I travelled to Clogherhead on Saturday 26th September to compete in the Irish National Sprint Championship. I was unsure about whether I was going to make this race as I have had a lot on in recent weeks, however, with my twin sis Rachel already dead set on competing I knew I’d be making the trip to Port beach in some capacity. Mum was going to be in Dublin too which meant I’d have my number 1 supporter there for the race! I travelled up to Dublin Friday evening and my first port of call was Argos to buy a blow up bed! Some people are pedantic about pre-race routine but I tend to be pretty chilled (I have certain things I need like Haribo and a lucky water-bottle). I won’t lie I had the most interrupted night’s sleep ever on this single airbed. I reasoned we didn’t need to inflate it fully because I’d add weight lying on it but when we all settled in for the night I was literally lying on the floor (Rachel you were right we needed more air!!) After an interesting night fighting the airbed I bounced out of bed at 5.45am to head out for a pre-breakfast wake up run. I had Rachel for company which was great and we were just chatting about the day ahead. Breakfast complete and I headed down to load up my Renault Captur. As a brand ambassador I am exceptionally well looked after by Renault Ireland and I am fortunate to have a Renault Captur Signature complete with roof box, bike rack and a very handy boot cover (protects the seats from all the wet gear) to get me from A-B for both training and placement. My bike rack was left in Newcastlewest (after some miscommunication) but I still managed to pack the Captur with two bikes, 6 wheels, 3 women and the necessary baggage that comes with a ladies day out and two triathletes!
We were unbelievably fortunate with the weather as the sun was out in force when we parked up on Port Beach. Quick walk down to registration and it was time to get all the gear out for transition. There was a bit of an ‘uh-oh’ moment when Rachel realised she had left her bike shoes behind but fellow Munster triathlete Rachel Hawker was on hand to save the day and her helpfulness ensured we were all able to race (thanks again Rachel!). Transition was separated once again into Cat 1 and National Series. Cat 1 was very well set up and there was no fear of entering or exiting incorrectly. I racked my Planet X RT-90 and tidied my shoes before heading out for a quick warm-up run. The mother (aka the Maro) was perched happily on a wall minding the gear bags and admiring all the goings on. I love having family at races as they are instantly make me relax. It’s also nice for them to be involved in something that they usually don’t get to see but hear so much about (all Mum gets is bags of washing and questions about how to remove chain ring marks from my clothes!).
Race brief was called bang on time and following that Cat 1 male and female athletes were led down the beach to the swim start. The men went first and as soon as they did, we were given a few minutes to ‘acclimatise’ to the Irish Sea temperature. The water was absolutely baltic! I tend not to do too much of a swim warm-up so I just dipped in and got out. It was going to be an interesting beach start as the water depth is very shallow for a good 50m. We all lined up- I didn’t like my starting position and felt I should move but it was too late “on your marks….” GO! The sprint into the water wasn’t exactly sprint like and I had to do a bit of work. I had clear water nearly instantly and rounded the first buoy without anyone beside me. I couldn’t see a thing as my goggles got a knock at the start so I just swam as straight as I could remembering the lines I had chosen. I was tempted to rip the goggles off but 750m isn’t much so I put up with it.
Swim exit was well marked and I made sure to get in as close as possible before running up the ramp to T1. My Velcro was exceptionally difficult to open but once I had my zip free the wetsuit whipped off. I knew I had had a bad swim but I didn’t expect to have so much company in T1. I grabbed my planet x and bounded out of T1 solo. I assumed a group would come up to me eventually as with draft legal you’re saving your legs and dodging the headwind in a group for periods when you’re not taking your turn and it allows you fresh legs for a better run in comparison to the non-draft legal format where every discipline is 100% your own work. I grabbed my gel once on my bike and nearly took myself out when I was caught by a gust of wind with only one hand on the handlebar! I had no time to think of the group in T1 who had to be out together right behind. I wasn’t worried about being caught by them as I am confident in my run ability should I need to run hard I would.
The bike was a solo effort against all sorts of winds- headwind predominantly- but plenty of crosswinds to contend with too. I was back in my Mallorca 70.3 mindset saying make it to 5km, make it to 10km, make it to 15km get to T2! I was glad I looked at the cycle course the night before on the race brief as I had an idea of the turns (no time for recces!). The course is full of hidden drags that force your legs to do a lot of work and I spent a lot of time making my gears gear for me. Turning for T2 along the coast road I was looking forward to getting off the bike and out on to the run! I was thinking about it too much and I ended up taking my feet out of my shoes far too early but I was conscious that others would be in packs and therefore would be fresher. I had a quick dismount and ran into T2 solo. I grabbed my shoes and shades before sprinting out of transition hearing nothing but my mum encouraging me “run!”
I headed out on the run course focusing on the task at hand. I never ever look back racing so I had no idea if I had a gap and just kept running. All the cat 1 males were coming in for the finish when I was out on the run course and we all acknowledged one another (which is great to see as everyone is dying with the intensity a sprint entails!). As I approached the turnaround I understood what some athletes had meant by saying the last few metres are a ‘bit of a drag’. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me and when I turned I couldn’t see any oncoming female. Eventually I saw Heather Foley coming up in 2nd looking very determined. I continued as I was not needing to do any more and beginning to allow myself to think of the finish line not too far ahead. I’ve had such a tough few weeks that only few know about so to be in first place coming up to the finish line and seeing my mum out cheering and roaring for me is something I won’t forget in a hurry. I couldn’t stop smiling and crossing the line I felt nothing but relief! My mum was first up for a hug! I gave my dad a quick call to pass on the good news and then went back to the finish for Heather. It’s been a pleasure to race her this year- something I’ve only done twice and we have both been in similar positions- her 1st and I 2nd at the duathlon national champs. Rachel Hawker had a really strong run finish to secure 3rd place. I waited for most of the cat 1 ladies to cross so I could congratulate them. We are all competing against each other I know but we all do the same things- swim, bike, run- and it’s nice to celebrate the end of the series together. Once race was over I headed for a cool down and went for a stroll out on the run course to cheer my sis on. She had a great race and finished 3rd overall which means she can join me in cat 1 next year!
The awards were brilliant and we got well looked after by Pulse Triathlon Club who put on a great day for all the athletes. The addition of a lovely pair of Oakleys for both Male and Female National Champs was a very nice touch. As always I want to say a massive thank you to my coaches- STL and Lars- for getting me through the season relatively injury free. My bike sponsors Planet X, especially Dave Loughran, for continuing to provide me with the best bikes to race on- my Planet X RT-90 road bike and Exocet 2 TT bike have enabled me to make my bike leg so much stronger. Renault Ireland, thank you for having me as a the Renault Captur brand ambassador and making it possible for me to attend all my training sessions as well as travel to all the races around the country!
And lastly big thanks to my team-mates GoTri for all the good luck wishes and support