Sunday, 27 October 2013

My Ironman Wales Adventure 2013


It all started about six months ago at the end of March 2013, when I ran the Dunboyne AC 4-mile road race. I had done some light training over the few weeks leading up to it, but really had done nothing since the Dublin City Marathon the previous October. I felt sluggish during the race and although I posted a reasonable time, I was shocked at how many from the club ( Drogheda & District AC) had beaten me on the day. Driving home I realised that I needed a really big challenge to get me motivated to start training. A 10k or even a marathon wouldn’t scare me enough this time. I met with Oliver Harkin from Primed Coaching the following week and somehow I walked out of the meeting with the idea of an Ironman. Some internet research followed and it became obvious that the only one suitable was Ironman Wales. Firstly, it was the last one of the year, at the end of the Summer, so it would just about give me the bare minimum 22 weeks training to prepare. Also, it was close to home, meaning I could throw the bike in the car and get the ferry to Pembroke, which is only a fifteen minute drive from the transition in Tenby.

Training started in April and the months passed with training totals of:-

I show the table below to illustrate that with this amount of training off the back of very little in the previous six months, it is possible to complete an Ironman distance event.

Training Spin to check all was in order
As I researched the race a bit more, I read things like “It is without a doubt, the toughest, most exhausting, and probably the most dangerous full-distance race on the Ironman-branded race circuit.” from David Deak who had completed nine Ironman distance races before that one. Inspiring!! In the few months leading up to Wales I met two good guys, John Connellan and John Neville who would also be competing. It was nice to check in with them every so often to compare how badly prepared we all were!!

1600+ bikes racked the day before
Fast forward to Sept 5th and Dad and I loaded the bike into the car and headed for the ferry in Rosslare. A ‘basic’ B&B in Saundersfoot awaited us, but what was I to expect only booking it five weeks before the event. As it happened the location was ideal for Dad, because he saw me twice on the bike (at 70 and 100 miles) and it was fairly close to the turnaround point on the run course (about 4k into each loop) at New Hedges, where he saw me three times during the marathon. Tenby itself is a really nice town but a quick drive around part of the course and it was depressing....the hills, narrow roads, technical descents and more hills did nothing to calm the nerves.
Dad and I in the procession to the start line
With a few hours to go to race start, I read a few chapters of Gerry Duffys Tick Tock Ten, before lights out at 10pm.

The Race

Porridge was made and eaten by 4.15pm the next morning and we made our way to the transition area. Dad dropped me off and parked and then promptly joined me in the parade down to the beach.

And they're off!! I kept way out left.
In short, the swim went well. I stayed way out to the left on the two lap clockwise course, so I avoided the kicks, thumps and lost goggles that tend to happen in the centre or near the buoys. I finished the swim in 1hr 24mins, which I was happy about but then proceeded to take 20mins in T1. In fairness, it was almost a mile from the beach back to the transition area, but I wasn’t leaving that tent until I knew I hadn’t forgotten anything. The previous year in Ironman Galway 70.3, I was out on the bike before I realised I hadn’t got my race belt and number. Also, I was told afterwards it is the longest transition in the world.

On to the bike for 180km / 112 miles (7hrs 45mins) of hills, windy roads and relentless rain. It wasn’t
Hill at Saundersfoot. Note the girl walking!
pretty, especially for a non-cyclist. I was only an hour on the bike when the heavens opened and it poured rain for about two hours. It was also really cold. Naturally, I had left my rain jacket and gilet in my bike bag. After about half an hour of feeling sorry for myself, I made a conscious decision to suck it up and get on with it. It got slightly warmer as we headed inland, but the rain came at us sporadically all day. It didn’t leave me in the mood for the nice scenery, castles or taking in the sleepy little Welsh towns...plenty of time for that afterwards. From 55 to 112 miles was where we hit the hills. There is a total elevation gain on 2000 metres in Ironman Wales and for a non-cyclist, this is not easy. You can’t even enjoy the downhills because the roads are narrow and there are plenty of turns on this technical course. I saw many competitors sitting on the side of the road wrapped up in tinfoil and others getting off the bike and walking up some of the steeper hills. I was determined not to let that happen in case I never got back on. It must be said that the crowds of support in each of the towns was incredible. It made the cycle bearable for me. I arrived at the end of the bike soaked to the bone, with numb feet but delighted to be still in the race.

Finally on to the run, which is a 10.5k looped course that you cover four times. The total elevation gain is over 400 metres, so it is a tough run course. I had Liam Dolan’s advice ringing in my ears here where he said to hold back on the first twenty miles and then and only then, if I was feeling good, go hard. I did exactly this and luckily felt fine the whole way. I am not saying it was easy but when you are running well above your threshold pace and eating and drinking properly, it is amazing how long you can go. I surprised myself. Now I am probably painting a very rosy picture, but from the moment I started the run, there was always a niggling doubt that you won’t finish because at any minute you could cramp or pull a muscle or get stomach sickness...the list goes on. I did have a sore left achilles from mile three, but thankfully it never got worse. On hindsight I think I had the chip strap too tight which may have aggravated it. Anyway, I finished the last 6 miles in 50 minutes for a 4.09 marathon. I couldn’t have been happier and having Dad there on the finish line was the icing on the cake.

Official Stats
Swim 01:24:17
T1 00:19:26
Bike 07:48:45
T2 00:09:28
Run 04:10:38
Overall 13:52:34

Post Ironman

After celebratory hugs, a much needed massage, a cuppa and a great post-mortem chat with Dad, John Connellan and family and John Neville, it was off to catch the 2.45am ferry to Rosslare and a long, but enjoyable drive home.

For anyone thinking of completing an Ironman like me off the back of average fitness, with a short 22 week training window, a few key components that benefitted me were:-
Core and strength sessions: I only added this element to my training in the last six weeks, but it really paid dividends. Danny Black from is a good guy and knows how to get the most from you. I’ve only just realised he’s great at sports massage too.

Drogheda Triathlon Club and particularly Colin Lowth for the club swimming sessions. I’m going to try and link up more with these guys over this Winter for their infamous, lengthy, circuit training sessions.

Drogheda and District Running Club: the bulk of my training was done with these guys. Whether you want to run for the social element or improve your running times, this club has it all. Structured training, groups of your own ability with the option to move up or down, knowledgable members and of course, lots of good banter.

Now to get ready for Dublin City Marathon 2013!!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Objective 2: Galway Ironman 70.3 Completed

When I met Oliver Harkin from Primed Coaching back in January of this year, I set out three goals for the year. The first one was to complete Hell of the West in June, which I did successfully, competing with the Howard brothers. The next goal was to complete the Galway Ironman 70.3 on September 2nd. This was actually my main goal for the year and the one I wanted to achieve most.
As I mentioned in the previous post, my training in the month leading up to Galway was incredibly inconsistent and I didn't get anywhere near the targets Oliver had set out for me. However, I am happy to say that I completed it and have the teeshirt to prove it. I did have a crash and a split tire on the bike leg after about 40 miles that cost me about 25mins, but I still got through the 1.9km swim / 90km bike / 21.1km run in a time of 6hrs 20mins. The breakdown of the three parts were:-
Colin Cooney (IRL)06:20:4100:49:4503:21:4501:57:51
Keith Duffy (IRL)06:42:1901:00:0503:17:1002:11:06
Matt Cooper (IRL)03:04:15
Kathryn Thomas (IRL)03:20:23
Rosanna Davison (IRL)01:55:45
There were a few Irish celebs competing for ‘TEAM DUFFY’ to raise funds for Irish Autism Action. Most of them did one leg as part of a relay team and you can see from the times that all of them beat mine...I'll get them next year!! Last year Keith Duffy raised €40,000 for the charity through competing in Galway, so hopefully with more celebs helping him out this year he'll raise even more.

Next up is my third goal for the year, the Dublin City Marathon on October 29th. Training has been going fairly well for this so far, so here are the stats for the month of September 2012:-
* Bike: 56 miles (3hrs 23mins)
* Run: 178 miles (20.5hrs)
* Swim: 0 yards

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Triathlon Training - August 2012

During the final month before the Galway Ironman 70.3, my training went from mediocre to incredibly inconsistent to non-existent. What a time to pull out my worst month. On the plus side I went on a few holidays, got to see Katie Taylor win her Olympic gold and finished my thesis. The thesis was part of my final module in the Masters in Learning & Teaching from DkIT.

Here are the stats for the month of August 2012:-
* Bike: 68 miles (4hrs 40mins)
* Run: 82 miles (7.5hrs)
* Swim: 0 yards
* Soccer: 1hr

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Triathlon Training - July 2012 Totals

A combination of tiredness from Hell of the West, a few holidays and a pulled hamstring meant that July's totals weren't anywhere near what I had planned. Anyway, on the plus side, I had a great month of relative non-activity. Roll on August and one month to go until Ironman70.3 in Galway.
Here are the stats for the month of July 2012:-
* Bike: 26 miles (1hrs 50min)
* Run: 100 miles (15.5hrs)
* Swim: 2700 yards (1hr 25mins)
* Soccer: 0hrs

Monday, 9 July 2012

Objective 1: Hell of the West Completed

I completed Hell of the West in Kilkee, Co. Clare on June 23rd and the race went well. Everything from the accommodation, the company and the race itself was enjoyable. It did rain from start to finish, throw in some hailstones and alot of hills, but it still was a great day. Splits from the three of us on the day were:-
163Colin Cooney02:45:1800:34:2901:22:2300:45:46
230Kieran Howard02:51:0900:34:3001:26:3100:45:59
325Kevin Howard03:00:3000:32:1801:31:4300:52:05

Here are the stats for the month of June 2012:-
* Bike: 130 miles (7.5hrs)
* Run: 70 miles (15.5hrs)
* Swim: 8500 yards (7.5hrs)
* Soccer: 0hrs

The last week of June was a write-off and July has started very very slowly so I'd better start the engines soon to make sure I have enough work done for Ironman 70.3 Ireland in Galway on September 2nd

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

2 Sprints Done...1 Olympic Tri to go

I completed Fingal Sprint Tri and Blackrock Tri over the past two weekends, which should be good preparation for Hell of the West on June 23rd. Importantly, I finally got into the water this month too. Here are the stats for the month of May 2012:-
* Bike: 150 miles (9hrs)
* Run: 52 miles (11hrs)
* Swim: 6050 yards (3.5hrs)
* Soccer: 4hrs

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Road to Triathlon - Back to my Blogging Roots

In the three odd years that this blog has lain dormant and the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter have eaten into my online time, there have been sporadic bouts of fitness, but with no real structure or consistency. I decided that it was long overdue to start putting in a little bit more effort to try and loose a few pounds/cholesterol points and maybe compete in a few events.
So in homage my last fitness post from 2008, here are a few stats for the month of April 2012:-
* Bike: 324 miles
* Run: 34 miles (approx)
* Swim: 1500 yards (abysmal!)
* Soccer: 3hrs

The goal for May is to improve on these...shouldn't be too hard for the swimming element.