first_imgLetterkenny man Conor Mc Garry traveled from Liverpool to compete in last weekend’s Gael Force North – and he’s still aching!Fit as a fiddle – Conor McGarry!This is a very personal account of one Donegal man’s triumph over the roads, mountains and lakes of our wonderful county.It all started last Christmas on a wee visit back to Donegal. Sitting at the bar enjoying a few pints of the black stuff the lads were enjoying a bit of banter about last years Gaelforce North, an adventure race comprising of running, kayaking, cycling and running up and down a mountain. Stories of pulled muscles, how tough the wind and rain was and how at the time they would never enter this event again were mentioned. How hard could it be I asked?…. a bit of running, a little paddle on a lake, a leisurely cycle and a wee walk up a mountain…. no bother! Sign up then they replied!!!! So the next day I did, having a quick look at the photos of last year’s event first. I only noticed a few photos with faces grimacing so confidence remained high even though I had not been on a bike for over 8 years and had not climbed a mountain since I was a teenager.As the months passed facebook was filled with photos of my mates back home climbing mountains and out running and cycling. With only a month to go to the event I still hadn’t got on a bike and the highest I climbed was the 20 odd steps on way into work. Sure I’d done some cross country races recently, that would do wouldn’t it?A couple of weeks before the start date I finally managed to get a bike and got a couple of miles under my belt. Apart from a few pains in the backside I still felt confident.So with flights booked for the Friday before the event, I was scheduled to work the night before I flew to Ireland. Not to worry I thought, I would get to bed on Friday afternoon and get a good nights sleep! What could go wrong? Upon arriving to Letterkenny the phone calls started. Where are you? We need to get your bike sorted and then we need to go out and register for the race. Hours were spent visiting house after house, locating bike racks, searching for pumps, sorting out hydration packs and then the ordeal of fixing old rusted clip on pedals to the bikes!After a hasty trial run on my borrowed bike it was off to registration where I was allocated the infamous “dibber”. Placed around my wrist this fob was going to be used to record my times on the different sections. A bit of banter was had with fellow competitors and then a quick trip out to the first transition area, where the bikes were going to stay overnight. A wee look around showed that there were some serious biking machines on show, along with the odd bike of older generation! Having left the bike, helmet and hydration pack we finally headed off into the night, setting the alarms for 6am!The morning of the race arrived and a few text messages between the lads made sure we were all up and ready. The majority of the gang had decided to start in the second wave, with the lads enjoying a bit of friendly competition among themselves. The remainder, including myself stuck to the first wave, an early start at 08:30. Arriving at the start we had a quick warm up and then before we knew it the horn blasted and we were off….. a 16km trail run on the scenic “bridal pass”. The first part was mostly downhill or flat and the pace was steady, with the field slowly thinning out as the kilometres passed. Around the 8km mark we were greeted with the first hill, a steady incline which tested the legs. Following that is was steady run till we reached the first transition where we could “time out” for a short period while we waited for the kayaks. Several shouts could be heard of “where’s the time out dibber” with runners arriving quick and fast. Time for first run was 1.24.55. This time out could be spent refuelling and sorting out cycling gear, a tactic many of the lads learnt from last year. After a short break it was time for the kayak section. The kayaks mainly consisted of two person kayaks so many of the lads and lasses had already “partnered up” prior to starting the race, another tactic that would be useful for future events. Upon arriving at the water another competitor shouted over, “hey mate, you want to jump on with me”…. So off I went on the kayak, around 2km out and back altogether, finishing this section around 16.54, although I did spend some time chatting to a few of the lads after needing to be prompted to hurry up as I was still under the clock!So the next section consisted of a 24km cycle to the bottom of Errigal mountain. My first obstacle was trying to get my feet into the toe clips, not a problem when I was a teenager but now with tired legs it was a struggle. Having managed to get my feet in I set off at a steady pace. All seemed well until approximately 4km into the cycle where I was hit with my first cramp, which was swiftly followed by another and another. I considered jumping of the bike but was in too much pain and I was worried I wouldn’t get my feet back into the clips again! So for the remainder of the cycle time was spent trying to cycle and stretch my legs at the same time. This wasn’t helped with the change in weather, with the rain and wind arriving in typical Donegal fashion. Luckily I was joined on the cycle by one of my mates who I selfishly “drafted” for around 10km until we reached the bottom of Errigal mountain.Upon arriving to the bottom of the mountain, we were greeted by a hardly bunch of spectators, including many family members and friends. Shouts of encouragement helped weary bodies as we set of on our 4th section, the mountain climb! The weather was abysmal at this stage with visibility poor and the rain and wind prompting many a competitor to query if we would have to go the full distance up the mountain. No such luck! Some of the lads had endured a horrid time on Errigal during last years event and had warned me beforehand. As I made my way up the wet and boggy first part, where the legs were zapped of more energy I cursed signing up for this event and wished I had practised some sort of mountain work. Despite consuming energy gels and drinks the legs would not work any faster and moral was fading fast, despite other competitors offering shouts of encouragement. After what seemed like an eternity I reached the half way point, taking 36 minutes… At the half way I looked over to see one of the lads wrapped in orange space blanket courtesy of mountain rescue team, later finding out he had a bad fall on way down and badly gashed his leg. Competitors continued to pass me as they made their way back down and I pressed upwards,…. ”nearly there now mate… not long to go… the worse bit it over….. “. After 20 minutes I finally made the top, exhausted but slightly elated, wishing I had brought my camera but thinking about it you could see feck all due to the mist and fog! Forgetting about the time I was again prompted to get my act together as I was still under the clock, so after a wee rest I set off again on what I hoped would be an easier journey than the struggle upwards. Ten steps into my decent the cramp returned with a vengeance causing me to stop and again curse that day I signed up for this. More shouts of encouragement and I restarted my decent, swearing with every step. They say the decent shout be easier, but I spent more time on my backside, slipping and falling due to the wet weather and terrible conditions. After 34 minutes I finally reached the bottom where I was met with some worried faces, but again words of encouragement gave me the push I needed to carry on. Too tired to get my feet in the toe clips I gladly accepted the assistance of a friend who pushed me on my way for the final sector, a 18.5 km cycle. So setting off on the final sector the weather had not settled, with wind and rain driving into the faces of competitors. After around 3 km we arrived at the “off road” part of the cycle, a part of the route where many a competitor chose a mountain bike or hybrid to counteract the terrain. So off the bike I got to walk up a short steep hill, thinking no way will I be able to get my feet back in the fecking clips again. After this short hill I jumped back on the bike, trying to maintain a steady speed, which was difficult to do with rocks and stones sticking out of the gravel. At times I definitely had a few lucky escapes with the road bike taking some big hits on speedy descents. I was glad to get back on the tarmac with the steward shouting out “only 5km to go! “…. Music to my ears…..So, approaching the finish we arrived into Bunbeg town, a final descent towards the beach where we had to leave the bikes for our final run along the beach. As I ran along the beach I could see the finish line adjacent, with the route actually making us run past the finish and then loop back on the sand dunes… so close now!….One final push up a small sand dune, and there it was… the finish… I could hear all the shouts of “ come on Conor!, and come on Liverpool! “ as I crossed the finish line…. Too exhausted to speak I was again prompted to time out… with the infamous “dibber” used one last time!Wet, exhausted and every muscle hurting the medal was placed around my neck with plenty of high fives, backslapping and congratulations going around. Two hot dogs and several cups of tea later I finally got feeling back into my limbs and was able to properly converse with people, telling them never again will I do this…….. A few days later, and the muscles still ache…. but as usual I’m already thinking about next yearCONOR PROVES HE IS A ‘FORCE’ TO BE RECKONED WITH! was last modified: July 3rd, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:Conor McGarryGale Force Northlast_img


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *