[Report by Don “The Don” Morrissey]
Stage Four of ‘The Amigos’ National Series Tour found us in Athlone this weekend chasing much coveted NS Points. Arguably this would be the biggest and most competitive race ever, being the National Standard Distance Championships and boasting 3,000+ Athletes. Funnily I was a little philosophical going into the race, Athlone has never been a favourite venue of mine, it was an afternoon start which I hate and rumours circulating before the race suggested a reduced swim. However it was actually a positive reason why I really was in this mood, I had received the much desired email from TI last week telling me I had taken one of the 5 first round age group places from Athy to represent Ireland in the World Championships in London in Sep 2013. Season Goal complete and I actually considered not doing Athlone as a result.
So was the pre-race hype warranted? Well Triathlone extended the registration by three days ‘due to unprecedented late applications’, according to their website, however final numbers were closer to 1600, so draw your own conclusions. When the final waves were finally released, everyone that had finished ahead of me in the previous three races (+ another 4-5 that would have finished ahead of me if they had competed in the same races) were registered, so this was going to be seriously competitive and two pros had turned up, Bryan McCrystall and Mark Nolan to kill any chances of an amateur win.
Race day found us full of the pre-race nerves, joys, cryptic lingo etc etc. However Frank had a genuine nightmare week with technical issues with his ultra fast Planet X. Luckily he got it sorted but his moans as usual fell on deaf ears. I saw little of the guys before the race as I had parked at the back gate of the transition, which was a long way away from everyone. I missed race briefing because the guys on the back gate insisted that I walk the 15mins around to the front gate instead of the 30secs from the back gate to the briefing, so my bagel was much more appealing and I succumbed to my gut (as usual). I managed to get down to swim start first and saw the previous 3 waves going off. The flow as indeed very strong and would have caused serious H&S risks to do the 350 up stream. So indeed the rumours were true and the race organisers decided to run the swim all down stream from 1,000 metres (according to race briefing) OOOHHH NOOOOO!!!!.
As the current was so strong, everyone was to enter at the same time and on the wrong side of the pontoon, swim across to the race start and try and hold on for the hooter. However in reality the current was just too strong and as soon as the last person was in the water, the hooter went, giving the first guys into the water a distinct advantage (hence the farce). I had already decided to enter the water first, so I didn’t get caught with the farcical start. Before you could snap your fingers, we were exiting the water in ‘World Record’ pace. I was first out in a whopping 9.10, followed very shortly behind by PJ in 10.34, Fintan in 10.41 and Frank 11.20. I think all will admit not a great test a standard distance or for the National Championships, but none-the-less the same for everyone.
I transitioned well (even though it’s a very long one) and was out on the bike and facing the initial ramps and hills in no time. The bike course is a real time-trialer’s course, out and back on relatively flat roads, which doesn’t really suit me (Frank was smiling), but the bike out was particularly tough with the wind and what seemed like an endless hill. However upon turnaround, well explosion. I looked down at one stage and was averaging 55kms/hr. That dissipated somewhat, however I’d say I never dipped below 40kms/hr on the bike back. Unfortunately my dismount wasn’t the most elegant ever, landing like a ‘sack of shit’ on the ground. Luckily just a slight cramp, a few grazes and a bruised ego resulted and I soon found myself through transition and out on the run. As usual Frank had burned the course (approx 38kms in distance) in a freakish 1:02:39, I was a distant second in 1:05:39, while PJ & Fintan were having a blazing battle with PJ prevailing with a 1:07:00 and Fintan just behind in 1:07:19.
Meanwhile there was great excitement in the side lines with Tracy and Yvonne. They had downloaded the Triathlone App and were receiving live splits and amazingly Frank had hit T2 ahead of me with PJ less than three mins behind and Fintan just over three mins behind. That meant that this was going to be a close and exciting finish (which I had no idea of).
I had blazed out onto the course, dropped in behind the eventually female winner Aoife Lynch for a lap and a half and seemed to be flying. I felt so strong I thought a PB was definitely on today. One and a half laps into the run and Aoife Lynch was heading up the finishing chute to claim her win, while I was passing the chute and with it, leaving what seemed like all my energy at there, but with three laps still to go. I took two gels in quick succession to try and resolve the energy issues, but it had little effect and my 3rd lap was extremely difficult (over a minute slower than the other three). Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the hurt and pain was magnified when I got the tap on the back mid-way around the final lap and ‘Good Man’ blurted out, as Fintan strode past me, skipping along like a ‘March Hare’ as if he was just starting the run. He told me after the race that he was hurting at that point too, but it certainly didn’t show in his stride. I was beaten and broken, but I struggled on and finished. Form was the order of the day as Fintan as usual blazed around with the fastest split of 41.41, I was second on 45.33, Frank put in a sterling run to try and catch me but fell just shy with 46.40 and PJ just behind in 46:49.
Finish Overall AG Swim T1 Bike T2 Run Overall
Fintan Redmond 107 23 10.41 2.50 1:07:19 1.31 41.41 2:04:01
Don Morrissey 117 25 9.10 2.36 1:05:39 1.40 45.33 2:04:36
Frank Burke 129 24 11.20 3.06 1:02:39 1.48 46.40 2:05:32
PJ Dunne 171 41 10.34 3.11 1:07:00 1.33 46.49 2:09:05
Certainly the most competitive race I’ve been involved in both from a Club and Overall perspective. All moaning aside, I still put it out there and Fintan was the better athlete on the day and a superb result for his first standard distance. Serious results for Frank and PJ too, they have really put it down this year with phenomenal improvements in all areas. Great day for the club and I feel more qualification slots may beckon. I wrote in a recent post ‘Roll on the Beast’, however after how I felt during the race and yesterday, I’ll be whimpering into the jaws of the Beast. Well Frank is somewhere the other side of the world today, myself and PJ are off on the same day on Wednesday week for mid season R&R and will be back just in time for the Beast, while rumour has it Fintan has already been seen running up Mount Leinster in prep for the Beast…. You have to give it to Athlone for the organisation that goes into this event, it’s phenomenal no matter what the race day issues
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