The IronMan 70.3 came to Dublin last weekend, and it was quite the bandwagon. It’s a well-oiled machine, and you can see why it costs so much to enter one of these branded events. Worth it, if you have the money. My mate Ciarán took part in his first ever half-ironman (via a charity), and he did very well indeed.
The race kicked off in Dún Laoghaire with a 1.9km sea swim, followed by the 90km bike which took competitors through the city and out into Meath and Kildare. It must have been some marshaling headache, as the road was closed for the event, so that meant every single junction on the route had to be manned, with signs and barriers to boot. Fair play to all the volunteers who helped out.
There was a small but lively group of supporters at our particular pit stop, with everyone there to cheer on their own family member or friend. But it seemed churlish not to give them all a shout, so every cyclists that passed was given a wave, a cheer, a whistle and other encouragement, and many clearly appreciated the support.
Ciarán passed by around 10.40, having hit the water at 7am. The cycle route at this stage was about mile 46, so judging his ETA was a hit and miss affair. The live athlete tracker on the website wasn’t fully ‘live’ in that sense, but rather was updating as each timing mat was passed, which was just enough to give you an estimate of pace.
Once he had rolled through, we headed back home, threw a few munchies into a small rucksack and headed into Phoenix Park, where T2 awaited the athletes, and the small matter of a half marathon. Fortunately for these competitors, the route was far kinder than the one we had to endure for last year’s Dublin Half Marathon, where we were sent up hill and down dale all morning, with an exceptionally cruel uphill finish. More on that anon.
We parked on the road at Islandbridge and walked into Phoenix Park, heading towards the Papal Cross. Locals will know the Park is huge; it took a while to get there, but the build up was worth it. As you get nearer the event, you start to see activity. Then you hear the loudspeakers. Then you see the crowd milling around the finish line. The buzz was great. We hooked up with Ciarán’s family and friends, and some more calculations were made, and estimates of his times were totted up.
In order to keep disruption to a minimum, and the half marathon all within the Park, they decided to do the whole 21km in three loops. It probably made for a better spectacle from our point of view, but I can say without fail it was cruel for the runners. Each loop ended about 100 metres away from the finish line, where, all morning, a lively host from IronMan was on a mic, yakking away to the competitors as they finally made it onto the fabled red ‘carpet’. Once again; excellent organisation. On your bib they not only had your number, but also your first name and a little flag of your country. This meant as you passed the person with the mic, they called out your name over the PA and, if you were willing and able, you got a ‘high five’ too, for your troubles. Well of course, this is all wonderful if you are on your last loop and have collected all three coloured wrist bands to prove it, and can make your final push to the finish. Otherwise you were tantalisingly close to the end, only to be swept away again on another loop with hundreds of other panting and sweating runners, some of whom at this stage were looking a little the worst for wear.
It should be noted at this stage that Ciarán looked in pretty good shape and was all smiles for us as he passed. Though I suspect many athletes, and in particular triathletes and marathon runners, have pulled this trick. Hold it together for the fans, then let it all go and grimace when you pass. But this looked like a man who was enjoying his race, and certainly not in danger of blowing up. Saoirse and I headed back to the viewing stand once he had passed, and waited for him to come through the finish line.
By this stage of course, the race had been well won. French man Denis Chevrot managed a nippy 4.01:35, with our own Kevin Thornton getting third place behind Markus Thomschke of Germany, despite having a puncture in Dunboyne. Each competitor had their own way of finishing their own particular race: most were glad just to cross that line; many raised one or both arms in triumph. Some sprinted the last few metres, some couples finished arm-in-arm, together. One older gent seized up with less than 100 metres to go. He was in real pain, and serious trouble, stopping dead in his tracks, face scrunched in agony; a hamstring gone, or chronic cramp. Or both. The crowd effectively lifted him with cheers, and carried him (limping) over the line.
The announcer let us know Ciarán was approaching the finish, and the camera phones came out. He put on a great burst for the crowd and crossed the line in 6.27:58. And, as I learned later from reading his stats breakdown, he spent nearly about 15 minutes in T1 getting changed for the bike, and about 10 more minutes in T2 for the run. That’s a hell of a lot of time not moving, Lotzy! But I guess you know that.
And I suspect now that you have the bike and wetsuit, it’s only a matter of time before you do another one. And if you do, I suspect you’ll be working on transition times!
The athletes were funneled into the obligatory chute, given medals and foil blankets, and were then spat out into the loving bosom of their families (if the family members were good enough to get that close to a very sweaty athlete, that is).
Overall, it was a great day. The weather behaved itself, and it was really quite ideal; overcast, no rain, very little wind, and also quite mild (although some might have found it muggy later on).
One or two that know I am doing this event soon were asking me how the training was going, with that look that says ‘that’ll be you next, you sad bastard, ha, ha!’
Indeed it will. And already I know the hospitality up in Ards will be first rate, though obviously we won’t have all of that flash (and expensive) branding en route. And that’s okay.
Well done Lotzy; you did us all proud, and I did promise to buy you a pint to celebrate, so next time you’re up, we’ll do just that. Cheers.