By Eoin O’Donoghue
As the sole representative of Nenagh Tri Club in the age group race of this year’s Dublin City Triathlon it as fallen to me to… drum roll… do a race report! Darren Dunne was representing in the separate Cat1 race, more of which later.
It was an early start Sunday morning for the age group race; transition closing at half seven and Wave 1, my wave, starting at 08:15. So, up to Dublin Saturday evening to stay overnight with the brother.
There was heavy rain forecast from the small hours of Sunday morning, to last most of Sunday. As I lay there trying to get to sleep on Saturday night it started, and it was heavy. I wondered what effect a night of heavy rain would have on the flow in the river and on the water quality. The civil engineer in me was thinking city run-off and storm overflows – eeww. I also thought that if the flow got too heavy they might cancel the swim – that would not be good for me. Wet conditions would also make the bike a bit trickier. With these thoughts going through my head I eventually got some sleep.
Rising early on Sunday morning it was still lashing. To avoid being caught inside the road closure zone for the race I had to park a good bit away from transition. I got fairly wet cycling there from the car and even wetter as I set up transition. Wet clothes into wet bag, wet bag into bag drop and I was good to go, feeling grand once I was in the wetsuit.
My fears about the flow in the river were unfounded as I discovered that they have some sort of controllable weir or dam upstream that can be used to regulate the flow. This had been raised and, looking at the kayakers, I could see that there was barely any current at all.
Before long we were diving in for a warm up. The water was almost lukewarm! It was a bit whiffy at first but I tried to tell myself that it was more a natural, reedy, algal flavour rather than anything wastewater-y. After a bit of a swim I didn’t notice it any more. Anyway, I have been drinking Liffey water for years (the type that comes out of St. James’s Gate) so I had no cause for complaint.
Perhaps it was the early start and the rain that dampened the usual cattle-in-a-stockade atmosphere you get at swim starts but things seemed quite subdued as we lined up, jockeying for a good starting position. But once the claxon sounded the churning started and we were off.
I am a front row swimmer so normally the drill here is to swim like mad from the gun, trying to keep pace with the swimmers either side of you and ahead of the chasing pack until things stretch out a bit and then, when it gets less crowded, try to settle in to a decent strong rhythm. Usually the first two hundred metres or so sorts this out but on this occasion it stayed pretty crowded for about the first 350 to 400 metres. After that I could see that two lads had gone a good bit out ahead and I was with a group of three others. I normally don’t swim on someone’s feet; mistake! I hear you say. I can never judge it. For me the worry is that I get on the feet of someone who is going to swim a slower time than I’m capable of myself and that I will get too comfortable there. And I can’t keep up with the faster ones. This time three of us were in a line and one fella was on his own a bit up ahead to the right. I was at the back. I tried a couple of times to pull up alongside and past the guy in front of me but the effort this required told me that the pace we were swimming at was grand, so got back in behind and kept up. As we rounded the last turnaround buoy there was 50 metres back upstream to the exit pontoon in which I pulled level with the other two lads. So, third-ish out of the water (in my wave) and into an incident free T1.
I had done the Dublin race two years ago, in my first season, and the reason I was having another crack at it was that, the first time I did it, I felt I hadn’t been aggressive enough on the bike. I tended to hang back before attempting to pass people for fear of being caught for drafting and wasn’t good at gauging the turns. It is a fairly technical bike course consisting of 5 laps of 8km. Each lap contains a longish drag, a U-turn, a few sharp turns (a couple with short descents into them), a couple of short climbs, a chicane-y section and a couple of deceptive bends that need to be judged correctly or you could end up on the grass. Any ideas I had of tearing in to this with the renewed vigour of a man with a bit more cycling experience behind him were tempered by the wet conditions. I remained conservative into the bends and stayed on the bike, unlike one of the guys that had got out of the water ahead of me. I caught up with him just as he was recovering himself from having come a cropper on one of the turns. He was a fast cyclist and he managed to get ahead of me again and stay there. I didn’t have much else to go on on the bike. I kept up my effort, passed any cyclists I caught up to, this time able to pass without fear of drafting sanctions. Two guys passed me, one of which I managed to get past again and stay ahead of, the other I didn’t see again.
Correctly counting the laps, I exited the park at the right time and got into and through T2. (No penalty box announcements or helmet-run debacles this time!)
I took off along the Chapelizod road feeling not too bad. I heard a call out of “Keep it up Eoin, you’re third.” I think it was Mark O’Duffy, a Nenagh man now living in Kilkenny and on his way to take part in the Cat1 race. It was good to know I was third off the bike but had to remember that that was just in my wave. Also, this was at the start of ten kilometres of running, my weakest discipline. I was pretty much resigned to just waiting for all the runners now to start passing me out. Still, I kept up my run at as strong a pace as I was able. Three or four passed me on lap 1 that I knew to be in my wave and after that a few more did but then I was into “they’re on their first lap I’m on my second” or “they must be in a later wave” territory.
I crossed the line in an overall time of 2:19:33 which put me at 24th place in the age group race. There were 34 with a faster time in the Cat1 race which put me at 58th overall.
I was finished at about quarter to eleven, the bikes weren’t being released from transition until half twelve and the men’s Cat1 race was to start at 11:45. This gave me the opportunity to see some of the Cat1 race. I was obviously particularly interested to see how Darren would get on and how the drafting aspect of the bike leg would pan out.
I made my way back to the bag drop to collect my bag and to change. I was disappointed to discover that the nice people in Piranha Triathlon Club hadn’t dried and ironed the sopping wet clothes I had been wearing that morning. This surprised me as they had thought of doing practically everything else. Piranha are to be commended on running a very well organised and well marshalled race. They couldn’t do anything about the weather but even in the dodgy conditions the marshals were friendly and helpful and the race went off great.
I got changed into what were marginally drier clothes than the ones I had just done a triathlon in, put on that red HOTW jacket that Limerick Tri club gave out a couple of years ago (ringing on the outside, not too wet yet on the inside) and went over to watch the Cat1 swim start. Once they took off up the river I made my way back over to the park to a good vantage point on the bike lap.
After only about 18 minutes since they started swimming two lads came tearing in the gate on the bikes. They took off up the hill appearing to be taking turns at the front. Next came a rider on his own and about 30 seconds later came Darren in a bunch of four. After that they came in ones and twos and eventually a bigger bunch of eight to ten riders. On the second lap the two out in front had maintained their lead, were cycling hard and working together. The guy on his own had gone and you then had Darren in his group of four still chasing the two up front. It was still strung out in small bunches and cyclists working on their own behind. As they came around for lap three the status quo remained much the same: two up front, then group Dunne, ones and twos, the bigger bunch and a few stragglers, some of who looked like they could be in danger of being disqualified – if you get lapped in a draft legal race you have to stop.
At this point it was past 12:30, I was cold and wet (did I mention it was raining?) and I could now go get my bike, head back to the car (and some dry clothes) and head for home.
Darren went on to finish in fifth in a time of 2:01:53, fair play to him. He may give a more insightful account of the Cat1 race than my casual observer’s description in his great new blog.