I have being soaking up peoples experiences and thoughts about StrandMan for the last 24 odd hours.
My perspective is an unusual one, as having put the race together. I got to race and experience it from an athlete and organizers perspective. So I write this with two hats, and it makes my head hurt.
My overall emotion over the last few weeks has been anger. Anger at the bollox that we are being fed regarding the Wild Atlantic Way. This golden goose marketing strategy that sets the right tones but is backed up with supermarket pan pipes rather than a concert orchestra. (I hate pan pipes by the way).
I wrote a blog fueled by red wine just over a week ago. Thank god I deleted it because I went full metal jacket. This Wild Atlantic Way is a load of bollox unless people that live on the damn thing can do something on it that benefits other people that live on it.
There is no point in one state department promoting something, when the state does not tackle an industry that prevents ordinary groups and business’s from investing in goods and services that promote and create commerce in an area devoid of investment.
If the state can not tackle the insurance industry, what the feck are we going to do if the polar ice caps melt and the Russians start sailing their Atlantic fleet along the Mayo coast, looking to open up a soft front on the edge of Europe. Tin foil hat time. Maybe.
What saved the event, was what made the event. The fabric of community.
And that community is not just the community of Crossmolina. It spreads from Carabine’s Centra in Bangor to the Athlete that traveled from Dublin. The absolute frustration of not being able to secure insurance in comparison to everyone you meet either saying no problem or going totally out of their way to help. That industry is literally stifling growth.
At so many points I thought why do I do this to myself, my wife at this stage continues her silent protest of giving ”You do this to yourself looks”. Why bother, whats the point, feck this, feck everything, I make promises to myself about focusing on my own business and what I can control. Never to bother my bollox ever to run an event ever again. I’m done.
But then, with insurance secured. And event a go.
I drive down to Gortnor Abbey Pier Lough Conn on a Sunday morning at 05:20. And it is like a scene from a novel. The sun is rising from the east, the condensation coming from the water, a glow, the warmth, picture postcard mountains in the distance reflecting a slight reddish color.
I just took a moment and thought this is fecking awesome.
Transition is set up already thanks to AGS scaffolding. Athletes are starting to arrive, some nervous, some buzzing. Jonny comes down with tunes blaring like some home boy in Compton.
Registration is in full flow, and things are starting to flow. Deca Ironman Ger who starts just after 6am in order to complete his full Ironman Distance 3.8k swim 180km bike and 42 km run, can’t see shit in the water. Water safety are tasked to guide and follow, It’s so bright the bouy’s can not be seen.
Everybody hates travelling with me. If I had my way we would be in Knock airport 4 hours before a flight to gatwick. And I mean in the airport, not parking the car with 4 hours to spare. Something might happen.
I start roaring athlete brief 6:45 am. Paddy heads to transition with a wheely bag like he is in the terminal. They know I am not messing with time so brief starts on time.
Hitting the water prior to race start, it is like a bath. I have never experienced Lough Conn like it was yesterday. Clean, warm, clear water.
A drone flies overhead, ready for the off. 10 second count down and race is on. I just feel relief not having to think for 5 odd hours.
I just followed the crowd knowing Stephan and Ciaran would be in mackeral mode. The swim was gorgeous, It was nearly hard to focus. Out of the water in 37 mins I was happy enough. On the bike getting ready for the pain. Garda Pat is on point waving me on at the main road and I am off proper.
Everyone talked about how they were going to take it easy on the road to Bangor. Myself included. Save the juice for Ballycastle to Crossmolina. Where the road is in absolute shite, Mayo Co. Co. ……..
This of course went out the window. Hammer went down. In my head ahead of me was Stephan, Paul, dave, Jonny and Ciaran. I knew I had to go hard in order to give myself any sort of a chance for the half marathon.
Just outside Dooleeg, Paddy- the guy with the airport bag in transition. Pulls up alongside me. ”I’m fucked” I think damn right paddy you fecking cyclist. He then puts the hammer down and drops me. Whatever Paddy, you have to run a half marathon off this bike. Good luck red lining son.
I’m starting to enjoy it now, no traffic, no wind. My buddies who are motorbike Marshall’s pass me. I think this is so fecking awesome. Then my heart drops when I see the high viz surrounding a cyclist. Immediately thinking the worst. Everything ok Jonny? ”Just a flat” NICE ONE!!!!!!!! I put the hammer down.
Going through Bangor, Mandy from Centra is manning a nutrition station. Soon later turning for Balinaboy I see a white dot, must be Ciaran. At this stage feeling super good I reach and pass him. But I never really pulled away only putting about a minute on him from Glenamoy to finish.
Coming around by Belderrig was just something else as the Atlantic comes into view, hugging the ceide coast, some of the best Triathlon sights I have ever witnessed. Descending into Ballycastle when the bay came into view was like the Mediterranean. That shimmer from the water.
I took from the feed station set up by the Ballycastle ceide half marathon group.
I knew the road from Ballycastle to Crossmolina was going to be rough. It was beyond that. It has been carpet bombed. The surface is brutal, around kincon it is like speed bumps. You are going through gears, up and down off the tri bars never finding an ounce of Rhythm. Still going as hard as I can I can feel my right glut and lower back starting to lock a bit.
99km done, i’m back in just over 3 hours. I see Paul running, I reckon he has 15 minutes on me. Ciaran is like a bad smell. He Won’t go away.
I ran pretty well for the first lap, 4:10 to 4:30 ish pace. Stopping at Gordon’s transition. John is reading a book, at a table that would not look out of place selling Lemonade in the deep south. Isotonic in, water in, and gels in. I’m running well and start to think about closing the gap in front. Cyclist Paddy will be in a ball crying around one corner or another I am sure.
As I come to my own home, my fam, mam and kids are out in the garden like they are on craic cocaine. I’m laughing now but at the time in full race mode you are just trying to remain calm!
Lap one done and a bit of a buzz around transition. Onlookers starting to come down for a look, family, friends, members from Liquid Motion Tri. It’s awesome. Lap two goes relatively well but I was just wanted it all to be over now. I remember looking at my watch with 9km to go thinking a sub 1:40 run was on the cards. Then on lap 3 the cramps started first a golf ball in my left hamstring then my right quad started went full Alien Sigurney Weaver mode. A local trainee nurse was at the shrine, an avid marathoner herself. She had one look at the twitching and understanding the mindset decided to leave me alone.
It passed having thought I might not finish with the cramping, I just started running to finish, Slowing down and walking where needs be. Snipers everywhere, right calf cramp, goes away. Sniper, left calf cramp. Goes away. Sniper, hamstring cramp.
Who laps me but the cyclist himself, flying. No top on full Chuck Norris mode. I was losing the will to live.
It’s all about completion at this point, just get to the finish line which I did. 20k in 1:46 finish time 5:29. 5th place.
As an athlete disappointed. To train as hard as this and go as hard as this, to be so off the mark is disheartening.
As an organizer, now that my head was up. I was for the first time to see that other perspective. The faces, the joy, the pain and the happiness of my fellow competitors. Everybody was buzzing. One by one they crossed in sheer delight. No matter what position they came in. The look of accomplishment made every bit of cortisol released in my system over the last few weeks worth it.
I forget, StrandMan is mental. 2k swim 100k bike including the ho chi min trail and a 20k run in the hottest day I have ever experienced in Crossmolina was a feat of endurance that some were experiencing for the first time.
It did not matter if it took 4:30 or 8:00 hours. Everyone ground out and turned a half ironman into I believe a 3/4 Ironman.
I am very gratefull to my wife for putting up with me, my Dad for being race director, my mam, fam and kids on craic, all the volunteers that helped out with transition, nutrition stations, Guards for providing cover, my 3 biker amigos, water safety, sponsors Mattie, Reel Deel Brewary, Connacht whiskey Distillary, Molloys Pharmacy, Michael Hopkins Cycles, O Malleys Bar and Grill, Cezary.
Without them the race would not be possible.
But my greatest thanks goes to the Athletes that had feck all training done and went out and completed that race yesterday. This attitude makes me want to go again with this race in 2019.
Provisional date will be the Sunday of the Crossmolina festival in mid July.