TriAthy Olympic Triathlon, 2017

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As mentioned in a previous post, I had not planned to do any triathlons this season. I’m signed up for the Dublin Marathon, and that will be my focus. But this event landed in my lap, so it would have been churlish to refuse!

So with bugger-all preparation, I set off early on Saturday in convoy with Ciaran and Des, two trusty colleagues who both run and work out in the Pilates crew of a Wednesday. It was their first triathlon, and kudos to Ciaran who had plumped for the Olympic. A brave move for your first tri! Des, in a much more measured fashion, had opted for the Try-a-tri, which has a much-reduced swim of 250 metres, and slightly shorter run.

We made good time, and as we had all registered in Dublin a few days earlier, we had the luxury of heading down to transition with time to spare. The Double Olympians were already ploughing up the Barrow, so we stopped along the banks for a peek. I recall this very same moment several years ago from my first triathlon (the Sprint event here in Athy in 2014), when I saw the river for the first time, with the buoys and markers, and swimmers creating that strange multi-limbed monster of whirling arms and bobbing heads; if you stare at a bunch of open water swimmers too long, you start to see the strangest things!

Well, it was the same for the guys; a somewhat sobering experience. The other major visual overload of course, is that laying out several hundred metres of water in a line (which is what a river is, of course) can mess with your head. Most of us train in a pool and this tricks the brain in a bad way. 25 metres of warm, clear water with straight black lines to soothe and guide you… worst preparation for an open water swim! Lay out 1,500 metres and suddenly those marker buoys look very small in the distance…

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I racked my trusty steed in the appointed spot. Time leached away, and Ciaran and I donned our wetsuits. On the way up to the off, I spotted a mate, Jean, who is a rather splendid runner. She was doing her first triathlon too, and I joked that she had better win. She had planned to do the Sprint, but an admin error somewhere had put her in the Try-a-tri. No matter.

The new rolling start seemed to work well. Two into the river at a time, with the clock ticking as soon as you cross the mat at the end of the jetty. Less rushing and bashing. Even though Ciaran and I hit the water together, within a few minutes, he was dropping back. I stopped a few times, and each time he gave me the thumbs up to keep going. After a while, I decided to put the head down and give it a go. There was no sign by the time I passed under Crom-a-boo Bridge and out into T1. I grabbed the bike and headed off on to the same route as the last time I did the Olympic here, two years ago.

The weather was kind. A little breezy, but overall, sunny and warm. 40k later and I pulled in to T2. I had seen Ciaran twice on the looped route so I was happy he was on track. Out on the run, which is fairly lumpy, to be honest. It’s a mix of waste ground, pavement, fields and towpaths. It will test the legs, and as it’s narrow in places, passing runners requires patience and planning. The rain came down briefly on the first lap, and it was a pleasant change from the sun. But the respite didn’t last, and the sun came out. The damp heat rose up off the road as we headed out on lap two. Petrichor; that alluring and slightly sweet and musky aroma from the first fall of rain on a warm day. A welcome companion as the muscles started to complain.

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I had no idea of time as such, though it all felt reasonably good. At one point, on the run, I spotted Ciaran coming in on the bike and I let a roar. Someone behind me commented that I obviously wasn’t running hard enough if I could shout like that…

The finish line appeared, medals were proffered, timing chips reclaimed, goody bags grabbed, and I even managed a tray of chicken curry and rice. That went down well. And still time to get back and see Ciaran over the line.

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Ciaran looking very bouncy at the finish!

We meandered back to transition and gathered up our stuff. We made our way back to the cars, tired but happy.

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Ciaran, Des and me, at the finish. Note to self: don’t try and eat and smile at the same time. Not a good look…

It was a well-organised event. I’ve done three triathlons down there now, and this was perhaps the best of the lot. Certainly the previous one, also an Olympic, was a bit ropey. All told, over 2,100 souls had signed up for TriAthy, making it Ireland’s biggest triathlon event.

And, as I discovered later that evening, Jean was the first lady over the line in her event, and fourth overall. Impressive stuff for your first triathlon.

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For the record, my time was 2.54:06, and the splits were:

Swim: 33:58
T1: 5:13
Bike: 1:22.01
T2: 2:52
Run: 50:02

Drilling down through the stats proves what I already know; when it comes to triathlon, I am very, very average (the actual average was, I believe, 2.42. Overall, 330th of 589, and 293rd of 460 males), and I generally lose time on the bike but make it up on the run. The bike pace was just a shade under 30km/h which is pleasing, given how little cycling I have been doing. To get a 50 minute 10k after that was okay too. For the true timing nerd, I was 294th coming out of the water, so made up one whole place by the time I crossed the finish line. Apparently both transitions were slow, and I lost places there. Good job I don’t have a coach, ha ha!

But it really is about the taking part. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I? 😉

Well done everyone who took part, and those that made it all happen. Great event. A highlight on the calendar for sure. And best of luck Tony, with your recuperation. I hope I did you proud.

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