I picked IM Dublin 70.3 when it first got launched as a good opportunity to do a relatively local race in a city I knew well from the days when I worked for an Irish company. At the beginning of August it fell just 3 weeks before the World Champs so was great as a warm up race for my big goal in Austria.
The plan was to try and have a solid race without killing myself and end up needing lots of recovery time afterwards – try telling that to anyone remotely competitive to rein it in!!!
The weekend didn’t get off to the best start when we arrived at the hire car place at the airport to realise I had booked a car for the month later on one of the busiest weekends of the year! After having to go to another company and forking out a lot more than I originally had paid, I finally had a car to get us around over the weekend, a suitably sized VW Polo!
Saturday was all about getting the admin done, the usual racking of your bike in one place with your T1 place, drive to the other end of the city to put your trainers in T2 etc,etc. We did get an opportunity to swim on the course so I went for a paddle. All of my local lakes had warmed up quite nicely and I was accustomed to swimming in around 20 degrees, the Irish Sea on the other hand was a brisk 13! So I didn’t stay in too long but just got my bearings, got a feel for sea swimming again and out I get. I bump into a friend who I didn’t realise was racing Stephen Skates. In my age group and a very good athlete, having won the Age Group race overall at UK 70.3 in 2014, come 7th in the World 70.3 Champs last year (ahead of me) and recently podiumed at one of the most competitive 70.3 Races on the circuit California 70.3. All of a sudden my plan for “a solid race” has gone out the window. The World Champs are 3 weeks away, I’ll worry about that afterwards!
Race day on Sunday morning arrives and the Pro Men are off at 6.50am followed by the Pro Women then the 35-39’s are the first of the age group waves to go at 7.00am. Quite quickly I find myself swimming on my own at the front and heading towards the 1st buoy. It’s a bit choppy, feels like there is a current pulling you to one side and the buoy seems to take ages to get to but I plough on, knowing I need a lead on the swim & bike. The swim feels it has taken a bit longer than usual which is confirmed when I get out in around 28:30 but I have a decent lead and head to the bike. The bike course heads into the city and out the other side past T2 at Phoenix Park and then on for another 20 miles or so before heading back. The route is flat, but mainly country lanes and the first 30 miles feel like they are into a headwind and it’s raining. Apart from a few pro women that I pass, Fraser Cartmell who had had an accident and another Pro that I catch at 80k I see nobody, so have no idea what is going on behind.
Into T2 and there are just a handful of Pro Men Bikes, I head out onto the 3 lap run course. It’s flat and fast and easy to lock on to pace with your watch which is what I do. The first part is an out and back and I am able to see Stephen coming the other way in 2nd, but just under 5 mins back. I know I am safe bless I faulted badly so just concentrate on ticking off the 1st lap. I hold 6 min miles and it’s feeling good. The end of lap goes within 100m of the finish line and the Ironman announcer is commentating “first age grouper coming through and he is right up there with the Pros in the Top 5” I have caught a couple more on Lap 1 but I don’t really know what is going on ahead with the 10 min difference. Lap 2 and I’m still holding the gap to Stephen and holding the pace. Lap 3 and you start to feel it a bit and I start to question…should I bury myself or just hold back and save it for 3 weeks time. I decide to hold back just a tad and enjoy the last few miles at a more sedate pace…..I finish in 4:14 and have done splits of 28 mins for the 1.9k swim, 2:20 for the 90k bike and 1:20 for the run. It’s probably my best executed half ironman and I am delighted.
As it happens, coming off the pace for those last few miles has cost me 5th place overall with the Pros, but it doesn’t matter. I win the Age Group Race overall and come 7th, and get my slot for the World Champs for 2016 on the Sunshine Coast, Australia – a destination I am very excited about!
So 3 weeks to go to the World Champs, and my final race of 2015, this race has given me the confidence I can be right in the mix come race day in Zell am See…..