So last weekend saw me head to Valentia, Co Kerry for my first National Series Triathlon. Valentia is a Sprint Triathlon and highly regarded by many so I figured it was worth the 460 Mile round trip...
I left on Friday around 12:30pm and made good progress, getting down in just over the 4 hours mark. Arrived at the accomodation for the weekend and unloaded the gear. I was sharing a house organised by my Club with other clubmates. Recipe for a good weekend and the weather on the Friday was smashing, but forecast was bad for Saturday... I registered around 7pm and got my free t-shirt, timing chip, race stickers and protein bar/energy drink. The rest of the club-mates arrived throughout the evening and a few of us did a quick recce of the bike course as there were a few hairpins/tight turns to check out from the map. With that done it was pasta time and sticker up the bike and make sure all set for the morning.
I was first up and a quick glance outside saw blustery wind and rain. Forecast delivered then. I set about making a large pot of Porridge for everyone and getting my race gear ready. Transition opened at 10am and closed at 12pm, so we headed down around 11ish to minimise the rain. As it turned out it was lashing now and very windy, there was talk of the swim being cancelled, and we all gathered in the pub beside to keep warm until we needed to get ready. An announcement of Transition closing in 5 mins got us all up and over to put on wetsuits and set up runners/helmet etc. On with wetsuit then and another delay as we had time to spare, back to pub to keep dry and warm then until the race briefing. Race Briefing was around 1pm and we were advised the swim had been changed to a different location due to the winds. This was now a rectangular around 4 bouys course instead of the preferred swim from mainland to island point to point I had hoped. No harm, into water to acclimatise and damn it was cold on the hands and feet and face! Got used to it and we then had to wait what must have been 10-15 mins until all set.
Bang goes race start and I’m somewhere in the middle of the first wave. Start off pretty well and lots of fighting etc and blocking so had a few problems but same for most in there. Got to the first bouy in what felt quite fast and missed my turning point a bit and went off course. Proceeded off course for a bit more as I wasn’t sighting well enough and adjusting my line. Started to drop off a bit here and noticed I was nearer the back of the wave. Tried to up the pace a bit but at this stage I really couldn’t feel my fingers as they entered the water. They felt like they were wide open but there was nothing I could do to fix it! Funny but the same for the others I’m sure!
Continued from there at a similar pace and then back to start, onto land and over transition 1 timing mat. A quick lap button on my Garmin and I see 17 mins! Eek... man that was slower than expected but what can you do. Up the pace and past a few people heading the 150m or so dash to Transition. Off with Wetsuit and notice my Helmet had a nice pool of water inside from being face down on the tarmac beside bike! Empty that with a smile and on it goes and I’m off. Out of transition and a pretty swift running mount and I peddle up the hill. First 5km or so is all up hill and I’m struggling to get my feet into the Cleats. I consider keeping feet on top until the flat but figure it’s too far and the straps are out so I slow to a crawl as I’m strapping feet in. Pass a club mate here who had similar cleat issues and also dropped his water bottle!
So it’s the 5km climb and I’m passing a good few, and being passed by a couple. It’s pretty busy here so I’m thinking somewhere mid pack.. I don’t climb as well as I hoped and it takes me a bit to get going. Garmin beeps for first 5km done and I look down, 14 mins!! Eek... I think damned if I’m staying out here for near an hour and start to up the pace. Onto the flat now and it’s very windy... passing bikes is dangerous as we’re on country roads and the wind is blowing us from side to side... I make up a number of places here and also a couple of near falls! On the flat part on way back to Transition I pass a guy walking with his bike, seemed fine but obv had a fall, then pass an ambulance. Turns out there was a crash between 2 guys battling for 2nd place and one guy came out worse with a possible broken collar bone/shoulder injury. That was Kevin Keane, one of the top Triathletes in the country and hopefully he’s ok. I did hear later that he was in a sling but that collarbone not supposed to be broken so fingers crossed that’s the case. The winds were clearly the cause, along with the Hailstones! I remember thinking at one stage on the bike it sounded like stones hitting my helmet! Very tough conditions but pretty enjoyable all the same !
So I picked up a fair bit of speed and managed to clock 9minute and 7 minutes for the next 2 x 5km’s and top out at 57kph. Unfortunately the Bike course then finished at 17.5km’s so I arrived in 35 odd mins to transition 2. Flew off the bike and the back wheel bounced up but cleats stayed on so I continued in and racked the bike...
Now this is where I lost another minute or so with a very slow 1:30 transition 2. Main reason being it was raining and I wanted to put on socks, I hadn’t trained in anything but socks so didn’t want to risk a blister for the sake of a minute or so.. As I was putting on first sock my quad started to cramp slightly so no choice but to park my butt on the ground and get the socks and trainers on... up and off then back up the hill for 2.5km before turning and coming back down.
Now I didn’t see any of my club mates on the bike after the one just out of T1, and at this stage I’m thinking there’s quite a few ahead of me I need to try chase down. As I was leaving T2 I spot one and start reeling him in. Pass him and then the leaders are coming against me on their descent! Damn they’re fast, and about 14 mins ahead of me. One of Club Mates is running in 4th and flying – one of top guys in the Club and chasing for 3rd. I continue on my way and get passed by a club mate on the way up the hill. This is one of the guys I thought I’d be behind earlier so I’m relieved to be so close, and also struggling to keep up. Get to the top at 2.5km and he’s only 20 yards or so ahead... on way back down the guy I passed at start of run says you can catch him so I try but am struggling and strangely have slight stomach pains. This worsens as I continue down the hill just when I want to up the pace I am finding it hard... I don’t really make up anymore places or lose any and finish 1minute behind my club mate who passed me earlier on the run. Probably a combination of hunger pains due to not having enough gels before race, and the downhill running.
So that’s a 17 min Swim, 35 Min Bike and a slow 21:50 run. Ended in 1:18 odd including transitions and some 14 minutes behind the Winner. Not where I want to be although I am an even 4 minutes behind in each discipline, so at least consistent. I made up a lot of places on the Bike which is obviously my strongest area. I could defo have ran faster and the swim needs more work on sighting as well as technique in open water.
So 4th Club Mate home and further from leaders, but closer to couple other club mates than I expected. Lessons learned and harder training more focussed now. Right in Race Season though so I know it will be hard to improve pace much but I’m going to do all I can...
Overall, a tough but great race. Can see why it’s so popular on nice days so hopefully next year will bring better weather back!
Next race is Tri Athy in 2 weeks. My first Olympic distance race and again National Series. This is supposed to be a pretty flat course which I think will suit me. I’ll be hoping to do well on the Bike and Run especially, and try finish closer to my Club Mate’s who beat me in Valentia.
I am considering entering the Sprint Race here too on the following day. It would mean no rest, but it is only a Sprint so I am tempted. Reasons being it is also a National Series, it sounds like I’ll like the course and also there’s a Club Mate entered in it that I’d like to pace myself against. This guy was 3rd in my very first triathlon and part of the reason I joined the Club so it would be good to see how much closer to him I am...
I’ll decide this week and enter it if I think there’s no issue of injuries or not performing as well due to Olympic the day before... It’s a risk but as it sounds like a nice flat course it’s one I’m thinking of going for. It’s only a sprint after all. It’s also a bank holiday weekend, I’ve no other plans and wifey will be at Yoga both days.
Keep up the Training!