Someday I will do a triathlon, and it will go nice and ordinary and uneventful. I will finish each discipline, and move onto the next, with no drama, and no incidents. In the words of Thom Yorke, there will be no alarms, and no surprises.
Some day. Just not today.
The last time I did the Seven Frogs, I went astray on the cycle, and ended up finishing last, I was determined that that wouldn’t happen today. And in fairness, it didn’t. Not the going astray on the cycle bit anyway.
Myself and Catherine set off in plenty of time for Castlegregory, and met up with lots of the Tralee Triathlon Club crew who were out in force for this event. We met the wonderful Nuala Moore at registration, who is the whirlwind behind the Seven Frogs, which raises funds for Mallow Search and Rescue. After having a look at the swim course, which was nice and calm, we set up in transition, and got ourselves ready.
We were doing the Sprint event, and there was an Olympic distance, and a Tri A Tri also.
When it was our turn to set off, we got in the water, and waited for the start signal. I kept towards the back of the swim pack, knowing I would be trampled by faster swimmers otherwise. On the start signal, we took off, and I found myself making good progress from the off – I passed a few swimmers, and felt I was going well. Then I noticed that my goggles were leaving water in to my left eye – I had changed from my usual pair at the last minute to a more heavily tinted pair as it was a very sunny day. Big mistake. I tried to fix them on tighter, but it wasn’t working. Finally I resorted to keeping my left eye closed. This seemed to do the trick, until I saw a kayak on my right, signalling me to turn in – I was drifting left and had gone off course. I corrected, but it kept happening me, and I ended up having to change course drastically to get back to the buoys – that was my initial advantage gone. Nothing for it, but put the head down and keep going. When we got to the swim turnaround, I stopped, emptied my goggles, pulled the straps tighter and put them back on. This seemed to help, and made the rest of the swim much easier. I climbed out of the water well back near the end, only to hear shouts of “SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!” as I climbed the pier, which could only be coming from my Born To Run buddies. Sure enough, there was a gang of them waiting to shout encouragement (and a little abuse!) as I dragged myself to transition.
Transition went smoothly enough for me (not so much for Catherine – when she got to transition she found that a small dog had decided to use her towel as a bed, and had to wake him up to get him off it!) and I was soon mounting the bike and heading for the 20k cycle.
I quickly discovered problem number 2 – my rear derailleur was locked up, meaning I had only two gears – 1st (which is useless for anything other than really steep hills) and 6th (which is useless for anything other than slightly less steep hills). I tried all the usual repair methods – kicking the bike, swearing at it, threatening to fuck it over the nearest hedge, but nothing worked.
It wasn’t too bad for the first section of the cycle – it was mostly uphill, and there was a bit of a headwind, so the low gear wasn’t much of a hindrance. Once I turned onto the main Tralee-Brandon road though, I was in trouble – this was a nice flat section, and I was bouncing off the pedals, and hardly getting anywhere. Frustratingly, several cyclists passed me here. It was worse once we turned back towards Castlegregory village – this was a lovely downhill section back to transition, and I just had to freewheel it. I gritted my teeth and got on with it.
About 2 miles before the finish, I had an idea. I stopped, and physically pulled the derailleur into a higher gear, and this worked – I still had only two gears, but at least they were gears that got me somewhere. I made better progress back to transition this way.
Second transition went smoothly again (if there was a triathlon that consisted solely of transitions, I’d be national level competition I reckon), and I set off on the run.
This is where the shit really hit the fan. I had hoped to make up a lot of lost ground on what should be my strongest discipline, but I felt really bad as soon as I began running. My stomach was not in a happy place. I caught up to one of my clubmates, Maura, and we ran the first couple of kilometers together, but I was in a bad way. I finally told Maura to go on, as I knew I had to stop. I found a nice section of freshly mown lawn, with a wall of just the right height, and began to vomit violently.
I hadn’t eaten since breakfast many hours previously, but every drop of water I had drank – both seawater from the swim, and fresh water from my bottle, made an unwelcome appearance.
I vaguely recall a few runners asking if I was OK, and managed a “Yeah, just fucking dandy” in between bouts of sickness to one of them. Finally, there was no more left to give, and I dragged myself to my feet. Remarkably, I felt bloody brilliant now. I got back on the road, and quickly started to reel in runners ahead of me. I was going really well. I caught up to Maura again at the turnaround, and headed for home.
This is where my last problem of the day appeared. I was running away, slightly woozy, but making good time, when I noticed that I hadn’t passed the garden where I’d been sick (sorry to whoever owns that garden btw – and kudos on how soft your grass is). I felt I should have passed it by now. Oh well, I thought, must have just not noticed it. I then came to a junction, that had a large holy statue on the side of the road. Now I was worried – I hadn’t noticed this on my way out, and it wasn’t exactly inconspicuous – it was bigger than me. Also, there had been marshalls at the junction where we turned on the way out, but there were none here. Shit. Nothing for it but to keep going. About a mile or so further on, I passed the actual junction I was supposed to have turned at. I had one of those “fuck this for a game of soldiers” moments, but there was nothing I could do. I kept running, and finally made it back to the finish line. There was a huge cheer from the Tralee Triathlon Club and Born To Run crews as I finally crossed the line, and I don’t think I was ever happier to see a finish line!
I had finished in a very unimpressive time of 2:01:54. Considering my travails, I’ll bloody well take it.
Well done to all my friends and clubmates who competed in this event, especially those who were doing their first tri – There were some great Tralee Triathlon Club performances – Poshey overcame pre-race nerves to conquer his first, and Tracy blew away the competition to win the Tri A Tri on her first attempt. Ciara won the Sprint (again!), Stephen came second, and Niamh third.
Kathleen, Maura, Dan, Anthony, Bridget, Trish, Philip, Marie and Mark all completed their first ‘official’ Sprint Triathlons. Catherine put in another big performance, and Conor and Chris completed their first Olympic distance.
Thanks to Nuala (who gives the best race briefings) and her crew for a fantastic day – I doubt there is a more fun triathlon anywhere in the world. Thanks to Ian who looked after my boys during the event, while his mom competed.
Looking forward to doing this event again next year, and seeing what inadvertent adventures I can get up to.
Thanks to Norman and Tralee Triathlon club for the pics – more on their Facebook page.