Getting the hang of this now

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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!!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 🙂

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