Marco théann go dtí an Daingean

Is there a statute of limitations on calling yourself a triathlete?  With Valentia having been made a duathlon at the start of the year, I found myself in the position of not having finished a triathlon in over two years.  And what with meetings, AGMs, EGMs afoot, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to stage an impeachment.  Better sign up for something quick before anyone got any bright ideas…. Checking out the TI calendar, I found a late-season Olympic length that tickled my fancy down in Daingean Uí Chúis, or Dingle, drew credit card and fired.  The esteemed Chairperson, against his better judgement, allowed himself to be talked into the notoriously unreliable Gilbert (a nineteen year-old camper with a proclivity for breaking down on the nation’s narrowest roads), agus ar aghaidh linn siar.

We made good time on the way down, though Brian started to get a bit windy of his decision to bring his TT bike against the advice of a certain Mr Ogle as the road twisted and turned its way out onto the peninsula.  We rocked up into town just about in time to catch race registration the night before the race and parked up Gilbert for the night by the marina.  As luck would have it, when we opened the door the next morning, we couldn’t have been much closer to transition, which was maybe 50 metres away – one less thing to worry about!  Bit of breakfast, cup of coffee, wrestle into highly unflattering tri-top, mandatory fourteen visits to the toilet, and pretty soon it was wetsuit o’clock.

You’d imagine a September race on the Dingle Peninsula could two ways – bright, clear and spectacular with views to infinity, or sideways rain howling in from an untrammelled ocean.  In the end, the weather couldn’t quite decide on either, so what we got was fog.  Lots of fog.  As we made our shivering way out to start buoys for a water start (I’m convinced that Gulf Stream is a hoax), the buoy for the first turn, rumoured to be 550 metres away, was invisible.  Once the countdown came, it was a case of head down and hope for the best.  187 racers started the swim, but a good, wide starting area meant things were relatively calm, not the usual washing machine effect.  Pretty soon I had some clear water and could settle into a rhythm.

I rounded the first buoy in fairly good spirits and, very unusually, without having been thumped by anyone.  That was when the fun started.  The first indication was the scream from behind; female, and definitely in the water as well.  ‘Strange,’ I thought, before I felt 1) a pleasant rubbing sensation on my face then 2) a decidedly less pleasant stinging numbness.  Jellyfish.  Loads of the hoors.  Brown, tentacled masses of the stinging sods.  ‘Shag this clear water,’ thought I, and tucked into a group – let the fella up the front bear the brunt!  I still got zapped a few more times, but could hear from the exclamations around me that I was in good company.  I was quite happy to quit the water after 28:21 and head into transition.

I was quite glad to see Slatt’s bike still racked beside mine, and set to getting ready for the bike leg.  Now I would come from the Martin Kirwan school of transitioning, which looks something like this:  remove wetsuit, make cup of tea, put on socks and shoes, get a bit of ironing done….you get the idea.  Shamefully, my T2 was 161st of 177 finishers (what the hell was I doing in there?), and my T1 wasn’t much better.  Still, no sign of Brian as I headed out for a challenging 40 km bike leg.  Can a person be eaten by jellyfish?

You get the feeling the bike course on another day would have been absolutely jaw-dropping.  As it was, with the fog you could only guess at the views of the Blaskets and the Skelligs you would otherwise have had.  On the plus side, at least you couldn’t see the precipice you were cycling inches away from or the rocky death that awaited beneath.  I knuckled down and started cranking it out.  As it transpired, I think Paul gave us a bum steer when he recommended the road bike (or else he was secretly in cahoots with the Chairperson to knobble me):  the surface was decent enough, and the majority who caught and passed me were on TT bikes.  And so it was on about 30 km, when the long-dreaded arse-slap arrived:  Slatts passed with a grin, a quick grouse about the jellyfish and a suggestion that the TT bike’s dodgy cornering had had some unsavoury consequences in his trishorts.  Then down onto his tribars he went and off he shot.  A more pleasant surprise arrived about a minute later, when Elias Granda, who we hadn’t known was racing, breezed past with an ‘Up Waterford’ and looking far more comfortable than any Spaniard has a right to considering the weather conditions.  A stiff climb up Leataoibh and a hairy drop back down into Dingle and it was time to reach for the runners.

The first part of the run course headed out against the bikes, and I’d seen Brian running out looking like he was going to tear the 10k apart.  For my part, I was glad to see that there were more spaces than bikes in transition and could see from the athletes coming against me that I wasn’t doing too badly.  The course then turned off onto small, sh*tty roads (I use the term advisedly:  lots of cow poo!) and began to climb.  It was a nice handy gradient that allowed you to run with good form, and I was happy that the legs didn’t take too long to realise they were finished with the bike and get to work.  The payoff for 6k of gradual climbing was that the last 4 (or maybe a bit more; Brian reckons the run was a little long, and I’m happy to agree if it makes my time look a little better) were downhill.  Across the line in 2:45 – an honest time on what was an honest course – and I can safely call myself a triathlete for a little longer at least.

After a fairly rubbish swim (by his appraisal), Brian had torn it up on the bike and run to finish well up the field in 2:33, and Elias, his beard rendering him impervious to jellyfish, put together a very solid race to finish 4 minutes behind.  All in all, I found it a very enjoyable race and hopefully I’ll be back there next year with a bit more training behind me (and on a TT bike this time, Oggie!) to try to put a dent in my time and maybe even avoid getting my arse slapped by the esteemed Chairperson.  Nothing left to do but get a toasted sandwich in for review (check out my blog at  http://thetoastedspecial.blogspot.ie/) and he104560ad down to Killarney for a bit of a race reccie for the Adventure Race in October.  No swim and extra running – whose idea was that?

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