It’s a full year on from when this video was taken, true grit, determination and friendship see the return of the great white African:
The Resurrection, June 25th
‘The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people’ Matthew 27:50-53
Colm…Colm…COLM! A voice permeates through the dense fog that seems to cloud all my senses. I feel weightless and my thoughts are calm, free from the worries of the world. “Colm, for God sake! Will you ever get out of bed? It’s Ailbhe O’Carroll on the phone”. Suddenly the fog clears and blinding light comes pouring through two holes in the sky.
“What time is it?”
“10.30, Tuesday 21st of June, the year 2011”.
“Jaysus, no need for the sarcasm”.
I take the phone and mumble something incoherent down the line. Ailbhe’s voice drifts back to me.
“Hey Colm, gotta proposal for ya. Have a guy who’s looking for a rider for their relay team down in Kilkee this Saturday. What do ya think?”
I take a moment to consider; I’ve been back running 2 weeks now following a 10 week break from all physical exercise, mainly due to a concoction of injury, sickness and general disillusionment.
“Alright sure, count me in; guess there’s no time like the present to salvage a season”.
“Great, I’ll see ya down there then”.
“Yeah, all the best”.
Bloody swimmers, they’re always so chirpy in the morning, rising even before the sun gets a look in. Ailbhe was no exception, up swimming with the Irish developmental squad at 5 in the mornings. Christ.
Kilkee, 25th June
So that was it, 1 day of swimming since the summer of 2010, 4 or 5 cycles, 2 weeks of running and a thoughtful call from a friend had me standing staring out at the choppy waters of Kilkee Bay. I should note that in a moment of inspiration the night before the race I replaced myself on the relay team with another rider and decided to tackle the full beast, availing of a transferred slot.
Would I float or sink, that was my predominant thought. I was standing beside the wrong man – Aaron O’Brien. Waves of nerves were emanating off him or maybe that was just a reflection of my own emotions. We were both racing for the first time in months; a baptism of fire awaited us.
The swim turned out to be an enjoyable heave-ho, albeit a slow one, with leaky goggles my only cause for concern. First transition was the usual disaster but that’s my trademark stunt at this stage; have to make sure the hair is dry. The notorious cycle leg on the other hand was hell. Let’s just say it was the wrong day to test out my new deep rim wheels, they don’t take too kindly to crosswinds! One thing that did cheer me up on the bike was the brevity of a man so comfortable with his own sexuality that he persists with riding a radiantly pink bike. Mr. Collins, you are my rock.
Finally the run. I fancy myself somewhat competent at the final leg of triathlons but not on this day. Dunlickey Hill was a cruel mistress and the wind her ugly sister. I wheezed and trundled along encouraged at the 3km mark by another rock of a man, Stephen T. Lynch (Steve is also fond of the pink hue, revealed by his vast collection of pink cardigans. However unlike Niall Collins he is too shy to admit it. He’ll protest they’re more of a salmon coloured hue but to be fair, I think he suffers from colour blindness. Luckily, Limerick triathletes are a non-prejudiced lot and don’t hold it against him).Steve was there to re-enforce mental fortitude in his athletes and it paid dividends with one of his disciples, David Richardson getting a 4th place finish on the day. Mark Dempsey was on hand too, basking in the formidable lead attained by Mike Yelverton who fulfilled a dream of his on the day to clinch the win.
As for me, I came 26th and was delighted to be finished. ‘Hell of the West’ – an apt name for a serious race. I reckon the majority of competitor’s race for the banter to be had afterwards. Chatting to friends and fellow athletes brought me a sense of joy I had not experienced for a long time. The resurrection was complete and it was now time to tighten the reigns and haul back the season. 6 days until the National Sprint Championship in Athlone. 6 more days of training that would take me to a grand total of 20 days. Bring it on.
TriAthlone, National Sprint Champs, 2nd July
The comeback, part deux. This race was always going to be more agreeable upon the body. At half the distance of Kilkee and devoid of those oceanic winds, fitness tends to become less of an issue. Added into the mix were a sun soaked, wind-free day and a downstream swim. The town was thronged with 2 and a half thousand triathletes and from what I perceived, just as many spectators.
The race went of in a dizzying surge of uncountable waves. I was in wave 4 and thrashed my way downriver to where we clambered out at a pontoon and entered the gargantuan transition area. Its imposing size had pushed some athletes to the edge of madness. They stumbled aimlessly about in a desperate search for what I assume was their bike but could have been a kidnapped child for the sheer look of hysteria in their faces. I was well chuffed with myself, only taking about half a minute to find my own.
The bike leg felt great and I posted a respectable time for the flat 20k route. Back into transition 2 and out for a jaunt around the town, twice. My legs felt zippy relative to the lead laden sensation I had experienced in Kilkee anyway. The crowd were massively supportive and I managed to cross the finish line in 19th place overall, red faced and slathered in a grimy layer of sweat. I had placed less than a minute behind some athletes who had finished over 11 minutes ahead of me in Kilkee so good progress. Gavin Noble won the race while David Richardson of Limerick Tri finished strongly taking 13th overall.
Munster RR Cycling Champs, July 3rd
I got a call the next morning at 10.30am from Darragh ‘Skin’ Dunne, fresh from his usual antics at a wedding party the night before.
“Hey Colm, would you be on for heading down to the Munster cycling champs in Cork?”
“Just a second” I reply.
Legs – Check
Heart beating – Check
“Sure why not? I’ve nothing to lose”
“Right then, I’ll pick you up in 20 minutes”
Flung the gear into a sports-bag and in no time we were hopping out of the car, pushing the shoulders back for a good old stretch, quick shake of the legs, and ambling over to register for the race. Skin had convinced me to race the A3 category race as I reckon he’d had enough of my chattering on the car journey down and wanted to enjoy some silence, away from me, in the A4 race (60k in distance). Races are graded in cycling with A1/A2 consisting of the strongest, most experienced riders, then A3 and finally A4. The A3 race was the same distance as the A1/A2 race at 100k or 9 eleven kilometre laps. There would be a time gap between the start of the A3 race and the A1/A2 race and again the same between the A1/A2 race and A4 race, who went of last.
The first lap was little more than a processional affair and racing only heated up in the 2nd lap. On the hilly section of the lap I got into a 5 man breakaway and we worked well to put some distance on the main bunch (peleton). However, by the middle of lap 3 the A1/A2 group who started a few minutes after our A3 group managed to catch the A3 peleton and dragged them back up to our breakaway group swallowing us whole. As soon as we hit the hilly section there was another break by 5 riders and I succeeded in bridging the gap. We were soon joined by 6 more riders and everybody in the group was willing to work at the front allowing us to form a large gap on the peleton.
By lap 8 I was withering perhaps a result of dehydration, lack of fitness or lactic residue from TriAthlone. Four of us could no longer endure the pace and with 5km remaining until the final lap we dropped off the group. Two of the drop-off riders, one of whom was Mike Storan of West Clare CC, worked together to hang on a little longer than myself and the fourth drop-off rider but cramping calves prevented me from giving chase right away.
An energy gel provided me with the thrust I craved and I dropped the fourth rider. Time trialling the final lap on my own I held of the peleton and almost caught another rider on the finish line but alas, there was not enough road left. Overall I came about 8th and won the A3 category by virtue of the fact that the rest of the riders in the breakaway were all A1/A2 cyclists. Limerick man Stephen Clancy of Limerick CC was 4th overall and won the A2 category. Many would know Steve from winning the Thursday night time trial series. This was another impressive win to add to his tally.
What have I got planned now? The past is history, the future’s a mystery. Carpe Diem.