Last Saturday morning saw two members of Team Kayathlon, Greg & Padraig, take on Westport’s Sea2Summit. From a top 20 finish to a mid-pack finish after being plagued by punctures. Read how the guys got on below.
Top 20 Target
Heading down to Westport for Sea2summit has become a bit of a tradition! My 3rd year taking part in the event it’s become as much a weekend event as just another race. The last race of the season it’s a chance to catch up with people I’ve met throughout the year and to exchange stories and training tips and tricks and to have a good weekend with fellow Adventure Racers!! Last year I finished in 3hr 24min so goal for this year was to try and get under that, 3:15 being an ‘everything going perfect target’! Arriving at Registration there was a little bit of panic as I couldn’t find my name anywhere on the start list but Sinead and team sorted me out, I was found on the master list and number 536 was handed over! With the weather being so bad people weren’t hanging around too long so had a quick chat with Bernard Smyth who is having a brilliant year in the Sport series and fellow Kayathlon member Greg Dillon and then was time to head down to the Quay and rack the bike. Got absolutely soaked but happy that everything was sorted out. Back to the Castlecourt for a coffee and a chat with Greg and Andrew Wallace who had just driven down from Donegal and was raring to go and have a craic at The Reek in the morning!
After a healthy breakfast in the Castlecourt it was time to head out for the race briefing. Caught up with local legend Mary Daly and discussed her chances…Mary is very strong on the bike so that’s wasn’t going to be a problem and she was hoping for a good run on Croagh Patrick. A last bit of banter with a few lined up beside me, a bit of nervous jacket off, jacket on, jacket off again messing and then we were off!
Run 1 – The first run is crazy fast, leaving the castlecourt, across Distillery Rd, it then follows the greenway for most of the way down to the quay and out to the bike transition. Road running isn’t my strong point, I had made a plan that I’d go out at 4min/km pace so I fought the urge to get swept away and stuck to that plan as more and more runners passed me! The heavy rain the night before had left water flowing across the greenway but as it was inevitable that the feet were going to get wet I just stomped through the puddles! Passed a bunch of friends at the start of the quay who were on their way to the Spirit start so that was nice boost and gave me a kick on. I was happy to get to T1 in 16:25 in about 50th place…not great but not terrible all things considered, I could make up a bit of time on the bike and the mountain!
Cycle 1 – Leaving T1 you follow the road out to Murrisk and the car park at the base of Croagh Patrick….there were floods of water on the road but time was needed to be made up so head down and try and catch a fast wheel if I could. There was loads of spray off the road and it was tough decisions at times to get on a wheel and take a facefull of water and dirt or face the wind yourself…with all the water it was a high stakes game to stick close to the rider in front as with pooled water there was a lot of bike movement and sudden swerving, braking and bikes coming from every angle….avoiding a bike who swerved abruptly in to my path I nearly took Mary out of it as she was passing on the outside, I’m sure she was cursing me all the way to Murrisk! A little bit of confusion at T2 in Murrisk, following the rack numbers on the end I couldn’t find slot 536 and had to drag the bike under a few racks to get across to the right slot…mental note made to remember this on the way back down!
Croagh Patrick – Bike racked I headed off for the lane and steps leading to CP…the promise of flowing water came through but at this point the feet were soaked through so it made no difference at all. I had made good time on the bike but needed to put in a good effort here to try and claw back some time. Just through the gates near the bottom I spotted Moire O’Sullivan 20m ahead of me and figured if anyone would be picking a good line up the mountain it would be Moire so I traced her footsteps all the way to the top passing a few along the way. Got a hello from John Mee near the start, John takes some really outstanding photos, he is some man to capture the runners in full flight and in fairness was working was an amazing backdrop here! Reached the church at the top in just under 43 minutes and turned for what is for me the best part of the day, the bit that makes it all worthwhile, the run down!! After 2 minor mishaps coming down from the summit, neither too serious, I found my rhythm as soon was making good time. I passed a few as far as the shoulder and as I headed down off the shoulder towards home I met Greg Dillon on the way up….he shouted “17” at me….which I figured was either on a scale of 1-17 how much pain he was in or else what position I was in at that point!! I took it was the latter and I upped the pace a bit! I passed 4 more and reckoned I was about 13th getting back on the bike….down from the summit in 17 minutes…very happy with that.
Cycle 2 – It’s hard getting back on the bike after Croagh Patrick, after the adrenaline rush of the descent you know there is a slog ahead. The first 3-4k were just trying to get the legs spinning again, get a gel in to me and try and get a bit of rhythm going. Turning off towards Maum climb the first signs of fatigue started to show. Having done the Dublin marathon 2 weeks ago the legs weren’t as recovered as I had thought. On one of the first climbs I had that horrible experience every cyclist has had at some point…pushing the shifter to change down a gear and there not being any more gears!!! Was going to be one of those days where I’d have to try and grind my way over the top of the Maum…I struggled badly up along the climb and was passed by 5 people as I slowed weaved my way back and over across the road to try and get to the top. Moire had caught up with me by now and 50metres from the top I decided enough was enough and I’d be quicker walking with the bike….I shouted good luck to Moire as she passed and that was the last I saw her! Once over the top of the Maum things picked up again for me and its was fairly uneventful the rest of the way back in to Westport.
Run 2 – Dropping the bike for the last time in the mire my feet were like blocks of ice, feeling in the toes was gone but was sure it would come back in a km or 2! The run back up the greenway seems never ending, the pace had slowed down by now and I was struggling to keep under 5min/km. Lost another spot on this but no complaints as I was a little slower than I’d have liked. Another shout out from John Mee on the harbor, the man gets around! Runnign up the greenway there are always loads of people from the Spirit course, to keep going I tried to stick with some of the faster moving people for as long as I could, It’s hard to describe the feeling turning off the greenway and down the sharp hill that leads to the finish. It’s a mixture of relief that it’s nearly over, a bit of sadness that it’s over, a new burst of energy to absolutely empty the tank for the last 300 metres…no matter how hard I’ve gone on the course there always seems to be something in the tank to make a sprint for the line! I crossed the line in 3hr and 17minutes…good enough for 20th place overall…absolutely delighted with that, it’s a very fast course. Already picking out areas for improvement but that will have to wait for another day! The Sea2Summit after party is always a brilliant event, great to catch up with everybody and share a few war stories, embellish a few details from the day and generally have a bit of fun. A great, late night was had and already looking forward to next year!
On the drive to Westport, I feared the worst as the wind and rain increased. By the time we reached registration at the School Hall we were hit with everything the wild Atlantic can throw at you. A large majority of the chat was about weather forecasts and what the morning held in store for us. So, all registered up, off I went to the bike rack area a couple of clicks away. When I pulled the bike out of the boot, I was greeted with a flat tyre. I tried pumping it, but could hear the hiss of escaping air. It was due a change, so I quickly changed it. Out with the old, in with the new. Pumped it up and brought to space 222. Job done. A quick bite to eat and I hit the hay.
Waking early, first thing on my mind was…weather…I looked out the window. Looked dry and relatively calm…Happy days. Healthy breakfast and made my way to the starting line. I was in wave 2.
Due out 8.05. Fellow Kayathlon member Padraig O’Connor was in Wave 1 along with the “Elite”. Clearly not my place. Great excitement. Wave 1 tore off at 8am. I lined up and off with the rest of wave 2. 4km to the bike transition. I personally loved this run. Through the back streets, up steps, under bridges and onto the greenway to the harbour. Running isn’t my strong point. I’m deceptively slow. 24 mins. Say no more. Grabbed my bike, ran to where we jump on the bike and flat tyre. I made the decision to pump it as Croagh Patrick was only 8k away. And see if it would hold up. It did but wasn’t at max pressure so couldn’t get out of the saddle as I could feel the rims on the tarmac when I did. Racked the bike up and started the 758m climb up Croagh Patrick. I’m never going to win a mountain running race but am happy just to be taking part. Soaking up the atmosphere, taking in the views. Croagh Patrick never fails. Stunning views from base, middle, top…everywhere. I was glad I chose my Speedcross 4’s as the mountain was wet from the weather the day before. Definitely a great help. Half way up, I was greeted by race leaders Killian Heery and Shaun Stewart thundering past me on the way down…To pass the time, and take my mind off the burning in my legs, I counted the people passing me on the way down. Soon enough our Mr O’Connor passed me. “17th”, I shouted. Don’t know whether that was a good thing or not. So, hitting the half way up, I entered the mist cloud and the temperature dropped drastically. I was glad of the extra layers I brought with me.
Finally hitting the summit after some banter with fellow competitors, I stopped for a breather and a stretch. Chilled for a minute, tightened my laces and started the wobbly descent. First few hundred yards, was slipping and sliding and I came a cropper, tumbling and giving myself a fat knee for my troubles. Up I got, and a fellow competitor gave me some wine gums. We laughed it off and I continued my descent. Made up a good few places where possible but had to put on the brakes as my nerves were shot when I lost control for about 30 yards. That’s enough of that for me. I eventually reached the base and made my way back to the bike.
Flat tyre! So, changed it, pumped it and off I went again on the 34k cycle. First 8k or so were fine but could feel the new tube going down…again. I reached the foot of the “Stairway to Heaven”. Thought to myself I will give this a lash, how hard can it be. Didn’t do too bad but knew If I went to the top, of which I was sure where it was, as I lost count of the amount of false peaks, I’d have nothing in the tank for the rest. Hopped off a couple of times. Only a handful of hardy bucks went all the way.
So eventually got to the top, tyre needed a quick pump. And I started the descent. But stopped about 200 yards when a race official was shouting “Jellies, Jaffa Cakes, water!!!” He didn’t have to ask twice. Well to say I have never meet a happier steward in all my life, he was in tears laughing at the state of me…and bike woes. My frustrations were soon forgotten, and I was in convulsions laughing by the time I got back in the saddle again. The next section of road was lovely, nice rolling hills. Jumped of at the next major junction, thinking I was about 13k from home but was told by an official, it was 8k from transition. Delighted…an understatement. Eventually got back to the transition, racked up. And headed on the 4k root to the finish line. I was told by a few competitors that this was a killer, but it was quite close to the initial 4k run earlier that morning. I had shrugged that off but not until I got stuck in, I found out what they meant, the green way seemed to never end. My legs were drained, and I reckon I would have probably been quicker walking. I hobbled back to the town. I really enjoyed the end section though coming down the hill in to the long stretch to the finish line. With a final spurt, I emptied the tank. Job done.
Would I recommend this race? Definitely. Highlights? Too many to mention. This race had it all from start to finish. Advice for first timers? Learn how to change a tyre and make sure you carry spare tubes. Standout Notes; This event was brilliantly marshaled. Every junction was heavily manned with flag bearers, whistle blowers and encouragement givers. Well done guys. Really well done. 10/10. Oh and the after party wasn’t bad either. Thank you Sinead & Paul and all the gang involved in putting together this amazing event.
Photo Credit to John Mee Photography