Race to Kinvara
[Editor’s Note: Our staff member Dylan Dougherty won a trip to Ireland to run in Saucony’s Race to Kinvara in summer 2015. This 200-kilometer coast-to-coast relay race pitted teams of running-specialty staff from around the world against each other. Dylan ran for Team USA Red. They completed the course from Dublin to Galway Bay in two days. Here's his account.]
For the Win?
Arrival In Ireland: July 16, 2015
Hey everyone! Just landed in Dublin for the Saucony Race to Kinvara Relay! We are going to run 200 km across the Irish countryside from Dublin to Kilkenny (day one) and then Cliffs of Moher to Galway Bay and Kinvara (day 2.) We have eight-person teams (I have met most of my team—we are all scattered from around the US) and 22 legs to split up between us.
The thing that makes this run super exciting and unique is that Saucony controls everything—you can’t pay to enter the race!
The travel to get to Ireland was probably the hardest part of this entire trip. I missed my first bus on the way to the airport, which was okay because I planned time for that. Once I made it to the airport and literally seconds away from taking off, we got a delay from New York saying the weather would be too bad when we landed. I only had a 2 hour layover planned, so I started to grow kind of anxious.
We landed at JFK and I sort of racewalked (can’t promise I kept one foot grounded at all times) to the shuttle to take me to the right terminal and then to the gate. I showed up with about 5 minutes to spare. Once I was on this plane all worries were gone.
I landed in Dublin at 10 AM (2 AM Portland time…gross) and was promptly greeted by a team of Saucony employees wearing bright high-viz clothing.
We were shuttled to this amazing resort/hotel called CityWest about 20 minutes out of Dublin center. I received a ton of cool race to Kinvara branded Saucony clothing and accessories, and am now awaiting a shuttle into Dublin to tour the Guinness factory and establish our team plan.
From what I hear, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Germans, which sounds like a good challenge to me. Anyway, I’ll update tomorrow with pictures from the course and the castle we get to stay in!
Race Day: July 17, 2015
We were up at out the door of our hotel by 8 AM after a nice breakfast. We bussed to Stage One with our teams and were presented with an awesome starting line on the edge of a lake.
We took a lot of team photos, and I ran a couple warmup laps with my teammate who was doing Leg One. I was Leg Two, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to loosen up a little.
The runners went off, and right from the start you could tell all the first runners were pretty quick. We were originally told it wouldn’t be too competitive, but the top five teams are actually all within 5 minutes of each other going into the second day of racing.
Anyways, we got to the first transition (in our very comfortable Mercedes travel bus), and we waited for about 5 minutes as teams came by before it was my turn.
I volunteered to only run one leg for the day so everyone could get what they wanted. Hence I took one of the hardest ones. It was 5.4 miles with 125 meters (just over 400 feet) in rolling hill elevation gain, but considering I run Forest Park and Terwilliger Boulevard in Portland all the time, I assumed I’d be stronger here than most.
The run was along a large lake and I enjoyed almost every beautiful second of it (the last few steps of the last hill maybe not so much.)
I passed two teams on the run, but I was passed in the last 100 meters to total one place gain for our team.
We continued on through the countryside stopping at good places for pictures and cheering on our teammates. I got out and ran part of another leg with our team captain because I wanted to get a few extra miles in.
Just over halfway in the rain came pouring out of the clouds and never let up. It wasn’t a large problem but definitely made everything a tad tougher. At the end of the run, our team, USA Red, finished in first place by about 3 minutes, although a couple other teams did get lost at one point.
At the finish, we went into a Kilkenny pub for drinks and a massage (!) as we waited for all teams to come through. We headed to Kilkenny Castle for a brief tour and then to our hotel for a dinner and team meeting to plan our legs for the second day.
It is kind of hard to get everyone the legs they want, because there isn’t an even number and the distances range from three miles to nearly nine. I think that is meant to help out teams who have some people who don’t run too much, but for whatever reason our team is full of fast and then faster people!
Tomorrow we will wake at 6:30 AM for a trip to the Cliffs of Moher and then to start off running. We will finish at Kinvara and then go into Galway Bay. Here’s hoping we can keep the lead!
Team USA Red: Dylan is in back, at right, next to flag.
For the Win? July 18, 2015
The final day of the Race to Kinvara kicked off with a three-hour bus ride to the Cliffs of Moher to squeeze in a tad bit more tourism before running the second day of relay legs. (If this is at all confusing, it’s because the first day of this grand adventure was devoted to orientation and other non-running activities.)
Moher was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and I was sad to leave. It started raining a little, and we packed up for the trip to Doolin where we would start running again.
The second day’s relay legs run along the coast of western Ireland, with beautiful hills and cliffs to add to the ocean backdrop. It felt a little like if you were to run up highway 101 along the Oregon coast.
The winds had picked up and were steady gale force all day which made running quite interesting. We started the day with a 3.5 minute lead over team USA Grey.
The first leg went off strong and we came through in second place. The second leg was a very hilly 8.5 miles. Team Grey had a mishap where the bus got lost so their runner lost some time there (although they may have had some time subtracted in the final results). Every time we stopped for a runner exchange I couldn’t help myself from taking pictures. At one stop we were at a well of spring water that runs down from a mountain, and it tasted amazing.
Our bus driver had gotten tired and had some miscommunications about the requirements for time behind the wheel. He almost quit on us which would have made life really interesting. We got him to keep on with us, though.
Stage 5 was my time to go. I think it may have been the hardest run I have ever done. It was 5.8 miles and it started off great. I had about 30 seconds on USA Grey behind me. The stage started off downhill and with the wind at my back, leading to a very fast first mile and a half. Then we turned a corner and ran along a bay.
The wind was as strong as it was at any point in the day, and also directly in my face. At mile 3.5 I was caught by the USA Grey runner, but I think this actually helped me. I kept him in my sights (probably 10 seconds ahead). With a mile to go he started getting tired, so I passed him back and somehow pushed through the wind to keep the size of the lead I started the stage with.
I really thought my bib was going to rip in half or fly off my singlet from the wind, but those pesky safety pins did a good job holding on. There was an ice cream shop at this stage transition, so after I laid my body down for a minute, I went in and got a scoop with sprinkles. It was glorious.
On the eighth and final stage, our team captain Emily was the anchor. We started it off with a minute or two lead, but Team Grey had their fastest runner run the leg, too. (Apparently there was an “injury,” so not everyone on their team ran.)
Emily ran really fast. She was passed by the guy, nevertheless, and he gained a lot of space. As a team we hopped out of the bus and ran the last 800 meters or so with her to cross the line together, though some of us couldn’t keep up with her!
We crossed in second place. We did not win, but we had more fun that I ever could have imagined! Second place isn’t too awful either, especially being that close after 120 miles and eight different runners!
We sat around and got massages by the bay and then hung out in a pub until all 10 teams crossed the line. Then we drove up to Galway for our hotel and closing dinner. Awards were given out for a number of things (we won best team photo with a local for a picture with a bagpiper), and then we were entertained by some Irish dancing and a band.
This trip was amazing. I truly enjoyed nearly everyone I met and ran with, and made a few new friends. I hope I can somehow get a chance to do this again, or at least hope someone from our store can win an entry to it next year!
Now, on to a full day of travel home and rest so I can get back to work! Thank you, Saucony!
Cliffs of Moher, and a PRC cap.