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