Last weekend I travelled home for The Cooley Raid organized by Causeway Coast Adventure Racing (CCAR) and Ivan Park. We won this race last year with a combination of Brian Keogh, Colin Wong and Chris Caulfield beating Team Ballyfree with Paul Mahon, Beth Mc Clusky et al. who put up a fierce fight for the first 3 hours.
Cooley Raid Format
This year the format was dramatically different. Firstly it had been elongated into a 24 hour race but combined with an 8 hour race for those who didn`t want to go the entire distance. Teams would race for the first 8 hours over the short course and special prizes would be given to the winners of that leg. The all the other teams competing in the 24 hour race would get a couple of hours break during the prize giving and head back out in the freezing wind and rain to continue for another 16-20 hours. Not for the faint hearted.
Our lead up to the race was spattered with changes and uncertainty. Eoin Keith couldnt race with us as he had other committments but we had Sean Murray to fill his boots. 2 days before the race however, Chris Caulfield decided not to race also because of a twinge in his back, opting to sit the Cooley Raid out so as not to endanger the teams chances of racing in Abu Dhabi in 3 weeks time. A good decision however leaving us a man down for the race. I frantically started going through my contacts on Thursday evening searching for would be subsititutes and found Donncha Cuttriss to race instead of Chris. Donncha or “Capperman” is a frequent face on the Irish Adventure Racing scene and one of the strongest and determined guys I know (probably after his many years as a PT officer in the Irish Army)
I flew into Dublin on Friday night and headed to Wicklow where I would stay with Chris Caulfield until the drive up north on Saturday morning. I had trouble with my Crank Bros bike pedals in Zurich, I couldnt get them off of my bike, so I bought a new set at home to put on the KTM bike I was borrowing for the race, only to discover at 10pm that I had been sold two left pedals meaning I had to borrow shoes from the owner of the bike as well. I wasnt too worried though as I had used SPD pedals before. But it was an annoying hiccup the night before a race.
We organized our gear, ate some food and went to bed.
We arrived at the scene of the race in Carlingford at about 7.30 am, I marked up the maps with Brian and we studied the course. It was demanding as the CCAR events usually are, and combined with the weather conditions was going to be a tough day in the hills. We were starting with a run to the kayak leg followed by a relatively hilly bike section, then onto foot for a small navigational section, back on the bike to a deadly hilly run up to about 1,000mtrs to a manned checkpoint and back down again to try and make the cut offs for bike and/or orienteering bonus loops. The trek up to that manned checkpoint was so challenging. The terrain was boggy and covered in thick undergrowth requiring us to lift our legs quite high to clear and on the downhills we were never sure of our footing as you couldnt see the holes and dips. I had to race ahead behind the all-male team in front of us to keep contact with them and follow their navigation so Brian could have a break but it was really energy sapping. We made it however and about 2 minutes behind the leading team of Paul Mahon. I was surprised we were so close to them.
We made it in time for the bike bonus loop, which would have personally been my preferred option but Brian felt we would benefit more from the orienteering as he felt the course was relatively compact compared to the bike. So I went begrudgingly along with the orienteering and boy did I suffer! My legs felt so heavy, even though I was eating and drinking I could only manage a pathetic shuffle after the output required in the previous mountain leg. I couldnt wait to get back on the bike and I knew there was a lot to look forward to as we would be biking on sections of the National MTB Marathon course with super downhill runs.
As soon as I was back on the bike I came into my own again. I flew around and felt really great. However some of the guys on our team were beginning to suffer. Brian was going ok as his technical abilities supported him well on this section however I looked at Donnacha to my left at one stage and just caught him flying over the handlebars as he was trying to freewheel downhill with one foot out of the pedal. Sean was next to suffer with a bonk on a hike a bike section and Donnacha helped out by pushing his bike uphill also.
To top it off, it began to pour rain and get dark really quickly. We decided to go for the secrest bonus loop on the bike which was, according to Ivan Park “worth it”. But basically consisted of a long slow drag uphill around the side of a forest to a gate and a control, in the dark and rain. At this stage team morale was pretty low and we decided to get down to the road asap to return to HQ in file.
When we got back to HQ I knew we needed to sit down and evaluate whether or not we wanted to continue. Brian wasnt in good form psychologically, Sean had recovered somewhat but was doubtful as to how strong he would be overnight and Donnacha was rearing to go. I was somewhat indifferent and didnt feel like it was very beneficial for Abu Dhabi to continue when I could make better use of the following day out paddling with all my Abu Dhabi team members and getting the boat combinations sorted out. So, we decided to call it a day, clean up, pack up and go for a couple of beers in PJ`s the local Carlingford hot spot.
As it turns out, we were the 1st mixed team in the 8 hour race and 3rd team overall results not bad considering!
Some pictures of the event can be seen here
Sunday – Blessington Paddle
The next day was spent out on Blessington. We set out combinations for Abu Dhabi, I will paddle in the front of a boat with Brian and Chris and Eoin will go together in the other boat. It feels comfortable with Brian and moves pretty well and both boats are travelling at the same speed. We tried the tow rope also but that was difficult to manage as the plastic double sea kayaks are hard to steer in anything that isnt a headwind.
All in all, it was a good weekend of training. 8 hours on Saturday, 2.5 hours kayaking on Sunday and lots of chit chat about how to be best prepared for Abu Dhabi.
The next 3 weeks
Only 3 weeks to go. I will continue to train hard until a week and a half before racing and compete in the Spiffing Ales Orienteering Event in Zurich held by my friend Grant Killian. Then I aim to get a lot of sleep and rest before the big adventure of 2009!