On Saturday last weekend I did the West Wicklow ROAR, a multi-sport adventure race combining kayaking, road biking and off-road running around Blessington Lakes. My coach doesn't like me doing off road running much due to the risk of injury, but I've just been longing to mix up my training a bit again and since I had no big races coming up I took this opportunity to get my AR fix in.
The race itself was broken up as follows:
Confidently I put myself down for the Elite wave....
I was a bit concerned about the running stages, since I hadn't done any running at all in ages, and decided to do my first run in ages by doing an IMRA race on the Wednesday a week and a half before the ROAR for some training (I am aware that this was a bit of a stupid idea....). This was more a test to see where I stand and to see if and how much my mountain biking fitness would carry over to mountain running (and also to enjoy the social side of it and meet some old friends). It was an 11.3km run, not particularly steep, but about half of it over pretty technical rocky terrain. I came in 7th lady, at 140% of the men's winning time. Not bad since this is the best percentage I've ever had in a mountain run, even when I used to run regularly! So I was happy with that, but not with the pain that I had to endure the three days after! My legs felt as if I had subjected them to a marathon with my thighs and calves giving out every time I tried to sit down or stand up or walk down stairs. I couldn't do any type of training until Saturday and had to take it fairly easy at the weekend too. Serves me right going out like this. I did a few more short running sessions to get my legs used to the sensation before the Saturday of the race.
Anyhow, Saturday came along with some glorious blue skyed weather and a heat wave and some of the other Elite ladies including old mountain biking champs Beth McCluskey and Jenny McAuley. I was hoping that all the time I would lose on the runs (I knew that both Beth and Jenny would be better runners) I could make up on the bike legs. How wrong I was....
Well, it started off kind of on a bad leg. The kayaking leg. In this race we were provided with 2-person sit-on-tops and you just did it with whoever arrived at the boats the same time as you. I have to admit, my knowledge about kayaking does not extend much further than that it involves a kayak, water and a paddle and I've been able to get by with these basics through any adventure race (usually due to my partners having more of a clue and telling me what to do). That's bad, but the worse thing was that the person who was going to share the kayaking leg with me had as little clue as I. Anyhow, we made it back to the beach eventually.... Another mistake was to take off my shoes before the kayaking leg. I thought I'd be able to run back to the bike transition bare-footed, but all I could do was hop along the side of the gravel road to avoid the gravel digging into my feet. Next mistake was to use cleat pedals, meaning at each transition I would have to change from biking shoes into running shoes and from running shoes back into biking shoes etc. Well, I didn't have so much of a choice because my pedals have ceased onto my crank arms (I have already twisted two Allen keys), but if I was doing such a race again I will get this sorted and put on flat pedals and cut out the time of taking off one pair of shoes, tying them onto the rucksack, putting on another pair of shoes etc. Finally on the bike I was having issues with my chain not going into the big ring and had to stop to put it up manually - should have really adjusted them beforehand.....
Then of course I was running up and down the mountains with my 2L bladder full of water, although I did away with it on the 2nd run and decided taking out the mandatory kit and a bottle would be easier. It was, but my legs were still not used to this kind of terrain, some of it on the open mountain side and with wet shoes blisters were developing and the bottoms of my feet were starting to give out.
Well done to Jenny and Beth battling it out in front with Jenny taking the win only 2min ahead of Beth. Both were closely followed by Derval Devaney, a triathlete. I came in 26min behind Jenny with a time of 3h51min. I looked at the splits later and only my bike legs were comparable, I lost time everywhere else. Ah well, in the end it was a great way of spending a Saturday and getting some good aerobic endurance training in.
Results available here.