If a challenge is what you seek, you will find it at Quest Ireland, where adventure is around the corner at Ireland’s Eastern National Park.
Packing a 57-kilometre long route in Glendalough consisting of cycling, running and kayaking, the multi-sports aspect of the adventure race makes it seem like a full-fledged triathlon.
Yet, the race promises adventure and more, with spectacular Glendalough views to boot, on the physically demanding, excruciating trail.
If you have especially taken a plane to participate in the event, you will soon realise that the distance from the airport to the start point of the race is practically the entire length of the route.
You might be feeling weary at this realisation, but hopefully, you are eager and invigorated when you arrive. What’s more, the route is not just flat terrain.
The organisers of Quest Glendalough had thrown in the monstrous Wicklow Mountains that run across the county for good measure to give adventurers the full taste of the authentic Irish outdoors.
This route will surely break a sweat, and you hope you, and the brave ones who have signed themselves up for the race, are mentally and physically prepared for the strenuous endeavour.
You came for the thrill, and you will stay for the satisfaction of knowing you would have conquered the quest by the end of it.
It is the day of Quest Glendalough.
A race that spans 57 gruelling kilometres demands a well-rested sleep before it begins.
You wake up with a start, realising that the morning air was more chilly than you had anticipated the night before.
Toes numb, you check the weather forecast and heave a sigh of relief; the chill will pass by midday, and the rest of the day is set for clear weather.
You quickly gather your things to join the first wave of cyclists, who are anticipating the rush breezing through Laragh village and up the six-kilometre hill, the first part of the race.
Views are plenty while you whizz through the winding road that takes you through the mountain pass and the Shay Elliot recreation site. Your legs pump harder on the pedals, as the slopes gradually incline around the hill.
Although the day had started chilly and you had packed on the layers to keep warm, cycling alongside the throngs of cyclists instead warms the air.
Your body is its own heat source now, radiating warmth with each loop around the hill.
The seasoned veterans lead the front of the back, while the leisure cyclists cycle casually and even make conversation on the ride.
You stick to the back, as you are still new to the path and to the race, just curious to know what the hype was all about, and not because of the weight of the bicycle (nor the fact that your fitness was past its prime).
After reaching the top of the hill, you follow as other racers had stashed their bikes and begun to run.
Stopping to catch your breath, you take a look around you and realise that the view was breathtaking.
You could see into the distance far south, past the national park boundaries. But this moment was only temporary as your legs kicked into action again, descending the road through the trees and ascending again to Braige summit.
You catch a glimpse of the 2000-year-old monastic round house through the dense green foliage of Glendalough Valley.
At this point, your legs were moving on their own, fuelled by pure willpower to see the race through to the end. You have already come so far, why should you give up now?
The current running stretch is only the first of four, along with three other cycling routes and a one-kilometre kayak.
While others around you were losing steam, you felt energised from the crisp fresh air in the Glenmalure Valley.
In no time, you pick up your bike and continue the next leg.
Feeling the wind in your hair, the downward-sloping road was a welcome boost to take a breather before the next incline.
You are reaching Drumgoff Gap, the peak cycle point at 450m high when some fellow racers diverge from the path.
As with other races, not everyone is expected to compete in the full length of it as there are shorter variations of the route to accommodate different skill levels.
The 57-kilometre race is the ‘expert’ category, while shorter 19-kilometre and 41-kilometre routes are also available.
Those in the ‘expert’ race would get to ascend to the peak of Croaghanmoira Mountain 667 metres above ground, where it is high enough to see Wicklow from above the clouds.
But all races have the same endpoint so that everyone who had started together congregates at the end regardless of the route they had taken.
By now, you are heading into the last part of the race.
The end was in sight: Glendalough hotel marks the spot.
The sun was already high, and you and the other racers are running into the hills, basking in the sunlight and heading for the last destination on the route.
The race has been made up of cycling and running up till this point, but at Glendalough Lake, everyone will begin to kayak.
The waters at the bottom of a deep valley shine in the bright light.
The Quest organisers are there to lend a hand, dispensing paddles and lifejackets to racers who will need to pair up to make kayaking easier.
Of course, there were also single-kayaks for the fittest of competitors too.
The race is already wrapping up. After splashing around in the water, you set off on the last stretch of the race, into the crowds of cheering participants who had already crossed the finish line.
At this point, you are already thoroughly exhausted.
The refreshments that are served could only do so much to replenish the spent energy, but you finally get what the hype was all about.
The satisfaction of conquering the quest is immense.
The race you had just accomplished is Quest Glendalough, one of the Quest Ireland events besides those in Killarney National Park and Achill.
All events have variations of routes spanning 19 kilometres to the most challenging at 81 kilometres.
In addition, the UK has its own edition of the event now, such as in Betws-y-Coed in Wales, Loch Ness in Scotland and Peak District in England.
A trip to other parts of the UK might be next on the adventure list.
Heading to Ireland
Hi, I am Amy I have two loves in my life camping and writing. When I am not writing for The Expert Camper, I am usually camping. Lake District is one of my favourite spots, but really anywhere in the UK under canvas I am happy.