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Ironman Ireland by Mark Robson

The consequences of storm Betty meant that Saturday's 70.3 had to be cancelled and put over to run alongside the full distance on Sunday. We spent Saturday in Youghal again and there was no way you could have run the 70.3. A further consequence was people's plans had to be changed last minute and this is where the hospitality of the people of Youghal came into their own. On Facebook the Ironman Ireland page was littered with offers of spare rooms, beds which was awesome. We took up an offer of a parking space on someone's driveway (thanks Jenny). Anyway, it was an early night back at our accommodation and attempt to get rest and sleep in for the 4am alarm call.

Watched the clock, par for the course, and actually got up at 3.45am. Shower and rubbed CBD Triathlete balm into my legs. Smothered the nether regions in sudocreme and trisuit on. Timing chip on left ankle. Porridge and half a bagel and a cup of tea and we were off to Youghal again. It was dry and better conditions, or so we thought. It was still quite blustery but nothing like the storm.

Into transition with my bottles and nutrition and the white streetwear bag. Sorted the bike out first then started to get changed into the wetsuit. Out of transition with my hotel slippers on, dropped off the white bag and the 2 personal needs bags and walked with Sarah to the swim start. It was chaos as all the 70.3's (red hat's) were there as well as the full distance (green hats). The boats had taken the buoy's to their positions but there was a definite confusion in the air and mass concern about the sea conditions. The huge waves were crashing against the rocks.

There was then an announcement that the full distance swim would be cut short to the 1900m 70.3 distance. We watched as the boats towed the big buoy's back but out of the way. They should have left one of the big buoy's in place for the turn because with the waves it was difficult to sight the smaller yellow one. Irish dancers, national anthem and Thunderstruck kicked off the action.

We watched the 70.3 start and it was evident that the current was playing a huge part and some swimmers were being taken way off course. This led to mid race the organisers changing the turn buoy to triangular yellow M dot buoy. Anyway the same issues prevailed and swimmers still got dragged away from the turn buoy. Also getting in the waves knocked many people over and dragged them back to the rocks. Tales of shredded wetsuits.

It was now my time and into the water I went and sure enough the first wave knocked me over. Pushing on, I couldn't get any rhythm going and it was a battle riding the huge waves. I struggled to sight the turn buoy but as neared it the current continued to drag you left of it. It was Piccadilly Circus around that buoy and treading water to get around seemed to take an eternity as each time the buoy was in touching distance you suddenly found yourself 10 feet away from it again. Once navigated I managed to get into a normal swim stroke and powered it tide assisted to the exit ramp by transition. As I was getting out of the water I noticed someone being resuscitated on the ramp. I was completely unaware at the time but after the race was over I discovered that 2 people lost their lives during the swim. Dreadfully sad news. A long run around transition to get into transition and I did my usual long transition time. Half a banana and coke before hitting the bike.

Out on the bike and 2 loops of a tremendous course. The ride out as far as Midleton was a tough headwind but very scenic route alongside the river/sea for long sections. The route north east from Midleton was a long long gradual up hill slog. Nothing extreme but 5% for over 8km kept you working hard. The support on the bike even in very rural sections was amazing. There was a very fast couple of sections before coming into Youghal which I really enjoyed and my first loop was looking quick but the sting in the tail just as you get into town is Windmill Hill (22%) but probably the craziest and most iconic climb I think I'll experience.

The support was phenomenal and I've never seen so many people screaming encouragement at you. I was determined to get up it on the first loop but just over halfway up I felt a cramp hitting my lower left quad. I made the sensible decision to jump off and push the rest. Trust Sarah to be positioned just there! You drop down from Windmill Hill and either go left to transition or right on loop 2. Onto the second loop and the wind had kicked up stronger so the headwind out was even more of a battle. I felt good though and whilst I slowed down compared to loop 1 I was still pushing hard. I had already made my decision that I would push the whole hill at Windmill on my second loop as I didn't want to cramp just before getting back into T2 prior to the run. Again the support was insane, even when pushing your bike everyone shouted positive encouragement. I saw Sarah again and got a kiss just before remounting. Downhill and into transition to prepare for the run. Again, was my usual long long time but I wanted to put my ankle supports on, fresh socks and calf sleeves.

The run - my horrible bit but strangely I actually grew into this one. I found the first loop tiring and the second even more so. It was a good flat course and everything that Youghal had shown us in hospitality. I thought Wales was the best you'll ever see but Ireland...... you delivered and some. The noise beneath the clock tower was phenomenal. I had a good loop 3 and knew loop 4 would be a formality, although, would I push harder or just settle with the rhythm I had maintained. I knew my time was going to be quicker than I'd done previously so settled for the rhythm. The tremendous support kept you going and after collecting my final lap band it was only another 2km into Youghal for the red carpet. What a feeling when you see the lane splitter saying finish or laps and you get to choose finish. Wet cap off and sunglasses on my the red carpet. The noise was incredible and I missed Sarah as it was packed and I wouldn't have heard her. 12:40 and hands in the air for the money shot. Ironically Sarah was almost on the finish line and I'd crossed the finish I heard her shout so I was able to get an emotional hug from her.

Ironman Ireland, you were amazing. Youghal, even better. I'd highly recommend this race before it moves elsewhere. Think they have 2 more years. I'll be nursing sore muscles and a couple of small blisters this week.


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