This all began when I was nabbed one evening by my neighbour, Aidan Hughes, who had been trying to convince me to sign up to a triathlon for quite a while. He spoke of the sport with such enthusiasm that it was very hard not to be lured in. He described the atmosphere of pure excitement during race days, the contagious buzz and camaraderie among athletes and the inevitable competitiveness one gains when they begin to see their potential as they improve. I’m pretty sure it was at this point that I drifted away with my own thoughts, visualising myself passing the finish of the Rio Olympics; winning gold of course!
He sold it to me. I was in. Now all I needed was to do a bit of training and I would be grand…
Eh, how much training?!? What about my really important social life and all the time I spend watching re-runs of ‘Friends’, which are super important? I didn’t think this through. I can’t do this. What was I thinking? I will actually die if I do this. Calm down, one step at a time. Start off by developing a training plan before you absolutely freak out.
Right, a training plan.
I had six weeks. Aidan organised a meeting with Ronan Lambe who gave me a simple but structured training regime that would enable me to build up my stamina on the bike. This was my main concern as I had only begun cycling a few weeks before. I also began cycling to work to get some extra miles in. Ironically, I now can’t stand driving into work and I am now a fulltime cycle-to-work enthusiast!
Why sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic when you can cycle haughtily past angry people stuck in their cars?
Everyone I spoke to stressed concerns about the swim. The swim for many seemed the most difficult and the most intimidating. Thankfully, the swim wasn’t an issue for me as I have been swimming for years in masters’ clubs and lifeguarding through college. I was so comfortable open-water swimming. This was a clear advantage for me and one less thing to worry about!
And my run: I could run. Not very fast, but I could run.
Most of my evenings consisted of some sort of training, mainly involving the bike because I was the least experienced in this area. I was quickly introduced to hill training; Howth: the road to hell.
Why would anybody want to cycle up that Godforsaken ‘hill’ (Mount Vesuvius!)? That’s it! I’m throwing in the towel. Don’t ever ask me to go to Howth again, not even for ice-cream!
Fortunately, I quickly became very confident on the bike and my stamina improved in a very short space of time. However, karma got me for my arrogant thoughts cycling past drivers on the commute to work. I had a fall one rainy day cycling home; a very bad fall, so much so that I quickly lost all the confidence I had gained. I became an angry driver again. My boyfriend urged me to get back on the bike as soon as possible, as he feared if I left it too long it would be harder to get back to the level I had achieved. It took a while to regain the confidence I had lost but, eventually, I got back on the bike and, luckily, the levels of endurance and stamina I had reached hadn’t suffered too much.
My training for the swim involved participating in organised sea swims most weekends and the odd lane session. I entered into the 75th Liffey Swim during that time, giving me the added incentive to keep up the swim training.
Amazing experience. Absolutely disgusting, but amazing.
I was not as focused as I should have been regarding the run. In September 2015, I took part in the Dublin half-marathon and, thus, naivety led me to believe that the run was not going to be an issue. A couple of weeks into my training regime, I participated in the weekly St. Anne’s 5 km Park Run.
Sure I’ve done a half marathon, be graaand…
Well! There’s nothing like a good aul morning puke before 10 am! How was this so hard?! God help the person in front of me listening to my constant choking and wheezing, emulating a dying animal.
The phrase ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ was never more relevant. As the weeks crept by, I knew I had to start picking up the pace. I bumped up my run training which mainly consisted of slow, long distances and intervals and I began incorporating brick sessions into my overall regime.
The night before, the nerves began to set in. I checked and double-checked my bag, convinced I would forget something. When I finally went to bed, my mind was racing…
Oh my God, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday! I’m pretty sure I have never seen this time of the morning before. This is just cold and grim. Five more minutes…
We packed the car with all our gear and headed off towards Phoenix Park. As we drove closer into town, we began to notice other competitors making their way to the race. They were obvious as each had their impressive, shiny, top-of-the-range racers racked onto the back of their cars, unlike us novices who threw our two bikes onto the back seat with the wheels in the boot!
Over the 6 weeks of training for this one day, nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere I was greeted with on arrival; throngs of people, music blaring, stands, banners and fantastic chaos, all before 8 o’clock in the morning!
The nerves began to set in.
I really need to go to the bathroom, like I reeeally need to go.
The time flew by and before I knew it, I was neck deep in “beautiful” Liffey water. Surrounded by crowds of people with my legs tangled up in reeds, I tried to acclimatise.
All at once there were arms and hands everywhere and legs kicking in all directions. I needed to get out of this chaotic mass! I swam fast for the first 600 metres, more so to escape the crowds, and then settled into a nice pace for the remainder. Fourth out of the water in my wave, I was delighted.
Not too shabby, eh?
That delight didn’t last long. One by one, competitors began to pick me off on the run back to our stations. My first transition was frantic but yet I thought I got through it in good time. It was only afterwards when I saw my official time I realised how long it took me! I was ‘making a cup of tea’ according to Aidan.
Why are you surprised? You never practiced transitions in training you gobshite! Note for next time- PRACTICE TRANSITIONS.
It took about 10 minutes to get a comfortable pace on the bike. The hills were difficult, more so due to my inexperience and avoidance of hill training. Although the cycle was hard, I really enjoyed it. It was the first time I was able to experience cycling without the need to watch for cars, pedestrians and lights, enabling me to pick up much more speed than I realised I ever could. It was exhilarating. It still felt as though everyone and their mother were passing me out but it was fascinating to watch these fantastic athletes fly by so determined and fearless, even if it was only for a few seconds!
Coming up to T2 (learning the lingo already) I really could not believe I had made it this far and the time had flown by. I only had one more hurdle to get over.
Just the run. You’re basically finished sure…
The run was by far the most difficult. I struggle to run when I’m rested and fresh-faced, so completing this last hurdle straight after a 2-hour battle was intense and completely exhausting.
Oh my God, this is horrendous. What am I doing? Just stop running, just stop. You can’t do this, you’ll never make it. Where’s the water station so I have an excuse to stop. Shut up. I’ve made it this far, just another 7 km to go. Oh God, kill me!
I battled with myself for the entire run, only to feel relief in the last couple of hundred metres because I could see a glimpse of the finish line. Turning the corner, seeing it right in front of me and running towards it was incredible. There were crowds of people cheering and supporting every competitor crossing the line and, for one brief moment, they were all cheering for me. It was euphoric.
And just like that, it was all over.
It was a mix of emotions; I was so glad it was over but yet so sad it was finished. As a first timer training for a triathlon, I anticipated a lot of challenges, hard work and dedication throughout my journey, knowing I would really have to push myself. That is why I wanted to do this – to prove to myself that I could. I was ecstatic that I had accomplished such a challenging event. How remarkable is it that something so demanding and almost agonising at times can leave you feeling exhilarated and wanting more? The competitiveness against one’s self is the compulsion for me; the need to improve. My thoughts as a newcomer to DCT: they really know how to host an event! Piranha were amazing at organising it, as were all the people competing in it. An experience I will never forget. DCT, you will see me next year.
I have all but to thank my good neighbour, Aidan, for introducing me to the triathlon world and encouraging me to take the first step. This would not have been possible without his help, advice and guidance. I cannot thank him enough.
‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.