Rachel happy at improving year on year at HOTW
Monday, 30 June 2014 | Admin
Hell of the West 2014
Last Saturday, I was one of around 1200 triathletes who competed at Hell of the West, this year’s Olympic Distance National Championships. It was also the 30th edition of the race, with Limerick Triathlon Club certainly pulling out all the stops to make it as memorable, enjoyable and professional as possible. Somehow, the weather even cooperated! Participants and spectators alike were welcomed by pleasant temperatures, cloudless skies and (relatively) calm waters. I, myself, was both nervous and excited about the race. Having competed in Kilkee the previous two years, I knew the course was tough. I was also aware that I would be very lucky to get a top-ten finish, as all of the country’s top triathletes were in attendance. For me, however, my finishing position is sometimes irrelevant. If I cross the line knowing I’ve given everything and been beaten by better athletes, I am perfectly content. The question is… would I be satisfied with my performance on Saturday?
After receiving good luck hugs from my parents, aunt and boyfriend after the race briefing, I headed onto the beach to get ready for my 9:30 start in wave one. Wow, it sure was a rough swim! The water wasn’t as wild as usual but the competitors certainly made up for it. Clean water was nowhere to be seen as arms and legs thrashed about, clocking heads and knocking goggles. I did my best to find a smooth rhythm and sight the buoys… and was relieved to finally hit sand after 24:20. Although my split is quite a bit slower than most of the top females, it was still a significant improvement on last year so I was very pleased with it. After a long run on the sand through a tunnel of cheering spectators, I entered T1 and readied myself for the bike.
Elbow to Elbow
The bike course has some long descents and steep climbs, meaning that your speed soars and plummets regularly. The narrow roads often make it difficult to find your own pace and stick to it, as others are sometimes gathering in bunches. I pushed on from the start, trying to find some space among the masses and focus on my own performance. Thankfully, there were no nasty winds to contend with… although a few cars pulled the brakes at a bridge near Doonbeg, causing me to come to a complete stop. I got back to T2 after 1:15:27 on two wheels, quickly dismounted and set off on the run.
I started the 10km, out-and-back coastal run in 11th place. I focused on my form on the uphills, trying to maintain my posture and cadence. Similarly, I tried to lengthen my stride a bit on the downhills. I felt pretty steady throughout the challenging course and was boosted by encouraging words from both marshals and fellow participants. The finish line was a welcome sight as I rounded the corner back onto the main road and was greeted by raucous cheering. My split of 43:21 gave me a finishing time of 2:24:46.
Overall, I was very happy with my performance. I tried to approach the race as three time-trials, rather than thinking about the next discipline while I still in the middle of the previous one. I also have been racing watch-less this season, opting to go on feel. It’s certainly a work-in-progress learning how to properly push and pace myself… but I am moving in the right direction (with plenty of areas to improve upon, of course).
I would very much like to thank Limerick Triathlon Club and all the volunteers for making Saturday’s race what it was: testing and enjoyable. Race number tattoos, backpacks, teepees, brownies… every little thing contributed to the success of the event as a whole. Bring on 2015!
And yes, for those of you who are curious, I got a top-ten finish. I was 9th. :)
Tired athletes refueling after the race in the teepee
Thanks to Martin Jancek / TI Media for taking photos at the race. The full album can be found here!