Forever attempting to fill the vacuum of a former rugby life, has led to myself, and two former teammates entering random events that we are ill prepared and possibly ill-suited for. Undeterred by our Dragonsback massacre, this unabashed trio of Nick, Rick and a total dick (me) entered the Dingle Adventure Race 2023. on 10th June 2023. With the now traditional substandard prep of both a physical and logistical nature, we gallantly pulled all our gear together in the week leading up to the race, we combined a morbid fixation on healthy eating with and a binge of puncture repair YouTube videos.
With a last-minute debate over timings, I unilaterally agreed on a 6am pick up, so early the next morning we set off for South West Ireland with our bikes roped together, bags rammed in the van and the three of us crammed into the front seats for a delightfully long drive to essentially the furthest away we could get without leaving the Island of Ireland…. Not one to waste an opportunity, and to the joy of my road mates, I thought I’d pop into a couple of my Salomon customers to say hello and show them some of the cracking new samples due in the shops for 2024. Whilst this made sense for me it made an already long journey even longer, and it gave me the opportunity to prove to Nick that Irish roads are a million times better than in Northern Ireland or ‘Up the North’ if you prefer! This led to an impromptu game of spot the pothole, and led to an argument about what constituted a Pothole. Answers on a postcard please. At about 4pm we finally rolled into Dingle, slightly dishevelled and ready to ‘de-van.’ We sauntered about the beautiful town, found registration and met some fellow competitors, volunteers, and organisers. Straight away we commented on how warm and friendly everyone was which isn’t always the case at events. The organisers seemed genuinely happy to see us and were proper dead on, a refreshing contrast to the rigid regulations and prison guard mentalities we’ve encountered elsewhere.
Our accommodation was about 3K out the other side of Dingle. The Plough BnB in Ventra, a great spot, but unfortunately Rick swiftly nabbed the only single bed, leaving myself and Nick to snuggle in the double. That evening we got our bearings back in Dingle and basically tried not to give into temptation and hit the drink. We managed…just!
Race Day. Up at 6am again, to start the usual mayhem of trying to ram the essential kit into our bags, realising we had forgotten things or lost other things, the usual score. On the drive into Dingle, we enjoyed the overcast weather and grabbed some food, a toilet stop and hopped on the bike for the rolling start.
Off we set. The first leg was a 43K cycle round Dingle’s head land – Slea Head Drive. It was simply stunning, a winding road cut into the mountain overlooking the rolling Atlantic and Islands dotted off the coast, just a shame I couldn’t see much of it with the sweat in my eyes and fear of crashing into the bikes in front. Finally, I reached the first transition and realised Nick and Rick were nowhere to be seen so I popped on my amazing Salomon Genises trail running shoes and started the long march up to the peak of Mount Brandon. A quick google would show you some highly picturesque photos of the ascent, but due to the fog, visibility was low, and I could barely see 10 metres in front. I have been assured that behind the cloud curtain it was beaut. After passing about 14 crosses, the summit emerged from the cloud standing proudly at 952 metres, but I didn’t hang about.
I binged the wristband tracker and trotted off, feeling like Dorothy as I followed the yellow flag trail. About halfway down the sun burst out and instantly ramped up the sweat level, with the final 3K of the run back to the bike changing from trail to tarmac. The road was sticky, very warm and cramp tried to take me out, but not today I screamed, not today. I would later find out that Nick managed to get lost at this point of his race, which I have to say, fills me with joy. I mean, only Nick can get lost on a clearly marked road.
Back on the bike and a 9K road back to Dingle. Against the wind and up a long, steep hill at the start was a drag but things took a real turn for the positive when a Dungannon lad teamed with me, and we drafted with each other making easy work of the last cycle and bombed into the transition. I ditched the bike, then a short trot to hit the bay and sail a triangle on a double kayak. It was only 1K, but the water was choppy, and the current pulled across the kayak which made it tougher than expected, although I can’t complain, as it turned out nobody wanted to team up with Rick so the wee loner had to go it alone!
Off the kayak and a 1500 metre run (slow) into Dingle to claim my finishers medal and 39th place. Incidentally Nick eventually crawled over the line in 99th place and the wee loner in 147th.
Once we all finished, we had a dunk in the Atlantic and got tidied up and hit the town. Dingle was buzzing with all ages, and everyone was in great spirits, Dick Macks was the best pub we were in with good music and a generous beer garden. Lots of beer and food later we made it to midnight where the day’s activities finally caught up with Nick who insisted we went to bed.
The next day, up and away arriving back in Costa Del Bangor 7 hours later, once again looking a little dishevelled. To conclude, Dingle is a beautiful Irish coastal town, loads of great pubs and amazing scenery, well worth a visit. The race was perfect for us, not too crazy but a decent challenge and the people were great and finally Nick accepted that the roads in the South were much better than ‘Uppa North.’