The last time I was on the ring of Kerry I was in the back of our family Toyota Corolla listening to Tina Turner and Michael Jackson on tapes. Family holiday in the 1980’s we’re essentially the old man driving as fast as he could to a location. Then driving as fast as he could around the location. Which that summer was Kerry.
I lost count of the amount of bollickings I got for not looking out the window at the scenary. Tina and Mick we’re obviously more important.
Fast forward 30 odd years now I know why the old man was so miffed. This is my 6th Ironman and it certainly was the most beautiful course I have ever been on.
Upon arrival for registration the scene was so much different from the branded Ironman events. A warm well come from the very personable Alan Ryan and co. No bullshit, no ego’s nerves or worry. Once race formalities were explained, some of the answers to questions were the stuff of Irish long distance legend.
Is there signage on the bike course
” follow the ring of Kerry signs”
What’s the story with the aid stations?
”made up of south Kerry farmers so be nice”
It was fun, light hearted and if you were easily offended it was not the place to be. It was brilliant.
The swim takes place in the Killarney golf club, the Irish open has been held there 4 times. It even has resident red deer. The gods did their bit and the heavens cleared for us. With the sun rising over the mountains it opened a curtain of lakeside beauty. All I wanted to do was get in the water and get started. Which we did quite smartly and without any drama.
I had hoped to catch some toes, but the crowd split very fast and I was on my own for the entirety of the swim. 7 minutes slower for me this year at 1:17. It could have been the lack of people in the water, winds and or current either way I was slow but still top 10 exiting.
I am cautious for the first hour on the bike. This first hour coincided with molls gap. And now I know why Dad was bollicking me in the late 80’s. Ladies view was holy moly stuff. Just wow. It’s a tough climb, especially with the fact that I’m overweight this season. But those views certainly took the mind off the quadriceps.
I was passed by two riders, and they rode hard. I thought they were burning matches and I was the cute hoor. Credit to them both they placed. And I learned. The extra weight did not help throughout those 3 hours plus to the half way point but again the wow factor climbing towards Waterville was immense.
I did hit a low soon after Charlie Chaplin’s favorite holiday spot, lots of drags made me want to quit. Lots of questions. More than previous seasons. I kept riding as hard as I could but the road was sucking the life out of me. I was trying to pee on the bike for an age but it was not happening. Then of course everything starts to work as some young buck was coming the opposite way on a bike from what looked like football training , watching me standing up peeing on my bike. It was the most confused disgusted look I have seen in a while.
But little did he or Kerry know that we were doing an Ironman in their kingdom that day. I think it’s iconic. It’s a bucket list race and those folks don’t even realize it yet. Nobody knows, maybe they don’t care, maybe it’s the way they are. Because they are different. Different in a warm hospitable way.
I cycled into a horse crossing with the bike leg just about to finish. Yes a horse crossing. First I ever seen one, never mind whilst on a bike and racing. I scooted round the back of the last horse and gunned it. 180k ring of Kerry bike leg finished in 5:55
My wife and Dad were there to well come me. She said ”your in 5th place”. Nice one, thought I was closer to 10th. With those guys riding hard I thought hey your in with a chance for 3rd here.
Then the marathon started, I felt like a Hobbit heading up this incline windy path for the first of 3 loops of 14kms. They were not messing when they said it was in a forest !
But therein I believe is what makes Hardman, Hardman. It’s honesty. A beauty of honesty. The turnaround was an unmaned bollard. In a world of cheats and doping. Anyone could have skipped through the forest. There was no mats out there. It was middle Earth complete with castles and jarvey drivers. Why ? There is no temptation only respect. Respect of effort and getting through whatever personal battle each competitor was going through.
I ran the first 10k in 50 minutes. I was running well, but I got angry. Gels decided not to work and my GI system broke down. That’s the scientific way of saying I nearly shat my branded Italian race wear several times. Nothing was being absorbed, everything starts to cramp and it’s a case of getting home like a wounded duck.
Word got around that Peter Kern was walking, even though he is a competitor and essentially held a spot between me and a better placing I wanted him to keep going. I don’t know if he was in a bad place or not but he treated us all with respect by still plugging. Kudos sir. I hope you win in the future.
Soon later I passed the race leader and eventual winner Brian Sexton. I had stalking Brian throughout the season. Not outside his house in a bush or anything. But within my own competitive mind wondering if I could beat him for 2nd or 3rd place based on last year’s results.
Not a chance. He was on a mission that day. And his honesty does not go unnoticed. I hope I can raise my son and daughter to race like him.
I finished the marathon in 3:56, 11:15 finish Mile’s away from last year’s 10:40 personal best.
However, they are all digits. I won my age group. And that win will rekindle my internal fire and keep me plugging away on famine roads and lung bursting efforts well into the coming winter.
Hardman and it’s organisers are in my opinion what’s good about Ironman. They are not a billion dollar company trying to ride you for every cent. Yes they are laid back in nature, and the race reflects this. I won’t be back next year, but I will be back. Terminator shhhtyle. Without the likes of Hardman the sport is heading for a dead end in certain ways. They are the heart and soul not eyes and ears. Respect that. Support them.
Lessons learned, changes to be made, I trained today although it was a run to the Chinese. I’m not joking. Back into Ironman mode Monday next.
Massive well done to the Forde girls especially our own liquid Motion Nicola who came third female overall.