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.
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