It was last November when I found out that I would get the chance to race in London for Team Ireland and from then on my 2013 season was based around getting in as good a shape as possible for it! In the months and weeks building up to it the chance to get to race against some of the best age groupers in the World got me more and more excited!! The Sprint race was on the Friday, I flew over on the Tuesday morning to get registered early and soak up as much of the event as possible as I had to make a quick exit from London shortly after the race on Friday evening.
I was not disappointed, the buzz was electric right from the off with seemingly every single nation having some form of representation at it and triathletes of every age and ability with support in tow were there to enjoy the whole thing. Throw in some great racing from the pro triathletes in the World Aquathlon Champs on the Wednesday, including Cork’s Lizzie Lee in the female race, and the Junior/Under 23 Elite male & female on the Thursday and the stage was set to get out there and race hard on Friday.
I had originally entered the World Aquathlon Age-Group Championship on Wednesday morning (1km Swim followed by 5km Run) simply as a chance to test out the lake and the run route before my main race on Friday as there was no course recce available to athletes but as I was suffering from a niggle in my right shoulder I decided to pass and give myself an extra day of tapering 🙂 Looking back it was the right decision as I really would have felt like I was letting down the Irish colours trying to keep up with people who could actually swim!!
I felt completely awful for the Friday-Thursday before the race. Because of a few different reasons I had actually only done about 2 hours of training over a 5 day period and then finally got in a bit of a swim and cycle on the Thursday. I had read that tapering down training can make you feel tireder but I wasn’t expecting to feel like I was running on complete empty with every muscle aching! I just kept telling myself I had done the right thing and I would be shocked back into life come Friday 8.35am!!
Thursday evening we said goodbye to our trusty steeds as we left the bikes overnight in the transition zone, which had a very Ironman feel to it, especially with all the Ironman bags some racers had used to protect their bikes from the rain. Two Sainsbury’s plastic bags over the saddle and tri bar arm pads would do me fine 🙂
Race morning started nice and early with a 5am alarm call, brekkie of a energy drink, microwave pot of porridge and banana and into Hyde Park for 6.30am to finish getting my transition area together, which actually ended up being one of the simplest transition zone set up’s ever as you weren’t allowed anything on the ground apart from helmet and shoes. Towels and boxes were banished! Headphones on with some pumping music to get the adrenaline going.
But then crisis…the front wheel on my loaner set of wheels wasn’t spinning freely at all. Brakes weren’t the issue. I was lost!!! Kris Muldoon who was racked beside broke the news that the bearings were busted and nothing I could do apart from pedal harder during the race and invest in my own set of wheels over the Winter! So after some cursing and blaming the fact that today was Friday 13th it was back to the Irish tent in the athlete zone, try to keep warm, begin my warm up session and then leave the safety of the tent to walk the 200metres to the start line!
SWIM – 750metres / 14min 25sec
After being held in a pen like nervous cattle for around 15mins, 100 of us 25-29 year olds started walking the famous blue plank! It was a great feeling to start a race like this with a fairly packed grandstand and the famous blue finish line carpet which has had the greatest triathletes of all time run along it right beside you! There was no getting used to the water at all apart from spooning some water into your hands and splashing it on your face and down the neck of your wetsuit. We were made sit on the pontoon and then with about 40secs before the hooter we were allowed to jump in and quickly get in position against the pontoon trying to get your legs nice and high against it for a big push off.
The adrenaline was high and it was a trash fest once the hooter went but I found myself dropped by the leading swimmers in what felt like the first 20metres! I took this as a positive though as it meant not worrying about any kicks and punches to the head! I tried to get back on feet but uncontrollable palpitations meant I really had to slow down, try to breath and settle into own rhythm. The water conditions and temperature in the lake were pretty much perfect and I got through at a decent pace for myself but I was always going to way back after the 1st leg. The aim was not to come last in the swim and I just about managed it 🙂
BIKE – 22km / 37min 18secs
You better have had your run legs on you getting out of the water and some spikes in your feet as it was a serious long and slippy run to transition. I had one of the fastest T1 times in the wave but still clocked up nearly 3 minutes getting in and out on the bike! The weather in the days before the race was horrendous with the internal Hyde Park roads as slick as ice. We had been thoroughly warned about the danger on this course but many athletes didn’t seem to heed this at all. I didn’t see any crashes myself but heard all the horror stories afterwards from racers and spectators.
The course was unlike any on the Irish circuit. The closest thing to it would be Dublin City Triathlon (which has 5 laps for 40km) but even then this London course (3 laps for 22km) would put it to shame with the number of twists, turns and U-bends and not to mention the speedbumps. There was close to 40 dangerous bends in total and for some you had to come to a complete stop to make sure you didn’t taste tarmac! I have the feeling that if this was a normal race on anywhere else it would have been cancelled or turned into a Aquathlon!
I was happy-ish to get through the course in 37mins as I wouldn’t have any experience with the necessary bike handling skills and although I can’t say the issue with the bearings on my wheel were felt while cycling (as it’s probably been like that since I got the wheels from my mate!) I can only assume it affected my power and time I was able to put down.
RUN – 5km / 16min 20sec
Back into the marathon length, slippy transition for T2 and again I had one of the fastest times in my age group but still took nearly 3 minutes to drop the bike and get my Asics on to start laying down the law 🙂 This course was built for me and I thoroughly loved every single step of it even though it hurt like hell! The run course was 2 laps around the Serpentine Lake. The support was amazing especially around the transition area, the finishing chute but mostly coming over the Serpentine bridge where there really was a massive contingent of Irish supporters cheering like mad and giving some serious high 5’s. The guys from Shipmytribike were also on show to let some serious shouts at all the green trisuits from their truck parked just off the course!
The course was very flat and fast apart from a 1km drag at the far end of the course which suited me down to the ground as it allowed me to go further into the pain threshold and eat into the lead of those who came in 1-2mins ahead of me after the bike. The final lap meant you got that unbelievable experience of running down the blue carpet alongside the grandstand and through the same finishing chute that we have watched all our triathlon heroes do down the years! In the last 800metres I got my kick working and managed to run down a few Germans, Yanks, Canadians and Mexicans but finished just 2 seconds behind a Brit…Grrrrr!
My run times have been my saviour this year and I was delighted to put down my fastest ever time when it mattered most and post the 9th fastest run in my age-group, definitely the biggest positive I will take away from not only the race but my whole season of training!
(placings are all within the 25-29 year old category)
750metre Swim – 00:14:25 – 90th out of 99
T1 – 00:02:45 – 11th out of 99
42km Bike – 00:37:18 – 58th out of 99
T2 – 00:02:40 – 16th out of 99
5km Run – 00:16:20 – 9th out of 99
TOTAL – 01:13:26
60th 25-29 year old
A massive thank you to my friends and family for all the well wishes in the run up to the race, especially my girlfriend and tri-newbie Maria who helped me get over some serious confidence issues about doing completely shite in the race and for also tracking my splits while I was racing and sending me a message as I came over the line which made the race for me! I can’t thank the guys and gals at Fit4Life and Kilkenny City Harriers enough who really went above and beyond with their funding as it pretty much covered all costs, while the further funding from Kilkenny Tri Club was very much welcomed. The Irish team were a brilliant bunch of guys and gals and it was an honour to race with them all, while the team managers really went above and beyond and made the whole experience more enjoyable!
Full gallery of all the pics I took available on my Flickr account