Thanks to Ciara and Eoin for their race reports, I think we should be asking for more reports in the future ye are all aspiring writers!
Last October, the hairs stood on the back of my arms as I followed our club mates competing Ironman Barcelona. I thought they were just incredible and wondered if I could manage something like that. So without much deliberating (so I wouldn’t talk myself out) I signed up for Cork.
Roll on months of “Am I doing enough/too much/anything right” I landed in Youghal.
Once I got that wristband on at registration I was like a little kid on Christmas eve. Then Carmel arrived and she was as excited as I was. We had a great time soaking it all up (sun included). The atmosphere was amazing and I couldn’t wait for Sunday.
It goes without saying we were all deflated and disappointed Sunday morning when the swim was cancelled. It was rough out there. I thought “that’s it, the day is ruined”. Boy was I wrong. It was the most exhilarating, emotional and epic day.
The bike doubled for the swim. The rain never relented and neither did the support around the route. Strangers stood all day in the rain cheering us on. One guy half way up Murphy’s Hill sat in a camp chair under an umbrella and encouraged us up. That was a tough hill, but I knew that worse was to come with Windmill hill only a few miles away!
I had planned to try ride up Windmill on the 1st lap and walk the 2nd to spare the legs for the run……best laid plans!!!
Here, yet again the crowd was unbelievable. They roared, I roared, they roared more. I made it up, both loops, still in the saddle. There were tears in my eyes after both climbs, not pain, just emotion. I’m starting to sound really soppy, but it was simply amazing.
I got back to transition and dumped my cycle gear with a wet thud into its bag and off I set. My family was just outside as I started the run and the cheer gave me a great boost. I’ve never ran a marathon before and I didn’t know what to expect but all I can say is if you are planning on doing one, bring the Nenagh crew for support. Seriously to each of ye, thanks so so much. I don’t how you did it. Every time I passed, big smiles, cheers and high fives. Ye never left the course. It was the most enjoyable 4 hours and 20 mins of running I have ever done in my life.
And when I got that final loop yellow armband on, and put down the bag of salty crisps id been eating from the final feed station, I ran to that finish line with a big smile on my face.
The day for me was made by firstly hearing that the legend Carmel had made the bike cut off with her broken elbow, but secondly with the tremendous support crew that travelled and smiled, cheered and whooped us on!!
I’ll be booking ye for my next one.
An Irish Summer
‘Well, there’s a girl that comes here once a week to clean the house, you know! She’s from Poland and they’re very religious, wasn’t she down at mass the other morning and there was only fifteen people there! And do you know what she says to me, ‘The Lord isn’t happy’, the whole town was down getting ready for the Ironman. She was going out the gate and she turned to me and said it again ‘The Lord isn’t happy’ and she’s very religious you know!’
‘Ah Noreen, and there’s my poor mother above in Tipp on her knees lighting candles.’
‘But sure wasn’t Saturday fine and look at today isn’t it gorgeous!’
Norín was right about one thing, what occurred on Sunday, the one day in between, was biblical. It read like a typical Hollywood script: a lovely peaceful country town, news of a storm starts to filter through, people panic, the storm happens and then the sunny aftermath.
Last swim in the pool on Tuesday, we’re tapering, won’t do much, sure we’ll just go handy and stretch out. Having a bit of craic in the lane when Ken says, ‘I’m getting booties and a neoprene hat.’ ‘Ah go away will ya, sure the lake is grand now.’
‘Don’t know, the lads in Planet Tri reckon the organisers are worried about the water temperature.’
‘You’re gone soft, tis no wonder the Toome crowd win nothin’ anymore!’
The seed was sown. That night I found myself down one of them social media rabbit holes, where the theme is how cold the water is going to be down in Cork? Sure wasn’t it only two weeks ago I cramped up in transition in Lough Cultra. Jaysus I wonder, but sure I’ve swam in the lake a load since and I was fine, and I’ve been dosing myself with magnesium tablets, double dosing in fact, and I’ll be horsing the beetroot juice next week. Damn it I’ll throw Ken an auld text and tell him put me down for a hat and booties. Just in case.
I suppose every area must have one, I don’t know what you’d call them, Clare had Biddy Earley, they’re still waiting above in Mayo for a few lads to die off so Sam can go home, there was the octopus at the world cup, the postman with the weather predictions in Donegal and then Nenagh’s very own Mr. Stallion.
‘Oh Buckley, the 23rd of June is goin’ to be a washout.’
‘Go away you, ya soft townie ya. You went off to Barcelona to do an Ironman, more like a little sun holiday for yourself!’
Could the fecker be right? Is there more goin’ on in that head than we think? (insert X-Files music here)
Probably the worst thing about the Ironman was the day before, putting down time. Joe my neighbour in Norín’s caravan site was doing it as well.
‘The weather’s not looking good for the swim tomorrow. I was just down there at the athlete’s briefing and they mentioned shortening the swim.’
‘Jaysus is it that bad?’
‘There’s 18 mm of rain to fall tomorrow between 2am and six in the evening.’
Then the panic on social media. It was all everybody was talking about. Some angry, some confused and some secretly delighted. Then Norín popped her head into the caravan.
‘Billy’s cousin from five fields over, just rang there a while ago to say, there’s 23 guards above in the village and there’s four priests down on the beach ready to give the last rites.’
‘Ah Norín, what about the lads who don’t go to mass!’
‘Them ironmen, more always go out than come back.’
‘If it’s that Bad Norín they won’t let us out.’
I went to the briefing myself, knowing it would be mostly waffle, but hoping to hear more about the swim. The chirpy girl on the stage was trying her best to raise spirits, but everybody had the same thing on their minds, the swim. We were told it was extremely likely to be shortened and to be prepared to wait around in the morning. Ah sure even if we do half the swim it wouldn’t be too bad. I’ve so much gear bought at this stage, Clever and myself could do an expo down in Youghal Quay on Sunday evening.
Well as they say, the heavens opened for the whole day on Sunday. There was no swim, so even if I managed the rest of it, would it still count? Feck it there’s plenty of frauds walking around the town at home, sure isn’t the King Fraud himself a founding member of the club!
‘Hey Foxy, you made it lad, great stuff.’
‘Well done Eoin. That weather was incredible. We did it!’
Foxy is a Cork lad I trained with on the course earlier in the year. His face tells its own story, sheer relief mixed with emotion. I guess he saw something similar in mine.
‘Get some of that pizza into ya lad and go over and get a rub.’
That weather was incredible, but as much as the dark clouds lashed rain down and the wind fought me every inch of the way, chinks of light break through. The craic with the lads in the pool and the stories in sauna (don’t ask!), taking King Kenny’s throne on Dolla hill, early morning runs with a sprinkling of theological discourse, porridge muffins, being somewhat organised, the words and messages of encouragement, the people of Youghal and surrounding area, lunatics on Windmill hill, the faces from home who came down to roar us on, my clubmates and fellow competitors winning their own battles, the faces of my two biggest supporters in the world after I crossed the line…… and many many more.
These Ironmen were forged long before the 23rd of June.
‘My brother was down in the Walter Raleigh Hotel and there’s a mortuary set up down there.’
‘Ah Jaysus, Norín! I must be some eejit so!’