Off to collect the shiny bike and pointy helmet. My race now really starts!! I knew the cycle course was famous for its 4 climbs - the two small ones and two big ones (the Healy and Caha passes) lay ahead. Felt great on the bike and started to pass people. The first of the smaller climbs came and went and on the descent I was passed by a few – obviously still need to work on the descents – is it worth it? Those boys were going fast!! Anyway, turn left and we’re climbing again before there was time to think - I overtook the few who passed me on the descent with interest and continued passing people on the way to the top – is that it? I wanted more!! – I had prepared myself for this cycle well. This descent had more twists and turns than a soap plot - they call it “technical”. On each hairpin it seemed that someone passed me – those boys were still going fast. Mind you, less passed me than I had earlier passed. Around another bend and there was a fella on the side of the road not looking good being tended to – did he take that bend too fast? - must find out afterwards how he was - does anyone know?
Nice straight to Glengarriff and a bit of time trialing – isn’t this what Tri Cycling is supposed to be? Left again in Glengarriff and climbing again – the Caha pass. (don’t know where the other smaller climb went!!).
This climb was long but not too steep and yes, passing people again – felt great still. Started the long descent to transition. On this descent I held my position and when it flattened out I knew that the last stretch was upon me.
Average speed on the Garmin strapped to the handlebars - my improvised bike computer - told me that I was averaging about 32 kph – I was very happy with that on this course!
Back to transition – how many did I pass? I’ll find out after. Rack the bike, look at the socks – nah, I’m hard – stick on the shoes and off I go. I’m running now – I’m on home territory. Sure enough I was passing people again and started thinking about my category position – this was the National Championships after all! Caught up with Aileen Flynn. who was eventually to win the race, but she wasn’t letting me past! I knew now I was getting to the business end. At this stage I still felt good and we ran together passing each other and vice versa.
This run course was beginning to get tough and my toes were beginning to give out. The hills were tough and eventually Aileen pulled away – she was running good. Got to the feeding station at 15k – Aileen had one last refuel and took off like she was starting a 5k run fresh – impressive stuff. Then the next hill appeared in front of me – it was a tough bastard and I didn’t enjoy it!
After another 5k that seemed like 50 miles I got to the finish. I lost 3 and a half minutes in those last 5k to flying Aileen.
Checked the results – missed out on category bronze by 45 secs. I had borrowed too much in the swim and spent the last few shillings on the run! Then I started thinking - what if I wasn't worrying about cramp? – What if I could descend like those fast fellas? – What happened me towards the end of the run? – even as the last leg of a Triathlon I know I was capable of faster than 1.32 – I need to work on that. Then realized – jaysus, I had finished the Lost Sheep in 4.49 – that was a good time! Inspection of my feet and the big red blisters on every toe told another tale. Note to self – socks for distances above 10k.
Thought I'd give you a report on my latest activity:
The Dead Frog
This is what I got up to yesterday: Lost Sheep national middle distance championship, Kenmare
Well the Triathlon season is over for me for this year – my first full season and I wanted to go out in style. The pinnacle of the season was the trip to my ancestral county of Kerry for the toughest race on the circuit.
I arrived at the Bed & Breakfast on Friday afternoon and that Kerry trait of stuffing as much food into your guests as possible was still alive and well to bring back memories of my Grandmothers meals. “Do you want more”, “no thanks Gran” and hey ho another mountain lands on the plate. I could never understand why she asked, as the question was rhetorical. The hospitality however in my Kenmare bolthole was second to none.
Another trait and memory of my childhood trips to the Kingdom was the black mountains, mist, cloud and rain that magically appeared as you crossed the county boundary – yup all were still there.
Race day started at 5.15 when my alarm rudely woke me up – more reminded me to get up as I was awake after a substantially sleepless night. The dreaded cramp had hit in the night also and set my mind racing – how can I face the long swim with cramp before I even started. The “Fear an Ti” wouldn’t have been disappointed with the size of the bowl of porridge I whipped up.
Anyway, got the bike and the pointy helmet ready and headed off like a cavalier at dawn on my horse picking up comrades from the side roads (or are they all enemies) as we headed to the pier. How is that on the morning of a race an hour lasts for a minute? It was 7.30 AM and time for the dip sooner than it should have been.
Race strategy – Swim easy and don’t get cramp – and the rest will look after itself. I knew I had done the Bike work and the run – sure I’m a veritable Haile Gebrselassie – we even share the same birthday.
When setting up transition I place a pair of socks beside my runners – Will I wear them? – I dunno but probably not as I’m hard. I knew in my heart that 10k without socks in my speedy shoes was ok, but a half marathon – I wasn’t sure! On with the wetsuit and the green hat provided by the organizers.
Into the water and 400 or so of us gathered in the bay like a big pot of peas about to come to the boil. The yellow buoys in the distance like two stray pieces of corn were the target. Adverse to Kerry tradition the weather looked good and I settled into the race. Purposely keeping wide to avoid the washing machine I got into my easy pace and with the repetitive thought of stroke, breath, stroke, breath.
Got to the first buoy without cramp and the first fence was flown. Turn right, right again and there was the white house on the pier in the distance – it was small and far away. However, it slowly got bigger and no sign of cramp. I hadn’t got through a race all year over sprint distance without a cramp attack and here I was in the longest of all and no cramp – could I get through without the dreaded “Charley Horse” – seemingly so and the slipway bordered by the “Vodafone” tubes arrived – out of the water. I knew I was slow but the first goal was achieved – 35 mins and apparently at that stage in 206th place – just as well I didn’t realise this at the time – I thought I had swam good enough. The main objective was to get out of the water in one piece, and that was achieved.