I was a bit nervous about this one. Although it was only a Sprint distance it was my first open water swim. In fact it was my first time swimming in a wetsuit (well except for a quick 20 minute dip in freezing water in Wicklow Harbour a week earlier). It was a river swim, 250m upstream then 500m downstream. Everyone said it would be fine - "sure you'll float down". I wasn't so sure.
Because they were holding Double Olympic and Olympic distance races in the morning, registration for the Sprint race wasn't until lunchtime and the race wasn't starting until 5 which meant a lot of hanging around. On the way in towards transition I met a few of the Wicklow Tri crew who had finished their races already. Heard the good news that we'd managed a couple of overall podiums in the earlier races which was some nice motivation. Not that I'm in the running for podiums or anything (in fact very far away from anything like that), but its always great to hear of good results. Once transition opened I managed to find a nice spot close to the Bike & Run exits. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea and soon transition was full of triathletes setting up their gear. Seem to learn something new at every race, the logistics are endless!
At 4:45 we had the race briefing and after a last check of my blood sugar (9.2 - slightly high but OK) it was over the bridge to the swim start upstream. My age group was wave 9, the very last wave of the day. The thought struck me that if things went badly there was a possibility of finishing last. Like LAST last. I put that thought out of my mind, wasn't gonna happen. Wave by wave off they went, I saw plenty of people who were worse swimmers than me which made me feel a little bit less worried. But not much. Paul who was going in wave 7 wasn't feeling much better, neither of us were exactly inspiring each other with confidence. Wave 9 was up finally so down into the water and a few minutes to acclimatize. It wasn't anywhere near as cold as expected once you were in for a minute or 2. The hooter went and off we went, I started towards the back with the plan to swim up the left side of the river close to the bank and away from the current. There were plenty of bodies around me in the water, most of them not making too much forward progress so I had to pick my way through them a bit which required a bit of head up swimming initially. After a bit it opened up a bit and I managed to get into a reasonably steady rhythm. In fact I was on focussed on my stroke and breathing that I somehow managed to miss the turnaround buoy - adding a few extra meters to the swim. Once we turned downstream the pack had thinned out a bit and got some clear water - until I swam into someone elbow, my own fault for not sighting often enough. I didn't have a clue how many people were still behind me but I knew there were a few at least. Head down and on and under the bridge and up onto the exit pontoon. Done in 14 and half minutes! Had a quick look over my shoulder and saw plenty still behind me. In the end I finished in the 55th percentile of my wave - REALLY happy with that for a first ever OW swim after only 6 months swimming.
T1 was a bit of a fiasco. Running in I couldn't get the zip open at the top of the wetsuit while moving so in the end I had to wait until I stopped at my bike and finally managed to get it open. Ended up taking 2 mins 30 secs - an eternity. The bike started off with a short drag out of the town before getting into some gently rolling terrain out t o a 10k turnaround. I was making good progress passing quite a few especially on any slight uphills. Cycling around the hills of Wicklow is great practice and you definitely see the difference compared to others once the road kicks up a bit. On the way back in we had a bit of a headwind and I got into a little bit of a battle with another guy. We must have passed each other a couple of times before eventually I passed him for a third time and heard 'ah for f@*k's sake' from him. Got him. That was the last I saw of him. Passed few others on the way back into the town and I finished the bike in 36 mins - holding an average speed of approx. 34kph which I was happy with considering how little biking I'd done so far this year. This put me in the top third of my AG for the Bike.
So I was going well at this stage - however things went a bit downhill from here. T2 took a long time - over 2 mins, mainly because there were bikes thrown everywhere and I had to look around a bit for my spot. Transition looks a lot different in T2 after everyone has thrown their stuff around the place. Once I got out on the run the legs felt ok, in fact the 1st Km straight off the bike was my quickest even with a slight up hill in it - which is odd. The course flattened out as we ran down the river bank. The grass path wasn't a great surface and it was narrow so you had runners coming against you and it was difficult to get any sort of rhythm going. The race organizers could probably do with looking at alternative run routes as parts of it are quite frustrating. I couldn't seem to pickup the pace at all from here on in, not sure whether it was because of pushing a bit to hard on the bike, the dodgy surface on the run route, or most likely a high blood sugar - which I tested at 14.4 after I finished. This is the same as my previous race where I ended up with a much higher reading at the finish. This time I only took one gel, at the bike start. Probably the 1/2 bottle of Lucozade Sport before the swim start was unnecessary and set me up for being on the high side for the rest of the race especially since the race was in the evening when my background insulin is pretty much gone. Figuring out the effect of 3 different sports on the body is not proving easy. Some nice cheers from some of the Wicklow gang at the end - was amazed at how many people hung around to see the last wave of competitors finish the run, especially as some had been there since early morning. Anyway, finished the run in 24 and a half mins - SLOW! Was hoping for sub-23 mins at minimum. Fairly disappointed with this as I would have expected to do a decent run.
All in all I finished in 1hr 20 mins - good enough for about 50% in my AG and a decent improvement from the last race. Really pleased with the swim, a very decent bike, but must do much better on the run. And transition needs a bit of practice before the next race as I definitely lost a couple of minutes there. It's becoming clear that the bike is actually my strongest leg as opposed to the run which I had expected.
Hung around in transition for a bit and got chatting to a few more experienced triathletes and checked out some of the nice TT bikes - very jealous. Always seems to be a good friendly buzz at these races. Eventually made it back to the car, loaded up and headed for home. Overall a really enjoyable day, albeit a long one. Many thanks to organizers TriAthy and Triathlon Ireland for a well organized event. Next up is probably one or 2 or the club Aquathons and another Sprint Tri in July.