In the great tradition of race reports, here’s mine from Ironman Ireland Cork 14 August 2022 https://www.ironman.com/im-ireland. To set expectations appropriately, there was no podium for me in this race and no world championships qualification but I was very happy to see the finish gantry! Although not strictly part of the race itself, I’ll start with some logistics and some fun before the race itself. In my mind I thought driving from Oxford to Cork in Ireland by way of ferry was a great idea with all my triathlon stuff packed in the car so that there were no airport queues, flight cancellations. bike boxes to organise. Docking in Ireland at 0345 Friday morning perhaps wasn’t the best planning decision when it came to getting adequate sleep before a full distance Ironman. Without a proper night’s sleep the night before and still adjusting from California time from the Monday before, I felt like a zombie wandering around Youghal with my bright green IM Cork backpack. Rather than soak up the atmosphere, we drove to our hotel in Cork (with air conditioning – a lesson learned from Ironman Bolton…) to try and catch up on some sleep. It was a bit more lively than usual because a Westlife reunion concert had been organised for the same weekend but we managed to fit in some sightseeing. We walked by the River Lee, Fitzgerald Park, the Wobbly Bridge, and visited Blarney Castle to kiss the famed Blarney Stone. Thankfully a friendly Italian restaurant in Blarney had all the pasta I wanted to eat to be washed down with San Pelligrino red orange water. What more could a triathlete in Ireland want?
Race day: 3am wake up call for the traditional English tea, bagel, banana, and bottle of High 5 carb drink. Breakfast of champions – or those who like to keep their breakfast down in a race (another lesson learned from Ironman Tenby…)Found an athlete parking area in a carpark directly opposite swim out on the long beach of Youghal – absolutely perfect location for the day. All drinks and food stowed on the bike, bike computer checked again (thanks for the prompt Rebecca), and time to make my way to swim start. The Pro Women were off at 6am with Age Groupers off from 610 onwards based on estimated swim time. I couldn’t find the entrance to the swim start so came in right by the starting area. First irrational worry was that I’d crossed a timing mat before I’d actually started. Headed to the back of the queue and said good morning to the remarkably calm looking AJ who was seeding himself about 30 minutes ahead of me in the swim. After best wishes and fist bumps with Aj Alex Watkin I found the back of the queue and ambled my way up to the start. Second irrational fear: I couldn’t see the turnaround buoy about 750 meters down the beach, so it would be on trust that it was there and the kayaks and other swimmers knew something that I didn’t. Legs in water, Garmin started – the day begins…
The Swim: not my favourite discipline and even less so with a sea swim so I wasn’t hugely confident. I’m much happier pool side giving instructions than actually swimming myself. I remembered coach Mark Ryan‘s helpful reminder to concentrate on my exhalation of breath in the water and get a rhythm to my swim, don’t start off too fast and just remain positive. Quick check of my time at 500m was 18 minutes. I was at serious risk of missing the swim cut off time of 2 hours 20 minutes at this pace. The race briefing had mentioned something about the tide but I couldn’t figure out what that meant, so I decided to put in a bit more of an effort, up my tempo in a controlled way, and finish the swim as best I could. I knew that the swim would be my biggest risk of being at a cut off point. After what felt like forever in the water, I turned the corner past the lighthouse and could see the swim exit. On to the exit ramp, lapped my Garmin and I was pleasantly surprised with a 1 hour 45 minutes for the swim. I’d thought it was more like 2 hours 15 minutes or more, so I’d take that. Kona qualification was not on my mind; getting through the day in one piece was the main objective.
The Bike: Transition was smooth and Ironman tents and organisation are always fabulous. Helmet on, arm sleeves on to keep the sun off and allow for evaporative cooling while riding. Suncream on neck and… huge wetsuit rash on my neck! Cream needed so slathered it all over and then out to the bike. The first lap was sunny, warm, but not boiling hot yet. The locals were out in force along the course offering a cooling water hose down (no hosepipe ban in Ireland apparently). Some locals were a bit too keen to soak riders as they went past but only in enthusiasm and with no malice. Absolutely stunning views of the sea and hills with some long hills and some short, sharp descents slightly hampered by 90 and 120 degree turns at the bottom to prevent really good time catching up. As I was so slow on the swim I was passing lots of other riders all through the 180km which is always helpful for the morale. At the end of each of the two laps was Windmill Hill with some sections at a 30% incline. I gave it a go for the bottom part then thought it wasn’t worth pulling a muscle in my 50 year old legs just to prove a point, so I walked the steepest section. I got on nearer the top after much encouragement from the assembled crowd of well wishers with many back slaps and shouts of approval. I hadn’t seen AJ on the bike course, so was hoping he was fine and still ahead of me and progressing well. The first lap was just over three hours and the total time with a slower second lap was 06:43:25. The plan with coach Mark was to do about 180 watts for the bike and it turned out to be 177 Normalised Power so spot on target and the legs weren’t shattered as they have been on more enthusiastic rides in the past. The temperature was close to 30 degrees and sticky compared to the Ireland usual 18 degrees in August.
The Run: It was back out into what was now a hot day of sun and humidity on the roads of Youghal. My pre-race pace timing was to aim for 5 minute per km pace for as long as possible. I started out at 4:49 first km, then 4:52 second km; then, I realised how hot it was and dialled back the pace. New plan was between 5 minutes and 6 minutes per km to include walking the aid stations for water, Gatorade, and some solid foods (tortilla chips).My new plan also was to reward myself with a walk at the main 5km marks of the marathon. The danger, of course, is that the walks are so comfortable that it’s hard to get going again. My plan was to stay under 60 minutes for each of the four 10km loops and then see what I had left for the final two kilometres. I saw AJ out on the run but the course was a strange up and back various different routes so I couldn’t tell exactly how far away he was. On lap two as we passed going opposite directions, AJ said that I’d probably catch him on the next lap. He looked strong though if in a bit of pain, so I wasn’t sure of that. When I did catch him up he looked like he was struggling with energy. I suggested some caffeine in either the gels or cola on offer and some solid food to revitalise himself. The next time I saw him he was still going strong so I imagined in my head that he’d catch me up and we could do an Oxford Tri joint finish chute. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be but we conquered the Irish challenge with respectable times. Looking at the results, there were lots of cut offs from the swim and lots of DNFs throughout the day. Most notably, the first female professional finisher was disqualified afterwards for reported outside assistance leaving the first place to go to a Wales professional. Actual splits in the run were: 5km in 27 minutes, 10km in 54 minutes, 15km in 1 hr 22 minutes; 20 km in 1:51; 25km in 2:20; 30km in 2:51; 35km in 3:23 and 40km in 3 hour 56 minutes. The last two kilometres were painful but I came in at 4 hours 13 minutes and 50 seconds. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my overall time was just under 13 hours at a total time of 12: 59:18.
- 39/125 in age category;
- 372/927 gender category;
- 408/1052 overall finishers.
There were over 1200 registered to start I won’t complain about that result. If I’d really pushed it on the bike and run I might have found another ten or twenty minutes, but then I might have pulled a muscle, cramped up, or collapsed from heat exhaustion, so on reflection, I’m happy! So three Ironmen completed since 2015, IM Wales 2015 in under 13 hours, IM UK Bolton 2018 in under 13 hours, and now IM Ireland Cork 2022 in under 13 hours (barely) to complete the three British Isles Ironman races combination. Probably no more full distance races, as I’ll relax and save my joints on sprints, Olympics and 70.3 races from now on. Thank you to all the great Oxford Tri club support, the cheers and encouragement from AJ out on the course, and, of course, to my much suffering family for putting up with endless triathlon and bicycle talk.
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