Lost Sheep 2017 – “Blood, Sweat, & Beers” – Race Report – N- L
Where to start? Now I had read the reports from Liam Dillon & Greg Moloney last year, & had a fair idea of what was involved, & that it was a testing half Ironman/middle distance triathlon. In-between Tuesday & Thursday I bounced the idea of doing it, around in my head, before it came to the crunch on Thursday morning. I bit the bullet, grabbed the bull by the horns, & said I was in. Cue: last minute hotel bookings for Kenmare, last minute baby-sitting booking for the kids & a Thursday night filled with bike & gear checks & packing, as we’d have to hit the road straight after work to make the 9pm cut-off for registration & race briefing, the following evening!
Friday came & normally I dose off in the carpool on the way from work, but no such luck this evening even though I could have done with it, as our dog kept me awake half the previous night! 2 hour cross county (avoided Adare & Killarney) road trip to Kenmare ensued. Passing through Charleville, I spared a thought for all those that would be lining up there the following Sunday morning for the half marathon. I’d originally signed up for that, as training for DCM later in the year, but didn’t put the entry for it up online just yet…..in case I got last minute problems/heebie-jeebies down in Kenmare & decided to do Charleville instead!
My wife said that one of her friend’s used to come down to Kenmare in previous years to do a half Ironman….I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer, so I confessed that Lost Sheep was the same event she was talking about….she thought I was just doing another sprint distance triathlon! She took it well, in fairness (I think it was the bribe of 1 or 2 nights away, kids-free, that swung it in my favour!).
We arrived in Kenmare under the cover of darkness with 30 minutes to spare, on the lookout for a school with a bit of a crowd around. Into race registration I went, & who did I pass on the way in? Bryan McCrystal. I was a bit awe-struck, both because I follow the fella online & watch the odd blog which I find are very interesting insights into the life of an Irish pro triathlete, but more importantly, because his father passed away during the week & here he was only a few days later & a couple of hundred km’s away from home in Dundalk, competing in a race. This race must be special I thought to myself.
Just finished getting all the goodies & turned to be greeted by the smiling Liam Dillon with a welcoming shaking hand; “Well you made it”. Its gas the things you notice….once the briefing started going away from the usual & serious stuff, i.e. mention of mars bars at the last water stop & pints at the end, I saw a few of the top guys turning & leaving the briefing early. 100% focus on the job in-hand, written all over their faces. A late check-in, & I carried my bike up to the room (avoiding eye contact with the receptionists at all times while doing so…based on the solid advice of Ross from Limerick TC who I met in the hotel lobby, doing the exact same thing!). In bed by 11, after going through all the gear & getting everything ready & set the alarm for 6. Now I know what Greg meant in his race report from last year’s race, when he was talking about pre-race nerves. Between music from a wedding reception I didn’t get to sleep until 12, woke at 4 & again at 5.30. Normally I’d sleep right through. Even though I obviously would be well down the field I was still nervous. Understandable I suppose as I hadn’t specifically trained for this distance ever before & this would be the longest race I ever partook in. No going back now so I threw the entry for Charleville up online at 6 in the morning! Somehow managed to swallow down a sugar-loaded, quick bowl of porridge, a banana & a protein bar before heading for transition. Met two wedding guests, still hanging on from the night before in the hotel lobby on the way out…at 06:30: “We know, we know. You’re a much better person than us” they said. “Come on, admit it….you’d much rather be us though”. I had no arguments with them on the latter!
Out into the early morning Kenmare rain, which was a surprise to me as I thought there was no rain forecast until later in the day. Transition was strange….arriving with torches on, in the dark. There was an eerie, but special feel to it. Passed Liam on the way down in the very tight transition. Bike racked, & a quick run before gobbling down an orange & a chocolate rice krispie square (should be at the top of every triathlete’s shopping list!). Took a stroll down the pier while waiting for the swim briefing. Came across Bryan Keane, the Irish Olympic athlete, who’s now working as a professional photographer with Inpho (check his Instagram photos out online….not the norm & some good photos to be found there). Shook hands with him, & he wished me the best of luck with the race – I thought to myself he probably has more preparation done for this race, than I do!
Swim wise I’ve tried to improve a lot this year, be it from swimming before work in the mornings, & taking on longer open water swim-exclusive events this year, e.g. Thomond, Castleconnell, Deel, Bunratty, & Bail n Flail swims, as well as the usual cohort of local triathlons….Joey, North Tipp, Kilrush, Lough Derg, Castleconnell, Glin & even an Aquathlon series down in Mallow. It was & I think always will be my weakest link of the three disciplines, due mainly to not having swum until last year, but I’m getting there. Out of 400 or so people I met Liam by pure chance at the back of the queue for the toilet & we wished each other the best for the race. Me, in some serious need of reassurance that I could actually pull this off.
The swim was at low tide which was a bit unusual. I kept to the back as normal. Off we went thanks to Michael Healy Rae’s starting shotgun (only in Kerry), & I actually felt good the first ~900m out to the first buoy. I think I may have actually passed a few out. After turning the two buoys & heading back I felt I was getting nowhere though, & once again, despite trying to sight regularly I think I may have followed a slightly curved route to the left-hand side back to the slipway, rather than the straightest path. I began to feel cold in the water, which was unusual for me. Talking to Sinead Lynch after the race, she recommended wearing two swim caps & from now on I think I’ll definitely try that (I had always assumed the 2nd cap’s sole purpose was to stop your goggles getting kicked off in the water). Swim was around 50 minutes. I had predicted around less the night before at registration. Not bad I told myself….my aim was to finish the race, not set a pb! I must have cut my feet & hand on some rocks getting out of the water…Hand was pumping….destroying my lovely, bright blue Amphibia mat in T1!
My wife always gives out to me whenever I moan about a pain / cut / bruise from training/events & I suppose she has reason. She always reminds me that its self-inflicted pain & she’s right. What’s worse is that we pay money to partake in this pain! Where the logic in all of that is, I don’t know. The aul endorphins released through all the exercise must counterbalance & outweigh the lack of logic somewhere along the way!
Stuck a gilet on, for the cycle but wish I’d left my lovely, warm long sleeved GoTri jacket in transition instead, as it took me until the top of Healy Pass to fully thaw out & warm up after the swim (no exaggeration here!). As has happened before, I haemorrhaged time while trying to warm up. A fella passed me out near the very start of the cycle & I was actually tempted to ask him for the rain jacket hanging out of his back pocket, things were that bad! Passed the drummers & the devil himself at the top of Healy Pass (I thought my body was going into hypothermic shock, but no, it was just a fella dressed as a devil, complete with pitchfork an’ all!….only in Kerry).
The cycle passed fast enough, took a gel at the start, & fully consumed a water & Lucozade sport mixture & a water &Lucozade mix as well. Past at least 20, maybe 30 on the cycle (the one good thing with having a poor swim, is the psychological advantage passing a load out on the bike gives you!). Going through the tunnels with sunglasses on wouldn’t be recommended, but out & down the far side of the Caha Pass was a great thrill; open roads, no braking, good surface & on the home stretch back to T2, on my blood-soaked tri-bars! Around 10km out from Kenmare I could feel my upper hamstrings starting to twitch every now & again, from all the earlier climbing efforts. It would be a case of not pushing too hard & managing them till the end of the race. I thought of the many meme’s that simply say “Shut-up legs”! & also spared a thought for my niece, who’s a bit ill at the moment. This drove me on a bit, i.e. here’s me giving out about my legs, & some people in the world are far worse off & would love to be able to do what we do, but simply can’t. It also reminded me of a saying that somebody said at one of the Thursday night TT’s earlier in the year that has stuck with me since: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”!
I was in the top 100 times for T2, despite not doing a flying dismount & clip-clopping along for around 400m in my cleats! Right leg seriously cramped up for around 5 seconds in T2, while trying to put my runners on, but freed out & I was on the homeward leg (excuse the pun!). Out of T2, downed another gel & started rewarding myself whenever I’d overcome any big obstacles on the run, with an aul jelly! Passed a fella with the Burren racing colours on who we’d met in registration the night before & saluted him as well as a few of the women from Limerick TC who I’d have met at other races during the year. Downed another gel around the 10km mark. Found out afterwards my first 5km was actually my fastest, despite me thinking otherwise – averaged just over 5min/km. This slowly deteriorated to just over 6min/km for the final 5km, with a 4min 20 thrown in for just good measure at the end! I said to myself I wouldn’t stop anywhere on the run, but Greg was right once again – the hill at 18km was just a killer blow & I had to give in & walk for 30 seconds. Coming into the finish line I high-fived my wife who was patiently waiting there (I had told her be there between 1.30 & 2 – I arrived at 2, so wasn’t that far out from the prediction J). I’d done it. A full & tough half-Ironman. Took on some much needed food & soup in the waiting area & found out we were staying a 2nd night in Kenmare. Great spot for a few nights away.
Headed for the prize giving ceremony that evening. Hadn’t won the spot prize for the slowest swim time anyway….pheww! Got the photo with BMC at the prize giving (he’s a lot taller in real life than he looks online), collected Liam’s very impressive winnings & had a chat with the aforementioned Sinead Lynch, who was slightly disappointed with second woman overall. We congratulated her & said we’d be over the moon with that! McCrystal’s time on the bike was on a par with previous year’s – 2hr 9mins or so….I think I was in Glengariff at 2hr 9mins into my bike leg!!
Overall I was happy & as I corrected STL – I partook in the event, no racing. Some good training for DCM at least! I’ll definitely try & do it again next year. Thanks to my wife for all the support, & allowing me time to do the training & events throughout the year.
STL recently said any of us could get up in the morning & do an Ironman. I think I’ve proved half of his theory right anyway!