Going from team sport to individual sports

For me and many kids growing up we found ourselves involved in team sports. From as soon as I could I was playing Gaelic Football and hurling with my local club and my love affair with sport started.
During my younger days I did a bit of running in the Cork City Sports for my school, even did a bit of swimming representing my school in galas but that was only a distraction from what I really wanted to do and that was play team sports.

Over the next 25 years all I knew was team sport. I was part of some hugely successful teams winning many championships, cups and leagues. I had the privilege of captaining teams during that time as well as coaching teams along the way. But one evening in June 2011 things changed. As I went up to catch a ball I got a push on the back which had me off balance, I went crashing onto the floor and that is when my shoulder popped out. Recovery was slow and I needed a way to try keep fit so I bought a bike and my mindset changed. I now found myself heading out on cycles and in a moment of madness my brother in law Robert convinced me to sign up for an adventure race in Killarney in October. Because of that I had to take up running , averaging about 20km a month from September to December.

Suddenly I found myself not just using these as recovery activities but doing it for the enjoyment. My brother Damian and I then signed up for a 10 mile road race and from there both of us were hooked. After I did my 1st triathlon in July 2013 where I did that in the morning and played a football game that night I knew something would have to give. And it was then I decided to walk away from a sport that consumed my life for so many years to a sport I was still learning. I did return twice more to help out teams but they were brief appearances. I was now out of team sports and on the road to individual sports. I have learned a lot in the last few years and here are some things I found

Individual sport doesn’t always mean you are on your own

  • Clubs
    • Just because its an individual sport doesn’t mean its all on your own. Clubs are a great place to meet people, learn from others and help to make a trip to a race much more entertaining. I have had great support from the clubs I have been a member and on race day they help get the best out of you
  • Training
    • I do a lot of training on my own but having club training sessions, long runs with others and even recovery runs with friends helps pass away the miles
  • Relay
    • A good was to turn an individual sport into a team sport is taking part in a relay. As a club St Catherines have performed extremely well in Cork City Marathon as a relay team. We all were working towards the same goal and didn’t want to leave anyone down
  • Team events
    • Cross country events, and club championship races mean you are running for yourself and your team to get as many points as possible
  • Pacing
    • On race day someone may have a goal in mind and sometimes its easier to work with someone for that goal. I have been paced and paced people to PBs. It is a great feeling
  • Race day support
    • What better feeling than running through crowds getting cheered on to the finish line
Clubmate helping me to a PB

What I enjoy most about individual sports

  • Freedom & flexibility
    • With family and work I always can’t commit to a certain time. I can move my schedule when needed to work around my life. Team sports meant you had to make the training when it was set
  • Personal goals
    • Your goals are your own goals and not affected by how other perform
  • Off days
    • If you have an off day its only yourself that you need to worry about, an off day in team sports means you could leave your team down
  • Trying new things
    • If you feel like doing something different on a day you can, maybe a different type of speed session, or trail instead of road.

What I miss about team sports

  • The celebrations
    • Winning a big game and celebrating with your team can’t be beat. Everyone had the same goal and when it was achieved the work made it all worthwhile
  • Teamwork
    • Working together to achieve a goal set out. Helping others in the team improve and when someone is having a bad day, doing your best to have everyone rally around to make the goal
  • Player of the match
    • Its still a team of individuals and there is always that stand out performance. Knowing you were a major part of that success is a great feeling
  • Physicality
    • This is definitely something I really miss. Trying to be 1st to the ball, a strong shoulder or a tackle to stop a certain goal, breaking through challenges all made it worth while. Some say the start of a swim in a triathlon is the closest I will get
  • Discipline
    • Making sure you are at training on time, listening to a coach or making sure you don’t get yellow card discipline is key to team sport so you don’t let down yourself or the team

Summary

I truly believe team support has helped shape the way I go about sports these days. On a summer evening when I run past a football field I wish I was out there kicking a ball again but then realise I better leave it to the younger people now and continue my running and triathlon goals

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It’s worth joining the FrontRunner team

So people may ask why is it worth joining the ASICS FrontRunner team. Here I cover some of the main reasons why you should join the team
Meeting people and making friends

I remember getting the email to say I made the team and the plans for team gathering. I was nervous heading to an event where I knew no one. Usually I’d know someone in the room but this was a whole different experience. I did not have to worry, everyone was so friendly and I met people I would never have connected with otherwise. There are so many people from different walks of life, some I’d have thought I’d have nothing in common with. Everyone thinks its only elites who would get a chance like this but its not and you just have to take one look at the team to show its about the person and not how fast you are. I have met some great people while being a FrontRunner and we will be friends long after we move on to new things.

The knowledge

If there is something you need to know there is someone on the team who will have the answer. The major advantage of the team is the fact we have members in different professions all who are there to help. They are willing to share their advice and you only need to check out the blog posts from the team to see the knowledge we share. If you travel to a new city there is a good chance there is an international FrontRunner there. If you need to know where to eat,  where to run or anything about a city a FrontRunner will have the information

The meetups

I have been to Warrington, London and Dublin with the team. These meetups have a mix of everything and have always been great fun. We’d get to catch up with teammates we may not have seen for some time, run races, attend presentations, do great team events, do photoshoots and of course great social gatherings long into the night. While in Warrington we had team Olympics where we did school sports day, in London we had a bowling night and in Dublin we went whiskey tasting. Then on the race side in Warrington we ran in a park run, London we did the ASICS London 10km and in Dublin it was a marathon. This shows the variety of things we get up to. 2020 may have meant there was limited chances to meet up but that didn’t stop the team meeting up virtually on regular basis. Hopefully 2021 will give us the chance to meet up again.

The support

If there is anything you need to know, you need advice or want someone to help you reach a goal or just need someone to talk to the team is there for you. A perfect example for me in when I did Dublin marathon in 2018. Holly paced me to a huge PB and on the day she did everything to make sure when it got tough I didn’t give up. 2020 has been tough for everyone and the team has been there and supporting everyone throughout.

New city, a FrontRunner is there to help

If you head to a new city there is likely to be a member there. When I have travelled to Berlin with work Jorg from the German team made me feel welcome. I joined the ASICS store on a number of runs around the city and it made the trip much more enjoyable.

And of course the kit

And of course one of the kit. I have always worn ASICS, long before I became a FrontRunner so the kit drop day is full of excitement. We get different kit depending on the time of the year and the shoes you get depend on your gait and running goals.

Best of luck to all applicants.

So how has your 2020 been?

2020 was going to be a big year for me. It was finally time to take on Ironman, another World Major Marathon to tackle in Berlin and my now annual trip to Dublin for my favourite marathon. My main worry back in January was making sure I would stay fit and race ready, soon it was making sure I stayed fit and healthy.
Race Cancellations

I experienced one race cancellation before this year. It was NYC Marathon in 2012 when I was in Orlando soon to fly to NYC to take on the race. I was devasted at the time but still made most of the time there and had a great time with Martha, Oliva and Rob. But this year we have all experienced more than once. We had races that were cancelled early, such as Dublin and the likes of Ironman Cork which took a bit longer. It meant it was hard to focus on training as in the back of your head the race might go ahead but deep down you know it wasn’t. I lost count of the races I had cancelled on me and knew I had to do something for myself to keep me going.

How I kept myself motivated

Dublin marathon was also going to be a major goal for me even if I knew I’d be doing it virtually. That was October and as early as March we faced some very restrictive lockdowns, the 1st of which was you were only allowed exercise 2km from home. I surprised myself in finding roads I never ran or cycled within my 2km radius and soon my 7.5km loop became my most run loop of the year. Some things I found that helped me get through those early days were

New Hobby of Climbing Mountains
  • 3 of my neighbours and I set up a 10km Garden Challenge where it all had to be done in your own garden. We got so many others involved and even had people as far away as Australia take part
  • On what would have been the Cork marathon weekend as a club I helped set up a 26 hour 20 min of virtual relay running where the club them donated money to a local charity. I must thank fellow FrontRunner Becca as I “borrowed” her idea. I got the fun shift of 2am to 4am.
  • And the same neighbours were back again to organise Darkness into Light run/walk in our local area. That started an hour just before the sun came up. Again we had huge response to this
  • I took part in many Virtual Ironman races to keep me in good mindset which included a number of 90kms on the turbo trainer. Sometimes that wasn’t easy but I did rewatch the ASICS Frontrunner documentaries while on the turbo and they definitely motivated me
  • I set up strava segments, so even though we couldn’t run together for large parts of this year we could compete virtually for that crown
  • We did some local virtual races, again same course at times that suited you. You didn’t have someone to push you on but there was always a target time to beat
  • There were also virtual races such as the ASICS London 10km and the World Half Marathon
  • Talking to other runners was a big help, they were going through the same thing and we were able to help encourage each other
  • I even took up mountain climbing with family, 3 mountains with height of 838m, 952m and 1039m

Of course all above mentions sport but it would have been impossible to do all of that without the support of Martha. Throughout this year she has always been there to support my crazy ideas and give me the time to train. With a 4 year old and full time jobs it was a juggling act but I will always be grateful for everything she does

10km Garden Challenge with George

I found a race (or 5)

When it looks like we had lost all hope of races 5 came along in quick succession. I should have been training for a marathon but a race was always going to come 1st and I sacrificed long runs for these races. One of the 1st races back was the East Cork Championship, a storm blew in the night before, I had no electricity for almost 24 hours but nothing was stopping me doing it. Next up we had a club half ironman race. It was a lonely day out there due to social distancing rules which meant we had staggered starts but it felt good to race that distance and the club put on a great event. Next I had 2 races in 2 days, a 5 mile road race in Allihies West Cork, followed the next day by cross country 4 mile. A week later I was back racing a sprint triathlon in Mallow. So it was basically a month of no marathon training but I loved every minute of racing. Almost immediately after that all races were again cancelled and it was back to virtual events

My virtual goal race and the never ending course change

Then on to the main event, my target race for the year. As mentioned above training wasn’t really going as planned but I really didn’t mind. Since it was virtual there was no pressure and the main thing was I get out there and enjoy it. I set myself a target of 3:30, it wasn’t going to be a PB but still going to be a tough ask. As a club we had planned a scenic 1 loop that would start close to home and bring up into Waterford and back again. It wasn’t long before we had to scrap that route as we were no longer able to enter another county. We were back to the drawing board. We planned several routes close to home and all within Cork, so this time we felt we had locked in the course. Oh how wrong we were. The government soon announced new restrictions a week before the race, which meant no further than 5km from home. Our course was one large loop which meant we were well outside that radius again. They also brought in more restrictions which meant groups couldn’t exercise together. This left us all wonder what each of our courses would be. I chose an out and back from my house 4 times course. Advantages of this is that I got to start at my door and have a water stop set up that I’d pass on each loop.

Finish line of Dublin Virtual

For the first time in a marathon I didn’t wear my trusty Kayano. Most of my training was done in them but now it was time to bring out the Metaracer for the big day. Mentally it was tough, trying to break down each segment but with others doing similar course we passed each other every so often and encouragement was given. The weather was perfect, with a slight headwind on the way back each time. By the 4th time the slight inclines felt like mountains and the slight headwind felt like gale force winds. My 10km splits were 49:00, 49:01, 48:59 and 50:32. The last 2.2km was 12:28 so I was slowing down but with only two 20 mile runs done during training I felt that was always going to happen. My finish time was 3:29:59, talk about cutting it close. I feel the Metracer helped me keep a better pace throughout and I will definitely be using them for longer races going forward.

I think the lack of pressure help me reach my goal but I also know what works for nutrition. I feel I got that right for the 1st time. It will be great practice for next year.

So what now

Now its all about winter training. I see a lot of indoor bike work, and dark runs and no races. With swimming pools closed I am still in open water. Before this year I was never in the water in October, now we are mid way through November and I’m still getting in. The target is to keep going in December as well. Who knows yet what next year will bring but one thing is for sure I will be looking forward to getting back to the start line of a race and having crowds cheer you on. But for now the main thing is to stay healthy and get through these tough times.

The GEL-KAYANO is my shoe of choice

When I started running it took me a few attempts to find the right shoe but when I did I never turned back. The shoe I found was the GEL-KAYANO 18 and ever since I look forward to the next versions when they come out. So I was delighted to get a chance to test the GEL-KAYANO 27
First impression

The moment they arrived I wanted to put them on and hit the road straight away. Lucky I had a run planned that evening so it wasn’t long before I got out in them. 1st thing I noticed was they felt lighter and the support I have come to love felt even better. Some shoes you have to break them in but for me I have never found that to be the case with the Kayano. I’m not going to put on a new pair and run a marathon but I can definitely take them on a long run and feel confident I won’t have aches and pains afterwards. Fit wise I found no change and went with my usual size.

Every step I ran in them I felt I had a cushioned landing and with me being more of a heel striker that comfort is welcome. Over the last week I have ran in hot dry weather and also in the rain. Grip is not an issue with these shoes and that includes taking tight corners on wet surface.

There are plenty of different colours to choose from and also the Lite-Show version has just hit the shelves.

Specifications

Weight – 310gr
Surface – Road
Running style – Heel & Midfoot
Pronation type – Overpronator
Desired experience – Comfort & Protection

GEL-Kayano 27 vs GEL-Kayano 26

There are some improvements in the 27, there is a reduction in the density of FlyteFoam Propel and adding deeper flexion grooves in the forefoot for an even easier take-off. Even more flex grooves in the heel improve the transition from landing to support phase. A another change is a new Guidance Trusstic has been created called “Space Trusstic” that is Gender Specific providing greater support towards the arch in the male version and better support in the direction of the movement in the female version.

Pros

· Lighter than previous KAYANO version

· Extremely comfortable

· Good for runners who need support or are going long distance

· Solid support

Cons

· Some people may find these to heavier for faster runs

· You pay premium price

Final thoughts

These will be my shoe of choice for my long runs and as I train for my upcoming virtual marathon. Over the last couple of years I have changed up the shoes I wear, I used to wear Kayano for all runs, no matter the distance and speed. I now mix between Metaracer, Novablast, DS Trainer and Kayano. I have come to learn it is good to change up depending on the session but Kayano will always be my number 1 choice. The 27 version has definitely improved an already great shoe and they are a must for anyone looking for a supportive shoe. If I was told I could only have 1 pair of shoes Kayano would always win. They will cover a lot of miles in the coming months.

The Metaracer is a game changer

I have been waiting with excitement for these shoes since they were first announced, seeing sneak previews of them as athletes tested them made me want them even more. So at midnight on the day they were released I was online to make sure I ordered myself a pair. Delivery was fast and I planned my run around the time the delivery company were arriving.
First impression

I think its no shock that the first thing I noticed when I took them out of the box was how light they were. Weighing just 190g they are a lot lighter than my normal go to shoe the Gel-Kayano. Next was the colour, I love bright colour runners so the sunrise red is exactly what I would have asked for. They will be noticed on race day and I have no doubt people will stop to look at them. The design is extremely eye catching. When I looked at the sole I was worried that the grip could be an issue however there is no need to be. In some race shoes I have had to go up half a size but the Metaracer was perfect fit and I stuck with my UK 9.5. Even though they are so light they felt supportive and cushioned.

First test

I couldn’t wait to get out in them and with the weather recently it meant running in tough conditions. Not hot and humid like most places, I got to endure wet and windy weather. I set off on my 5k time trial with the wind on my back feeling fast and enjoying the comfort the show offers. If you haven’t run in a shoe with similar GUIDESOLE technology yet it may take a couple of runs to get used to this feel but for me I got into my stride fairly quickly. The ground was wet but my previous worry about what looked like a lack of grip on the sole was answered straight away as there was no slipping and the wet grip rubber definitely did its job. As I turned around at 2.5km I knew there was a slight rise in the road and I was running into the wind. I felt I wasn’t going as fast as I should be and my effort level seemed to be down but then I looked at my watch and found my pace was what I had been planning. So even though conditions on the day shouldn’t have allowed it, my pace out and back were the same yet I didn’t have to work as hard.

The carbon fiber plate in the forefoot and the GUIDESOLE technology definitely helps save energy and was very noticeable throughout my run. I didn’t feel as tired once I finished and was able to get on the bike for 40km feeling that bit fresher.

Specifications

Weight – 190gr
Drop – 9mm
Running style – Midfoot & Forefoot
Pronation type – Neutral

Final thoughts

When races do come back I cannot wait to give these a go and target new PBs at different distances. These are a game changer and even the small details really help with the overall experience. I will use these as my race shoe and in tempo sessions and hopefully I will be turning heads with both the look of the shoe and my results as I cross the line.

Rise and shine

There are two type of people out there, early birds and people who like their sleep. When it comes to training you have to fit it in around life. For me that means it is usually an early rise to get it in before work and keeps free time for my family in the evenings.

Of course during Summer mornings it is a lot easier to jump out of bed and hit the road but what about this time of the year? There are many obstacles that can make you turn back over in the bed and skip your session. After all, cold dark wet mornings are not that inviting. Here is how I make sure I’m up and ready to go.

Check the weather

During the summer this may not be as much of an issue but when it comes to this time of year you have to expect the unexpected. Ice, snow or dangerous weather that leads to weather warnings may mean you have to think about what you are doing in the morning.

Make a plan

I find having a plan makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning. If you are not prepared it could be easier to turn over but if I set a target for the morning session I know what has to be done and more encouraged to get up. I have started using workouts on my watch so I have something to follow and don’t have to think too much in the morning. Plan B is always important as well just in case the weather is worse than predicted. During this time of year treadmill or turbo trainer maybe needed.

Don’t snooze

The worst thing you can do is hit the snooze button. Hitting it once can lead to hitting it again and before you know it you have run out of time. When the alarm does go off be ready to get straight out of bed. Also don’t feel bad going to bed early the night before.

Have everything ready

There is nothing worse than stumbling around in the morning trying to find everything you need, so it is best to be prepared. Get your kit ready the night before, if you need breakfast get it prepared as best you can. That saves you time and less things to worry about and distract you from getting out the door. I have my kit, breakfast and work  bag and clothes at the door ready to go. Also it helps to make sure that others in the house can continue to enjoy their sleep.

Enjoy it

There is something about the early morning air. Its fresh, the roads and paths are quiet and it prepares you for a good day ahead. Make sure to smile and even when it rains once you have the right kit you will be good.

Don’t forget

Early mornings are not for everyone, you need to work around what is best for you. There are some mornings where it won’t be possible to get out, a sleepless night, a sick kid or a busy day ahead can mean you have to skip a morning session. Don’t worry you will more mornings to get out.

You can check out my tips for winter running here.

Things to remember when running this winter

It is that time of the year when day light is hard to come by when training but you still have to get out there and do it. You really need to put some thought into your route, clothing and expectations. Here are some tips to make sure you are ready for winter running.


Light up

When I talk about lighting up I don’t mean just a headlamp but also the clothing you are wearing. Even if you are running on footpaths you should make sure you are seen. It is important to wear Hi VIZ clothing such as a vest and flashing lights. ASICS also have great reflective winter kit which means everyone will see you as you go out and enjoy your run.

Layer up

Weather is going to be very changeable over the coming months so you need to be prepared for all conditions. When you get your kit ready make sure you know what it is going to be like outside. The last thing you want to be is too cold or even too hot. When the weather gets colder I usually wear a few light layers so when I’m starting out I’m not too cold and as the session goes on I can take off the layers as I warm up. Its good to have a hat and gloves ready as well. I always find I enjoy my run more when I can feel my fingers. During cool down it is important to make sure you keep warm and put back on the layers as needed.

Warm up

Warming up should be part of every session you do but that isn’t always the case. You could be short on time and you want to get a session done or maybe it is a light session so you are taking it easy. But when it comes to winter it is extra important that you make sure you are well warmed up. The last thing you want to do is go straight into a tough session cold. Take an extra few mins to loosen out and get your body ready for what is to come. Some jogging, dynamic stretching and of course layer up.

Be careful

During the summer months you have a lot more options where you can run. When it comes to winter you need to think about your route. Try find somewhere that is lit up and safe to run on. A well lit area will mean you are seen but you can also see clearly where you are going. The last thing you want to do is trip over a cracked pavement or debris on the road which could mean your winter training is spent nursing an injury rather than enjoying your training. Maybe find a track, a walkway or a city route where there are lots of footpaths and choice. Watch out for leaves on the paths and wear the appropriate shoes so you don’t slip. During winter months you may have to alter your run due to flooded paths or icy conditions so have a Plan B just in case. Always listen to weather warnings, if its not safe to go out there will always be another day to get your run done.

Find a race

Just because its winter it doesn’t mean you don’t have to race. There are less races out there but to keep things fresh look out for local races that are on over the weekends. There are plenty of Parkruns around the country that could break up a training block on a Saturday morning and can even be incorporated it into your session.

Enjoy it

But the most important thing is to go out and enjoy yourself. It may be hard to get out of bed when the alarm goes off and its raining outside or you sit down on the couch before your evening run and get comfortable but you will look back on your winter running and remember the tough sessions in the cold, wet and windy weather and know it was all worthwhile. Why not bring a training partner out with you. It will not only make your run more enjoyable but will also mean you are less likely to stay on the couch!

Lost Sheep Middle Distance

Buildup

This was going to be my 5th Tri of the year. With 2 sprint (Schull, King of the hill) and 2 Olympic (Hell of the west, Blackwater) in the buildup I targeted these races as they were hilly races, something I needed to prepare for the Lost Sheep. It would be my 3rd middle distance race after doing Challenge Wanaka in 2015 and Challenge Galway in 2016. I could have definitely done with more swimming and cycling training but after signing up the last 3 years and eventually transferring my entry I wasn’t going to walk away this year. It was after all my ‘A’ race for the season. Sure with only 2 Cat 1 climbs and over 1000m elevation on the bike followed by 200m+ on the run to deal with, how hard could it be? It was only voted one of the toughest middle distance races by 220 Triathlon Magazine.
The week before in one of my last open water swims my wetsuit ripped beyond repair. It was off to The Edge to make an unplanned purchase. Orca Sonar is now my wetsuit of choice.

I traveled down to Kenmare with Martha and George and we stayed in a lovely Airbnb just a couple of minutes walk to the center. I gave my bike one last once over before heading to registration. And to my horror the front derailleur was no longer working. Panic set in and no hope of repairing at this late stage. Anyway off to the race briefing to build up the nerves.

Race Morning

Alarm went off at 4:30am. I had my overnight oats ready and got all my things together. I got down early to see if there was anything I could do with my bike but as I expected there wasn’t. All Blackwater members were racked together. It definitely felt like organised chaos as I tried to get everything together. As usual it was always last minute panic to make sure I had everything I needed.

Swim 43:43 (93 out of 305)

Photo taken by Martin Jancek www.jancek.net

My target for the swim was 39 minutes. I am a confident swimmer so couldn’t wait to get started. Water actually felt warm which surprised me. Looking out at the water all looked ok but once the countdown started and we set off things changed. Within a 100 meters I felt a bit of a swell and suddenly I found myself not been able to get into a proper rhythm. I didn’t think I was getting anywhere. The buoy was never getting closer. When I did eventually get going I was so far away from the 1st buoy that I was swimming across to get back to it. The further I was out the easier the swim got. Went around the 2nd buoy and now it was time to head for home. The sun was blinding and I could only find the splashed in front of me. At this stage I knew the swim wasn’t going well. I decided not to kick on but keep some energy in reserve. I felt the swim was never going to end. Eventually I saw the arch and pushed to the line. I looked at my watch and was not happy with it. Of all disciplines I thought the swim was one area I’d make my target but it wasn’t meant to be. Bad day at the office there.

T1 5:28 (116 out of 305)

Coming into T1 I just couldn’t understand why my swim didn’t go well. It was a long run to my bike but I didn’t feel as bad when I got to it to see Brian Baker and Joe Scanlan getting ready and Martin Feeney not far behind. We all had the same opinion, that was a bloody tough swim. It was time to get ready for the bike now. I took my time getting ready and made sure I didn’t forget anything. Run out of transition and now on to the fun bit.

Bike 3:20:43 (211 out of 305)

Picture taken by Stephen Kelleghan

Well this was the part of the Lost Sheep that had me pulling out the last 3 years. I felt I had a bit more preparation done this year but I still didn’t know what to expect. I wish I had gone down to test the course but I knew there would be plenty of surprises to come. I’m glad I had put a cycling jersey over my trisuit because it was cold in parts. 1st nightmare came at about 28km, well it started about 10km before that with slight tweaking of my calf before I had to come to a full stop at 28km. My calf completely cramped up and I almost fell off the bike trying to get my leg out of the pedal. I spent about 4 minutes stretching before moving again. It also gave me the chance to manually put my chain on the small ring on the front cog. The views helped distract me from the pain and the climbs of Healy Pass. I have never been here but I will definitely be back to enjoy the view not on the bike. Having drummers on route was another welcome surprise and before I knew it I was up the top. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, I wouldn’t be as scared next time. Now it was time for the downhill, all I can say is I’m useless at descending and I didn’t push it going down the switchbacks. I played it safe. Next section was the slog to Glengarriff. Like it was from the start I had bike after bike passing me. When I got to Glengarriff I stopped at the waterstop to stretch my calf again and fit in a much needed pit stop. Next it was up Caha Pass. Again this was a slow grind but the views never got boring. I got up to the tunnel in one piece and I knew this time I would have fun going back down. The climb was worth it. I found the hardest part was the last 10km, not because I was getting tired but because there was no one around. But before I knew it I was back and I saw Martha and George cheering me on. My aim was 3:15 before hand but with the way it went I was happy with 3:20.

T2 5:34 (208 out of 305)

It was another long run into T2. I dropped the bike up against a van and into the portaloo. Best I went now rather than waiting until I get on the run. I continued the run to rack my bike. It was extremely tight there and it took 3 attempts to squeeze my bike in between the bikes that were already there. On went the runners and made sure I had my nutrition and off I went again.

Run 1:40:59 (151 out of 305)

Martha and George were at the start of the run before you took the right onto the main road. It really gave me a huge boost when I could hear George shouting DADDY and I got the biggest hug from him. A quick hug from Martha and started my run again. My goal for the day was 1:45 and after I went through the 1st km in 4:21 (which included about 20 seconds stopped getting my hugs :-)) I know I better settle down quickly and get my pacing right or I’d blow up by the 10th km. It was rolling hills for the 1st 10km and I was feeling good. My calf wasn’t giving me issues and there were big crowds going both ways in the out and back part of the course. This was great as it helped distract from the tiredness and plenty of motivation was passed on. The kilometers flew by and once off the out and back part it did get a bit quieter and I was running large parts on my own. I was holding back the pace because I knew there was going to be plenty of climbing between 15 and 18. A few jokes traded with other runners but we pushed up the hill knowing that it was almost done. The fast finish made the rest of it all worth while. I feel I could have went faster on the day but delighted with 1:40 and energy to spare. I crossed the line with George and Martha waiting for me. I didn’t think I would break 6 hours but the perfect run for me meant I did.

Photo taken by Martin Jancek www.jancek.net

Overall 5:56:28 (151 out of 305)

If you told me before the race that I’d break 6 hours I’d have definitely taken it and after the way the swim and bike went I didn’t think it would be possible. But I was delighted with the way it finished. To pick up 60 positions from T2 to the end of the run showed I did finish strong. It was a great end to the season and it was definitely the hardest race I have done. Having Martha and George there made all the difference and I really think if they weren’t there I would have struggled. I would highly recommend the race to anyone who is thinking about stepping up to middle distance racing. Well done to CorkTri on a super event and well done to everyone who took part on the day especially all the other Blackwater Tri members. Now its time to focus on Dublin Marathon, what did I get myself in to 🙂

Blackwater Tri Standard 2019

This year was the first time I decided to do my own club race. Being a member of Cobh for three years I didn’t do Jailbreak until I moved club and this being my second year with Blackwater Tri Club I decided I’d give the standard distance a go. This was my 4th triathlon of the year and will be a test of where I am at for my A race in a couple of weeks.

Race Prep

Prep started for me the evening before as I joined other club members in setting up transition and making sure the course was ready for the morning. It was great to see all members come together, it wouldn’t be possible to run a successful race without all the volunteers. Questions around the swim came up because the flow of the water was looking extra strong. A few weeks ago the worry was that there may not be enough water but with some heavy rain the previous days that definitely wouldn’t be a problem.

I registered the evening before and got the number 4. No pressure then. Martha got baking for the morning as well, I made sure and did some testing 🙂

I was up early on race morning to help with the final prep. The announcement was made also that the swim would go ahead but instead it was going to be shortened and downstream only. That was going to be fun.

Swim 12:03 (18th out of 147)

We made the long walk up to the new start point. Atmosphere was good and everyone was excited about the downstream swim. It was going to be rolling start so 3 in at a time. So over the timing map and into the water. I pushed hard from the start and you could feel the current helping up on our way. Even though there was plenty of room in the river but that didn’t stop a few elbows a long the way down. I stopped my watch when I got out of the water and it said 11:07 and distance 1120m. That worked out at less than a minute per 100m.

T1 1:58

A run up out of water and took my time to make sure I got my socks on, helmet and glasses and more running up with the bike. Jumped on the bike and off we went.

Bike 1:18:02 (95th out of 147)

Now its time for my least part of the day, I just count down the kms until its time to finish. The 1st 5km felt like it was going on forever. The rain poured down and the climbs weren’t anything big but I felt I was going no where. I had a huge number of bikes flying past me. It took until at least 10km before I felt comfortable and started to be able to push the pace a little. It didn’t stop the line of people going by but at least I was fell better. I thought the 2nd lap would have been a bit crowded but everyone was still very well spread out. My 2nd lap was faster than the 1st and I was delighted to finish with an average speed 30.44 km/h. The 2nd time I have managed to average over 30km/h and both have been at Olympic distance.

T2 1:35

I got off the bike and ran down the ramp to T2. My toes were cold from the bike so I couldn’t feel much running down. A quick change of shoes and off out to start the run.

Run 43:30 (24th out of 147)

I never did this course so wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew it was going to be tough. Rolling hills was what we faced in this out and back course. Going into the race my aim was to break 45 minutes so I went out strong. The crowds around transitions definitely gave me a push, I may have got a bit too excited so after the 1st dash I got into my rhythm and steadied my pace. The course was busy with all distances on the move and when passing the turnaround for the sprint I wished I’d be turning around there as well but I still had 7.5km to go. Even though it was a hard course I really enjoyed it. I did start to get hungry towards the end so it is something I have to watch for longer races. This was my best 10km in a triathlon so I can’t complain. I last lap was the fastest, the crowds again pushing me to the line.

Overall 2:17:11 (54th out of 147)

I am delighted with the overall result. I felt it was great prep for The Lost Sheep and delighted I decided to do it. It was an extremely well run event and the team went above and beyond to make sure the event didn’t turn into duathlon. Besides the swim the course was challenging and was a real test of how my training has went. Well done to everyone who helped, it couldn’t have been done without all the volunteers. Now all roads lead to Kenmare.

AfterShokz Xtrainerz Review

Since I spend a lot of time swimming  I was delighted to be given the chance to test out the new AfterShokz Xtrainerz Headphones. Swimming can be boring at times and the most entertaining thing is trying to figure out what lap you are on. So as soon as they arrived I planned my swim session for that evening.

Bone conduction technology introduction
This technology was new to me and I have been doing some research on it before I knew I was going to get a chance to review the Xtrainerz. I guess we are all used to traditional headphones where we put them over our ears or buds into our ear (known as air conduction) but what about placing them just in front of our ears. It definitely seems like a strange way to listen to music. But AfterShokz headphones  work by generating miniature vibrations which travel through your cheekbones. The vibrations go directly to your inner ears (cochlea), bypassing your eardrums. Because of this, you are free to enjoy music without blocking your ears. This leaves you with situational awareness and comfort.

Setup
After I unboxed these I connected the cable and hooked it up to the computer. It was an easy drag and drop action into the TrainerZ folder. I then powered on the headphones and music was ready to go. From wireless headphones I have used in the past they were by far the easiest to setup. The main takeaway from this is that you need a computer to set these up.
 
First Test
Off to the pool I went with my new gadget. I had never used bone conduction headphones before so I was also curious to test out this technology. I turned them on before I jumped into the pool and straight away I noticed the sound quality, it was as good as having ear buds. I wasn’t expecting that to be the case when underwater. Xtrainerz provide an equalisation mode to optimise the sound quality underwater. This makes them loud, with plenty of bass. They fitted nicely, felt secure and didn’t get in the way of my goggles and were comfortable under my swim hat. And now it was the real, I jumped into the water and as soon as I started swimming the quality of the sound seemed to improve. They never once moved during my session and at no stage did they annoy me, if it wasn’t for the music I wouldn’t have noticed them on me.
 
As I left the pool one of the lifeguards was curious to see what I was wearing as she was looking for something to use in the pool and hadn’t found anything she liked.
 
Other features worth mentioning
Xtrainerz are IP68 waterproof which means they can be submerged in up to 2 metres of water for 2 hours.
 
Pros
– Sound quality is exceptional
– Comfortable to wear when swimming and running and feel secure when on
– Makes swimming much more enjoyable
– Quick and easy to get setup and use
 
Cons
– There is no Bluetooth so you have to download your music in the days where streaming is becoming more popular
 
Overall
I would definitely recommend these. When it comes to swimming, Bluetooth is not going to work so it is essential that MP3 is available. The sound quality is amazing underwater and when my swims get longer these will make every session more enjoyable. I can’t wait to get back to the pool.
 
Where can I buy these
You can go here if you are interested in Xtrainerz.
 
Technical Specs

Part number

AS700

Frequency response

20Hz-20KHz

Battery

Lithium battery

Battery Capacity

183 mAh

Speaker type

Bone conduction transducers

Sensitivity

96 ± 3dB

Compatible profiles

MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV ,AAC

Weight

1.06 oz ( 30g)

Continuous play

Up to 8h

Speaker impedance

DC:8.5Ω±20%

Charge time

< 2 hours

Warranty

2 years

Water resistance

IP68

Maximum output power

0.6W

Maximum charge voltage

5.25 V

Memory

4GB or 1200 songs

Part number

AS700

Frequency response

20Hz-20KHz

Battery

Lithium battery

Battery Capacity

183 mAh