[Report by Don Morrissey]
In March 2012 on a cold wet Saturday morning, I spotted a ‘Newsflash’ on the ITU Website, ‘2013 World Triathlon Championships Grand Final to be held in London on the same course as the 2012 Olympic Games’. Wow, season goal was intact, Qualify….
Luckily for me I sneaked a place in Athy in early June 2012, leaving me well over 12 months to prepare, but more importantly it meant I could look at the Olympic Games and say with certainty I’ll be there next year. If anyone saw the Triathlon in the Olympics, it was apparently the highest attended event on the program with the Brownlee Brothers doing the business amidst the most vocal crowd on the most iconic course imaginable, not to mention a wonderful performance from Gavin Noble to keep us interested. Roll on 2013
2012 was a vintage year for the four amigos, epic road trips to all corners of the Country chasing much coveted NS points in order to qualify and finally after a rather arbitrary long-winded qualification system within Triathlon Ireland, the inevitable happened, the four golden tickets were secured.
2013 for me anyway was far from vintage, however despite a few season wobbles, I found myself in London in the peak of my life. However one of the drawbacks for an event of this magnitude, is the endless check-ins, briefings, registrations, course familiarisation etc etc, which meant for a lot of walking to and from the Park, not ideal pre-race preparations, however TI were actually superb, very well briefed, which eased the tensions.
5.50am alarm, but I was awake already, packed bags, which were packed already, porridge and toast and off to Hyde Park. Met Frank in transition, sorted all the bits and pieces and we toddled off. We both decided that the finish line stand was the best place to position ourselves until our wave starts are 9.45/9.50. Then the music started and myself and Frank looked at each other and giggled nervously, it’s on. We saw the first wave Male 16-19 from start at exactly 8am to finish at 9:03-ish.
Suddenly the wet suits were on, quick photo with a few Irish guys from Ditch Moore and before long Frank found himself sitting on the pontoon staring into the abyss and then he was off. Frank said afterwards he suffered a little on the early swim but soon got into his rhythm. I was strangely calm and seriously focussed at the start, staring down the 250 metres to the turnaround point, while visualising my swim stroke. My game plan was obviously similar to everyone else, swim as hard as you can the turnaround point, get around without injury/drama, then swim harder back. We all seemed to hit the turnaround together, which meant for a lot of missed strokes and kicking. According to Frank the swim was well over the 750 metres, so I exited in one of my best results, a very admirable 12:19, while Frank came out in 16:51. Have to say Frank looked well in red in the water
With the biggest and longest transition ever experienced, I managed to catch Frank in the corner of my eye as I ran into transition and believe it or not, beat him to the mount line. Frank through T1 3:31, while I flew through in 3:03. After many years of trying various types of bike mounts, I’ve found the most efficient for me is to stop, left foot in, push off, right foot in and immediately power up. As I stopped, Frank went tearing past me with his spectacular moving mount, however while he was tackling his left shoe, I passed him again, so it worked, I was ahead
We were a little disappointed to hear that leading up to the event, the organisers had reduced the sprint to a three lap course within Hyde Park, totalling 22.7k. However on the day, it meant for a much smaller, more intimate cycle course. The weather Gods failed us unfortunately with torrential rain and suddenly all the fears of a wet technical bike course hit home. It was literally carnage out there, with 8 x 90 degree bends, 2 x 180 degree bends and a number of ramps on each of the three laps, meant that the bike became a very serious game of wits and concentration with absolutely no chance to take your eye off the game. You had to power it at every opportunity and then just take it easy into the bends. They say there were over 120 fallers. There was 20 athletes hospitalised, one with a broken hip, so the facts speak for themselves. In fact on one of my bends, the lad in front hit the decks, slid into the barriers to the groans of the crowd, while I heard another slap just behind as the lad behind literally slid right past me in on top of the other guy. That group of S-bends certainly attracted the crowds and became known as ‘Carnage Corner’ as the public salivated on the wreckage. Luckily both of us stayed upright and I definitely put in the bike of my life, finishing only 3:30 behind the fastest split. I finished in a handsome 37:13, while Frank followed shortly in 38:10 (Sorry Frank).
I didn’t factor the very wet brakes for the dismount and ended up dismounting at extraordinary speeds. I managed to slow down just before crashing into the barrier to tumultuous applause from the onlookers and marshals at my kamikaze exploits. Through T2 in 3:07, Frank in 3:24.
Then came the run. I knew for once I’d found a course that suited my abilities, flat and flat. A two lap course, with one long but easy drag totalling just under 5k (they extended transition to add the balance). I tore out of transition in a blaze, before hitting that slight drag, which brought me quickly down to earth, before settling in after approx. 1k. Of all the runs I’ve ever done, this was by far in away the most enjoyable (well probably the only enjoyable one). For the first time in the race, you could actually look around and acknowledge the support, families and friends who stayed out in the rain to cheer. It was an amphitheatre of noise all around the 2.5k course, with smiles, high fives, shouts of ‘Go Team Ireland’, which eased the pain of the race. Before long I was on lap two and picked the pace up again and soon we both traversed towards the finish chute.
I pitifully tried to break into a sprint at the finish, but failed miserably as the tank was completely empty (guess who won that sprint, it’s easy). I came home in a strong run PB of 19:17, while Frank closely followed in 21:20. My best overall race ever, while Frank was happy too as you can see.
The next hour was just great, just savouring the moment, taking it all in, Athlete’s Corner, photos, Dextro Energy, smiles, the odd bromance moment, family hugs while still stealing a quiet moment to think of the great man.
It lived up to everything that was billed, an experience of a lifetime, moments to savour, moments to reflect, friendships built, sweat, tears of joy, immense training and sacrifices celebrated with close friends and family. It has to be done again. Sincere thanks to everyone via, text, forum, facebook and race pigeon for Frank
Don: 59th Age Group 449th Overall:
Frank: 99th Age Group 790th Overall: