Sadly news filtered through that after 200km and after 23.5 gruelling hours the Voodoo Performance team has crashed out of the 2017 Beast expedition adventure race with sharon black suffering a multiple ankle break in what was described as a horrific mountain bike accident…….
“The Beast” Race summary.
Ranked on the Endurance calendar Ireland premiere and without doubt the toughest in its class, with Navigation ,Rope work , rock climbing , abseiling, Mountain biking , Kayaking , open sea swims , Mountain running in the most extreme remote environments enduring sleep deprived conditions night and day explains why only 3 out of the 18 teams entered finished within the cutoff time of 40hrs allowed to complete the fitting titled adventure race “The Beast” 2017.
Stage 0: 1k The loud airhorn signalling the start with a lung busting Vo2 max hill sprint to the top of ballymaccool park on the outskirts of letterkenny placing most athletes in the red nearly immediately. With the Oil light fully on it was into Stage 1:Mountain bikes made up of a 23k off mixed surface to TA1 at Lough Fern on the outskirts of Milford town, not without enduring first a multiple navigational mishmash of backroads and off roads with snappy unforgiving steep climbs which really punished the legs as we rolled into Stage 2: 5.5k kayak section in 6th place overall. The plan at all transitions was to be fast and furious changing into mandatory full length wetsuits & lift jackets grabbing food and drinks on the move, we were quickly into our Paddling rhythms Sharon and Jason Black pairing a double kayak and brothers Shaun & Patrick steward the other. Course designers placing the next dib station beyond the thick water rushes made for an interesting navigation to locate the next two checkpoints. Exiting the water in an impressive 3rd overall the team were delighted and our dander was up on the shore as we changed back into our sponsored Velo revolution race gear and onto Stage 3: 110k Mountain bike with 3.5k trek with night approaching we knew this was a critical section of the race to hold onto a strong general race classification. The climbs were relentless as we rounded the Northwest coast road, with knockalla hill climb followed by Fanad drive, fanad head & finally stopping off at Ireland very famous landmark fanad lighthouse in pitch darkness. A short control point by foot had us back on the mountain bikes leaving the fanad peninsula and on route to the stunning Atlantic Drive peninsula, that is before we made “as locals” a huge navigational error looking for the linking Harry blaney bridge, i mean how can you miss a 600meter long 700meter high bridge, well we can and we did “spectacularly” as we rode round in circles finally arriving at the next checkpoint in murderhole dropping 3 places to 6th overall,”thanks Shaun”..lol. Completing the gruelling 3.5k double top summits and the coastroad of Atlantic drive, Passing the singing pub like the bisto kids, the temptations of a possible Kinnegar craft beer was replaced by a sip of water filled electrolytes as we quickly pressed on passed after 1ohrs of racing to Stage 4: Ards forest park 8k trek + open water swim. The brief was to follow the marked path through Ards forest park to CheckPoint 20 located on our route map by the beach & where we’d get further instructions with an orienteering map. Well that went pear shape, as we arrived the organisers sat out all the teams on a rotational 30min mandatory sleep…in disbelief tucking down we caught 40winks beneath our mandatory carry rescue blankets. By now that cold core was replaced with the lovely shared body head radiating from the foiled blankets. Awoken briskly from acoma to sounds of the Checkpoint marshall requesting us to enter the open sea to recover 4 numerical numbers & 2 alphabetical letters placed on bouys off shore. Not knowing if we were coming or going, we stipped naked at 6am and in a numbed confused headspace got into our wetsuits and into the sea to recover the codes that would unlock the chest on the beach containing the Dib station and a set of maps allowing us to proceed on the 8km orienteering course around Ards woods…(DCBA 1 2) were the codes to lets us away… what a curve ball.
By now still in 6th place we took full advantage of the local knowledge, setting record time collected all 6 orienteering cps. Fully fuelled up at the Ards Coffee Tree with hot porridge were Patrick would have stayed all day, were off and onto Stage 5: 19k Mountain bike via the old donegal disused railway track along side the mights of Muckish mountain and the formidable seven sisters mountain range. By now we had recaptured 5th place and feeling strong. Sharon was really going well and the deeper into the race the stronger she was becoming. Km after Km we were grinding it out, pushing hard as we knew the cut of times to be short coursed were a reality and we couldn’t relax the pace in any shape or form, the hammer was firmly down. The discussion between the team on the road was very supportive positive and organic as we decided to blow through the next transition and onto the 16km mountain trek without eating to help close the gap to the leaders up front. Arriving into Iain Millars cottage marked on our route map as start of Stage 6 a 16k mountain trek we were off and in hot pursuit. While on paper 16km to a trained fell runner looks a simple task, then think “The Beast” and think again because it was unmarked and deep thick heather up to your waist ,underfoot was wet and uncertain making life really difficult, elevations were relentless climbing up and down and finding the correct line around Altan lake to the farm ruins that was the key to a swift time and a game changing move for the Voodoo performance team, moving us up to 4th exiting this 16km trek leg…Brilliant just the head space recovery we needed. Back at Millars Cottage along with the midget infestation, we were met with a surprised hot meal of chilly and baked potato by the race organisers, another example of the hidden surprises and little gems this race throws up in its unimaginable race design, thats said i think the midgets got fed faster than us…sorry lolol. Next up Stage 7: 10k Mountain bike and a simple non technical mixed terrain off road and tarred surface to the hostel at Dunlewey when we had planned to blow straight through and onto personal well known mountain training ground of mountaineer Jason Blacks and a sure route section hoping for a slick time on Stage 8: 25.5k trek + abseil over Slieve sneacht mountain ,the poison glen ,Dooish mountain , Mt Errigal Donegals finest finishing back at the Dunlewey hostel for a planned team food stop before darkness and Stage 9: 29km Mountain bike followed by Stage 10: 11.5k kayak on Gartan lake & finally Stage 11: 17k Mountain bike to the finish line at the Raddison hotel letterkenny where there was copious amounts of kinegar craft beer as event sponsor was available to toast the finishers… but sadly lady luck had another plan.
After leaving the 16km transition at Millars and with approx 4km on the outskirts of Dunlewey a steep corner caught the team out on a 90* right turn and at high speed sharon black left the road plunging into a river 15ft below, Jason black, Sharon’s husband stated it was awful, so simple and divesting to witness. We were able to get an SOS and phone call out to alert the course coordinator of the incident, with great speed the race medics followed by local ambulance made the scene safe and evacuated sharon to Letterkenny general hospital where she went under immediate surgery. The team were bitterly disappointed haven to exit the race in this manner as they were in place to secure a top 5 finish in there very first outing at this level setting an impressive standard amongst formidable teams and individual athletes.
The team are very grateful to the swift actions of the race directors lead by Ivan Park and first response race medic Jon Hynes, Jason Black stating, “The Beast medical plan & remote location recovery was incredible” in particular Jon Hynes the Race medic he was unreal he arrived, accessed, took over, was cool, calm & collected and executed remote medical attention to a very painful sharon with professional class, it was priceless, and we thank him dearly.
Sharon and the team would like to extend a huge thank you to our fellow competitors who stopped offering to assist and for their friendship and race comradery throughout the race.
To everyone following online and on the roadside, for there warm words of support to the team & well wishes for a speedy recovery as sharon recovers at home where Jason is earning his apprenticeship as her personal butler…lol
“What we find in a soul mate is not something wild to tame but something wild to run with again soon”.
Team Voodoo Performance – The Beast 2017.