Having finished up my 2021 cyclocross season at the end of January 2022 with a defence of my Masters-50 national cyclocross title it was time for a well-earned rest. I generally take a break in February and March every year, a vital time for me to recharge both mentally and physically after having raced a triathlon season from June to Sept and straight into a cyclocross season from October to January, such can take its toll on an aged body!
No matter if one is relatively new to training and racing, or has years of experience, some downtime is crucial if you want to race well during the competition phase.
It doesn’t mean lying on the couch for several months, it means staying away from intensive, structured training. The key is to remain active, ideally adding in some alternative modes of exercise…hill-walking, mountain biking, etc.
When it came to deciding what triathlon races to do in 2022 my decision was made all the easier when I saw the calendar of the National Series. With only four races to score the fact that it was possible to do these all within Munster meant this was very attainable. I hadn’t taken much interest in National Series since I last won it in 2012 but I decided to give it a go by targeting three sprint races, one standard and a half-IM.
My training was geared toward the shorter distances of sprint and standard as I have typically found this easier to balance around work and family, and crucially because I find I tend to pick up less injuries training shorter.
My early base preparation for the race season doesn’t tend to vary too much from year to year, I aim to get a mix of aerobic base work, strength training, and technique work.
As the triathlon season approaches, I integrate more race-specific sessions to mimic race intensity, and what works great here is mixing in some local run or bike races, there’s no substitute for the quality of such sessions.
I ended up doing nine triathlons during the season; five of these were national series, six sprints, two standard and a half Ironman. All of these were within Munster which was one of the main deciding factors for me, all within a one-hour drive. This makes logistics so much easier and ensures that little bit of extra energy for the race effort.
My favourite sprint races have to include King of the Hill, Schull and Hills of the Harbour, all have a little more than their fair share of hills both on the bike and the run, so there’s nowhere to hide and makes for good honest racing. My favourite standard has to be Jailbreak in Cobh, with its ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ feel to it. It’s not often we get the chance to swim from an island to the mainland. This is a very rewarding and achievable swim for anyone that can do 1500m, the key is to get your line correct! The bike segment is a fast, relatively flat 40km with a four-lap run along the promenade to finish.
In the end, I was duly rewarded with a National Series win in the 50-54 age group, 11th overall, and to cap it all off, CTC took the overall win in the club national series with five other great CTC athletes, Donncha Kiely who had a stellar season, winning overall and anchoring the club to the top spot, along with Kevin Curran, John O’Connell, Edward O’Mahony, and Neil Creedon.
For the year ahead I’d encourage as many CTC members as possible to target the minimum four NS races. It should be very possible to do so within Munster, and it would be great if we could do the club male and female double in 2023!