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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Posted in Challenge Galway, Sport.

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