of mind. I take a bit more time getting ready, have a treat on the way to the race like a coffee and a bar of Bourneville chocolate, maybe listen to music I like in the car and try to be around positive people at the race start.
Any embarrassing moments you wish to share?
Well, the race photos are usually embarrassing enough…
The longer the better for me!!
Post-race…do you spoil yourself, if so, how?
Not really. After GFW, I went for an easy swim in the leisure centre and then enjoyed the steam room and sauna. But usually I’ll grab a latte on the way home to have with some healthy treats that I make myself to bring to a race.
No, I race for the experience and the training benefits. I have to admit I like the GFW top this year but usually I wish there was an option to not get the top/medal and have a cheaper race entry.
Strangest thing you have seen on a race?
I’ve met lot’s of interesting people at races but haven’t seen anything that stands out as being all that strange.
Most beautiful scenery?
I think I mentioned that I love Kerry as I think it is the most beautiful place in ireland but the top of Croagh Patrick is probably the most breathtaking view. I lived in Sweden for a while though and I think that is probably one of the most beautiful countries too, especially in Winter! I’m hoping to do a few triathlons in Scandinavia with Laponia being first on my list.
Hydration/Gels? Do you use them? Do you use any particular brands?
I’m not a big fan of all the sports nutrition fuel gels, powders, etc and try to avoid anything that is not natural but in a long race I do use Kinetica gels. I also bring some Nakd bars and I drink Coconut water too.
I don’t have one single sporting hero but I admire lot’s of athletes…I admire my triathlon coach, Peter Kern, for his commitment to both the sport and putting up with listening to me. lol
If you are thinking about signing up for your first adventure race, go for it….and just enjoy it. Also, find people to train with as it makes it so much easier. I train with Activ Multisport and have met so many great training partners through the club which has definitely helped me to progress.
If you know of anyone who would like to go under the spotlight, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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