Why did i sign up?
I have raced in CTC’s Lost Sheep Middle distance triathlon for the last 2 years, and if I had any aspirations to complete an Ironman distance triathlon, I thought the next step would be to complete 2 “half’s” in one year. I had intended on racing the lost sheep again, which is towards the end of the Triathlon season, so looked for an event at the start of the season.
A couple of club mates had raced the event last year, and based on their feedback, I made up my mind to race Lough Cutra, I even got a sneaky black Friday deal.
At the moment, I don’t follow a specific training plan, but try to get the most out of the club sessions, which can be as hard or as easy as you want to make them. My winter training schedule falls very much in line with the club’s sessions, more by happy accident, rather than by design. What wasn’t part of the training schedule, was buying a house, 2 weeks after signing up for the race, This took up a significant amount of my time, particularly cycling, but Tom Mulqueen’s spinning sessions organised by the club kept me ticking over. By March I had most of the work replacing the kitchen completed, and was very eager to get back on the bike. It was just in the nick of time.
The Castle Triathlon Series takes place in the grounds of various castles in the UK, France & Ireland. Lough Cutra Castle is situated on the shore of a 400 hectare lake in a large estate near the town of Gort, in Galway, dating back over 1000 years, and played a part in much of Ireland’s colonial past.
The organisers take over the castle for a weekend, and put 32 different types of races over the 2 days, including try-a-tri’s, aquabikes, swim only, run only, kid’s, mixed relay events
The organising that goes on behind the scenes must be like a military operation
What is “The Gauntlet”
The Gauntlet is Lough Cutra’s big race, a middle distance race consisting of a 1.9km lake swim, 96km undulating cycle, and 3 loops of a difficult 7km trail run, to make up 21km.
Race Week – Work, Concert, Race, holidays
I had tickets to see Mark Knopfler in the “Three” arena on the Friday, and the race was on the following Sunday, and was taking holidays from work after the race.
This meant that I had to pack the car full of triathlon gear and a week’s worth of “normal” clothes, and not forget anything on the Thursday evening before the race, and do my Civic duty on Friday morning. I left work on the Friday evening, at 4 (don’t tell my manager in Dublin), got to the “Three” arena with moments to spare, for 8pm. I took that as a good sign for the race ahead.
Travelling from Dublin the day before the race, I took the opportunity to register, and pick up my race number/timing chip etc the evening before. I always put my timing chip on my ankle the moment I get it, that is because of a lesson learned from my very first triathlon, where I forgot my timing chip, and had to go back to the house, to get it shortly before the race start.
Registration itself went very smoothly, I had received multiple emails etc from the organisers with race briefings but one text message in particular had my race number. Once I had that number, I signed the registration sheet, and picked up my race pack.
Dani had booked dinner in a restaurant in Gort that evening, and there had been a number of clubmates racing that weekend, including 2 racing in Lanzarote full Ironman. Sean Finn crossed the finish line while we were having dinner, and Jane Mcgrath was still racing for some time after.
I had looked for accommodation in Gort, but couldn’t find anything suitable so I got a hotel in Loughrea, which was 20-30 min away from the race. This was perfect, not too far away, but free from the hustle & bustle of the race.
Middle distance races usually start early in the morning, so they finish at a reasonable time of the day, The Gauntlet was no different, starting at 8:20am, and the organisers recommended to allow an hour to an hour & a half for traffic etc.
This meant an early start at 6am, which was before the hotel began serving breakfast.
This meant a trip to Aldi in Gort, to get some quick oats, yogurt, orange juice & fruit. Added the yogurt orange juice & fruit into the oats carton, and made the perfect overnight oats. This set me up well for the long day ahead.
It had been raining overnight, and was overcast. The forecast was for it to stay dry, but there would be some wind. Parked the car, and began unloading the bike. Met Willie, who had driven up from Cork that morning. We are all mad to do this type of stuff, but some are more mad than others. Forgot to ask him for a coffee.
Transition setup is always a busy time, but I try to zone out of that, and step through each of the transitions, to make sure I have everything laid out the way that I like, and that I have not forgotten anything. Lesson learned from my first race, was to not put your shoes on the bike the wrong way around.
The club had ordered new club gear, and against all advise, I was racing in a new trisuit, which had bigger pockets than my old one. I was debating whether to use those, but soon realised that wouldn’t be enough – a tyre lever digging into my back would get sore very quickly on the bike, so decided to stick with my usual setup, which is to put nutrition/tools etc into a gilet, and put that on in T1.
The aquabike race was before the my start time, so had to wait around, trying not to get cold, and not get nervous. It’s when you have nothing to do, that your mind begins to run away with itself.
The race briefing was relatively standard, water temp was 14-15 deg, too hot lol. When the race director started talking about the bike course, he said “I’m sure you have all done your course recce”, I thought who has time to do a course recce??
The swim was in a “fresh” water peat lake, so had a slightly brown colour. I have done a few river/lake tri’s, and the swim has always been slow, added to the fact that I am slow in general, made it doubly so. It took some time for all 200 to enter the water, so there was a bit of bobbing around, before the start gun. In a race like this, you tend to be able to sight off other people, and the first leg of the race seemed to go relatively well, I was passing out some people, and others seemed to be taking time to sight, so decided to follow their general direction. The return leg was much quieter (seemed to go on for ages) so had to sight for myself, and looking back on the trace from my watch, the second leg was much straighter.
Time: 54min, like my french teacher’s end of term report: “maximum effort needed hereon”
Try to forget about the swim, no major dramas, got the wetsuit off easily enough, thanks to suitjuice, sprayed into the cuffs and legs before putting it on.
Helmet, race belt, sunglasses, gilet on, run to the bike mount line.
There was a bit of a hill up to the mount line, over damp, but hard compacted mud.
I don’t do much of a flying mount, but I do put the shoes onto the pedals before the race. jumped on the bike, had picked the smaller chainring and little cog, to give a relatively easy gear, all good.
Got my feet into the shoes, minding the ramps on the road out of the Castle estate.
The wind certainly kicked in when I got out on the road to Gort, and out the Cappaghmore Rd around Keelhilla (Slieve Carron) to the first climb. John shaughs would call it a bit of a pinch. It was at that point that we crossed into Co Clare, and down the coast road and past Aillwee caves, before we began the climb to corkscrew hill.
It was along this road that someone decided to back out of their parking space in front of me, I could see he was looking the wrong way out if his window, where no traffic could be coming from, so I knew he was going to stop. Had to pull the brakes, and go inside the car. Not much time lost, but a scare nonetheless.
Didn’t see any motorbike officials on the bike course and there was some drafting…there were 2 guys who passed me, and seemed to be chatting away, like they were on the Sunday cycle…
What do you think about when you are doing a 96k cycle? Speed/hr/power/wind or the cd that you played on the car before the race?
The song that was going through my head was Johnny Cash’s The Highwayman with a little bit of Mark Knopfler thrown in, seemed appropriate for this route.
There was a feed station at the top of the corkscrew hill, managed to pick up a bottle of water, and a banana in one hand, without any issues.
For nutrition on the bike, I like a mix of types. I have one bottle of energy shake, one bottle of water, I like the Cliff bars, as they are as close to real food as you are going to get.
The new trisuit has a handy pocket on the right leg, to put wrappers, great idea.
The drop down from corkscrew hill was gradual, and not too technical, so was able to push on, and overtook some more people.
The wind was at our backs from Kilfenora, which is a bit over half way round. There were a few technical corners, and one with some gravel, managed to get through that one without coming off the bike, the marshals at this section of the course seemed to have hurley’s not sure why, maybe to help the people who were not trying hard enough. Didn’t need their help, lol. Finally got back to the castle estate, and took my feet out of the shoes, possibly a bit early, but kept on pedaling, for a nice dismount. They are always easier than the flying mounts.
There was a bit of a run with the bike, before transition, and I passed the 2 guys, who were ‘drafting’ didn’t see either again on the run.
93km 26kmh 3h30m Windy, normalised power 189w
Not quite as fast as the Lost Sheep cycle, but the wind played a part, and I was on my road bike, compared to the TT in Kenmare.
Strava report: This was harder than your usual effort. Can’t do much more than that.
Again, no drama. Had a bar in transition, brought that with me, if only for psychological reasons.
21k needing to go for a pee!
The run was 3 loops of a 7km trail loop.
I think I hit the ground running (sorry, lol) the run from the dismount line helped to wake up the running legs.
I settled into a pace, that I thought I could manage for the 21k run. There was someone a little bit ahead of me, who was running at what seemed like a slower pace than me, but I was deliberately stopping at each of the aid stations (I was pretty thirsty even though I needed to pee), and he was not stopping, or taking any water etc.
He was either an extremely good athlete (maybe a lap ahead of me?), or I was going to catch him eventually.
In the months running up to the race, Brendan’s track sessions had been focusing on running an even pace, and had executed that very well in a few of the warmup races.
There was nowhere to rest on the trail run, hills, tree roots etc, the ‘easy’ parts were across fields, where cattle had been, and you had to be careful not to break an ankle.
Towards the end of my second lap, when I was getting close to the castle, I could hear the PA system, and heard Tomas Kenefick getting his 2nd place, that gave me a mental kick, to keep going, and hold the pace as I got tired. I passed the other runner on the 3rd lap, and finished about 30sec ahead of him.
There was a marshal at every corner, and was very well organised. Most of them were English, which is not a surprise, as the race series is UK based. 2 stand out in my memory, one was slightly on the heavy side, probably an open water swimmer, but he sounded like an English football hooligan. The second was as I got to the finish line. He was cheering me on to the line, but was calling me ‘sir’. Have not experienced that in a race before, lol.
Oh yeah, how could I forget the end, there were 3 banks that we had to climb up, and the line was last 100m was over loose gravel, not easy. Kinsale 10mile finish, all is forgiven, lol.
I got my finisher medal from Mawi, would have chatted more, if I was able to.
2h4min, for me on that route was very good.
Overall time: 6h33, was hoping for a little better, but with the wind, and run route, can’t complain.
After I had fueled up on coke, chocolate and fruit, I headed straight to the nearest portaloo. The queue for the physio was very long, so decided to skip that, and get my bag, as I was getting cold. Picked up my bike etc, and went to the car. Couldn’t go back up the hill to get something proper to eat, a burger in other words, so decided to go back to the hotel, and get something to eat there.
Was going to be in Galway the next day, so googled for a yoga class, to stretch and recover, that worked out very well. I do yoga regularly, and would recommend it to anyone, for recovery and in general.
Kieran Kennedy 31st May 2019