Race Your Shadow – Report from Longford TC’s Seamus Murtagh, who has been training with us since moving to Limerick.
Shadow Man Long Distance Triathlon, Athlone, Sunday 3rd August 2014
Shadow Man starts the day before . Spent most of Saturday packing and getting ready. Actually, it really started the day previously, for me. My Garmin Forerunner 210 packed up for good on Friday morning. (It is the second replacement from Amphibian King, Galway. So finishing work early (in Limerick) it was off to Tribikes in Raheen for a battery. Were life so simple. They don’t take a battery, the man on the counter told me. Best to bring it back to Amphibian King. Threw Galway into the Samsung Galaxy. One hour and two minutes. Away to Galway. The girl in Amphibian King took back the watch, but as the owner of the business was not there, she could not give a replacement. So, no watch for Sunday. I rang Trizone in Athlone, and luckily they had the basic Garmin 110, for €169. Did not feel like spending €310 on the Garmin 220. Dashed to Athlone to collect the watch before closing time. Picked up a few other bits and pieces as well as a few good tips on nutrition for Iron Distance.
As the weather worsened over the start of the weekend I listened to every forecast and bulletin but they all were the same. Heavy rain for all of Saturday evening, clearing later on Sunday. High winds. The last thing you need for a triathlon. By late afternoon, we were ready for Athlone. Earlier picked up a tyre changing kit and spare tubes from Kevin Martin. I have never punctured in a race, or a training spin, so hopefully they will be for worst case scenario only.
Anne and I stayed in a fine B&B on the road past the Dog &Duck, Ballykeeran. We got there to be greeted by 3 bounding dogs who all had great welcome for us, and for themselves. Miss Ellie the Spaniel, Roxy the Lab and the Sheepdog. I left the bike in the garage with a key for entry from outside as the dogs stay in the house and the Sheepdog was occupying the route to the back door. Did not want to have to negotiate this in the morning.
Registration for Shadow Man Middle and Long, and Marathons was at Buccaneers Rugby Club.
Well organized. No queues and all very well done. Fine bags with everything and a lovely red cycling gilet. I will have to beef up a bit to do it justice next year.
Race briefing was brought forward to 8.30 PM for Long Distance Athletes. So just enough time to spin down to Coosan Point to see the set up for the morning. The lake looked rough.
Back for the Race Briefing. 30 athletes. Impressive t-shirts and jackets. I wore my Groomsport Gilet which gave me some much needed confidence (proof that I had done at least 1 Iron Distance race). Round this time it starts to feel really tense. Everything counts. Reminded me of meetings on the eve of big games with Killashee years ago, when we would come together to focus on an important match the next day. The sheer scale of tomorrows undertaking is on everyone’s mind. Things like the protocol on assistance from the canoe support was discussed in detail. One person asked if you had assistance could you still continue. The answer was yes.
But what did not come out was that if you do avail of any assistance, you will not get a time for the event. You can continue in the race but will not get a time. Back to the B&B. Early night but I am a very light sleeper at the best of times and a hall light kept me awake. Eventually both Anne’s and my phone went at 5.00 and 5.05 AM respectively. Up. Felt good. You know that feeling, very first thing in the morning, you know if you are right.
I might have been but the day certainly was not. I could hear the wind coming off the lake and belting the window. I had three bags of stuff, for the three events. One of the challenges of the Shadow Man is the two areas for transition, first at T1, Coosan Point and T2 at Buccaneers for the transition from bike to run. So you must visualize what you will need later. Surprisingly difficult. They supply boxes that are taken to the T2. As they told us, the worst nightmare is a single runner. Anne helped me load up the car and I braved the dogs for the bike. The wind howled and swirled round as she wished me luck and saw me off into the dark. By the time I got to Coosan Point T1 was open and a few people were already there. Anne had made up tuna in Sunflower Oil sandwiches and Guda cheese sandwiches on Kingsmill Rolls yesterday afternoon. I had some caffine tablets which I had never used before and they were cola flavoured. Some bananas. And gels, which I had over from Brendan Doyle at the Ultra Marathon (where I used less than intended). It was so cold and blustery that I had to put on a jacket and woolly hat. Went down to the lakeside and chatted with one of the other Long Distance Athletes. Being positive I said it is great to see the large yellow markers, and there were 4, in a square. Looking out at the further two, I said it does not look to bad. Then the guy said to me they are only the half way markers, it is the orange ones further out. Where? Oh my God. I could just make them out in the semi dark, the grey lake and cloudy skyline. The wind battered round us. Only those of us who have faced an open water swim knows this feeling. What the hell am I doing here? But of course this is no problem for me. I have really focussed on my swimming this year. Swim analysis from Anthony Christie, former British Olympic Swim Coach, Open water Swim Training, 2km distance Monday evenings in Castleconnell with Limerick Tri Club, under the guidance of Sinead Walsh, Thursday evening aqua thons, and back to Tarmonbarry with Longford Tri Club for 1km swim on Saturday evenings. Also, some sessions in the UL 50m pool. What have I to worry about! No place for arrogance in taking on 3.8 km of Lough Ree, though.
Time fled by and I racked the bike, handed over my food aid bag, and T2 bag. Just time to set the watch and at exactly 6.30 AM we were off. Immediately I knew this was serious. I have improved significantly as a swimmer, but it is my weakest of the 3 events. The water was horrifically choppy. As bad as Portrunny in June. I battled out to the midway marker, swimming clockwise with 4 yellow markers, two at the start, and two in the middle with the orange ones way out. When I rounded the first of the orange markers I had to breast stroke over to the next one, as the flow out from the shore was so strong. At this stage I really doubted if I could do this swim at all. It was far more difficult that last year’s Iron Distance (Ireman) in Groomsport Co. Down. And that swim was in the North Sea. Coming back in to complete the first lap, of the two, I checked my watch. 50 minutes. So that looks good. I still have 1 hour 30 to do the second. Happy days. Faced out again. It seemed to have calmed. I felt calm and strong in the water at all times. Breathing good. Vision clear. But as I headed out a storm whipped up all of a sudden. I was getting chucked around. It was Biblical. Wall of water to the right of me, walls of water to the left of me. But more worryingly, I was not getting any nearer the second yellow marker. By the time I did, and battled on to the orange one, I was not only concerned as to whether I could complete it at all, but also, making the 2.20 cut off. I knew when I would get back nearer the shore it would get easier. I also knew there were others finding it difficult. Eventually I could see the finish area. Made it back in 1.53, Got my balance on the blue mat and jogged up to T1. Unrecognisable from 2 hours ago. Got great encouragement from the Longford Tri Club members who were there for the Middle Distance. Quick transition, by my standards, up on the bike and away for 180km. First problem, no satellite for the Garmin 500 Edge. After about 3k I got it working and struggled a little with it as I have it only a short time. Conditions did not seem bad at first. Quickly to Ballymahon. But then as I headed to Lanesboro, I became more aware of the severe wind. Stopped for drinks aid station in Lanesboro, great selection of gels, but the drinks were terrible stuff. On to Roscommon. But the battle on the straight stretch of 14km on the way to Roscommon was horrendous. Slowed me right down to 20km per hour. Was concerned about loosing time. Once on the way out of Roscommon to Athlone, I really picked up pace, I done the route with Oliver Corkery a few weeks ago and this was a great help. Really pushed it on and swung through Coosan at 12.00 Noon, 3.30 minutes, to be encouraged on by Sinead Phelan, there for the Relay. Well on target then, just need to do the same again. Target being around 14 hours, or all going well a bit under. However, the demands of the swim and the savage wind on both laps, but especially on the second lap where it nearly killed me, and changed on the way from Roscommon to Athlone, to be in my face most of the way, meant it was just before 4 when I got back to T2. Encouraged on by Longford Tri Club members, Ollie Kelly and Niall Nolan. Headed off on the run. But my right leg, lower Achilles/calf area very sore on the bike was now acting up. The run had changed from last year, really nice run but with additional hills. Still enjoyed it, though. Out the Ballymahon road, down behind the BMW garage and out the country. All country roads and back in through the rural houses behind Coosan. Kind of run that really suits me but the day was taking its toll on my lower right leg. By lap 3 I had to walk the hills. This annoyed me greatly. But and on the last lap passed a few people. Whoo! Anne was there to cheer me on in Coosan and I powered into the finishing chute. Pointed to the sky and did a David Luis World Cup celebration. 14.04. Seven minutes better than last year. Was presented with the beautiful Shadow Man Finishers Medal. Photo with Anne. My second Iron Distance Race, every 3.8k stroke, 180k pedal and 42k step. Happy out.
So how does it compare to last year? What have I learned. It is a significant improvement as the course, while better, turned out to be exceptionally tough due to the conditions. Without the headwind I could feasibly bring the cycle down by 30 minutes. Could any swim be any more difficult, I doubt it. Being injured on the run slowed me as I had a lot of strength left even when crossing the line. This year I did a lot of cycling in the Winter and Spring every Saturday and Sunday with Longford Tri Club and Longford Cycling and Racing Club. These helped in different ways. It did supply a base and I did well in the Duathlon Series, doing all 5, and coming 4th in one of them. Did good running with Longford AC, Intervals and hard 20k runs on Thursday nights with Sean and Michael.
Intervals on Fridays with Lorcan for a while. All helped. Did 4 100k cycles over the Summer. Much improved swimming. However, since end of April I have been working in Limerick and sadly, do not get to train with Longford AC. I really miss this. Also, I have had a lot of work stuff to do which meant I had to curtail my cycling over the Summer. Business travel and projects. The stuff of life which we all have to manage to a greater or lesser extent. Did some good running early Summer, 3.42 for Limerick Marathon, 4.36 for the Portumna 50k. But since then very little running.
But one cannot control the conditions. One can only control one’s preparations and how one responds to the conditions on the day and I am pleased that I did that to the best of my ability.
Many thanks to all at Longford Tri Club for helping me get this far, my friends in running and cycling, my swim coach, Anthony Christie and Limerick Tri Club Swim Coaches.
Going to take it easy for a while. Will add more science. Turbo. Back to Saturday and Sunday Cycle Training. Swimming, more swimming, Track intervals, 20k runs. Can’t wait.
Look forward to seeing ye all out there!