19k Challenge Route Report by Padraig O’Connor

I had big plans for Glendalough this year. The 57km expert route in 2016 was one of my earlier Adventure races and while I enjoyed it I hadn’t enough training done and it turned in to a slog at the end, 2017 and again training wasn’t what it should have been so I decided to give the 41km sport route a go, a great day out in the glorious sunshine. Having spent the winter training for The Race (250km 24hr Adventure race in Donegal) which was due to be on in early March I figured I would be in decent shape fitness wise so I would give the 57km route a proper go this year! Well best laid plans were blown away by storm Emma and The Race was postponed until 14th April, a week before Quest Glendalough! The 18 hours kayaking and running/cycling through the hills of Donegal took a heavy toll on the legs and afraid of another disheartening slog around the 57km route I decided that I couldn’t miss out being part of what is unquestionably one of the best outdoor event in Ireland so I transferred to the Challenge route, the plan being to enjoy the day and tip around the course at my leisure. One of the best things about adventure racing is the people involved, form the organizer to the competitors and the supporters…Laragh GA pitch was buzzing from early on Saturday morning and it was great to catch up with people….there’s always plenty of familiar faces around these events!

After the Expert and Sport waves had gone off it was left to the final 300 or so of us in the Challenge, plenty of familiar faces again and plenty of nervous looking faces too!

As we left Laragh GAA pitch and the lead out car pulled away all plans about taking it nice and easy went out the window and I decided to go with the old tried and tested fools strategy….go as fast as you can for as long as you can…Halfway up the first climb, which I didn’t know was there as I was expecting a flat 12k, the legs started to burn a bit but I was committed to the foolhardy plan now so nothing for it only head down and keep going.

Coming in to T1, I figured I had a 2-3 minute lead but was very aware that in normal conditions I am not a fast runner and also that the legs were fading fast and I was quickly running out of steam…so a quick transition off the bike was needed! Continuing with the foolhardy plan I attempted to do a running dismount off the bike at the dismount line, have done this many times in the past and always gone pretty smoothly, usually! On this occasion however smoothly wouldn’t be the right word…I threw my right leg over the bike on the ground but the left runner refused to cooperate and pop out of the pedal cage, bike went backwards, I went forwards and came down hard on my left side and then slid along the concrete for about 5m with the bike on top of me…bike and myself ended up in the hedge…the marshal possibly got more of a fright than I did I think!

I picked myself up and dusted myself down, no damage to the bike it seemed but I had blood flowing from my elbow and all down the lefthand side of my leg. Dammit! I am finishing this I thought so racked the bike, ditched the helmet, cleaned myself up a bit and headed off on the 4k run to the lake. This run turned out to be more of a hobble but eventually I arrived at the lake, still in the lead but only by a minute I guessed. I jumped in a single kayak and went out for the 1km loop on the upper lake…the cold water looked very inviting but at this stage I had seen the guy in second place getting in a kayak also so was no time to be messing around and put in a decent time. Hopping out of the kayak the legs had pretty much shut down at this point, the efforts of the previous week were taking a heavy toll, as was the whole ‘flat out’ for the previous 50 minutes strategy and the fall hadn’t helped either! I got about 100m before I was passed and then it was a case of don’t get passed again for the final, deceivingly tough, 2k to the finish line. Finished in 2nd place, battered and bruised and sore but very happy with that!

In its 3rd year in Glendalough now this is one of the must do events every year! The Quest team pull out all the stops for this and even organize a nice bit of sunshine….Awesome Event!!!

41k Sport Route Report by Greg Dillon

The Quest Glendalough 41k route has always been a special race for me, as it was the first Adventure Race I ever did. It’s the one that got me hooked on adventure racing. Since then, I have amassed dozens more races but will always be one of those I look forward to every year. Missing last years due to illness, I was on a mission to see how far I have progressed, how much I have learned and to see if there was life in the old dog yet. Time to shake off the James May “Captain Slow” of the Team nickname. This race has 6 stages; cycle(6k), run(6k), cycle(20k), run(6k), kayak(1k) & finally run(2k). First year after a serious pre-race training schedule, I crossed the line in 3hr 31min. Like before the weather was glorious again.

Show time: The bike section was great. It was a gradual 6k slog up beautiful winding roads. I’m managed to get to near the head of the field pretty early and made up a serious amount of time whilst having the banter with a fellow competitor on the way. A quick transition and off into the forest I went. I had forgotten just how amazing the vista was from the top of the mountain. You can see why Wicklow is called the Garden Of Ireland.

I quickly made my way through the varying terrains, taking a tumble in the mud, at which I burst out laughing. I was once more caught by the guy who joined me for most of the cycle for more craic. Back to bikes, I didn’t hang around. I couldn’t hang around. I had 3k of solid downhill on the bike to look forward. Helmet on, I was gonesky. White knuckle stuff. Followed by lovely rolling hills, and by the 10k marker, I was joined again by this chap. As it turned out, I knew him but hadn’t seen him in 25 years. Small world. We then decided to work together on the bikes and made up some amount of ground, passing about 25 riders.

Off the bikes and up we flew to the 6k trails. I was going ok when fellow Team Kayathlon member Dave Gowan caught up with me but was struggling with a touch of cramp. I was feeling fine and happened to have a single magnesium shot so gave to him and in an instant was fine and off he propelled up the hill. Can you see what’s coming? 100 yards up the fire road and bang! CRAMP! Quickly followed by expletives, then laughter. I managed to stretch it out make my way gingerly to the kayak.

Got paired up with a legend from Cork and off we flew. Perfect synergy! We passed kayak after kayak whilst having a slagging match in the meantime. Out we jumped but that was the last of my jumping. Cramped again. I had an overall time in mind to beat but that last 2k run just was a hobble at best. I couldn’t get to the line quick enough. I have to say, I looked some state but the support I got from officials and supporters and general sympathizers was amazing. I pushed on through and over the line I went. Absolutely delighted knocking 29 minutes off my PB finishing 3hr 02mins. Next year 2.5hrs. #achievablegoals #hydrateproperly

57k Expert Route Report by Ann Horan

There is a lot to be said for having the comfort of sleeping in one’s own bed the night before a big race. Not having to drive for four or five hours after work the night before a race is a massive bonus. On Saturday morning I awoke to my 5 a.m. alarm. After force feeding myself porridge, almost gagging in the process, I hit the road for Glendalough. I’d seen the start list a week earlier and knew that the field was strong. There were ten names that could be contenders for the female Expert podium.

The one piece of advice I’d been given from anyone who’d completed the Expert Route in Glendalough before was not to go out too hard and try to save something for the final stages. After the usual safety briefing from event organizer Ollie, we were off. I set out swiftly to avoid the inevitable chaos off the start line but as soon as the road kicked up on the Shay Elliott climb I moved over to the left and settled into an easy rhythm. I watched as bike after bike passed me. It’s hard to let people go by but I told myself that those who can’t resist premature acceleration are likely suffer later in the day. I’d bet my house I’d see some of these lads on the final run around Glendalough, moaning about cramps in a couple of hours.

At the top of the Shay Elliott, I dropped my bike and set forth on the run. I was 5th female at this point. It was on the first run that I really noticed how overheated I felt. I began the task of removing my arm warmers, gloves and headband. Feeling sluggish, I allowed a stream of athletes to sail past me on the first run. When you are on stage two and already feeling drained, it’s hard even to look ahead to the next slog. Heat makes me feel cranky and saps all my energy. I hate running in hot weather. Family members joke that they know when temperatures have reached scorchio because I stop talking. As I cycled up Slieve Mann I thought about bailing out and just cycling back to Laragh. Then I realised I’d no legitimate excuse to drop out of the race and a mediocre performance is better than a DNF. I concluded that if I DNFed once, I’d be tempted to do it in every race! There was no option but to plough on. I surprised myself by catching and passing some of those that had passed me on the run. I was back in 5th place. The second run stage takes you up to the summit of Croaghanmoira mountain.  As I dragged myself up the steep incline I noticed Rosy Temple on my tail again. We stayed together for the climb and the descent and it was nice to have company even though I didn’t feel the inclination to chat. I’ve been the headless chicken in transition a few too many times but experience has taught me to be very strategic about where I leave my bike. I’ve also started clipping my bright green helmet on top of my bike. Now I’ve taken to scanning the racks for my helmet instead my bike and it works a treat!

I took off on the final 18k bike section towards Greenane, knowing that the hardest climbs were over and that this would be the easiest stage of the race. In the final 5K, I was lucky to spot a very strong rider from the Sport Route overtake me. As he did so, I jumped on his wheel. He brought me up to Ger Kelly and right past her into 4th position. I dumped my bike at transition and started out on the run. At first I felt reasonably lively but then as my body temperature rose I started to feel very uncomfortable again. Ger kept pace with me but I could tell she was feeling much stronger. Any time I encounter Ger, she is always so pleasant offering me her water and words of encouragement.

I was relieved to finally get to the kayak section and gladly embraced the cold spring waters of Glendalough Lake as I waded in thigh-deep. This short but certainly most pleasurable part of the race was over too quickly, I had to get moving. I always panic a little when I get to the kayak, not because I don’t feel competent but more because it’s the one point of the day where I feel that I am no longer in control of my race. It’s a lottery!  Today I got paired up with an inexperienced kayaker who was a very quick and eager learner. By the time we were on the return leg we were kayaking in a straight line in perfect rhythm. At this stage I’d resigned myself to 5th place. I didn’t have the energy to chase Ger Kelly down in the final 2km run.

The atmosphere coming into the finish line was electric. There were crowds of supporters milling around the finish area screaming encouragement and the sun was beating down! I was grateful and relieved to have managed to complete the event although I couldn’t help feeling disappointed despite the euphoric atmosphere around me. I hung around the finish line chatting to fellow competitors. I decided I needed to be more resilient and just look forward to the next race. I should probably appreciate that I live in a country where I almost never have to race in temperatures over 15 degrees. Furthermore, any day you finish a race with your body and bike intact is a day worth celebrating. Sometimes it’s not the race itself but the process that gets you there that is more important. Earlier this year, I was looking for some adventure racing enthusiasts in the Dublin area to train with for Quest Glendalough. A multi-sport WhatsApp group that started with just a handful of participants has grown and multiplied and I’ve become acquainted with some really lovely people. We had two thoroughly enjoyable training days recceing the routes around Glendalough together.

This was my first time doing Quest Glendalough and I thought the event organisation from the Quest team was impeccable. I’m already looking forward to giving this another shot next year although I’ll probably be the only competitor praying for a cool, overcast day!