Irish Middle Distance Championships 2015 - Shadowman Triathlon
Wednesday, 8 July 2015 | Admin
With the risk of sounding like Sinead O’Connor, it’s been 3 years 9 months since it took my love away. My love of the Half Ironman, that is. And yes nothing compared to it as I didn’t do just one that year – I managed to do 2. Within 2 weeks of one another. Back to back in 2011 (what was I thinking!?!). I competed in The World Series Ironman 70.3 Galway on 4th Sept 2011 where I was 11th female overall, followed by The Lost Sheep Middle Distance Champs on 17th September where I was 5th female over the line. It’s no wonder it took almost 4 years to contemplate doing another again!
I love TriAthlone. I have always enjoyed its course, be it Sprint or Olympic distance. I like the atmosphere, its organised approach and the fact that it’s only a 30 minute drive from my hometown; Mountbellew, Co. Galway. This year it was to be the setting for the National Middle Distance Championship and as I had already entered Dublin 70.3, entering this race was a no brainer in preparation for 70.3.
I was feeling both excited and nervous on the start-line. They say don’t try anything new on race day. I however had done quite the opposite; new wetsuit, new watch, new water bottle, new TT helmet, new (borrowed) wheels, all to compensate perhaps for the fact that I had moved up into a “new” age-group category (let’s just say my birthday isn’t until later on in the year…. when the triathlon season is over!).
The music was pumping at the start-line and we had ample time to acclimatise to the gentle waters of the River Shannon. The swim route took us 150m upstream, around 2 big yellow buoys before turning back on ourselves to swim the rest of the 1.9k downstream towards the slipway onto Burgess Park. All competitors (about 500 of us) were in the one wave. The gun went off. I had a good position near the front with coach (and husband!), Kevin Keane, in front of me. I stayed on his feet for probably all of 3 meters before someone clambered over on top of me while someone else clawed at my ankles to almost undo my timing chip. It was a wild, mayhem start and it didn’t settle until well past the 2nd buoy. But thankfully everything on me remained intact (!) and after about 400m I got into my usual swim rhythm and felt really comfortable in the water. Once I exited the slipway I started to undo the wetsuit and had a little difficulty with this through no fault but my own (*note to self: Zero-D suits unzip upwards not downwards!). I realised when I entered T1 and saw Kevin exiting with his bike that I had a good swim (31.21 minutes and 6th female out of the water). This gave me a great boost.
Each athlete at this stage had to run through a bike bag collection area where we had stored our helmet, sunglasses, etc., and we had to put those items on in a changing tent and place our wetsuits in this bag before running to collect our bike in transition. This whole process went very smoothly and I was out on the bike course in 2.13 minutes.
The 90km bike route took us on an undulating route out from Athlone town centre to Ballymahon, on to Lanesborough and Roscommon before entering Athlone again. There were a few nasty ramps on the way out from Athlone and 3 guys who overtook me lost their water bottles here. I valued my new water bottle too much (thanks SCR!) to lose it on day 1 so took it carefully over the ramps prior to hitting the main road to Ballymahon. It was at this stage that the heavens opened and there came the heavy rain showers that were promised. The first 25km went by fast; I was overtaken by the odd male cyclist and overtook some more myself including a few female cyclists. It felt as if there was no-one on the course at times. Then about 30km into the race I got overtaken with speed by Timmy Barry of Team Aquablue (wow he was fast!) And shortly after that some men and Kitty Perle and Ali Rowatt came upon me and eventually overtook. An incline or two afforded me the opportunity to push on past them but I found it hard to shake off the few that seemed to be doing the same pace. My heart rate was also going into Zone 4 and I knew that if I was to gain time on the run I would need to be conservative on the bike, unlike a sprint race where it’s all out from the word go. I decided to slow to a steadier pace and once they overtook me again I dropped back and with that brought my heart rate back down. I kept checking in on my form, reminding myself to drink and take gels as needed, being mindful not to leave it too late, as was the advice of Coach Kev! I hadn’t seen any more female cyclists out on the bike after that and I was totally unsure where I was position-wise in the gender ranking. Once I got to Ganly’s roundabout, on approach to Athlone town centre, I was really excited to be finally getting off the bike after 2 hours 37.16 and onto the run course. I was also interested in how my legs would be after the long bike. My dismount went well and I racked by bike quickly and ran to the area where our run bags were. I got my helmet off, into the bag, runners and shades on and off I went onto the 21.1km run course.
The run was 3 laps of 7km around Athlone town. I loved it – with the music blasting on street corners, we ran over the Shannon River Bridge, around Athlone Castle, up and across to the Army Barracks before running along a nature reserve, turning around and coming back over the bridge again to athletes village area. It was so varied and the support was unreal. At the beginning of the run and exiting T2 I was 200m from Kitty and quickly caught her and a few more km into the run I caught up with Rachel Glendon to overtake her. At about 6km into the race I could see Ali Rowatt (British athlete) was already starting her 2nd lap and had a great lead and I knew then I was in 2nd place. With each turn into the athlete’s village we got a different colour band to wear around our wrists to track how many laps we have done before hitting the finish line. Back onto the 2nd lap I could see that Maire-Triona Keane, my fellow SCR team mate, was gaining on me and was making her way up through the field, as was Claire Shea-Simmonds (another British athlete) who was just ahead of Maire-Triona. I could feel my pace dwindling somewhat and my legs started to get heavy. The food stations on the run course were great and along with another gel, I took advantage of the coca-cola on offer just as I was entering the last lap. At about 4km to go Claire upped the pace and overtook me. I just didn’t have it in me to chase her so I did all I could to manage to hang on to my 3rd position. Coming into the finish line I soaked up the cheers from family, friends and support of my sponsors SwimCycleRun.
I finished with a run time of 1.37.30 and crossed the line in 4 hours 50.38 coming 3rd female overall and winning the 2015 Irish National Middle Distance Championship title. I was delighted to see Maire-Triona come over the line in 4.52.39 with a great run and taking 2nd female position on the Irish podium. And congrats to Mark Doyle another SwimCycleRun athlete who finished 14th overall in a fantastic time of 4.28.51 and fellow Galweigan Kevin Thornton who was first over the line in 3:58:53 beating off stiff competition. For full results see http://www.myraceresults.co.uk/
Podium from L to R: Derval Devaney, Ali Rowatt, Lochlann Walsh (TI President), Kevin Thornton, Fraser Cartmell (2nd) and Aidan Callaghan (3rd)
So, coming back to Sinead O’Connor… “Nothing compares” to the feeling of crossing the finishing line as a National Champion but I’m “willing to give it another try” … I have Dublin 70.3 in a few weeks’ time and I know Maire-Triona and many others are up for it too, so it will make for an interesting day out! I just need to get intimate with the foam roller in the meantime :)
Image credits to TI Media photographer Ken Murphy/fotod2h. Full album here.