[CLEC (Carlingford Endurance Challenge) 6th July 2011.]

From the offset, I should state that I’m not built for speed, nor swimming, but I am good at picking races which inflict a lot of pain upon myself.
In every sporting discipline there comes a point, at some stage in a race or event, or even a particularly gruelling training session, where he / she considers stopping, even giving up. It’s the dreaded “Wall” at around the 32k mark in a marathon. This is the point where the flesh weakens, the spirit sag’s and the will drains away into a little puddle on the ground. Legs turn to jelly and breath comes in short, gasping gulps. There is probably nothing as feared, or misunderstood, as this inner barrier where the unprepared run out of steam and can go no further. In Carlingford I hit this point hard at the 3-5km mark our first major hill climb which we had to walk. “It’s all in the head, I love hills and I don’t quit” these are a few self-motivation quotes I used to get me through my dark times on Saturday and I relied on them heavily. After Saturday Stephen Teeling Lynch can slag me calling me “Captain” or even “President “of The All Talk Team. But I didn’t quit, even though at various points in the day I so deeply wanted to.
CLEC was set high on my list of events fort this year. And one of my goals for this season was to bring a strong team up to Carlingford in order to give the top Male and Female teams a bit of serious competition this year, and also to celebrate my 10th year finishing the CLEC. 
Joe O’Connor from Nisus Fitness Tralee got the first call up. Joe’s a complete legend and a good friend who has completed the CLEC with me for the majority of the 10 years. This year was a bit different for Joe as imminent arrival of his first born was too close for to the CLEC, but we said it would still be manageable. This was until he received instructions/orders from the doctor and his wife Tina not to leave Tralee.  So are 3 man team sadly became a 2 man team.
Stephen Teeling Lynch, well he’s good at swimming, road biking and running, and generally an around good guy. So truth be told and as good a friend and comrade as he is, I wanted to break him or take him down a level or two, and show him that he still is human. What better event to humble a man than the CLEC, or so I thought.
I introduced Stephen to the great world of mountain biking. It was not long before the student caught up with the coach, and now Stephen has become very capable on the mountain bike.  He now can take me on the uphill battles, but I can still catch him on the downhill sections. I suggested the CLEC to Stephen in the cold, frozen, snow covered hills of Ballyhoura early in January, where I knew he could only give me the correct answer – Yes.
This year at the CLEC the legend that is Johnny McCabe added a number of new racing categories.  The one that suited us was the two-man mountain bike category. Traditionally the CLEC is a three person (all male / female or mixed).
The CLEC is an extraordinary race set in the beautiful surrounds of Carlingford Lough and the Cooley Mountains, Co. Louth. “Yes Stephen we are still in the south no need for the passport”. Just one of the rememberable quotes from the weekend. The race is a 9.5km ish road, fire road and mountain run, 17 km mountain bike fire road and road to a 3km summit run/walk/crawl back on to your mountain bike by road for 4km to the third run/walk/crawl another 2km summit run. After the final submit run your back into your mountain bike and commence a tough climb along the cross country trails of the Cooley’s for another 9km. After the tough bar chowing climb along the famine road you descent into Carlingford village and back to transition at the sailing club. The bikes are dropped and you move on to a 2km kayak and finally out of the cold muscle cramping sea water to finish this pleasurable race with a 2km road run around the castle and streets of Carlingford.  Bord failte couldn’t compose such an attractive appealing description of this race. The course details are below.
Now let the excuses begin: I state them in order to help better prepare other athletes with their endurance race preparation, and not to fulfil my role as captain of the All Talk Team.
Race preparation – Make sure that all your equipment is in working other the week before, the days before, as finding out on the morning of the event means curtains. As I off loaded my bike I found that my back hydraulic brakes were leaking hence I now had no back brakes for the day. Some (Stephen) might say I didn’t need a back brake as I didn’t go fast enough. Also the zip on my back pack broke on the morning of the race so I had to make do with an old one which I couldn’t access gels, food etc. from without taken off.
This one is the common error but you do sometimes think your super-human and not affect you. DO NOT USE GELS THAT YOU HAVE NOT TRAINED WITH. The gels I used were not the normal ones I use, and due to me being too busy, or lazy the days leading up to the race I didn’t get them. In the past I found that the power bars suit me better than the gels but remembering this in the middle of a race is way too late, hence the stomach cramps after about the first hour.
Familiarisation: Know the course. Get to registration early. Find a map, and start asking questions. Is there water stations? Can I refill at any point on the course? Is there any food? Do I need a second pair of runners, can I leave a pair at the start of the running section so I don’t have to carry them, can I have the emergency contact number (because you never know) etc. Stephen didn’t take a second pair of runners so my pair for after the race was sacrificed, so muggins here was left bare footed after the race until I could source a pair. So I reiterate a valuable lesson from Joe O’Connor (who might have borrowed it from Lord Baden Powell) “fail to prepare, be prepare to fail”. So true, oh wise one.
Training or the lack of – for me this was one of my own personal disappointments. My wife Michelle tells me every year that she is sick of hearing me say “next year I am going to train and be fit enough not to disappoint Joe” with my lack of fitness and give the CLEC everything. To be honest, neither Joe nor Stephen spoke to me about this realisation. It’s more a friend’s loyalty to them, as they both are to be fair “fitness freaks”. Ok I am not unfit; I have a reasonable standard of fitness based on my own personal assessment. But I just wanted so much to lift the standard that bit, to push myself the bit harder and release that inner beast and finish the CLEC knowing that I pushed my fellow team mates to the limit. I didn’t want to win the CLEC this year but privately I really didn’t want to let my team mates down which was one of my goals this year. Also Michelle does not have to remind me of what I say every year. This year I felt that I let Stephen down as he has dragging me out to train during the winter months and helped me out a lot in his own way over the last few months. Ok I am hard on myself but after all this was my 10th year doing this race and I should know at this stage what I need to do. Training was good at the start of the year with a PB for a 10km but like a lot of guys that train for an Ironman tell you the hardest thing is to get to the starting line. I sustained a calf injury in April which stopped all training plans. I got in 2 weeks of training before the Hell of the West and another two between the CLEC. So at the moment I am balancing my disappointment with the reality that 3 months without training cannot be turned back in 4 weeks.
I could continue here with the race description of my calves cramping, quads cramping, looking at Stephens back for the majority of the race and him waiting for me. Also looking at the other negative mental side of the race which mostly consisted of me asking myself “Ciaran can you explain why you do this to yourself?” I’m still trying to find a good answer!
What draws me back to the Cooleys mountains every year? For me its to meet up with my family the night before the race, stressing my mam out with a few faces into her house to feed, meeting my old friends from Dundalk and Cooley, the slagging that only friends can give in a good hearted “hey Gally are you stuck in reverse”, responded with the two fingers cause I was too feicked for anything else. Also to re-kindle old friendships from the rugby pitch. Thanks for the cola Paul aka “Baby Whately”, as he was once known as, because he was the youngest on our team, and as captain I issued instructions that he was to be “looked after”, and he was. It was Pauls turn to look after me. Paul was also suffering but passed me when I had stopped the only time for a break thinking about the can of coke I had in my jeep and working out in my head how to get at it. Paul handed me his bottle with a mouth full of coke in it which was enough to awaken the body and get me moving again.
Once I got to the top of the famine road and looked down into Carlingford it’s the first chance to assure yourself that you are going to make it. I also entered the most enjoyable sections for me, the downhill mountain bike and kayak section. Downhill is a bit technical and very fast. It’s more fun with no back brakes. I got close to completing this section cleanly and being on Stephen back wheel but as I passed down a narrow trail between a hedge and stone wall. I was going too fast. My front wheel hit a large stone which caused a bit of a speed wobble, and I crushed into the wall. I was very lucky and got off lightly with only a few scratches but the worst thing was that I ripped my favourite t-shirt.
Thankfully I came into my own on the kayak as I was able to push and give it everything. I couldn’t cry or open my mouth about my cramping legs to Stephen as this was one element of the race which I was able to push and help him out. I nearly got away with it until Stephen had to help me out of the boat at the end as I couldn’t bend my legs and pull myself up out of the boat. If anyone wants to make money on funny videos well next year record people getting out of the Kayak and starting into their run. It hard to describe the feeling running out from the kayak but imagine cramped legs, so you can’t bend your knees and tired muscles that don’t want to move. Running was more of a waggle from side to side until a about halfway into the 2km run and then it was a push through to the finished line. Finishing time a long 5 hours and 36 minutes the seconds don’t really matter.
At the finish line I thanked Stephen for completing the race with me but I unfortunately followed it with an apology for my fitness level and having to wait for me all day. Stephen was delighted to have completed the race as it was written all over his smile at the finish line. This smile was I believe a combination of the race finishing but also his realisation that he is back, able to complete a long race without injury. I reckon Stephen now has a taste for this type of race. We should see a good result from him in the upcoming Lough Derg Monster as a single competitor, not a team.  The positives which I have gained after the race: ok my quads are sore, I hate the stairs right now, but my calf has held up with no major side effects to date. I think its time to register for the Lough Derg Monster, 2 weeks to recover, rock on…………..
Currently the position for the Captain of the All Talk Team is open for a suitable candidate. The candidate must be able to build him or herself up with exciting levels of enthusiasm, but can never back up anything, he or she says in their chosen sport. The more realistic the all talk, followed by an extreme lack of action = the more successfully the applicant will be. …..please forward your application to info@gotri.ie.
Finally well done to my wife, Michelle who finished the Tarmac CLEC (10k – longer option) in 3 hours 15 minutes of sheer torture after which she sort it in her heart to buy sandwiches for us and cleaned our mountain bikes after the race. She is my legend.


Carlingford – Clec report : Part 2

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