Months of training culminated in my biggest race of the season last weekend – Galway 70.3. My parents and I left Limerick at 10:30 on Saturday morning and arrived at registration at noon, which was an easy process. I watched the race briefing on tv and received my goody bag, which was full of unfamiliar transition bags, tattoos and stickers. Racking my bike was the next step. After meeting Larry Cleary and Joan and Mick Griffin (who provided valuable tips as to how to organize my bike and gear), I set about packing my three official bags (blue for bike, red for run, white for post-race). That took quite a while but it was a relief to finish and have everything in its proper place. I hung each bag on its respective hook in the transition tent, then racked my precious new bike (which I only received on Friday morning). From there, we went into town and took care of my first priority… food! After a delicious lunch, we checked into our B&B. The weather was awful so we stayed inside for the afternoon, reading and watching the Paralympics. Another feed was on the schedule for six so we headed to a nearby Italian restaurant for my last big meal before race day. It was back to the B&B afterwards, where my book was calling before I settled down at 10.
I got up at 6 the next on race morning, which actually wasn’t too early. I had slept pretty well and ate my breakfast bed-side because the B&B wouldn’t open the dining room before 8. I walked to transition along with many other anxious athletes. Thankfully, the weather had completely changed from the blustery, torrential conditions the day before. The water was calm and the sky was almost clear. I returned to my bike and popped my water bottles, sunglasses and bike shoes into place (all helmets were placed in our blue transition bag). The place was buzzing. Participants and supporters were milling around, making last-minute adjustments and plans. We all made our way to the swim start about ten minutes up the road. I watched the pros start at 7, then pulled on my wetsuit. My wave started at 7:35 but we were allowed into the water well before that. It wasn’t cold or rough, which was a welcome change from some other races this season. We all jockeyed for position until the race director blew the horn, then set off on our big journey.
My swim went pretty well. It wasn’t very crowded so I wasn’t bashed around very much. In fact, sometimes I had quite a lot of clear water around me so I tried to find other swimmers to keep close to. The current took us from the first buoy down to the second and then we did a 180-degree turn back to the third buoy. It was great to see the Ironman 70.3 arch on the beach after rounding the last buoy. I swam as hard as I could to shore and was welcomed by massive cheers and a great atmosphere. It was a fair distance to transition so I had plenty of time to lower my wetsuit and pull off my hat and goggles. After a short shop in the tent, I was out on my bike, ready to tackle 90 km. Unfortunately, my glasses fell off my bike just before I mounted so I was without them for the day. (Believe it or not, I retrieved my glasses in “lost and found” after the race finished.) I found the bike tough going so I broke it down into smaller sections… 30 km to the feed station, followed by 15 km to the turnaround, then do the same again. I was very happy to get back to Salthill after almost three hours in the saddle. Another quick stop in transition preceded my half-marathon. I popped on my newly-purchased visor and headed out into the sun. It was a wonderful feeling to receive a coloured armband after completing each lap. I went out hard but tapered off a bit in the middle. When my arm had three colours on it, I gave one final push and headed for the finishers carpet. I was soooooooo happy to cross the line as my parents cheered on. To make the day even more special, the commentator announced that I had won my age-group and was on the way to the 2013 World Championships in Las Vegas. My parents met me just seconds after I received my finishers medal and it was hugs all-around. I couldn’t have imagined a better end to a tough but rewarding race.
After showering, eating, collecting my gear from transition and eating some more, I headed to the awards ceremony at the Galway Bay Hotel. I accepted my slot for Vegas (woohoo!!) and collected my beautiful trophy. It was straight up to Dublin from there because I had a Masters to start in UCD on Monday. I’ll be up here for the next year but I hope to be back in Limerick plenty of times… to get out on the bike and hop into the pool with the wonderful members of Limerick Triathlon Club. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I joined the club in February but I am absolutely delighted that I did. Everybody I have met has been so encouraging and helpful. I want to thank everyone in the club for the tremendous work they have done this season. Best of luck to everyone in their remaining races and then their winter training. Bring on 2013!