Off The Bloom 2019 Adventure Race Report

Shane and Gary made a return to the adventure racing scene in the latest race of the National Series in Kinnitty, Co. Offaly. It was a local race so the lads had a pretty good idea what was in store and they managed to secure another 1, 2 finish for the club. It was quite a tactical race but in the second half of the race, when others wilted, the lads had enough to pull away from the field. Here is how Shane thought the race went down:

‘Sluggish’ would be the one word I would use to describe that performance, but in the end it was a case of job done. Gary and I went to Kinnitty looking for the 1, 2 finish and that’s what we got. Neither of us were overly happy with our races but a win is a win and we move onto the next one in 4 weeks time. A performance like this at the next Quest Lough Derg race and we are likely to come home disappointed in our main ‘A’ race of the season. There is lots of work to be done to get the body ready for that race and eliminate the staleness that the planned post Gaelforce / mid-season recovery period has brought about. In many ways this race was like my first race of the season again so it was a bit of a shock. With that out of the way I hope to improve next time out.

It was great to have a local race to go to for once and not have to travel for hours to get to the race location. I was familiar with the route and got to recce it a few times in the preceding week (the joys of being a teacher and having the summer off!). There was nothing overly daunting on it with the harder stuff coming later in the race. Myself and the brother had discussed tactics for every possible scenario but the gist of it was to just be aggressive at all times. Barry Cronin and Seb Giroud were the two competitors we were expecting the biggest challenge from. On another day, if the two lads had worked harder together after the kayak they might well have taken the top 2 podium positions themselves. But that’s all ifs and buts; everyone has a ‘but if I only did this…..’ story afterwards. It can be hard to see what the best tactics are when battling two brothers working for each other.

1km Run: the pace of this run was crazy altogether. I was straight away wondering ‘what is going on here?’ It wasn’t as if we (brother and I) were running slow (just over 5 min mile pace). It’s that 9 or 10 other lads were running at sub 5 minute mile pace! It seems like they were all just trying to make sure they made the lead bunch for the cycle. With a flat 20km cycle coming up, where it looked like a bunch would stay together, it was probably worth it for some to burn a few matches early. Gary and I held a decent pace and came into transition just inside the top 10. There was no need to panic as we knew we would chase down any groups that were ahead on the bike.

20km Bike: all the race predictions before the race were that things would stay together on the bike all the way to the lake. It would be too hard to get away with everyone fresh. This didn’t quite prove right but by the time the lead contenders got to the kayak section there still wasn’t much of a gap.

We reeled in all those ahead of us on the bike after about 2km. As we approached the lead group we could see a lot of looking around. This would prove to be a theme of the day. Instead of racing their own race it seemed like the rest were too concerned about where we were and what we were doing. A group of about 10 formed on the front and Gary and I started to attack straight away. There was no way we were going to just roll nicely with everyone down the road to the kayak, especially with the kayak being an Achilles heel for both of us in the past. We wanted to build a lead or at least try to tire everyone else out chasing us and hopefully that would result in the rest dying a little towards the end of the race.

I broke first but that break was short lived. When caught, Gary broke over the top with another lad and they stayed out there for 1km before being reeled in. I went again straight after this hoping that the elastic would finally snap and people would get sick of chasing. The cycling remained quite negative though and after a few km out by myself I was caught after Ballyboy. Once again Gary shot off the front and this time he had Seb with him, who was a strong cyclist. This break looked promising and with me getting in the way of the chase behind, the lads built up a 30 second lead. I saved my energy and let the gap build while all the time planning to jump across to them on the hill exiting Mountbolus. I broke there and managed to bridge across successfully. The 3 of us continued to push, but with only a few miles left the gap never grew too much. It had been a fast opening to the race but my speed was about to come down dramatically as I hit the kayak section.

1km Kayak: I have had some decent kayak performances and some dreadful ones and so has the brother. As we ran down with Seb to the kayak we didn’t really know how it would go. We expected Seb to blitz it and be out alone on the bike cycling back into the headwind. If this happened we could combine and catch him on the bike quickly enough. Little did I know that Gary would have a very strong kayak, exiting the water with Seb, and I was the one having a brutal day nearly falling out of the top 10. Barry Cronin kayaked well and had made it up to Gary and Seb and it was clear I was now in trouble. I finished the kayak 1:40 down on the lads and more worrying for me, I was alone with a 20km cycle into a stiff headwind coming up. If the lads worked hard up front I would have it all to do to catch up and still have energy for a tough hill run.

20km Cycle: At this stage, I really thought the race was getting away from me. Luckily, I had Gary up with the two lads and I knew he would be acting like an anchor, not doing any work, making the lads worry about towing him and bringing him fresh to the last run. Barry and Seb were probably stuck in two minds. Work together to stay away from me but bring a fresh Gary with them, or try to jump Gary and get away by themselves but risk me getting back to them when the inevitable stalls came. They opted to try to get rid of Gary but couldn’t manage it and after 10km I had caught their group with a few others like John Magner and Mark Pinfield.

It then turned into a slow bicycle race for a few miles. I knew there were 3 tough hills coming up and was just waiting to get close to the first one before I broke. Nobody else was brave enough to break themselves and go for glory. There was plenty of staring going on but not enough action. Negative cycling tactics rarely pay off. Gary and I had planned for me to break on the bike when we got to the hills and then he would refuse to chase me and get a free tow to the run where he would more than likely run away from the rest. Having ran 17 running races in 16 days leading up to this race, Gary was flying at the running so it was a good gamble to take. I made my breakaway coming back into Ballyboy and nobody went after me. They all started watching Gary as the winning race move went down the road. Gary wasn’t going to chase me down so there was no point looking at him. Indecision in the chase bunch saw my lead at the front grow quickly as I gained over 3 minutes in the last 10km. At that point the race was over and the others were battling for 2nd. The problem was they were bringing Gary (the fastest runner in the field) fresh to the run, so now even 2nd place was looking dodgy. Out front, I just made sure to keep the heart rate under control and save a little for the run.

12km Run: this was a quite technical run with lots of different surface conditions to contend with. I was happy to have a good lead as it allowed me to take it easier on some of the tricky parts. Barring a late fall, I felt I had the race won so there was no need to risk things. Not knowing the full extent of my lead I was half expecting Gary to bridge across to me on the run. He did beat my run time by 1:30 and recorded the fastest run time of the day, but the gap was just too big to close. He started the run with Barry, Seb, John etc. but was able to push on past them early in the run. The run proved to be quite enjoyable and after 49 minutes I was back on the bike again and heading back to the finish in Kinnitty.

Final Bike Descent & Run: the roads for the descent were wet and greasy but thankfully I know the descent down off the Wolftrapp very well and knew where to brake and where to let the bike go. I didn’t take any risks but kept a good pace going all the way back to the transition in the GAA ground. The final 1km run back to the finish was much, much slower than the crazy opening 1km race speed but I got there in the end. Gary came in 2 minutes back and Barry finished in 3rd another 2 minutes back from Gary. This repeated the final podium results from both Gaelforce Dublin and the Dingle Adventure Race. I was happy to get the win especially when so far behind after the kayak. I feel like I have been riding my luck in places, but when it came to the crucial race winning moment on the bike when anybody could have made a move, I went for broke while the rest were left thinking ‘what if…….?’.

Thanks to all the marshals involved in putting the race together. It was very enjoyable.

That makes it 5 adventure race wins out of 5 for me this year and 4 runners up spots out of 5 for Gary (it’s only a matter of time before he passes me out!) Next up for the two of us is the Quest Lough Derg race. Along with Gaelforce West, this has always been the ‘A’ race for the year. We know every nook and cranny of that course as it is where we train all the time. Being the local race it also comes with added pressure as you are expected to do well. A win there would be a good way to end the year, although if I get a good result I might just finish out the required 5 National Series Races and see whereabouts on the table I come. Hopefully, 1 of the later races on the calendar might squeeze me in at short notice!

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