Wednesday, 14 November 2018

2018 Westport Sea2Summit

It’s a great event…it must be one of the biggest in the country. I was just looking at the results there and there were 431 who started the longer event “Supreme”. There were 28 more on the “Supreme Short Course” whatever that was, and a whopping 1668 on the shorter “Spirit” event, so that’s well over 2000 early November…a great boost for Westport tourism! Just slightly more than half of the spirit were male..18 pages of results for male and 16 for female. In the Supreme, there were 65 women which is about 1 in 7.  This female participation was a standout feature compared to most events I’ve been on. Great to see!

Anyway, two other members of the M&M Cycling Club made the trip with me - Redmond and Kieran - both recent veterans of our sortie to Malaga for some cycling in the sunshine. Kieran also did the Dublin marathon two weeks ago, delighted with his time of 3:57. He was about 4:15 in Limerick in May, so the extra summer training paid off!

Kieran collected us on Friday evening with his three bike carrier on his towbar and we set off after a horrendously rainy day into the West. We arrived and registered. I bought the mandatory safety kit for €10  - a foil blanket, a whistle, a heavy bleed bandage, and a Powerbar. That with a mobile phone, hat and jacket made up the required kit. I’m new to this mountaineering! I’ll bring me new whistle with me next time I go up a hill! Thankfully none of this was called into duty!
Off to the harbour next to park the bikes – a bit chaotic with lots of cars, bikes, people, darkness, rain, wind! A couple of poor creatures were going to stay out all night in that weather to do security on the 2000x1000 = €2m worth of bikes!

Now for the hostel….a strange experience. .. for €35  it was cheapish…but not too cheerful! The strange French receptionist wanted to put two of us in one room and one in another. We were accepting our lot and quietly asked if the place was full and she said no. So we asked if we could maybe stay in the same room and she said yes. Weird!  There was a kitchen/dining area, so we asked could we get cooking the porridge there around 7 and she said no….doesn’t open till 8…and no…it’ll be locked! Bit peeved about the brekkie situation we went to Centra and got an oddball bag of food and drink…ham, cheese, rolls, bars, bananas, water, OJ, pasta, ready oats, yoghurt, hard-boiled eggs… a right feast.  Found a Chinese restaurant and tucked into some pre-race-fuel. Two beers for me but the lads were on a serious mission and stayed pure! No fear of the food going off overnight at the hostel, seeing as there was no heat in the room! Hats on and off to bed after a long wardrobe session wondering what to wear for the race.

Morning! … Scoffed the breakfast about 6:30 in the room, beneath the  “No eating in rooms” sign. More checking of weather forecasts which seemed to be getting better and less clothing was deemed necessary. Off to the hotel for the start line, relaxed in the lobby for 10 mins and out for the race brief and then we were off soon after Redmond’s couple of dance steps to “Move like Jagger”….he can’t!  The man on the mike told us we had got a lucky break…there was a window of fine sunny calm weather for the next few hours with very little chance of rain! Sweet!

We were off in Wave 2 of 3 – the intermediates. Red had initially signed up months ago for Advanced wave and Kieran had gone for Beginner, but then we thought about it and decided Intermediate would be the most suitable. I think the fact that the lads changed waves seems to have messed up their timings…The times are correct but their positioning is way off.

We stayed together more or less for the first 4k run to the harbour along a greenway. I knew this was a marathon not a sprint, so sauntered along at a jogging pace. The site of Croagh Patrick looming 800m into the sky in the distance tempered any impulse to go fast. 21 mins for 4k. Hopped on the bike…the decision had been made by me and Kieran that the cycling shoes were staying in the car, while Redmond was going for a shoe-changing and carrying strategy. The bike felt great and I put the hammer down and did the short flat 8km spin to the Croagh Patrick car park. I passed by loads of people on the way…same reports from the other two lads….I was going nicely averaging easily over 30kph. Drafting was legal so I had been hoping to fall in with a group, but, there was just a different standard of rider (and bikes!) out there….I just kept whooshing by them! That’s a pretty positive feeling, but the better riders were all way ahead in the Advanced wave!

Next up… the main challenge….”The Reek” its known. 764m altitude. I jogged out of the car park and up the first bit of a tarmac’ed hill, then a nice set of steps. That was it then for jogging and tried to settle into a brisk walk, along with everyone around me. All in good spirits, laughing and joking..beautiful morning to be going up the hill! It took just under an hour to reach the church at the top, and it was a tough hour. I certainly lost time on the majority here….I stopped for breath two or three times, quick glance at the scenery, then pushed on. It was just like climbing stairs to the top of a skyscraper. It’s a steep first section, a shallower middle section and a steep final section – the cone – over very loose rock. Kieran caught up with me early on, we had a fairly quick chat but then he was a few steps ahead and then gone!

After about 20 minutes of climbing the first two competitors came scrambling down the hill side-by-side. They were some sight – I’ll never forget it - they were flying ….surfing through the rocks, with stones spraying up around them. It looked impossible that they weren’t breaking their ankles and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Hard to judge how fast they were going…maybe about what you’d see in a typical 5km race. I think I caught them at a particularly strange section of underfoot conditions. When I went down that way myself an hour later, the rocks were loose and gave way under me, and I went through surprisingly quickly over that small section.

Pic here of the lead two guys on their way up.

Back to the climb….same old trudge, got to the top, touched the church and turned straight around after a just a few seconds admiring the view.  Passed Redmond on his way up and he had enough time to tell me he had lost his phone on the mountain.  Just a few minutes later he passed me on the descent…much more like a goat than I was. The missing phone turned up later in his backpack. The descent was hard and not really enjoyable in any way. The ligaments at the back of my left knee had got very sore and I couldn’t really bend that knee. When I got off the cone section on to flatter ground I tried to jog, but the left leg was like a dead weight…it just wouldn’t function like a normal leg, so I left if to the right leg to do all the ninja jumping and weaving while the left was like a pirate’s stump! I got through the final steeper part of the descent, with people passing me all the time.

However….back to the bike! Felt good and felt at home on two wheels!

Pic of T2

I proceeded to tear up the road on the flat section but met a guy walking the other way with his bike on his shoulders. I asked if he needed anything but didn’t really catch his reply… …I turned around offering him tubes but he said no…the bike was knackered! Ah well…unlucky! The route turned left off the main Louisburgh road onto a boreen towards what they call the Maum climb. First a 100m ascent at about 6-8%, …Not too bad but testing enough…I knew it was coming so just enjoyed it. Then a descent and a left turn, flattish for a little while, then the real tester…a series of short sharp ramps.

The event website had mentioned 25% in places, and I think this first ramp was what they were talking about. Very short though…maybe 50m long…Timed the gear change and had it in the very generous 32 teeth at the back and 34 at the front. (That rental bike in Spain only had 28 and how I missed those 4 extra teeth!)  I got over that ramp while others dismounted and I took a certain pleasure in this and made it my mission to see this climb through. There was some advice the night before at registration that you might be better off walking up some of these ramps to save the legs, and fine advice I’m sure it was, but the blood was up and I wasn’t having any of it!

After this, the terrain was very “natural” for a few km..i.e. the road building process didn’t involve any earthworks…so up and down whatever lumps were in the way. A few were very sharp. The peak appeared, and this was the biggest challenge of all the ramps…Maybe 200m long..probably about 10-15%. I got over it by pacing the effort and it was a good feeling going over the top…marshals were handing out Wagon Wheel s, which were great!

The altitude at the top was 220m, and then on to the very fast and twisty descent. It flattened out a bit, then I settled into a rhythm and finally got into a group of three to take turns in the wind. This broke up but then found another lad from Donegal who was going very well and we paced each other for a few km. He dropped me when we hit a hill though, so back on my own. Most of the way back to Westport was great fun with good high speeds on lovely roads with a slight descent.. and passing riders all the way! Perfect!

However, there was one more run to do and my left knee just didn’t want to bend! I dragged the leg along for the first 2km before I finally felt things loosen up and I was able to feel like I was jogging again! I felt much better and a woman told me my buddy was just ahead…i.e. Kieran with the same club gear! I thought I saw him ahead and tried to track him down, but there was no acceleration available! Anyway, the jersey turned out not to be him and he was waiting happily at the finish line.

It was a very nice finish in the town centre with loads of people and hoop-la!

I felt grand crossing the line and got the oul medal and we waited a couple of minutes for Redmond to finish.  I think we all felt great and got the group photo and into the tent for some soup, bread and chicken/pasta stew. Great grub! We sat there for 15 mins taking it all in and taking a load off the legs.

Finally back to the hostel and tried to have a shower. The code on the door to the rooms and shower area had been changed overnight. The nice man in reception said no..why don’t you go across the road there to the leisure centre? We had asked the night before and the French one had said it would be OK. Not to worry, a gang of merry bearded young men on a stag party went in a minute later and we went in after them and cleaned ourselves up!

Bike pickup and off to Charlestown on a diversion to put Redmond on a bus to Dublin and ultimately Anfield (another story!). Me and Kieran dropped in on his parents in Curry and got well fed and watered. Home at 8:30 and asleep on the armchair by the fire moments later!

A great day!

S2S Supreme Course Race format
  • 4k run
  • 8k cycle
  • 5k Mountain run (Croagh Patrick) at half distance(2.5k) and at bottom (5k)
  • 35k cycle hilly cycle at (14K) and end of cycle
  • 4k run with sea run (depending on tide times).
  • Total distance 56km
Here's my Strava log for the day...I just logged the whole thing as a run! 

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