Once more into the breach


This divine scene was the setting of my latest triathlon foray. The lake from which Loughrea takes its name is arguably the most Mediterranean of bodies of water I’ve yet witnessed in Ireland. The water was crystal clear and practically turquoise in colour and that was both when the sun shone and when it lashed as it did yesterday on several occasions.

I hadn’t raced since the Blessington aquabike over a month ago. Its a shame there aren’t more opportunities to partake in aquabike races for those people who for reasons of injury can’t run. You might recall I had some tibia issues after the Brown Bay Beast in June. It turned out that an mri revealed bone marrow edema in my right leg which was exactly what I had in my left left a couple of years ago and which curtailed my season that year too. I love running but it doesn’t seem to like me!!

Anyhow I followed a back to running programme so tentatively took to the start line in Loughrea for the latest National series race. I figured if I was going to resume my season I may as well do so in the company of the best field. To be honest my aspirations were simply to finish in one piece. I wasn’t particularly worried about placings or times. I just wanted to get through the run.

The swim in spite of the gorgeous waters was tiring. As usual I avoided the mêlée at the start. I took a wide line and paced myself correctly I felt to the first turn buoy at 300m. It was when turning back that the going hot tougher as the flow of the current was hitting me head on. I actually swallowed a mouth of water at one point which had me choking briefly but in the end I came out of the water in 14.47, so just under 2 min per 100 m pace  not fast but fairly typical for me.

The transition was without issue and I hopped on the bike. I elected to use bike shoes which clip into the pedals on this occasion as rain had been predicted for during the race and I didn’t fancy running in the same shoes that would have been inevitably soaked on the bike ride. Typically, despite ominously black skies it didn’t rain during the race at all.

The cycle was not the easiest. There were too many rolling hills for my liking. Rolling hills is cycling parlance for a slight gradient that is subtle but stingy enough on the legs to slowly take its toll. The road surface in places was very poor which tempers my instincts to throw the kitchen sink at it, especially on the downhill sections. I managed the bike leg in 38 mins, again not the quickest for me.

Then came the run. I chose to refyce my pace to about 5 min per km pace and run very gingerly, especially on the downhill segments. A couple of dozen people passed me on this section of the race and while I found it frustrating I had to keep reminding myself that there was nothing to be gained from upping the pace, my goal was simply to finish uninjured and that I managed.

A creditable 106th from over 200 entrants, but most importantly a clean race with no adverse reactions. I will monitor my leg in the coming days with a view to doing another race next week, fingers crossed.

Oh and the heavens well and truly opened after we finished so we were all very lucky because competing in monsoon conditions certainly would not have been at all pleasant.


First time for everything !

20190630_085209First time that is for me to do any aquabike !! What now ? Let me explain. Having completed my first triathlon of the season north of the border a few weeks back, in the days afterwards I suffered what felt like lower limb injury. I was experiencing a dull pain in my tibia which was similar to another injury I had in the other leg two years ago and necessitated my taking 2 months out of the sport. Yes yes I know I tend to get a lot of lower limb injuries, be they calf or shin related, but in my defence although i had completed 4 duathlons preseason this year, my training load wasn’t that great.


Anyhow, I decided to err on the side of caution and take a break from running but this didn’t mean I couldn’t compete. That’s because to facilitate this exact kind of triathlete some clubs around the country hold aquabike races the same day they hold their annual triathlons. This allows you to swim followed by a run so at least you aren’t missing out on the fun completely !! The only catch was the next aquabike of the season was a standard distance aquabike, which would mean swimming and cycling twice the distance I would normally complete in the a triathlon. This was intimidating because I hadn’t swam for any distance longer than 1km in the pool since last summer, plus, while I can cycle 40 km , I didn’t know how I would hold up trying to do so at race pace following a swim of 1500 m. So many unknowns and ponderables but given this is my third season in triathlon I threw caution to the wind and decided to sign up for the standard aquabike in Blessington.

In preparation I immediately upped my distance in the pool. At saying that I still only managed 2 swim sessions of 1600m before the actual race but was pleased I was able to even do that distance given I hadn’t in so long. I managed a couple of longer bike sessions too but nothing more than that. The other unknown was how I would cope swimming 1500 m in a lake given I had only swam outdoors once so far this year. The sea temperature has been lower for longer this year compared to summer 2018 when by this stage I would have been swimming outdoors plenty of times.



So bearing in mind the unknowns I decided I would be just happy to complete this aquabike rather than aim for a top 20 finish which is normally my aim. This actually really took the pressure off and allowed me to ‘enjoy’, the pre race build up a tad more than usual. This was my third year in Blessington so I was very familiar with the setup. I was a tad sad not to be partaking in the triathlon as I had done previously but I still had a job to do which I was relishing.

I started in the second wave and as usual I elected to stay out wide in the water. I started at a modest pace letting other hare off as is normally the case at the start of the swim. Typically enough after about 100m I found people were starting to swim across me, which was super frustrating as I hadn’t changed my line to the turn buoy and all the interruptions were upsetting my momentum. For a brief moment I thought how the hell was I going to manage another 1400 m of this but I knew from experience after the first turn buoy things normally settle down as swimmers fan out. This is exactly what happened. I did stop once or twice but that was to get a clear view of where there was clear water ahead of me. When I’m allowed settle into my own pace I’m fine and I gained momentum. We had to pass several buoys before doubling back. The funny thing was I was again swimming solo 30 feet wide of everyone and when I checked the gps path of my swim afterwards I was laughing at how dead straight my path was.

I exited the water in 30 mins 40 seconds, which wasn’t lightening fast at all, but would be the same pace I would swim in the pool so given all the initial breaks in momentum I was very pleased.

The cycle was made up of 2 loops of 20km around the Blessington lake with most on the circuit on the N81. This road is of decent quality which is what you want unlike the last 4 km which were on backroads, the surface of which was very poor indeed. I did tell myself I would pace myself on the first loop so I wouldn’t exhaust myself for the second lap but thats much harder to carry out in practice. I never seem to be able to take it easy as was evidenced by my splits, cycling loop 1 in 37 mins and the second in 38 mins. Im nothing if not consistent 🙂


It felt a bit weird nay anticlimactic finishing my race in the transition zone rather than running across the line but I was delighted to be there given the leg injury and I was very pleased with my performance in the water and on the bike given how little training I’ve done for the standard distance. In the end I managed 13th over all and first in my age group so not bad at all.

I have had a precautionary mri on the leg and will decide what to do next based on the results. I did some treadmill running today without any pain so things may be looking up !!

Is it time to tri again ?


Naas Duathlon

Wow its been months.. I know I know. See this is the thing about the winter off season there’s just not much happening worthy of writing about. I figure if I’m going to write something on this blog which has now been going since 2016 (I’m amazed I’ve stuck with it this long too) then I may as well have something of note to say.

So here we are June 2019 and the new triathlon season has just started. Now as it happens in the interests of full disclosure while the winter months have been long and dark I haven’t been completely inactive. Nope, I have already competed in 3 duathlons since February. Two of the duathlons took place in Naas and one was in the Phoenix park. Duathlons comprise two different disciplines, running and cycling oh and then some more running, in that order. I had actually competed in the duathlon in Naas in my very first race in 2017 and thought it would be fun to go back and see how I fared with a couple of seasons under my belt. The race itself in and around Punchestown racecourse is actually one of a trio of duathlons Naas Triathlon club hold annually and they are always a great way to keep you race sharp in the dark early months of the year.


I had purposely done less training, especially on the bike compared to the same time last year as I didn’t want to suffer a recurrence of the viral infection that struck last February so I wasn’t really sure how the day would pan out. I did however endeavor to enjoy the atmosphere and the race itself more so than I did the first time given I had much more experience this time round.

The race would involve a 2.5 km run around the racecourse, a 20 km bike ride through the Kildare countryside and another 2.5km run. I decided to start near the front on the first run despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be the fastest in the field. I did this primarily because I recall the path narrowing in the first 200 metres making any passing quite difficult. I felt it better to be passed rather than my having to fight my way past slower runners and indeed that is how things panned out. The pace started off quite fast and I resisted the urge to keep up with the front runners who were running faster than 3.30 min per km pace. Quickly enough I was being passed out by runners but I knew to run at my own pace and not get carried away.

The first run went well and I didnt expend too much energy which was my intention. Onto the bike leg and I have to say I found it tough primarily as I haven’t done a huge amount of training on the bike compared to the same period last year. That’s not to say I don’t like training I do but its a case of knowing my limits as far as training load is concerned. I think I was guilty of overtraining in the last couple of years plus I have less time it seems with work taking up much of the time these days. At saying that I was pleased with my bike performance on the day. In fact my bike time was a minute faster than my last bike split in Naas in 2017, to be fair that was probably helped by a lighter bike but I’d like to think I was a tad better a triathlete.

I probably could have ridden a bit smarter as I felt the second run was a little slow but overall not a bad start to the year I felt. I managed 59th place in total.

run one 12:08 cycle 36:56 run 2 14.26

The following month I took on the Naas duathlon course again to give myself something to aim for plus to see if I had learned anything from my first outing of the year. I decided to take it very handy on the first run leg so I wouldn’t be exhausted going into the bike leg. Ironically my run leg almost exactly matched my first run leg from the first race of the season. The bike leg was still tough though. That being said I managed a bike split that was a few seconds quicker than my last time which was evidence of my slightly improved fitness as the season progresses. And as you will see below the second run turned out to be quicker than the second run leg in the my first race of the season. Plus I ended up finishing up 50th which was an improved result too.

run one 12:10  cycle 36:35 run 2 13:52

On to The Phoenix park duathlon series run by Belpark Triathlon club. I hadn’t done this particular race before which on the surface of it is probably odd given it takes place mere minutes from me especially when I have travelled the length and breadth of the country to compete elsewhere. But I had elected to do more duathlons this year in the tun up to the triathlon season proper so thought it was a natural choice to include the Phoenix park races.


The race in May involved a 5km run followed by a 20 km cycle and a 2.5km run. The main issue on the day was the low temperature and the wind. I don’t think I raced in conditions so affected by the wind since Westport last June. The run went well given the high winds, as I managed to run 5km in 20 min 10 seconds. It was the bike leg that I really felt the wind especially on the climb sections. I have to say I found the wind brutal. The bike leg was very tough in that it involved the same loop 5 times , so that brutal climb segment into the wind had to be faced multiple times. I did manage to complete the second run leg of 2.5km in just over 11 mins so I was pleased with that despite my legs seriously cramping coming off the bike, which proved just how tough I found the conditions on the bike which saw me post a very slow time of 41 mins. Despite the slow bike I managed 66th place which was good given that it was a National Series standard race.

On to the next race which again was in the Phoenix Park. This duathlon was shorter in that the first run leg was 2.5km the bike leg was 12km and the second run leg was 2.5km. My fitness must be improving for sure as I ran 9.49 for the first 2.5 km which was only marginally quicker than the second 2.5km run leg with a time of 9.54 mins. The bike leg was helped by the fact there was slightly less wind this time compared to last. All in all I came through in 27th place so I was very pleased with that. I think over the first four duathlons of the season I felt I had improved in areas but most particularly in my pacing which is something that cant be overstated.

With work commitments this year I am having to take races almost on the fly and literally only entering races a few days in advance. With that in mind I chose to enter Brown’s Bay Beast triathlon up the north, near Larne. I had initially thought of heading back to Westport where I had competed in the second week of June last year but I didn’t fancy the 3.5 hour drive plus I fancied a different challenge.

I have to say in the days leading up to my first triathlon of the year and the first triathlon I would complete in 9 months I was feeling apprehensive primarily because the weather was so cold. Memories of 13 degree water in Westport last June loomed large in my memory, but having missed the first couple of triathlons of the season already I had no choice but to bite the bullet and compete regardless of the weather.

Well I set off on my expected 2.5 hour journey yesterday morning with plenty of time set aside to make my destination alas when I arrived in Carrickfergus there was an unexpected delay in the guise of an orange march. This delayed me by 30 mins. I have to admit that when the police officer told me the roads were blocked and that I wouldn’t be able to continue my journey for another half hour, I was not disappointed. Part of me really did not want to compete and immerse myself in that frigid water.

As it happened I just about made the start of the Brown’s Bay Beast triathlon in the gorgeous setting of Brown’s Bay. Thankfully the rain held off but my god the crystal clear waters of the bay were even colder than I had expected. The water was 12 degrees which is a full 3 degrees colder than the cold water tap at home. I have a cold shower daily but even I was feeling the cold. My hands and feet were actually sore within seconds such was the vasocontriction  brought on by the cold waters. This was also my first time in the open water since last triathlon last September, primarily because the sea water has been so cold. Today however I would have to face the discomfort. Getting in to cold water is like taking off a plaster. You just have to rip it off as fast as you can, in other words you just have to jump right in . The initial discomfort lest about ten seconds. This is eased somewhat by throwing water on your face which desensitizes the trigeminal nerve in the face. This is the nerve that is responsible for gasp response reflex which is a survival mechanism which kicks in automatically under the auspices of the autonomic nervous system ( that part of the nervous system not under conscious control). Science lesson over .. on to the race.

The swim segment was a beach start which meant en masse all the triathletes had to sun from the beach into the water. This involves having to hurdle waves which I can never manage to do without looking like a flailing ungainly flamingo with a wetsuit on. Again I chose to stay out of the way of the main bulk of swimmers, wide to the right. This allowed me to swim at my own pace. The cold and the long period of time since my last open water swim did affect my rhythm. I had to stop 3 or 4 times just to catch my breath before resuming my stroke. We swam in an anti clockwise fashion around two buoys before returning to the shore. it was only on the beachbound leg of the swim that I managed to get into a decent rhythm. That being said I managed to swim the swim segment in roughly the same length of time it would normally take me so I was pleasantly surprised.

My first transition could have been a tad quicker. I had actually forgotten I had bike shoes attached to my bike pedals and had put on my runners which i then had to take off. This error probably cost me 20 seconds, nothing major but a mistake nonetheless. Next up was the bike leg which was notorious for its hills. I can tell you its reputation has been well earned. There was climb after climb after climb which had me use my lowest gear at certain points. To make matters even more trying, we had to do this bike route, not once but twice. Thankfully the rain held off which was fortuitous because the descents after the climbs meant you were cycling / free wheeling at 60 kmph which is quite scary. The bike leg was easily the most challenging I have ever had to complete, but complete it I did.

Then came the 5km run. Guess what, more hills. In fact there was a 10% incline on one of the climbs of the run. Witnessing this segment of the run was like seeing a wall in front of me, it was just that steep. To attack the climbs I decided to shorten my stride and increase my cadence which seemed to make it more manageable. In fact I managed to pass a few guys on the run who had passed me on the bike leg. In the end I posted a run time of 22 minutes which on the surface of things is a slow 5km time for me but given the hills it was actually the 9th fastest 5km time of the day.

In the end I managed 25th place over all. So I have to say I was delighted, not just with my progress in recent months, or my performance on the day but with my actual decision to take part in this race. I really wasn’t looking forward to it given the fact I had a chest infection in recent weeks plus the dread of the cold water, but this has always been my main motivation, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.


Oh you’re the Irish guy!!



Crossing the finish line in third, a pretty good feeling

Third place !!! Well can you believe it ? I have to say I was delighted  with that result at superleague jersey 2018. If you scroll back through the blog to this time last year you’ll see that I first visited Jersey for Superleague 2017, I was impressed with both the island and the new triathlon format. The problem for me was I really got the urge to compete while watching the pros  so in May of this year when Superleague announced they would be having an amateur age group race on the same weekend as the pro competition I jumped at the chance of getting involved. This would be my first time racing abroad which was exciting and provided a challenge logistically as I had to transport my bike with me wtc but more on that later.

Having already completed 9 triathlons since the June bank holiday weekend I have had a pretty full an d fruitful season  and that included a 6 week layoff due to injury. I had initially intended to do 14 races but that figure was reliant on my staying fit which was always going to be a gamble. So having had a good season I wasn’t heading off to Jersey with anything else in my mind other than enjoying the experience as much as possible.

Now as I mentioned I booked my race entry in May. It was at this time that I arranged the flights and accommodation which I managed to get for a song. My hotel this time was literally 10 minutes walk from where the triathlon was taking place unlike a 20 minute bus Journey last year. The only other thing I needed to arrange was the hiring of a bike box with which to carry my bike and tell the airline that I was carrying a bike with me.

Back at the beginning of July I contacted a bike shop in Stillorgan who were advertising bike boxes for rent and so I booked one and provided a 200 euro deposit. Now to the uninitiated, a bike box is essentially a hard shelled box with wheels on the base. The hard shell is important because it’ll be thrown with abandon into the hold of the plane by baggage handlers. Now my bike is very much at the lower end of the scale pricewise but its still not something I want to see damaged, but when you consider some bikes cost 5 to 10 grand, then a  sturdy bike box is an absolute must.

Alas as I was making final preparations in the week before travelling I received an email from the aforementioned bike shop informing me that they didn’t have a bike box available. They did offer me a bike bag but I declined the offer citing its total lack of suitability based on its lack of protection. A bike bag is literally a bag without a hard shell. It would be asking for trouble. So I got my money back and rented a box from Wheelworx who thankfully had plenty available for 50 euros without the need for a deposit. Problem solved.

I managed to get a lift to the airport and checking the bike in was straightforward. I knew once I arrived I could get a bus to St Helier, the main town on jersey. Once there I walked with bike box and the aid of google maps for about 20 mins till I found the hotel. On arrival I decided I wouldn’t be doing this on the return journey. While the box containing the bike had handles and wheels, it is still a cumbersome contraption to manoeuvre around city streets. The hotel was modest enough with décor that can only be described as 1980s West German chic with a faux marble effect vinyl finish on the bathroom walls!!!

Once I had found something to eat having wandered the streets of St helier for a while I returned to the hotel to tackle putting my bike back together having dismantled it pre departure. Surprisingly enough I managed to reconstruct it quickly enough. Yay me !!

Next morning I went for a 20km cycle along relatively flat road along the coast to Gorey which is where I stayed last year. I was initially a tad apprehensive about riding on foreign roads and praying I wouldn’t get a flat tyre as I had forgotten to bring spare tubes with me, although I’m sure I could have found a bike shop in the event of an emergency. Then I headed over to the Marina where the Super league triathlon was taking place. The whole concept of Superleague entails a short format of triathlon. Triathletes swim 400m , then bike 5km and run 2.5km , theres then a 10 minute break when they do it all again followed by another 10 minute break and then they do a third and final mini triathlon. To keep it interesting they rearrange the orders of the sports so the athletes would run, then bike and then swim on the second of the three triathlons etc This first day of competition is called the triple mix and we saw the women compete against each other, then the men competed against each other. Now we are talking 60 of the top triathletes in the world here. The female field included last years winner Katie Zaferes, current world champion Vicki Holland, Jodie Stimpson, Cassandra Beaugrande, Ashleigh Gentile and a host of newcomers to the superleague format. The male field included Kristian Blummenfeldt who won here last year, Johnny Brownlee, former Champion Richard Murray, 3 time world champion Mario Mola and the man who beat him most recently in the world final in Australia Frenchman Vincent Luis. So to say the field was choc full of talent was an understatement.

I drank in as much of the atmosphere as I could in the knowledge that because I was leaving the following day at lunchtime I wouldn’t get to see the second day’s racing. I was also competing myself the following morning so I was scrutinising the pros for any tips, be it their running style or their gear selection on the bike. Having 2 seasons in the sport under my own belt at this rate I appreciated even more the scale of the pros performances this time round. They were completing the 300 m swim in just over 3 minutes, which is seriously impressive especially given the fact they weren’t even using wetsuits. The top men like Vincent Luis, Blummenfeldt and Brownlee were biking at about 1.45 per km pace and running about 3.05 min a km pace and doing it consistently over the course of the three mini triathlons which is staggering. The only time these triathletes showed any fatigue was the following day at the end of the Enduro race which comprises swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run with no breaks !!! Yes that’s 9 disciplines in a row !! Hell for leather for 50 plus minutes. Vincent Luis reigned supreme at the end of the first day for the men and the imperious Cassandra Beaugrande topped the women’s ranking with the brilliant Katie Zaferes snapping at her heels in second.

That would be all the spectating for me because I had to register for my own race the following morning. Registration gives you an idea of some of the other people who will be taking part in your race plus it makes the whole experience real. You are given your timing chip, race number and stickers for your helmet and bike including the all important branded swim cap. My god the house is coming down with swim caps at this stage !!! I was settling down to sleep later that evening when it suddenly dawned on me that while my race was scheduled to begin at 9.33am I may not get access to my bike in transition for a couple of hours. This realisation concerned me as I had to be at the airport for a 1.30 flight. Needless to say I had a fitful sleep.

The night before an early race is generally a restless one although I had done so many races this season I had gradually grown accustomed to the whole pre-racing vibe and had succeeded in diminishing pre race nerves with every successive race. This was slightly different, in that I had one eye on my flight !!!

As it happened I wasn’t too tired the following morning despite having woken at 5 am. I had some breakfast and headed to the transition zone which was buzzing at 8am with about 90 minutes to go. While wearing a wetsuit for the race was optional I elected to wear one as I had done no training without one and the last thing you ever want to do is change any of the fundamentals during a race, it would be pure madness. There would be two age group races beginning within three minutes of each other. The endure which comprised two mini triathlons one after the other would start first followed by our group. I had considered doing the endure but thought better of it given the long season I had had and the time constraints dictated by my flight time. In fact I spoke with the MC of the event who was equally overawed by the fact that I was Irish and that I was flying out the minute I crossed the finish line.  I alleviated my fears about getting access to my bike once my race was done when I asked one of the marshalls if it was ok that I scarper once I finished even if others hadn’t and he said it was fine. Phew !!

So to the race itself. The race would provide me with the opportunity to try my beach start again. You may remember I didn’t have the best of beach starts in Pulse port beach a couple of weeks ago. This time I elected to stand out wide of everyone else and give the buoys a wide berth. This strategy worked very well as I had clean water till about half way. The swim was only 400 m so I had gone out faster than usual as I knew I wouldn’t need to sustain the pace for too long. Once out of the water we had to scale fairly steep steps to get back to the transition zone. I managed to whip my wetsuit off in record time which is always a bonus. I had chosen on this occasion to cycle in my runners rather than use cycling shoes and clipless pedals. I have chopped and changed in that regard this season and I’m still trying to figure out which is best for me.

The cycle segment would take us along the beach front road westbound for 2.5km and back twice, so the total distance would amount to 10km. The westbound stretch was quite exposed to the wind and I could see my speed suffering as a result. While I tried to adopt the most aerodynamic position possible in the absence of areo bars which weren’t allowed, my speed was a pedestrian 31 kmph, however on the return leg I was averaging 38 kmph. I gave it everything on the bike that I could , so much for the ‘leisurely lets just enjoy the race’ philosophy.

My legs felt customarily heavy for the first kilometre off the bike but I tried to push the pace as much as I could. I was passing people all the while on the run but still wasn’t sure of my placing at that stage. I rounded the final bend which took me on to the finishing straight and across the finish line where the previous day the pros had competed so that was pretty cool. Race done. There’s always a sense of euphoria after a race and even though this race was almost half the distance of my normal sprint distance race it felt no different. I kissed the medal and off I ran to retrieve my bike. ‘’Oh you’re the Irish guy who has to get a flight’’ shouted the marshall when I was getting my bike. I felt like a minor celebrity. The good news is I made my flight and both myself and the bike made it back home in one piece. Oh and yes I managed to get third in my race, not a bad way to round off a long season at all !!!


Check out the video I through together of the first day’s racing, alas I wasn’t able to capture my own race for obvious reasons.

Michaelangelo calves in Port Beach!!!

Screenshot_2018-09-24-11-57-18I’ll be completely honest from the outset, I really wasn’t looking forward to this one. Having started this triathlon season with a race on the June bank holiday weekend in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record it seemed it would wind down to a much colder, wetter and windier conclusion 4 months later.

This penultimate race would be my 9th triathlon of the season, four more than last year. I had actually to do even more but a calf strain sustained at the end of July after the Belfast triathlon put paid to that and enforced a six week lay off. In hindsight a brief sabbatical was probably beneficial physically but also mentally. Psyching yourself up frequently for races is demanding and there’s a fine line between being primed for a race and experiencing mental fatigue. The latter is almost as undesirable as a calf strain because it has the potential to seriously undermine your competitive edge.

When I returned from that layoff I was straight into the season with renewed vigour in the knowledge that I had four triathlons on my list to complete by season’s end. I was subsequently buoyed by my performances despite the break due to injury. I was also rediscovering my run fitness which was great news. I was determined to post a quicker run split for this week’s Pulse Port Beach national series triathlon in Louth. The only stumbling block might be the elements however.

As you know the weather has been less than clement in recent days and I really didn’t relish the thoughts of a sea swim in high winds. The temperature had dropped markedly in recent days and the sea temperature would be a lot less inviting than the 22 degrees I experienced in the Blessington triathlon in June. This however is why I got into triathlon in the first place… Get comfortable being uncomfortable!!

I chose to drive to Louth the morning of the race rather than the night before primarily because it was only an hour commute and I just prefer to sleep in my own bed unless I have no choice. When I arrived on site just after 8.30am the place was already buzzing. With 600 entrants this would be the biggest field to date. As I mentioned it was a national series race so the standard would be higher than that of recent weeks. The elite men and women were first to take to the frigid waters which we were gleefully told were a balmy 12.5 degrees…. I was part of the fifth and last wave so it was well after 10.30am and almost an hour after the elites started that we would take our turn. Now I take a cold shower daily so I would be used to the discomfort albeit temporary, that cold water exposure brings. What never leaves you is the fear or dread in anticipation of that exposure. Standing at the waters edge we seemed to wait an interminably long time, just standing there shivering. I eyed my salt water nemesis as the minutes ticked by. I just wanted to get going. To add another layer to the mix, this would be my first ‘mass beach start’. Think of the Normandy landings in reverse and you’ll get a sense of the scene. As the hooter finally sounded, arms and legs of about 150 men flailed in every direction as they tried to gingerly negotiate running into the sea.


When I eventually took the plunge after hurdling a couple of waves the cold water hit me full in the face. While the cold is always sobering, I have become so used to it that while it registered initially, I had moved past that initial reaction within seconds. My race had begun.

I made the mistake of starting on the inside line as we thrashed en masse enroute to the first buoy. Consequently I was pincered in a sea of bodies like a million wildebeest crossing a river in the Serengeti. If only I had taken a wider line I would have had clearer water and a greater chance to establish rhythm. Indeed I bemoaned my stupidity as I enjoyed at best a staccato rhythm for at least the first 200m. Once the field finally spread out I felt I coulad start to race in earnest.

By the time I excited the water I looked at my watch and knew the swim was slow as it registered nearly 18 minutes, but more on that later.

My feet and hands were like ice blocks so it made disrobing the wetsuit tricky. I elected to wear an extra top on the bike just in case I was cold and I also put on socks. The bike segment was rather uneventful in that it wasn’t very technical with lots of bends or hills. My watch gave me updates after each five km segment and I noticed the splits were quite quick. I was passed by a few riders which is never the most heartening of sensations but I reminded myself that this field was of a national standard so there should be no ignominy in this company.


On reentering transition I noticed the bike leg had been completed in 33 mins which was my second fastest time after the pan flat Belfast course. I was about 50m into the run when a chap passed me. He had calves like they were sculpted by Michaelangelo himself so I knew he was a serious triathlete. I knew if I could stay on his shoulder I might be able to make up some of the shortfall I felt I had lost on the swim. So I put the foot down and stuck to ‘calf man’ like a limpet to a rock. This was good, we were passing alot of people and running just over 4 min per km pace. The first half of the run was up hill so I knew once we doubled back from the half way point my pace would be even quicker. Every so often calf man would put in a burst of speed and I would reciprocate. This pattern continued until the 3rd kilometre when I drew alongside him. I wasn’t sure whether to push on but I felt strong so when we hit the 4km mark I went for it. I had memories of Belfast when I passed a chap on the run and he beat me on the finish line because I was oblivious to his presence behind me. This time I was determined not to make the same mistake. I floored it. I was running 3.45 per km pace. If he was going to beat me to the line he’d have to employ those herculean valves of his like never before. Before long I could see the finish line in the distance but I was cognisant that calf man could glide by me any second. I kicked again. Checked over my shoulder. Nothing. Again I kicked as I rounded the final bend with the finish line meters away. I had done it. 18.27 mins for the run, a time that even impressed me at least till I twigged the run was 400m short. I was still very encouraged by my ability to stick to a pace maker, take a bow calf man.

In fact not only was the run slightly short but the swim was 250m long which accounted for my 18 min swim. In summary the swim was a standard pacing for me while both the bike and run splits were very quick. I finished 118 the out of 600 and about 25th in my age group so slightly further down the pecking order than my previous national series result but I don’t think I could have posted a faster time. A good day at the office I think. Now just one more race till the season ends…

Bagpipes in Cavan


Greetings folks thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m actually quite pleased I’ve managed to keep this blog going so long, granted the posts have been a tad intermittent of late but I do try to update it once a month a least which is a little easier when I have something of note to tell you. Thankfully I had no abreaction to last weeks triathlon. You’ll recall I had taken a few weeks off during the season after having completed 6 races and to allow my calf to heal. I am still investigating the origin of successive calf strains which involves various exercises etc. more to come on that later.

So this week I was off on the M3 for a change as I’ve spent much of the summer on the M4. Funny enough I was still heading north west , but instead of Longford, Galway or Roscommon this time I was heading back to Cavan where I started off this season which seems like yonks ago. Now in the run up to the race on Saturday morning there was very scant information online as to what the day’s schedule would be, for instance I didn’t know when the race would be starting so based on that I decided to book accommodation for the Friday night and travel after work on Friday evening. This way I wouldn’t be getting up at silly o’clock on the Saturday to travel 2 hours to  Cavan.

I found a BnB near the Farnham estate which was about 6 km from the Killykeen forest park where the triathlon would take place. The one thing I noticed on my way through Cavan was the size of the houses, including the one I was staying in, they are all absolutely enormous. Its really quite extraordinary how small Dublin properties are by comparison and then you consider the cost of a detached house with acreage in Cavan compared to a shoebox with a faux balcony and fireplace in Dublin 24 and the mind boggles.

Anyway enough of my property observations. As it happened the race didn’t start till 1pm which gave me ample time to have a breakfast in my BnB which is something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do before , mainly because I have left before the breakfast is served. A quick spin down to the Killykeen forest park and I registered and set my bike up in transition. Like the previous week the field was mall which lends itself to a more intimate vibe which I like. The transition zone was again beside the lake so it would lend itself to a short transition time.

Now heres where things got a little unusual. Similar to the triathlon in Athy in June of last year we were led along the waters edge 750m to the water entry point, but this time a bagpiper led the way … Yes you read that correctly, a bag piper. It was a quirky but welcome touch given that the procession on a dirt path to the starting point would have been rather mundane trek. Picture the scene .. a bag piper in full gear followed by 150 wetsuit clad triathletes emerging from the woods .. Somehow I managed to find myself right behind said piper so it was a good thing I had my earplugs already deployed, and that’s not intend to detract from the pipers musical prowess.

So into the water we went from a jetty all 150 of us. I have to say the water was fresh so I was eager to get underway as soon as I could. You always have a range of emotions in advance of a race.  There’s a mixture of nerves and apprehension because you go from nought to 90 within the space of a few seconds and you must maintain that effort for the guts of 75 minutes give or take. Believe me when I say it is very demanding physically and mentally so I think anticipating that discomfort contributes to the prerace anguish for want of a better term.


As is generally the case the start of the swim was frenetic. At one point I was almost pincered by one swimmer either side of me, but after a couple of hundred meters things settled down. As I mentioned this swim literally involved swimming in a straight line following buoys parallel to the waters edge which makes things a lot more straightforward. So much so I exited th water in 17th place in just under 13 mins which is a fast lake swim for me.

Throughout this season I have at time chosen to use cycling shoes and clipless pedals (where you are attached to your bike) and on other occasions I have chosen to cycle with traditional pedals with my runners on. I chose the latter on this occasion because there was the chance of rain on the day and I just feel more at ease with runners on when the road conditions might be poor. As it happened the rain was spitting and the surface was damp. The first transition went without a hitch. I think Im getting much better at disrobing  these days as the wetsuit was off in no time. I was still gasping for breath after the swim as I mounted my bike and set off on the bike leg in an effort to chase down some of the faster swimmers. Very quickly it became obvious this was going to be a very twisty, windy, undulating and technical bike leg. In fact it was probably the most technical bike leg I have ever completed. The bends and undulating were relentless and it made it difficult to establish any rhythm as you were constantly moving up and down the gears, braking and accelerating. I must have changed gears a couple of hundred times which is a lot for a 22km cycle, but the terrain called for it. At one point we cycled on a road which was covered in slurry, consequently we were splattered in it too. By the middle of the bike segment I found myself surrounded by about 5 cyclists. Some of the I had managed to catch up with but was unable to pass and some had caught up with me. The nature of the bike route meant that we were all fairly evenly matched and took turns attacking and swapping position but only temporarily. No one in the group seemed to be able to break away for any considerable time which encouraged me , because it meant that I wasn’t the only one suffering J This in fact remained the case until we entered transition for the second time and perhaps it was the fact that I was already wearing runners that help speed up my transition but I exited ahead of all but one of that particular group of riders.

The first kilometre of a run after you finish a bike leg is always a bit tricky. You have spent 22km pedalling furiously before hopping off and running for your life. The body undergoes huge physiological changes as it redirects blood flow to facilitate the change in demand. You would think you were using the same muscles in cycling and running but that’s not the case. After the first km I had managed to settle into a rhythm, not a comfortable one but a rhythm al the same . I managed to pass one runner before being passed by one of the chaps who I passed on the bike. He moved about 50m ahead of me and stayed there so I kept him in my sights. At one point I could hear someone breathing on my shoulder and as I descended down one hill I kicked on to stave off any attempt by him to pass me which thankfully worked. As we entered the final km I noticed the chap in my sights was dropping his pace and saw the opportunity to make my move and pass him which I did in the final 500m. I was careful to make sure he didn’t retaliate and find myself being passed on the finish line which happened in Belfast. This time I kept the foot down. I could also hear someone on my shoulder again which I presumed was the breather guy making a final push, so I thought I would do the same as I upped my pace again. Thankfully it was enough  and I was delighted to see the finish line as I crossed in 10th place.

Now that was very pleasing because of the tough nature of the bike course and I managed to knock 1 minute off my run time which is a good improvement on last week’s time and also in the context of it being only my second 5km in 6 weeks. Now after the race I availed of a free massage and the therapist told me I should massage the soles of my feet because tight ligaments and tendons in the foot can contribute to calf problems. So this will be something that I will look at. I do need to incorporate more strength training and conditioning including stretching into my training for sure.


For the moment its back to training ahead of my final 2 races of the season.

So far so good


So after a short midseason sabbatical I returned to the triathlon fold at the weekend. In truth there were a couple of reasons for my inactivity in recent weeks. One reason was the calf strain I had acquired the day after the Belfast triathlon and the second reason being that I just needed a rest as I had up to that point completed 6 triathlons since the June bank holiday weekend.

The recurring calf strain situation is something I am addressing as it occurred at exactly the same point last season, give or take a week. In fact it prematurely ended my reason if memory serves me correctly. So I am looking at my running biomechanics at the moment to see if I am possibly overstretching when my foot contacts the ground thus creating an imbalance. Ideally you are supposed to run with your feet making contact with the ground beneath your pelvis with your head directly above that in a line. When you deviate away from that head, pelvis, foot central alignment you have an increased tendency to experience injury. So when you are told to run with your head up theres a very good reason for it.

I am considering approaching a coach to give me pointers regarding my run form. I had considered having  my run gait checked in one of the running shops but I have a big issue with this concept primarily because running on a treadmill is totally different to running outdoors, plus the main objective of run shops is to sell you running shoes. I would rather have a run coach watch me run outside and assess my form from head to toe in a real world context.  So this will be on the agenda in the medium term.


So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I approached the Lough Key Forest Park Triathlon at the weekend. I had done some treadmill running but only 2 to 4km once the initial strain had subsided. I chose to drive up to Roscommon on the Saturday night as it was going to be an early start on the Sunday. Its funny I seem to have travelled the M4 a half a dozen times this year en route to many of the races I have taken part in, so I am very familiar with the towns and villages along the way.

I slept well and woke at about 6.30 am before having a bite to eat and some fluid. The setup in Lough Key Forest park was very similar to that in Blessington and for the Two Provinces in that the transition area was right beside the water’s edge thus making the whole affair quite intimate and leading to a short run up from the water. I do enjoy lake swims primarily because the water is less prone to be choppy and subject to currents. There were two waves based on participants’ predicted swim times so I found myself in the second wave, however when it came to my wave it was obvious some people in the first wave underestimated just how quickly the would complete the 750m swim  as I passed them out despite their starting 5 minutes before me. The swim went well. I have a tried and tested strategy now in that I try to ignore the frenetic commotion at the start which is made easier by my starting out wide away from the melee. This allows me time and space to focus on myself. The first few strokes will always be a little faster but after a few metres I set into a rhythm which for me is 36 strokes per minute pace. This enables me to complete the 750 m comfortably even if I encounter a stray foot in the face from another competitor which is what happened, but it comes with the territory. Coming out of the water I saw my time was 14 mins 20 seconds with which I was pleased.

I had elected to complete the bike segment using runners and regular bike pedals rather than bike shoes and clipless pedals. In fact I have alternated between both methods through the season in an attempt to arrive at a definitive decision as to which method, clipless or not, suits best. The jury is still out. Apparently clipless pedals lend themselves to a more efficient pedalling stroke as opposed to the standard runners on flat pedals, but like I say I cant decide which is better for me. I can tell you I almost forgot to put my runners on as I was preparing to wheel my bike out of transition for the bike leg!!

Once on the bike I was quickly passing riders by the dozen as we made our way down a tricky country lane. Then it started to spit rain and immediately I was thinking of safety. Its far too easy to come off the bike especially when rounding a corner in the wet so I was choosing my line with as much care as possible. The first few kilometres felt quick. I had put my speedometer on the end of one of the tri bar extensions so I could glance down every so often. I am satisfied when I notice my speed is north of 35kmph much of the time. There were many descents and ascents and at one point I dropped down to my lowest gear which is a rarity for me. I was hearted by my progress and by not having to get out of the saddle at any stage to ascend any of the hills. There were a couple guys who I kept swapping places with as we worked our way through the field. I kept passing them on the hills and they kept passing me on the descents. There was one terrific section where we joined the motorways and had a brief period where we were doing about 50kmph for about 30 seconds before meeting another hill. All in all I was happy with the bike leg given it was 23km so 3km longer than what I would normally cycle and also given that I hadn’t done a race in 6 weeks and would have lost a bit of my racing edge. I averaged a speed of 32.4 kmph.


Now came the run leg. This would be the biggest test of my calf. As I said In hadn’t run in anger since Belfast in July. This would be the first 5km I would run since then so I was acutely aware that it was a real possibility that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. However as I began I was pleased to see that there was no abreaction to my lay off. The run route was more of a cross country route with its multiple undulations and one particularly gorgeous section through what can only be described as a cathedral of trees. It was clear I had lost some pace and I was huffing and puffing but I was managing to pass runners without being passed myself. I was relieved to see the finish line in one piece. The run time was a slow 22.14 mins but one without injury. All in alL I came in 22nd place out of 250 people and 4th in my age group so I was very pleased with that. On reflection not having competed in recent weeks hadn’t hampered me very much at all which means that I must have a basic level of fitness which stood to me. My task now is to get faster at all three disciplines. My only grievance about the Lough key Forest Triathlon was not receiving a medal. I may have made this point before but I always like to receive a medal for participating because I can hang it up and use it as motivation, I don’t quite get the same level of motivation from a t shirt or a hoodie ( although the hoodie we received was very high in terms of quality and has been worn since).


So a good day out was had and I’m trying to  decide what my next race will be. I don’t want to jump right in with two feet again and endure another injury with the season 4 weeks away from completion. I have signed up for 2 more races so I may simply complete them and be satisfied we shall see.  😉

A hat tip to Mark Kelly for some of the photos.

Getting the hang of this now

blessington 2018 3

The glorious scene greeting us at the Blessington lakes, the water was as warm as a bath

Again forgive me for the sporadic nature of my posts in recent months. While my excuse was illness in the early parts of the year Im delighted to attribute my intermittent silence to being run off my feet in the working sense. I have been doing a lot of work for RTE (I’m a radio presenter) in Limerick so there has been much commuting and juggling of multiple balls and while its been exhausting at times, its been thrilling to be so busy. From a logistical standpoint  splitting myself between Dublin and Limerick in the run up to and during the triathlon season has provided a challenge. Thankfully the University of Limerick has terrific sports facilities which I may have alluded to before but which definitely deserves another mention. What is great about them is they have a 50m pool, an indoor running track, a full gym and the training pitches which facilitate running outside. In fact the only thing I couldn’t do was bring my bike with me which would have been terrific but you can have everything. I was also blessed with the most incredible weather I’ve ever experienced in this country. At one point I was running around the training pitch in UL in 90 degree heat .. I was pinching myself .. was this really Ireland ??? Indeed it was.

I’m waffling so lets get down to the nitty gritty. When we last spoke I had completed 3 triathlons and had been rather pleased with my form thus far. My fourth triathlon of the season saw me return to Wicklow for the Blessington Triathlon. This was one of the first races I did last year and I was keen to see how my performance this year would compare. Last year I managed 21st place in a time of 1 hour 20 mins so I definitely wanted to better that even though the bike route was slightly different this time round. Well I’m delighted to say it went well indeed. Now it has to be said it was a hot day, so much so we were given the option of swimming without a wetsuit as the water was 20 degrees Celsius, which is almost as warm as an indoor swimming pool. Not having swam in a lake without a wetsuit before I elected to stick to what I knew best and swam with my wetsuit on. The swim was straightforward enough and I paced myself carefully as I have done all season. I’ve said it before but its worth repeating, that its so easy to get carried away and let your competitive instincts get the better of you by exploding off the start line. I see many people doing this every race but it’s the worst thing you can do because sooner rather than later you will be gasping for breath and going nowhere fast. The swim took me 6 mins less than last year which sounds impressive but I must add in the caveat that my watch measured the swim route and around 100m short which I find frustrating but out of my control.

The first transition was seamless compared to this exact transition last year when my wetsuit ripped (that’s a whole other blog post on its own) and I was out of transition in no time. Now my main gripe with this Blessington race is the steep incline out of transition each time. The road is about 150 metres long and really taxes you due to its gradient which is a further challenge at 2 crucial points in the race. One beyond this ‘neutral zone’, we made our way around the glorious countryside of Wicklow, alas you don’t really get the chance to saviour those stunning vistas because you’re either busting a gut struggling to maintain pace going up a hill or trying to eek out as much speed as is safely possible on one of the downhill segments. The bike route was tough with its seemingly incessant inclines, declines and sharp bends. Quite honestly I found the route to be dangerous especially because the roads hadn’t been closed to public traffic. At one point I was descending at 60km  per hour and was truly grateful to have disc brakes because it got pretty hairy, in fact one cyclist ended up in the back of an ambulance and 3 others suffered punctures which will give you an indication as to how good the road surface was. At another point the road narrowed and I slammed on the brakes as a car approached from the opposite direction, this is something organisers will have to address because it was by the grace of god that no one was seriously injured.

The run segment was a struggle initially s it usually is after getting off the bike. I think the extra exertion on the bike route, took its toll on my legs. Combine the really tired legs with a hilly run on an oppressively warm day and you are looking at a slow run time. Throw in the fact that the run was also 600m longer than 5km and you are looking at a slow run time. That being said… I still managed to complete the course 6 mins quicker than l did last year and bagged a 9th place and so I was very pleased with my first top ten of the season. Is that my first top ten ever ? I’m actually not sure, I’ve lost track, I think it may very well be!!


No rest for the wicked and in an attempt to get as much money’s worth out of this short triathlon season I was quickly into another triathlon this time in Roscommon. Its funny I seem to have already travelled the M4 motorway half a dozen times this year to triathlons, they all seem to congregate in this part of the world for some reason. This particular triathlon was a National Series Triathlon which meant it would be of a higher standard in terms of organisation and standard of competitor, akin to the Westport Triathlon I did a few weeks ago. The difference with this national series triathlon would be that I wouldn’t feature near the top as I had done in Blessington, in fact I wouldn’t even be able to emulate my 48th position from Westport because I benefitted that week from watered down field because there were two national series races on the day of the Westport Triathlon. In essence my result this time would be an undiluted real reflection of where I was, so with that in mind I was aiming for 20 top in my age group and 70th overall.

I was most impressed with the degree of organisation of this race. Everything was run with military precision. I enjoyed watching the elite men and women take to the waters first. It was amazing watching them swim  the 750 m swim in 9 minutes without the need of  a wetsuit. My wave was the last wave to go and while the swim was to all intents and purposes a lake swim, the wind was blowing hard and threw us off course to such an extent that I had to keep correcting my line in the water. I was pleased enough to come out in 14 and a half minutes or thereabouts. The transition was quick and the cycle incident free. Looking at my stats afterwards I did notice that I have a tendency to fall off the pace on the bike leg in the last 3 to 4km, so this is something I will need to address. I tend to give it everything on the bike every time so I may have to look at my training to help me bring up my power and speed because I am yielding about 2 minutes on the bike leg each time to the top 3 guys in my age group. I was happy with the run especially given my determination to post a faster average pace than I did in Blessington. I managed 71st overall and 15th in my age group with which I was very happy. My finish time was decent too , coming in at 1 hr 13.

belfast 3

The following week we were on the road again. The destination this time was Belfast for the Titanic Triathlon. I was interested in doing this particular triathlon because it was going to be my first city based triathlon which would be novel because of the potential for crowds of spectators but also because there would be fewer hills!! Yay!! Fewer hills translates into a flatter course and thus faster times. I travelled up the night before the race and managed to get a really nice and breakfast about 15 mins cycle from Victoria Square where the race would takle place. I slept  the best I have ever slept before a triathlon that night, primarily because I am getting so used to doing these races that pre-race jitters are now at a minimum. In fact if I could physically do a race every week I would purely to keep thise jitters and uncertainties at a minimum, but the body might have an issue with that!


Me being attacked by a random giant foot 🙂

Again the swim went well. The race took place in the Lagan which is a salt water river. The temperature of the water was actually chilly enough by recent standards but we managed to heat up fairly quickly once the r5ace got under way. I posted a time of 14 and a half minutes again for the swim even though I swam an extra 100 metres. Then came the cycle which I have to say was a joy. I say that because at one point I was looking at my speedo at it was consistently registering 40 km ph which for me is fast. The bike route took us through an industrial area home to Harland and Wolf boat makers and I believe where they built the Titanic too, not that I could appreciate the significance mid race. Unfortunately despite the route being flat and not particularly technical there were a couple of casualties as a couple of guys fell off their bikes, so hopefully they weren’t too badly hurt.

belfast 1

The Belfast Titanic Triathlon Medal .. probably the nicest medal I’ve received yet.

I was determined to give it more on the run leg than I had in previous races. I felt the flatter course would favour a faster time but I would need to dig deep if it was going to happen. A couple of guys passed me on the first lap of the run and I chose to try stick on the shoulder on one of them, to my surprise I was able to do this and actually passed him out. I was clocking around 4 m per km pace and was approaching the end of the second lap when one of the guys I had passed earlier in the run , shot past me. I dug to try to get more speed to catch him but alas he crossed the line in 7th leaving me in 8th . I will not be so remiss next time. Overall I was delighted to get 8th, it was a great result and my best placing so far. Anyway I’ve prattled on long enough for the moment. I will be taking a break from competitions for a couple of weeks and will fingers crossed return to the fold in a in August all being well. Thanks for reading 🙂

Three triathlons is a charm


Well its been a busy few weeks and I simply haven’t had a spare minute to write a blog post so you’ll have to forgive me for condensing a couple of weeks into one post.

When we last met I had just finished the James Mc Manus Memorial Triathlon and had been rather encouraged by my performance. In an attempt to make maximum use of the triathlon season after a loooong looooong winter I had elected to register for 3 triathlons in 3 weeks. My second triathlon of the season was the Tarmonator which would take place in Tarmonbarry Co Longford, not far from the previous week’s. The difference this time was the swim segment took place in the Shannon. From the point of view of scale, the size of the field was very similar to the previous one in Cavan, so around 150 people.

The benefit of a smaller field is the transition area is smaller and generally the entire operation is more intimate which I prefer. The swim itself went without a hitch again. I chose to stick to the strategy which served me so well the previous week and stayed out wide to the left and enjoyed clean water. Once I round the first buoy the swimmers were more spread out and I simply paced myself back to shore.

The first transition was problem free. I had done up the zip on my triathlon suit so that it didn’t come undone as it did the previous week thus saving me time. I am still getting used to using clipless pedals and cycling shoes and struggled a little with trying to get my feet into them and the straps secured before knuckling down into a good rhythm on the bike. I always find I’m breathless when I’m first on the bike. I suppose its inevitable given the hare’s pace at which I have been swimming.

The cycle itself was uneventful, I passed a few people which always gives you a surge of confidence and literally only 2 cyclists passed me out which was good. One of these cyclists stayed ahead of me by about 100 meters and no matter what I did I couldn’t bridge the gap. Returning to transition after the cycle is more fraught than it was for me last year because of those clipless pedals. I cant just lift my foot off the pedal, hop off the bike and start running. I now have to gingerly remove my feet from the cycling pedals and place my foot on top of the cycling shoes and continue to cycle at pace before dismounting just in time before the dismount line. If you time this incorrectly it can lead to time penalties at best and injury or disc-qualification at worst.

Helmet off, runners on and we were off again. The run itself was as uneventful as the cycle. Nobody passed me and I could still see the chap who passed me on the bike 100 m ahead, but no matter what I did I just couldn’t close that gap.

In the end I managed a decent enough 15th place overall, so I was delighted with that. The swim was very satisfying, it took me 13:30 mins , the cycle was 4 seconds off last week’s and 34 min 11sec and the run was 19:55 min, over all I came within a few seconds of last week’s at just under 1:11 hours, so very similar to the previous week’s times.

Fast forward another week and I was hurtling across the country again, this time to Westport in Mayo. I had chosen to travel on the evening before the triathlon as it was going to be a very early start on the Saturday morning with an 8.15 am start which is a couple of hours earlier than normal primarily due to the tides. This particular triathlon was a National Series Triathlon which is of a higher standard than previous triathlons I have taken part in. I had elected to try to step up a level purely to see where I was by comparison.

I managed to get a b and b cancellation only a couple of days prior to travelling and to my delight its location was absolutely ideal in that it overlooked the swim section of the triathlon and transition itself. I never seem to sleep especially well the evening before a particularly early start and this situation was no different. In my defence though, a fitful night’s sleep never seems to negatively impact upon my race day performance.

The morning of the race was a shock to the system. Unlike the previous two week’s there sun was hiding and the wind was blowing a gale. Throw in cold temperatures, rain and a choppy looking Clew Bay and the 45  minutes prior to the start was filled with trepidation. I must admit I did fleetingly consider not competing given the conditions. The sea looked rougher than anything I had swam in before and the thoughts of trying to cycle uphill into a wind while soaking was not at all appealing but I felt I had to compete. The whole point of my starting out on this triathlon journey last year was to put myself in uncomfortable situations. feel the fear and do it anyway, and that is exactly what I said to myself as we got into the choppy water.

Surprisingly, the water wasn’t quite as cold as I had thought it would be, but the chop proved challenging. What didn’t help was my goggles kept filling with water which meant I had to stop several times midrace to empty them out and put them on again. At one point I chose to do the breast stroke for a few strokes to get my bearings. Once I managed to get a rhythm I felt comfortable but before I knew it the swim was over.

The transition went without a hitch and I chose to use the cycling shoes and elastic bands to enable me to get into the shoes as quickly as possible. Once I got going on the bike I started to pick people off. I had started in the second wave of swimmers with the first wave having a 5 minute head start. The cycle itself was uphill into the wind towards the base of Croagh Patrick. The outward 10km took me 22 mins which for me is painfully slow but I think it affected everyone. The inbound journey took me 11 mins and I was hitting 50km plus per hour with the benefit of gravity and a tail wind. I have to a mention to the views all around me on the bike leg, they were truly stunning, sadly I couldn’t hang around too long to admire the vista.

The run felt a little slow and perhaps the fact that this was my third triathlon in three weeks was beginning to tell on my legs. I was tired prior to this triathlon so maybe the accumulation of races rather than a restless night was the cause. The run leg took us through the picturesque setting of Westport House along what was essentially a trail run. In the end I managed a time of 1 hr 15 mins, 48th of the individual competitors and 10th in my age group. Given the conditions in the water and the challenging bike leg I must say I was very pleased with my performance in this standard of field. Interestingly, out of everyone who started the second wave I managed 3rd.

Next up … Blessington triathlon…

Back in the saddle

brackely lake

Well its good to be back. After what felt like an eternity of an off-season and endless hours winter training last weekend saw the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful triathlon season.

brackley lake map

The opening race for me would be the James McManus memorial triathlon in county Cavan who I must credit for some of the photos in this blog post. Now this very weekend last year I had opened up my triathlon account in Kildare at the well known TryAthy. It seems to be a rite of passage for any newbie triathlete owing to the course being less physically demanding and thus constituting a soft introduction to the world of triathlons. While I enjoyed my first foray last year I found the race had far too many competitors and it became a bit hairy at times from a safety standpoint. I did bring this up with race organisers and it seems these issues were addressed for this years’s race. I elected however to compete in a smaller more intimate race and setting in Cavan and I’m very pleased I did.

The swim section took place in Brackley lake near Ballyconnell in county Cavan. There was cloud cover and the forecast had threatened thundery downpours. The water temperature was a warm 14 degrees and the transition area was literally a few feet from the water’s edge. This is what I love about smaller events. Everything is contained in a small geographical space. The registration tent was right beside the bag drop off point, which was beside the transition area which would hold the 150 bikes and beside this were the all important toilets and the lake. A field of 150 is perfect as it means its alot easier from a logistical standpoint for the organisers to manage and the whole event is much more manageable for the competitors too.

The idea of a lake swim had left me a tad apprehensive as I had only last week re-entered the open water after a winter in the pool. It was a bit of a culture shock to be outdoors again and in my wetsuit which had hung on a hanger all winter. It took me a couple of days to reacquaint myself with the sights , sounds and sensations of open water swimming. despite the added buoyancy of the wetsuit I was finding it tough to swim a couple of hundred meters in the sea at seapoint where I tend to swim outdoors.

The good news for me was that on race day, the water in Brackley lake was as flat as glass and as I practised a few strokes ahead of the starting whistle, I found I could manoeuvre through the water with ease compared to my attempts earlier in the week in the salt waters of seapoint. The only down side was the water was brown and impossible to see through but that is often the case. As we started the swim section I elected to pace myself and stay out wide away from the melee which always accompanies the start. Outdoor swimming is still inherently alien to me as is the concept of swimming so close to multiple bodies thrashing and splashing so I learned from my exploits last year to avoid the mayhem and chart my own path towards the first buoy. As I did I could see the main body of swimmers take a different more direct line but I was happy to sacrifice a few seconds for the sake having clean undisturbed water to swim in . The effect this had was that it enabled me to stay calm and pace myself without being worried I was going to hit someone or that someone was going to clobber me inadvertently.

As we approached the first buoy I had established a rhythm and rejoined the main body of swimmers which had at this stage stretched out substantially. Every so often I would remind myself to slow down and allow my breathing pattern to dictate my stroke rate and not the other way around. Its so easy to get caught up in the moment and allow your competitive instincts to take over. The problem with this is while your pace accelerates so does the demand on your lungs and pretty soon you’re gasping for air because your lungs just cant keep up. This inevitably leads to having to breathe after every single stroke and at the same time your form breaks down and you lose momentum. I was very happy with my ability to maintain a plan to breathe every three strokes bilaterally up until the final 100 meters when more frequent sighting was necessary as multiple swimmers jostled for position on the final straight.

Out of the water and I glanced at my watch to see 13:30 mins. I was very happy with this given my previous attempts at swimming 750m in a lake hadn’t been anything as fast. I was also very happy with my first unbroken 750m swim in almost a year. Now while I can swim 2000m non-stop in the pool, its not quite the same as swimming non-stop in open water as there are no opportunities to grasp a breath at the end of each lap in open water.

pedals shoes

My cycling shoes already clipped into the clipless pedals

In transition as I took off my wetsuit my triathlon suit beneath it came off inadvertently which slowed me down a few seconds. I then grabbed my bike and remembered I had to attempt a flying mount as I had already attached my cycling shoes to the clipless pedals. All of the pros elect to cycle in triathlon shoes and employ clipless pedals, the argument is that they give you a more efficient pedal stroke and help save energy, who am I to argue. I probably should have tried the flying mount before using it for the first time in a competition but anyway, I just about managed it without coming a cropper. As per the photo, the triathlon shoes are already attached to the clipless pedals and held in position with elastic bands, which allows you to place your feet on top of your shoes as you begin to cycle. Once you have sufficient speed, you can insert your feet into the shoes and start pedaling at which point the elastic bands break. The process is the reverse when attempting a flying dismount.

tarmon 4

The cycle itself was fair enough, in that there weren’t too many hills. We cycled 10 km west though the countryside and then returned along the same route. The beauty of this is you can count exactly where you are in the race by counting the number of riders that pass you on the way back. I was relatively happy with my pace on the bike. I averaged 35 km ph and got around in just over 34 minutes. Like last year I chose to put a swim cap on my bike helmet to make it a bit more aerodynamic and enable me to travel through the air with less drag. I had also bought some latex inner tubes which are meant to have less rolling resistance than regular butyl tubes and thus yield a similar speed but for less power output.

tarmon 3

Looking a tad dishevelled !!

I determined by the end of the cycle I was in 26th place but wasn’t 100% sure. Its strange at first when you get off the bike, as your legs are full of blood and the last thing they want to do is run 5 km. A quick transition and I was off on my run which if I’m honest felt slow but then this is always the case especially on the first kilometer or two. As it happened each of the five kilometers I ran was faster than the previous one and as I crossed the line I determined I had run the 5 km in just under 20 minutes which like the swim and the cycle was a PB for me. While initially I had thought I managed 30th position in 1 hour 10 minutes, I had actually secured 29th and was delighted with that.

Its good to be back in the saddle.. now on to the next one !!!