I had some unfinished business with this race after last year’s stormy weather. See Hardman 2016 race report.
Irish weather is always a roll of the dice, but I decided to gamble again, and won. Race day conditions were near perfect. Dry with only a moderate NW breeze, which would keep us nice and cool. Happy days!
This year I also did a little more training, max 13 hrs a week, instead of last year’s 10 hr “Just Finish” plan. Most of the training was on the bike due to a shoulder injury, with swim and run curtailed a little.
3.8k swim - Lough Leane (enjoyable this time)
The swim course this year was 2 big laps further out into the lake instead of the 3 smaller laps last year due to conditions. The lake was reasonably calm with some gentle ripples at the shore and the race started on time.
I managed to keep up with a group out to the first buoy. There was a bit of chop but nothing too disturbing. Knowing the course from last year was a big help. The chop came in from the right out to the first buoy, was at our backs out into the lake, and then some little face slaps from the left on the way back home.
I got into some pods on both laps and was happy enough with swim time of 1:28, pretty much what I had done in training, and 15 mins faster than last year! A flat calm day and a little more effort could shave off a few more minutes, but I can’t complain. I had missed 6 weeks swim training with a frozen shoulder, and was lucky to make to the start line. All credit to physical therapist Clifford Murphy.
7 mins was not very fast but better than last year’s 10, and I felt reasonably fresh and ready for the bike.
180k bike – Ring of Kerry (close encounters with the animal kingdom)
The lake was a little cooler than last year, and I was glad of the toe covers on the shoes for the first hour before the blood got flowing. The 10k climb up Moll’s Gap also helped to warm up. I kept the pace steady and let on a few riders who seemed to risk burning matches early. The 10k descent to Kenmare was much safer than last year, dry with no cross winds. And the roll on to Sneem felt a lot easier too. There was a normal Irish breeze (25-30kph), but not a gale blowing us backwards like 2016.
There are a couple of small bumps on the way to Sneem, but the road on to Castle Cove includes a bigger one with spectacular views of White Strand as your reward. On the descent, I had a close encounter with a flock of sheep who insisted on playing chicken, refusing to budge from the road despite me screaming several times. They were either very daring or very deaf sheep, who eventually scattered at the last second to avoid a crash.
The 8k climb up Coomakista felt so much easier than last year that I wondered was the big climb coming soon, and then realized that I had already done it after seeing the view of the Skelligs and descending down to Waterville. I didn’t hang about too long at the feed station, stuffed my face with half a chicken sandwich, and then almost choked trying to eat the other half on the bike.
Bizarrely, after picking up some speed, I felt a sharp thud to the head when something bounced into the helmet. Sore enough, so I took it off to investigate while still cycling. I had been stung by a bloody bee, who was still stunned inside the helmet. It took a while to dislodge the little fecker, and the head stung for about an hour and a half. I had another close call on the main street in Cahersiveen when a lorry shed a few loose lumps of turf off the back, which I had to swerve to avoid. Some thrills, but thankfully no spills off the bike.
The only remaining real climb is a 5k ramp near Kells as the rest of the cycle flattens out into a fast sprint home. The legs were good and I found myself overtaking a few riders, including some who had passed me earlier flying up Moll’s Gap like a bat out of hell. Always feels good to overtake TT bikes on your road bike, especially if they have passed you earlier.
Coming towards Killarney I was ecstatic when I realized that the bike time would be an hour faster than last year. It ended up 6:34 instead of last year’s 7:43. The extra bike training had paid off, along with the decent weather.
12 mins was snail slow. I made the mistake of chatting too much, sitting down, and faffing about with sunscreen, Vaseline, gels, etc. I was on a high after the bike and lost focus on the race. Lesson learned—don’t waste time congratulating yourself if the race is going well. Wait until the race is over!
42.2k run – Killarney National Park (jog it out)
I decided to jog the entire marathon instead of going off too fast and ending up walking some of the last lap like last year. This plan seemed to work reasonably well. It was a slow and steady shuffle all the way home and no walking.
The undulating run course in the national park is fantastic, with stunning views of the mountains, lake, and Ross Castle. At one point, I ran past a large herd of red deer with huge antlers standing looking back at me from 20 metres away. Then I almost stood on a field mouse who froze and played dead in front of my foot.
Run time was 4:55, four minutes faster than last year. I hadn’t really done enough run training due to the shoulder injury, and had to cram in a few long shuffles towards the end of training, so I couldn’t complain.
Overall finish time was 13:18:05, almost an hour and half faster than last year, so I was happy with that. I’d definitely do this race again in a year or two. Next time, I’d do some strength and conditioning to prevent shoulder injury, more long runs earlier in the year, and focus on transitions. More time improvements should be doable on this tough but beautiful course.
Finally, one of the many enjoyable parts of this event is the prize giving brunch at the Castelrosse Hotel the next day. There’s a warm friendly atmosphere with plenty of craic and great food. You just wouldn’t get this at any other race. Big thanks to Alan Ryan, Hugh Carberry, and all the friendly helpful marshals out on the course for making this such a great event. I’ll be back...
P.S: This was the Long Distance National Championships, so there are excellent photos from the official TI photographer
Stephen Kelleghan on flickr
There's also a nice video showing the majestic Hardman 2017 course
The following user(s) said Thank You: DaveMcD, OwenMo, Darren_S, fiRed, Tony B, Macy, Skc
Last Edit: by steve_mc.