How not to do a triathlon:

I read an article about the most challenging triathlons in Europe and the only Irish race to feature was the 70.3 on the ring of Beara called The Lost Sheep. The race is in September and I though it would be a nice one to finish off the season. However, when i went to register (this was mid June) the race was fully booked and I joined the back of the waiting list.

At Caroline Kearney Tri, I was speaking to a member of the club from the Rebel County itself and she said she could have a contact but that I’d have to take the place at the drop of a hat. Going back to when I changed sports from rugby to triathlon, I’ve always relied on baseline fitness but I had a feeling this was going to be on a different level of challenging.

Two weeks later I was in France on holidays with the family and the call came. There was no time to think, the race was in another 2 weeks. After some painful negotiations with the wife, I accepted the place. Time to start planning. I should mention at this point that the longest race I had ever competed in was Olympic distance and the longest distance I’d ever run was 12km.

OK, time to start training. I put the kids in the bike trailer and went out for a cycle. They might sleep for an hour but then they’ll go crazy, so time to go home. I got out running every morning, but didn’t want to put too much pressure on my knee having had bell tear ACL surgery 9 years ago. On the last day of holidays I tested my long distance running with a 16km run. I spent the evenings frantically ringing friends from the club and otherwise trying to get as many tips as possible, especially around nutrition.

I had signed up to do Skerries triathlon the weekend I got back, but there was also a 200km club spin planned and I knew i needed a long spin so i gave my Skerries place away. (I didn’t mis much apparently). The pace was too much for me on the ride to Tyrrelspass and I completely blew up on the way home!

So, one week training into my first 70.3 and I was into my taper week.

I probably should have spend some time this week to read the brief and while I knew the bike was hilly, I really didn’t want to think about it too much.

Race registration was closing on the Friday night at 2100 with the briefing starting at 2100 in Kenmare. I had to drop Aoife and the kids to Cork and I arrived at the school at 2059 in a panic but they were fairly laid back so no worries there. On a quick look through the gear bag, it is easily the best gear bag I ever got for a race (yes, even DCT!).

Race day. Not much to think about in the morning, get the transition set up and be ready for the swim. I was the only one there from PTC but there were plenty of familiar faces around from races I’d done during the summer. I laid all my stuff out the night before, took a photo, sent it to someone else to check, and still managed to forget socks for the run. Not the end of the world.

The swim time was changed to accomodate a local event which meant we would be swimming at low tide. It’s a little rocky under the water so this meant we were going to have a water start and we needed to be careful getting out.

The cycle was incredible. If you haven’t cycled the Ring of Beara, go do it. I was tempted to stop at some of the peaks just to look around! There are 3 climbs on the cycle and there was a croud to meet us at the top of every one, there was even a Jamaican steel drum band at the Healy Pass. I took it handy enough on th upills trying not to “burn too many matches”. I probably pushed a little too much on the way back but it’s hard not to when you have a 1% decline.

I never had to think about nutrition on a race before and I woudn’t eat anything in a Sprint or Olympic distance. The advice I got was to get 90g carbs into me per hour, so I managed to eat 3 Clif bars and a pack of caffeine jellies. Rather than carrying 2 bottles, I had one with a carb mix as I knew there was a water bottle exchange at 50km, so I just picked up a bottle there. The fella handing it over didn’t seem to want to let go and nearly pulled me off the bike, but otherwise the cycle went without a hitch!

I had left a can of coke open at transition (against the advice of anyone I asked) but when i got back, someone else had already drank it! Ah well.

I felt fine going out on the run although my quads felt like rocks. The first 15km is a gentle out and back with two nutrition stops and I felt I was keeping a nice comfortable pace and I walked the 10m through the stops to take on some water. I did a mini celebration when I caught and passed 2 lads from Pirhana! Had I been a little better prepared, I would have known of the hills I had yet to climb… At 15km there is a humongous hill (for about 1km) that pretty much destroyed me. After this, I found myself walking up any hills and the downhills were even worse with the jarring of my already rock hard quads. The Pirhana lads passed me again…

Around 200m form the finish line, I was struggling to put one foot in front of another. The spirit of the sport was especially underscored when a big lad from Naas triathlon club who was coming up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted, “C.mon! We’re gonna beat 6 hours!”. I had no clue up to this point what my cumulative time was but this was the boost I needed to pick up the pace again and cross the line.

The atmosphere after the race was really cool with food and beer handed out to competitors, and when I saw the physio tent I went straight for it and joing the already long queue. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive home with the state my legs were in. By the time I was at the top of the queue, my legs had completely locked up and the physio wondered why I hadn’t stretched out as soon as I finished the race? Now she tells me…

For anyone who is looking for a 70.3 to do next year, this is one i highly recommend. It is tough and it will definitely challenge you. The gear and goody bag are second to none. It is National series. The larger clubs had 15-20 athletes competing and they all stayed in Kenmare on the Saturday night and I think PTC is more than capable of putting on a similar show. C’mon folks!

While I have the stage, I’d also like to mention what a great club we have and without the training and the contacts I get through the club this race would not have been possible for me. I should also say the the club wouldn’t exist without the great work the committee are doing behind he scenes.