This race was entered as a training session to help me nail transitions for the Irish Middle distance championship which is only three weeks away and to get an hour of top end speed. I believe no matter how much transition practice you do on your own it won’t compare to the real thing when your heart rate is sky high and your competition are surrounding you in a real life situation. The race’s timing was perfect, the last Sunday of my big two week training block. I knew going into this race that it was going to be a suffer fest with having completed two hard weeks consisting of over 22 hours of training each week. I had prepared to suffer and that’s what happened!
The race starting time was 8.15am so it was up at 5am, the porridge ritual done and dusted. Mum, dad and I made the trip to Derry. I love racing in Derry and I’m sure other people agree that they always have a great atmosphere and the best crowds which make it a great racing experience. After registration and chatting to my Omagh club mates it was time to rack the bikes. With the Firmus Energy City of Derry Triathlon being awarded National Series status I knew there would be some big hitters here and I wasn’t wrong. In transition I saw my main competition, Commonwealth games triathlete Harry Speers, last year’s winner Neville O Neill, local favourite Danny Quigley and European Half Ironman Age group medallist Mark Diamond.
It was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the swim start. With my dry land warm up completed we were counted into the water. I was pleasantly surprised that the Foyle wasn’t too chilly but it was certainly murky and salty.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO we were off. I have never been in a swim like it except for the world championships in 2013. A washing machine was the only way I can describe it. Getting dunked a few times definitely gets the heart and respiratory rate up. It makes it more fun!! From the first stroke I felt sluggish and slow but I tried to get into a rhythm with my stroke but by that time we hit the first buoy. I said to myself “This is going to be like a boxing match,” I wasn’t wrong. It was crazy! Finally after 500m I got clear water and began to get my rhythm but by that time there was only 250m to go and I was dropped by the first group. I then just mentally prepared myself for my first transition. Out of the water and on the run to transition mum shouted to me I was 8th out of the water. This meant I was going to have to push the bike.
Wetsuit off, helmet on and away I went, flying mount, feet slipped into my bike shoes. Perfect!!! It was time to push the first lap of the bike. The bike route consisted of a two lap circuit taking us under the Craigavon Bridge then up over the Foyle Bridge and back to the start. Straight away my legs felt sluggish but I had prepared for this and knew it was going to be hard. I kept my cadence around 90 put my head down and tried to push hard. After exiting the Craigavon Bridge I hit the long uphill drag and of course there was a lovely headwind thrown in for good measure! Exactly what I needed, It hurt I assure you. Within 4mile I had passed everyone except Harry who was further up the road setting a blistering pace. After the first lap and enjoying the high speed downhill section I was told by Omagh supporters I was sitting second. Onto the second lap I was concentrating on holding off Neville as I knew he would be pushing hard on the bike. Second lap of the bike was pretty uneventful except for my legs feeling heavy. With one mile to go I was caught by Neville and knew this was going to be a hard run. Feet out and resting on top of my bike shoes dismount done, bike racked, racers on. It was suffer time!
My legs were really feeling the weeks’ training and felt like I was carrying a backpack of lead. At this stage Neville and I were running shoulder to shoulder and he was pushing hard. I thought “Hang in there”. After the first 1k my legs started to feel ok so I decided to push. Nothing, no response! We ran together over the Peace Bridge which was pretty difficult. Before the turn around we met Harry and he was flying. As we reached the turn around point I thought push it and see how the legs like it. Finally my legs responded and I was able to edge a small gap. I know Neville is seriously strong and a great athlete and he wouldn’t give up second place easily. Time to suffer again! Mental strength now came into play. There was an incline leading back up to the peace bridge and I pushed here again and I seemed to open up a gap. It was painful, my quads and lungs screaming!!!! After the peace bridge the crowds were amazing shouts and cheers of encouragement were well appreciated. This is one of the great attractions of this race. Roll on an ITU race. Two hundred metres to the finish I was really hurting but managed kept the pace up. YES the finish line. 2nd place secured with Neville only a few seconds behind in 3rd. I must say “Thanks for the pain Neville”. Harry had taken 1st place and deserved it he was on fire and set a crazy pace up front from the gun.
The best bit was to come; the podium, it was great to be on the podium with two great athletes. champagne provided we cracked it open, completed the traditional triathlon champagne spray. Some may say it’s a waste of champagne but its great fun! It was great to be on the podium and achieve the goal I had set myself before the race, of making the podium.
After the race it was brilliant meeting with all the athletes and swapping stories of how our day’s racing went.
I want to say a huge thanks Northwest Triathlon Club and Firmus Energy for producing one of the best triathlons I have ever taken part in. It has to be one of the best courses in Ireland and I’m sure it won’t be long until the ITU come knocking to bring a race to Derry.
To all my Omagh club mates, well done. It was fantastic racing by all and it was evident of what a great club we have here in Omagh; the support shown for each other was immense.
Finally a huge thanks to Peter Jones and the guys at Lakeland Bikes for the support of the disc wheel and getting my bike race ready. It’s much appreciated guys and thanks again.
For me now it’s a recovery week and then a week and a half of hard half Ironman specific training before the taper starts for the Irish Championships.
Congrats to all who took part in the weekends triathlon. Thanks for reading guys and happy training!