Since I did race reports for smaller races, it seems right that I do one for my 'A' race this season and my first stab at the Half distance!
I signed up for this race when it went on sale, half wondering if I was mad doing so but really looking forward to participating in an Ironman-branded event. But pretty soon afterwards the banter kicked in and was equal measures hilarious and motivational... The fact that 50+ people from the club were doing the race was amazing and made for fantastic support approaching the event and on the day. Even registering on the Friday and dropping off my bike on the Saturday meant bumping into WicklowTri people.
On race morning the nerves were actually strangely calm, possibly due to the ungodly hour the alarm went off at. I got up, had my pre-race meal (scrambled eggs on toast) and headed for the venue with Audrey and Lisa H. After pumping up my tyres and prepping my bike, we had a quick team photo before we all split up into our different waves...
I was far too casual about getting ready, chatting to everyone, because I didn't notice the queues for the toilets were growing so I had an anxious wait, a quick change into my wetsuit, and then a dash down to the start area. Having all the WicklowTri guys marshalling the swim entry was epic - some of my family had come down to see me too and they said I looked like a rock-star high-fiving all the marshals on my way into the water. Last up was Gaby who wished me luck, then pointed at the ground and said "There's the timing mat" and before I knew it, the race had started!! A quick wave to my family and I dove into the water.
After a bit of a false-start after trying to inhale some water, I eased into a rhythm. It was a straight 1km swim out to the first buoy. It was so far away I couldn't see it and got confused by why so many people were swimming really wide. I ignored them and kept going straight, and before long I started seeing other coloured hats which gave me a good boost. Finally around the first buoy and onto a section I knew would be a bit rougher. It was certainly more crowded and I was surprised to see the next buoy so soon, and turned with the rest of the crowd I'd found myself in... until I tried to find the next buoy and noticed that there was another big orange one back in the direction I had been swimming. They never said anything about extra buoys in the briefing!! Ok, not a big deal, a quick change of direction and off I went, around the buoy and towards the yellow PowerAde arch... only now I see 2 yellow buoys a bit further out from them. The briefing had clearly said to keep all the buoys on your left, but I figured there was no way they weren't going to make us swim around these guys (keeping them on my right) so I went straight for them - and turned out to be correct. I hear stories that some people missed buoys entirely and had to be sent back, which doesn't surprise me - some of those guys even missed the cut-off because of it. I got out of the water, checked my watch... 0:00:00 Never started my watch... Oh well. Turns out it was just under 37 minutes into T1; I'd been hoping for quicker but given the course was allegedly long and I had a slight detour, no complaints there.
Into transition - seats?? Seats in transition?? I could get used to this! Although they make you far too relaxed. I got my wetsuit off, cycling gear on and off I went to find my bike. I saw Audrey and my family again and a few WicklowTri faces along the way too. Grab my bike, a final wave to Audrey and my family and then off I went. I'd done a wee bit of reccie on the road the day before so knew when to expect slight uphill bits along the road and was feeling confident. I started overtaking people early on and settling into a comfortable speed but at a maintainable heart-rate. By the time I got into Dublin City it was starting to drizzle but I didn't mind too much; cycling down the North Quays in the wrong direction was bizarre enough to keep me distracted! A bit of a nasty hill just before the Phoenix Park and then I turned into the Park itself, trying to dismiss the thought in the back of my head saying "this is where your leg started to get sore on your first marathon..." None of that please - just keep going. I spent at least 95% of the time down on the tri bars as I made my way around the course, only coming up to get water or to take the sharp turns, which at this stage were vicious from the rain, especially those with drain covers. I'd a few close calls where I nearly ended up in a ditch but I was going well. The aid stations are great - full bottles of water if you need them and even occasional entertainment, like the crazy Polish guy beside me turning to me with a banana in his hand shouting "Oh man, I love bananas!" and cycling off! After 2 hours I realised I was slightly behind my target; I'd a lofty goal of hitting 2:30 on the bike and I had 20km to go, so I figured I needed to average 40km/h all the way home - no chance! But I hit smooth, flat/slightly downhill roads and realised I was doing easily over 40 km/h - I might actually do this now! That is, of course, until I hit the Strawberry Beds where I knew a steep climb waited for me. But this was actually one of my favourite parts of the cycle - a few local tri clubs had camped out there with their cow-bells and I really felt like I was part of a big event here, with all the cries encouraging us up the hill. A sour note was passing what I was pretty sure was an Amphibian King jersey at the side of the road fixing a puncture - poor Damo! Into the Park, push for the last bit, got a cheer from Darren & Ciara who were just coming into the park after marshalling that morning and then a huge cheer from a big group (including Audrey) as I approach transition, 2:32:00 on my watch! Very happy, but also quite in need of a portaloo/bush...
No free portaloos... Oh well, I think there's some on the other side of transition - I get changed, and finally allow myself to feel happy that I didn't get a puncture - too late to jinx myself now! No portaloos on the other side, where are they? Then I just heard the long beep that told me I'd crossed a mat and now was officially on the run! I knew there were toilets out on the run so it's time to move! I hit the first roundabout, see a few WicklowTri supporters and head off. First water station on the way up Chesterfield Ave I take on a gel and some water, and on the way back on the other side of the road I notice... there's a bloody portaloo there! Oh well, next one. Down into the V at the bottom of the run route and I see my aunt, uncle and cousin who've come in to support me - amazing! Around the corner and there's Rodolfo on a bike cheering me on and tells me Mark Davies is up ahead! I catch up with Mark and we chat for a bit until I see the next water stop - PORTALOO!! After a quick pit-stop I set off on the run again and get my first coloured band soon after. Shortly after that I see a gang of WicklowTri and it's hard not to feel chuffed when you're running past that!
Unlike the other guy...
It's pretty cruel making you run down the first part of the finishing chute before you loop back and start your next lap, but at least you know what's ahead of you. The sound is immense! Onto my second lap and a serious gang has gathered at the roundabout and I get a big cheer as I go by. I'm feeling really strong and my pace is really good. Just keep it going. I get to the water station and take a tried-and-trusted GU gel I have with me and take some water on. I see Jamie ahead of me coming the other way and after looping around I see Lisa H and Debs. This out-and-back part of Chesterfield Ave is perfect for high-fiving your club-mates as you go by and I'm making full use of it. Down the V, see my cousin, aunt and uncle again turn the corner and set up to the next water station. More water at the aid station and off I go to around the top loop of the course, grab my second colour band and set off to finish lap 2. My legs are starting to tire but soon I see Fiona and then shortly after a big gang of more WicklowTri people cheering me on. Down the finish chute, turn around, lap 3! I pass the roundabout again - even more support but my pace is slowing and my legs are feeling heavy. I put on a brave face but I'm struggling. I can't stomach another gel and I feel like the water's doing nothing for me (mental note - look into salt tablets). I loop around, high-five Pete who's bearing down on me, down the V, turn around, back up - next water station. I decide feck it, last lap, let's try this Pepsi thing. I'd read it was flat - it was not! So I had water, Pepsi, more water and kept going. At this stage I was struggling to keep my legs moving but I pushed through it; it felt like the last few miles of the marathon. I was doing all sorts of (incorrect) maths in my head and figured I was way off my run target. Then I passed a KM marker, did some (correct) maths and realised I wasn't actually that far off as I'd had a good start to the run, and that soon I was coming up to the point where they give out the lap bands - number 3!! It must be psychological because the Pepsi didn't give me that much of a boost, but I found a bounce in my step again and my pace picked up. 3 bands on my wrist, a wave to Fiona, a wave to the other group of WicklowTri on the corner and I'm onto the finish chute!!
The finish chute deserves its own paragraph - it's worth the entry fee alone. I start down and show the marshals my 3 bands and they let me down the narrow stretch to the finish line. It's carpeted, crowded, loud and narrow as hell so you really feel like a celebrity. The announcer leans her head over to read my name off my race number and shouts out that "Michael from WicklowTri" is about to finish - this is amazing. I see Audrey & Mary on one side and I see Andy C and Dave McD on the other side and I soak it all up. Speaking of Dave, he caught the moment I crossed the line on video - what a legend!
Across the line I got my medal, T-shirt, a foil blanket, some water and I went off to find Audrey. My run time was 1:47-ish, which overall I was pretty happy with, but I still had no idea what my overall time was. I was hoping it'd be somewhere around the 5:30 mark so when I found Audrey and she told me I'd done 5:05, I was gob-smacked but delighted! The tracker wasn't working on her phone but apparently my family had been using it all day and keeping each other updated on our WhatsApp group!
It was a brilliant day but I was shattered:
Well done again to everyone involved - those who took part, those who marshalled and those who came in to support. You were all amazing!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Brian, Darren_S, John Bowes, Paul Evans, grykyo
Brilliant report Michael! Great to see all your hard work pay off. What a super result for any athlete to get, never mind someone like yourself who was doing that distance for the first time. Most of us could only dream of getting close to 5 hours. You're absolutely flying ... well done!!