Stronger field - the winner last year was 6th this year despite being 2 minutes down on last years time. I was 59th out of 190 & 11th M40 (56th last year & 5th M40 despite being over 11 minutes slower than this year).
Preparation - I stayed the night before in Baltimore with Pat who has a holiday home there. Ani and Saran came along for support. Pat gave me a beer on arrival while he opted for a Berocca (I think he was trying to even things up a bit). We registered at 7:30 and returned to the house for a feed of chicken noodles followed by pasta. An early rise was required in order to get some calories down before the race start at 08:30. The forecast was for clear weather with strong winds. The sea, which was quite choppy the night before had calmed down a bit.
The Swim (1.5k ish) - The start was the a mad dash with arms and legs everywhere coming from all sides - I shouldn't have started in the middle - there was no escape all I could do was fight a path forward through the mass of flailing limbs, swimmers landing on my legs slowing me down - this continued for the first 300m+ before it began to ease a little. Sighting the buoys was more challenging in the swell. However once we changed direction after the 2nd buoy the swell was worse and on quite a few occasions I took in water instead of air. It was also difficult to spot other swimmers and the next buoy without stopping and looking around. Finally I was around the 3rd buoy and heading for shore although I zig-zagged all over the place constantly crossing the path of other swimmers. Coming into the steps up to transition however I was on my own thankfully - so no pushing or shoving to get a foothold on the bottom step. Swim time 23:38. (25:16 last year, where I took a more scenic route)
T1 - Up the steps and run to the bike except - "where the fu#k is my bike" - the space was empty - someone's stolen my bike _ I look up expecting someone to tell me where my bike is but no one gives me a clue. Then I spot it in the row behind - "You idiot" - Wet suit comes off easily enough on with the glasses, helmet, bike shoes unrack the bike and I'm ready for road. T1 in 1:43 (2:00 last year)
Bike (45k ish) - Despite taking a gel during the first mile my legs felt heavy and I did not get any rhythm going until 10k had passed. During this time I was passed by 5 or 6. I could hear the "whoosh... whoosh" of the special wheels on the carbon tri bikes behind me before they whizzed by. With my gear levers on the down tube I must have looked so amateurish. I finally got my legs as we headed into Skibbereen and out the Castletownsend Road and I began to pass one or two in front of me. However the left turn at Castlehaven Creamery and into the westerly wind hit me hard, making progress was slow as I constantly changed through the gears to find a sustainably fast pace (no such luck). However those in front were not pulling away so I wasn't the only one struggling. Overall my legs felt far more tired that they should have and the level of discomfort was not compatible with the level of progress. I was wondering when Connie and Peter would catch up (Both were quite strong on the dummy run last weekend, Connie in particular pushing very strong on the hills). I ploughed on and got into a rhythm again from Tragumna into Skibbereen with the wind at my back for a change. Shortly after leaving Sbibb (12k to go) I got a pat on the back from Peter as he passed by. I tracked him for the next couple of km but lost him before reaching Lough Ine and the dreaded hill (5k to go). I dropped into the lowest gear and stood up on the bike - however the chain started slipping to the 2nd lowest gear as the hill steepened - the mind games began - "How can I get up this hill if I can't get the easiest gear. Then I heard the familiar voice of Connie behind me - "use your cassette Grellan he was shouting". " I am, but the chain is slipping" I replied as he passed me out, he sitting on his saddle and me standing on the pedals. "Peter's not far ahead" I said "you should catch him".
The final steep section, where I dismounted last week during the dry run, was before me and knowing that the pain would be brief I pushed hard (I was now stuck in the same gear) and managed to reach the top without even weaving. And then the final long descent into Baltimore and T2. 4km out the leaders were coming against me on the run. Bike in 1:33:06 (1:42:47 last year - although 6 or 7 minutes of that was spent putting my saddle back on after it "came" off")
T2 - Run in with the bike off with the helmet and shoes, I decided to sit and put on socks (previous attempts at running with no socks yielded blisters on my middle toes - after the run I realised that I had only put a sock on my left foot - what must I have been thinking of). back out on the run the announcer calling out the numbers & names "Number 200 now heading out on the run....................." he hesitated and paused for 5 seconds "Greeelan McGrath". T2 in 0:55 (1:01 last year)
Run (9.8k ish) - Running up the hill out of town felt slow and both my feet were numb for the first half mile. I saw two guys in front who looked familiar - Connie & Peter. As I drew alongside them they both said that they had noting left in the tank after the cycle and while my body felt fatigued my legs were able to turnover on autopilot (familiar territory). This autopilot carried me up the hill into the surrounding countryside past the 2 and 3k marks and a few other runners in the process. I could feel the strain as the sun came out and I sought the shade where available. The route continued to climb (some dips), right past the 4k mark and another uphill drag past another bunch of runners and finally the decent back towards Baltimore. I passed a guy at the water station at the 6k mark and then it was into no mans land for the next 2k. My effort was pretty consistent with no energy or inclination to up the pace. I finally closed in on another target at 8k and the last uphill push before the drop into town. I was passed by a guy at 8.5k and had no response, his pace was in another world as far as I was concerned. And finally the steep descent and straight to the finish, once I saw the line I had enough to push the last 20 yards and finish strong Run in 41:54 (41:33 last year - no much in it but slower as predicted.
Overall 2:41:12 which I am pleased with as my target/predictions were fairly accurate.
Target sub 2:45 (although a sub 2:40 was the Plan A and may have materialised had I had a better day on the bike).
Predictions faster swim, bike & transitions than last year and a slower run (check)