The second annual Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race took place last weekend and having been one of the over 1,100 participants, it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular so quickly. The race starts at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, the traditional starting point for a jaunt up the Gap of Dunloe, but the cobwebs are quickly shaken off with an 8km run up Strickeen Mountain. Saturday turned out to be a stunning day but there was a still a chill in the air and mist in the valley when my wave got underway at about 9am – ideal conditions really.
After that it was on the bikes for what can only be described as one of the most beautiful cycle stages of any Irish adventure race but also amongst the most demanding thanks to a series of short but steep hill climbs. Amongst some of the stunning backdrops were the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley, Molls Gap, Ladies View, and the Lakes of Killarney.
Not surprisingly my legs were in shock after that 35km bike stage so I was more than happy that the kayaking on Lake Muckross seemed to be a fair bit shorter than the 1.5 km advertised. Next it was another hill run – a choice of going to the top of Torc waterfall or the longer trip to the Devil’s Punchbowl, 50 metres from the summit of Mangerton Mountain. I opted for the shorter route but regretted it later due to the narrowness of the path (lots of stopping and starting to let people coming down get past) and the steepness of the route.
A short bike stage brought us back to the finish Muckross House and the much needed hot tubs to ease the aching muscles.
The mens 67km race was won in a jaw dropping 3:33:54 by Tim O Donoghue who has dominated the Irish adventure racing scene this year with victories in two WAR events, Gaelforce West, Achill and Dingle. The top woman was Fiola Foley, the former rower turned multi-sport athlete who lives in Zurich and got around in 04:28:54.
With a great atmosphere, stunning scenery and top organisation, Killarney Adventure Race has firmly established itself on the calendar after just two years. Lots of people are already looking forward to October 2013.