This report is from one of our newest members, Don Cronin, about the club & his first ever triathlon TriAthy

“What the hell am I doing here?” were the words which kept going through my head as I stood on the bank of the river Barrow. I never really wanted to do a triathlon. I was perfectly happy to remain in the ignorant bliss of it all, plodding away instead with my weekly runs. But no, a few fellow running friends, together with a few PTC infiltrators – who were now regularly running with the run club – convinced me otherwise. And there I stood, on the precipice.

The 2017 Tri Athy Sprint is a 750M swim, 20K bike and a 5K run. Compared to other ‘super-athletes’ competing in the Olympic and Double Olympic distances this was easy in comparison … if you could swim … and owned a bike. The run at least I was confident that I could manage!
I had signed up for Tri Athy on April 1st which I thought was apt.
For a new club, growing from 20 members last year to over 90 this year, PTC really has made an effort to support the growing base. Especially us newbies. The challenge of a triathlon was daunting with so many unknowns. Clipless pedals, T1, T2? Brick runs? Turbo? Tri gear? How do I put on a wetsuit? Come to think of it, how do I get out of a wetsuit? I had a lot to learn so I took myself off to the PTC ‘New to Tri’ open night. The club had lined up members to talk about their racing experiences, Gary Crossan was there from Triathlon Ireland, Olympian Bryan Keane shared his insights to competing which was fascinating and we also had suppliers to help with bike and kit advice. After all of that info how could I not have joined?!
Thanks to a bike borrowed from Jimmy’s Bike Shop I was all set for my first mixed discipline challenge – a club organised training duathlon. 2.5K run, 20K bike, finishing with a 2.5K run. The first 2.5K run was a breeze. The bike was next and although it wasn’t a race I pushed as hard as I could. Then came the second 2.5K run … OMG .. what had happened to my legs? I could barely walk never mind run. It felt like I had jelly legs. I was kicking my own calves as I ran. This was the most peculiar, odd feeling that I’d ever experienced while running. Suddenly I realised what brick runs were all about ..
Tri Athy was about 2 months away so I doubled-up on my swim sessions. Regardless of my efforts I knew I’d be a long way from being able to complete a 750M freestyle on the day. Bike sessions as a result were at a minimum as I spent any free time that I had in the pool. I was reassured by the PTC pros that all that mattered was completing the event, doggy paddle my way through it if I had to. I also wondered where our pro members found the time? Seriously .. work, family, weekly bike/run/swim sessions, S&C for some, gym for others, turbo sessions at home etc. Respect.
Next up on the training plan was a pool-based training triathlon organised one month out from Tri Athy. This was fun and a really useful practice of swim/bike/run and transitions. Unfortunately it further emphasised my swimming limitations but by now it was too late to worry – I was committed. Club organised sea swims followed so that we could get a taste for open water swimming (literally). It also gave us the opportunity to try out our new wetsuits, making sure that we put them on the right way around (I won’t mention any names!). These were great sessions and we picked up some great tips as we were chaperoned around Low Rock by Greg.
Swim Athy was next, a 750M swim, one week before Tri Athy. The perfect opportunity for newbies to swim the Tri Athy course. Despite initially being a bag of nerves I absolutely enjoyed it. I had never swam in a river before. What a novelty, what a thrill. Afterwards I went for a sneaky cycle of the Tri Athy bike course and now felt well as prepared as I could be for the main event.
So, before I knew it the big day had arrived. Bloody hell. Am I going to do this? We landed in a busy Athy town centre and immediately bumped into a few of the club pros. There were expensive Tri bikes as far as the eye could see. What a buzz. Activity everywhere. Athletes everywhere. We grabbed our gear and headed straight down to transition to set up for the race. Thousands of bikes were racked up. I made a mental map of where my bike was and left the brightest ‘pinkest’ towel a grown man can possess as a marker on the ground. I was set. Off to the river for the start of the race. And there I stood, on the precipice …
The river Barrow was picture perfect. I was apprehensive. The water looked cold. It was a rolling start so I waited my turn and then off I went. Damn, it was cold. I pulled the neck of my wetsuit down, letting in as much water as I could and off I swam as purposefully as possible. Regardless of what anyone said, time did matter a little bit! My swim was slow but went as well as I could have expected. I was just delighted to actually be in the water and to have started. When I exited the river my legs were heavy but I was elated. Really, really elated. The swim was over.
There was a lot of support along the run up to T1. It gave me plenty of time to grapple with my wetsuit and remove it down to my waist. Every second counts I thought. T1 went well and I headed off on the 20K in-and-out bike course. Knowing that my swim had left me well behind my team mates I pushed as hard as I could and felt the adrenaline rush as I passed quite a few cyclists on the route. Very satisfying! The bike leg was over before I knew it and into T2 I arrived. T2 was again pretty straight-forward despite initially going to the wrong bike spot. How could I not have seen that pink towel?!
I was off on my run and despite wobbly legs the brick training was helping. The run was the discipline that worried me least but on the day it hurt the most. My legs were very heavy and the 5K was much more difficult than I expected. Still I pushed on and passed lots of other competitors on the course who were obviously labouring a little worse than I was. The crowds at the end were a welcome sight. Noisy and buoyed by an enthusiastic event compère we were welcomed home. I pushed for the line with all that I had left. To say that I was delighted was an understatement. From a notional idea over a few pints to actually crossing that finishing line. Job done. It was very satisfying. That medal felt great around my neck. I soon caught up with the rest of the PTC team getting stuck into well-earned beers and some dodgy free curries. Post-race analysis followed, time comparisons, tales of difficulties, obstacles overcome, personal targets achieved and of course more beers. In fact the beers continued for us on the way home and again when we all met up later that night.
All-in-all Tri Athy was a fantastic event to have competed in and a fantastic experience. One which I hope to repeat. Tri Athy … bought the t-shirt, will be back for another!