The 2013 Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race, #2, Ireland

By Dave Sherman

The Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race was held on Saturday 5th October, 2013. There were 3 distances to choose from; a 27km route, a 59km and a 69km, all involving a mix of trail running, cycling and kayaking. We chose the 69km.

For years I’d planned to visit Ireland but even though it’s only just over an hour flight from London I’d never gotten round to it, so when I was invited to take part in the Killarney Adventure Race I jumped at the chance. The website promised a “route that is both challenging and inspiring with rugged landscape and breath taking scenery” and having completed a few marathons and a 100 mile bike ride, even though Dave suggested we went for the maximum challenge of 69km, I thought how hard can a 25.5km run and a 39km bike ride be – even with a few hills and a short Kayak thrown in for good measure?! Talk about taking naivety to a new level…

I’ve often heard Ireland described as the ‘Emerald Isle’ and on arrival at Cork airport I was amazed at just how green and beautiful the place really was, and how much pride the Irish have in their country. Posters throughout the airport showcased ‘The Gathering 2013’, a series of events and festivals to celebrate Irish culture, history and genealogy, and we were made to feel welcome by everyone we met from hotel staff to locals throughout the weekend. During our visit we were also able to visit a local farm and a few Irish bars and the local residents really did their country proud and made us feel truly welcome throughout our entire stay.

I always look out for 3 things in a major event; good organisation, clear instructions and decent post-race goodies and yet again, Helly Hansen didn’t disappoint with all 3 in abundance throughout the weekend. From the moment we registered at the INEC centre in Killarney the meticulous organisation was obvious, and from picking up our race numbers to organising our rental bikes we were given clear instructions about how the event would happen (i.e. start times, where we would be picked up by the coach etc…), which meant on race day itself all we had to do was be at the pick-up point with our gear at the right time. The post-event area included tents and food stalls with a voucher for a hot meal included in the registration pack and a free massage and Japanese hot tubs just after the finish line. The race pack also included a voucher for a free beer at the evening prize-giving/after-party but while in Ireland we felt it was only right to check out more of the local scenery with an Irish pub-crawl, and again the welcoming nature of the local residents shone throughout an excellent evening.

The event itself was much tougher than I could’ve ever imagined… In my head I’d looked at the distances and talked it down to myself but the route actually involved 7.5km up and down Strickeen mountain, 35km cycling through rolling valleys and hills, a 1.5km Kayak through choppy waters, 18km up and down the tallest mountain of the Mangerton range with a final 4km cycle sprint towards the finish line and to be honest, although it was tough and challenging, the breath-taking views – and they truly were ‘oh wow’ full-on breath-taking – really did make it all worthwhile. I’m sure Dave’s video will give you a taster but this really is one of those experiences you need to do for yourself to feel just how awesome the views are yourself! Helly Hansen also offer 27km and 59km distances, but only the 69km route includes the Mangerton mountain climb with the Torc waterfall at its base and the Devils Punchbowl at its peak – a loch filled with crystal clear waters which were a welcome drink after the tough never-ending climb – and the view from the top really was outstanding and a truly rewarding experience which will stay with me long after the medal has tarnished, so if you feel you could give the longer distance a shot, don’t miss out.

Killarney was my first Adventure Race and although at times it felt like I was pushing myself to the limits of my fitness, it really was an amazing experience in an area of outstanding natural beauty and has opened my eyes to what an amazing holiday destination Ireland is. I can’t wait to visit again!

To discover more about the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure race, please visit http://www.killarneyadventurerace.ie/

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