Ellis Brigham Adventure Race Team took a fantastic 18th place overall at the Beast of Ballyhoura AR European Championships at the weekend.
Fifty of the best teams from all over Europe set out on a course that took in a beautiful area of Ireland around Limerick, involving trail running, orienteering, coasteering, MTB, trekking and scrambling. Team member Si sent us this race report.
"The race format was a managed score event over 72 hours - such that the checkpoints had to be collected in numerical order, with high penalties for being late. Early on it was very clear that clearing the course was impossible for even the strongest teams and so tactical planning was needed.
"The basic course was following the 1000-point checkpoints with optional checkpoints scoring between 60 and 1200 points. It made sense to ditch earlier optional checkpoints and stick to the plan.
"Our race started with a 20km trail run down to the river for a short paddle to Waterford. This was fast and furious before we were all cooled by the deep river mud coming above our knees. A quick urban orienteering followed and we were soon back out on the water with the wind increasing as we headed out in to the estuary. The waves increased in size and a decision was made to divert the racers to the bad weather option.
"A short trek took us to the swim, jump and coasteering section which was great fun., but we were glad to have decided to wear wetsuits rather than risk it in shorts and a top!
"It was then out into the night on the bike. Barbara and Ali were getting progressively sleepier and drifting off resulting in the necessity to grab 30 minutes' sleep under a bothy in a graveyard. After 40 winks we set out again and reached a viaduct in the middle of the night for a 30m free hanging abseil. This led to hike-a-biking through bog and moorland to the transition for the long trek stage.
"This range of mountains rarely sees walkers judging by the lack of tracks and through the day we contoured, climbed and descended 50km of rough bog, tussock and rocky terrain. Returning to transition there was an opportunity for an hour and half's sleep on the astroturf before getting back onto the bikes following the East Munster Trail over the Galtee Mountains.
"Climbing to over 900m these mountains were much more running friendly which helped our sore and swollen feet. Ali's navigation found some tracks to help avoid exacerbating teammates painful knees and blisters.
"A final cycle took the team over to the Ballyhoura mountain bike trails. We'd planned to ride the full trail and heading out at 10pm in the rain we were concerned about the need for sleep after just 2 hours in the last 60 of racing. However the trails we absolutely fabulous - some of the best I have ridden. At 51km the full circuit would be big day out but for us was one of the most enjoyable sections of a great race.
"All that was left was a 12km trek to the finish. At one point we needed to climb over an electric fence. Ali helped Rosemary over a wall to make sure she didn't fall into the charged wire, but at that point she reached out to push the fence down electrocuting both of them. In a reflex reaction Ali used his trekking poles to push the fence way to get electrocuted a second time - it certainly woke them both up for the finish!
"At the finish line the organisers were waiting with a beer (at 8am!) and our European Championship race was at an end. We had reached the finish stronger as a team than when we started out and had some amazing adventures along the way."
Learn more about the Ellis Brigham Adventure Race Team here.