David Power finished 4th in one of the biggest (and best) adventure races of the year, Killarney Adventure Race. Read more to find out how he got in – including forgetting his runners, falling off the bike, racing a motorbike, giving interviews on the run and finally relaxing with ice cream, hot hubs and deck chairs after the race.
Pre-race: Friday night expo, bike drop, footwear drama
Killarney is far from most places (which can be a good thing), so I hit the road from Dublin mid-afternoon. No point burning mental energy cursing traffic. That was the great thing about registering the night before – everyone had to get there before 11pm to register and then drop their bike out to Kate Kearney’s Cottage for the race start. Excitement started to build once we got through the registration (quick and easy) – I didn’t realise how big this race was until I saw the expo and realised there would be over 1,800 competitors taking part in KAR. That’s much bigger than Dingle or WAR (not as big as GaelForce).
I’d an early start at 5.30am, so did my last minute check for gear (mandatory kit, food, etc). Now, my runners are….where? I tried all 3 of my bags, then my car. Ahhhh!! I couldn’t find them – my Vivo trail runners. I didn’t panic too much as luckily had my Vivo road runners, but they’ve no grips for the mud and no cushioning on the sole to protect against those sharp rocks. “Ouch” I thought, “tomorrow’s gonna hurt, but I can do it. Think positive – it’ll force you to run with the correct technique, land softly, high cadence, spine straight. Imagine if you’d only had your flip flops?”
Race day: proper racing, bike fall, interviews, celebs
Race start was 8am, so after an early breakfast, we got on the bus to Kate Kearney’s Cottage. In my race preview, I’d speculated on who’d be near the front. It was good to see so many contenders there – although a few absentees (no Tim O’Donoghue or Trevor Woods due to injury). Eric Wolfe was another contender to watch out for on the bike.
Up Strickeen Mountain to start – nice run, not too steep or muddy. A close line of contenders at the top – I was 2nd behind Jerry O’Sullivan who was doing the 59km race. The descent was a test for my footwear – and it was tough. Five people passed me, as I struggled on the hard and slippy rocks. My mind got filled with negative thoughts, blaming myself for forgetting my trail runners. But then I relaxed and said “enjoy the race – it’s great to be here, the sun is coming up, the scenery is great, it’s a long race and you never know what happens.”
The bike was my favourite leg – 35km through some of the best scenery in Ireland. Mountains, lakes, clouds, sheep, deer, farmhouses but mostly silence and calm in the valleys. We hardly passed a car all day – amazing considering we all over the tourist trail of the Ring of Kerry. The bike was great for 3 reasons – (i) the scenery in the Gap of Dunloe & Black Valley; (ii) the racing with Paul and Noel and (iii) the motorbike cameraman.
The adrenaline buzz was mighty when I descended through the Gap with Noel O’Leary on a narrow, twisty road, accompanied by a motorbike at 35mph with a cameraman on the back. We were nose to nose with this guy sticking a camera in our faces as we flew down the hill. I’ve only ever seen these guys on the Tour de France and when they ride beside you as you fling yourself down a mountain, it’s invigorating and scary! I can’t wait to see the video.
And then I fell. Too fast into a sharp slippy bend, pulled the brakes, the back wheel locked, slid away from me and down I came on my ass. No cleats, so my foot helped break my fall. Bike was ok, I was ok, so up I hopped and chased Paul Tierney in 5th.
The kayak in Muckross Lake was only 1.5km but was tougher than expected due to an onshore wind which raised a choppy wave in our faces. Then it was up the steps past Torc Waterfall and the 18km run up Mangerton. I was looking forward to this climb. I passed Adrian, so had Aidan was just ahead of me.
My runners were fine climbing, but I knew that the rocky trail would be tough for me on the way down. I made the top at the Devil’s Punchbowl in 3rd about 2mins behind Aidan, so was delighted and about 5mins ahead of Adrian. I hoped I could hold on, but knew he’s a good descender. But the descent was too much and I struggled a bit, either slipping on the wet grass/mud or slowing up due to the harshness of the rocks on my soles.
I got to the bike in 4th and was hopeful I could stay ahead of Paul on the 5km cycle back to the finish. Somebody passed me, but luckily it wasn’t Paul, but someone in the 59km race. So I made it over the specially constructed footbridge to the finish in the Gleneagle. What a relief! My feet ached and my legs cramped, but I’d made it – delighted with 4th after over 4 hours of having the pleasure (and pain) of touring Killarney National Park.
Post-Race: massage, ice cream, sun, party
Now the fun could begin. And what a venue. Who gets blue skies and scorching sun in October in Kerry?? We had massages, Swedish hot tubs, protein fueled ice cream, a decent DJ, deck chairs and beef curry (curiously labelled “famous Irish stew”). I even snuck in a cold pint to aid the recovery in the deck chairs. That night, after a siesta, we hobbled downstairs to the awards which was great to see everyone win.
All in all, one of the best races I’ve done. Huge sponsorship enabled lots of nice extras – an expo, tons of marshals, a professional film crew, lots of online and press coverage. Even still the raw ingredients are impressive – a super course around Killarney, lots of accommodation for everyone, a great after race party venue and a top field. Plus the atmosphere was great – everyone who competed got a great sense of satisfaction in finishing, whether it was your first adventure race or a trot in the park. Roll on KAR 2014…
Race Video here (from Trek and Run)