Each long journey begins with the first step and so as I entered Ironman Austria in Klagenfurt in August 2011. I did not really believe I would finish. Completing the Dublin City Marathon on four weeks top up running after the Galway 70.3 seemed logical. Then do Christmas fun runs, but most of all keep showing up at 7am in the UL 50 meter pool to work at my “titanic style” swimming.
Things got serious after Christmas when a big white envelope was dropped into the letterbox
“Joan and Simona’s Plan To Klagenfurt” from Eamon Horgan. I soon realised watching the “triathlon twins” that their journey was truly kick started.
My response was to join them for the long cycle where I met the “guru” himself Eamon. He seemed excited at the prospect of getting a “61 yearold granddad” over the line. A week later the dreaded big white envelope arrived. Little did I Know then that it would be referred to daily for the next 24 weeks. 2200 bike miles, 290k swimming and paltry 287 run miles later found me admitting to people at the pool that I was considering Klagenfurt. Michelle O Sullivan became my soul mate as we shared communal shampoo after Chris De Looze’s Ironman sessions. Where Ger Shire, Lenny Pierce and Kieran Curtin heard my confessions, poolside in the “Hommini Di Fiduci Forum”.
When Gerry Mc Entyre called for bike-boxes I felt I needed four more weeks running. A combination of John Stacey (physical therapist) Johnson Mc Evoy (chartered Physio therapist) and Brefeni Freyne (osteopath) had got the well working but “creaking chassis” that I call my body running again. I gambled and went off programme with 80+ miles running in the last few weeks. I did not believe the “Forum Hommini” that I had 30 years of running in my legs.
As we were cruising the motorway from Vienna southwards the words of my father in law rang in my head “ilia iacta est” the die is cast. Block out that the temperatures were hitting the 40 degrees, that everybody seemed able to put their bike together so professionally, that at every turning I seemed to be sweating so profusely. Take in the atmosphere, location, scenery and that you are here actually able to toe the line became my mantra.
Reflecting back now little tips helped a lot to embellish “Eamons Big Plan”. Liam O Gorman’s tip of putting 10 Isogels on a 600ml bottle for the bike.
Johnny Deegans mechanical advice to get extra bottles of water for cooling rear saddle and Ghandi’s / Harrold Fry’s logic of taking one” letterbox” at a time, living the moment.
The first “letter box” of getting to the 1200m mark on the swim was the hardest I felt the whole field move away with apparent ease, as I doubted Chris De Looze’s confidence in my swim, but when I got to the buoy I met many fellow age groupers who were actually moving slower. The rest of the swim was enjoyable if agricultural, the canal was like lilt populated with lots of algae.
What can you say about the cycle beautiful closed roads, two major climbs followed by majestic safe descents and 20 aid-stations vital for survival. 7 litres of Iso drinks, 300grms of Isogel carbohydrates found me back wetter than when I left after a swim. Would my legs be able to run? Those hills with my poor chain ring selection had put me out of “heart rate Zone” on 8 occasions.
Finding €20 in transition lifted my Karma Spirits as I felt my guardian angel was sending me a message. Running (poetic license) past spectators; Chris, Gerry and Ger Fitz at the 3k was inspirational. Each timing mat thereafter stepped upon was sending a message home to family /friends that I was still standing.
Passing through Europa Park on five occasions prompted mixed emotions. I enjoyed the shade and high fives of family and friends but the race raconteur shouting “You are an Ironman” doesn’t know that I still had to complete the Plains of Marathon.
Then it happened… my two guardian angles floated into my world Murna and Laoise running alongside me with positive energy and regard. On the second lap it proved spiritually inspirational as three generations of Griffin/O’Malleys sang “Ireland’s Call”, “The Fields of Athenry” and Laoise “ American Pie”(38-39k). I was floating on a cloud of positivity towards the race raconteur who finally 15Hrs 58min later called out my name.
Ghandi was right, Harrold Fry delivered his letter and “Mickin the Chicken” got home.