So it all started after burger followed by a few pints followed by a few cans on the eve of SKAR, the Skibbereen Adventure Race last October. ‘Jeaz...naw, I’ll never manage it’ says Ger Sweeney… ‘C’mon to F&#k, you’ll be grand, there’ll ne no fear of ya’ replies Jonny Waterman. ‘Sher why not’ says Hogan ‘if Barry Mc can do it, anyone can.’ And that was that, the start of a long sleepless night….not from the drunken banter and discussion and how to train for Gaelforce 2016, but from the mysterious sound similar to the Roches Point fog horn emanating from the back of the camper.
FF to the 19th August, Bags and bikes packed, we headed ‘Into the West’ to see what was in store for us. Book into the Pub (which also happened to be our B&B). Pack the lunch for the following day. Register and sign on, send the bikes off on the transfer service to transition. Back to the Pub/B&B, head out for a bit of Dinner and a few sociable drinks and off to bed nice and early for the early start. What was your favourite song again Ger?
Up at 05.00 for breakfast and on to the 06.00 bus and out to the start line for the 07.30 start on Glassilaun Beach. The first run, 14km went off without a hitch. A mix of road, trail, mountain and a bit of bog for good measure and everybody got to the kayak transition point in Killary Harbour glad to have it behind them.
Buoyancy Aids on and off we go, across Killary Harbour. A couple of capsizers on a few other kayaks due to the strong westerly wind blowing and a few renditions of ‘Row Row Row your Boat’ and before we knew it, that stage was done. Ger and Barry’s Mc’s did have a slight advantage as they robbed a Kayak reserved for OAP’s but Barry Hogan and I were hot on their rudder across the harbour and caught up with them on the start of the next run which was a 5km run, half bog and half road to the bike transition area at Delphi Adventure Centre.
A hang sangadge, can of Coke and a gel later and we were all on the road together and heading for Croagh Patrick, 33km away. Good road surface, good weather, good crack and good company all ended abrubtly with about 3km to go. The road surface changed to forest track, the weather changed to driving wind and rain, the crack changed to ‘Why the f&#k did I listen to Jonny Waterman’ and the company well...kind of fell apart. It was everyman for himself at this stage until we got to the transition for the Reek.
More Coke, bars and gels and up the mountain we go. Knees, quads and calves were beginning to ache at this point but morale and spirits were high, though not as high as were we were heading for. Barry Mc's calf muscles even done a bit of a dance for us! Disappointment then struck when we were informed that the summit was closed to race entrants due to the rain, fog and gale force winds. Oh shucks!!...we were only allowed to climb as far as the shoulder which was also hidden somewhere in the fog. Onwards and upwards we go, dib in at the shoulder, a fist full of jellies and back down the way we came.
Back on the bikes and head the last 11km for Westport Harbour. Lovely road surface, wind behind us, happy out. Round the corner and a marshal directs us up a road to the left known locally as ‘The Skelp’. Tarmac road turns to forest road and in about 1km it turns to...no road!. Bikes on shoulders and up over the top of the track and down the other side to tarmac road once again. Westport here we come...finally.
Bike racked and helmets off, only a 2km run to go, happy days, nearly there. Run turned to walk and walk turned to crawl as there wasn’t much left of the woodland path due to rain and footfall. Plod along until about 400m to go, brave faces on and out on to the street in Westport town to cross the finish line as a group. GaelForce 2016 done! Handshakes and hot soup, coffee and tuna hotpots....on to the Pub and #Rehydrate like a Pro.
Pints, showers, snoozes, more pints, dinner, more pints, Jameson’s and G’s n T’s rounded out what was a fantastic day of fun, camaraderie, good crack, questions of sanity and hatred. All this followed by crack, banter and discussion about GaelForce 2017 and a long, well deserved, sleep filled night with the occasional blast from the mysterious but familiar sound of the Roches Point fog horn.
Whose coming next year???