Tri-Burren, Sturday 9th July

74th? That’s not bad you say for a world or European event, possibly even a reasonable result for a national event. But no, this is where I finished in the Tri-Burren.

“I knew you were only returning to fitness but 74th? In a local triathlon?” an exasperated friend chastises me on my performance.
“Ah yes, but there is a story behind that wholesome number, let me divulge all” I remark. 

Having completed and won the inaugural running of the event in 2010 starting from the pier in the charming village of Ballyvaughan, I returned this year, drawn by the irresistible allure of the unique setting among the limestone slabs and characteristic stone walls. There is no place quite like it in the world on a sunny day.

Numbers in the race had doubled since the previous year and we started the triangular sea-swim course in two waves. I had bought new goggles alleviating my leaky goggle syndrome which had plagued me in Kilkee. The problem now was that it brought what lurked beneath the surface into HD vision. The bay was literally swamped with small translucent jellyfish but thankfully they were harmless. In fact they added an element of fun to the swim; felt like you were swimming through hair gel at times. My swimming has improved a little and I succeeded in entering T1 before the leaders at exited for the cycle.

Embarking upon the cycle about a minute behind and with a sense of optimism, I chased hard to reel back the leaders. The weather was ‘unreal’ as they say in Limerick and my legs were stroking the pedals nicely. I passed the 4th position rider – Louis Kelleher – on the fabled cork-screw hill and 1st and 2nd where in sight. However, soon after reaching the top of cork-screw hill events took a turn for the worse. At the 10k mark we encountered what must be the worst surface I have ever graced with a bike. It had been ‘resurfaced’ but very much in the Irish sense of the word; the lads from the council had seen fit to turf loose stones onto the road without even bothering to compact it. So we had to contend with 5km of this scree like surface. Honestly I was in disbelief that the organizers allowed the race to be run over the mess. There were actually an unusual number of punctures in the race and I put it down to that road stretch. Passing 2nd place – Martin Grealish – I even crashed into a wall unable to control my bike around a tight bend on the unstable pebbles. Luckily I managed to unclip my shoes and prevent a fall but had to give chase yet again for the two leaders.

Close to the end of the interminable hellish road, the 3 leaders (including your scribe) then had the misfortune to miss a tiny turn-off thanks to a late marshal who turned up just after we’d passed through. God knows how in an age saturated with communication devices that the marshal missed his/her queue. Anyway we pedalled on oblivious to the marshal’s misdemeanour. I had retaken 2nd place and moved into the lead overtaking Oisin McGrath. Soon enough though I knew something was askew.  The power in my legs was petering out and the transition area was nowhere to be seen.

A signpost lured up in front of me around the next bend indicating Ballyvaughan was 16km to the left. Surely not. I took the left turn, not a marshal in sight. I already had a sneaking suspicion that we’d gone wrong somewhere but this confirmed it. I slackened my pace and waited for Martin (2nd at that stage).
“Colm that sign said 16km to Ballyvaughan but my speedometer shows we’ve already done 25km”
I could do nothing but smile.
“Ah well, good training session I guess and at least we know where we’re going now”.
Martin was highly disgruntled and understandably so. He’d also gone wrong in TriAthlone the week before and had hoped for a problem-free event to make up for his disappointment. Talk about bad luck. I on the other hand have been on a training/racing splurge to get race-fit again and the additional 17km (41k in total) suited me just fine. A beautiful day, a spectacular landscape – this was the life.

We worked together on the bike for a while taking turns at the front before I pulled away on a particularly gruelling hill section with tight bends that was better suited to my road bike than Martin’s time trial bike.  I finally reached T2 after a bike leg that had taken exactly the same time to complete as the entire triathlon had taken me the year before! It was a novel experience to witness athletes finishing their run as I was just beginning.

And so it materialised that the 3 leaders of the race finished 74th (me), 87th (Martin Grealish) and 107th (Oisin McGrath). There wasn’t much sympathy for our plight either by the organizers and I believe there should have been some gesture of apology such as a return of entry fee or free entry for next year’s race. So there you have it, an interesting day at the races.
(gotri note: it is the responsibility of all athletes to know the the course as stated in the rules of Tri IRL. comments expressed are those of the athletes and not those of the owner of gotri)

Carrick-on-Suir Tri, Sunday 9th July

Following on from my adventurous exploits in the Burren and feeling a little worse for wear, I partook in the Carrick-on-Suir Triathlon the next day. I splayed myself across the surface of the water and let the rapid flow carry me into T1. The affable Aaron O’Brien from Limerick Tri club was first out of the swim with his usual awesome display of prowess in all things aqueous. However, Trevor Woods (age doesn’t slow this man down) was hot on his heels and overtook him on the bike. It should be noted though that Trevor was riding a spanking new time trial bike with star spangled wheels while Aaron was riding his humble road bike with wheels that wouldn’t draw a second glance. Despite Aaron’s clear disadvantage he must have put up quite the fight as I know I couldn’t catch him on the bike and had to wait until the run to try my luck.

The first kilometre of my run was a lacklustre affair as I fruitlessly tried to shake off a nasty bout of jelly leg syndrome but thankfully by the 2nd kilometre I was in business; catching 3 athletes and moving into second place. In the end I finished 2nd, 42 seconds behind Trevor and just beating Eric Wolfe. Aaron put in a big performance to finish 5th overall and was a class apart in the junior category. Two other exceptional performances from Limerick tri athletes were Johnny Deegan who was first male vet and Miriam McCormack who was a brilliant 3rd overall in the women’s race. A great day out for the club and one that would make any diehard member’s heart swell with pride.

Colm Turner race reports July 11

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