Now in its second year, the Westport Sea2Summit is an adventure race based in beautiful County Mayo, Ireland. Not for the faint hearted it includes running both on the road and along the beach, climbing up and down a mountain, cycling up some tough hills and there’s even an obstacle course thrown in for good measure. Kim Ingleby travelled to Ireland to report on this unique event.
There are two distances available and a last minute switch saw me decide to tackle the Supreme rather than the Sprint. The briefing was held with lots of nervous chatter rippling through the room, as race Director Paul O’Brien wished us all lots of luck and good fun.
The race was fully booked with 1000 competitors and had organisation of an event that had been happening for many years. What struck me most was there were people of all ages shapes and sizes, men and women taking part. The race organisers were so helpful and efficient, relaxed and onfident boosting. Whatever your level, you were made to feel it was possible to complete it as long as you paced yourself.
A key feature of the race is Croagh Patrick (locally known as The Reek), one of the most famous mountains in reland where St Patrick climbed in 441AD and prayed for 40 days of Lent. Every July sees over 30,000 pilgrims climb the mountain, barefoot.
Now, in November it sees 1,000 adventure racers climb it! We began with a 4.5km run down to the sea front through the town, up a few hills and down to collect your bike.
You could sense the anticipation and nerves as we all ran together, a few people talking and others looking very focused. A short, mainly flat 8km bike to the base of The Reek followed. After changing back into trainers the climb began to the top of the mountain.
The Spirit Race goes to a plateau on the way up, then comes back down – it is still a pretty tough climb and definitely requires some training and skill. The Supreme Race carries on around the corner, where you can jog or a few hundred yards and then are faced with a steep boulder field with a tiny ‘path’ up.
Now some people were obviously experts as they ran up and down with the ease of a gazelle and the familiarity of a mountain goat! I did not display this expertise in my skills or breathing! However, strength and core work definitely paid dividend for balance and control and I made it to the top.
The views were breath taking; a few photos were taken, a NaKD bar munched and then the decent. I was not skilled with this! Boulders just seemed to fall away beneath me. A friendly lad shouted, “dig your heels in, lean back and go for it.” I am sure with practise this works, as he demonstrated.
To me it seemed like the edge of the mountain was quite close, and rather a sharp descent! Anyway, I made it down and whilst it was a massive challenge and my thighs were burning, I was so glad I was doing this race, as I was loving it.
Once at the bottom it was bike shoes on and off on to the 35km bike leg. I had been warned that there were some “cheeky wee hills out there”, but after the first 10km you’ll be fine. I was excited, the views were stunning, the support from the other competitors amazing and I just wanted to get to these hills. And then around the corner they appeared!
They were evil little short sharp hills which consistently kept coming, just when you thought you had done the last one. After what felt like forever I made it to the last hill, and whizzed on. The next stage of the bike was a rolling, beautiful route into Westport where we could look back on the mountains we had climbed. I smiled – this race was FUN! Sport jelly beans, peanut butter bar and TORQ electrolyte taken on board to re energise I whizzed along.
The final stage was a 3km sea run – I was really hoping the tide was out and I think everyone was blessed with this. So it was a sandy, rocky run but no sea – definitely a blessing if you are short of training and feeling a little tired. I then arrived at the obstacle course where leaping over hay bales was the norm. It was kind of a break in a funny way! After the obstacle course, there was only 4km left and at this point there was much less banter going on. People were focused on getting to the finish now. I actually love running off the bike so enjoyed the last stretch to the finish line. When you finish here is sports massage, bananas, flapjacks and delicious homemade soup and bread.
I bounded across the finish line to be given my medal and asked by the organiser if I was glad I had changed to the Supreme Event and come to Ireland do the race.
Firstly I was surprised he remembered me as there were 1000 competitors, and secondly my answer was, of course, “YES!” This race, if you like outdoor beauty, challenges, a mixture of different disciplines and wild weather is perfect. It’s so well organised with wonderful people and a brilliant race. And it turns out I finished in the top five women in the Supreme Race, speechless comes to mind!
Exceptionally well organised with great local support and helpful marshalls
Quick and easy to register with good kit to buy if you don’t have everything
Super friendly event – organisers, hotel staff, other competitors, locals – everyone!
Great fun, challenging and varied
Stunning views from the ‘The Reek’
Westport is a lovely town to be based in
We were lucky with the weather, but a really windy, wet November day could make it much more challenging so be prepared!
Better kit lists could be provided before the event to help you know what to take
Want to give it a go?
Next year’s race will take place in November with the date still to be confirmed.
More info: www.westportsea2summit.ie
Fly: We flew with Air Lingus from Bristol to Shannon.
Drive: We hired a car with Budget Car and drove from Shannon to Westport, journey time 2hrs 35mins.
Stay: We stayed in the Westport Plaza Hotel (www.westportplazahotel.ie ). This is the sister hotel to the Castle Court Hotel which hosts the Sea2Summit race, registration and after event party. Both hotels have full gym, spa and sauna facilities, bar and restaurants.
With thanks to Tourist Ireland www.tourismireland.com