Race Around Ireland Race report 2017.
Sunday 27th August 4pm – Three, Two, One, Go Go Go…….1200km circumnavigating NON STOP the toughest coastline roads of Ireland.
The next chapter in our development for the voodoo performance global endurance race team had started. The plan for 2017 was a successful finish in race across Italy 900km which lead to the team qualifying for the ultimate in endurance racing RAAM aka Race across America. The next challenge on our horizon was to return to that hallow ground and that race that pained us so much last year leaving with unfinished business Race around Ireland. But that too had a twist loosing two critical team members to injury and family commitments, it all looked doomed. But like shining knights stepping back into the team Boyd Robinson as crew chief, Ivan Parke -Transport , Claire Horan – athlete welfare , Michael Regan -Media & Laura black – athlete welfare.
The Goal of this race was different, up till now we were grafting an apprenticeship to just get to the finish line, which in itself is a challenge in this crazy world of endurance. But this was different we were here to Race and race non stop day and night to win, I had trained for this, I’d put in the hours, day after day, blood sweat and tears literally, no bull I’d put the hard miles in and it was time to test my systems. Not only had I applied an intense physical programme of my coach Bryan, but mentally brain training was at an all time high, finding happy space training with positive people, removing myself from negative forces and vibes was the key driver in my mental preparation to get to that happy place mentally that looked smelt and tasted of self belief, to some those words sound arrogant “but then I’ve removed those from my life” to fellow like minded others, it’s confidence. Who are we if we don’t first believe in yourself, why step up to that line?
With that start line a distant memory we were in full battle gear roaring at 40kph pushing hard to open a healthy gap to the blood thirsty hounds chasing behind. With no yard stick as we started out first the decision was head down and ride hard but mindful it’s a long way and we have several days of non stop racing to do. On this occasion I didn’t rely on power as my measurement of expenditure instead I wanted to work on natural feel, avoiding the red and staying as much in the green as possible keep me from blowing up mid race yet strong enough to allow me to be competitive.
Settling into our first night the strength was good and the night itself beautiful as we coasted the northern peninsula. Spirits within the team were brilliant with smiles in and smiles out the order of the day. News filtered through soon after crossing into Northern Ireland that we were leading brought to my attention of coach McCrystal and his kids with warm wishes of support on homemade posters.. proper old school and so uplifting.
Through the night we continued to push taking the benefit of warm dry weather knowing it was due to change later the next day. Nutrition was being delivered by Laura mc daughter and what a job she was doing , at 18yoa she was dialed in perfectly and keeping the agreed volumes of Carbs proteins and fats coming to allow me power on…I could not help but feel super proud of her commitment.
Donegal was next and I was at home the endless rolling climbs suited me perfectly, by now the local support was emerging from road side shouts to cars sounding horns, like a magic carpet they carried me to the boarder at Castlefin where my fallen team mates and family awaited, stopping for a quick hot re-fuel of porridge before setting into the second night, it was so positive to see the smiles and positive energy of support as we firmly held a grip on the lead. Now we headed back into northern Ireland and onwards to fermanagh leitrim & sligo which was a really liberating point in this race as last year by now the wheels were coming off with injured feet from driving hard on the peddles and tiredness forcing me to stop and sleep, but this time one year on we were so much better prepared and it felt so good & super positive. Driving on cutting through an aggressive head wind over the Ox mountains and into Ballina Co, Mayo see us take our planned stop to gear up for the night shift, Hot food & fluids combined with dry fresh cloths with an extra layer on top set us up for the Connemara battle ground, and area we knew would really pull the legs apart and sap the energy if not careful, we’re off feeling slightly fatigued tired but as a team very motivated as we continued to keep a firm grip on the lead. By now in the dark of night we shared the road with that mega impressive Nicole Reiss the Dutch champion on her route to setting a new corse record in the full RAI and certainly the strongest women I’ve ever witnessed, gritty & impressive for a 5ft 65kg 500w iron-woman.
Clifton and the Connemara lakes sparkled by night, endlessly rolling over the lumpy roads with a surface making road roll painfully slow. By now the crew were really tired communication was equally slow and low, but thats totally understandable after 40hrs straight non stop, sure I’d the easy job…lol
Emerging from the darkness of the Gaeltacht area our sights were set on Galway city we suffered our first glitch a sudden injury crept in , that dreaded Pain in the ass Literally, with slight bruising and broken skin brought on by possibly wet shorts forcing an emergency stop. Drawing short straws as to who got the most sought after team job “Ass patcher upper”. That name stays firmly secured in the vault of what happens on tour stays on tour.
With the human puncture fixed we drove on pushing hard for Trim, turning left after Galway we’re on the home straight 200kms to go. Thankfully hard training and past experience was paying off as I was totally alert and fully coherent thanks to the unbelievable support from the Voodoo performance team, you see it’s a collective we have been honing this craft for several years now making our fair share of mistakes along the way, DNFs Injuries crashes & Bonking with capital Bs ,but could this be our day could we get all the ducks to finally line up and pull off our first UMCA win, with that our support Black Renault Kadjar jeep pulled up along side grounding my thoughts with a fresh hot “I’ve gone to heaven” breakfast baguette. Red sauce running from my mouth I’d died and gone to heaven seriously after 45hrs non stop the simple things matter, I’ll be forever grateful Claire Horan. Crew chief Boyd Robinson who to now had been the mastermind was ringing in my ear, calmly he kept me backed off in pace but as sure as day follows night a double puncture reminded us you’re not home till you see the finish line. For the next 5 hour that finish line felt like it was getting further away, until a turning moment when my daughter laura doing my race nutrition came across the radio “Dad” yes dad i just got into DCU Athlete accommodation on campus for sport science and health degree, well I was floating on a magic carpet. Good things happen to good people, and she’s a star. Rounding the corner into the small finish-line village of Moynalty, a very different emotion ran through my veins, one year on we were the winners we had learned from our mistakes we fell and got back up overcome obstacles and installed a powerful winning belief.
It was so powerful & felt so positive being warmly greeted by race around Ireland course directors Alan, Lorraine and Emmet and my family & friends that had travelled to share in this moment, that moment of vindication of Falling but never giving in, never giving up.
We crossed the 12ookm race line in 51hr36min, setting a new course record by 9hrs 30min completing the race non stop. Huge congratulations to all fellow competitors and Category winners. To the organisers a huge well done in setting a World standard ultra ranking race ,to my sponsors for making the race possible thank you Renault Ireland – Highland motors as local dealership, Velo revolution clothing, Aura leisure centres , Bubblegum & Diesel design, Optimum nutrition, BMC training, CBM signage, Cedel communications.
And finally to my Voodoo performance team mates – Boyd, Ivan, Michael, Claire & Laura – Its hard to find a friend who’s cute, loving, generous, sexy, caring and smart…My humble advise to y’all all is don’t lose me 🙂
Global endurance athlete.