Ironman Ireland Cork 2022 – Aj Alex Watkin

Firstly, I need to get his out there, this race might just be better than Ironman Wales!!! The course and spectators were incredible. On what was a hot day, the locals came out in their hundreds if not thousands and provided a day I’ll never forget….I Signed up for this race around two and a half years ago. As we know a lot has changed since then, the longer this race took to take place, I don’t mind admitting that my love for all things Swim, Bike and Run had diminished and at times I very nearly gave up and was willing to write the whole thing off. All three disciplines became a chore, I was finding so many excuses to not train and it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. I really did do what I thought was the bare minimum to get me round and I’m so glad I did, the rewards on Sunday were definitely worth sticking with it. I was racing with a friend of mine called Benn and was really glad to see a fellow Oxford Tri member in Matthew there as well. I had spent a week In Cornwall with family and friends the week before and had to drive from there to Fishguard on the Friday before the race, so the long drive and struggles putting up my tent weren’t the best start to the weekend! Saturday was spent undertaking the oh so familiar ‘Faff’ that comes with these events but soon enough we had racked the bikes and I was back in the tent trying to get comfortable.

Race Day:

Swim: The sea was spectacular. I can’t complain one bit about the conditions. The water was calm, a nice temperature and we were met with a wonderful sunrise to the left and a nearly full Harvest moon to the right. Strangely I didn’t have too may nerves, which is unlike me. In fact, I was really looking forward to getting in the water. It was a 1 loop course that took you back around Youghal lighthouse exiting right next to transition. I took the swim gently and as I came to within 200 metres of the exit I actually wanted to carry on! Again, unlike me!T1 came and went with any hiccups ( unlike my Cotswolds 113 time, which Lee can vouch for me! )

Bike: Jumping onto the bike I felt great and said to myself – ‘ lets give this a damn good go ’The bike course is two loops both finishing with the incredible windmill Hill. Having done a few Tris now, I can honestly say that this might be my favourite. It has everything, some nice fast rolling sections, a couple of longer drags and some nice fast descents. I personally quite like a course that gives you some variation as I tend to get bored quickly. From what I can gather the course was changed slightly from 2019 and elevation was reduced slightly and made ‘More scenic’. It definitely hit the Scenic mark. The fist loop went by quickly I was loving every Kilometre. Windmill Hill!! What a Hill this is!!!! By now you would have seen Matthews photos and videos, this was simply epic!!! I think I hit my all time power output heading up and felt like my legs were going to explode. The spectators put on a true Tour de France atmosphere for us all. The second lap was a different story, I hated it!!! Ha. I went into some dark places and only through shear bloody mindedness I dragged myself around to enter Windmill Hill for the second time. I said to myself that I would walk the second time to ‘Save energy for the run’ but turning the sharp right hand turn and onto the hill I simply couldn’t resist and grinded my way out of the saddle back up again. The crowds were still there in their hundreds.

Run: I felt good for 2k!!! Then the doubt set in very quickly!! I was angry with myself for not running more beforehand as I thought I wasn’t going to finish. Luckily though, there were aid stations pretty much every 2 or 3 km. I went through each one and took on as many fluids and gels as possible and it seemed to do the trick until I hit another low point roughly around 15/20k. Then Matthew tapped me on the shoulder, my saviour for the day!!! As he has already mentioned in his great write up, he told me to try some caffeine gels, I’ve never really taken these, but hey I thought id try it. The next aid station I took on a Caffeine Gel, Red Bull, Coke, Gatorade and water!!! It definitely worked!!!From there on I felt much better and realised I could in fact not only finish but it then occurred to me that I could beat my Wales time from 2017 ( 14h:21 ) I got my head down and simply kept going at the pace I knew could get me around in the region of 13h:15. When I finally hit the 40k marker I don’t mind admitting that I got a little emotional. I was thinking of my incredibly supportive family back home. I knew of so many households of friends and family huddling around their iPads watching my initials slowly moving around a map!! Even my sister who lives in Colombia was tracking me. I got a little teary and came to a standstill just as I saw the magic board that said ‘Finish – with an arrow pointing left’. I slowly jogged past the incredible crowds, applauding them for being out all day, hit the red carpet and raised my arms aloft for the second time. I’d finally done it!!!

Huge congratulations to Matthew for his efforts, he nailed his race plan and thanks again for the help out there!!Finally, I like to think that this race has now injected some passion back into the sport for me, thanks to those that have helped me along the way, id definitely recommend this race to anyone.

Have a great week everyone x

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