The clue is in the name – it is a hard race. Unlike its branded counterparts, it’s quite basic – you are almost on your own out there, without the luxury of closed roads and aid stations every 20km, but you are also in Kerry,so there’s no plane, bike transport or language issues. No drafting, no pacelines or bunches here, just the beauty of the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way.
Like everyone else’s, my 2020 plans got rolled into 2021. My rollover entry to IM Vichy looked uncertain, as was my ability to get to it with work & home commitments, and although swimming, biking and running are part of my lifestyle, I do love an event, and I missed them. So in January I took a punt and entered HARDMAN as it was one of only a handful of events that happened in 2020, I figured if anything would go ahead this would, plus Alan had a very fair refund or deferral policy.
This would be my 3rd long distance, and I knew for me there were gains to be made on the bike, so I enlisted help for the first time. I love a number and with targeted power training, I quickly could see and feel my strength improving. Over Christmas I picked up COVID and although asymptomatic, the 10 days isolation, together with the viral infection, I lost a good 4 weeks.
Once back at training, swimming was out with the pools closed, I focused on cycling, running and strength work & pilates via Zoom sessions. Finally restrictions eased and we had a summer that made training easier and more enjoyable than before.
The lake in Killarney was fabulous, once the sun was up we had a rolling start into some shallow water, and then it was a 2 loop course. It was easy to navigate, and though it was to have been seeded by start number, at 44 I had swam past most in front of me by halfway round the first loop. Sighting has been a weakness, so I made sure to check this time. Heading back to shore ahead, and my ‘gammy’ arm was spotted and I was roared onto shore by all the LTC support (and everyone else) as first lady in 1:05
I had hoped to get to Kerry and do the route, but it never happened, and it had been a long time since I had been there. With it being open roads and hilly I opted for my road bike – a TT is only good if you stay in position, and I just knew I would be too nervous.
Off up Moll’s Gap at 0745 on an August morning, the scenery was just stunning. My power meter didnt kick in, and maybe I should have fixed that as I had trained to power, but I didn’t want to mess up. Kenmare to Sneem the Kms rolled by. It felt like I was being overtaken all the time, but I am used to that. Another climb at Coomakista, and a fast descent into Waterville, where there was a water station to fill your bottles and pick up anything you had sent out. Here I discovered I was still the leading lady, but I assured the Marshall it wouldn’t be for long.
It had been overcast for most of the morning, and thankfully the sun didn’t appear until the second half of the cycle. Into Kilorglan I almost missed the unattended water tanks and there was a homecoming for the Olympic Rowers, so cycling through there was a nightmare!
The final leg from Kilorglan to Killarney was tortuous with the wind and the heat.
I arrived back at T2 to hear my name on the Tannoy and a rapturous reception as leading lady – I was so embarrassed how do people cope! – 6:33. This was about 20min behind my target, but still the 2nd fastest Female of the day.
The moment I got off the bike I knew I had blown it, and was not going to do the run I wanted or had trained for. I was absolutely starving – although I had brought plenty of nutrition on the bike, I just hadn’t eaten it. I was uncharacteristically complacent. Added to that I was thirsty – a sure sign it’s too late to come back from dehydration on a hot day.
HARDMAN is self supported, so everyone has their own personal bag of goodies to put at the aid station. I grabbed a pack of wine gums, 2 gels and some salt tablets and set off on the first of 10 x 4km loops. My hamstrings cramped and I had to walk half a lap before they eased. The course was partly in the shade, with 3km in the sun, and an energy sapping hill out the back away from the crowds. I managed to run a few laps – the support was unreal and I felt like a celebrity as everyone seemed to call my name and offer encouragement. I randomly met someone I haven’t seen for at least 2 years and she ran alongside me to find out what I was doing, only for the TO to accuse me of having a pacer! But by 24km it was decision time – I couldn’t manage to run at all so I decided as I could walk, I would walk. A long day ended with a 5:47 marathon, about 1:30 behind the target I felt I was capable of.
Am I disappointed? Absolutely not, it was a hard earned finish that I am very proud of.
Sure a PB might have been nice, but any day you even get to the startline is a win. I gave all I could.
Of course I feel slightly foolish, but hopefully we will all learn from it.
I have joined a fairly exclusive club over the over 50’s LTC IRON WOMEN. My hope was to beat the 50-54 AG course record, and I did, coming 5th of the 16 Female finishers. Sharon Cahill from TraleeTC had a superb run to win on the day, smashing the over 50’s record.
It is hard, but it is rewarding. I hope I will get a chance to take it on again and actually run that run ( the Lost Sheep took 6 attempts!)
It may not have the cachet of the big brand – I am still baffled as to why more of those disappointed by Cork’s postponement didn’t take it on.
On the downside, I am a stickler for rules, and the gripe for me was the outside assistance. Individuals and clubs had aid stations for their people, some even had support cars cutting in and out on the bike route. As traffic got heavier, this became increasingly dangerous and ridiculous, it was just unfair and wrong.
To Ronan Costelloe, who took me out of my comfort zone and taught me so much,
To Maeve Kavanagh for making me strong,
To my LTC friends for all your support and encouragement,
To Roisin, Lisa & Fionnuala for coming down and putting in a long day
and to my long suffering family – sorry, but I am not done yet.