As I approached the Kilkee Bay Hotel the night before the big race, I could see and hear eager nervous murmurings and laughter of ‘Hell of the West’ virgins bunched in a corner wondering what was ahead of them the following day, hanging on every word from seasoned veterans of the course.
Where was the first hill? Is the course tough? Will it be very windy? Will I complete the dreaded race? Did you see the waves in the bay this evening? All these questions going through the minds of near 696 athletes competing in one of the most respected races in the country. 1500 metres of a rough and tough sea swim, a demanding hilly and windy 45km cycling course and a tough 10km run up Dunlicky Hill.
My own race preparation came into play the night before as did everybody else’s . Getting our gear together, fueling the body with the final carbs and of course a good rest. We were up early the following morning and after a hefty breakfast of porridge, bananas and coffee we made our way towards the transition area where every athlete seemed to be in their own zone. Once we laid out our kit and got rid of pre race nerves it was off to the start line.
We pondered what the sea swim would be like as the waves seemed really high and bothersome, but it was always going to be a difficult swim. But we started so quick it was time to forget the nerves and get on with the job. There was a job to be done for the club firstly and then our personal goals. Once I started, to my surprise I felt really good in the water and I got into a great rhythm, I actually enjoyed the swim as I wouldn’t have normally. As I surfaced onto the beach I felt great and knew it was the fastest swim that I had completed over the previous 2 years.
I passed through transition 1 and off with the wetsuit with great ease thanks to the baby oil and I was off on the bike. I had a 2 minute mishap at the start of the bicycle as I couldn’t get into my shoes and it kinda threw me off but I had to plough straight on. As the wind was behind me I powered out of Kilkee and up the hill like a man possessed and in great form. I got down on the tri bars and stayed right there for up to 15 miles, I passed one competitor after another and was on course for a P.B. but then I turned in Creegh and the horrendous wind that we talked about earlier hit us in the face with a bang and was there from then on until the finish. At this stage I had caught up with Eddie O’Meara and we stayed in tandem with each other egging each other on, swapping jellies, surging forward eager to meet the final challenge of the dreaded run . 5miles out of transition the P.B. that I had built up had faded away, I still felt strong but I had underestimated the wind and was a small bit lax.
Even though I enjoyed the cycle I was thankful when I entered transition and t2 went completely without a hitch and so it was as I took off up that hill I felt good but on the 1km I felt some cramps in my quads and knew it was going to be slow and a tense affair. I took a gel and felt some kind of power coming back into me but at this stage I just wanted to finish the job. When I got to the turn around it was mostly downhill from here with 2 inclines near the finish. I felt much better at this stage and surged ahead with intensity towards the finish. I was proud of myself as I made a conscious effort over the last 2 miles to up the ante as the last 2mls were done at a very good pace. I was glad to see the finish though and enjoyed the camaraderie of the club as we came across the finish line.
All the excuses in the world won’t change times but no harm for this to happen as it spurs me on and it creates more interest and makes me even more determined to beat my P.B. of last year. I may have been down by 6 minutes but where there is a will there is a way. Sinn a bhfuil for this year but I will be back for another dose of punishment. Roll on the 30th anniversary of ‘Hell of the West’ 2014.
Having completed the swim leg of the Hell of the West in 2012, I thought it would be a great idea to try the full monty in 2013. After registering in March (thanks Shane), I knew that I would have to increase my training schedule to get across the finish line. Then there was much talk about the strong headwinds on the bike course and according to Keith Butler, the 10 KM run out the Dunlicky road was absolute ‘Murder’. Talk then turned to action and before I knew it, the date of 29th June was upon us. I decided to go down to Kilkee the night before to get a good run at it and get registration and such things out of the way. Geraldine Kyne drove and the conversation was surprisingly about ‘triathlons’! Saturday morning dawned and the first thing I checked was what way the wind was blowing as there was a flag outside our house and I knew that the cycle back into Kilkee would be difficult (I had done some sneaky training the week before). So off I cycled with all the crew down to the Transition area, checking my gears as I went which isnt a great idea as there is nothing you can really do if the bike is not working properly!.
There was a great buzz and excitement and I was delighted that all the Nenagh crew were racked together. There was a bit of a wait as briefing and all the formalities were under way. With wetsuit on, bike on rack and runners neatly placed, I was ready for the off! Shane asked me if I had a light on my bike and for the life of me, I don’t know why he asked that question! Like lambs to the slaughter, wave 2 headed down to the shore. We were corralled like wild horses ready for the road. So off I went, for the 1500m swim route. The first 400M were the toughest as there was a lot of elbows and toes being pulled back ( I swear I didn’t give you a bloody nose Cliodhna). I felt very comfortable for the rest of the swim and before I knew it, I was heading for transition and away on the bike route.
I had put a fiver in the gel pocket of my tri suit so that if things got really bad , I could stop in Doonbeg for coffee and ice cream. I lost that fiver out on the run and Majella Moyles found it! The cycle back from Creegh was tough with arduous hills and a head wind but I made it back in under my estimated time, which I was very pleased about. I felt very lonely in Transition 2 as there was no one else there but I said to myself, 2 disciplines done and 1 to go. Up the hill I went in baby step motion (as per the tips guide for beginners) and settled for the slow but sure run and at the turn around point I knew that I would complete the course.
At the finish line I heard people shouting ‘go on Sheila’. Thinking I was very popular, I realised afterwards that my name was printed on my bib no! So, in summary, the Hell of the West was a brilliant experience for me. I would definitely do it again despite the sunburn. The encouragement that I have received from all club members and supporters not just on the day is unreal. My objectives have been exceeded – 1. Did not come last. 2. Finished under 4 hours. 3. I still don’t have DNF after my name!