Frustrating first half of 2017

I had big goals for 2017, it included full distance tri, half distance tri, PBs in road running but half way through the year all of those are gone. I should be on my way to Germany now for Challenge Roth but I had to take the refund option earlier in the year because of injuries and more importantly wanting to spend time with my family meant it was not a realistic option to aim for it. And aren’t I lucky I didn’t go ahead with it. Every time I think I’m making progress I hit another stumbling block, another hurdle to overcome. Missed races, plans cancelled and searching for what target I can aim for next. I look back at 2016 and everything went to plan (well up to after Dublin Marathon), I reached my goals and my A races couldn’t have went better.  I felt I was getting back in shape in June but only for the latest set back of achilles tendon issues. This is not something I have had before so its now all about getting that right. I should really skip one swim, bike or run session and dedicate it to strength and conditioning. Of course that is easier said than done because we all just want to be out doing what we love.

 

I have decided to cancel any plan to do a half distance this year. That means no trip to Dublin for Ironman 70.3, no trip to Kenmare for the Lost Sheep half distance, but hey on a bright note a lot of money saved 🙂 I will start with some strengthening work now and hope that helps me

2017 has been full of frustration and I’m already thinking about 2018. Right now I’m thinking week by week and only signing up for races that allow to sign up last minute. I need to build back up to where I was in 2016 and put in some good performances that will set me up nicely for an early half ironman in 2018.  My races for the rest of the year if I get to the start line are:

July 22nd – Lee Swim 2km
July 30th – Carrick-On-Suir Sprint distance tri
August 12th – Blackwater Sprint distance tri
August 27th – Dublin City Olympic distance tri
September 9th – Dungarvan Olympic distance tri
September 30th – Moby Dick Sprint distance tri
October 15th – Lisbon Half Marathon

I have done all of these before except the Lisbon Marathon. So after the race it will be a good marker to where I am at. It will be interesting to see how many I get to do but my 2 ‘A’ races would be Dublin City Tri and Lisbon Half marathon. I will hopefully sprinkle in a few road races to keep things fresh and maybe, just maybe break a PB in one of those before the end of the year.

ironman-703-approved-logo

So out of the following which would you recommend for an early year half ironman in 2018

Challenge Gran Canaria 70.3
Ironman 70.3 Marbella
Ironman 70.3 Mallorca
Ironman 70.3 Barcelona

 

Hook or by Crook Sprint

It has been a long time coming but I finally made my 1st trip to a triathlon this year. I was scheduled to do one the week before but unfortunately I was sick during the build up and didn’t have the energy to get to Schull to do the race. So my back up plan was Hook or by Crook Sprint tri in Dunmore East. This happened to be my 1st sprint tri 3 years earlier so it would be nice to go back and see how much I have improved in that time. My last test before I was going to sign up was Grant Thornton 5km in Cork City. If I felt good after that I’d sign up. I managed to achieve a 19:26 for the 5km and felt good after it and with 10 minutes to go before sign up closed I put my name down.

Now living closer to Waterford it meant I could have a bit of a lie in and not have to set the alarm since George would wake me up in plenty of time. After I packed the car and I set off. Things were looking great weather wise, the wind did pick up as I got closer to the coast but the water looked calm. After parking the car I registered and met some of the Cobh Tri Group. Of course we were all talking down our abilities for the day ahead. I had enough excuses but main thing is we were all out to enjoy ourselves.

 

My timing for the race meant there wasn’t too much hanging around. I set up transition and it was very tight but all club members were alongside each other so it meant we could create enough space for each other. I went through the set up about 10 times, making sure I didn’t forget anything. It has been so long that I should have brought a check list.
HOBC

SWIM

I haven’t done enough swimming this year so was a bit worried about how it would go. I took a good look at the buoys and new where I was going. The race started on the beach and started quicker than people expected so we all had a few seconds to catch up. I quickly got into my rhythm and knew I just had to keep going straight to reach the first turn. It was about 350m to the 1st turn and this was by far the roughest swim I had experienced. Punches, swam over, being pushed under, goggles knocked off meant I had to take a few seconds to get focused and go again. It was another 300m to the next turn and this wasn’t any better. But I took it a bit wider and knew it was a straight line to the beach again. I survived the swim, just about, to finish in 13:12. (59th out of 290 finishers). I had a time of 17:08 3 years ago.

HOBC Swim

T1

There is a big climb from the beach back to our bikes, as you ran the approx 350m zig zag path way up. I decided to take the few extra seconds to throw on the socks and off I went out on the bike. A total time of 3:05 in T1 (76th out of 290 finishers)

BIKE

Now for worst part of any race. I knew what was to come and there was a bit of wind to make it even worse. It starts with a huge descent followed by a climb back up to the main road. It was out and back course so where ever it was tough I knew it would improve on the way back. It really did take me time to get going on the bike and my calf was pinching as I pushed myself on the bike. The 1st 5km was slow and I lost a lot of time on it. The next 5km let me make up some time but I was playing it safe so that my calf wouldn’t give out to me. At the turnaround point I could knew what was to come and I was very consistent on the way back with only a few seconds between my splits. Of course the main theme of the cycle was the number of people who passed me out. Its something I’d like to try improve and it can be a bit of a downer when you see people flying past you and not being able to keep up. A quick downhill before a big climb back into T2 for a time of 42:48 for 20.5km. (140 out of 290 finishers). A great swim was followed by a very average bike. I had a time of 46:38 so a huge improvement but plenty more in me to get better

HOBC Bike

T2

Dropped off the bike and on went the runners and my 1st big mistake of the season. I ran the wrong way out of T2 which cost me at least 15 seconds. (174 out of 290 finishers)

RUN

This was a new run route so I didn’t know what to expect. But the 1st 500m was a climb up a steep hill. From here I thought it would be flat but I soon found out it wasn’t. We moved on to a dirt track which had a gradual decent. It was getting hot and at the turnaround point we faced a climb back up. It was tough on the gravel and I struggled to push the pace. The run is always a place where I can push it but the heat and course just didn’t work on the day. After we left the gravel it was the unique part of the course and we moved on to the fairway of the golf course. We were lucky it wasn’t raining because we’d have slipped our way around. There was some great views along the run course and of course it was up and down but it was almost over so I was able to go out and enjoy it. It finished on a nice hill and i had a time of 22:09

HOBC RUN

HOBC

Overall

I finished in a time of 1:22:49 (98 out of 290 finishers). Happy with that for my 1st outing of the year. I have plenty of training still to do as I hope to get my season underway. I now need to draw up my calendar for the next couple of months.

HOBC Finish

And my reward for the dayHOBC Ice

Goals and Races for 2017

2016 was a great year for so many reasons, both personally and in sporting side of things. The birth of George and moving house were the two biggest things to happen in 2016 but sport kept me on my feet. I completed my second half ironman and got a PB at 10km, 10 mile, half marathon and full marathon distance. I had set out targets for the year and I broke all those as well as finishing on the podium in the Lee Swim, which was very much unexpected. November and December were a write off after picking up an injury in the build up to the Dublin Marathon which meant I didn’t reach my distance goals in swimming and cycling but with life being so hectic a bit of time off was probably a good thing.

Now onto 2017. I am an ambassador for Velocity Sportswear and Airofin Althletic (use discount code Jonathan10 to get 10% off any purchase). Two great brands. Why not check them out, there is definitely something there you will want to buy.

airofin

velocity

Late in 2016 I signed up for Challenge Roth which would be my first full distance race. But due to family commitments it made sense to take a step back and reevaluate. Instead I will work my calendar around 2 half distance races in Ireland and many other smaller races. The provisional plan can be seen below but I have also set myself some goals.

Goals
PB in 5km (best 19:10), 10km (40:43) and half marathon (1:34:26)
Reach 1000km running, 2500km cycling, 120km swimming. This would be an increase on both swimming and cycling and shorter running (with no marathon planned)

Races
Triathlon
Half distance – July 8th Hardman Half in Waterville Kerry; September 16th Lost Sheep Kenmare Kerry
Olympic Distance – March 25th TRI:122 Lanzorote; August 27th Dublin City Tri; September 2nd Dungarvan Triathlon Waterford
Sprint –  June 17th Monkstown Cork; August 12th Blackwater Tri Cork; September 30th Moby Dick Tri
Aquathlon – July 12th Blackwater Aquathlon Cork

Running
Half Marathon – June 4th Cork; Aug 13th Dublin RNR, October 15th Lisbon RnR
Many many other smaller races which I will report on via Instagram.

Other
Lee Swim – July 22nd

Dublin Marathon

After watching Dublin City Marathon (DCM) in 2015 I knew I’d like to give it a shot some day. After completing New York the week after DCM in 2015 and not breaking the four hour mark I had to plan to break it in 2016. So deep down I had decided DCM 2016 was where I’d do it and booked hotels just in case. After a busy 1st half of the year, in July I officially signed up and training commenced soon after.

Training went perfect up to the Cork to Cobh race where I picked up a knee injury. I thought a few days rest would help but a relapse a week later and again the week after meant the 3 weeks up to race day was all about strengthening, physio and my new best friend the foam roller. Not much running was done but the hope was on the day the rest will be enough to get me through.

Race day was fast approaching and we packed up the car for our first family trip away. There was just about enough room in the car for Martha and myself since packing for George was like packing for a 10 week holiday but delighted both Martha and George were coming with me for the weekend. Coach Damian, Sarah and Fiadh were going to join us up there. No doubt they had as much packing to do as we did. Damian had done a super job in setting out a plan and training with me right the way through it. He had no plans on doing another marathon in 2016 but decided to pace me on the day so signed up the same day as me. The medal will be worth it.

Expo

We headed to the expo, picked up our numbers and strolled around the stalls. George took a spin with me and he had a nice sleep for himself. Registration was seamless and we flew through it. Preparation the night before was a relaxing evening in the hotel with some nice food.

Dublin Gear

All my gear laid out, nutrition planned and breakfast arranged. We stayed the Sandymount so we didn’t have far to go in the morning. Strangely enough I had a good nights sleep and woke just before my alarm. 1st step was to strap up my knee and calf with KT tape. Next was have my porridge and soon after met Damian. To save the legs Martha dropped us in a bit closer to the the start line.  It was warm in the morning so didn’t need too much extra gear. We passed through the number checks and dropped off our bags to bag check and then went into our wave. We were to be first to go. 9am kick off.

George

George enjoying his nap with his new Dublin Marathon Teddy

 

A few pictures were taken and we were getting close to start. The thought of 26.2 miles hadn’t hit me yet but I think having Damian there to pace me eased any nerves. Damian had the pace bands, 2 of them, 3:50 and 3:55, it would be interesting to see which once we will need. The weather was perfect which was a great start and the there was a great buzz around. Over the starting mat we went and no turning back now. Time to forget the knee pain and concentrate on what is to come.

20161030_084725

 

First 10km

The first few miles were busy, a few turns at the beginning meant it was hard to get into a rhythm. It was hard not to get carried away at around the 2km mark when a downhill emerged and we made our way along the quays. We hit the 2 mile mark when we went over James Joyce Bridge and this started a bit of a drag where we had a slight incline to look forward to for until we left Phoenix Park.   We entered the park just after the 5km mark and we passed the back of the Zoo. This is where we cheered on Damian last year and as we worked our way around the Zoo we found ourself on a long straight of Chesterfield Avenue. The crowds were out and it was a good distraction from the straight line and drag. Pace was looking very consistent just as we left the park we hit the 10km mark. I was delighted to pass it in 53:57 (approx). Never once did I ask Damian for pace as I just trusted he had us going at what we needed.

Up to half way

Some of the support was excellent and 1 place that was easy to remember was when we made the turn on to College Road and the crowds were huge and gave the kick we needed. The last of the slight incline came around here. It meant we had a bit of fun with downhills to come as we reentered the park. It was refreshing in here and we couldn’t help but realise what a beautiful day it was. On leaving the park again we were on Chapelizod road, memories of Dublin Triathlon from last year came flooding back. We then turned on to St Laurences Road where there was great support again then and another little climb up to Sarsfield Road which I knew meant we were close to where we cheered on Damian last year – Kilmainham. I knew it would be special around here because the support is huge. Its hard to hold back as the crowds roared us on. A perfectly timed water stop where Damian continued to pick up 2 fresh bottles and discard the warmer bottles.

Half way

Before we hit half way I was starting to get hungry. The gels were giving me some extra energy but I still felt peckish. I told Damian to keep an eye out for someone handing out jellies and grab some if he can. He succeeded and they went down well. I never had to do that before but anything to stop me from getting too hungry.

Half way

It was great to hit half way and still feeling good. Reached it in 1:53:31. This was a couple of minutes faster than I reached half way in New York last year.

Getting to and over heartbreak hill

What distracted for a while after this was seeing the lines of traffic going no where has we held up all over Dublin. There was something in the back of my head. After driving back from Dundrum the day before I saw some hills we would tackle late on. It was about getting there for now. I’ll deal with it once I get to it. Damian was starting to enjoy the crowds around and made sure to get them all cheering anytime he saw a group of them together. When I got to heartbreak hill I knew I had to dig deep and push myself up it. It was all about pushing hard and keep moving. A lot of people started to walk going up but I put the head down and concentrated on each step, taking a look around to check out the support. But thankfully I got up and over it and was still in once piece….for now.

The Slow Down

Things started to slow down at km 34. This distance was something I had never ran before. My 2 previous marathons I had been walking at this stage by now. Between here and km 39 it was all about putting 1 foot in front of the other and the downhill by St Vincents hospital was starting to show how much I was struggling. Damian did everything possible to keep me going and also saw us have others join us as he drove a number of other runners on. He was slightly in front of me to encourage me to keep going but the wheels came off at the end of km 40 and in km 41. My aim was to run the whole race but my quads had enough and brought me to a walk. I needed loosen out. I could see Damian trying his best to get me going and had encouraging words but at this stage I was just trying to get going again. Of course this was were our support group was. Martha, George, Sarah and Fiadh. Martha had the camera out and caught me walking but a hug and a kiss and the push needed was got to turn my walk into a slow run.

dsc_1285

I was caught walking

Just over a km to go and I knew I was going to break the four hours and Damian was right to keep hold of the 3:55 pace band. He got me there. We crossed the line together and without him driving me on when times got tough I’d have had another almost story in my quest to break four hours. It was relief, happiness, delight that I done it. A new PB of 3:55:22. Time to grab the medal and the tshirt and hobble to bag check. It took some time to take it all in but wow, what a day.

screenshot_20161102-130024

dublin-marathon

 

A tough but great day out at the Dublin Marathon but my aim was to break 4 hour mark for the 1st time and that I did. Coach Damian made it happen with the training plan and huge encouragement and pacing on the day. When things got tough he made sure I didn’t slow down (too much 😁). Last couple of miles were tough after no training for the last 3 weeks due to injury but knowing Martha, George & Sarah & Fiadh were at mile 25 pushed me on. Thanks to Martha for all her support and being the most understanding and awesome wife because training started just after George was born so couldn’t have got there without her. It is now time to take a bit of a break and then build back up for next year.

20161030_151226 20161030_151121 20161030_135218 20161030_220728

Challenge Galway Half Distance

After my original plan of doing a full fell away in February I wanted to give the half distance my best shot. I also had originally planned to go up on the Saturday morning but to make sure I was more relaxed I went up early on the Friday. I checked into the Harbour Hotel which is located straight across from the expo. After checking I went straight over and registered and back to the hotel for some relaxation. There was nothing happening at the expo so I didn’t feel guilty chilling out at the hotel.

 20160624_134739

Being up on the Friday meant it gave me the chance to do the swim recce. Conditions were choppy and I didn’t get out the whole way as there was a lot of effort being used so there was no use wasting energy. I got to talk to Chrissie Wellington after the swim. She was really friendly and a very happy person. She gave some good advice and it was very interesting to hear what she had to say. Once I got back to the hotel again I got on the running gear and went for a short jog just to loosen out. I organised my T1 and T2 bags then some food and a relaxing bath later it was time for bed.

20160624_183619 20160624_210044

20160624_184848 

Up on the Saturday morning for a nice breakfast and more relaxing before heading over for the pasta party. Atmosphere was still a bit dead around but had 2 servings of pasta as I sat and chatted to people in there. There was a long wait until the race briefing but I got a good seat up front and all is going to plan. A small change in the swim was the only thing to really note. I dropped off my T2 bag and off to the next hotel where I checked in. This time is was the Maldron Hotel, it was closer to the swim start for tomorrow and a triple room for my Dad and Damian to stay in. I took the trip out to the swim start to rack the bike and drop off my T1 bag. Security was a bit scarce and no one checking bike and helmets but mine was all in order. Got back to hotel and met my Dad and Damian and off for some pizza in Doughboys. It was some great pizza.

20160625_130418  20160626_061219  

20160625_162251 20160624_215024

Race Day

The day has finally come. I was at at 4:45 to get ready. Shower, number tattoos on, calves strapped up with KT tape and then downstairs for some food. I left the hotel at about 5:30 and now game face was on. I went in to check everything was ok with the bike and put all my fuel on the bike. Took a look at transition and got an idea where everything was. I knew what to do now. The 600m run from swim exit to transition was carpeted but damn that looked long. I went down to the swim start to catch the first of the full athletes coming out of the water. The water was rough and the swim was cut by a small bit so we weren’t too far out of the bay.

Swim

13495633_10208546448671252_622370042856855063_o

It was time to begin the day, said my goodbyes and headed to the water. After I got in and tested my goggles and waited for the start. We were threading the water for a couple of mins and before I knew it we were off. It was a crowded start and I was pulled, dragged, climbed over and swam across so my rhythm was off a bit. About 100m into I got strong elbow into the face which knocked the left side of my goggles off. It filled with water and now I had to make a decision, do I stop and fix or keep going. I decided to keep going. Breathing to the right meant I wasn’t affected as much so I kept going that way. It wasn’t until about the 1st buoy that things spread out and that is where I could finally concentrate on my my stroke.

13497972_10208546449511273_471988197229006558_o

The whole way out to the 1st buoy we were swimming against the current and it was tough. I felt like I was climbing over waves and trying to sight was almost impossible. I just had to rely on who was in front of me, at least it meant we had the current with us on the way back. After I got around the 2nd buoy it was the home straight, only problem I wasn’t going very straight. I couple of times I was told my a kayaker I had to go left as I was going out too far. Again with the waves it was hard to sight so I was guessing where I was going and with the left goggle full of water didn’t help. It felt like a long tough swim so I was delighted to see the last orange buoy, it still felt like ages away but when I could see it I kicked the legs and pushed for home. Around the buoy I went and straight the ramp I went. Delighted to have it done with. I couldn’t even guess what time I did but a quick look at the watch and it was 32:49. I’ll take that with not knowing the exact distance.

T1

13497826_10208546449551274_3385641953681151406_oOut of the water and I pulled down the wetsuit straight away. It was a nice 600m run to T1. I was worried about it beforehand but it actually it was good for the legs. It got them warmed up and helped me relax before the bike. After I had ran the red carpet I found my bag and into the changing tent. I sat down and took my time. I decided to throw on the cycling jersey over the tri jersey as it was colder than I’d have prefer. On with the socks and bike shoes and threw everything into the T1 bag and dropped it off and ran to my bike. With the waves I must have swallowed a lot of water as I needed to stop at the portaloo before I got on the bike. I found my bike and ran out of T1. Now to begin my least favourite part of the day. T1 in total took me 8:15.

13528509_10208546450271292_1524820142191667254_o

Bike

The main aim for the bike was to get through it and hope my calf doesn’t come at me. A small climb to begin with followed by a left turn. Shouts of slow down on the left turn due to greasy conditions and a couple of spills before me meant it was a cautious start.

13522722_10208546451231316_4939470096987885739_o

As always the start of the bike I will have plenty of people passing me out as the stronger bikers got out of the water. Road surface was very good and I was able to get into a good steady speed. I made sure to keep hydrated and  watched my 10 meters so not to draft. Just after 30km I hit the 1st water stop. I was already sick of the isotonic drinks so grabbed a bottle of water, it was refreshing. Now came the worst part of the course. The road was in a bad way and I felt I was holding on as the bike was about to fall apart. My pace was definitely slowing down, I kept in tight as someone wanted to overtake me and as we went around a bend and downhill someone else wanted to overtake that person, so it was three deep. Only for a car jamming on the brakes that persons race was almost over, a bit idiotic out of him, take the extra 10 seconds and make sure things are safe. My pace had definitely slowed between Gort and Boston and the long straight after that was a mix of fast and slow moving. I was back and forth with a couple of people. Keeping 10m away but it definitely gave the motivation to keep the pace up. Only about half way through this straight did I realise I had drove this when I was checking out the Lough Cutra course.

13497629_1114343835273838_8353389492100926056_o

We got to the split where the full took the left turn towards the hills and we took the right to head back home. 55km in and I was feeling ok. I was on target for a good time, 2 hours in and at 56.5km,averaging close to 28km an hour. That is something I definitely would have taken before the race. Between here and Kilcolgan was a very fast section. The wind was at your back and the road surface was good. I took full advantage and it was by far my fastest section of the course and I did my fastest 5km split here as well (8:59). Of course after this section we were back on the road we has started on and the wind was blowing at an angle that it was more in our face. And for the life of me I didn’t remember going down some of the short hills that I was now going up on the way back. But the slowest section of the day came from me as we went back towards Ornamore and took the climb back to the main road into Galway. The mixture of tired legs and hills meant I slowed down but well on the way to a great time for me on the bike. I picked the pace up once more for the last 5km and crossed the line 3:08:49 averaging the higher end of 28km an hour. Considering I was almost the same average speed for Schull just 2 weeks previous I would never had thought I’d do a time like that. The big fear now was did I work too hard on the bike and will my run suffer for it.

13558602_10208546451591325_3253529809856664475_o

T2

Into T2 where you handed your bike off and someone racked it for you, I loved that. The search for my bag and again I took a few mins to compose myself and change into my runners and grab my gels, water and hat. Nature called again so once that was answered I was off out on the course again. T2 took me 4:23

13490678_10208546452231341_7929407843177918433_o

Run

In Wanaka my biggest regret was the run. After 7kms I was done, never getting below 5:30 min/km and spent more time closer to 7min/km. I knew what to expect on this course so I knew I could manage my pace better. In my head the plan was to break it down into 4 sections. And of course the 1st km was my fastest but with the crowd around I couldn’t help myself. Once I got that out of the way I went back to concentrating on my pace. It is a nice flat run but heading out to Salthill was into the wind and rain. I had the sunglasses on to keep the rain out of the eyes rather than the sun. It did heat up every now and again when the sun came out. I felt good as I ran along the promenade and the support around as well as the other athletes really did help get through it. At the 1st turn around I felt very good and pace was exactly what I wanted. Heading back into town I had the breeze on my back and it gave the push needed.

13522912_10208546452511348_2690319289602648644_o

It was great to see family and the crowds as I made my way to the turnaround point. Half way there and the race was going great. I knew my pace would drop off at some stage and it came within a km of the turnaround. I had to fight my head and legs to make sure I wasn’t going to walk. I knew I could continue at a good pace once I fuelled right. I grabbed a banana and had my gel and off out to Salthill I went. This time around it was a lot tougher but I wasn’t going to give up. I kept tipping away and was well with in my target time. The pathway was a lot busier this time and had to move around people, both runners and non-runners. At the final turnaround point I kicked the legs and worked my way home. I had my slowest km soon after but from there I sped up knowing I was almost there. My fastest lap of the 2nd half was my last one. I got there and in a very good time. A run of 1:42:51 was a lot better than I thought I’d do. It was short of a full half run but with the long run in T1 and the extra 0.5km on the cycle meant it definitely a half distance race overall. I was absolutely delighted with my overall time 5:37:08. Going into it I knew if everything went perfect on the day I could break 6 hours but I would have laughed if you told me I’d get 5:37

13490795_10208546453711378_2783736258185829344_o

After I got some food, a cold shower and meant my Dad and Damian it was time to reflect. The support from them really helped and it definitely drove me on. I’m glad I didn’t do the full but it has given me confidence to push on and tackle another half next year before eventually building up to the full. I finished my Wanaka report saying I wouldn’t do a full and right now I’d still feel the same. The bike would be the reason I wouldn’t attempt one but maybe after another couple of good half distance I might reconsider. If Challenge Galway goes ahead next I will definitely do it. It is a fast course and because its in Ireland it is easy to get to. The event does need some improvements but I’m sure Challenge will know that and work on it.

13517374_10208546455031411_3931493631186413128_o

Now time to relax for a while before I decide on my next event. More importantly for now is building my family with Martha. The clock is ticking and only a few weeks to go.

13495430_10208546562314093_647312593977482853_o

Schull Tri 2016

It was an early start on race day as my alarm went off at 5:30am. My car was packed up the night before to save me a few minutes in the morning and I was glad I had it done. I had my porridge and set off on the road. It was nice and quiet on the way down so I got down in good time. I got a good parking spot and headed down to registration. The 1st year in Schull the weather was bad and swim was caught short. There was no fear of that this year as for the second year in a row the sun was out and the water was flat.

20160611_082518

I headed back to the car and got everything together. Excitement was beginning to build  and nerves weren’t bad as it was my 1st Tri since Dublin last August. There were assigned positions on the bike rack and I got a nice spot right at the end of one row which gave me that bit of extra space I practiced my transition a number of times making sure I had everything lined up perfectly and knew where I was going. It is a tough transition will uphill the whole way from the swim until the mount line on the bike. Good thing about that is you get some time to get your thoughts together and plan for the next leg.

13411826_1195509477160635_4093120907969797615_o 20160611_094717

I signed up late but still found myself in wave one. After listening to the race briefing we headed down to the water. One last pitstop before zipping up the wetsuit and on with the hat and goggles. Now the fun part, head into the water and see how hot/cold it was. After the initial shock it was comfortable temperature and once I swam out to the start line I was settled in and ready to go. We just needed to wait until we heard the horn going off to get under way. I got into my rhythm quickly and just followed the splashes hoping they were going in the right way. I was struggling to site the 1st buoy but with it was easy to just follow the crowd, I eventually spotted the buoy and had to think about my approach. There were a lot of people going at an angle from the right and I was going straight but knew I’d be swarmed by a lot of swimmers. I took it wide to keep out of most of the mayhem and it started again trying to sight the next buoy. I followed a good line and the field was spreading out so there was a bit of room. I took the next buoy well before heading back for home. I felt I kept a good line there as well. It always feels a lot longer while in the water so wasn’t sure what time I had but a check of the watch showed 12:24, that was a huge improvement on last years time.  (2014 550m 11:53, 2015 750m 13:33)

13411679_1195511447160438_3932596234779540541_o

The long run up to T1 and off with the wetsuit and but on socks and shoes and off up to the road and over the mount line and time to jump on the bike. With this always being my weakest leg I was hoping I could be at least competitive during it and not give up too many places. After short flat straight it was into the 1st climb, and the last 2 years I really struggled on it but this year I felt better and moved up it at a steady pace. Of course any of the ups and downs on the way out will be reversed on the way back with this out and back course. It was crazy to see the leaders fly past as if they were out for a Sunday spin while if they looked at me they would see the effort on my face. Its all up and down on this bike route so there is never a settled speed for me. I had a lot of people pass me out on who would be strong on the bike, my advantage from the swim was well and truly gone. I was happy as I got to turnaround point, I was feeling good but now some of those good declines were to be tackled on the way back. My calf was pinching a bit at times to I took my time going up the hills and enjoyed the downhill. There wasn’t much wind which is always great. After I went down the last hill it was the straight to home. Off time bike and down the steep hill trying to hold on to the bike and myself hoping I wouldn’t fall. Overall I was delighted with my bike to finish in 43:19 which was a huge jump on my previous 2 times here ( 2014 48:35; 2015 49:26)

13413606_1193878383990411_9105012470727974381_n 13415620_1157458304298867_364078459458389784_o

Now to the run leg. I was getting a cramp in my stomach to begin with and felt dead on my legs. There is a small drag to begin with but I got into my groove and tried to settle down. I wasn’t really feeling my best on the run and just wanted to get it out of the way to be honest. I know in Galway the pace will be a lot slower than what I would be doing here. The one thing I can be happy with is that only 2 people passed me while running and I passed a number of people, so even though I felt slow I was still picking up some positions. I finished the run in 21:30 which was just faster than last year. (2014 23:39; 2015 21:37)

13392206_1157459197632111_2947207552001510455_o

Overall I can be very happy with my result taking 8 minutes off last years time. After 2 road races in the previous 6 days meant I did tire on the run a bit but the strong swim and bike was a huge confident boost. Now the build up to Galway can begin. It was great to get a tri out of the way after the disaster of Lough Cutra where I couldn’t even start due to an issue with my calf.

swim bike run

MESSINA HOF WINE & ROSES HALF

After my flights to Austin were booked for a work trip the next thing I did was to see what races were around. Since I was flying out on the Friday it gave me the weekend to find something. I searched for things around Austin but no luck. But after a bit more searching I found a half in Bryan Texas. It looked like an interesting race with some novelty aspects to it. It starts and finishes in the vines of Messina Hof and includes a wine stop on the course. A good looking medal sold it for me. I signed up and booked a hotel close to the race and was looking forward to the race.

I arrived into Austin on Friday 22nd and of course had to start the trip with a burger. There was no changing that tradition. On Saturday I decided to get a swim in Barton Springs Pool to loosen out. I was down there early to make the most of the day. I’m sure plenty of people thought it was cold but I certainly didn’t and got in a good swim. I then drove down to Bryan Texas and headed to packet pick up. It was very straight forward and there was a wine festival on. There was a great atmosphere and weather was great.  I got my gear together and then headed off for some food in College Station. It was time to relax and watch some tv before an early rise in the morning.

20160423_160328 20160423_172535

I was up at 5am on the morning of the race and it was time to plan my breakfast. Like all true athletes I headed to McDonalds. I wasn’t sure what else I could get so early in the morning so some pancakes would be the perfect choice to start my day. Once I was done I headed towards the venue. I had bought a pass for VIP parking so I was able to park right at the venue. I’m delighted I did that as it gave me the chance to relax in my car and go back and forth before the race. Weather was nice again and it would have been great to stay some what cool but that was never going to happen. I’ll just enjoy the cool breeze before the sun came up.

20160424_052457 20160424_063258

Once I got rid of my pre race jitters and did a bit of a warm up I headed towards the start line at 6:50am. I check out the pace group and the 1st pace group was 1hr 40mins. I was aiming for better than that but nobody wanted to move further up for now. I stayed back with that group for now. It was announced just before 7 that the start would be delayed by 15 minutes as people were still arriving. My main worry was that I had planned my food and nutrition for 7am start and such a late decision was disappointing but understandable. They managed it well and decided to break up the starting corrals to make it easier while running through the vines. I would head off in the 1st corral.

20160424_064720

The race got underway and I set off with the first batch of runners. We all headed up the road together and into the vines we went. There was a bit of confusion when we got to the end of the 1st vine as the 1st couple of runners didn’t see the arrow on the ground. But once we got through that it was obvious what was needed then. It was run along a section of the vines, sharp turn and back through the next and so on. It was tough on the legs. The ground was soft so it was a bit of work on the legs and each turn slowed your pace down  as you had to do a U turn each time but this was the novelty factor of the race and was something I hadn’t experienced in the past. My fast km was when we left the last row of the vines and back on to the road. I passed the 1st water/wine stop – I don’t think anyone in the first group went near the wine. I was 6th coming out of the vines but more tough work to come.

137299-094-015h

I was out on my own for much of the race, the group in front were to far ahead but I could sense some people close behind. I chose my pace and tried to stick with it but that paced slowed down after the 5th km. The heat and the effort through the vines really did slow me down. Where there were people cheering I could tell how close people were behind me and I knew I didn’t have much of a gap. For me it was nice to run in places I haven’t run before. We ran on some very quiet roads and through housing estates. The whole race was very well directed and no issue with getting lost which had happened to me in a race outside Austin a couple of years ago. There were plenty of water stops which was very much needed as the temperature rose. I’m sure a lot of runners were not feeling the heat as much as I was but with the way things were going I may miss out on a PB due to my slowing pace. My aim now was to keep the pace steady. At approximately the 15km (my slowest one of the day) I was passed by 2 people. 1st was the lead girl, it looked like she was just out for a short jog she made it look so easy. I was then passed by another male runner. He didn’t look as comfortable and was heavy breathing and looked like that heat was taken his toll on him. Both of those were moving away from me at a quick pace.

Mile 10 was the toughest of the day. It was uphill the whole way and I had to work harder to get through it. I saw the male runner who passed me having to walk parts of it but the gap was still big enough where I couldn’t catch him. At this stage I was calculating in my head what pace would get me a PB or even better break 1:35. It was going to be tight. I took a look back as I made sharp turns and saw no one behind me. I knew the vines were coming again soon so had to push. The atmosphere as you passed by the entrance to Messina Hof was great and gave me a bit of a lift. So it was the same thing up and down through the vines. In front of me I could see the male runner who passed me and he was really slowing down now. I passed him through one of the vines and looked like the earlier effort had taken it out of him. But then came the realisation that another runner was catching me. I hadn’t seen him for a long time and now every time I went up and down a vine I could see he was getting closer and closer. The soft ground through the vines was taking everything out of me.

I knew if I got out the vines ahead I would have enough in me to push on. Being chased down did help me keep my pace up. As soon as I hit the road again it was time to go as hard as I could and get to the finish line. It was slightly downhill and turned the corner and crossed the finish line. I did it. 7th overall, 6th male and 3rd in my category in a time of 1:34:27. A new PB by almost 2 mins. I only had 13 seconds to spare to the next person in my category. I talked to that guy a couple of days later while training in Austin Aquatics and Sports academy. A really good guy and we both helped each other push over those last tough miles. A 3rd podium finish in my last 3 races in Texas. I should come here more often.

20160424_102035 20160424_101516 20160424_101331

I’d like to take everyone at Messina Hof for their hospitality and for planning a unique race which if I ever find myself back at this time of the year I’d do again. A really cool medal and wine glass added to it all. Now it was time to head back to Austin and get ready for a week of work. It was a tough day out there with rolling hills, vines and heat but enjoyed every minute of it.

20160424_102104 20160424_085518

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 21.12.42 Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 21.12.29

137299-009-016h 137299-009-017h

 

Ballycotton 10

In the first three months of this year I had two big races I was targeting and after a good result at the Surf City Half it was now the turn of Ballycotton. After making the top 50 in the Summer Series I felt a new PB was on the cards here if things went right. It is a very popular race that always sells out as soon as the entries open. This is the 39th year of it and with my Dad taking part in 1988 it is great that the course hasn’t changed and I get to run and see how my times compare to his.

The good and bad thing about the starting time at 1:30pm is that you get a good nights sleep but then you have to decide when is best time to eat in the morning. Also since the race is set in a small fishing village traffic and parking can be fun. 20160305_120804

With Ballycotton being so close to my house I set off at 10:30am. I was parked up within 30 minutes and the rain started to appear. This meant I took my time leaving the car. I eventually I made the move and headed down to the village. It is always nice just to stroll around and take it all in. I headed down to the start line and the pier and got what is now my annual photos there.

 

20160306_115948

20160306_115721

The wet weather did dampen the atmosphere that bit as people took their time leaving the hall. Things did get a bit crazy around the bag check and the start line but I timed it well enough so that I was at the start line after a quick warm up with 3 minutes to spare. I set a goal before the race of breaking 70 minutes. My plan was to use the first three miles to give me a head start because it is more downhill and you get to enjoy that on the way back so the buffer maybe needed. Then go steady in the middle and hold my pace. One the first time ever I changed my watch to miles and no way was I going to let it go over 7 minutes for a mile.

20160306_115634

Because its a tight start once the gun went off we shuffled up and over the start line. It took about half a mile before things spread out a bit to give a good gap to over take large crowd of people. Looked at my watch at the first mile marker and it said 6:57 – perfect. Next mile 6:44 and then 6:49. Plan was going well then it was time to steady the pace. With it being about 4 or 5 degrees Celsius I brought arm warmers with me in the car but forgot to bring them to the start line. After 2 miles I was happy I forgot them because I was warm enough as it was with just the singlet. The rain wasn’t bothering me either. It helped cool down a bit. It was great to see the crowds out in this weather, they really do help drive you on.

25559908105_c54c1b9c9a_o (1)

I was still feeling good hitting half way, my pace had slowed but that was all part of the plan. When I passed the 10km mark I looked at my watch and it was my 2nd fastest 10km I have done. I felt today would be a good day. I also had that cushion still to make sure if I did slow down over the last 3 miles I could still make my target. Between mile 4 and 9 my mile times varied from 6:56 and 6:59. The last 2 miles are the toughest with some hills but at this stage you know to give it all. No use saving up the energy now. There are certain parts of the course where the support really helps and the turn before you hit the straight to the village is one of those spaces. That small “hill” can catch you out but with everyone driving you on it makes it that bit easier.

12828355_1174490379228323_5327859025191559566_o

For the last mile I upped the pace to whatever I could give. I knew I had the time I wanted, now to see how much I could beat it by. I felt good right up to the line and crossed over in 69:11. Broke the 70 minute mark and took just under 3 minutes off last years time. Once over the line I picked up my mug, that is what it is all about. And then picked up my Mars bar. These are the two things you do the race for and it is well deserved. The weather hadn’t improve that much so there was no hanging around. Grabbed my bag put on some warm clothes and headed back to the car.

20160306_174814

I can look back on a successful day and now my focus goes back to Galway. Hopefully the weather will improve and I’ll get some good sessions on the bike and build up the swimming once more.

 

 

 

Surf City Half Marathon

February was always going to be a month where my training plan would go out the window. That is what happened but I won’t regret that either. 2 weeks of it was spent in California with Martha on holidays. It was an action packed holiday with some great stops along the way. The first stop was Huntington Beach where I was going to take on the Surf City Half Marathon. We arrived late to our hotel on the Friday before the race after a long day of travelling. It was my 1st experience of driving in LA and the journey from LAX to Huntington Beach was to take 50 minutes ended up closer to two and half hours. I guess that is Friday rush hour traffic for you. A trip to IHOP at 2am was needed before heading back to bed and to start our holiday proper.

Huntington Beach

We woke to the sun shining and felt the heat for the first time. We took a stroll along the pier before heading to the expo. Packet pick was easy and plenty to browse at with all the vendors there. I bought some Nuun but stayed away from everything else. It would have been easy to spend a fortune there. With still fighting jetlag we kept active for the day and caught the sunset before heading back to get my gear ready and try get a good nights sleep. The hotel was a short walk from the start line to that definitely helped with any nerves. It meant getting up having my breakfast, saying goodbye to Martha and stroll down. I found myself right at the front of Wave 2. Perfect position as there was 5 minute gap between Wave 1 and 2 so I wouldn’t be caught up with slower runner straight away. There was a great buzz around and you could sense the nerves as well. I think it doesn’t matter how many you do you will always have that sense of did you do enough or are you able for it.

20160206_163450 20160206_101133

It was always hard to know how I was going to manage this race. Considering I was training in the cold leading up to this I knew I couldn’t go off as fast as I wanted because I needed to acclimatise and see how my body would react to the heat. With the race starting early it meant we wouldn’t get the worst of the heat. I knew Martha was going to be waiting for me at approximately the 1km mark so I kept to the right hand side as that was the side the hotel was on. I found my setting off at the front of the pack and straight towards a photographer in the middle of the road. I guess could have jumped him but decided I’d go around him instead.  I gave Martha a high five as I passed and it meant she could go back to the hotel and relax. The first 4km were relatively straight and flat. Over the next few kms there were a few ups and downs but nothing too challenging, especially since I’m used to running the hills around East Cork.

20160207_073405

Just after 9km we were back onto Pacific Coast Highway and it was a long straight to come. I found this the toughest part of the race. The heat was starting to get me and I had to slow my pace back ever so slightly. It was on this stretch were I got to see some of the lead half marathoners and they made it look easy. There were also plenty of full marathoners running down the other side of the road. I couldn’t even imagine how they were doing it in that heat. At every water stop I was grabbing three or four cups of water, two for drinking and two for pouring over me. It definitely helped distract me. I felt myself slowing down heading to the 13km mark which was the turnaround point and the straight road back to where we began.

20160207_071621

I knew I had to get my act together and get back to the pace I was hitting at the start. Easier said than done but a high 5 gel and some more water helped me concentrate. Now I knew what I had to do to get a new personal best. I also knew I couldn’t push the pace too much as it could mean burn out. After the turnaround point it was cool to see the sea of people running up the other side of the road. It was amazing the huge numbers that did this race and this was the first time I could truly see it. As I made my way back down PCH my pace was continuing to get better. I found myself feeling strong. I knew I had to take the opportunity and see how much time I could make up. Again passing out people doing the full marathon amazed me. They had to turn off and go closer to the beach to make up more of the distance. I don’t envy them.

20160207_073553

I felt the best supported part of the course was where we turned off the PCH on the way out. It was an area were runners were coming from all angles so was a perfect place for spectators to be. The cheers were a huge motivating factor as we faced into the last 4km. With about 3km to go I had another runner ask me how long was to go and we found ourselves doing the same pace. I think this helped both of us and distracted us from the heat and the distance. The only words we shared was the distance left as we ran side by side. With about 1.5km to go I knew I had to keep to the left as I knew Martha would be there again. And she sure was, plenty of cheers and delighted to see her. It was now time to give it all I had as the finish line was in sight. And my last 2km were my fastest and it helped me get a personal best. I was delighted to cross the line. I felt strong and knew it was a PB 1:36:57. A huge improvement on my previous best of 1:39:12. As soon as I crossed the line we were given our new, probably the best medal I have ever got.

20160207_092810

 

20160207_094135

image

As I took it all in, getting finisher photos, picking up snacks and congratulating people on the way I replied to the texts I got while my twitter account automatically updated my progress. It was so nice to finish with blue skies and sun shining down. It was time to walk back to the hotel and get ready to pack to move on to our next destination – Vegas.

It was a great experience and delighted I gave it a go. Over the next few days I felt the results of those last few kms and every part of my body hurt. It was worth it and I’d have love to go back again sometime in the future. It was a great start to the holiday and a did what I came here to do.

 

Week 9: First race of the year

Well 9 weeks in, can’t believe I’ll be hitting double figures next. I planned to put in a strong week this week as I know the next 3 weeks will be somewhat disrupted due to holidays. This week was spent trying to decide what races I might get in before and after Galway. It has been really tough to try fix something in that works well with Galway. I really want to try do as many National Series Races as I can but looks like that won’t be possible without disrupting my training. I have a few races in mind and must start locking down my calendar fairly soon.

The week started off with an interesting run. There was as weather warning in place but I still managed to get up early on Tuesday morning and as I drove to work the wind was strong enough to blow the car from side to side and the rain poured down. At times on the drive up I was thinking would I change it to an indoor cycle in the gym. Eventually I got to work and I said I’d go ahead with the run. I’m glad I got out. It was tough conditions but I got in 11km. I started by trying to avoid big puddles to eventually just giving up since the rest of me was soaked to the bone as well. I kept to the main roads rather than going out by the water as I knew the wind and driving rain would catch me there. I was almost lifted off the ground at some stages but once I got back and had a nice long shower I was happy I went out. Who knows what conditions I will face while out so it was a good test.

20160126_081058

Wednesday I did my usual indoor bike session in the gym and on Thursday I did my turbo session at home. Watching Wolf of Wall Street helped me get through it. Friday I has to tackle more windy conditions on my run. Rain wasn’t bad but the wind did pick up. Lucky the route planned out meant I missed some of the strongest wind and had it at my back at the most open part. I got another 11km in and was feeling good. Friday evening I headed to the pool and my plan was to mix it up a bit and do 2km on Friday and 3km on Saturday. I managed to complete both. 5km in 2 days was a lot on the shoulders but I knew I wanted to free up Sunday evening so it meant getting them in one day after the other. I started getting tired towards the end of the 3km session but that would be expected. If needed I’d have been able to kick on and do some more so at least in my head I’m in a good place.

I knew it would be a busy weekend so I was up early on the Saturday for my cycle. My plan was to cycle to Cobh and meet up with the team there as they cycled to Garyvoe. That meant I could drop off as they headed back. When I got up and looked out in the morning it looked as if the day was as calm as you could get but that wasn’t the case once I got out on the bike. I had a wind in my face all the way to Cobh but the advantage of that was that I’d have it on my back on the return journey. It was the 1st time out for a club cycle and I will definitely have to get out more often. It was enjoyable and the time passed a lot quicker. I got a good 66km in. That meant I finished the month on 499km. If only I knew that before had and I would have went that bit extra to make it up.

dungarvan10

Dungarvan 10 Mile rac

Next up was the big item of the weekend. The John Treacy 10 mile road race in Dungarvan. My plan for this was to take it easy and use it as training for next weekend. I think that lasted all of 1km. I had originally planned on 80 mins but I found myself with a view of the 75 min pacers just ahead. I decided I’d let them in the distance and do my own thing. I found I was hitting the mile makers right on the 75 mins time frame. Half way I was looking good for 75 as well. It wouldn’t be a PB but I’d be very happy with it as a training run. Once I hit the 8 mile mark I knew there was a hill coming so I picked up the pace and used that momentum to get up the hill with no worried. Last mile was then my fastest as I finished in a time of 73:31. I picked up a minute and and half in the last few miles but post a respectable time. Main thing was that I kept my heart rate down and felt good finishing. If I can keep that going for the extra 3 miles I’d be good for a PB but a lot will tell on how the day goes – heat, humidity, jet lag will all have a part to play

12593991_1121346554566209_3456468468326937434_o

Almost finished Dungarvan 10 Mile

 

I was delighted to finish off the month with my highest mileage in swimming, cycling and running. In swimming I did just over 18km, cycling I hit 499km and running I broke the 100 mile barrier for the 1st time.

Breakdown
Mon – Off
Tues – 1 hour run,
Wednesday – 45mins cycle (indoor)
Thursday – 1 hour cycle(indoor)
Friday – 1 hour run, 2km swim
Saturday – 2 hour 35 min cycle (road), 3km swim
Sunday – Dungarvan 10 Mile Road race

Swim Session 2

Warm Up
300m FS
Drills (8 x 50m total)
4 x 25m BS; 4 x 25m L,R,F,B; 4 x 25m with PB; 4 x 25m with fists
Main Set
4 x 125m with 20 sec break between each
4 x 175m with 30 sec break between each
4 x 125m with 20 sec break between each
Drills (8 x 50m total)
4 x 25m L,R,F,B; 4 x 25 BR every 4, BL every 4, BLR every 3, BLR every 5; 4 x 25m with legs tied; 4 x 25m with legs tied with PB
Cool Down
200m FS

Week 10 will be a bit all over the place so no official plan. It all depends on how the body is, work, house work and travel