6 weeks to train for 26.2 miles

On September 17th while on on holidays in Lanzarote I got a call from Kevin to say we are in to the New York Marathon. A few things came into my head. Cost. Training. Time. Eventually after talking it through with Martha I decided I’d go for it. I’d have 44 days of training and the training wouldn’t really start until I get back from holidays.

Accepted

Officially in

 

One 10 miler and 2 shorter runs is what I fitted in while in Lanzarote. Temperatures were high and the 10 miler almost broke me but I knew this would be the start of some heavy training to get myself ready.

Some facts before I began my training

1) Before Sept 17th I had only run over 10km 6 times in 2015
2) Since I started running in 2012 I had only run over 22km 3 times
3) Since January 2014 only 4 times have I done more than 100km in a month (105km, 105km, 105km & 102km)
4) My marathon PB is 4:45:45 in Rotterdam in April 2013
5) I was in NYC for the only one that was ever cancelled
6) My last long training run in March 2013 was 28km and took me 2hr 49mins 47s (average 6:04 min/km)

So those facts alone show I will be up against it but I hope my triathlon training will help me.

My 1st proper training run came on 24th of September. That is now 37 days to train. I got a good 17km in with Damian. A very consistent run and even though I was feeling tired hitting the 16km mark I felt ok. Unfortunately next day my hamstring was tight and I’d have to skip my last tri of the year. But a bit of rest and some physio on Monday 28th fixed me right up and I was out again on the 29th. This time it was a 15km with Damian and was a fraction slower than the previous 17km but it was about the distance rather than the speed. I followed that up with a 9km on Thursday the 1st. (NYC officially next month now) It was good to get the mileage in knowing I had BHAA Cork to Cobh 15 miler on Sunday the 4th. This would be the biggest test of my training and biggest mileage I’ll do before the big day.

BHAA Cork to Cobh Sunday 4th October
The plan for today is a 4 mile warm up followed by a 15 mile marathon pace run. The warm up was with Damian and Tim and the race would be done with Kevin. Main thing here is to manage pace. I had planned to go out at 5:30 min/km but it was closer to 5:25 you to the 18km mark. Felt good the whole way so decided to pick it up for roughly the last 6 and half km. I was well able to manage the pace. I crossed the line for the 24+ km in 2hrs 8mins 46s. Averaging 5:18 per km overall. A total of 19.5 miles today. That is huge for me. Biggest total mileage in one day except for the marathon I did. A couple of days off after this for sure.

Cork to Cobh

Cork to Cobh

 

 

My calf was a bit tight the days after the race but on the 7th I got out and did 9k. It was a slow, and I mean very slow 9km. Averaging 5:45 min/km. Good thing is that I got through it but it was the hardest session yet. A session on the turbo training on the Wednesday helped me stay focused.

Into the last 3 weeks of training and I had a good plan for the weekend. 10km on the Saturday and 12 miles on the Sunday with Damian. The 10km went great. Did the reverse loop of the Shannagarry 5 miler and some more. Pace was bang on what I wanted to do and straight in for a swim after was very enjoyable. I felt good after it so I knew I’d be ok for Sundays session. A late night text changed the plans a bit – now 15 miles with Damian and Tim but sure plenty of places to turn off if I wanted to cut mine short. We set off just before 7:30am on a route I never did before. Some big climbs and falls to begin with, a good test for NYC. A long the way I had chances to turn off but I stuck with it. Of course that is where Tim decided to let us know it was closer to 16 miles. For the last 3km or I got nice and quite and I just wanted to finish but I did it and got stronger as the run went on. That completed 22 miles for the weekend. Its all downhill from here.

26km Run

A nice hilly run

 

 

A session of physio to start the week. Calf was a bit tight from weekends run but the pain of physio will be worth it in the end. Back out on an early morning run on Tuesday 13th. Calf was a bit sore starting out but soon loosened. I had thought about cutting the run short if it was still sore but completed the 8km. Almost 93km done and only 13 days into the month. It could be a record breaking month. 1 more run until the half in Amsterdam.

Early 6km run on Thursday morning went well and felt good. Next up Amsterdam.

You can read about Amsterdam here

The days after Amsterdam I took some time off but only because I didn’t have much time to run. My body felt good, I was tired from the weekend in Amsterdam but if I wanted to I’d have got a run in. Last physio session before NYC came on Thursday 22nd. 1st time I felt I wasn’t tight during it. Of course the usual pains he found but overall we were both happy. Went back out on Friday morning. Damian and Tim were going for their last run before Dublin so I said I’d join them. A nice paced 5 miler in darkness. Nothing better than to set your day up with that.

2 more runs left to do. Since I decided to make a weekend out of it in Dublin I packed my running gear and made my way to Phoenix Park on the Sunday morning. It was a perfect morning for it and got in another 5 mile. That run made sure it was a record breaking month for mileage. Delighted to be in one piece after it.
Watching everyone complete the Dublin on the Monday made me nervous as well as excited. To see everyone run down towards the finish line made me want to be out there. Watching the broken bodies after made me realise I didn’t want to be out there. But my turn is next. Only 6 days.

So after 6 weeks I finished my last run on October 28th. It was a 5km in miserable conditions. I didn’t really enjoy it but that was it. I was now done and I did what I could. 142km in October meant I did more than I did before. I was injury free – for the 1st time in a long while. Not its all real. only a few days to go.

Amsterdam Half – The Training Run

Amsterdam Half – The Training Run

After I didn’t get into New York I decided I needed another marathon to focus on. To begin with I booked my flights and hotel with Joe and Kevin and step one was complete. Over the next few months I decided I wasn’t going to tackle a full so signed up for the half instead. This would allow me the chance to continue to focus on training for triathlons during the summer. I really kind of took my mind off this race with so many other races happening. But i felt I could give it a right go even with the lack of training at the higher distances. But of course all plans were thrown up in the air when I found out I had got into New York on September 17th. This race now became my secondary focus and would now just be used as a training run with it being 2 weeks before NYC

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Great support from home

We were all working on the Friday and got the 5:30pm flight out to Amsterdam. A nice smooth flight and the train to Amsterdam Central. We got a cab to the apartment we had got and then it was time to decide who was getting which bed. Once we lay claim to our beds we headed out for a short stroll and to the pub we went. A few hours there and a healthy feed of McDonalds after set us up nicely.

On Saturday we caught the tram out to the expo. Worked out well that the tram was only few seconds walk from the apartment and went directly to the expo. Everyone besides us about 3 other jumped off at the Olympic Stadium stop, but we hung on for one more which meant we had a shorter walk to the expo. There was a great buzz around and the place was hopping. When we went in there was queues everywhere. Lucky for us there was no where in ours so we had our numbers within seconds of getting there.

Packed Expo

Packed Expo

Off to see what we could buy next. But I behaved and stayed away from all the tempting merchandise. Regretted not picking something up afterwards but I’d be better off not filling
my cupboards with more junk.

After the expo we headed back, got changed and headed down to Rembrandtplein to get some food and watch the rugby. A stroll around that area and around Amsterdam square was it for the night. Back to the apartment early knowing that Kevin was doing the full so he’d be up early.

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Gear Ready

We had a nice lie in and headed off at about 11 expecting to get the tram. Of course to our surprise it wasn’t running. We flagged down a taxi who brought us to about 1.5km away from the stadium and we walked the rest. Good warm up. Bags dropped off and then to the start line. Joe and myself were both in the 1st wave so didn’t take us long to get going. I was planning on doing 5 min per km but once I got going I decided I’d do what was comfortable. I settled into a pace in and around the 4:4x per km. I heard a lot about Amsterdam having a lot of twists and turns but maybe it was just for the full because there seemed to be a lot of straights which helped even out the crowd and you weren’t falling over people. After bumping into a girl from Midleton at about the 8 km mark she was looking strong and aiming for sub 1:40 (she achieved it) I knew I was pacing well. She happened to be the only person I exchanged words with throughout the whole run. After about half km she headed on.

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It wasn’t really until the about the 16km mark where there was support out on the course. Before that it was quiet and a bit boring. But then again I had my head down so I didn’t mind too much. There was a good buzz around Vondelpark when we ran through there. I knew I was getting close to home then. I managed to keep the pace throughout, with my 2 best kms at the 18th (where you 1st entered the park) and the last km. It was great atmosphere entering the stadium and there is just something about finishing on the track. I crossed the line in 1:41:45 and felt good. Usually I’d be very tired after but I raced sensibly and gives me great hope for NYC. A nice massage after and 3km walk pack to the apartment kept me nice and loose.

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Joe finished in 1:37:51 and Kev did the full in 4:47:37

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Some of the best craic and chats came on the flight home on the Monday. Plenty of others who did the race shared their stories and it passed away the waiting time and the flight home.

Would I do it again? Yes, if I wanted a good weekend away close by. A nice flat course, a bit boring in parts but a very easy destination to get to. It will be head down for NYC now but I hope this race has put me in the right shape for it.

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Ballycotton Summer Series 2015

Back in 2014 I had set a goal of breaking into top 100 in the Ballycotton Summer Series. I achieved that by finishing in 95th after the 4 races in a total of 2hrs 19 mins and 22 seconds. So at the start of 2015 this Series was one of the main focuses for the summer again. My aim for this year was to push into the top 75. With my times coming down I felt that was a doable goal.

Ballyandreen

As with all East Cork races Damian dropped in and we headed to the race together. Seems to have come a tradition since our 1st Ballyandreen in 2013. Weather was good for the race, as seems to be the case for all races in East Cork, so it adds to the atmosphere. You can sense the buzz around. Everyone loves summer running and everyone there on the night are all hoping to improve on last or looking to try attack the beast for the 1st time.

I had done two previous races in Ballyandreen, in 2013 it took me 36:13 and in 2014 it took 35:14 (both watch time). So in 2015 It would be nice to get closer to 34.

One thing about this summer series is that I find it hard to pace correctly throughout the race. You seem to be going up or down, there never seems to be a flat to enjoy. With it being clock timing I lost 30 seconds crossing the line. So this year I placed myself in a better place, only losing 8 seconds but also knowing I placed myself correctly.With the up and down nature of the course I started off strong with the 1st 4km fairly consistent with a small bit of an increase with the big downhill down into Ballycotton. Now the fun part begins. Everyone talks about the “Beast of Ballyandreen” but it was the km before the beast that almost broke me. If you drove it you wouldn’t think much about it but there in a slight incline that seems to drain the energy and my pace dropped back a lot. I knew I had to suck it up and find something to keep going. Following that long stretch it was the left turn up the beast. It was my slowest km but I got through it and I like those up hills. Give me a short steep up hill over a long gradual climb any day. The one thing you know is that when you get up the top of the Beast you have a fun downhill to the finish. I just let myself go and let gravity do the work.

I completed the race in 32:50 a huge jump in my time. I was absolutely delighted with that. It was a 5 mile PB for me and finished in 83rd place. Well I know now that if I run like that over the next 3 races I should easily make my target. And who knows how high I could reach.

Ballyandreen Comparison

Ballyandreen Comparison 2013 to 2015

Shanagarry

Next up was my favourite race of the series. Maybe because I cycle that route a lot or because you are running past the beach there is something about it that makes me happy to be doing this race. Damian almost broke the tradition saying he would have to leave straight after the race so would meet me down there. But he stopped by anyway, sure I’m not that slow so I wouldn’t make him wait that long. Even though his 28th place in Ballyandreen was a huge run showing the gap between us increases. I get better, he just gets faster and faster. After having a sprint tri the previous Saturday I knew it wasn’t the best prep but felt good anyway.

I had only done this race once before and that was last year. I completed it in 34:14 which was my PB up to Ballyandreen this year. I was wearing the lowest number I had ever worn in the series. The number 83 it was.

Starting close to the front of the pack I went off like a bullet for me. A very fast first km but then the 1st 3kms are relatively flat so it was easy to clip a long at a good pace. After passing Garryvoe hotel you take a left and here begins a a long drag up to another left where again you are met with another drag. This slowed my pace down and I had a number of people pass me out here. Another left turn but unlike the previous this one you are met with a huge downhill. It is probably a bit too steep to go fast going down so I just tried to manage my pace and avoid doing damage by going down too fast. But as you go down that hill you can can see just over to the right the hill you have to go back up. Even though it is a steep hill, just like in Ballyandreen, I found myself stronger going up and passed a number of people out. You just want to get up to the top before heading to the line. I don’t know why I thought the line was closer but you still had a km to go. Again my pace picked up for the last km and helped me finish in a new 5 mile PB of 32:34 and 76th position. I was delighted with that and now moved up to 59th place overall.  Wow that is something I never expected. I am within touching distance of top 50 with 2 races to go.

Shanagarry

Shanagarry Comparison 2014 to 2015

Churchtown South

Third race in the series and wearing number 59 I knew I had to get a good result here. Last year this one almost finished me. I ran it in 34:23 but that doesn’t tell the story. I really struggled in the race so I definitely was not looking forward to it. The weather wasn’t as bad as last year which was a plus. Damian picked me up a long the way and we were up there nice and early. Good buzz around as people got ready for the 3rd in the series. This course has 2 loops and doesn’t have as big of a hill as the others but for some reason I find the loops harder, when you do the 2nd loop that hill seems to be a mountain.

I started up near the front and had my game plan in place. Start the 1st km fast and then settle into my rhythm. The 1st 3km are mainly flat or downhill so its good to get a going. Its after this mark that things get a bit tougher. Must of the climbing is done in the next km and half. My pace considerably slowed in km 4 and 5. During km 5 you start the loop again. This time it didn’t seem as easy and couldn’t get the the pace I was at before. I did up the pace in km 6 but again this is quite flat and downhill. Then the dreaded climbs again. Just when you make a sharp left there is always a family handing out water, I gladly grabbed some as it seemed to be heating up. During km 8 and 9 I didn’t have anything left. People started flying past me and I couldn’t keep going. My normal kick at the end wasn’t there and yet again this course had beat me. Maybe a different strategy next year will help me. I still finished with a PB for the course in 32:57 so I should be happy with that but still disappointed to not match my previous 2 races.   I finished 86th overall which meant for the 1st time ever I have moved into the top 50 overall, I’ll be wearing 49 in Ballycotton. I’ll have to be at my best to hold on to that position.

Churchtown

Churchtown South Comparison 2014 to 2015

Ballycotton

It was all down to this. The last race in the series. Having had the Dublin Tri on the previous Sunday and not feeling well since that race I wasn’t very confident going into the race. If it wasn’t for it being the last race in the series and me lying in 49th I’d have skipped the race. Anyhow I just had to suck it up and go for it and see how it went.

Ballycotton

Beautiful night for the race

 

And for the last time Damian picked me up and we set off early. Just like any Summer Series race the good weather comes out in time for the race. Downpours during the day were replaced by clear blue skies and sunshine for the evening. Ballycotton must have an agreement with the weather gods. A small warm up, a bit of banter between everyone and before we knew it the race was about to commence. The earlier start meant there was no messing around.

I had decided I’d go out fast since the 1st half of the race is the easy half. A nice start down out of Ballycotton and I found after a km that the group in front were after pulling away so I was out on my own. After the long straight you took the right just like in the Ballycotton 10 and I kept my pace going as I wanted to. A few more people joined me, or should I say pass me out, so at least this was a bit of a push to keep the pace up. I was happy with the way the 1st 2km went. Just as planned. Next 2km are relatively flat as well and I kept a steady pace. It was slower than the 1st 2km but again all going to plan. It was at about the 4km mark where I started to feel the affects of the race on Sunday. I’d need to dig deep as the 5th km is the tough one. At the end of the hill I looked up at what looked like a mountain at this stage and just said to myself I needed to get over it. I pumped the arms and legs and just about made it up, knowing that once I turned left it would be the home straight. The 6km was the most interesting of the race and threw me off a bit. A member of a club that I won’t mention decided to throw an elbow at me and shout abuse for about 20 seconds at me for “taking his line” as he gave me about a mm of room as he passed me. Seemingly I have eyes on the back of my head and can tell exactly where everyone is. He couldn’t just go around me.

Now it was time to go back the road we came. I really wasn’t feeling good at this stage. A few shouts of come on Eagle helped me pick up my pace a bit. Heading into the village and seeing the finish line was all I wanted and was so glad to come up to it. I gave all I could for the last 200m and made it home in 32:47, 103rd on the night. (I did 34:36 in 2014) This was my 2nd fastest 5 mile ever but it definitely didn’t feel like that. I was bent over at the line, didn’t know if I wanted to get sick or fall down. I felt my time should mean I finished in the top 50 but only time will tell.

Ballycotton Comparison

Ballycotton Comparison

What felt like an age and waiting for the results it was great to see Damian finish in such a high position. 17th overall and a superb race on the night. It eventually rolled down to the 40s, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and finally I could breathe, 46 Jonathan Kenneally Eagle AC, PHEW. Absolutely delighted. At the start of the year I wouldn’t have thought I’d get anywhere near that. I had an overall total of 2:11:27 compared to 2:19:22 last year. Huge strides gained and much more to come. Well done to all who completed the series. Since I’ll be taking a break from the series next year it will be great that I’ll be out with my camera knowing that no one can take the top 50 tshirt away from me. Well unless Martha gets sick of all the tshirts I have and throws it out 🙂

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So finally

 

Race Comparison

Race 2013 2014 2015
Ballyandreen 5 Mile  36:13  35:14 32:50
Shannagarry 5 Mile  x  34:14 32:34
Churchtown South 5 Mile  x  34:23 32:57
Ballycotton 5 Mile  x  34:36 32:44
Overall Series  x  2:19:22  2:11:27
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Complete Series

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What it is all about

 

Dublin City Triathlon

With Wanaka being my main race I had set my sights on Dublin City Triathlon(DCT) being my main tri of the summer. Considering I had only done one other Olympic Distance race before I was looking forward to seeing where I am at compared to London last year. Being slow to sign up almost cost me a place but thankfully after it initially sold out they made more places available. I snapped up the chance to do it.

When it came to training I my running was going well, same with swim and I finally started to increase my cycling distance. Its something I really need to continue working on. With a lot of road races I need to manage my training but felt confident overall.

My targets before the race were:
Swim: 30mins
Cycle: 1hr 30mins
Run: 45mins

With Robert doing the super sprint distance we all stayed in the Clarion in Liffey Valley the night before. Great location and less than 10 mins to the Garda Boat Club. My luck was in while checking in. Martha and I got an upgrade to one bedroom apartment. Nice an spacious. Robert and myself headed off to registration and it was nice and fast. And by far the best goody bag you could have got. It made me laugh because last year in London you didn’t even get a tshirt and got a “virtual” goody bag with coupons to get money off on line. Where as here with DCT you got a great Amphibia bag and plenty of goodies.  We had a look at the swim and transition etc before heading back. A nice “healthy” meal that night of a huge burger and chips went down nicely.

Dublin Tri Goodie Bag

Goodie Bag

 

The morning of the race was here. Alarm set for 6am. Looked out and just as the forecast said it was pouring rain. Sure it couldn’t rain for that long anyway. Good to get it out of the way early. Had some toast, got all my things together and met Robert. We headed in a long and got parking on the road about 700m away from the boat club. We put our bikes together and headed off. Rain was still pouring at the stage. We got our bikes checked and found our spot in transition. Spaces were numbered and you were next to other club members so, the 3 Brutons & Alan Cummins racked up next to me with a few from Cork Tri on the other side. As soon as we got in there they were closing transitions soon after so we timed it well. Bike racked and all my gear covered from the rain we left transition to hang around until it was our turn.

Dublin Tri

Cobh Tri Members

 

Swim

I love the swim so I’m relaxed from the start. I jumped and treaded water for about 5 mins, making sure the goggles were secure, refitting them a couple of times to make sure no water was going to get in. I thought the start would be a bit crazier than it was. Maybe I positioned myself well but I was able to get into a nice rhythm straight away. I remember passing the turning point for the Super Sprint and thinking to myself it would be nice to just have to turn there, it also gave an idea of distance so far. Only once did get put out a bit and that was when someone decided to climb over me. Was rather strange as we were about 500m into by then and plenty of space on either side of me. Got to the turnaround point and felt good. I knew I’d be with the flow on the way back down so would be easier. I passed a few from the previous and then passed the Super Sprint turnaround again. I knew then I was on the home stretch. I got out of the water with an official time of 28 mins exactly. I’ll take that.

Swim

Dublin Tri Swim

T1

It took me a fews to adjust but once I did I ran through and got the wetsuit off. My calf felt a bit tight so took my time. Even with my gear covered, it was soaked.  Just like most races this year I decided to take the extra bit of time to put socks on, it just a bit more comfortable. I was 2mins 29seconds. Which overall wasn’t too bad I guess.

 

Dublin Tri

Heading to T1

 

Bike

Now to my least favourite part of the day. Going into it I wasn’t sure about the loops but overall I felt it was good. I got better on each loop as I got used to the conditions and the course. For whatever I lost going up hills I didn’t really gain on the downhills. This was mainly due to me being a bit cautious and not wanting to go skidding off my bike. After the 1st turn around on Chesterfield Avenue I felt my calf tighten up a bit which meant I had to slow down a small bit just to make sure it didn’t get any worse. After about 2km (mainly downhill section) my calf seemed alright again and I was able to push on again.When I got to the sections where 1st lap and the loops meet I could hear Martha before I could see her. This was one of the fans zones and it was good to see and hear someone cheer you on. There was a DJ there as well who was encouraging every one.  Just before the hitting Chesterfield Avenue for the 2nd time Alan passed me on the bike. He was looking strong and no way was I going to keep with him. I kept ticking away on the bike. Counting my laps. Making sure I didn’t miss one or worse again, do one too many. Each time I came down the hill towards the fan zone I could hear Martha which helped me as you faced the steady climb, I did let her know each time what lap I was on so not to have her waiting there for ever.

Dublin Tri

Dublin Tri Cycle

The laps seemed to fly by and before I knew it I was taking the right out of the park. I was able to make up some time on the flattest part of the course on Chapelizod Road heading towards transition.
I got off the bike in a time of 1:26:48. By my watch that was close to 28km per hour average, which for me is very good. Times are slightly improving on the bike but a lot more work to do.

Dublin Tri

Map and breakdown of cycle

Dublin Tri

Elevation, Cadence and Speed

Dublin Tri

KM Breakdown

T2

I was quicker in T2 compared to other athletes and was out in 1min 46seconds. I had my runners in a bag so there were some what dry. Was going to wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes but decided to stick with the glasses. Off I went out of T2 and a few shouts of “Go on Cobh” from marshals were good to hear.

Martha Cheering me on in the Rain

Martha Cheering me on in the Rain

 

Run

Now this is the part I like best. Of course its hard to know how it is going to go as it all depends on how much the other 2 took it out of me. You start with a nice flat 1st km on Chapelizod Road before turning into the park. Again Martha popped up and make sure I saw her. Definitely helped me get up the 1st big hill. Next thing I knew it changed from road running to cross country. I didn’t know this part and it definitely takes its toll on the legs. Through grass, mud and slippery hills it was interesting to see how this would work out. There was close to a km on each lap of road running and I was able to pick up some time before slowing down again on the grass loop. From my splits it was obvious where the hard parts were. Michael Bruton came flying past me at one stage, made it look easy.

Dublin Tri

On the run in Dublin Tri

I met Robert on my 2nd lap. Lucky him, he only had to do the loop once. Olivia and my two nieces, Emma and Robyn, cheered me on as I started my 2nd and Martha joined them when I started my final lap. All the support was great throughout the day and definitely give the kick I needed. To stand out in the rain for the whole day is something else. Its fine for us when we are running around but it must have been miserable for them. My last km was by far my fastest. I had the energy to really kick on. I passed out many people once we hit the road one last time. I completed the in 45:35. It was the only one where I didn’t make my target but I’ll blame the cross country run for that 🙂

Run KM Breakdown

KM breakdown

Speed and elevation of run

Speed and Elevation of Run

Map of run

Map of the Run

My final time was 2hr 44mins 34seconds. Finished 208 overall out of 484. I’m very happy with that as anything under 3 hours I would have been delighted with. The weather conditions made things even harder. I will definitely look to go back next year and try again. It was a great day. DCT put on a great event and any marshal I came across had a smile on their face. Well done to all involved in the organisation of the event. Thanks to my wonderful wife Martha who was everywhere to cheer me on. Great to see Olivia, Emma and Robyn out, must have been hard to bring them around in the rain. Well done to Robert getting back to doing a triathlon for the 1st time in 3 years. And finally well done to all the Cobh members who  competed today.

 

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Cool Medal

 

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Healthy meal after

Challenge Wanaka Half Ironman

Decision Time
Not long after coming back from London Triathlon Martha and I decided to look into heading to New Zealand in February 2015 after having the best time on our honeymoon in February 2014. After we booked our flights and booked our accommodation for the last weekend we would be there I did my usual – start the search to see if there was any races I might do. I found one half marathon and it looked interesting but then I found the race. Which can only be described as an amazing coincidence Challenge Wanaka had changed their date to that weekend from their normal January date.
I started to ask myself would I be able for it. Only the week earlier I completed my 1st Olympic Distance tri. I did my 1st triathlon in July 2013, a super sprint. I struggled through the 250m swim on that day, now I was eying a half ironman only year and half after barely being able to finish that super sprint. I had only ever done one 90k cycle and that was Sean Kelly cycle with a nice break half way. The only thing I felt confident about was the run part of it.
Of course another stumbling block for me was getting the training in. With work and also hitting the end of the summer means it would be a tough slug through the winter months. So I officially signed up on August 31st (final day before price rise) and organised a bike to rent while out there. So I was all set. Just need to start the training.
Training
I felt training went well. I knew it would be a lot of time in the pool since it was coming to the end of the opening water swimming for the year. I did get the luck of going out to Austin in October where I got to swim in Barton Springs Pool on a number of occasion. This is an outdoor spring fed pool that had a good 1/8th of a mile of a straight. It really gave me the confidence in building up distance. I was only in my swim shorts so I knew the swimsuit would make things that bit easier. I managed to get to 2km a couple of times. Great facility and delighted I got the time there. It was back to the pool in Garryvoe Hotel for the rest of the training and was another great place to train. A surprise work trip to Singapore over New Year meant I got more outdoor swims in the hotel pool, always nice.

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool

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Pan Pacific Pool Singapore

When it came to the bike I did nowhere close to enough. It always had been my weakest and I should have worked on it more. The great excuse of the time of year, weather too bad etc was too easy to use. The trip to Austin meant I got some warm weather training in with plenty of hills. I only once got over 70km and the most I reached was 85km. Looking back on my mileage I know for next time I need to be doing a lot more to bring my time on the bike down.

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Bike for Austin

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Tough Hills

My running which I would have seen as my strongest and my times had really come down over the year. A strong half marathon in Clon and some warm weather running in Austin and Singapore meant my training was going well. Only worry for me was how my body would be after the swim and run.
I put in a lot of brick sessions so I was confident coming out of water and on to the bike and then from bike to run.
Build up
The build up to race day started a couple of weeks before hand when I had to pack my bags and head off on what would be an epic holiday. I had a list of what I needed and packed everything from tri bars to gels. I put all my race gear in my hand luggage, just in case. While on holidays in NZ I went for a run in Christchurch, Fox Glacier, Invercargill and Queenstown. I managed to get a swim in at pools in Dunedin and Invercargill as well. We passed through Wanaka about a week before the race so I had to stop off and have a look at the bike I was renting. It put my mind at ease when I saw it. Exactly what I needed. Also got a look at some of the hills and windy conditions that I might face.

Windy day a week before

Windy day a week before

 

A relaxing few days in Queenstown beforehand kept the nerves down. I was more excited that nervous and that included when picking up my number 2 days before the race. The expo was small and nothing to write home about but great atmosphere all round.

Race Number
The night before the race my watch decided to go crazy. Spent about 2 hours getting it going again. I think I was so tired from the stress of that that as soon as I got to bed I fell straight to sleep.
Race Day
My targets were
Swim: 45 mins
Bike: 3 hrs 30 mins
Run: 2 hrs
I was up nice and early on race day. Set the alarm for 5:15am. This gave me time to have a shower to freshen up and have a good breakfast. Some porridge with banana and toast with peanut butter set me up nicely. Then I had Martha strap up both my calves with KT tape, they needed the support to get through the day. I headed down to transition for 6:30am. I got a nice space close by so that would be handy to crawl back to afterwards. There was a bit of a nip in the air, it was still early so I knew that wasn’t going to last long. I headed into transition to do final check on the bike and put my drinks and gels on the bike. At that time the Challenge Music started to play as the pro were about to set off (at 7am) I missed them starting but I headed down to the beach once I was happy with the setup and I knew where I was coming in and out for T1 and T2.

Sunrise

Sunrise

The sun was rising and there was a buzz around the place now as the Age groupers for the full were getting ready to hit the water. They were next to set off and then the relay teams after that. I knew it wasn’t long before I’d be heading into the water. Of course not before Dylan Macneise broke the full swim course record and didn’t look tired coming out.

Pre Race

Pre Race

Swimsuit on

Swimsuit on

On went the bodyglide and sun screen and slipped into the wetsuit. Last time I had been in it was during Youghal Tri but it still fit so all was good. That tri was also the last time I was in open water. But as I gave Martha the last of my gear and strolled down to the water I felt confident with how I’d preform in the water. Being from Ireland its always a slow walk into the cold water so that’s what I was expecting here but to my surprise it was nice and warm. Jumped straight under the water and made sure the goggles were secure. It was a deep water start so took my time heading out but finally took my place a few rows back closer to the left hand side. We were waiting about 5 mins to start but it was head down and drive on once the buzzer went off. It was the most chaotic I had experienced in the swim. Punches, kicks and bodies above and below but I just tried to concentrate on my stroke and keep close to the direct line to the buoy. I felt good turning the 1st buoy but the fun was trying to sight the second buoy. I just stayed on the feet of the swimmer ahead and hoped they were going in the right direction. The fun began when I turned the corner on the next buoy. The sun was rising and directly in my eyes. I had no idea where I was going. On the home straight I had to stop 3 times and take the goggles off to get an idea of where I was. I put the head down and drove on each time. I did hit the guide rope a number of times on the way, lucky I saw it or I could have still been swimming now. With the water was so clear and I knew I was coming to the end as the lake floor was almost within touching distance. When I could finally touch the ground I got up, delighted I had done it but to my horror a marshal came up to tell me I had passed the buoy on the wrong side so I’d have to swim back to go around it. Overall it cost me about 40 seconds but still when I saw my time I was delighted. Finally out of the water I headed up the ramp over the road and back down the other side (cruel to make us run up that). I grabbed my red T1 bag and into the tent to get out of the wetsuit and off to the bike I went. Made sure to spray more sunscreen on me as the sun was coming up now.

Out of the water

Out of the water

Off out on the bike I went. The one part I wasn’t looking forward to. I read about the hills but on the 1st out and back I didn’t even notice some of the uphills but had fun going down the downhills. The scenery had me distracted which waas a relief. My main aim was to keep close to 25kph as I could and when calculating it as I went I could see I was doing that.

Epic View on Bike

Epic View on Bike

At about 60km the pros started to pass on their second lap. They had to head off to do an extra loop so no doubt I’d see them again. With cycling always being something that I struggled at my main aim here was to finish. I made sure to get kept well fuelled. With the temp rises I knew I had to make sure to not overdo it. The crowds on course definitely helped and a good push was another Irish athlete trying her worst Cork accent (her words after I met her the next day), she saw the Cobh jersey and knew where I was from. When you think you are motoring along, airport hill comes and knocks the wind out of you. At one stage I’m fully convinced I saw a turtle pass me out. But I knew once I got up that things would get easier. I actually drove down the hill a couple of days later and I must say it made me proud that I got up that hill in one piece. The big thing on my mind now was that the last 5k was to be relatively flat with a nice downhill finish. I would cycle past very close to where we were staying and I knew Martha would be on the road there. There was a small climb to that spot but I could see her in the distance and it brought a smile to my face. It got me up the hill and I gave her a wave before it was all downhill to the finish line. I had completed 90k for only the 2nd time. I was delighted to have that finished and in the time I wanted 3:30:37. Went through T2, made sure to cover myself in more sunscreen and off I went to start the run.

!km into run

!km into run

The highlight of the day was about to come. Dylan Mcneice and I left T2 together so we got to run out at the same time. I stayed with him for about 10 seconds before he was out of sight. Crazy to see the fitness out of him. It probably was the main reason why I started off way too fast on the 1st km. The run is a lot different to what I’d be used to. It was mainly on gravel track. Where you spent time avoiding tree roots, stones and other runners. While I was on the run I realised the watch wasn’t set up as normal so I was getting split time and pace. A minor issue but put me off. A number of the full pros ran passed me, if only I had their energy. I was feeling good up to 7km and then I hit the wall and it hurt. It was hitting 28 degrees at this time and I hadn’t run in temperatures like that outside of when I was in Singapore.

All smiles for the camera

All smiles for the camera

 

 

Before the race I had said to myself, whatever happens keep running. But I disappointed myself this way because I had to slow to a walk. My groins, hamstrings, calf and back were all giving out. It was about then that I realised I had left my water bottle back in transition. There were only small cups of water at the stops so they weren’t easy to carry. I grabbed 3 or 4 and a sponge at each one to try cool me down. It helped in a way but my pace had gone and I knew I wasn’t going to make my run target. The hardest part of the run is when you come off the gravel track and you get to see Gunn Road. The biggest challenge on the run. I felt like I was going backwards running/walking up the hill.

Motivating sign

Motivating sign

Once on top of Gunn Road it was mainly going to be downhill from there. It didn’t make it any easier, it was still as hard and hot as ever. I struggled through the rest of the run, I had some good parts and some bad as well. At this stage I just wanted to finish. I knew I was almost there. Coming down the home straight I was looking out for Martha and she made sure she was seen. I could see her sign and hear her shouting. Brought a huge smile to my face. I took the Irish flag off her and ran onto the line. I suddenly had all the energy in the world. I was done, goal achieved and I was still standing. What an experience, what a day. Would I do it again? Yes definitely. Would I do a full? Right now no. But get back to me soon.

And I'm home

And I’m home

What a Day

What a Day

Link to my race can be found at the below links

Swim

Cycle

Run

My First Win

My first win – Hill Country Marathon October 18th 2014

Number

Number

A year after coming 3rd in Hill Country 10k Race just outside Austin Texas I was back again to see how I would get on this year. Last year 4 of the leading pack (me included) took a wrong turn which lead us to doing closer to 11k rather than 10. It didn’t change the outcome as we stayed in the same sequence up to the finish.

HCM Entry

 

It was an early morning rise to make the drive to the stadium and register and get my number. 1st thing I noticed was that it was a lot hotter than last year and it was still only 6am. I got ready and was looking forward to trying out my new Kayano 21s and Garmin Fenix2. One thing for sure I would be seen with my bright orange top, orange calf sleeves and nice bright runners.

New toys

New toys

There was a great atmosphere at the start line as each race started. 1st off was the Full marathon, followed by the half and next up was the 10k. It was getting hotter and the crowd heading towards the start line. I decided to go to the front as no one else was moving. The banter started there with the organiser wondering who was from out of town, out of state and finally out of country. The joking helped me relax and made me forget about the heat for a while. “Ireland was up front to win the race”.

Kick-off was now and I decided I was going to give it my best. After struggling with a sore calf earlier in the week I only decided at the line to go for it and whatever happens I can say at least I tried. You start the race with a loop around the running track in the stadium. I lead out of the stadium and down the down the dirt track and out on to the road. I had 2 people right with me and they were going for it as much as I was. It is hard to tell what you were up against so I said I’d stay at my target speed and not worry about others.

We came out of the housing estate and on to the long straight towards the turning point. I noticed I was starting to pull away from the leading group. I had a little laugh to myself as I passed the point where we took the wrong turn last year, not taking that left this year.

No one in sight

No one in sight

There were a lot of runners on course from the other distances and they gave encouragement as I pushed myself to improve my lead. I did worry I could have pushed off too fast so I tried to manage my pace. I knew what was coming though. It being hill country there are lots of ups and downs, 1st half is more downhill and going back is more climbing but the one I was waiting for was the huge downhill knowing I didn’t have long until the turnaround point. Of course that meant that climb back up was coming. I also knew once I made the turnaround I could tell where the chasing pack was.

Out on my own

Out on my own

To my surprise they were further back than expected but that didn’t mean I could ease off. As I ran past each of the 10k runners I got shouts and encouragement. Some remembering I was “Ireland” so the called out “Come on Ireland” and “wow he is going for it”. That gave me the much needed boost as the hill approached. I knew it would take a lot of effort because last year by the time I got to the top I was ready to walk. This year was no different but because of the position I was in I found the extra energy to keep pushing. It was always in the back of my head that there was someone gaining on me and I was just waiting for someone to pass me out. I didn’t want to look back to I just continued to concentrate on my job. Once I got up over the hill there were plenty more people encouraging me. Some people even stopped to cheer me on. Maybe they were looking for an excuse to for a break.

Happy to be out in front

Happy to be out in front

Now all that was in my head was navigating the last few kms and making sure I don’t make a wrong turn. Ever since last year at this race and the Tralee Triathlon it’s always in the back of my head that I might make the wrong turn. The 1st chance I got to see if anyone was close to me was when I turned left back into housing estate close to the stadium. I couldn’t see anyone so that gave me a great boost. I knew I was slowing down as I couldn’t keep the tempo up (my splits afterwards showed that) I had a right and then left before the stadium. On each of those turns I had a look just in case but I was ok. Then came the run up the small little dirt track before hitting the stadium and that loop around the stadium. As I hit the track there was shouts over the intercom, “we have our 1st 10k coming in, and its Ireland, come on Ireland”. It was a strange feeling, never have I come close and now I got to do the loop around the track knowing I was about to win my first race. I was still paranoid that someone was going to come from nowhere and pass me out so I made sure to speed up, just in case. Then came the moment of truth. I lifted my arms in the air and got to celebrate the victory. To most people they will see the time and say you only won because the competition was not there but with that heat and tough hills I don’t mind who was or was not there. You can only beat who is there and I did that.

First Race Win

First Race Win

I was hurting after the race. My calf held up but I knew that I’d feel it tomorrow. I waited around for the rest of the runners come in. There was 45 seconds between me and the person in second with 3rd a further 2 minutes back. They were all friendly and we shared our experience of the race. I knew next step for me was to get a good warm down in and head for a swim but not having some of the famous pie on offer (the main reason I came)

1st and 2nd get some rest

1st and 2nd get some rest

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool

I think it will be hard to get back to this race next year but I will get back again at some stage in the future. It is a friendly race and everyone I met and chatted to all had a story to tell and wanted to hear about Ireland. If I do get back. I may try the half marathon. Of course tackling that hill so late into a half could break anyone.

Medal and 1st Place Frame

Medal and 1st Place Frame

Well done to all the organisers and hope to see you again in the future.

Famous Pie

Famous Pie

 

Run details can be found here