Wicklow Adventure Race Glendalough
‘The Magnificent Seven’
Race report by Garrett Byrne

In a key scene in the iconic western that is the Magnificent Seven, Yul Brynner makes Chico take the ‘clap your hands\draw’ test and Chico doesn’t make the grade so he doesn’t become one of the Seven.  As I plodded up the Spink on the first leg of WAR Glenadalough (73km ‘Expert Course’ – woohoo !) I wondered would I make the grade this time as I tackled Brian Crinnion’s magnificent creation. Twice before I had tried to beat 5hrs for this race and twice I was humbled: WAR 2 – 0 GB.

Saturday 26th April dawned wet and windy and the duel with WAR Glendalough commenced afresh. 100 made their way up the steps for the 8 am start at Poulanass waterfall in the ‘Fast wave’. Another 120 would start at 8.20 making up the entire field for the ‘expert distance race’  - there were a few ‘no shows’ and a lot of DNFs as the results only show about 120 finishers but alas my name isn’t among them.  It was an epic day.

The first run went according to plan in a similar time to previous years and I couldn’t say I used too much energy up which was good. Slow on the descent compared to those more used to hillrunning but alas I don’t have the time to seek out hills to train on. First run took about 1hr 06 and I was off on the bike after about 3 mins of fustering around, unlike a triathlon all gear moves with you in an adventure race an I had forgotten my karabiner to clip runners on to my rucsack.

I was well at the back of the ‘fast wave’ as expected.The 15km gradual drag cycle route up to Loch Dan took just under 42 mins.I caught a handful of competitors which was good but I was conserving energy more than pushing it expecting a long day ahead of me. It started raining again but I didn’t stop to put my jacket on.

Arriving into Oldbridge it was good to see the transition zone was beside the lake this year thus removing the need to change from cycling shoes to trail runners to cover the 200 metres over the stony track from its old location. So I hopped off the bike and got my life jacket on and into the back of the kayak with a youngster in the front. Loch Dan is a giant ice cube in April and I voiced the ‘gameplan’ let’s not fall in. He agreed. The marshall said they were thinking of shortening the course (which they later did)  as conditions were worsening. Steering a tandem ‘sit-on’ kayak in a cross wind is not quite as bad as trying to control a canadian canoe but it is tricky enough. Each time I take part in an adventure race I know I can breathe more easily after the kayak leg is over. Falling in last Saturday would have resulted in a serious situation. Apart from trying to clamber back on and trying to right the kayak in freezing water you would then have to try finish the course and get to the transition zone where you are basically left to your own devices. There are no warm tents or soup and towels etc And of course a ‘fast’ time would be out the door assuming you could continue. In pre race planning and visualisation the kayak leg always preys on people’s minds.

We managed the kayak leg in under 22 incl transitions. The first leg of the triangular course was tricky enough but when we turned and got caught broadside by the wind it was ‘good manly stuff’. My hands were freezing and my soaking socks and shoes were beginning to chill me. The wind gusted so strongly that when the paddle blade was in the air I could feel it being caught such was the force of it. We weren’t making much headway across the lake and the wavelets were not fun ! Eventually we got into shelter on the far side of the lake for the return leg. Being blown into shallower water we then started to run aground ! At least if we capsized it would only be a small soaking ! And with the spray and sweat (thankfully no suncream, to flow off the forehead) as usual, I couldn’t see a thing and had to keep my eyes almost closed !

Eventually we reached ‘dry’ land.  In the bike park after the kayak there were scenes of mass shivering which I haven’t seen since the pre-wetsuit triathlon days. I even had to help a fellow competitor (male) fasten his cycle helmet: I kid you not he asked me to do it . Given that men never ask for help or directions this showed the seriousness of the situation.

Like a drowned rat I put on the remainder of my clothes and stuffed a power bar into my mouth. I hopped on the bike and was just about staying upright happy to spin the gears and try to and generate some warmth. I cycled out of Oldbridge (if you know the area you’ll know it’s very steep uphill). I even got off the bike again in an attempt to get the water out of my cycling shoes and to wring my socks out. This was rapidly turning into an episode of Bear Grylls: next I would obviously have to find a dead animal and start eating it.

So on I cycled passing other in similar states of shiver and felt some warmth come back into my body. My arms were shivering like I was holding a pneumatic drill tho and 20 minutes later as I approached the junction with the left turn up to pier gates and Luggala I knew I was in no shape for Djouce (the hardest and most exposed part of the course).  Another hour on an exposed mountain and then another fun hour cycle after that thru Sally Gap in the rain didn’t look like a good idea.  Don’t get me wrong I am a bit of  masochist  and one of my favourite days on the bike last year was in May when I had to get off the bike as I cycled through Sally gap and hide from hail and gusty winds- that day was an almost 6hr training ride solo in all sorts of weather but I was never ‘this’ cold. What I needed was a change of clothes and a towel and that just wasn’t a runner. I thought about the early part of the run in Djouce in the forest and wondered  would I warm up by then but doubted it so the decision to pack it in was made. Becoming a casualty on a mountainside would be ‘mortifying’. As Harry Callahan  observed, “A good man knows his limitations”.

By this stage it had started raining hard again. The marshall at the junction offered the refuge of his car and myself and another competitor gladly accpeted as ‘the van’ was summoned. In the back of the car I wrapped myself in my tinfoil sheet and shivered away. Vicky duly arrived in the van and the rescue was complete.

I suppose I was travelling ‘lightish’ and hoping to break 5 hours where as if I carried a bigger bag with more gear I would have been slower tho possibly warmer. Nevertheless, it was a resounding victory to WAR the scoreline now read  WAR 3 – GB 0 and my first DNF in 6 adventure races. To add insult to injury  the WAR website has a picture of me above the results ! Why oh why did they pick now !


There were a lot of DNFs and no shows. The duel was over. The result was resounding. The O’Byrne Clan are used to historic struggles in Co Wicklow. The family motto is ‘certavi et vici’ (I have struggled and conquered). No one ever conquers mountains tho………..