The music was blaring out as I anxiously was waiting with other silver haired men and some with very little hair..... nervously stretching and swinging arms until we were told it was our turn. We filed out and found a space and sat on the blue carpet with feet now in the lovely 21C water.
Suddenly the music stopped to be replaced by a loud beat just like a heart beat ... except my heart was beating faster ...short of a minute the loud beat was now blaring at the pace of my heart.....10 seconds and the klaxon sounded.
It was the usual kick or be kicked but suddenly after only about 50 meters I had clear water, no one kicking me and then I remembered Sean`s advice ...”just enjoy it”..... As I looked up to sight that first bouy I was again taken by the beautiful landscape all around this beautiful lake.....for I was in Lake Schwarzsee in Kitzbuhel, Austria ....ME in the Ireland green @ the European Age Group Championships and all I could think was “bloody hell I never ever thought I would end up doing this “....but I was swimming here and no matter what now I was going to enjoy the next hour plus..
wet suits were not allowed .. Speedos all the way
For me triathlon started in 1983 when having done a few marathons Bill Mc Causland said “do you fancy having a go at a new challenge ”. I had read about those crazy guys in Hawaii for sure but for me it was simple ... I couldn`t swim.
Not a problem .. it only meant getting up at 6.30 am going 3 mornings a week to join the kids of the Swimming Club who were able to kick faster than any stroke I was doing but thanks to Frank Gheel I persisted and after 6 months I could at least swim of sorts. This is a time when triathlon was in Ireland very embryonic .. most races were all pool swims except the very occasional lake or sea swim ... wet suits were not allowed .. Speedos all the way and transitions were not as slick as they are now .. you could even afford a quick towel down before you put on your cycling/running gear.
I did it for 2 years ...I was very average at it but the small group of us from Omagh had some fun times as our sport gathered some momentum. Some even toyed with doing an Ironman and to give us an idea about it we did the distances over a weekend i.e. 2.4 mile swim on Saturday night in Grove Baths Belfast .. 112 mile cycle around the Ards Peninsula on the Sunday followed by the run at the Belfast marathon. Unfortunately this for me was when I had to stop because of family/work commitments.
Fast forward about 25 years and I remember meeting Sean at a social event he and I were at and he said to me to give it a go again. I smiled but immediately declined as my old legs were past hard running ... my back wasn`t the best either and I hadn`t sat on a bike in all those years except for once when a fall cracked a rib.
Get on the big ring” shouted Albert as he flew past
But the seed was planted and a year later I saw a flyer at a gym I attended [the only serious exercise I did once a week in the past 20+ years] about the first race at Loughmacrory organised by Omagh Triathlon Club. In a moment of madness I entered so my next problem and 4 weeks before it was to take place was I had no bike nor wetsuit. Wetsuit was bought and a few swims at OTC swims gave me some hope I could actually do it. I got a lend of a bike and joined you guys on a Tuesday evening cycle.. the club were going up to ride the race course that Tuesday evening. I can now look back and think I must have looked a right plonker with the bike I had that night with gear shifters on the down stem and toe clips !!!! ... that was not a good night for me and resulted in a visit to Sean Conway who lent me a bike the night before the race.
Cleats ...the first time I ever used them and I was only able to ride for a 3 miles practice and as for shifting the gears that was totally hit and miss.
The next morning was a big day for all concerned in the Club but scary ++ for me ...the swim for me was a disaster at the start as I started to hyperventilate in the melee and any stroke I had went out the window ..I really was about to call for help and I hadn`t even got to the first bouy ....but I calmed myself down doing the breast stroke and after a few minutes was going again ...then unto the bike and 2 laps of undulating Loughmacrory except I had no idea about changing these bloody gears ... ”Get on the big ring” shouted Albert as he flew past .. so I did but that was that for I couldn’t shift up or down after that so it was a hard slog for 2 laps...the run was a hang in there plod ..but I hung in and crossed in a slow 1:33 plus ...... but I was hooked ... I wanted more of this.
Over the following winter I decided I had a lot to improve on so I joined the best club in Ireland and went every Monday for the swim sessions .. I also did a few of the running sessions but by the following May I had a problem as I must have been the only Club member who hadn’t got a bike ...the guys were all talking about races so a bike had to be purchased and was duly done.
triathlon can make you thick and stubborn
This was the start of my triathlon story second time round ...training was started with the support and encouragement of many club members and the races followed. That first year started with me in Mullaghmore ... what a baptism for my first sea swim !!!... I have never been that cold in May ...but when I got home it was straight onto the computer to see the race calendar and see where the next race was going to be. There were fun times but also frustration like when doing the second Tri The Lough a major bike failure meant I had to carry my bike for over a mile into T2 but I still went on and completed the race. I think triathlon can make you thick and stubborn.
2013 didn`t start too well for me for family reasons but I came back into it eventually ... it helped me a lot ....and it was then as I am not in the most of competitive of groups I realised if I did the right races I could qualify for the big races. So it was all over the country north and south .. and I was lucky to achieve my goal and qualify. Then the doubts crept in but especially thanks to Sean, Connor and Peter I decided to give it a go ..... and here I am swimming in this beautiful location ..for Ireland ....and loving it !!
In Austria I really loved the swim...nice warm water and after that 50 metres not much kicking but by the end of the swim it was pouring rain just like home now ...the bike was never going to be easy for me – I don’t do hills that good
Just think of 3 climbs .. up the Glens ....down [past 3 bikes and their riders in the trees !! ] up to Pigeon Top down and then back up the Glens a second time ....for me it was one thing and one thing only ...stay on the tar [very wet and slippy] and out of the trees and do the run. The run for me was not too bad and although not exceptionally fast I ran alone down the finishing carpet waving the Tricolour. Mission accomplished....I only wanted not to be last so I was over the moon being placed seventh.
The next few days were marvellous in that the venue was ideal as the race and most of the athletes stayed in the small town [Kitzbuhel is where the most famous downhill ski race is run on the infamous Hahnenkamn every January] .... including the big guns ..all the Irish pros and himself Alistair Brownlee....mixing and mingling with everyone... it was time to get the cameras out.
when you get the bug it`s hard to give uP
We all do triathlon for different reasons ... but for most of us it`s the challenge and boy when you get the bug it`s hard to give up. As I was told a few times and I now say it .. if you ever get the chance as I did to represent your country to do something you enjoy even at any stage of your life [as I did] ....DO it.
Finally I thank all club members who are so helpful and supportive to me this past 3 years...We might race alone but you need to be part of a club to train and OTC is as good a club as there is.
And finally on our return from Kitzbuhel there was a very eventful plane journey home in the company of .....just think of someone who looked like Jesus Christ in a white linen suit and a trilby hat as he sits beside me in the seat beside me in the plane ....well that`s another story!!!!
2015 Bring It On..