The Race 2016 – Ireland’s Ultimate Endurance Race 250k in under 24 hours
The race training started for me in May 2015 , I had ten months to prepare for the 250k race, I was never much of a cyclist I spent most of my time in the Altantic surfing, I could tell you everything about a surfboard fluid dynamics of different surfboards but a bike? I would panic if I had to change a flat. fortunately I had ten months on the saddle and I gained alot of experience road biking and mountain biking when the winter storms decided to batter us. The training was relentless , Monday long run , Tuesday run with kettle bell sess in Big D’s kettlebell club,Wednesday brick session, Thursday interval training or hills , Friday easy session and Saturday 5hour plus bike, Sunday rest, and repeat will variable volumes. Just to give you an insight. My whole life revolved around this one event.
The morning of the race
The morning of the race I didn’t get much sleep one or two hours and I woke at 3.30am in a cold sweat shaking at the side of the bed, yep the nerves had arrived… I remember thinking to myself this is crazy Luke why you doing this to yourself, my fiancé Rachael drove me to gartan and toe to the start line for 5am, no backing out now.
Head torch on Bang that’s the start of Race2016 here we go into the dark towards Ramelton for our first half marathon, nice hailstone shower to take the mind of the nerves, everyone was relaxing into the run and it was great to get talking to other competitors and hear their story and watching the odd head torch darting over a farmers gate. Got to Ramelton hall in 2hrs 9min, easy steady pace to get things going. Next up kayak from Ramelton to Rathmullan 15k
This was my strong stage I noticed right away people were struggling with the low tide and cold water, head down smooth,steady and glide that kayak without wasting to much energy , around the the corner at seal rock and into the open Lough Swilly, lovely a tight North wind in our face a hour and half kayak became two hours kayak,
I was glad to see the local rathmullan support when I came in, by the time I got from the slip way to T2 my teeth were rattling and the cold was getting into the core, getting changed in the lorry there was a lot of competitors falling victim to hyperthermia including myself, change quick I thought !!
Once I was in my cycling gear and got feeling back to my hands and walked towards my bike it was great having all the local support shout you on but in my head I knew I had a five hour cycle ahead of me to Muckish and my training buddy Damian was just out of the water, Rachael came up to me and said these word “harden up and get on that saddle” I’ll never forget it, spirits were high again and by the time I got out to Kinnegar beach the body had come to life and the blood was pumping. First stop Knockalla, Fanad , Blaney bridge , Atlantic drive the home training ground you could say. Lough Salt….. I’ve had nightmares of this place, I don’t think anybody in there right mind to feels the need to cycle up it. That was my last time I will ever cycle up never to be repeate.
Climbing up Muckish
Eventually i was on the the last climb up to the base of Muckish four 500ml bottles gone and alot a food in, good stuff i thought well hydrated and not hungry, on the last 200m of the bike my mum and dad, Hugo and Ruth were there shouting me up the last few peddles, i wasn’t expecting them to be there at all and this really boosted my morale and i dug deep 98k of donegal hills done.
Got off the bike and my hip and IT band felt funny, shake it off i thought, grabbed my transition box and got ready for the Muckish climb, My coach Michael wasnt best pleased at my faffing about in this transition, my head was gone with it. The simple things like putting on left shoe, right shoe was mind boggling, someone put me in slow motion. Up i got and off i went, luckily enough my brother Hugo was there to give me a few words of advice and show me the first flag on the route up muckish. Lets dance muckish!!
On the way down of muckish i slipped and hurt my dodgey hip, dammit.. In serious pain with my left leg i met brother surfer and local journalist Eamon who tool the photo above, my face says all. I was in a bad way never mind mentally and i thought my race was over.
76k Cycle Stage
Back into transition mucky gear off and into fresh cycling gear, its the simple things like dry socks that can change your mood, chocolate protein and a few painkillers down the hatch and ready for the next 76k cycle over bloodyforelands, dungloe to Doochary. My plan was work the bike hard which will give me 8 or so hours to hobble the dodgey leg through the last marathon. Sounded normal enough in my head at the time.
I was feeling surprisingly good, really good, i always heard stories in ultra books about people getting stronger as the day goes on, maybe all them 7am cycles on Saturday morning for hours were starting to pay off, I knew my family were worried and Rachael had no nails left. We were on hour 11 now heading over Bloodyforelands and the legs were strong, eat drink spin. Eat drink spin! Slan go fhoil forlands,Bunbeg, Gweedore then i took a left up past a quarry before Crolly, big hills in the middle of nowhere and i met a friend Aidan Spence marshalling up by a lake at 190k marker. He took this picture below,
It was getting dark and i wanted off these back roads asap. It was dark now and i met a crossfitter from Galway called Ronan making himself a sandwich by the side of the road, we joined forces and cycled and hour through the night till we got to Doochary. Flying down that corkscrew into Doochary village was a great relief, if anyone wanted a bike they would have gotten a free one off me. “take it with ya i dont want to see it ever again”
Last transition alot of food and a bit of stretching trying to get the gluets firing and rolling a sliotar into my hip hoping it to release the IT band a bit for the marathon, Ronan made a joke ” so thats what yous use sliotars up here for”.
The Marathon Stage
Quick selfie and kiss with Rachael and few words of encouragement and off i went on my first EVER marathon. At the top of the Bridle path in glenveagh national park 14k into marathon at a water station, think we were talking about the McGregor Diaz fight on in a few hours time. 10pm and 17 hours into the Race now, My plans was to finish the race in 20hours but the hip injury was killing so i just accepted the fact it was going to be a long night until i get to the finish line, blisters started appearing when i got to glenveagh castle because i was over compensating on one leg. Crazy things go through you head up through the dark, you could easy lose the plot and pull the pin. I met some competitors on that trial that looked like zombies and they were on the edge. Its crazy what the body can take.
the finish line
3am alot of support from my crazy family The Dalys got me over the finish line in 22hrs with two hours to spare. The emotions crossing that finish line was overwhelming, a rush of joy and adrenaline. People keep asking me will i do TheRace again? The answer is No i have my medal in my pocket and am happy. There is talk about an Ironman in a well known warmer climate Michael Black!?
Massive thank you to my family and friends i couldnt have done it without them. My fiancé Rachael for sticking up with me through training and life in general. My coach Michael Black Optimal Fitness for his training plans and advise. Also my sponsor’s Kearnans Spar, Belles kitchen Rathmullan, White harte bar Rathmullan.