I had heard and read nothing but good reviews of this race previously. The organisers drummed up a buzz the previous year with a race preview and talk of challenging the bike course record etc and this somewhat drummed up my interest further. We all know I’m a sucker for a bike split...
Headed down with fellow Big Red Cloud Base 2 Race athlete Liamo the Legend and we met Tamara down there who was out to defend her title from the previous year’s win.
After relaxing a little we drove the bike course to familiarise with the hills and any turns. The hill reminded me of Sally Gap and at one part got very steep, thankfully near the top. It seemed to be a steady 4-5km climb that sharpened so I was looking forward to this. There were a few turns to note, but overall the remainder was rolling with flat sections on 95% good roads so no complaints here.
Didn’t get a chance to check out the run course but did see the swim which looked superb and a little long. Basically it’s a rectangular swim up across and down a lake which includes swimming around a little island at the turn which is a nice touch.
Dinner that evening was a slight stray from my norm, a chicken and pasta sauce dish which tasted fine but wasn’t as smooth on my stomach as my usual chicken/fish and basmati rice or pizza.
Anyway, up and to transition slightly later than planned and meant a missed warm up. I didn’t panic it was a long day ahead and got a few mins in the swim at least. Speaking of which the lake was the nicest swim in Ireland I’ve done yet. The water was warm! I kid you not, yes it had been a smashing couple of sunny weeks but this lake was warm! Quite clear and the buoys were easily sighted so I hoped to swim better than recently and dip below 30min for the 1.9km.
Swim – 30:16, 2.15km, 5/150 finishers
Fast enough t1 and drop a gel leaving with my bike. Back for it and away we go for start no.2. That’s really gonna blow my chances of beating Lightning Liamo’s T1 now isn’t it...
T1 – 1:10, around 8th or 5th exc relays... and 8secs behind Liamo!
I start easy on the bike, the course has flat sections to begin so I get my main bar in for nutrition once I feel settled. My watts are down a bit lower than planned but I push on and move past a couple of others. Start the climb around 15km and I move into 1st place and feel a bit better. In fact legs feeling too good and I make the mistake of pushing on. I didn’t have a number to go for this climb, it was steep though and I was just happy to be getting up and over it in 1st place.
On over the top and the road is brand new and nicely rolling and fast. I enjoy this section and build up some speed. A few rolling parts and flat parts and I’m tracking my watts which are about 10 lower than planned. I’m starting to feel like legs have 90/95% in them today but keep it consistent and keep my nutrition and cadence in line. I never quite recover from pushing too much for too long on the climb, and this costs me for the remainder of the bike leg and onto the run.
Nonetheless, into T2 with a healthy 10-12min lead and a new fastest bike split. Unfortunately I didn’t dip below the 2:20 mark but still took a few minutes off it.
Bike – 2:20:33 – 87.6km (but the climb makes up for it!) 1/150, Elevation 865m gain – new course record
T2 – 1:03 – Joint fastest with who? Liamo of course! (excluding relays).
Legs feel good and without even trying I’m running 3:35/km pace. Woah there easy tiger there’s a climb coming up so back it off... Down to 4min/km as I start the climb and I’m getting stomach cramps now. I slow then speed up, try jab my hand into my side but nothing works. Ok, just keep it steady without pushing too much and see if some fluids help from the next aid station. Aid station 1 is around the 4km mark and I take a swig of isotonic orange and some water. A few minutes later and the stomach cramps have gone and I’m feeling a little better, but not 100% in terms of pace.
After the stomach cramps issue I’m reluctant to push on the pace too much as I really don’t want to blow a big lead. I’m fluctuating between 4:10/km and 4:15/km pace and know this is 1:28/1:30 HM territory. On this course in prior years it was a fast man that dipped below 1:25 and most were just over so I know I can hold pace and should be alright. I pass a field to my right and hear a heard of cows running, I glance over my shoulder and notice they are all charging at me!! What the hell I splurt out loud, as I eye up the fence and bush between us thinking no chance lads... They recognised my “strong look” and back right off fairly lively...
Each aid station comes along every 4km, well stocked, great support with sponges to help cool down and I’m enjoying the baking heat. I’m thinking to myself ok, I’d like to pick up the pace slowly and see what happens, but also thinking this course just feels like every km is an incline. Where’s the respite... it must be around that corner or over that crest... Anyway, I want to keep pace to 7km, then try pick it up a little. Past 7km and I’m still on pace, but not feeling a whole lot better so on we plod. Aid stations are a thankful sight, I’m keeping my nutrition and hydration in check and not slowing the pace at least so know as long as I don’t blow up I should take the win. Around the 15km mark I try to pick up the pace, it’s a long straight section and I’d like to be out of sight in case any road runners are looking for a target. I do manage to dip down to a couple 3:59/km’s on these parts which was encouraging but then the inclines return and it’s about ensuring I don’t blow.
I get some Marshal for company now on his motorcycle and all appears safe as I glance back a couple times on long sections to see nobody. A turn off the main road to another lovely incline and aid station and I’m nearing the finish. 21km signpost comes and goes and I had read about this being the case... on up to 21.5km and I cross the line to take my first win thankfully!
Run – 1:31:30, 21.5km – 8/150 – elevation gain around 275m, overall gain 33m
Overall – 4:24:31 – 1st/150 finishers
Being told I look fresh at the finish line was nice but compounded my feelings of the day at 90/95% effort compared to where I like to race at. Some days your legs are just like that though for any number of reasons so I was still very happy to perform as I did and in what was a hot day on a challenging honest course.
Looking over my race files, it’s entirely likely and probable that I had a good day but blew a bit after pushing too much on the first climb and not recovering fully from that. I think I’ve learnt something very valuable and thankfully didn’t push on too hard from there or I probably would have blown up and died a death.
The bike course had 870m of elevation according to Garmin. My next race has around 30% more than that so I now know to dial my power right back for the climbs if I want to be able to run off the bike. I had hoped to learn something from this race and without even knowing it I probably learnt my most valuable lesson as pushing the climbs on the bike would be my most common and likely pacing error.
Course – you won’t find a nicer swim, an honest but 95% good surface bike, quite safe and has fast sections as well as that hard climb, run is on quiet roads, has some climbing again to keep you going right to the end.
Organisation/Support – aid stations every 4km on run, well stocked and supported, event went off without a hitch (I’m aware a marshal was missing for a very short period and some athletes missed turn signals on road on bike course. This is a shame no doubt but should not be taken out of context to a superbly ran event). I’m sure Swinford will not let this happen again as they appear to pride themselves on the event and deservedly so.
Value for money – standard half ironman entry fee of €70, well organised, well stocked and supported aid stations at very regular intervals, great feed afterwards (chicken curry, rice, lasagne, pasta, salad), cash prizes & free return entries for podium athletes, trophy’s etc
The weather certainly made for a very enjoyable day as did my result, but I can honestly say this is a great race and one I highly recommend. The course is excellent, the date and location very worthy of National Series status if not National Championships status in my opinion.
I will have no hesitation passing this feedback onto TI for their consideration in 2014’s race calendar.
I sincerely hope to use my free return entry in 2014 and come back to lower the course record further and try nail that run next time by not blowing my lights on the climb J
Well done to Swinford Triathlon club and community.
A big well done to Tamara on smashing her time last year and retaining her title, and to Liamo who continued his winning streak of winning his Age Group in every half ironman he's done!! Vegas next Liamo, you can do it!!
Thanks to the Big Red Cloud Base 2 Race Academy for a fantastic training academy, coaching and atmosphere. A good day out for the Team!