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.