Valentia Island Race Report

I managed a PB for this one… The fact that it was my first time doing it should not diminish the dodgy PB designation.

A Tri dosnt start at the starting line…. It starts getting into my head when I think about entering in the first place. There is the calendar to consider, the logistics of getting there AND back, sprint/Olympic, what kind of shape do I think I will be in when the day dawns and really importantly for me, is it on a Saturday…

So Barry Creamer, in his wisdom asked if I was going to do the Valentia Tri.. I hadn’t entered any events other than HOTW. So I thought, “I need to give it a go to get some ramp into HOTW”.

From that point on I had to concentrate on training like Im going to finish the event, rather than just doing what suits me. So more bike, running and getting into Freeeezzzzing open water.    Less taking the easy option of heading down to the Caribbean temperature waters of the Abbey Court..

Its a week to go and Im not feeling the most confident training wise. I was going to try and “fatten the “Beeast” the day before fair day”…..     It was going to be hard.. So double up the effort, shur, twill be grand.

At the club duathlon last Wednesday there was much discussion between The Eagle, Ronan Walsh, Barry Creamer and I around travel arrangements.. It was going to be one car, two cars, one car.. We couldn’t get a rack to take 4 bikes so for my flat earth friends we needed two racks on two cars to make the trip. Anyhoooo, I managed to store my bike in the back of my car and ask Majella for a loan of her rack and told the lads to call to Chez Clever at 9.30am on the Sat.

Eddie and Barry own watches while Ronan seems to have an addiction to Pantry breakfasts, visits to “A sportsmans dream” and a spot of tyre kicking in Moynahans…  Ladies, does tardiness form a standard part of the Irish Male Psyche???

Anyway, off we go, Valentia here we come….

Buzzzz, buzz, buzzzz.. The bike rack was buzzing incessantly and the Eagle was going mad with the annoyance. So we had to stop, once, twice, three, four times to try and “Kill the flies” that were following him.. We never solved the issue for the whole trip and I think that the Eagle was mentally damaged from the experience.

There was much talk about the after effects of over hydration and food consumption. Specifically the back of the car couldn’t stop telling all and sundry about their morning movements….            Everything is a choice, I could either put up with the back of the bus boys or turn on the radio where every station was harping on about the referendum.. A real hobsons choice.

The few days leading up to the trip there was constant reminders that we had to organise a stop for food.. Again, again and again, “I/we are going to need to stop for food”… Same on the way down…    I get some slagging for favouring a sly breakfast roll a few hours before an event.. Well, ya shoulda seen the lads clear out the Deli just outside Abbeyfeal.. “Hollow leg”, syndrome was much in evidence. I was thinking that if they wanted to burn off all they ate they should have entered an Ironman….

We had some craic all the way down, Barry’s enthusiasm was infectious, the Eagle waxed lyrically on every topic under the sun and Ronan and I just cracked up laughing.

So we got to the ferry and we were the car that was the one too many for the ferry. We were going to be the first on the next trip over.. For those that don’t know the ferry, it runs every 10mins and covers about 700m. Id say that the ferryman must be fair bored out of his wits coming back and forth a million times in a year.. (anyway, I digress……… this is a Tri report).

The trip through the ring of Kerry was spectacular and the sunshine just made the place magical to travel through. Looking across to Valentia Island from the Kerry side in the sunshine was sublime and put me is a great mood to get kitted out and get me arse in gear.

So we are first on to the ferry, in the middle lane and Im looking back via my wing mirrors.  I see this really nice elderly lady start to pull up to my RHS and She looks like a local cos she had a multi trip ticket in her hand which had been punched a number of times. Im thinking, “she will be used to getting on this ferry, no need to worry about her driving, but she is coming pretty close… “Allo, why is the front of her wing mirror all mashed up?”   WHACK off my mirror, “so, that’s why it’s a mashed up wing mirror”.. She was not flavour of the month after that.” But, it got me thinking.. Is Valentia going to be just like that lovely little ol lady, really nice at first impressions, then “whack”?    We will see…

There was one last member of the possee missing, Eoin Wolley. He had come down with his better half, Elaine the night before and looked in much better shape that the Mondeo men.

Getting registered and kitted out was no bother and everything ran just fine. The bike racking was numbered initially but it ended up being a free for all. Things like that might upset you, if you let it..

I could see I was getting out of driving mode and into, “where is that F”£$%^& finish line and what do I need to do the get over it”, mode.

The start of the swim was over on the mainland so everyone had to go back over in the ferry. It took longer than I thought as they could only take 30 at a time due to the no of life jackets on the ferry. This gave me time to run a mile as a warm up. After which I was ready to rock and roll.

Ronan was off with the first group and the rest of us were with the laggards.

I went to the very edge of the swim start line and managed to get a foot on a rock to kick off. BAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR. And we are off…

Splash, smack, kick in the gob, possible criminal intent in attempted drowning, slap at the back of the head, someone trying to take my goggles off with their aggressive swim kicking. Why is it that Mna Na Eireann think because they are in the water it is ok to act like a belligerent male????

We got out about 100 meters and the people pressure had eased and I could concentrate on getting across…              But wait… Now I remember… Does it look like Im a sea horse????  I didn’t think so either… Well, why is it that someone tried to mount my back like I was a saddle and attempted to ride me for about 5 seconds????     The wind was whipping up the water and it was very choppy. I’d put up my head and get slapped by a wave, swallow some sea and try to get in some air. Face back in the water.. Stroke/pull, face back up to my RHS for a breath. Slap of water in the face, ½ a breath and face down. It was like the Atlantic was playing “wackamole”, with my face and I was finding it hard to get a decent breath of air.  I tried to keep the yellow bouys on my LHS but it was either the current or my stroke that was pulling me to the left, leaving the bouys on the RHS..   I’d say the real issue is that I couldn’t swim straight from one end of a bath to the other, (or the Abbey Court pool, I hear you say).

The exit out of the water what not festooned with the best of markings. I managed by taking a reverse lemming approach… In other words, I followed everybody else hoping they knew how to get OUT of the water.

I got out of the water and did my shuffle back to the bikes while trying to take off my double neoprene swim hats, goggles, gloves and trying to get my keep my orientation so I don’t fall over with the dizziness… It was pretty hard coming out of the choppy water and keeping the ceann straight….

I had racked up beside a stone boat tie up. It ment that I could sit down and take off my wet suit without having to hop on one leg and going mad with the frustration of trying to slip off the leggings..

Then on with the T-shirt, helmet, shoes, a gulp out of my bottle then clip, clop, clip, clop to the Beep, Beep, Beep and mount the bike and off we go for the spin..

Ya know the way that sometimes the worst thing you can get is what you sign up for??? Well Valentia is one of these situations…

Definition quiz… What is a definition for a flower???

-A weed with good PR….

What is the definition of an Island?

-A mountain that sticks up out of the sea.

So, Valentia Island is a Mountain, that sticks up, out of the sea…

Back to the Tri… The first 30% was cycling up Valentia mountain for 7-8KM. Then when I got to the point where I should be having the benefit of gravity to help me downhill there was the bleedin  Atlantic gale force wind blowing me backwards…  Barry passed me half way up the hill and I thought, “fair play to you Bazza”. The only nice bit of the cycle was the last 20% at the mainland side where the terrain was level enough. No, that cycle was not enjoyable..

Now for the piece de la resistance, (my French aint the best, sorry).. The flippin run… So when I was cycling up the hill to hell I knew this was going to be some of the run and I was looking for the turn off to the “flat” section… I nearly died a death when I saw Darby O’Gill and one of his helpers 2.5km UP the hill sitting in the centre of the road with the “run turn around”, sign.. So there I was dyin a death on the bike and knowing that I had a hill to run up once I got off the bike… Bleedin  fantastic. This is drinking pain from a fire hose….

Back to T2 and the bike gets racked, on with the runners and off we go to a whole load of pain…

It really was an exercise in self-flagellation getting up that hill… Honest, it was a 2.5km “Summerhill”..  The whole way up I did not stop due to lack of stamina and I was really pleased about that.. However,  I seized up for a minute just at the turn round.. Then it was downhill all the way… It is harder for me to run downhill because the front leg muscles are being used as brakes.. I knew I was going to suffer for this in a few days…

So back to the finish line and my lungs are burning for O2… I turn the corner and there is the finish line just in front of the clock tower.. I cross the line….. There are the rest of the lads in fine form while I want to throw up and drink a gallon of water at the same time…. After 2 mins I’m the grandest and I can chat with the lads.

We are ALL dripping with sweat, dried upper lip bugger, various friction rash’s and smelling rather pungent…. In the afterglow, the lads were recounting their experience on the trail.. Ronan goes, “Lads, did you see the Scelligs? They were fantastic out there”, (no Ro, I didn’t, I was fighting the wind and peddling like mad trying to get some momentum downhill against the wind). The Eagle was describing some people outside a pub in direct view of the start of the hill&bike section skulling some bulmers and he thinking, “Im gonna have one of them soon”, (sorry Eddie, No clue what you are talking about, all I saw was a hill that was going to hurt like hell). And Barry was waxing lyrically about the beauty of the Flora and some of the Fauna that was to be seen, (again Barry, I have no clue what you were talking about cos I was trying to survive getting to the finish line without throwing up). The Island looks great in the sun from the mainland… I cant comment on anything on the island except for the 200m either side of the ferry.

There was a very kind offer of the use of a shower by Eoin and Elaine. However everyone was wrecked and the Mondeo Men had a collective wish to get back to an tAonach.

For a finish…..   Eoin was first back and passed me while I was near the first 2km run mark, he was flying it. Then 5mins later I met Ro and Eddie nearly holding hands and having a nice chat about something… Barry had passed me on the bike section so they were all accounted for…

Lad/ies, I have one rational for doing Tri’s, to have a goal, to work to that goal and to cross the line. Im competing against myself and it will always be so. Don’t be fooled, I have my goals time wise and they will be achieved but no one will know what they are so I get to keep going..

Was this a hard event? Certainly……………… but as the Godfather sayz, “This is the life we choose”..

Would I do it again next year? Ask me then….

P.S. I was disassembling the bike rack to get it back to Majella and saw it’s name sticker. It’s called the “buzz rack”…. Ha, Ha…


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