I was down in 3.5hrs, found the B2R house Rachel had sorted and drove a lap of the bike course.
Hard, Hilly, technical, rolling, rough, hairpins, fast in parts and a damn worthy bike course.
Fri was a swim in the sea, it was warm, honestly warm water superb conditions. Little bike practice and not a lot else.
Set up in transition, didn't waste any time as there was no time to waste.
Out for warm up run, back for wetsuit on and down to swim start.
It was now starting to drizzle with dark clouds over Healy.
Swim - 28:28 - 25/292 - 1.8km so 100m short
Positioned myself well for start, had Niall Somers for company and Trevor Woods ahead to try get a draft. Well that lasted all of 50 metres before I was losing ground and people passing a bit.
Got some good drafts, took a good line overall, and no complaints about swim other than my technique is lacking which is something I'm working on. My catch is not good shall we say!
Out of the water in 25th, a 28min swim but it was 100m short.
T1 - not the quickest not the slowest. struggled a little with wetsuit around ankles but was on my merry way shortly.
Bike - 2:21:50 - 5/292 - 80.3km or so
Flying mount went well, feet into shoes not so much but I was soon on my way.
Passing a few on the opening 10km or so, nutrition in place and starting the first climb.
Woosh.... woosh.... sh1t... not already?
Yep, it's Mr McCrystal out of the saddle passing me on the climb with ease.
Right, I up the effort and try to stick to him. I'm about 15m back but matching pace.
He takes a slight glance back at one stage, then starts to make more progress.
I look back and see Niall Somers behind as I shake my head. "Beast" was the word that meant Niall but I figure you got the message eh!
Up the first hill and start the descent, BMC is just about in sight and dissappearing rapidly.
I close on 3 others down here and then see someone pulled in at the bottom (Trevor Woods), he was too cold, has no body fat and needed more clothes. I didn't realise who it was at the time though and carried on.
Starting the Healy pass, one of the main 2 climbs on the course and Niall makes a move past me.
I keep him just ahead, we pass a couple and he is out of the saddle a bit. I'm seated and doing ok so carry on.
Niall opens a gap towards the top of Healy as we both pass Mariusz and I get a shout of 6th place at the crest.
Ok, in my head this is Cummins, BMC, Nolan, Somers, Woods and then myself. Turns out Trevor was behind and it was Charles Maltha up ahead at the front. Charlie has made v strong progress this year and was killing it.
So down Caha pass with Niall ahead and a couple in the distance barely visible.
I was a tad slow to descend on the rough roads, and Niall opened a gap at the next aid station and made a move.
He was out of sight for 5k ish then the road opened up to a wide long section on a gentle ascent part and I could see 2 up ahead.
Niall was one and Mark Nolan the other and it took me an age or about 8km to close any ground.
Near the last incline Niall started to pull further ahead and I closed to 5th place.
I passed Mark shortly after and the road was back to country style with not as much visibility up ahead.
Niall was out of sight now as I turned for the next big climb up Caha Pass.
I tried to up the effort here, a long slow climb and I saw someone ahead at one stage but wasn't closing.
Down the descents, down the rough road part and onto the flat last 15km into T2.
Some long straights here and no one up ahead. Then I turn a bend for the last 2km and suddenly someone is in sight. Weird, didn't make sense but seemed they were blowing up/having issues.
I closed to Owen Cummins at T2 but didn't get past before the no pass bridge so stayed behind into t2.
I've analysed this to death with coach, the last 8 week block has been a depth focus I feel and I've lost some power as a result. Depth should pay off at 70.3 you'd think but my body hasn't quite responded in time or as expected but all part of the learning curve.
We did 10 days of tune up to this and I felt a bit better, but not back to where I was yet. You can't improve all the time but important to learn through these things and take corrective steps. I didn't really taper in to this as a result of trying to come out of a power loss. Starting to feel my legs a bit but not totally. Hoping I come out of it soon and start hammering some bike splits again.
My saddle did drop unfortunately angled a bit (see t2 pic) and I was shuffling but didn't make any difference to my race or power.
The only positive was I expected to see the leaders up the road.
When you come into T2, the run course goes back out against and you can track from km1 back to t2.
How surprised was I to see BMC only just on the bridge as I came over it - so circa 4mins ahead.
I didn't know of his 5min stop go penalty at t2 here which clears things up a bit eh! He nailed the bike and whole day to be honest he has so much strength endurance it's unreal.
So Charles is maybe 30secs back, then Niall leaving t2 around 2mins down and that's the top 3.
Owen Cummins and I into T2 then. maybe 1.5mins behind Niall so pretty close at this stage.
T2 - how hard is it to get wet socks on??? Tri an Mhi all over again except I'm already minutes down and in 5th. Eventually manage it and Owen is gone so I'm catching him over the bridge.
Run - 1:25:04 - 7/292 - 21km
I'm running by feel, feeling strong to be honest and concentrating on form.
Mark Nolan enters T2 1min ish behind me and I know he's a fast runner so a lot to fight for.
Over the bridge and I see some more fast runners coming in on bikes - circa 3mins behind at least - Trevor Woods, Owen Martin, Noelie Kavanagh and co so got some fast feet chasing me!
The course goes out to a turnaround at 7km so this is my next chance to clock any progress.
In my head I want to close a bit by this.
So in 4th, 3 ahead and I do a sense check. Ok, I think I can catch Charles and to be honest I also thought BMC would fade a bit so maybe had a shot. Niall had biked well and put time into me so I figured everything was to fight for. A half marathon can do a lot of things so the race was on.
At the 5.5km mark I hear feet behind me. Now I'm running well for me, clocking sub 4min/km's and holding pace well. It's Mark Nolan and he's in good form. I try latch on here and we are running similar pace now clocking 4min/km's and holding strong. Mark pulls a slight gap on inclines and I close on declines.
We get to km6 and see BMC flying along so about 4.5mins ahead. A couple mins back then is Charlie followed by Niall a bit back. Mark and I are holding pace, not gaining just yet but not losing.
Mark moves in front a bit around the 10km mark and pulls a gap but is within sights still.
He closes and passes Charles about 14km and I close around the 16km mark. So still in 4th now and hoping some carnage is up ahead.
At the 17km mark I hear feet behind... I nearly shouted back is that you Noelie!
But then Owen Martin passes me on a climb like I was walking. Man he was shifting.
I try latch on but no chance, see Mark still up ahead and fight on.
I'm not making any progress, they pull a gap and I'm holding pace but not fast enough to increase the effort as much as I try.
Cross the finish line in 5th, a good result and I'm happy to have got the max out of my current fitness.
My best run on a hard course is a strong positive as it's been the bane of my analysis for some time now.
Bryan actually ran a 1:23 on that hard a course off that epic bike split.
Can't argue with that. Epic performance all round and hands down what a win.
In many ways this was like a National Championships with such a competitive field only missing 1 or 2 from Tri an Mhi but with more others. I had a few battles and it was tough conditions and tough racing out there.
Lost Sheep was a great race. A very hard honest course and I highly recommend it to anyone.
The podium at the finish with champagne was a good touch, the big cheque for winners at prize giving also fun.
Surprised not to see any Trophy's for such a prestigious race but I guess you can't have everything.
Without a doubt, the biggest Irish prize money on offer and explains why such a competitive field makes the long journey every year.
Other races should take note, it's not all about profits how about some giving back to the podium winners a bit more with cash prizes. There are some well known races that do this and these are now attracting the most competitive fields year in year out and leading to National Championship status etc and deservedly so. The ones I know about are Lost Sheep, Kilkee and DCT all offering fair prize money. In fact Joey Hannan is another I believe so please other races take note. Race entry fees seem to increase but it doesn't go towards the event costs/awards in many cases.
Having raced this I now know why it has such a great reputation and sells out every year.
Keep up the good work and I will hopefully return next year in better shape to try reach the podium steps.
Very well organised, race went seamlessly, course is fantastic and the competitive field great to race against.