Bagpipes in Cavan

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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.

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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.

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

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