From Couch to Ironman in year and a half

October 3rd 2016 I was sitting in my living room, I took out my credit card, got on the Internet and entered Ironman Barcelona 2017. The race date was October 1st ’17 which seemed like a lifetime away. I was full of excitement and posted my entry on Facebook, the epic journey had begun!

I joined T3 the previous February 2016 and I completed my first Half Ironman in Dublin that summer! I loved the build up, the nerves, the excitement but most of all the training for the race. I met so many new life long friends and laughed during so many training days, I now began to love exercise….. who would have guessed? I had caught the bug, there was no doubt. But, completing a half Ironman was not enough, even though the run nearly killed me! I had to do a full and Barcelona seemed to fit the bill. I asked all I knew who had completed it would the course suit me, a runner who had a “very distinct” style and a cyclist who hated hills! At least the swim wouldn’t be an issue, I had Pawel and Sarah to sort that out for me.

I bought a new Garmin and heart rate monitor, signed up to sports med and training peaks and I was off. We were back on the pool in Rathmines and UCD, turbo had started with Laura and I’d got another half marathon under my belt after completing Clontarf. Tom and myself had worn a path around UCD getting ready for it. I was on the right path, but dreaded the nearing day when the real training would begin. Anna had warned me about those long training spins every weekend and told me Id be only fit for the couch after each one. Id look at Laura during the turbo sessions and think “there is no way I would even be close to her level, how was I going ever going to finish a full Ironman?”. But, both Laura and Anna kept reminding me “Ger, getting to the start line is the tough part, the race isn’t”……but all I could see ahead of me was the dreaded Marathon, how would I ever get through that after a 180km bike??

But I kept going, started the 2-hour turbo sessions and the low heart rate runs (or fast walks to be honest)…. and then work offered me a role in Boston!!!! As my Boss told me “Ger, they want you to move to head office in Boston and the VP has asked for you specifically” all I thought was “No way, I’m doing an Ironman this summer”…….. But I said yes and got ready to move continents! My training suffered, my runs were few and far between as I tried to get my house packed up and rented, car sold and move my life across the pond. I left for Boston and my bike was going to be shipped later….. I could only pick one of

Them, so my beloved road bike was sent to my parents and my TT was packed for the trip.

I arrived in Boston in the snow and my first morning there I got online and search for 50 m pools. I couldn’t find any, the only pool was in MIT in Cambridge in the city, so off I jumped into the Rented Car turned on the sat nav and found my way to MIT for a bike and pool session. I emailed Triathlon clubs to see if I could join, I had no idea where to go to what gym to use so I started my training in the gym in work! I would sit on the bike every day after work for an hour and Id 9 PM… bike, rest repeat! Finally, I got in contact with Boston Tri Team and I started to meet cyclists. I was on the right road……. mind you, I was missing the T3 sessions way too much. The training was grueling not because I killed myself in each session but because it was every day with no rest days for months.

To say that I moved continents, moved house, start a new job, find a triathlon club and pool near me, was an achievement by its self, I was either working or training for months on end………

The Big Race

But the day I arrived and I got on the plane and I went to Barcelona!!! J J J

I arrived in Barcelona (via Dublin for 24 hours) two days before the race! Jet lag was not an option, I was not repeating Dublin 70.3, doing a race with just 4 hours sleep in 48! I unpacked, put my bike together and went to register! My god, was this really happening, am I really going to compete in an Ironman… has I totally lost my marbles?? But my gear was ready, all set up to go I had all my race bags…… so I started to worry about the most important thing……….. how was I going to fit my little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into my little bag on front of my bike???? I have no idea, but I was going to work out!

The other thing I began to sweat over was how to avoid a doggy tummy during the race, I’ve had issues in previous races and if that happened again, I’d be toast……. But one of the other guy’s I was doing the race with let me in on a little secret, one I wish I had known for previous races! The night before the race had arrive, it was like Christmas Eve! The buildup that day has been amazing, after attending the race briefing, going for a quick swim, cycle and run I was as prepared as I was ever going to be! The day was nearly here… just a few hours of sleep left!!

Race Day

5am and the alarm went off…….. IT WAS HERE, IRONMAN BARCELONA! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait!! Breakfast was eaten, my water bottles filled, all that was left to do was to meet the others and walk to transition!!!

Walking into transition, I had never seen so many expensive bikes before! I was getting bike envy already! I got myself together put my wetsuit on but in doing so lost everyone I had travelled over with… it turned out we all lost each other…. But lucky I found Dave and went down to the swim start and watched the pros’ race start! They all looked so relaxed and so god damn fit……….. I was getting nervous and now felt so intimidated, there was one girl beside me and the rest were men who would have no problem swimming over me to get some clear water…. My heart rate started to increase way to fast….. but the sea was calm, there wasn’t a breeze and there has been a beautiful sunrise….and relax once more….. I could hear Anna and Laura remind me “Ger, all the hard work is done, now it is time to enjoy the race……. Then our race started, I gave Dave a hug good luck and we were off!!

The swim was fantastic, the water was so clear, no waves, no nobody’s elbows or face in my face, I couldn’t have asked for any better! I got through it and the bonus was I really enjoyed it! It was the nicest swim of my season. It was already going by so fast, but I knew it was gonna be a long day.

T1 and the atmosphere and inside the tent was mayhem with hundreds of athletes scrambling to get their gear on, myself included. I got my helmet, my glasses, dry socks, shoes and once again I was off to locate my bike……

The 180 K cycle had begun! I was off again. It was a beautiful day and I was so thankful that it wasn’t raining and little wind. I wanted to cry I was so excited and proud of myself. I thought “I must pinch myself, I was really doing this! I can’t believe I’m doing an Ironman”. It was going so well, well except for on tiny little problem…. During the swim my Garman fell off, I was 500 meters in and it just fell off my wrist. So, there I was on the bike thinking I was superwoman until about 3km in I realized “what am going to do now? How the hell am I going to get through 180km with no watch?” “Oh my God, I’m I going to hit the cut off?” The best thing to do was to keep pedaling and enjoy it and wait for the distance markers, I will find out what time I did when I finish and to be honest, it was the best thing that happened, I sat back and took it all in. The bike course wasn’t all roses, there was a bad crash that I had to stop to warn oncoming traffic, about 10 bikes were involved, the issue with drafting and the wind picked up, A LOT, it was tough. The support from the crowds were incredible, on certain parts of the bike course, you knew that you would see the supporters and it truly kept me going. Just over six hours later I was done with the bike…. How did that happen?? I got off the bike and couldn’t feel my legs, I had to laugh, how the hell was I going to do a Marathon??? HOW THE HELL????

T2 – I put on my runners and thought “Oh God, this is the worst part” I ran out of transition and tried to put one foot in front of the other. On the first km of the run you pass the finish line, was I ever going to make it over that line? I had so much still ahead of me. I worked from aid station to aid station taking on a few sips of water, coke, Iso and oranges and I kept going. It was starting to get dark and started to rain, which didn’t help, the heat wasn’t an issue but the wet socks may soon be. As I had no watch I wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse, but I kept going and the support was just so incredible, the Irish support was amazing it kept us all going around the three loops of the run. Every time I’d pass certain groups they would call out my name as if I was their best friend and tell me to keep going, on the day, they were my best friends!! It helped beyond belief. I saw Ronan on my first lap, he cruised past me by me, he tapped my shoulder and said “keep going Ger keep going” It was his last lap, I was so proud of him, he had done so well and he looks so strong. Finally, I was on my last lap too. I was walking and running for the marathon and I had no idea how. I had no idea how long I had been going for in total for that matter! All I knew was I hadn’t missed any of the cut off times as I hadn’t been pulled off the course and there were plenty of people behind. I knew I was going to finish!! As I got closer and closer to the finish I could hear him, I could hear him say “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” I was getting emotional, I couldn’t wait to hear those words. Finally, I was there!!! I was on the Ironman chute and all I could see was red, hear the crowds cheering and at the end the big Ironman arch!! I WAS THERE, IT WAS HAPPENING!! I pointed that my race belt so he knew to say those epic words…….but all I could hear was “we can’t see your name, we can’t see your name” my race belt and had moved so they couldn’t see my number, I was gutted, I kept on running and never heard those words I had waited months to hear, it was nearly as bad an missing the cut off time L I ran through the arch and 10 seconds I realized “I should look at the time” and I saw 13.30.30!!!!! oh my God, Liam told me I was going to do 14.5 hours, I think I might’ve just beaten that!!! I got into the tent, got my bag, turned on my phone and were hundreds of messages and videos from family and friends and so congratulations from the T3 whats app group… and that was the 1st group of messages I checked and there were my times too!! Swim 1:14:16, Bike 6:13:29 and Run 5:74:26. I felt great and to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I thought, my 1st Half Ironman was harder…. Might be something to do with the training mind you ;-)

Before I knew it, I was to get back on a plane to Boston and signing up for my next half!

I couldn’t have done it without the help guidance and support of everyone in T3, its been an amazing adventure with you all. I’ve met so many great friends in the club, my only wish was I could have trained with you all this summer. I can’t wait to get back to Dublin to meet up for those UCD Run, Swims and Bikes! There is not a better club than ours J

So, from the couch to Ironman in an year and a half with T3….