Ger O Sulivan - 1st Male GFN 2012 - Sprint course
I began these adventure races this year at the tender age of 40. My first one took place near where I grew up in the Ballyhouras in Limerick, Headless Horseman. It was 72km and with only 6 weeks training it was a bit of a stretch. At 50km my legs completely cramped and even though I managed to finish the race I decided from then on the Sport distances were for me. With more training under my belt, I have since done the Monster Mac and Rough Diamond and results have been good, a second and a first.
My GFN race started at 7am Friday morning in Cork where I began the long journey to Donegal. I had a meeting there in the afternoon, this finished up at 5pm and it was then on to Letterkenny to meet up with my racing buddy Ger Henehan (finished 3rd). From the maps provided by the organisers I had all the locations in the Garmin so finding them was easy. Registration was even easier and the coffee was very welcome. On to the bike drop, drinks on board (check), gels taped (check), wheels pumped (check), helmet and shades (check). The guy at the entrance asked for our numbers and he knew straight away we were in the wrong transition. Slightly embarrassed we headed back to the cars. How could the Garmin have got it so wrong? ;-)
The next morning the bus trip at 6.30am from Bun Beg to the start line was novel, filled with competitors from the Full and Sprint courses it felt like we were on some sort of mission. I chatted with fellow racers Ger, Brian, Pat and Marie on the way and we were at the start line before I knew it. However this was where my race nearly ended before it began. The decision on whether or not to wear the waterproof top resulted in me losing my dibber when I took it off. I looked frantically around but no sign. I was then joined by the lads I met to on the bus and seconds later Brian MacDonnacha (finished 2nd) found it in the rough stuff. I wonder does he regret that now. ;-)
The race started with the top guys in the Full course setting a frantic pace. I managed to keep up and at their turn off point I could see Aidan McMoreland ahead. I was happy with that but had another 3km to go to the bike transition. The first bike section turned out to be really tough. The long climb and strong headwind meant that according to my watch I had ran faster downhill than I was cycling uphill. I even felt the old enemy cramp kicking in!! Errigal wasn’t much easier, after jogging through the bog the rest was clambering up loose rock and grabbing clumps of heather. Even though we didn’t have to go to the top when I turned to come down I could only see 2 of the flags lining the route. Below the mist I met Ger and Brian, high 5’s all round and I now had an idea of my lead at this stage. The kayak was fine, gave the legs a rest for a while.
One of the big decisions to be made before this race was bike and tyre choice for the final section, 5km of which is on Coillte forest tracks. I stuck with my road bike and slicks but with the word “puncture” going through my head and a good lead I picked my way through the rough terrain. This turned out to be my downfall with another competitor Steve Sweeney posting a better time on the day. Well done! However based on Gaelforce wave rules I was officially first and I’m delighted with that. This race was both physically and mentally tough, with some rookie mistakes thrown in but that’s what makes these types of races great, it’s all part of the adventure!
Finally I must give a huge thank you and well done to all of the organisers and volunteers at this event. They put on a really great race and job well done. Also to the locals who encouraged us along the way. The scenery up in Donegal is stunning, maybe not appreciated on the day of the race but afterwards on the journey home and looking through the photos on Facebook. When my wife saw the one of our bike transition she though the background had been photoshopped it looked so surreal but I was there and I assured her it was REAL!!!