There is a saying in Ireland that goes, “if your lucky enough to be in Ireland than your lucky enough”. I can speak to this on many levels. This month I had the opportunity of going out to Ireland and participating in Race to Kinvara.
Race to Kinvara is a two-day, 170 km. relay race that traverses the beautiful country of Ireland. It is an Saucony sponsored event in which 10 teams from around world battle it out for world dominance (or just run have a good time and drink a lot).
Before coming to Ireland all participants were seeded into teams based upon country and other factors. There were a total of 9 runners on each team that could split the legs of the race up as they so desired. Out of a total of four USA teams I was seeded onto Team Grey. Alongside Team Red, Blue, and White, Team Grey was destined to be the dark horse of the group. Our team color didn’t even show up on the flag! This pattern of being the dark horse would continue throughout the week. We appropriately named our team 9 shades of Grey.
The first day was the longest of the two days with 100km and 14 legs being traversed. Our team was stacked with some real workhorses including a runner who has broken 4 min. in the mile and another looking to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon. The night before we had all agreed that we didn’t care about our place we were just looking to “have fun”. As day one rolled around and we held a firmly in first place after the first leg the consensus of the group quickly became that being competitive was going to be our way of having fun.
Through the first four legs we blitzed the rest of the field and had a comfortable 8 min. lead on the next closest team going into leg five. Accompanying us through the entire relay was a motorcyclist who had the job of making certain that we follow the right course. Unfortunately all the Guinness from the night before must have been on our motorcyclist’s mind because he forgot to direct our fifth runner to a turn. She ended up running a mile and a half in the opposite direction and our team lost 18 min. and relinquished the lead. Sitting in roughly sixth place now we felt as though our chances of winning had vanished.
Along with our team of 9 runners we also had an enthusiastic Irish native named Adrian who was in charge of driving our bus and getting us to and from each checkpoint. After losing our lead over such and unfortunate mishap Adrian was more fired up about the prospect of losing than most of our team had been. After seeing the passion our driver had for our team we regrouped and decided that 9 Shades of Grey would not be put down that easily!
The rest of Day One brought with it a typical Irish downpour and what seemed like a never-ending stream of rolling hills. As the legs ticked off our team was able to battle back and make up ground with each leg. Leg 14 brought with it the end of Day One. With that Team Grey was able to climb back up the rankings to 2nd place behind USA Team Red.
Additionally to the beautiful Irish countryside and amazing team members, one of the most impressive parts of the trip was how accommodating Saucony made the trip. Waiting for our team at the finish line was a row of massage tables, food, and of course beer. After having run two legs that day there was some much needed time spent in each category. Throughout the entire trip it showed how apparent it was that Saucony went the extra mile to make this trip a once in a life time experience. The course and race logistics were extremely well put together, the food we ate was exquisite, and the memories made will last a lifetime.
Day Two of Race to Kinvara featured a shorter overall day but with longer legs. The day started by all the teams making a two-hour drive to the famous Cliffs of Mohr. On the way there our convoy stopped to fill up on some gas. As other teams were pulling out of the gas station our driver met us to inform us he had mistakenly filled the diesel van with gas. We just could not catch a break. The bus could not continue until its tanks were drained which we found out would not be happening anytime soon. We were forced to split our team up and join different vans in order to keep going.
Before starting the race on the second day we were able to stop at the Cliffs of Mohr and take in the vast beauty that they held.
On an extremely windy day we would start day two near the cliffs and finish in Kinvara. The entire day was constant changing of positioning amongst the top few teams. We had started out 3 min. down to the first place team so were aware of the time we must make up. The end of the first leg brought with it another hurdle.
After losing our old driver to the differences of gas and diesel we were given a new bus and a new driver. This driver was unaware of the location of the next relay exchange and we proceeded to get lost. Again. Luckily Saucony was gracious enough to give us back any time that we lost this time.
With the stages being longer on Day Two, our team was able to take in more of the Irish coast and all the beauty it held. As our team was preparing to get back on the bus to move to our next relay exchange we heard a distant honking noise. As we look over we see our old driver Adrian cheering as he drives up to meet us. He then explained how he himself sucked all the gas out of his tank so he could be able to finish the race with us. With 5 stages left on the day we had our team back together.
The rest of the stages were a battle amongst the leaders but by days end we were able to run through the finish together, as a team, and were the first to cross the line. Every obstacle we faced and overcame grew us closer as a team and furthered our Irish adventure.
As our adventure came to a close it was easy to look back on it with a smile. Friends, memories, and good times were created in truckloads. The standings ended up with a USA sweep at the top of the leaderboard with the oddest of the bunch, Team USA Grey, taking the top spot. I would like to send out a huge thank you to Saucony for making this trip possible. It was truly a unforgettable trip with and unforgettable set of people.