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Galway Ironman Challenge

posted 12 Sept 2011, 15:20 by Kevin Monaghan
(By Conor Eighan)  

This was to be the first of two weekends in Galway for me (the latter being the Into the West Cycle Challenge).  A half ironman involves swimming 1.9Km, cycling 90Km and then running 21.1Km, a total overall distance of 70.3 miles. The week leading up to the event had been quite good for me; that is to say, I was not nervous and was actually excited about the prospect of going the 70.3 mile total distance, as this was to be my first attempt at this endurance event. 

However the closer it got to raceday the nerves began to hit, so much so that I ended up packing two of everything.  The sign-on registration process took place on the day before the race which meant that there was a slight window to ensure that all my race equipment was in place and that I had the correct gear for the different disciplines involved.
On the morning of the race, upon  arriving at transition I heard the announcement that the swim had been shortened to 750 metres owing to the sea conditions, (I later discovered that it was actually 1000m), my initial reaction to this was disappointment as I was looking forward to the challenge.  Before starting the swim each wave was herded like cattle into a holding bay, approximately 200 athletes were in each starting wave.  After the wave ahead of us had started we were allowed in to the water, but only to our ankles.  After lingering with our feet in the water for a few minutes, I heard the starting gun and we were off like lambs to the slaughter.  Given the choppy conditions, I found the swim to be very enjoyable, the amount of buoys and support crew on the water meant that you always felt safe.  I caught up on a few people who started in the wave ahead of me doing breast stroke and I wondered how they would have got around had the swim been the intended 1900 metres. 

After I completed my swim I was greeted with the cheers of encouragement from Midlanders and spectators alike.  I headed down to the transition and picked up my swim-bike bag where I changed into my cycling gear and put on my race number.  I decided to wear a Lakeside Wheelers Jersey over my Midland Triathlon top owing to the weather conditions and the number of pockets in my jersey as I wanted to pick up an official bottle at some point on route.

The bike section was tough but enjoyable; the toughest part had to be after the turnabout when you found yourself heading directly into a gale with the rain belting down, the most enjoyable part was passing out guys that were cycling top end Time Trial Bikes with the appropriate gear to match.  In triathlons, a no drafting rule is in place, i.e. you cannot “sit” on a competitor’s wheel while racing and you have a limited time in which to pass out once you come within 10 metres of a competitor.  I came to understand the importance of this rule as I saw the aftermath of a few cycle accidents on route.  There was a great atmosphere on the return leg through Moycullen as there was a huge crowd out on the street and it was a great elating feeling knowing that there was less than 15Km to go till the next transition point.

I arrived at transition, racked my bike and headed for the red tent to change into my run gear. There were loads of helpers on hand to aid with the transition, in the confusion of changing I realised I forgot to remove my cycle jersey as I discovered a bottle in my pocket, at this point I had already returned my run gear bag, fortunately for me a very helpful volunteer offered to take my stuff and find my bag and place it in it back in the bag for me. 
It was great to hear the support calls from the crowd throughout the run from those who knew me and those who didn’t.  The first lap went quite well for me however I started to fade during the second lap after the 10Km point. I got to the stage where a guy started walking in front of me and I was running as fast as he was walking.  Some of the athletes beside me shouted words of encouragement, especially as they knew how many laps I had left owing to the arm bands.  The approach to the finish was quite long but it felt great the closer you got. So much so, that my running rate increased and I was able to pass out a guy who passed me out on route to the finish.  I was so focused on finishing, I never thought of High-5ing the spectators along the chute.  I crossed the line after 5 hours and 35 minutes and 45 seconds of racing.  I could not have gotten through the event with the training offered by both Midland Triathlon Club and Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar throughout the year.  Thanks to all concerned.