Triathlon: An Irishman takes on a killer Irish course

There was something wrong…I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“So you picked the Beast as your first Olympic?”

“Yep, I was slow off the mark, it was the only one left when I checked…Anyway how long has it been?”

“15 years?”

“No, longer than that…How’s your sister?”

“I thought you’d ask…she’s married with two kids.”

The red lights were flashing.

“The Brazilian…she still around?”

“Nah.”

That was it!  He had more hair than I remembered…F%*&in’ loads of it. He was either wearing a wig or had had a very successful hair transplant. Unfortunately I’ve never had luxuriant locks but I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to look like Lionel Blair either.    I was standing in transition working out how to fit my race belt with number attached under my wetsuit…If it was a wig, how was he going to race and keep it on? A transferable skill?  Maybe he could give me tips on how to keep my race belt on during the swim?

Is that a wig? The last time I said that out loud, the taunted was Marky Ramone.  He heard me mid-song, nodded at the bouncer and thirty seconds later my face felt the floor.   Marky’s infamous for having one of the most ridiculous toupées in rock ‘n’ roll, but the Ramones made their best albums when Tommy was on the drums.

Is that a wig? I was itching to pull the trigger.  My eyes must have been going wild.  He could see he was busted, made his excuses and skedaddled.

“Look, have a good race…Good to see you again.  I’ll catch you after.”

Clare Reilly sorted out my race belt dilemma and my old school mate wasn’t around when I crossed the line 3 hours and 5 minutes later.

The swim went better than expected and when I finally climbed out of the diarrhoea-coloured soup of Lough Dan my head was reeling.  Apart from the bruised toe I picked up getting in to the lake the worst that happened was getting a kick in the face from James Northridge as we rounded the third buoy on the long stretch for home.  That was as good as it got though.

I took my time at transition.  There wasn’t a lot at stake for me.  I’d only started cycling on Easter Monday and was still unable to go “no-hands” without falling off.   The recon of the bike route the previous Sunday with Leo, Bernard and English Stu gave me some comfort that I’d get through it ok, but I hadn’t figured on the 1,500m swim sapping me as much as it did.  Those beers with my extended Australian family the previous Wednesday evening were coming back to haunt me.

The initial 2km climb out of Lough Dan was rough and it wasn’t until I reached Laragh that I began to find my feet.   I belted down the hill on the way out of the town with Cracker’s I Ride My Bike ringing in my ears.  That feeling didn’t last long and once I hit the turn before Rathdrum I knew I wasn’t going to get in under three hours.

I’ve suffered considerably after hitting the wall during marathons, at high-altitude when climbing in the Alps, during the final 500m of a boat race and worst of all sitting through Coldplay albums.  The pain I experienced climbing up Oldbridge road is the closest I’ve come to reliving the horror of rowing.  I didn’t dismount but I wasn’t far off.

Back in transition I threw on the runners and headed out once again.  Nobody turned up the empathy when they switched Steven Moody on that morning and his words were like a knife in the ear.

“It’s not this hill that’s going to kill you.”

“Thanks mate!”

I picked my way up that hill, which proved to be a lot easier than I’d expected,  and  one by one they passed me on their way in…Stephen Eustace, Ellen Shilling, Declan Cunningham, the list goes on.  Due to the need to preserve my gammy left toe I stayed away from speed work all season.  Sure, it would have knocked a few minutes off my time but I had plenty in my legs and began to pass the guys ahead of me.  One of the Pulse guys was walking and got ticked off as I went by.  Once he recovered he overtook me, but finally gave up when we hit 3Km to go. The time spent climbing in the mountains helped and I was amused to find I was able to stretch out on the way up the mild hill.

It’s nice that feeling when you finally know you’re going to get through something you were unsure of.  At the 2Km mark I hit for home, the fireman at the bottom of the hill drenched me, and I started to muse on a wig floating around Lough Dan.

 

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