Athlone Olympic was billed as my first A race of the season.
It had been 4 weeks since my last race and that was 2 weeks too long as far as I was concerned!
I wanted a quality performance so that was the aim going in.
Met up with a few club mates and Pulse had over 45 racing over both distances throughout the day.
So going into this race I had seen the start list. A who's who of the top triathletes in the country and exactly what you'd expect and want from this race.
I bumped into Stephen Early in transition who unfortunately was only out for a training blast of Swim and Bike - he wasn't doing the run today due to a slight injury picked up so safer than sorry.
Other than that, it was Bryan McCrystal, Mark Nolan, Joe Lynch (defending champion), Bjorn Ludick, Trevor Woods, Paul Carroll to name just 6.
Those 6 have probably knocked up a decent amount of wins/podiums this season and indeed the 2012 Sprint Champion (Nolan), 2011 NS Champion (Ludick), defending Olympic Champion (Lynch), 2012 Duathlon Champion (Carroll), probable 2012 NS champion (McCrystal) and many more...
For me, this is what the big races are all about. The best in the country and a chance to match up against these to see where you rank. I was aiming for a top 10, but knew a top 15 would still be a good result and to break top 10 would mean taking a pretty good scalp or two and need a perfect day.
I was in Wave 3 – so off quite early and meant not much traffic which would be nice.
More importantly though, I had Bryan McCrystal, Mark Nolan and Joe Lynch in my wave. This was perfect as with my swimming having improved lately it meant I hoped to be out and onto bike course close to these guys. I thought the race winner would come from our wave and expected the 3 above to be close up in the battle so I was keen to actually see how the front of a race goes if at all possible!
So the well publicised change to all downstream and 1k instead was happily accepted by me. Whilst it meant not getting as much of a gap over others, it also meant the fish not getting as much of a gap too.
Having Brian Harris in my wave along with the above 3 meant I needed to be ready to go. We arrived to the start point as the previous wave were being released and it was obvious there were current issues and anyone who wanted to ensure no issue needed to get in fast and be ready to go.
We got let in and I did a quick swim warm up to the bridge and back as others were still getting in calmly and slowly chatting!
I saw Brian Harris at the front and figured it was time to line up in case of a quick start. I did just that and sure enough a quick start as well. We angled out to the left to get around the long buoy float thing to keep us out of reeds.
I couldn’t get over the speed of Brian Harris at the start – actually I can... The man’s a fish end of!
I'm fortunate enough to train with Brian and pick his brain and observe his technique whenever I can. Superb swimmer as seen by him leading out of the water at basically every race and barely 80% effort in many cases I'm sure.
Anyway, I angled nicely but wasn’t on any feet at the start, proceeded on line and swam controlled but well. I got on some feet shortly after this and somehow got a right hook to my left upper jaw in the crowd. Carried on wondering if the numbness was possible bleeding or just numb from the pain! Sped up a bit here and got some space, no feet but I could see I was in the front group. Not much more to say as it was over just as I was getting into a rhythm!
Delighted to get out of water and see 8:xx on watch. Holy cow that current was fast! I’ll take that.
Even happier to be told 5th out of water by a clubmate tracking me and on up the carpet I took another 2 slots.
Swim - 8:46, 6th in wave 30-34. - was actually 5th by time I rounded pontoon hence the call of 5th to me!
A slightly slow Transition but I’m leaving with Joe Lynch and Bryan McCrystal beside me. Mark Nolan has gone up ahead.
T1 - 02:33 - 11th in Wave 30-34
So no flying mount, myself and Bryan do a slow feet into shoes but we’re away and he’s going hard from the off. Joe is just ahead and I use him as a pace line for the first 10k or so. I kept a good 15 – 20 bike lengths back as we are passing through earlier waves and always tracking him. I start to gain on him around the 10k mark and slowly reel him in. Around 12k I decide to push and pass him and try keep up the effort to the turnaround.
I pass a few clubmates but to be honest couldn't really even grunt as I was just in the zone. I don't think I even said anything to Joe as I passed him which I apologise for - I'd normally say come on Joe/Pulse to clubmates etc so apologies to all!
I can’t see Mark Nolan or Bryan McCrystal but know they are ahead and I’m likely running 3rd from our wave. Close to turn around I clock Bryan McCrystal and time the gap – he’s 1min ahead to turn around so 2 min’s at half way (time for me to get back to his spot he passed me on).
I’m ahead of Joe by around 20 seconds and he’s shouting encouragement at me. “come on Ian just 1 minute come on”. Fair play Joe, quality guy and club mate.
So the returning 20k, make that 19k was fast. Got up to super speeds over 60kph on some parts, and a decent rhythm with not much wind, certainly compared to the way out! The weather seemed to be giving us all 4 seasons in 1 bike split which was funny to work out. I remember chasing Joe down on the way out and looking at dry road and sunshine thinnking wow what a day.
And on the way back looking at wet roads and thinking I must push more to get off the bike before heavy rain comes down!
I had time, distance and avg pace on the Garmin. I think I was 37.xx kph into the wind on the way out. The whole way back this slowly rose to 38, then 39, then stopped short at 39.8kph as we finished our Bike.
So into T2, 3rd in my wave, and a provisional running of around 8th-9th it seems.
Bike - 57:49 - 3rd in Age Group behind BMC (4.5mins) and Mark Nolan (20secs). clocked at 38km.
Turns out this is joint 6th fastest bike overall I think - and a bunch of us around same time so another 20 secs would be 2nd fastest.
Funny trivia - Neal O'Grady and I have now had the exact same bike splits in Valentia Sprint Champs, and Athlone Olympic Champs! to the second! Gas.
I'm pretty happy considering this was first race on new bike which I only had a week.
It felt comfortable straight away but I'm still confident of getting more out of it as I get used to it over the next week/weeks.
01:36 - 23rd in AG ahem...
I grabbed a gel into the pocket and headed off at 3:35pace for the first km.
So out and I'm 1min down on Mark Nolan, with BMC into the distance at this stage. I'm currently 8th overall and trying to put in a good run. I get going at target pace and hit first km in 3:39.
Bit of messing on roads and slight hills and 2nd km done in 3:56, 3rd in 3:44.
Starting to fade a little now, 4th KM in 3:57 and 5th in 3:54. I'm suffering a bit and Joe Lynch is closing in on me. 6th KM in 3:55 and 7th KM in 3:55. Not fast enough. Joe passes me here on second last lap and tries to encourage me to come with him and pick it up. I try to stay with him but I'm suffering and drained. He must have shouted encouragement at me for half a lap the man is a legend. And all this just 2 weeks after nailing a 9:17 ironman! And he still runs past me god damn it!
I can't keep up the pace and tail off to an 8th km in 4:05, 9th in 4:15 and 10th km in 4:04. 300m to finish then at 3:44 pace for a 40:29 run of 10.3km. Not gonna cut it and I've lost a few places.
Finished in 1:51:13 - 12th Overall and 4th in Age Group behind BMC, Mark Nolan and Joe Lynch.
A good run should have seen me hold a top 10 slot so slightly disappointed with that. Happy overall with progress and enjoyed the race a lot.
I probably need better strength endurance to run faster for longer, but also made a schoolboy error of missing lunch. Had breakfast and a couple gels and thought I'd be fine. Not so, finished the race quite pale looking from observers and starved. I am used to training on little but not at this intensity so may have contributed a bit.
Happy overall though, and only a matter of time before I nail the run off the bike and should be a few slots up the rankings hopefully.
A big shout out to all the Pulser's who raced and supporters alike who kept up the solid photography and support to all! Fantastic support I have to say made it all the better.