Connemara Adventure Challenge 2013 Preview: May The Gaelforce Be With You!

The Gaelforce Connemara Adventure Challenge takes place this Saturday 11 th May. Full details on ...

The Gaelforce Connemara Adventure Challenge takes place this Saturday 11th May. Full details on

If your goal is to complete the ultimate adventure racing challenge that is “Gaelforce” later on this year, then consider the Connemara Adventure Challenge as your baptism of fire. For me this is THE most fun adventure race of the year. Every participant completes the same course and the disciplines are that little bit different to all the other events.

The Course

The race starts behind Killary Adventure Centre with a run through a bog. One guy showed up on the start line last year with a brand spanking new pair of runners and nearly passed out when he saw the bog ahead of him. He put two plastic bags over the runners and tied sellotape around them to keep them on. Needless to say they lasted seconds. It was priceless.


The first run may be only 4 kms but the terrain is like a minefield. You must pick your way across the bog finding the driest line possible. One wrong step and your leg drops into the soft marsh and you are up to your proverbials in muck! You might drag your leg out of the hole only to find your runner is still down there! It happens so many people, so tie your laces as tight as possible!

All in all, it’s a really enjoyable run. The distance may only be 4 kms but trust me, you’ll feel like you’ve run 6 Kms on the soft terrain. So the key is to pace yourself and keep it nice and steady.

The run leads to a short climb up one of the foothills of the Maam Turks. The elite guys will power up the hill but for most of us it’s a hands on knees almost single file powerwalk following the fence all the way to the top. Try not to touch the fence, there’s barbed wire on sections of it. Once over the top you will find yourself on a very steep grassy descent. This is extremely slippy and it will test the grip in your trail runners to the limit. Be very careful here or you will find yourself doing a Hermann Maier and skiing down on your backside!

Once safely down the hill, it’s into a really cool farmyard for transition where you grab your bike. The cycle takes you immediately into the forest where the roads are lumpy and bumpy for 8 kms. I think this cycle is the best on the Irish adventure racing circuit in terms of sheer adrenaline and exhilaration. The forest roads for the first half of the cycle are totally unsuitable for racing bikes. I passed nine guys changing punctures on racing bikes last year!

The second half of the cycle is across the Inagh Valley back out on the main roads, where those on racers who have managed to emerge from the forest unscathed have a decided advantage. So it’s a real conundrum as to which bike to use in the Connemara Adventure Challenge, the racer or a mountain bike with slick wheels. We’ll talk more about that later.

After the cycle section, you drop your bike on the front lawn of the Killary Adventure Centre and do a short run down to the kayak station, where two man kayaks await.

There’s absolutely nothing to fear about the kayak stage, because at that time of the morning the tide will be flowing into the Killary Fjord and you will positively zoom down the shoreline with the current carrying you towards Leenane. Not only is it spectacular, but it’s a privilege to be actually kayaking in the fjord, so drink it in and use the breather to prepare for the final run. If you’re inexperienced at kayaking always sit in the front of the boat. The person at the rear is responsible for steering which is a little more technical.

The final run is a little tough mentally, in that when you emerge from the kayak section, you know the finish line is to the right, yet you must head left on the road towards Leenane before doubling back along the famous Western Way and back to Killary Adventure Centre. Turning onto the Western Way, you will face your last real challenge, a gradual but elongated incline which will test both your calves and your resolve. The scenery here is stunning as you look down across the fjord you’ve just kayaked. Over the hump of the hill, you will begin to hear the beat of the music and hullabuloo of the finsh line, before ducking downhill diagonally across the bog to the finish line.

Crossing the finish line, you’ll feel that rush of adrenaline, that feeling of achievement that few other sports can match. Once there you’ll collect your split times on paper, get your completion medal, enjoy a bowl of hot pasta, maybe get a leg rub from one of the physios on hand and no doubt have a chat with your fellow competitors. You’ve just completed the Connemara Adventure Challenge, you’re ready for Gaelforce!



There’s really two key pieces of kit for adventure racing, your runners and your bike. For this race a mountain bike with slick wheels is what I would advise. The first cycle section through the forest is very very tough to negotiate on a racing bike, though no doubt some of the elite racers will manage to find a way through there. I just saw so many people on racers puncture there last year, I would recommend the mountain bike. My mountain bike is fitted with Schwalbe wheels which though wide are most or less slick. They are great for the first section but that bit slower than a racer on the road. One or two guys on racers passed me last year, but overall I think this bike was the better option.

There’s no real option to use anything other than trail runners and standard toe clip pedals in the Connemara Adventure Challenge. There’s no benefit to using cycling shoes in this race as the cycle route is relatively short and the start and finish points of the cycle are different.


kanadiaTrail runners are essential for the Connemara Adventure Challenge. Runners with big protruding cleats, such as the Adidas Kanadia (cost: €50-60) are ideal. The cleats will be tested to the limit going up the mountain and even more so coming down. It’s very important to make sure your runners are laced tightly; the bog run will try to suck them off your feet!



Shown above is all my kit for a race. I think a good pair of padded cycling shorts and especially a cycling jersey are essential for this race. Firstly with a cycling jersey there’s three pockets at the back in which you can store your mandatory kit and grub. I see so many people carrying backpacks in races when you really do not need them. The Connemara Adventure Challenge is relatively short, you can bring your drink on your bike, you don’t need to be carrying any extra weight up hills. Prepare to get wet and mucky almost from the get go on the bog run, so the lycra cycling gear or similar which dries quickly is best.


Apart from the jersey and shorts, and depending on whether the weather is cold, I always wear a hat and gloves. Compression socks or sleeves are also a brilliant bit of kit which saves the calves from cramping on that final gradual incline up The Western Way.

Mandatory Kit


In the Connemara Adventure Challenge, you have to carry a little first aid kit, which is mandatory. It’s nearly always checked and trust me if you do enough races you will find yourself using them from time to time. The biggest bulk is the foil blanket, but I’ve shown my mandatory kit here, and its folds up to a tiny pack; I don’t even feel it in my back pocket when I’m moving along. A plaster, some steri strips, a whistle, blister patch, a wipe and some tape.


There’s tonnes of material on the internet about this subject so I’m just going to tell you what works for me and some of the good racers I’ve spoken to.

The week leading up to the Connemara Adventure Challenge, I avoid oily foods and eat pasta, salads with beetroot, lots of fruit and take chicken or turkey slices as my meat. I eat bananas like a monkey and take Magnesium tablets to reduce the likelihood of cramp.

I stay away from tea or coffee the week of the race, even though it’s hard to resist. I want my body starved of caffeine before a race, so when I do get some the morning of the race, I’m coiled like a spring.


With the race on Saturday, you should sipping electrolyte drinks from Thursday on. You can buy the little yukky dioralyte sachets in a pharmacy or more palatable ones in your sports or cycling store.

The morning of the race, I eat a small bowl of porridge with a shake of granola (yummy). I eat well in advance of my start time; if the wave goes off at 8.30am, I eat at 5.30am. It’s not so much what’s in your stomach the morning of the race which helps, it’s what you ate in the days leading up; they call it Carb Loading, which is posh for downing a truck load of pasta!

But one thing is for certain, if you arrive on the start time with a belly full of grub, you will suffer which cramps and stitches.

Drink plenty of water and isotonic drinks two to three hours before the start (you can have some electrolyte solution also) but stop at least one hour before the race. You don’t want be peeing like a racehorse 5km down the road with 500 people staring at you! It may sound a bit crude but if your pee is clear prior to the race it means you’re perfectly balanced in terms of electrolytes and much less likely to suffer for cramps.

During a race, eat regularly. There are a world of gels and power bars out there and different things help different individuals. I bring two or three gels and a few Jaffa Cakes. Yes I did say Jaffa Cakes, for me they are to adventure racing what solpadiene is to a hangover; priceless!

My Tool Box


This is a bit of a nothing, but it’s very handy if you’re a bit forgetful like me. I bought a little toolbox for €8 and use it for all my essentials. In there I have a tube of all my gels and bars, bottles of liquids, glasses, gloves, tape for holding me together, Vaseline (for the other tool box) to prevent the dreaded chaffe and deep heat if any of the muscles are slow to warm up.

And Finally

connemara adventure 2012Remember to enjoy the Connemara Adventure Challenge and think of it as a warm up for the ultimate test that is Gaelforce. Pace yourself on the first run, choose your bike carefully, and save some energy for getting over the Western Way at the end.

I look to seeing you at the finish line!




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GolfCentralDaily | Golf Parody Fun Gossip Jokes Betting Tips: Connemara Adventure Challenge 2013 Preview: May The Gaelforce Be With You!
Connemara Adventure Challenge 2013 Preview: May The Gaelforce Be With You!
GolfCentralDaily | Golf Parody Fun Gossip Jokes Betting Tips
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