Friday, 7 October 2011

Gatlands' Kids

Lots will be more qualified than me to judge this world cup. So far I have only watched the Irish matches, the Calcutta cup clash and the All Blacks v France. Tonight I checked out some of the Welsh highlights - where has Gatland found these kids? I saw and heard about this George North for the first time, oh my god. Reading up about this teenager and all the records he has broken, 2 tries against the Springboks on their debut, who the hell does that. Man I am scared.

Paddy Power has Ireland 10/1, Wales & France 16/1 and do England deserve to be 9/1?

It's time, even Canada, Fiji and Samoa have been to Quarter finals, we need to break free of that group. First we have to get past the kids (ok average age is 26) in our 5th quarter final and be the last of the original 5 nations to get to a world cup semi final.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Why O'Gara needs to start

They say Jonathan Sexton is a big game player, but the reality is he hasn't produced a big performance since the Heineken Cup final (and that was only for 40 minutes). The word is that he's kicking well in practice, but he doesn't seem comfortable under any sort of match pressure, even with relatively straightforward penalty kicks. Take for example the badly missed (and meaningless) conversion near the end of the Russia game. 5 from 13 says it all. O'Gara is 10 from 12. Which of the two is better at passing, or running, or tackling is incidental (and subjective) - there's so little in it to really matter (Quade Cooper "can't tackle", so he drops back to full back when Australia are defending). You can't argue with the stats. Start the player who will get points on the board early, and worry about tries later. Missing those kicks means forcing the game, spreading the ball wide, offloading in the tackle, penalty kicks to touch etc. This will only lead to mistakes, turnovers and growing frustration. It boils down to: with which outhalf are you more likely to close out the game? Every match is a cup final from here, Kidney simply has to pick the form players, in all positions. Therefore the only decision is whether to play Sexton at 12 from the start, or use him as impact (cover for 10 and 12) off the bench. And if they both start - which I'd say is highly unlikely - it should be clear from the start that O'Gara takes all kicks at goal, all penalty kicks to touch and all restarts. Mallet baiting us on the stronger Italian front row shows he wants to drag us into an ugly arm wrestle, but I think we'll beat the Italians reasonably comfortably. Assuming Kidney does the right thing and starts O'Gara.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Rugby WC - starting when????

Just had a look at the schedule for the Rugby WC and realised that the tournament isn’t really starting until second week in October (at the quarter final stage). At a push, there are 5 southern hemisphere teams and 6 northern teams in the shake up for the quarter finals. So there are 40 pool games to eliminate 3 teams with realistic chances of qualifying. OK, we’ll all have a look at Ireland v Australia, but really the only interest in the pool stages is to see whether teams qualify as winners or runners up in their group.

What’s the deal with 20 teams? Totally agree there should be opportunities for ‘weaker nations’ – but bulking up the tournament for the sake of it – and allowing 4 extra teams take a hammering in every game is going to do nothing to promote the game. 4 extra teams – 16 ‘dead rubbers’ – hardly a compelling spectacle. 16 teams (max) would allow the best 5/6 ‘weaker nations’ qualify on merit and perhaps cause an occasional upset (possibly look at Fiji for automatic spot given their record).

Given the physical nature of the game, and the fact teams will need 5/6 days recovery this is adding weeks onto the tournament. This is definitely not ideal preparation for the competitive teams with realistic chances of progressing, and of no interest for neutral spectators (except perhaps can NZ beat the 70 point handicap they will have over Japan and Canada).

It’s also interesting to note that the only teams that have to play on 4 days rest are Tonga, Canada, Scotland, Georgia, Romania, USA (twice), Namibia (twice) and Samoa. So, the draw obviously ensures that the weakest teams have the disadvantage of playing on limited rest – making it more difficult for them to cause an upset.

Suppose it means less 6am mornings during September – and a feast of competitive games over 2 weeks in October.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

TriAthlone 2011

Down in Trizone getting gels, I heard you could pre-register and drop your bike off the night before the race. Living in Athlone this was clearly the best option. They had a big marquee setup for registration in the corner of the huge tarmacked open space in the military barracks, a lot of the rest of the space was laid out with long metal hangers, like in a cloak room except lower. Spread around the racks were hundreds of pre-reg bikes hanging from their saddles. Coming up to the registration desks it was very much like it was assumed you knew what was going on. Someone looked at my printout and said go and talk to the next table, there they asked me if I had registered, I said I don't know, the table over there said to come here. Moving between the tables I collected a sealed brown envelope, a separate Velcro strap, then it was onto the goodie bag and t-shirt. Also, they had they last few 2010 shirts remaining and I was even able to pick a small one up for my 4 year old, she's mad about her jersey! As I was leaving I was stopped and had an interesting chat about drugs, learning that lemsip max (which includes sudafedrin) is on the baned drugs list and that different drugs in different countries have different ingredients, so the vicks spray is fine in Europe but in the states it contains drugs on the banned list. Thanks for the chat she said, would you like a hat or water bottle. I left in my black Athlete cap to find my spot on the racks and hang up my saddle, I was #368. Plenty of people had left plastic crates of their gear under their bike, I guess the plastic crate protected the gear from rain.

Back home I went through the registration information, they had made a point of saying that all the info you needed was in the athlete info pack. #368 meant I was in the 3rd wave setting of at 3.20, each wave going in 10 minutes staggers with the Olympic tri waves first. The guide said my race pack will include my race number which was to be worn on the back for the bike and the front for the run. Opening the brown envelope I was dismayed to find 1 race number. I texted Kevin, who said in all the many tris he had done he had always got 2 race numbers. It was 10pm, I did not want any pre race drama tomorrow. There was no contact number in the pack, checking on the website I sent an email and a tweet. I got a return email soon enough saying I should only have one number. Another email asking about switching the number in transition between front and back, no, seemingly one had to get a race belt. How was one supposed to know I asked, it was assumed people knew something about the sport. Hey I checked with an experienced tri athlete first, smart ass. It was past midnight and I needed to get to sleep. I put in the ear plugs and didn't have a problem dropping off.

This was the 6th year of the tri, I think it's billed as Ireland's biggest and last year it included the European championship. This years race time had been moved to mid afternoon as Athlone traders had complained about roads being closed. Coming back to the house after buying some lucozade sport I met my neighbour for the first time. Back in my day they gave one lucozade when you were sick he says. Was I sick? No I was feeling good and ready as I ever would be.

I rang Trizone and they assured me their shop at transition would have loads of race belts. The athlete pack talked about special parking, it turned out it was in the town centre shopping centre underground car park, 3 notes for the day. Why do underground car parks always have height restrictions, my bike was pre-registered but it would be a pain later as my bike rack was on the roof. Going up the centre escalator others were bringing bikes with them, Saturday shoppers were cracking on, I started to feel the buzz.

At my bike station, the tarmacked court was packed, I was glad I had pre registered. There were no queues picking up my race belt. I opened my brown envelope and started to stick my race number onto my seat post and top of my lid. I laid out my gear in order like Kev had said and copied others who had the helmet and glasses on the handlebars. It was time for the pre race talk, it was confirmed what I had learned from Trizone the previous day, because the Shannon's current was above regulation the alternative swim start would be used, this meant 1200m downstream and 300m upstream. The alternative start meant walking down the riverpath. Kevin had said sometimes they move bags from the swim start back to transition, I wondered if this was what the extra bag stickers with my race number were for. Lads around who seemed to know said no. I had brought some Lidl flip flops for this possibility not fancying walking in bare feet. Before leaving transition I got talking with a lad and I walked down with him and his mate. His mate had done his first tri last year and had done 6 since, themselves and another mate competed together for a little trophy they passed between them.

Each wave wore alternate red or white hat colours, we were red, it was time for our wave to walk down. We were towards the back talking and by the time we got down it was nearly time to go. I tied my t-shirt around the flip flops and threw them by the wall and waded in. The sound went and we were off, I never thought to start my stop watch. I knew my goggle would be a problem, my left eye always leaks no matter what goggles I try, I have a theory now that it's because my left eye is set lower than the right one. I was at the side, which was no harm, if I had more time I would have waded more towards the middle and it would have been busier. I swallowed some Shannon water unexpectedly, my left eye goggle was full of water, I kept going and I consciously had to fight panic. Then I settled and told myself suck it and swim, I cracked on. There was a couple swimmers near enough. I tried to get into the rhythm, sighting was still hard for me and I did not have the sight/breathing in one stroke mastered by any means.

I looked up and the bridge was gone, what was going on, I quickly realised I had somehow done a 180 and was going the wrong way! The big orange floats were on the right, some boats on the left with the Radisson behind, the bridge was closer. I came around the big float at the turn, not really knowing where I was, but this brought me close to the side and I could hear people up on the street. After a while I brought my head up again and remain ever thankful to a lad who shouted down, keep going, you don't have far to go. I came out of the water staggering on the carpet like a drunk, literally, there were lots of people around. I had finished the swim, done with my left eye shut in a goggle full of water. I tried to start running up the carpet covered slipway. There was a woman at the side asking me to pick up her hat which had fallen, I stopped, took a step back, picked it up and tossed it in the air, expecting her to catch it. I think it went over her head, I heard laughter as I ran on.

Crossing the road and into the barracks, still on the carpet, I left the crowds behind, wobbles gone, I continued jogging to my bike, unzipping the suit as I ran and bringing it down to my waste. Race numbers 0-500 were Olynmpic distance I had gathered and the bike racks where all situated right by where the entrance came into the courtyard. I got to my station and using Kevin's bold child method for getting out of the wetsuit was handy enough. I had left a GU energy gel by my top and started sucking it down as I finished changing. I got my helmet on and clipped and started running with my bike, following others. Soon there was a mount line visible and I could get on my bike. It felt brilliant to be on the bike, the weather was perfect and people were dotted along the road as I rode the familiar route I had been commuting to work on out towards the house. I kept an eye on my average speed on the bike computer, wondering if I somehow could keep it near 30. I was out by our estate pretty quickly l and I could see the girls waiting, I knew then that they would not see me running as the roads were closed and the could not get in. It was amazing to see them, Christine held Cadhla and Malie sat on the wall on her own at the other side of the T waving a flag. I'll never forget the sight, I love you Malie, I shouted as I hammered on. Keeping the speed going my legs ached, but that was ok, I did not mind it and was happy enough. I got the bottle of energy drink into me quickly as advised and kept supping away on the water not waiting until I felt thirsty. I sucked down another gel. I kept turning those pedals, the route was flat and there was not much head wind. There were groups of people in 1s,2s,3s, etc, at the end of converging lanes and outside houses at intervals along the way. All clapped for me, I was the only one passing at that time, I could see a couple of riders in the distance and no one was passing me. Getting clapped was fantastic, I was thanking them for it, smiles and a bit of banter on occasion.

A couple of Sprint guys passing me now, some really motoring, I didn't mind, the legs were screaming but I was enjoying this ride. The route just stopped and turned around the cone with the old Galway road continuing on. I was puzzled, one of the officials had told me the night before that they had shortened the cycle course to 38.5 because of some reluctance over the guards or insurance to cover the additional distance, from here that made no sense. Coming back in with a wee bit of wind behind was fast for stretches, long straight road though, hard to keep it maxed. But I knew now I had a shot at averaging over 30 and I was trying not to be too psyched. Hitting the dismount line at the end of the 40k, or 38.5 rather, as I jogged back to transition I recognised a voice, it was Bernie, whose house we had rented off in Kippinstown the previous year, she was just in from the swim. We had a little chat as we ran.

At my station I plopped on the ground, just changing my shoes and flipping the race number. As I ran out I remembered to start my stopwatch and then came around the wrong side of the gate and an adjudicator had to get me to come back and go through the gates so the sensors would read my chip which was still velcroed to my ankle. From here I would have to do 4 laps, my legs could hardly move. I had been warned about this initial jelly feeling and there was nothing I could do as I barely jogged above walking pace. Once exiting the barracks the route followed along Grace road by the Shannon before turning over Rice bridge and doing a loop down Church street. This section of road before the Prince of Wales hotel was narrow creating a nice atmosphere for running as there was a lot of spectators out cheering. At times it seemed I was hardly running at all but I could not go any faster, back in the barracks I glanced at my watch and the lap had taken me 15 minutes or so. Once back over the bridge the course turned down by the castle and around by Sean's bar and then up that hill on Bastion street. Would I really be able to run up that 4 times. Each time around by Sean's I tried to be my strongest of the lap and take the hill at a decent clip. Each time once I got to the top and turned onto Pearse street I could hardly move.

Coming around over the bridge a 3rd time the church clock bell rang and I became aware of the actually time for the first time. It was 6 o'clock, I knew I had started at 3.20, this meant I had a chance to go under 3 hours, what the hell was going on? Looking at my watch I knew I would not manage that though. This was the leg I had done the least training for and it was showing now, I was taking over 6min per km. Coming into the last lap I was psyched and tried to take in the crowd and vibe, coming into the finishing carpeted section I sprinted to the end. It was over. I sat close to the finish for a good 5 or 10 minutes drinking an energy drink they gave me. Then I got up and walked around the running course for a bit, loving the feeling, high on having finished and realising that this is why people kept coming back for more.

Walking out towards transition I met the girls walking in. Christine had not seen all the signs saying the roads would be closed and I had never told her so they were just getting in now. I jogged down to the swim start as a warm down and found by flip flops and shirt. Heading into get my bike, I bumped into the lads I had talked to before the swim, coming out. They had done their fastest times, I think, with the downstream swim, everyone had. Check your phone they said you should have all your times on it now. One of the lads said well done, you are a tri-athlete now! Collecting my bike and checking my phone I saw:

Tom Corcoran, Time: 3:06:27
  • Swim: 0:36:39
  • T1: 3:42
  • Bike: 1:17:52
  • T2: 2:30
  • Run: 1:05:46
My aim was to finish and not come last, I came 369th in the Olympic with 9 finishing after me, plus all the Did not finish (DNF) and disqualifieds (DSQ). In the 40-44 category I was 68th of the 69 finishers with 6 DNF and 1 DSQ, the winner of this category came home in 2.32.13.

Interactive results

P.S. In my Colorado days a T2 was this great breakfast sandwich we would order and a local deli would deliver. In this context T1 & T2 refer to the transitions times between swim/bike and bike/run.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Triathlon preparations

The triathlon debuted at the Olympic games in Sydney. I had just finished a year in New Zealand and was on the way home, but first a 2 week stint in Sydney for the Olympics. Via the web I managed to rent a room in a killer apartment with two Australian girls overlooking the marathon course in Paramatta, the complex even had a hottub. There was this mad deal where people with foreign passports could buy tickets for events every morning from consignments of tickets returned from abroad. It was nuts, the queues were not that big. I used to make a judgement call and sometimes pick up tickets for the parents of one of the girls in the apartment.

Myself and McG went to about 20 Olympic events. Each night I would spend about an hour detailing what I saw and cataloguing the results on my laptop which I had been given when I left my job in Colorado 2 years previous. Within 6 months the laptop was stolen by a professional train gang on my first day moving to Amsterdam. I had wiped a CDRW of an old backup the night before I left to make space and never managed to do a new backup, so all my diligent chronologiciling was lost. A painful lesson. The triathlon was one of the first events and we did not need a ticket, it was a gorgeous day for the men's event which Canadian Simon Whitfield in a time of 1:48:24.
Simon Whitfield wins gold

The first triathlon took place in 1974 in California. The event itself, like say athletics, does not equate to distance but comes in many forms and many names. There is the long distance, iron man or full (3.86k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run), the middle distance or half (Ironman) and the Olympic or standard (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run), among others. People new to the sport usually start with a Sprint (half Olympic) and Athlone also offered a Tri which was a Sprint with only a 200m swim. Since I first heard about the Sport, Triathlon has always meant Olympic distance to me. When applying for 3rd level education coming out of secondary (high school) in Ireland one fills out a CAO form with 10 ordered choices of courses in various institutions. Depending on the points obtained in the final leaving certificate examination you get offered a place or not. When I was applying there was only one thing I wanted to do and the points were relatively low so I filled out one course on the CAO form. Now I was doing a triathlon, there was only one for me, I registered on line and paid the 54 euro. Separately one had to pay 15 euros for a 1 day licence to be able to compete (email evidence shown here).

On the Monday of race week, I cycled the 20k round trip to work, went for a 8k jog at lunch and went for a 1k swim that night in the pool. My plan was to go running on Tuesday at lunch time, do an Aquathon (750m swim, 4.2k run) on Wednesday night and then rest up for the race. Normally I rely on the internet for research but I did not look at it in my triathlon preparations, I turned instead to friends who had done tris and multi sport events. McG had advised not doing anything the week before a race but conceded he had in the past and not regretted it. I had a series of great advice emails with Kev on Tuesday morning and coming out of that I decided to pull up my training and not do the lunch time run or the Aquathon the following evening.

The lads were all talking gels. I never had tried one before but it seemed the way forward. The main advice was never try anything in a race you had not in training. I paid another visit to the trizone store to look at the gels, I bought 2 different ones and went for a light 20 minute jog Thursday morning to test them. I downed the first gel at home and it tasted nasty but I didn't have a reaction jogging. Down at the end of the lane I sucked down the GU chocolate gel, it was like chocolate mouse, grand. No bother with the jog. I picked up a handful of those at lunch, the instructions said max 4 a day, each gave 20g of carbs. McGs advice was to tape some gels to the bike, sounds good. Talking to Kev he mentioned storing them in a tri pouch which goes on the cross bar. I had picked up one when I bought the bike having seen one of the club riders with one on my first ride with them. Not knowing the proper use I had been using it to carry a spare tube and my alien tool set. The tri-pouch is for the gels and energy bars, the tube and tools go in the pouch under the saddle, right on. I dredged though my bike crate and found the saddle pouch I had bought for Christine's bike but never fitted, it went on like a glove.

For the Coosan charity swim I got a loan of a 2XU tri wet suit from Trizone. It felt fantastic in the water. In the shop the lad demoed to me that it used rudder band technology so that as one turned and stretched in the water the other side of the suit was acting like a rudder. But they cost 250 euros and there were no deals on eBay. Andy M, who recently completed the 70.3 in England with 6k climbing on the bike and 1200m climbing on the run, advised to just use the gear I had for the first triathlon. In trizone I was looking at tri-suits as well, one piece jobs you wore under the suit which encompassed bike shorts, they started at 90 notes. One of the lads in there echoed Andy M and said not to spend money on gear for the first tri but use what you had/borrowed. I decided I would use the wetsuit I had and go topless underneath with bike shorts on.

Having decided to skip the Aquathon I needed to practise getting out of the wet suit, the first transition. Kev, gave some gems of advice here.
Get the arms out, pull down on the legs to start getting it off, and then...and this is the funny kinda take it off like a bold kid getting undressed...put one foot on the free leg part of the other leg down near your toes, and then pull against that with the free leg - this frees about one foot of leg at a time, and alternate from leg to leg. It kinda looks silly, but its the quickest way. The suit wont/shouldn't rip. If you are down there with your hands you are going about it the slow way!

I set up my station in the garden as kev had told me, bath towel spread out to stand on, gear lined up in the order you are to put on, starting from the feet. The lad in trizone had told me about iBungee stretch laces, replacing the normal laces with elastic ones so you would not have to fiddle tying. Some people used the same shoes for cycling and running, others, trizone told me, had the cycling shoes pre-clipped to the pedals with elastics back to wheel nuts holding them level. I decided to but the bungee laces on both my cycling and running shoes and to tape the Velcro straps on the cycling shoes out of the way under the shoe. I set the flip rolling and ran to my station, unzipping the wet suit as I ran. Getting it off as Kev describes was brilliant, the natural way to do it. I still needed to help it off around my ankles with my hands but it was dead handy. No need to dry oneself you'll be dry on the bike in ten or fifteen anyway. Except the feet, have a hand towel beside the shoes for that, I used a small chammie I have. From talking to everyone most people seemed to bike/run without socks. I was concerned about blisters and taking on board the creed not to try anything new on race day that you had not practised, I was going with socks. I had them sitting ready on the shoes, pre-rolled so I could just stick in my toes and unroll the sock onto my foot. Helmet was last, you don't want to put that on before your top says Kev, he had learnt that from experience. For the second transition, bike to run, the sensible thing was just to change the shoes for me, keep going in the bike top.

I was concerned about sighting in the water, i.e. checking the direction you were going in. At the swimming lessons Charlie had suggested to sight every 6 strokes. I found it very awkward having completed the breathing to then turn the head back the opposite way to sight. I never copped it to sight first until Andy M and Kev explained it to me over email. Andy M likes to breath every stroke, because if he breathes every strokes he gets hypoxic. By breathing every stroke he can sight by simply turning his head forward with just his eyes above the water, one can miss a breathing stroke without too much impact. Kev said sighting in a river is easier that pure open water because you take plenty of sneaky sights to the side on every stroke and if you are maintaining your distance from the bank you are probably going straight. The efficiency trick is not to raise your head and body too much out of the water when sighting as this will create a big drag. With this little glimpse you may well not see your target, but ignore it and carry on. Try again on the next stroke.

It was time for lists, I needed to find my waterproof watch which I had for yonks but rarely used, where was the small plastic jogging bottle with a slot in the middle you could grip. The lads were advising 2 bottles on the bike, one water, one isotonic. I needed to find another drink cage, maybe take one off my mountain bike. Kev said all these gels and drinks are meant to supply you with salts (electrolytes). Apparently your muscles won't work without the electrolytes in there, and with all that sweating you will be losing a lot of salt - making replenishment mandatory. Kev said he believe it leads to crampsville when they run out. Buy Lucozade Sport, was added to my list.

I had my wheels trued only a few week before but going back into my estate on the Saturday run I went over a wee manhole than I knew had buckled the front wheel slightly. The bik4work scheme purchased through Halfords included a 1 year service plan where one only pays for parts. The way Boardman does it only mechanics who have had specific Boardman training to work on their bikes in Halfords shops. I rang the Longford shop and Shaney was working Thursday, finishing up at 6, he was happy to do a tune. I made it up at 10 to 6 and he was dead sound, going over and beyond polishing the bike for it's maiden race. Talking to one of the lads up there who was getting out 3 times a week now, he was averaging 25kph, I would be happy with that in fairness.

I was squeezing in the pasta meals in the evenings, eating bread, carbo loading like the lads said. I was drinking water not beer. I was getting to bed by 23.30 latest, early for me, plenty of rest they said.

Sounds like you're taking this event pretty seriously, said Andy M after my endless email questions. Hmmmm, I guess I was.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

BIKE: A wet training ride

It was the weekend before TriAthlone and Martin & Nessa were home from London to Dublin, where Nessa was throwing a surprise 40th for her bro John. They were making the most of being home and inviting a few of their mates too. It was to be our second night out together since Cadhla was born. But Saturday night in Dublin meant no Sunday morning training ride in Athlone, I'd have to squeeze one in on Saturday morning. First we had to leave early for a family months mind mass. It was a brutal morning and I put on the gortex overshoes over the hiking waterproof pants. One of my least favourite things to do is to get wet, except of course in more temperate climates.

8.15 out of the house and with the rain belting I turned out the top of the road onto the bike course, the old Galway road passing our new estate leading westward and usually into the prevailing. I looked at the odometer on my handlebars, finally I knew that the changing speed was toggling between average and current and it was not malfunctioning. I had downloaded the manual at work the other day and managed to get 5 minutes to read it, the original jumbled somewhere in the massively unorganised, just moving in and sorting out office at home. Manuals, one of the necessities of my life. I thought about the reverso that I carried in my climbing bag and taken out the last couple of climbing trips, never knowing how to use the simple device and mentally checking to read the manual when I got home but never doing. Now I knew how this worked and had even reset the wheel size that morning.

I figured I needed to be back at the house at 10 since we needed to leave by 11, maybe I could cycle out 15k and then turn around. I cycled along into the driving rain and started for the first time to break down the race the following weekend. Averaging 30kph meant doing 40k in 1hour and 20minutes, no way, any of my commuting training rides, 10k each way on the same bike, were averaging in the 22k range. Averaging 25k meant 5k every 12 min, so that's 94 minutes, if I could do that it would be ok, I reckoned. My thought process in the rain gradually came to the conclusion that I should try and see how long it would take me to do 40k this morning.

The road was quiet with not much on it, Duffys Discount and storage was coming up, almost exactly 10k from the house. I had got to know the proprietor Joe recently. We were due to move house Easter weekend and the day before we were meant to get the keys the landlord pulled out, though I had signed a contract and paid 600 euros a month before. He decided we would be too difficult tenants since we wanted the ash removed from the fireplace, the gook cleaned in the over and the dried powder cleaned off the washing machine darwer. With no time to find a place we found this storage option and rented 2 rooms from Joe for a month as well as his van and 2 sons who helped us move the stuff to storage. Was that only 3 months ago, damn it had been a mad time.

The rain pelted on and I said sure I'll go another 5 and then turn and have it at my back. McG said it didn't matter if it was blowing on the way out in relation to your average speed as you you would gain it on the way back in, tell that to my legs! It was not long before I was passing the top of our estate again. I took the next left out towards Glendeer pet farm, my first time up that road since I had jogged up that night and had my hubcap adventure. I passed the road towards the megalithic tomb and there the pet farm was, a relatively nondescript building pulled back from the road, with room for coaches to pull in. I turned around and reversed my route. Passing the top of my estate again, I was on 38k and just over 1 hour and 40 minutes. Could I average 30kph for a 1km up the road and back to get me home for 1hr 45.

100m up from my estate entrance the back tyre went flat. First puncture on the new bike. Damn, I had not put on those Ultra Gator Skin tyres I had been advised to upgrade to and did a deal for when I got the bike. I had my tyre levers and spare tube and changed it in under 5 minutes, imagining myself getting one in the race. Flipping the bike back over I realised that the weight of the bike on the cycle computer had pressed the 2 buttons together and reset the device. Time to get home.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Conor Niland at Wimbledon

Picture on the front page of the Irish Times now - he won a point anyway! Presume he's a Crescent lad? I remember his sister Gina who also played tennis at a high level.

Interview here.

Monday, 20 June 2011

BIKE: Cushion for a pushin

I bought my first mountain bike in 1992 when I lived on Dublin's Northside. I bought it via buy and sell, who have since taken there eye of the ball and been passed by donedeal, but then they were the source for buying second hand goods. This American guy was going back to the states and was selling his Specialized RockHopper mountain bike. This was the first of three Specialized bikes I would buy in different continents, all used, all with many stories to tell. The sport was in its infancy and I there was nothing going on in Dublin I knew about and though I had an email address this was pre surfing. My first mountain bike proper ride was out along the Grand canal toe path and I did come back covered in mud! Since then I have stuck with American mountain bikes, moving to Marin and Sante Cruz after Specialized.

Now I found myself on a Boardman, an English made road bike, it was Sunday morning and I had come down to the Regional Sports Centre for the 10am ride. My 4 year old had insisted on breakfast in bed for fathers day and was sous chef for some strawberry and chocolate pancakes. No wonder I was rushing and came in 5 minutes after without any food and with no speedo or phone. I asked the congregated cyclists about the C group, if they had already gone. Don't think they'll turn up, most of them were in the Burren yesterday. I vaguely recalled some emails I had not taken in. I quickly applied some oil to my slight;y squeaky chain and said right I'll try and hang with ye lot for a while.

We headed off out the Galway road, passing the turn off to our new gaff. At least their was not a full on head wind like the last time I decided to go with the Bs. The pace was fast, probably just as well my speedo was not working / I needed to read the manual again. There was about 12 of us, one of the lads said had I been watching the golf. He had not found a stream and watched it the night before via text updates on a web site. I told him about All the rest of the help came in the other direction. One of the lads was talking about taking the first turn for Shannonbridge but when no one took it he didn't either. He was talking about not wanting to be shot as he was going for a swim at 6. All of a sudden I was a couple of bike lengths off the back and I could see it happening again but I dug and got back. We got to the roundabout on the outskirts of Ballinasloe I think and veered left for Shannonbridge. The lads were keeping an eye on me now, Kieran had seen what happened and told me not to go up front and keep in on the left. Every so often he got me to jump into the middle of the group.

It was a straight stretch and climbed a little, all of a sudden I had a hand on my back and was slingshot back to the group. We were riding over a bridge, was I in Portumna, no Shannonbridge of course. When we got on the other end of the short street through town I sank a little when I saw them turning down the road to Clonmacnoise, 8k there and then a savage straight long undulating road to Athlone, which I remembered only too well from my solo ride on it when I was dropped. I tried not to think about that section and kept cranking.

We were on the long section now and Dave was slingshotting me up the hills. He asked if I had brought any food and when I said no he gave me a snickers bar, when i said I can't take your food he said he had two. Another rider was getting a little similar help too. I took another swig out of my bottle, seeing the fading print of University Bicycles Boulder. I bought my 2nd Specialized in Boulder Recyclers which I still have. The headset is 1" wide and non standard for a modern fork now but still a handy bike to knock around on the beach or whatever. The mountain bike parks in Colorado were my first exposure to mountain biking proper and where I fell in love with the sport and the bike/climb-ski/board cycle that kept me there 5 years. One of the lads dropped his pump, the group slowed a little bit and he was back on in not so long. My water bottle was quarter full and not fitting the holder well, I noticed it hanging and straightened it, before long it fell. I braked. Dave said lower your gears and keep spinning, higher cadence rests the heart [muscles], lower cadence rests the lungs. Dave went back for the bottle.

Dave was back and handed me the bottle, I shoved into a back jersey it pocket not wanting it to fall again, and was cycling to fast to have time to figure anything else out. Four of us, I think, were trying to ger back to the group, not that I really knew that was what we were doing. Dave gave me a fresh bottle, it might have only been diluted orange but it had more of a kick that water. We were 150m back maybe and after a number of slingshots, we tightened up and pulled in to the group again. Damn, I never knew that could ne done like that. Now were were passing Ballnahowna and Kieran was giving me a few pushes up now. I readjusted my water bottle to the middle back pocket and that became the target for the next shoves. Dave said I've heard of a cushion for a push'in but that's brilliant.

We were on a longish hill with a couple of false summit and now Dave was pushing me up rather than slingshotting. I realised I didn't have much left. We got to the Moate road and turned towards Athlone and went onto the bypass for 2 exits. It's single lane at the minute, with roadworks going on upgrading it to motorway standard, though it will remain a dual carriageway as there are too many exits to get motorway status. I found something and lead our group of three along, having just lost touch of the rest in the last 10 minutes, still they were only up the road.

Getting back to the centre I saw one of the lads heading inside and rode up to him to check the stats. 67km, average speed 30.6 kph. I could not believe it. The lads were saying to come out with them regularly now, that they all have taken help in the past and that's what they do, they are a club. Seemingly it was a fast B group as that speed is normally 26kph. There was this guy up front a few others were calling Schlech who kept us turning hard. Hmmmm, maybe I could do the 40k in the tri at a good clip if I was riding in a group...there won't be any slingshots though!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

SWIM: Coosan Charity Swim 2011

I have been toying with doing a triathlon for years. Without seeing the big picture I started my swimming preparations while living in Amsterdam in 2001. I started going swimming with my mate Colin when he got back from India - I had been sub letting his apartment near De Pipj for 4 months. We would cycle down to the pool and he would lap swim. Talking to Christine she advised to do 600m (24 lengths) each time and that's how it began.

Some times I would get very regular, e.g. when I worked in Hampshire in 06/07, I got in to a routine of going down to the centre 3 times a week at lunchtime with Ben, he worked out in the gym, I would swim 1km. I was always pressed to make the arranged meet time afterwards, not least because there frequently was this retired teacher there who I would talk sports with between lengths.

My mother had shown me a book, "Total Immersion" which she has borrowed from my brother. I read a little bit of it on visits home and learned about breathing and alternating the side you breath on every 3 strokes. I struggled with front crawl and the breathing having to mix in, my escape route, breaststroke, when my nasal congestion finally jammed my breathing, i.e. mental panic kicked in. But these regular swimming periods were bursty and everywhere I lived I asked if there was anyone I could get lessons of as I wanted to flip turn, but I could never find anyone.

Then I was made redundant. 6 months were spent setting up on my own and struggling to investigate a business idea with Enterprise Ireland money and finally a brilliant buzz of 5 weeks Java programming with a start-up with an out of the blue get out of jail job offer in Athlone in the in-tray. The very tough decision was made and we moved to Athlone in the Irish midlands, the midlands were I was born and spent the first 5 years.

I knew Athlone had a Triathlon and it turned out last year as well as the normal Triathlon it hosted the European championship and we watched some of the top triathletes in the world competing. Like many in this town I began thinking why not me. I started swimming a little bit in the Regional sport centre and after a few visits made my usual enquiries about lessons. Ah yeah, improved lane swimming lessons on a Thursday night at 9.15, starting in the autumn, give us your mobile and we'll text you. And they did. First night up I naively said I wanted to learn the flip turn. Turns out there is an awful lot to learn first and the flip turn has not come up since. It's all about the drills, breaking down the stroke where you do a drill to exaggerate one of the techniques so you improve it. Such as 3/4 catch up, where you hold alternate hands over the water for a second before breaking the water. The end result being that as a result you stretch longer in the water while you are holding and your stroke count per length goes down. I thought learning to drum, where you must drop one of the 4 limbs and keep the other 3 going the same as hard, but swimming technique is another level.

That's me in the balaclava

I had heard the Coosan Charity swim mentioned and it was coming up on Tuesday 7 June, the night of my swimming lessons at that time. Christine normally has pilates at that time and getting a baby sitter was problematic but Christine needed a rest after the mini marathon and so it was on. I had called into trizone, the triathlon shop in athlone for the first time the previous week and the lad told me they would have a stand at the event and would be letting out 25 suits for free.

I had bought my first suit the previous summer in a surf shop in Tramore. I had seen on the web that the Waterford Triathlon club met every Monday night at 6.30 at Councillors beach in Dunmore East and do a sea swim. One Monday I showed up and followed them in, it was a swim across the inlet and it was choppy, there was a jet sky flying in and out, it was s bit nuts. But the swim was ok. I came back one other night and followed them on a 1200m triangle course, they waited at each triangle point for the last swimmers to come in, I'd be last. But it was cool, the duck was broken. I showed the lad at the stand by wetsuit and he said it was more for windsurfing and then showed me a tri suit, really slick and providing no resistance in the water. They retail or €250 he says, I left my laser card with him which I would get back on return of the suit.

There were 4 distances, 200m, 750, 1500 and 3000, the last 3 departing at the same time and being 1, 2 and 4 laps respectively. I had a triathlon in mind and the sprint distance did not really interest me but the coosan charity site said the 1500 was an elite swim and "swimmers for this distance will be confined to people with previous experience of this type of swim". I started queueing up and noticed that there were different tables for each distance and no one seemed to be asking questions. I moved to the 1500m line and signed up, figuring I could also drop out after a lap. The 200m finished and it was time to get into the water with the other 3 starting together. Mindful of ice cream headaches I get from cold waves I wanted to wear my wet suit hood and pulled my Coosan charity swim red hat on over it, they were colour coordinated for the 3 distances.

Not fancying the jostling or whatever at the start I stayed at the back and was one of the last to get going. I had trouble with my goggles initially with the left eye leaking and I turned on my back a couple of times to try and sort it out. Damn these suits were great, I felt confident in the water. I kept going and mixed in a far bit of breaststroke with the goggle not ideal but blanking that. I tried to look up every few strokes doing crawl but found it hard to hold a line and kept drifting right and off line. After a while I became conscious of another red hat ahead, when I did crawl I would gain on him and we met at one of the triangle points. Coming around the first lap I felt strong but was not swimming hard at all just taking it handy and seeing how it went. The 2nd lap and last triangle leg especially was tiring enough and one of the kayakers had to shout at me as I was swimming of course on the last leg. Coming in though I felt if I had to do it I could have got around another lap. An indication perhaps that I had not given it all. Coming out of the water someone told me to tell that lad my number, he said 44.11 back to me, I was like, really? I had no concept of the time but was taken by surprise not expecting that, having being timed for the first time in the pool for 750m at 19 min 52 sec in April.

2011 1500m Results

Monday, 13 June 2011

BIKE: A tale of two burgers

Winter 2000 in the southern hemisphere I found myself on the ferry to the South Island, with Bret, a good friend from my life in Colorado where I had spent nearly 5 years before going back to Ireland to take advantage of the boom as an IT contractor. I stayed 182 days and moved to New Zealand, where I had alternated periods of contracting with travel/outdoor play. In my stay to date I had done some travelling, coded utilities for a financial investment company in Wellington, spent 6 weeks climbing every day all around both islands and just come from a 6 week Delphi gig in Sydney. Now it was time for a snow boarding season. A group of my friends with roots in the States, England, Australia and Ireland were all spending some time snow boarding at treblecone in Wanaka, better known as TC. There were a number of anchor tenants and we had bought season passes, others were coming to stay for shorter periods.

It was the night of the Euro 2000 final between Italy and France. Bret is a soccer fan and actually wore my shirt after I left my co-ed team in Boulder, The Other United. So we were both keen to see the match. Driving into Christchurch after the ferry I knew what to expect, having crashed in a local climbing house for a few nights back in February when Martin and I night mountain biked in bottle forest and climbed up at Castle Rock. Christchurch is the South Islands biggest town, but it's dead quiet at night. With the match not starting until the wee hours our only option was to rent a motel room with satellite TV. But first food, we could not find an open "fush" and chippers so our only option was Burger King, we came back to watch the soccer with double bacon cheese burgers. Little did I know that it would be 11 years before I had beef again and that would be a burger too.

I was a recreational mountain biker stuck in the midland with a bit of a drive to any decent trails. Other mountain biker friends were taking to the road to mix it up as well and after training for a trip to Wales in 07 by going to a weekly spinning session and a weekend mountain bike ride I had finally realised that one needs to get the road miles in to be bike fit. The bike to work scheme and an incredible deal in Halfords for a carbon frame bike turned out to be the obvious no brainer.

The day after I picked up my bike on 5 March I went for my first ride on a road bike in 25 years was with a local club who go out for rides on Sunday mornings. My second time out I gave the B group a try. About 15 minutes into the ride going into a head wind out the Tuam road I was dropped from the peloton. I was talking to a couple of lads at the back and after a while realised I could not talk and keep cycling into this wind at 26 k/ph. It happened exactly like I have seen it on TV so many times, I could not stay with them and gradually dropped off and they were gone :-( I ended up doing a 55K loop myself, man the road from Shannonbridge to Athlone must be among the straightest in Ireland! I kept going every week and had a run of doing 40-60k 8 out of 9 weekends.

Having missed a bunch of weekend rides with life ramping up I heard at swimming that the group I had been doing the Sunday rides with, the C-specials were planning a Thursday night ride, meeting at the usual recreational centre at 6. I was still sore after the adventure run the night before, but the day was an absolute cracker and the girls were of visiting til about 8, perfect time for a 40K ride. Conscious I had no supplies, I asked a couple of riders if they had a spar banana but no. It was a brilliant evening to be out and the plan was to do 2 laps of a hill the lads call piss-off hill around Mount Temple. I had been up it once before but did not remember how it broke down really. I hung at the back and when I recognised the top was closer than I thought I pushed a bit for the top, well behind a handful of others. It was just a superb evening to be out on the bike, heading around the country roads, talking to Gerry, I was saying I think the best way to get up to the top was to stick with Sarah all the way. Gerry said go at your own pace not to worry.

I was in the mood for notching it up and bayed by Gerry's words I jumped off front, eased into a drop and took it up a gear but steady. I did not look back. I had in my head that at the end of a long stretch of road there was a right turn that lead onto piss-off hill. I was sipping a bit from my single bottle missing my mountain biking camelbak. When I got to the part of the road, that from a distance I thought was where the turn was located, I realised it wasn't the turn. And indeed it would not be a right turn anyway as we were coming at it from a different direction this time, having come in from Athlone the first time! There my powers of deduction stopped. Looking back for the first time since I popped off maybe 10 minutes previous there was of course no one else to be seen. I took the right turn anyway, there was a brown sign for some cross but the road petered out in a farmyard after climbing up a little. I had no water now but did not think about that.

Back at the main road there was a left turn not making quiet a crossroads, which I took. This started to climb a bit and I started to feel the no fuel on board since lunch time business. It was not long before I had completely bonked. Having had a couple of sort of out of body experiences climbing before it was a feeling I remembered. I passed a house gate and saw a lad, puling out of the pedals I spread eagled the bike over to where this lad was welding something. I turned around and inside the gate there was a huge artic truck parked, The window was rolled down and there was a little boy in the passenger seat. I noticed a hat on the ground under the window and he said my hat fell. I turned back to the man and said do you have an outside tap where I can fill my bottle please. He said no bother, turned off the welder and took the bottle off me to fill. I said thanks I could not see straight. I did not think to ask where I was. Trying to not drain the bottle, knowing I should conserve, I only drank 2/3 of it, I had to.

A while later, finally there was someone out, a lad working in the garden. I asked him where I was. Left at the turn will take you back down the hill to Athlone via Moydrum industrial estate. Right, will....and if you go up that road over there....and there's anther handy hill around that way. I was a little less confused that before I asked him. I cycled on and turned left, it seemed the fastest way home. As I sped down what I think now must have been piss off hill I started thinking that the route back to the car park went by fox's garage and I needed to stop there. I thought Athlone was mean to be close. Shortly afterwards I started thinking that Fox's also housed a supermac. It was not long after that I started thinking about a burger, a real burger.

It was a long road and finally the wee hill up to the service station. Parking the bike outside the door I went straight to the fridges and grabbed a bottle of lucozade sport which I necked straight. I went over to the supermac counter, looked at the menu and ordered a smokey bacon burger meal. Over to the chocolate and which one do you pick when you need the chocolate, it was no contest. I grabbed a dairymilk and got in line for the till. A minute later I was handing the girl my empty bottle and wrapper and asking her if she would mind disposing of them. As I waited at the supermacs counter I said to the lad whose face I knew from an occasional veggie burger, believe it or not this will be my first beef in 11 years.

Slumping in the fading sun outside, the burger was enjoyable, more satisfying that the 3 Christmas dinners I have had as my only meet in those 11 years. The fries were nasty, a quick duck back into the shop for ketchup little help. How do you celebrate your first beef in over a decade, clearly one then orders a 99, which I scoffed walking down the hill before rolling back to the car park at 20.45.

Friday, 10 June 2011

RUN: fishing for hubcaps

The other night I was reminded you don't have to venture too far from home to have an adventure. I had been doing my weekly swimming lessons and weekly bike ride and then around Easter time, life kicked in, multiple house moves and funerals and sick kids and long work days and all of a sudden the Athlone triathlon was only weeks away and Christine was asking was I doing it or what. She was talking about going for a run last Wednesday night and when she decided not to go I said well I better get my first run since last August in Kerry.

Christine had been doing some training for the mini marathon and recommended a lane beside us which was 1km long and suggested doing a couple of up and downs. I headed out, not sure what I was thing but something along the lines of if I can't run 10k tonight then I might as well forget about the tri. Across the road there was a little footpath disappearing in the trees I had noticed in driving past, where did it go. It just joined the turn which has the sign for the pet farm which Christine said is down a ways. Sure I'll head up there. I just had got a replacement phone from insurance after the other giving up the ghost, I had loaded up endomondo on it the night before and set it in motion. I didn't have headphones but heard the generated voice tell me as I ran up and down the small hills, lap time 5.37, time 11.09. At 3km my lap time was up to 6.19, then I saw a right turn with a brown sign indicating a megalithic tomb and took the small lane. I'll go to 4km, then do the lane near home when I get back. Lap time 6.12, more like it son.

Then I saw the motorway, the M6, a bridge ahead of me crossed it. Sure I'll just go to the to of the bridge and then turn. At the top of the bridge the gravel road the far side of the motorway which went of into the distance up the hill parallel to the motorway came more into focus. I had seen this driving the M6 back from mountain biking in Portumna and wondered where it went. The big blue sign indicated exit 13, which our new place was off, was 2km away. Could I do a loop? Always more preferable. Going up the hill there were a few gates and it was clear a farmer had done a deal with the government land purchasers. But down the hill I could see the gravel track coming to an end at a gate. It did not make sense to reverse now.

I climbed the gate and skirted around the large field pulling away from the motorway. 5 or 6 horses 200m ahead moved around nervously and seconds later as I lightly jogged the uneven ground took off at pace. The fence turned back towards the motorway and there were the horses again ahead and off the took once more. This time the fence turned again and it soon became obvious why, there was a stream, not big but not jumpable. I followed it towards the motorway, not possible to jog now. I noticed one of those big pipes near the edge of the motorway mound. If I crossed over that fence and jumped that small bit of water I cold cross over the pipe and then be over the stream. Once there it made sense to climb another fence and continue on the compulsory purchase land. I was still a good 30m from the motorway. How come they bought such a wide tract, there could be a great jogging/cycling trail put in here. I half jogged along the top of the mound, skipping right as the bush thickened, down to the right was a little stream, after, the bank climbed up to meet the motorway.

The vegetation carried me down to the stream bank and there it was, sticking out of the water, clear as day to me, a shinny VW hub cap which I knew instantly would match my car. Not something I would typically know, but I had replaced a few in the last couple of years so knew the look of them. I got my toe wet before dropping to my belly and stretching into the water to retrieve my prize. Back jogging along I had this image of myself driving along and seeing a guy dressed in running gear with #28 on the back carrying a hub cap and wanting to complete the picture for the driver as I heard a car approaching I lifted the hub cap over my head in triumph. Yes, I had come back to the scene and retrieved my hub cap.

I started to see a motorway bridge ahead and then I ran into it a full on river. I followed to the right and there was a track on both sides under the motorway. A perfect place for someone without a house to camp out, but it was not a city. A killer place for a party/rave, but someone would drown, the paths were only 2m wide. Under and over to the other side, for a microsecond I thought about wading/swimming and then I saw it 100 off to the right, a railway bridge. No turning back now.

A little tributary went off to the left, muddy sides to jump across but not too bad. Bushes and trees covered the other side in the slope up to the track, I couldn't see a way. I cut back on myself a bit and scrambled up though some tress and it was possible to pull up onto the track. Track stretched straight in both directions. Lap time 15.43. I still had light and figured I better not stay on the track too long, not exactly legal right. I crossed the bridge quick enough and it stretched off, The fence on ether side was high now and not scalable. If a train came there was enough room to hang down to the side but they would definitely see me and call it in. I kept jogging trying to pace with the sleepers. A while later, the high fence was ending by some trees up to the right. I saw house tops to the left but went right to the gap. I squeezed through and saw a little gravel road down below. I started to go left and then heard some traffic to the right and saw a truck off to the distance. I changed direction and was somewhat surprised when I popped out and the roundabout 500m from my new estate. 8km lap time kicked in. I passed the little lane near the house barely over walking pace and the thought of running up and down that was a non event. Christine listened to my story and said did I know anything about training!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Glendalough Revisited

The Glendalough WAR course: 9km Spink run around the Upper Lake (575m. ascent); 15km bike ride on the road, to Lough Dan (165m. ascent); a short run to the lake followed by a 2km kayak, then back on the bike to reverse the previous leg. Slight course change was a shortened return bike leg and an extra 3.5km run from Laragh back to Glendalough. Easy. Right?

The buildup: This time I focussed on the running, and started out about 8 weeks ago. Working up to running up 3 Rock/Fairy Castle 4 or 5 times on a course comparable to the race run. Virtually no bike training, just the odd detour up the hills on the commute home, and one trip up Kippure (route here) for a nice climb the week before. No kayak training whatsoever. I drove down in Wanda the night before and parked up in the Glendalough carpark, saving a few hours kip in the morning. Every little helps.

The usual high carb nosh-up the next morning. Jelly babies for breakfast with no guilt. Weather was perfect: fine, a some cloud, not too warm and not a breath of wind.

The run: Pre-race nervous anticipation, and unfortunately no-one to share the build-up with - all 3 FINEOS mates had bailed out during the week :(. I watched the big guns return from the Spink run in about 45 minutes, how do they do it? With no-one in particular to race against, I had a few strategies to beat last year's time and make it interesting. First of these was to get into the lead group in the run, and avoid the traffic jams when the race hits the narrow steps up Spink. 9:15am was race start, there were about 170 in my 'wave' and I was one of the first off. Some people were walking minutes later - long day ahead for them. Stepped it out, steady does it. In the top 5-6 up the top of the first set of steps, a huge group snaking back. Flat now for a bit, then more climbing. This second climb was fairly hellish, trying to take in the views to distract (see pic below, just putting on a brave face for the photographer!). The descent is extremely tricky, and was passed by a few 'mountain goats' here, but managed to stay on my feet. Naively thought I'd have legs to catch them on the flat, but even the miner's track back to the start was a slog. I somehow managed to trip and skin my knee on the easiest part of the run - no pain (feeling it now though).

Clocked in 58:20 (was 1:02:39). V. chuffed to beat the hour. Estimated I was in the top 15 in my group.

I also knew I could save minutes on the transition - I was literally one of the slowest last year, faffing around with change of shoes, food, drink. Amateur!

Transition 1:27 (was 3:33).

The bike: Sped off through Laragh and on towards Roundwood. Powerbar on board - another race tactic, it was attached to the crossbar with masking tape, worked a treat. My race drink was homemade - orange barley, water, sea salt and sugar. Powerade my hole. But would it keep the cramp away later? Picking off others now with ease (I think they were in the group who left 15 mins before) and in turn passed by one or two others before I reached Lough Dan.

Bike leg 40:03 (was 38:13, but this year we had to run 400m before clocking in).

Kayak: Nothing like a cold, wet arse to put manners on you. Hooked up with another lad who arrived at the lake at the same time. He took charge, sat behind and got us around double-quick time. No drama, but could feel inner thigh muscles starting to twitch - memories of last year.

Kayak leg 14:54 (was 23:09).

Took the time to take on fluids and do some leg stretches knowing the bike climb to come - I cramped on this last year. Flew up this time, happy days. Raced back to Laragh with 2 other lads, we must have passed each other 10 times!

Bike leg 30:29 (was 35:11, but 3km shorter than last year).

Final run:

Transition to the run was less than a minute. Then the sting in the tail. 3.5km, but winding and undulating. Managed to pass 2 more lads as I slogged along. VERY happy to reach the finish line. Even happier I wasn't doing the longer race. Some lads who'd started 1:15 before me and done the full WAR passed me on that final run. Mindboggling stuff.

Final run 18:26.

Full course 2:44:29. I did it in 2:42:43 last year, but that extra run versus bike translates to about 12 minutes quicker, so obviously very chuffed with that. Figured I was in the top 15-20 of my group of 170 (I subsequently discovered I was 12th in the intermediates), but there was another 'wave' who started later - I guess these were the experts, as my final placing was 44 of around 280. Interestingly, while only 200 did the short race last year and 500 did the full one - this year, more did the short course and the standard was seriously higher. The winning time was even faster than Andy's winning time last year, despite the extra leg. Other useless stat: finished 6/38 in the over 40's. And more importantly, only beaten by two women (I know, two too many).
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