By Cahir O’Higgins
“To hell or Connaught” was the choice Cromwell gave the Irish. They would either be killed or go to Connaught, where they would die anyway because it was such a kip. So what better way to honour our modern day version of the lord protector, (Mr Kern) by attempting to kill ourselves whilst going through hell in Connaught. The place has improved a bit since then but you would be forgiven for understanding where he was coming from, on a wet day, when you hit west of the Shannon. Big plus, the weather stayed decent for the race.
Hell of the west is the triathlon by which most other events can be compared. Loughrea frankly isn’t on that level but it was a well organised race. Registration was quick and the predator towel was way better than the measly can of coke or whatever in Athlone or the T-shirt you had to buy yourself in Athy. This is the first year it was in the national series, so more or less a different race to the past. The cream of the crop showed up in the ladies race with our own champs from last year out in force, MT, Jenny, Laura and Aideen putting in a strong show. Great to see MT and Jenny back.
Loughrea is my home town so had visions of local lad comes back from the big smoke and does well as the theme for this report. Local lad comes home and does average with a rubbish run doesn’t have the same ring to it, so had to abandon that. I thought about how the great minds in the club would write the race report.
Mick, “there was a race, it was ok.” Peter “there was a race, it could have been better,” Gary Mc “before we discuss the race can m’lud resolve the issue of who is paying me?”
Ben, “what sort of a a half assed f**ked up race is this, not a viable set of breasts to be seen in the place.” Ryan, “I ran very very slowly, again”
Dara had stopped off for a novena on the way in St Brendan’s cathedral so got some great race day pics of Harry Clarke windows. I also popped in for inspiration, but none transpired.
Seems the race organiser drew inspiration from St Ben though, he banged on about men not being allowed to be bare-chested for a good 5 minutes. Dave Hanlon must have got word and deliberately gave the race a miss “if the booty is off duty Dave ain’t racin.” The organiser didn’t mention anything about the bottom half, Laura seemed genuinely worried that Jim, Dara or Osin were tempted.
So the Westport warning out of the way we were ready for action. I was in wave one (the wave for the younger handsome men). I got in by mistake. The water was very placid, but the swim seemed a bit short. This lake is funny, when its choppy its an entirely different race and you would not miss the full distance. Today it seemed too short.
The bike was technical enough full of drags and turns, but a course to really do damage on with a bit of concentration. Drafting was definitely an issue. Loads of penalties given out. Three guys in front of me worked quite cynically with “up and overs” for a good few k. I couldn’t catch up with them but the Marshall on the motorbike did and penalised them all. Normally I don’t care what other people do in a race, but this was blatant, not an inadvertent mistake that a beginner might make. I have made more than my fair share of those. In fact they should have been DQed. Something Gary McCarty said to me at the end of Dun Laoghaire, made me determined not to make a dumb technical error in the race, such as crossing the white line or crashing etc. So I sat well back from these guys as I knew I couldn’t pass all three, I felt that it adversely affected my race, but got a sense of vindication when the Marshall pulled them in and I got to to put my head down and really drive for home.
The run was by no means easy. There are a few hills that seem to drag forever. Anna Crooks the female winner and “local lass done good for real” blitzed the run. Rory Sexton was the first runner I met coming back, he won it over all by about 90 seconds, I then started counting runners coming back in after the turn around. I got to 18 and felt I had managed to sneak into the top 20, the final results demonstrated categorically that I can’t count. I saw MT giving it socks with a mixture of pain and relief on her face to be back racing. I was delighted for her and the club. She looked like she had worked hard on the bike, given that her elastic from her shoe to the derailer did not snap this was not surprising. Jenny denies it, but she had a great big smile on her face during the run and it was fantastic to see her recovery continue. Who knows our ladies might just retain their title yet. Aideen was ebullient as per usual. She nearly invited me to stop and have a picnic. She was so full of energy and chat during the run. Yes I did say hello Aideen, but don’t tell Peter he would disapprove of full blown conversations in the middle of a triathlon. London bound Laura was determined and focused. Stamina was a word invented for Laura and yet again she pulled out a big performance on race day. On the run in Dara was flying, to paraphrase Con Houlihan, he was like a man who had left the cake in the oven and he needed to get back to stop it burning. Classy sprint finish, looked the business all the way.
Jim was imperious and calmness personified in the end. He dashingly sported the Ireland tri suit; something to aspire to for anyone who would like to represent our country at age grouper level. Osin had a great first triathlon, he looked like he had been given a ballot boxful of first preferences. After seeing the energy and enthusiasm he brought to the race its easy to see how he has become mayor, big congrats on your first race. For me I was disappointed not to have sneaked into the top 20, but ten minutes faster than this time last year in the same race is progress. All in all it was a good day out but it is a sport in which you can only suffer on some level or other. Peter had told me to tone down the training a lot before the race and I found it hard to focus and not question the sanity of vast amounts of training for what is essentially a hobby. Perhaps Marcel Proust puts it best,
“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” Or some mumbo jumbo like that. Its too late and I’m too tired to think up or borrow something profound to lash on the end of the report to give it a sense of symmetry. Substitute a suitably motivational quote or notion and let’s attack the rest of August with a vengeance. See you all when I get back from the sunny Algarve. There are some decent hills here. Not to mention a class 50 meter pool in Loule, entry €2.50. Training paradise. Met Jose European Down syndrome champ and lauren the UK twice para-olympian who swims 750 meters under ten minutes. Inspirational giants the two of them, but a story for another day. Enjoy the training and racing. Ciao, Cahir.