Monday, August 24, 2009

12 days - 6 races

Just completed a tough 12 days of racing and training. I hadn't realised there was so much going on until I was in the middle of it. It started with the 1/2 IM in Puharve on 08/08/09, previous blog, the following Wednesday was a Wicklow sea swim club race, approx 1km. Calm water which I always like to see. Race went well, as usual got onto someone's feet and drafted for the first half, then when I felt lose, I pushed on to the finish. A solid race for me but based on my handicap, approx 8mins I ended up on page 2 of the results page, a common occurance for me. 2 days later on the Friday night, another swim race (re-scheduled race due to bad weather). This one was outside the harbour, along the coast, out to the end of the pier and then finish at the platform. I had a cunning plan...... I was on the same handicap as Denis, who is a very similar pace to myself and is excellent at reading the best line to take. I got onto his feet and stayed there until we came around the block, then I kicked and made it in 3 seconds ahead of him, not nice but hey, its a race..... I had a really got time 14.20ish for about 900m, felt good on the swim too, strong. I probably push a little too hard considering I was off to Mullingar the following morning for an Olympic distance triathlon, the Caroline Kearney Memorial Triathlon.


6am……. Early start, bike packed, gear ready, we were off. Got there in 1.30hr. Weather was brutal, lashing rain. This was looking like it was going to be a disaster, similar to the Lough Neagh Tri the previous year, same day.


Got registered, great goodie bag, nearly as good as the Beast’s. We got a gym towel and a visor, along with a free haircut and a drink and bar and a food voucher for after the race….. nice….. I racked my bike, numbered slots for everyone, big transition, plenty of room and was right beside Moley. Got all my stuff together. I was running in the Newtons…. First 10km in them. I was a little nervous as to how my calves would take the distance. I have only been doing 5km’s in them to date. Listened to the race briefing, heard the course was flat and fast, excellent and off to the lake I went. My tactics today were stay ahead of Jim Corbett and John Mercer. Additionally I was trying a new nutrition strategy, gels, gels, and more gels.


I positioned myself close to John in the swim as we are fairly similar, Jim is a much better swimmer, if I tried to stay with him I’d end up anerobic and blow up. While chatting to John and his mate the whistle blew and we were off, didn’t get to start my garmin as it had come out of the GPS page, arghhhhhh However, that’s was ok, I’d just go on how I felt. I swam on John’s feet for a few hundred, recurring theme for me, and then felt strong so pushed on. All the sea swimming is starting to pay dividends. Noticed one guy doing the breast stroke, and remember thinking, he’s flying, took a minute to pass him. The swim felt long, there was someone one my feet the whole way, its so annoying, I wonder am I that annoying when I draft off them??? Finished the swim in 28.12min, happy with that for a lake swim, Liam Collins and Mark Jeffers were just ahead of me. The race with Mark and myself was on. I assumed John was behind me and Jim ahead. I was to realize later that it was Jim doing the breast stroke, he pushed too hard initially and gone anerobic, lost his breath and had to ease off the gas. I had a good T1 and decided to hammer the bike as it was a flat course….. not!! Also I needed to make time on John Mercer and Mark as they could potentially close me down on the run. I found a good cadence and rhythm on the bike and worked hard. I had 2 gels, one at 10km and the other at 30km, I drank 500ml water and 500ml electrolyte. I worked the drags hard to make distance and pushed any decents I came too. The course is not flat by the way, its rolling and the road surface is not fantastic. Oh the weather had cleared and it was turning into a nice day, bonus. I passed plenty of people on the bike and only got passed by about 3-5 people. I came into T2 after 1.12hr, feeling strong, Transition was quick, 45secs, newtons and visor on, 2 x gels in pocket, I was off.


Once you exited transition, the run took you up a lane onto the road, approx 1km, then another 1km on the straight to a turn around. Scotty shout that Jamie was 2 mins ahead so I had my first target, get to Jamie. It took a few mins to spot him but once I did I had focus. After the turn around, you run a few hundred meters and turn into a lane, 2 km out and 2 km back. Just before I turned into the lane I saw Jim….. I was ahead of him….. then as I turned into the lane I spotted John behind Jim, ah feck that boy can run. I dug in the heels and pushed. I passed Jamie 100 meters into the lane and then just stayed focused on my pace, 4.10-4.15min/km. I had a gel at the aid station. I knew I’d get to see the lads again at the turnaround to see if they were closing the gap or not. The turn was just at 5km, glanced at my watch, 20.36min, excellent, good pace. I timed the gap to Jim and John so I knew I had 2mins on Jim and 3 on John. I also saw, Fergus, Moley, Tom, Liam, Paul Mahon, Hugh, Brendan Borland. Adam, Darren and Andy were ahead of me. When I got to the aid station the second time I just grapped water, plan was to take another gel but I was feeling strong so decided not too, would I regret that….. Just after 7km you get back onto the main road for a pretty much straight finish to the end. I clocked my pace, 4.20min/km, slowing, dug deeper. I really wanted to stay ahead of the lads and knew I was on for a run PB. 1km to go, feeling really tired, why didn’t I take the gel, glanced back didn’t see the lads, got to the entrance of the park, slightly uphill, kept my pace and ran in to the finish, second 5km 20.46min, fantastic, run was 41.40min in total, race time 2.24hr. I had never broke 45min for 10km off a bike so was thrilled. John caught Jim and came in just under 4 mins after me, jim, just under 5.5mins after me and Mark, 6.5 min after me. Great, I won my race within a race. Moley finished with a PB in the run with a 50min 10km, 2.37hr in total. All WTC seemed happy, except Cian and Jim who had issues in the swim. Packed up, had some grub and home by 4.30, shattered. Enjoyed a share of a bottle of wine and an Indian, nice….. Next race Sea swim Sunday morning.




Tired today… knew I would be. The swim was around the harbour, roughly 1km. I was eager to get my handicap and check with Denis on his as there was only 3 seconds between us on the previous swim, we should be off together, he’d cream me today as I was feeling wrecked. Well, I was off at 9.10 and Denis, 8.30…… I was lost for words. How can a handicapper get it so wrong and do it so consistently…….


I noticed closer to the time I was off with Pat, who is normally 30 seconds minimum ahead of me, yep, that makes sense. I decided to try and stick with him. When we went, I started quicker so just went with it but by the first buoy Pat was ahead. I tucked into his draft and the aim was to hold on as long as I could. I went alright for the next 400m, until we started to cross the mouth of the harbour. Either Pat accelerated or I slowed but the gap grew and I was alone. I had nothing else to give so I just kept plodding away until the end. I was pretty close to the back but we’ll see how bad it was when I check the times.


WTC Aquathlon III 19/08/09

This was the 6th race in 12 days for me. How would I fare? I had a race within a race here, John and Jim were both out for revenge after the triathlon the previous Saturday when I had a good day and finished ahead of them both. I left work and got to Bray early, got changed, tried to stay hydrated, registered. It wasn’t a great evening, drizzly, heavy in parts. I had an energy bar 45minutes before the race and a gel 20mins before, why? I dunno, but I felt tired and though it would perk me up a bit. An espresso would have probably worked better J, mmmhhhh espresso……….


The swim was going north tonight, same as last month. However the buoy was really close to shore, not sure why they did that tonight. The water wasn’t that choppy. Maybe they wanted us to hammer hell out of each other on the turn?!!!! I lined myself up close to the front, John was behind me, I’m not sure where Jim was. I’m not sure why I was so eager to be at the front. I think I was thinking that if I made a minute on John in the swim and was reasonably close to Jim, I could stay ahead of one and catch the other. Tactics, tactics, tactics.


The race started, mayhem….. I was anaerobic in about 50m. I really wanted to get around the buoy before the bunch. I did, sort off… and settled into the swim. Someone was on my feet, they kept slapping them, I criss-crossed a bit to try and shake them off but no joy. I noticed Tom on my left and he passed me so I jumped onto his feet. Then I realized he was veering to the left so I swam over him to get back on track, sorry Tom, rounded the last buoy and headed for dry land. I kicked like hell to get the blood flowing into my legs and ready for the run cos I knew it was going to be a brisk pace.


Out of the swim, up the beach, wetsuit half way off, then at T1, felt a smack on my ass, John Mercer was right behind me, cheeky fecker, just a slap to let me know he was there…..It was John who was drafting off me in the swim. Right, leg it, I thought. I had used baby oil on the legs of my wetsuit, to help get it off quicker. It has a habit of catching at my ankles, I must have fat ankles!! It flew off, must remember to use that again. Runners on, visor in hand, I was off, and low and behold John transitioned quicker than me, I knew it was now going to be tough to catch and pass him. John had a faster 10km than me in Mullingar. We rounded onto the prom and I could see Jim ahead of John and I’m sure Tom was there aswell. After the first cone it’s a straight run along the prom and up the hill. John and myself caught Jim within the first 500m, I pushed a little harder then, to get closer to John. I stayed on his feet at his pace until my breathing eased, I was panting a lot. At the beginning of the hill I noticed John was slowing so I thought maybe this is my time and passed him. The hill is probably 150m in all, I stayed ahead until the top but he was on my heels, this was going to be a close race. John passed me on the descent and I muttered ‘I’m fu*ked’ as he passed. I worked really hard to stay close to him and managed to just stick on. A minute or two later, I thought I needed to push on again and hold it this time or John would fly past me in a sprint at the end. I made my move and went past. I didn’t go nuts just up’ed the pace and kept it there. He came with me as I knew he would, he wanted this as much as me. I held the pace and got a little gap. At the turn for the second lap I was 15 – 20m ahead. I held the gap down the prom for the second time and headed up the hill. It hurt. At the turn, Mark Jeffers was 5 yards ahead of me and Fergus another 5 ahead of him. John was 20 – 30m behind at the top of the hill, I think, but closing. I didn’t look at him, I pushed on trying to keep pace with the guys in front. I glanced back when I was on the straight, I knew I had him, he wasn’t going to close the gap. However, Darragh ‘happy pear’ Flynn was closing fast. Just as well there was only 50m to go. I didn’t catch Mark (ahead by 1 second) or Fergus (ahead by 16 seconds), but held off John (by 24 seconds) and Darragh (by 11 seconds). A good nights work. I was shattered but relieved. A good chat with the lads after and we discussed what our race tactics were……. Our race within a race was over.


After three WTC Aquathlons the WTC order was:

1.            Fergus McGrath

2.            John Mercer

3.            Dominic O'Hanlon


The results were based on cumulative time. While I finished ahead of John in 2 of the 3 races, he finished ahead of me by a greater margin in the first race. Fergus finished ahead of us both in the 3 races, not by much mind…. Note to self…. Work on your swimming!!!!


I’m delighted at how I fared over the three races. I haven’t done any real speed work this year and the races have helped me enormously. Well done to the Aquathlon committee, especially Darren and Andy and all the marshals on the night shouting encouragement. A great little race series. I’m already looking forward to 2010 and my race within a race.




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Puhajarve 1/2 IM 08/08/09

It was during the Lanzarote IM 2009 that Paul and myself decided to take part in the Puhajarve Triathlon in Estonia. Actually it was before we had completed the IM, we were feeling brave.

The race is organised by triple IM champion Ain-Alar Juhanson, who had a stand at the IM expo. Ain is a really nice guy and we had met him the year previously in Probike and Paul had bought his Scott Plasma from him too. We signed up and well forgot about it until we came home from Lanzarote. 

On returning home we checked out the website to see the profile of the course, ohhhh, looked like a mini Lanzarote, hilly bike and hilly run, nerves were kicking in and it was 8 weeks away and we were feeling very lethargic since the IM. About a week before the race we were informed the long hill was getting a bit longer, lovely.....

We flew over on the 7th, and were collected by Andreas in Riga. Puhajarve is equi-distant from Riga and Tallin, so it worked out better for us to fly to and from Riga. The race started at 11 on the 8th so traveling on the Friday the 7th, we felt we would be rested before the race.

We took the option to stay in the Puhajarve Spa Hotel, right on transition, it was perfect and so cheap. The swim is in the Puhajarve lake (Holy lake), the bike is a 3 lap, 31km loop, and the run beside the lake a mix of path, trail, road and hills. T1 and T2 were set up on the tennis courts and it was all very IM style, warm up, T1 and T2 bags, very well organised. A perfect setting for a race.

Race day:
There was no rush as the race started at 11 and honestly everyone seemed so relaxed, very much a friendly atmosphere. Temperature mid 20's. 

I had a bit of a set back the night before putting my bike together, the ergostem system on the Look 496, crap system by the way, has a grooved washer (shimmy) that holds the handle bars in place, well it was broke in three, probably happened when I crashed a few weeks, yet was not noticed when I sent it in for repair. Anyway enough moaning, I didn't have a spare so had to piece it together and tighten the bolt as hard as I could to keep the shattered pieces in place for the race. What a start.....

Bikes were racked and warm up, T1 and T2 bags deposited. Then it was off to the swim start, 2 loops of 950m, with a 10m in and out after the first loop. Quick warmup complete, Whistle blew and off we went. 
No hassle in the lake which was great, not much bumping or slaps at all. I settled into a nice rhythm and got onto someone's feet and just concentrated on form. 1st lap 16 mins, quick run and into the water again, same again for me, back onto someone's feet and around again, 17 mins this time. Happy with that, didn't feel like I expended too much energy at all.

The race was so well organised, picked up my T1 bag and off to change. Onto the bike and off.

The bike was tough, 1st lap was about getting to know the course to see for laps 2 and 3 where to go hard and where to ease up, well that was the plan.

I eneded up just going as hard as I could for it all. It was a really undulating course with a couple of steep climbs to begin so HR remained high for a while. I didn't think I was riding that well and expected Moley to fly passed me, end of lap 1, no sign of him, lap 2, no sign of him, lap 3, no sign of him. Maybe I was going alright after all. I didn't have my Garmin as it froze just before the race so was using my run monitor. I averaged 32.4km/hr for the bike, 93km, 2.50hr. Into T2, collected my bag on with the runners, visor, gels and off I went. Plan for this was to consume gels and run an even pace. I find it really hard in long distance races to maintain food consumption right to the end. By the time the run comes along I just don't want to eat. I aimed for 4 gels and a pack of power shots.

I started the run well found my pace, 4.50-5.00 min/km, went to the first turn around (2km out) and then expected to meet Moley on the way back. The lead athlete passed me in the first 5 mins, in the opposite direction, 10km ahead of me, lovely!!!, Also saw Stefan (IM Florida 2007 winner), Ain and Moley on the way back, he was going well but cramping a bit. I knew the feeling, pushed the bike a bit too hard I think. The run was a mix of footpath, trail and road and it was very hilly 2 laps. But it was so enjoyable. I kept to the plan and had all my gels and powerbar shots. I really noticed the difference with 5km to go. 
My pace stayed the same yet I was passing some people. This really encouraged me and with 2km to go I push on as hard as I could to the finish. As you came around the last bend, you had a 60m run on the grass between barriers to the finish which was on a stage. All the flags of the nations competing were along the final straight also, which was a nice touch.

After the race there was plenty of food and refreshments. There was even a tub to get into and soak!!!! I couldn't resist. I finished the run in 1.49hr and my total time was 5.20hr. I was thrilled. It was a tough course, one which I wanted to stop on numerous occasions.

Would I recommend this race to others. Most definitely. It was extremely well organised and loads of little nice touches like the national flags, the warm-up, T1 and T2 bags, great race t-shirts, stunning venue, quiet roads, fun atmosphere, great food on and off the course. Also, we were collected from and brought back to the airport all part of the entry fee, which was 95 euro.

Mark it down in your diary 07/08/10, Puhajarve Triathlon. 

Not to be missed. 

Ain wears WTC beenie Ain & Stefan wear WTC gear

Wicklow Open Swim 02/08/09

I did my first open sea swim a few weeks back. A sunday morning, bit of a hangover on me.... and the race was about 2km. This is an open swim for all sea swim clubs. Race started for the men at 11 and 12 for the women. I was given a handicap of 1.30, so there is A first, then B, then go, then 30secs etc. I knew I didn't have a chance as I was behind swimmers from my own club who are faster than me. Anyway as I was in training for the Puhajarve 1/2 IM Triathlon in Estonia, 2 weeks later, I though it would be good preparation.

Went off with Niall in our club and within seconds he was gone..... I was regretting the drinking the previous night now. I settled into a rhythm and after a few mins I noticed another guy from the club, Pat, pass me who is only slightly faster than me so I got onto his feet and stayed there for about 10-15 mins. This worked brilliantly for me. I was going my own speed with less effort. 

Pat eventually pulled away from me and I was on my own again. There was only about 600m to go so it was fine. I rounded the buoy on the left of the pier and made my way out to the end of the pier prior to the final straight. It was feeling a little difficult now, managed to pass a few people and then got to the final straight, I tried to go harder but to be honest not that much there, finished as strong as I could. Great race, loved it. Should have completed these races years ago. My time was: 26.42, up there for Wicklow, got a few club scalps, passed Niall and Pat, and close to a few others. Maybe wine the night before a race is the way to go. Great prep for the 1/2 IM.