Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2007 Outsider Annacurra Adventure Challenge

The story of this race started a little over a year ago when Mel and I took part in the first running of the race. After almost four and a half hours of racing and sitting in second place in the mixed category we ended up missing out on the second place due to a mistake I made – I missed two punched checkpoints... To say Mel was a little annoyed is an understatement.

A year later, and a lot fitter (well, I was, Mel was a little banjaxed due to her last Adventure Race and a lack of training due to her studies) we planned to return to the Annacurra Adventure Challenge and banish the ghosts from last year. First though, I had to get the bikes and gear ready, a process that started at 6pm on the Friday and didn't finish until almost 2am! Enough to almost push me away from heading down to the race at all! Anyway, we woke bright and early (why can't all races have a nice 1:30pm start?) to see a wet miserable day await us. Undeterred, we headed down to Annacurra.

At 10:30 the 50 teams (or so) started the race by a run around the local GAA pitch (to split us up I assume) before we got to our bikes to start the first 16km mountain biking section. From the very start, some of our preparation started to pay off. Due to the difference in our fitness levels we were going to use a bungee device between my bike and Mel's as much as we could. In the end, we used it for all non technical climbing stages throughout the event – even the running. This allowed us to pool our fitness and stay with the lead group for most of the first stage, just drifting off the back on a long slightly technical flat section.

By the time we got to the running section we were around six minutes behind the leaders. Me being a mountain biker, the running section was going to be the hardest on my body – the last decent run that I went on was this race last year... (Although I did do five short, low intensity runs before this event to lower the pain...) Wet conditions meant that the run was reasonably technical – it was short at 6.5km but it contained 575 meters of climb! Considering Mel's injuries (tendonitis in both ankles and the onset of cramping) and my allergy to running we didn't lose too much time on the run and started into the third stage very positive.

A climb just after the stage 2/3 transition

The third stage was a 25km mountain biking section. The section contained a lot more technical riding then the first stage and would have suited us more seeing as we are more mountain bikers then adventure racers. Throughout this stage I was very very attentive to our location and the location of the next checkpoint. It was during this stage last year that I missed the two punches that robbed us of the second place. After about three and a half hours we arrived back at the finishing area for the short course.

A quick refuel transition

After a quick transition (grabbed a few gels and fresh bottles from the car) we headed straight back up the hill for a long climb followed by a fast descent back to the finish. The bungee was vital here as Mel was starting to tire and the cramps were taking over. (I think I heard her curse more in the last hour then I had anytime before) For me, I put my head down and tried to remain focused on getting to the top of the hill as fast as possible. Funnily, about a kilometer from the top we caught Eoin Keith's elite adventure racing team. They looked to be in a bit of bother but I knew that they would catch us again on the running section so I tried to put as much distance between them and us as I could. Unfortunatly, they did catch and pass us on the running section and the final descent didn't give us enough time to catch them again (they were 20 seconds faster then us...).

We arrived back at the start to find out that the first and third (the one we had a final battle with) teams had missed checkpoints (the bane of last year) so we were actually catapulted into second position overall. In addition we finished first mixed team. All my goals for this race were met.

Big mucky smiles after the race

The event was very well run with the course marked out excellently – the weather was terrible throughout and all the off-road was shlomp – but thats Ireland this year... I know we had smiles on our faces throughout and I had to remind Mel afterwards that we rode through torrential rain at one point (she seemed to block that out).

A great feast was put on for us after the race (I think we must have looked like a swarm of locusts to the poor ladies who were helping out with the food) and we enjoyed chatting and sharing stories with our fellow racers. Overall, an excellent event and a great day out - many thanks from Mel and I to the Annacurra team and Outsider magazine and I'll be there again next year.

First and second placed teams

Photos are from here and results can be found here.

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