This wasn’t my introduction to MMA it was the start of Ironman Dublin 70.3 Triathlon.
Last summer I was injured, I tore a meniscus (knee cartilage) whilst training for the Dublin marathon, and to give myself a couple of targets to aim for I entered Ironman Mallorca 70.3 (a half distance Ironman) and Ironman Mallorca (a full distance race). The half distance comprises of a 1900m swim, a 90km cycle and a 21.1km run. The full distance is double that – 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and then a marathon (42.2km).
In May I went to Mallorca to complete the half, and I did, in a time of 6hours 31 mins. It’s a hilly course for the bike and it was hot (35c in the sun at midday). Not a perfect combination for a bigger triathlete like myself. I hadn’t run properly in the build up to the race so felt I did not do myself justice. So on my return I was offered a place in Ironman Dublin 70.3 and quickly took it, paid my money and continued training.
To test how my run was progressing I had entered the rock and roll marathon the week before. I finished in a leisurely 2hours 20mins and was then struggling to walk afterwards. The week before the race continued as normal including a fast enough club league the Thursday before.
Pre-race expectations weren’t particularly high. Publicly I had said I just want to beat my Mallorca time (6:30) but privately I was hoping to dip under 6 hours.
On the Saturday I went down to register and to check my bike and bags in. Usually you have just one place where you put your bike kit and run kit and then get changed there during both transitions (swim to bike and bike to run). Dublin had a split transition where the Swim was taking place in Dun Laghoire and the Run in the Phoenix Park. Run gear was packed into a red bag and dropped off in the park, and then a lovely newly serviced TT bike picked up from Staggs and taken out to Dun Laghoire along with bike kit ready for the next day.
Sunday morning came and I was up at 4:30am to get ready and eat. After breakfast I made my way down to the Garda Boat club to transfer over to Dun Laghoire and we arrived at the swim start around 6:15. Final check on the bike was done and I met up with some others from the club (Ger, Dave and Angela before making my way to the start line. The start was done in ‘waves’ with the pro’s going out first, then the different age groups. My age group 40-44 went off at 7:10.
It was a rolling start. I other races your time starts as soon as the siren goes and you all rush to the water as quick as possible and it can be carnage. The rolling start is meant to mitigate this but within a minute of starting to swim it was obvious from the blows I was getting that it hadn’t. 400 swimmers in a narrow space is always going to be fun.
I made my way through the Start arch and over the timing mat, down the boat launch and began to wade through the shallows. It’s been a few years since I last swam in the Irish Sea and the temperature that morning was 14.9c. As the water reached the top of my legs I quickly felt just how cold it was! At that point I dived in and began swimming – I tried to put my head under the water but after a few seconds I got an ‘ice cream’ headache so had to swim water polo style for a while until I had warmed up. I quickly got into my stroke and began to relax and enjoy the swim – although I was vigilant in looking out for jellyfish!
There was a lot of bad sighting going on as swimmers were constantly zig zagging from buoy to buoy rather than taking a more direct route. At the turn it became a bit tougher as we began to catch the
back markers from the wave before and the current was coming towards us. I increased my stroke rate and it seemed to help both with sighting back markers (and avoiding them) and pushing on against the tide. Coming into the exit and again a number of swimmers converging on one spot meant that it was pretty busy in the water again. With the tide going out the exit ramp had become pretty steep and the only option open to me was to try and beach myself and hope someone was there to drag me out. They were. The cold water however had got into my inner ear and the result of that meant I was very dizzy. So almost as soon as they hauled me out I was nearly falling back in again. Luckily I got grabbed and held onto for 30 seconds or so whilst I settled. Eventually I convinced them I was ok to continue and I walked across the timing mat in a time of 42:10
There was then a jog into transition. I entered the changing tent, grabbed my bag off the rack and sat down. I took it easy whilst I was getting changed as I was still feeling a bit dizzy and didn’t want to be getting on my bike whilst unsteady. I grabbed my bike from the rack and made my way to the mount line. Transition 1 over in 7:29. Pretty slow!
On the bike and I was hammering it pretty hard coming out of Dun Laghoire. I just couldn’t relax on the bike though. I felt really tense and was struggling to get my heart rate down. Eventually coming over the East Link and onto the quays I began to settle into the ride. It was a great experience riding down the North quays all the way from the point to the park, especially on parts where we were going against the normal flow of traffic.
We turned up Infirmary Road and then headed into the park, over the ramps on the road at the back of the zoo before exiting at the Whites Road Gates and heading towards Westmanstown. It was then on to Dunboyne and out towards Summerhill before we took a left at the top of the Mullagh and headed down to Kilcock. The roads were pretty congested at times but there were some people who were obviously drafting, whilst this is fine in cycle racing it’s cheating in triathlon. Once we hit Kilcock it was a nice fast downwind return to the Park via Maynooth. The cycle was pretty uneventful – I realised I hadn’t done enough sessions with high enough intensity in training but other than that I was pretty happy and held it back a little to try and save energy for the run. Other than the fly I swallowed in Dunboyne I had no nutrition on the cycle leg. At one point I tried to eat an energy bar but just couldn’t chew it properly so it was promptly spat out. There was regular feed stations – it was just a case of slowing down and then grabbing a bottle of water or energy drink every 20-25km.
After leaving the edge of Lucan and heading down the strawberry beds (over the awful ramps) we hit the Anglers rest hill. Now it isn’t long but after 90km it’s a bit of drag! There were a good few people on the top of the hill from ActivMultisport and Lucan giving a cheer as I went past and it was a great boost as I hit the park and managed to catch one of the lads from my triathlon club who had 10 minutes on me - I was one of the first from my wave off of the bike. Bike leg done in 2:34:37 (Avg 34:89km/h).
I racked my bike, walked through transition, grabbed my bag and sat down to get my runners on. I changed my socks too and then jogged out on to the run. Just 21.1km to go…
The run started with a small part cross country as we left the papal cross and headed to Chesterfield Avenue. It was then 3 laps of a roughly 7km course. Knowing my own running limitations I settled down to a steady (slow) pace to grind out the km’s. After about 1km I got talking to another lad from Drogheda and we decided to stick together and keep it each other going. The first two laps fairly flew by. The support was fantastic in the park, but every time someone you knew shouted your name you automatically and sub consciously sped up. I just didn’t realise just how many people I knew!
On the last lap I started to suffer, I knew I was well ahead of my expected finishing time and I think subconsciously / mentally that affected me. I let the other runner go on ahead and started to walk. At one point I had over 30 mins to do 3km in order to get under 6 hours – and I fully intended to take every second if it. At that point I was on the last lap and as the crowds started to increase towards the finish you could not help but to run.
Heading down the finish line there was a big crowd of support from the triathlon club and it was high fives all round as I neared the end. The run took me 2:19:30. Fast than I ran the stand alone half marathon the week before.
Total time was 5:49:53. Over 40 mins faster than a few months earlier – but a lot flatter course. On now to the full Ironman at the end of September
After the race I stood on the finishing straight cheering other competitors home. It was fantastic watching the joy as they finished. There were people of all sizes taking part.
When the race was first announced there was a fair amount of scepticism as to whether or not Ironman Dublin 70.3 would even go ahead and whether it could be a success. It’s estimated there were 10,000 spectators in the Park and I think that’s a low estimate.
To anyone who is thinking of doing it… you have a year to train. When you are running behind people who have false legs and false arms you begin to realise that most of your excuses fade into insignificance.