Thursday, August 12, 2010

Black Castle Swim

The black Castle swim has been running now for close to 50 years and without doubt, its my favourite swim on the Wicklow Swimming Club's calendar. Not that it is long or anything like that. Its just the unknown and the scenery, strong currents, seaweed, seals, sea chop etc.

The swim takes place from a small beach, traveller hawk, right beside an old castle ruin, the black castle. There is a steep set of steps down to the beach and when you look up you see the remaining walls of the castle. As normal the swim is handicapped with the slowest going off first.

My handicap was 6mins. I was happy with that. I was heading off with Declan Marnane and Nora Dunne. Declan is a better swimmer than me but I though if I could stick to his feet you never know what might happen.

Luck was on our side, the current was with us and their was no chop on the water. Declan, Nora and myself got in and ready to go. We all left and swam side by side for the first minute, then Declan and myself went slightly ahead of Nora and I slipped in behind Declan. I stuck as close as I could to draft off his feet. In fact I slapped them a few times. I apologised after!!

The swim is not long, approx. 700m but its fast. I stayed with Declan right until the first buoy which was situated on the left hand side of some rocks which were protruding due to the low tide. As we approached the buoy another swimmer came between Declan and myself and so the draft was broken and I was left to fend for myself. I was breathing to the left so could see the pier easily. The sun was low so it was a little bright on the eyes but didn't effect visibility too much.

I headed straight for the pier end, what I thought was the shortest route. A lot of people swam in close to and along the pier as they feel that this is the fastest route. I passed a few people along the way and 1 or 2 passed me. I knew I wasn't going to win but felt I was up there at least. At the pier, you turn left and left again and then its a 150m swim to the finish, although from here it is against the tide as it was flowing out of the river and north. After the initial turn left, it got slightly difficult, I got stuck in and got to the next left, then moved out slightly and tried to up my swim rate to finish strong. I passed a few and got passed. It was tough and hot. Once we turned in the pier the temperature increased within the harbour. It was rank! I pushed and pushed and finished strong, happy with my race.

And would you believe it Declan had won!! I was delighted for him as it has been years since he had a win and the black castle is a prestigious race to win. He was really surprised himself. He said he turned into the final straight and just gave it all, thinking he would be passed at any time. After drying off, we headed for the obligatory pint and waited for the prize giving and results. I came in 17th in a swim time of 13.59mins 35 seconds behind Declan and only 7 seconds ahead of Nora. It was a great result for me as Declan has been swimming a min ahead of me in the other swims of similar length. That was the last swim for me this year with the Sea swim club as I'm off on my holidays Sunday. Wahey.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beast of the East Race Report

A few days has passed since I completed the Beast of the East and now that the pain has subsided I thought I might be able to give a more realistic account of the day. I was lucky enough to win a free entry for the race through the TI awards dinner last winter, well through a bit of jiggery pokery I swapped with someone else. What was I thinking!! I could have completed a sprint but I chose the Beast. There must have been something internal telling me to give it a go. I suppose I didn’t really think it be be that hard considering I train on most of the bike course most weekends and a hilly run is a hilly run isn’t it?

The run up to the race was a bit hectic with helping out the committee with a few bits n bobs. They had a tough job, and put in an enormous amount of work which was clearly evident on the day.

Morning of the race:

I got up earlish, 6.45am, had breakfast and headed up tp Lough Dan. I was a bit nervous, more of the swim than anything else, due to my lack of swimming last winter. Although the last few weeks had seen me pick it up a bit and for the week before the race I swam every day in Wicklow harbour. I changed wetsuits a few days before the race as My brother in laws was a tighter fit and let in less water and I felt more bouyant in the water.

Transition and set up was quick and easy. As I had the Spirit Land Rover Discovery, I was lucky enough to drive right down to T1 as the Discovery was supposed to be on show for the sponser. My set up was straight forward and the only item I changed was the front wheel. Instead of using my Zipp 404 front I opted for a corima 4 spoke as I was getting a bit of a noise from the Zipp and I thought the carbon may be compromised. I was also wearing the new club 2 piece tri suit, other than that all remained the same from previous races. I was riding my Scott Plasma II Ltd.

Time passed quickly and before I knew it we were all listening to Paul give the race briefing and were all in our wetsuits. I was in wave 1 which I was delighted with as there was no more hanging around. In we went to the lough to the sounds of Sean Kelly on the bagpipes.

The swim

And then the hooter blew, we were off. The usual mad dash for 50 m ensued, very little of the washing machine took place, everyone was being very polite! I got into a rythem fairly quickly after the first buoy as there was a long 600m straight. I was between 2 groups and it was erily quiet and a little strange with the dark water and the silence. I managed to get the odd feet for a bit here and there but overall was on my own for most of the swim. I really enjoyed the swim in the lake and sighting was made easy with the new WTC buoys. I exited in 30mins, which O was happy enough with as it was a fresh water swim. There was a few hand at the end of the pontoon to help us out which was a bonus.


T1 was ok, 2.20mins which includes a lon run with the bike to the road.

The bike

Within the first km you hit the first climb at a length of 1.2km. I had been up this a few times in training so I knew what to expect. I tempo’ed up it. My breathing was a little hard but considering I was just out of the swim, it was to be expected. After that it was down into the TT bars and goive it a bit of welly. I planned to go hard on the bike as I knew the course and where you could really push it. There was a headwind on the out section. I passed a lot of people up to the halfway mark, came across Siobhan on the little climb out of Annamoe. Quick hello as I passed and then re-concentrate on the task in hand. I was using Paul’s Corima 4 spoke and something was wrong with it. I was getting a clacking noise all through the cycle. People could hear me coming from 100 m. I was so embarrased by it, I was starting to apologise to people as I passed them!! I knew all of the stewards on the course as they were all from the try club and the cheers were brilliant and really gave me energy to pusg harder. The way back was quiet as I seemed to have found my place, I wasn’t gaining on the guy in front and no-one was gaining on me. I worked hard to Laragh and then turned knowing there was only 6km to go and 3 more climbs. They were tough, not that they were excessively steep, just tired legs after pushing hard on the previous 32km. I struggled a little on the third and then recovered on the descent back into Lough Dan. I was happy with the bike and mega happy with my place, 9th into T2 from Wave 1.


Quick change here, runners, visor and glasses on and I was away. 1.45min, why so long!!! I couldn’t get the heal of my runner on right!! Got to work on that.

The Run

Leaving transition I felt great, full of smiles, Craig Doyle was compare and making a joke at my expense. I headed off on what I knew was going to hurt. Same initial start as the bike, after 1km up that dam hill again, this time a lot more slowly. I knew my stride length was short but I thought that was just due to the tiredness and the hill. At the top my dad was at the first aid station, I ran through, quick hello/ About 0.5km up the road I started to cramp in my hammers, mainly the left, not too bad but I couldn’t make my stride length any longer. I continued to aid station 2 at 3.2km, stopped for a quick stretch, then my quads tightened. The nest 2 km were spent running slowly and stopping to stretch. I got passedhere by about 4 runners. I was fuming with myself for cramping, my own fault, I only had about 300ml of drink on the whole bike, a ridiculously small amount for such a tough course. At about 5km the cramping subsided and I was able to pick up the speed. Mentally it was a tough run and I felt I really had to dig deep to get to the end. 7-8km is slightly uphill and that was hard, saw my dad again but was in no mood for talking, I just wanted to get to the descent. I let rip as I knew there was 2 guys who could catch me. By the time I got to the last junction I was clear of them so knew I wouldn’t have to have a sprint finish against anyone, I was running on empty by now. The final 300m on grass is a nice way to finish. And the view running back down to the lake was stunning. Loads of WTC heads about shouting encouragement for me and Craig calling out my name. I crossed the line in 2.32 overall, run time 46mins. Run could have been better but it’s a tough run and I did stop a wee bit to stretch.

It is a great race, marshaling was excellent, fantastic setting and I would recommend it to all club members to put in for one of the 5 slots in 2011. Will I do it again? maybe, but I’ll train specifically for it. It is as the name suggests a beast.