The Cavan Kayakarun Great Adventure Race gets underway from Gallonray House in Maudabawn tomorrow (Saturday), August 11. With a new course this year, reporter Thomas Lyons headed out with the team last month and attempted to paddle his own canoe (kayak) ahead of their big adventure race...
It’s just after eight o’clock. The sun is still high enough to trace a golden road across Barnagrow Lake. Children are splashing in the water a couple of metres from the shore.
“It’s all about having fun, being active, getting out and enjoying yourself,” Kieran Cosgrove’s enthusiasm for his hobby bubbles over as he explains what is going on that Wednesday evening.
Perhaps calling it a hobby is a disservice because it’s a passion, maybe even an obsession. He’s not the only who speaks with fervour about the Cavan Kayakarun.
John Joe Rogers guided me to the Lough. The townlands of Killyclare, Doohallet, Drumamuck all firnest the picturesque spot. For the last hour the origins of the event, the progress of the members and what the future holds have all been discussed. In that time the group swelled as participants put in training for the event on Saturday August 11.
It’s not correct to say Barnagrow is off the beaten path, it is just on a different path. That path has been followed by the occupants of over 30 vehicles crowding the carpark, clotting the verges and congesting a narrow road that leads to the watery haven.
John Joe is busy. He’s marshalling the activity. Clearly a man given to motion, today he is chatting and joshing while he coordinates the movement of people as they get into the lake in kayaks, canoes or just wetsuits. The social side of the Cavan Kayakarun is very much on show.
Michael Fitzpatrick put me in contact with John Joe. A committed athlete, he has represented Ireland in Iron man challenges and Duathlons.
“The Kayakrun is a multi-sport adventure race. Participants run or walk on the local roads, kayak and then cycling on tarmac suitable for any type of bike. It’s very achievable and the emphasis is on fun and participation,” John Joe and Kieran’s hymn sheet is practically identical.
The statement seems somewhat at odds with the single-minded dedication needed to compete in elite endurance competitions. Listing off the names of local athletes that compete at the highest level suggests there may be something in the water besides canoes.
The azure sky is contrasting with green fields that have retained lushness thanks to the many waterways in the area. Barnagrow is a perfect spot for an adventure race. For the committed competitor, it’s a tough challenge; for the more casual participant, it affords a wonderful setting to enjoy as they plod along.
Kieran believes that terrain plays a part in why they produce endurance athletes: “It makes you hardy, it produces hardy people and that hardiness is what is needed to compete at the highest level in endurance races.”
Though there are young people in training, many of those togged out are 30 plus: “In the main it’s not a young person’s sport. There are young people who take part but you find that you need a mental toughness and, in many cases, that comes with experience,” John Joe says.
Origins of the race
The 2018 run will be the ninth outing of the Kayakrun: “In May 2010 a group of friends were having a pint in Gallonray house Maudabawn. The lads and lassies put their heads together and decided they would create a fun event to give people in the local community a lift and an active focus for the summer. Everyone had an interest in sport, more friends were contacted and the Cavan Kayakarun was born.
“Initially it was meant for that group of friends, but the first Adventure Race had 250 people from 16 to 80 years of age take part. There were 350 in 2011 and over 400 enjoyed the event on a sunny Saturday in 2012. It has evened out a bit since then, but people still come back every year,” John Joe said of the progress of the event.
New course for 2018
The 2018 race has a new course for each of the three categories. Designed by Cavan Kayakarun Irish National Adventure Race Champions, Kieran Cosgrove, Dessie Duffy and Killian Heery, it offers a challenge for any level of contender from beginners, experienced or juniors.
Adventure is not too big a word to describe the experience of cycling through the drumlins of east Cavan, paddling a kayak around the crannógs of the Barnagrow lake and the breathtaking scenery runners observe as they traverse the quiet roads and trails.
“The Kayakarun aims to get people of all ages and levels of fitness involved in sporting outdoor activity. It’s about achieving a goal by finishing the circuit and enjoying the experience of crossing the finish line at the end. We provide a safe, friendly environment, where all the family can enjoy the day. Every participant is a winner,” Kieran explained.
“When you come around the ‘Pepper’s Brae’ in Doohallet you know you’ve been challenged. You will get people who did the cycle part of it on mountain bikes, I have the greatest respect for them. It’s a testing course, but for the fun runners the distance is not excessive,” he says of the course.
When both John Joe and Kieran talk about competing, the passion fizzes. This community they are part of is the bones, but competition is the meat for both. Kieran talks about the thrill of weighing up a fellow racer, of knowing “when you have him”, that moment you get the better of an opponent.
For him, it is more than a casual love affair. John Joe says one of the attractions is that it’s free to come and train at the lake. The club is not making profit but sustaining itself.
For the obsessed, the cost is a bit higher. Top of the range canoes cost €2,000, one particularly fancy bicycle on the shore with no obvious bell or whistle cost over €5,000. Then there’s the training camps.
“A group went to Totana Spain for altitude training. Most of the cycle team stayed in that area to train. When you come back from Spain you are on fire,” Kieran says of the holiday that’s not really a holiday, “You get what you get from it.”
That’s when the thrill reaches it’s zenith. For most of the crew at Barnagrow that evening it’s a different story. They are eager that anyone with an interest should come along: “Every Wednesday night there will be a ball of canoes here. People can just put on their life jackets, get in and away they go. Having said that safety is a big thing, we all look out for each other, we show you what to do and make sure you are okay,” John Joe says.
The evening unfolds with stories of the hardship of the committed athlete. Running with fractures, bike spills that dislocate shoulders, getting sick and keeping moving. Single minded, but as the sun sets over the drumlins around Barnagrow lake, you can see there’s more to it that competition.
Chats, laughter and mugs of tea in hand, this gathering is a community - people with a common love, a love of movement. The pace of that movement spans a particularly broad range, but everyone from the slowest to the fastest will be looking forward to August 11 when they compete against each other and themselves.
For more information on tomorrow's race, click here.