Former Cork hurler Paul Tierney battled everything from high temperatures to snow to successfully complete a gruelling endurance trail race.
Tor des Géants is a 330km race that takes place each September in Aosta Valley in Italy. It is so extreme that only about 60% of entrants manage to complete it, but the Blackrock native was one of the finishers this year.
Mr Tierney had a successful hurling career, including three Cork SHC medals with the Rockies and playing for Cork at minor, U21 and senior level. Now in his 30s, he has turned his attention to running and completing the Tor des Géants is the longest endurance event he has taken part in so far.
He told the Evening Echo it was not all plain sailing.
“The first night I felt quite ill and couldn’t eat, which meant I had to slow down, and fell back a bit in terms of position. But by the second night, my appetite came back, I was able to eat again. I was able to move a bit better and started to catch people.”
His girlfriend Dr Sarah McCormack and friend Joe Mann acted as support crew, meeting him at checkpoints to help with getting food and fresh gear and consulting the map. But even when feeling better, he still had the weather to contend with.
“It was really warm the first day which might be one of the reasons I wasn’t feeling great. For the first three days, it stayed pretty good but it was really cold at night. But by Thursday morning it was starting to change and get a bit wet. There is a point maybe three or four hours from the finish where you climb to 2,900 metres and it had started to snow up there, so it was quite cold and a bit rough. We had a bit of everything.”
Mr Tierney now lives in Cumbria and runs a coaching business, called Missing Link Coaching, with his girlfriend. He applied his coaching knowledge while mentally preparing for the race.
“I just wanted to get round it. It was the type of race that just finishing it is good. I certainly have ambitions to do well when I enter races but this was slightly different. It was so much longer than before that ultimately I just wanted to get round it.”
He did better than getting round it, finishing in 99 hours and in 25th place.
Speaking the day after he finished, he said he was exhausted but otherwise in good shape after the ordeal.
“I’m ok today. I am quite tired because I maybe slept four hours in total over the course of four days. I had a decent nights sleep last night but I woke with a swollen face, because of the lack of sleep I think. My eyes just swelled up with big bags under them.” Incredibly, he even managed a short run the following day.
“I went for a jog, just to test my legs. Bits and pieces are swollen but my feet are in good nick. My legs were very, very tender yesterday but they are better today.” All in a week's work for the running fanatic.