My Ireland Experience

Written by Nick Thomas on . Posted in News

Now that I have sufficiently recovered I thought I should pen a short but lighthearted review of my race in Ireland HIM.

Back in May I was given the call to travel to UK for a few months to help out on a few things – a tough gig but someone had to do it. Upon arriving in the sunny UK I decided that I should race in at least one European Ironman event – just because I could (who ever said I was sane?). Just to set the scene – and not to give you too many expectations of fantastic results (I have long ago decided winning is not my forte) I should point out that leading up to race day I had done 2 road rides of a huge 50k, no running for 4 weeks after straining a calf and a huge swim block of about an hour a week in a 33m pool.So on the basis of this optimized preparation I set off for Ireland with high hopes of a top 40 finish in my age group (did I mention only 42 were racing in my age group). My better half and I arrived late Thursday night after 12 hrs of travelling from London, including a 4hr ferry trip. The weather was OK, about a force 9 gale, rain and low temps – so everything seemed OK. Waking on Friday I saw the weather had changed to force 10 gales – swim practice tomorrow was going to be a real hoot! On Friday I went for a short run and was advised by my calf to give it up after 15 mins of running. I am sure if the calf was all good I could have maintained my sub 4 min pace for at least 20ks, but not to be. The only real worry I had, apart from the calf, the weather, the lack of swim preparation and poor bike training, was I had not yet had time to trial my new disc wheel – that was going to give me a huge advantage on the bike, I had no doubt. On the Saturday morning before race day I joined in the swim course familiarization – yeah now I know why we laugh at the Irish. The familiarization was from the beach we didn’t enter or exit from and was at right angles to the course – of significant value to me if I got lost on the swim. I did like the swells rolling in and the 14c degree water temp though. With a force 45 gale now blowing, rain being all but horizontal I was really getting excited about racing with my new disc wheel on wet roads – it would definitely be a bid advantage for me! After taking the bike from the hotel to check it in wisdom got the better of me – I changed the disc back to my trusty race wheels – no disc = no win for me.

On race morning I rose to find the weather dead calm – no wind, no rain, and some sun – bugger, should have kept the disc wheel on! I eventually found the start of the swim course (primarily because the swim familiarization failed to provide any details at all). The race was a deep water start and it was a J shape course – only the buoys were all the same size and colour (I am sure this was a joke played by the organizers on the competitors) – so I just headed for the orange one! Eventually I navigated my way around most of Ireland and got out of the water in front of some women (they started 5 mins behind me) but with the water temp at 14c I could have qualified for competing with the women at that point. Getting out of the water my knee and calf decided that I should hop through transition rather than use two legs. Transition was about 14km (mental note to claim credit for transition on the run leg – I am always thinking!) and then onto the bike. I knew this was going to be by weak point because I didn’t have the disc! After riding through some really tight turns for the first 10ks on a very wet road (the race advice was – quite technical so be careful, which really meant tight turns so don’t go too fast and fall on your arse) I settled in to the out and back bike over undulating hills (I only remember hills as being up or down). The scenery was great and I only remember being passed by about 4 guys – all with discs! Going through the first aid station (27ks) I was feeling good, didn’t have my speed showing on the Timex so I could dream about how fast I was going (always a better option for me). Got to the turnaround in good shape and happy to be going back – we had the wind on our backs. The most entertaining part of the day was guessing the name of the next Irish guy that was going past – they really had some ripper names! Passed through the second aid station and missed a water resupply – never mind I had another 500ml of water/gel mix ¡­… mmmm can’t wait to get stuck into that. Finished the last 15 ks in what must have been a blistering pace (in my mind) got to the last hill before racing into town and passed a guy with a disc – Ha – who needs discs! Jumped well started to jump and fell from the bike, hobbled back to transition (another mental note to claim credit for transition distance – should put me in credit for next three races!) Got to the run and the calf decided it wasn’t going to play today. After hobbling back down to the run course I got about 150m and stopped to say hello to my lovely wife (chief supporter, masseuse, assistant, coach and whatever other help I needed) and inform her that I wasn’t going to continue because I am a wimp and had a sore calf. She pointed out to me in somewhat colorful terms that she had not come to Ireland to see me quit, to pull my finger out and get on with it. At this stage most of the surrounding supporters were either encouraging her or falling about laughing. I obviously had a few choice expletives that I could have passed to her but figured I did have to drive with her in the same car for the next 12 hrs back to UK (funny how the mind works at times) and remembered arguing with my wife has proved to be fruitless in the past and would be this time also. So I battled on to finish in just over 6hrs – not my worst and not my best.

In all honesty the race was the most enjoyable I have ever done. The scenery was great, the race was well organized, the support from the crowds was fantastic (except for the 8 yr old jerk that ran past me wearing crocs and laughing). I am pre registered for next year just in case I get sent back again.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. If you wish to send messages of support – please do. If you wish to be critical, remember I am a fragile petal and any criticism will crush me – so don’t send it!

Richard Kelso-Marsh.