This is a fantastic event, very well organized and is the only self navigating 2 day race in Ireland. For anyone who has a decent level of fitness and good navigating skills I’d highly recommend you to get this race on your calendar for next year.
There are four classes Elite 55km, B class 45km, C class 35km and D class also 35km but with a lot less climbing.
Myself and my partner Paddy went up to the B class having teamed up last year for the first time in the C class. We knew it’d be tough but I have to say I wasn’t so sure quite how tough.
My first priority was weight in my pack and I was determined to shave as much off it as possible. If it was a ‘just in case’ I took it out. With my share of the tent and shared kit including 1.6l of water I was at 6.5kg’s.
I was giving a first proper 2day test to my pack (ultimate direction fastpack 20l), shorts, underwear (both X bionic), sock combination (injinji crew liner and X bionic marathon) and sleeping bag (OMM 800).
I knew it all worked and was comfortable but over two days I was keen to see if I got chaffing and how the pack felt with no waist belt just two chest straps and carrying my water in 2x800ml bottles on my chest straps instead of a bladder.
My food was tried and tested and I was happy enough with the amount and combination of nutrients I had.
Day one we were taken by bus to Bloody bridge where we were to start. After dibbing in and collecting out grid references we plotted out map and quickly realized it was going to be a long one with lots of ascent. After a while we got the flow and although we struggled to locate the markers we were quite often close but just losing time finding it. This for me was the biggest step up in classes. Not so much the distance but choosing a good runnable route and finding the dibber. So much of day one was in heather or trying to catch a sheep trail.
We did however briefly walk up the ‘tourist trail’ to the saddle.
After a long slog, 1500m odd of climbing and 17miles we made it to the campsite which was a welcome sight. I had ate 1100kcals and drank nearly 4l of water. It was a hot day but thankfully we passed a couple of good running rivers to refill my bottles.
We were 21st out of 27 competitors which was pretty pleasing.
Day two was however a different matter. A 8.15 start for us and a shocker of a first climb back up the rather steep slope we had jogged down the previous day.
I soon had a sweat on and as I hadn’t brought any clean underwear or clothes (MDS practice) I was smelling pretty fusty.
The course was going to get harsh because the clues were close together, there was a nasty mist drawing in and the choices that you take to each point was going to make or break your time.
We were broken! A mistake plotting a grid reference and we missed two clues in and around Butter Mountain. We decided not to go back up and settled on pushing on knowing it was a disqualification.
Another mistake was trying to go up and round the pot of mulgarve beside Commedagh. We should have stayed low from Hares gap instead we went high to drop down to the clue but the visibility was awful and it was a big error. I guess this is where map appreciation comes in, and that’s only gained from practice in this environment.
After a bit of chat on the way back to tollymore and in last place we came to the conclusion that it’s a big step up but one that’s worth it. I firmly believe it’s better to be challenged and learn from the mistakes rather than sit at the same level year after year.
A great two days in a very testing but brilliant race. I need to polish up on my map reading, get quicker and a little more confident especially in poor visibility.
On the plus side I didn’t get any chaffing and came away a little annoyed at messing up the co-ordinates but that’s what mistakes are for. Learning from.
I’d recommend getting this race in your calendar for next year, it’s a great way to test not only your fitness but navigation skills.