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Pontevedra ETU Triathlon European Championships – June 2011

[Congratulations to Racing795’s Don Morrissey who represented Ireland at the 2011 Pontevedra ETU Triathlon European Championships. Here’s Don’s report]

Don dons the green of Ireland

Just back from my excursions at the ‘European Championships’ and ‘Warm Weather Training’. First of all I just wanted to thank everyone for their support, which was a huge help when the pain hit during the race. So here goes….

Pre-race Preparations

Unfortunately the pre-race preparations didn’t go exactly to plan. It started on Thursday with a 3 hour flight delay to Faro, which meant landing in Faro at 11pm at night with a 2-year-old, a large big box, lots of luggage and trying to find a hire car agent at that hour. Friday consisted of 6am rise followed by a 6 hour drive to Pontevedra to get there for the Irish registration slot between 1-2. Unfortunately even though Pontevedra is directly North of Faro, there is a 1 hour time gap, which meant instead of landing there at 1.30, it was 2.30. This meant a three-hour wait in registration while everyone else registered before they would register me . Saturday I decided to recce the bike course.  Bad idea. Normally the day before the big race, a simple easy 30 min cycle with a couple of 30 second pickups would suffice but as you will see below, the bike course wasn’t exactly an easy 30 min cycle. The rest of Saturday was spent loading myself with every type of hydration enhancing substance ever invented (Zim, SIS with electrolytes, sodium tablets, dioralyte etc) to counteract the 34-36 degree heat wave that had descended upon Pontevedra that weekend, and trying to forget about the bike course. Formal bike check and rack was open from 6-9pm. The Elite men’s race was at 7pm so we decided to try to get to transition as close to six, get the bikes in and see the big race. Ah no… Not in Pontevedra…. A 2 hour queue, a check in that included Passport check, detailed bike/helmet/trisuit check, and then came the body numbering, which consisted of two women marking numbers on every visible part of your body. When completed I felt like a New Zealand Maori ready to lead the Haka. Watched the run on the Elite Race, where the Brownlee brothers dominated once again and Conor Murphy completing his first serious race as a professional and a great showing.

Race Day

5.30 alarm (although I was awake well before that). Breakfast, bag check, shower, Haka, into car, a bit of slagging of the other Irish competitors in my age-group to psyche them out and arrived at transition at 6.30am. Nothing allowed in transition, not even a towel, so back out and dropped in bag to bag check. Took a photo of the temperature, ‘32 degrees’ at 7.25am…. Race brief at 7.30, waves called at 7.45. Then something none of us were expecting, the loud speakers blasted with the formal ITU music, which sent shivers down everyone’s spine, if that didn’t get the adrenaline going, nothing ever will.  I was in wave three so 8.10 start. We were called onto the pontoon just after wave two started with music at full volume, left standing there for a couple of minutes to soak it up, called into the water at which time the music dropped to an almost Jaws-like thumping tone, which brought a nervous smile to everyone’s face, on your marks… Hooter and we were off. We knew after the Team race brief that the swim was difficult with the previous days times and strong current, so after a minute or two of banging and kicking, I settled into it well. Out of the water in 27:28, 27th place out of 60 so very good showing there (best split 20.38). Long run to transition and out on the bike. When I came out of transition I mounted the bike before the mount line but got called back…. In the big races you mount the bike after the mount line, which cost me 20-25 seconds (news to me). The first 1.5 kms was flattish and then basically an 8 km climb, which included a 2 km Heart Busting, out of saddle 11km/hr climb (Corrabut style) just before turnaround. In fact the turnaround was on a steep hill, which caused serious problems for a few. That meant a 75 km/hr decent in places (not for the faint hearted). The worst part of the bike was knowing you had to face the same again (2 laps) . However I was only 25 seconds slower on the second lap despite the difficulty, so I left absolutely nothing out there. Before I knew it I was unclipping and heading into transition in a time of 1:13:34 (best split 1:03.32) but I knew the hard part was to come. Left a hat and bottle of water (with electrolytes) in transition as I knew it would be hot, and it was, ‘now at 34 degrees’. Quick transition and out on the run. There was a short 250 metre run into a stadium where you passed the finish line and the start of four 2.5km laps in the town. The narrow old streets of Pontevedra were beautiful and created an almost amphitheatre style atmosphere, but led to a very hot difficult run. However when I reached the end of the first lap, I was well below 11 minutes and even faster on the second lap, so I was burning it up and waving to the many Irish supporters along the route. But then the wall of pain hit just as I passed the rather large Irish contingent gathered at the finish line. Two laps to go and I felt it. The third lap was two minutes slower than the first two and I couldn’t look at anyone anymore. I passed the finish line, last lap, one more climb, one more effort and soon I was entering the stadium and in sight of the finish line. There were huge cheers from the Irish contingent as each participant passed up the finish straight (What is it about the Irish supporters? Fantastic). My last lap was 10:30 so I finished in style with an overall 45:19 for 10.25kms.

I finished in an overall time of 2:27:59, 42nd out of 60 (biggest wave) and the first Irish man in my 35-39 age-group (bragging rights for the night ). I was over the moon and delighted that I had made all the effort and sacrifices. Without analysing the race and results my finishing time may seem slower than I’ve previously achieved but the winning time in my age-group was 2:04:54. When you consider that 1:55:19 won my age-group in Athlone last year, it looks like a difficult and long course and in my humble opinion approx 7-8 minutes slower. Over 50 Irish Athletes participated with a gold from Mark Horan and two bronze from Andree Walkin and Mark Nolan. The race took its toll, 18 hospitalised including our own Gavin Doran who posted the Junior Race Report on TI Website (worth reading for the difficulty factor, and the Juniors and Elites didn’t even have to face that hill on the bike, they had a shorter, more flat 5km lap) and almost 15% DNFs.

Warm Weather Training: Consisted of… well…. lots of beer, mmhh… some more beer and finally…. well even more beer again….. Oh and the odd biscuit too . The Beast beckons, lets hope it’s 34 degrees that day….



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