On Saturday the 31st of July three members of the Blackwater Triathlon Club, Mike Lyons, Rachel Cronin and Brian O’Hagen travelled to West Cork to take part in the Hardman middle distance, Bantry Bay Triathlon. The race consisted of a 1.9km swim in Bantry Bay, followed by an 86 km cycle through the stunning scenery of the Beara peninsula and the Sheep’s Head peninsula, before rounding the day off with a hilly 21km run. This event is widely regarded as one of the toughest races on the triathlon calendar and is definitely a race for anyone who is a fan of hills and mountain tracks. The only part of the event that didn’t involve hills was the swim, and the general consensus was that if the organisers could have arranged an uphill swim they would have done so! Due to Covid restrictions the race briefing had been done by video prior to the race and the athletes were split in to two waves to ensure further social distancing on the day. The day was cool and overcast, which considering the scorching weather for the previous couple of weeks was definitely a bonus. 188 athletes took part on the day. The water temperature was lovely for the swimmers on the day. Unfortunately, the conditions were also ideal for shoals of jellyfish and the swimmers had to make their way through thousands of them over the 1.9km course. One swimmer compared it to swimming in a huge bowl of seafood chowder! This was Rachel’s first attempt at the distance and she struggled a bit with her sighting in the swim, eventually swimming over 2300 metres. We think she was just enjoying the jelly fish so much that she didn’t want to get out.
The cycle was a challenge with 1024 metres of climbing over the 86km course. The views were fabulous and the weather stayed good, although there were very strong headwinds at times. Towards the 65km mark the gradient was up as high as 18% at times and some of the descents were pretty hairy with poor surfaces and lots of gravel in places. This was definitely not a race for the faint-hearted. Having completed the cycle the athletes were then faced with another very hilly route for the run section.
It was closer to a mountain hike than a road race for the first section with two peaks and two steep descents in the first 13km and rolling country road for the remaining 8km. The weather changed a little as the day went on and it got steadily warmer and more humid. There was a brief respite at one stage with a brief shower cooling some of the runners down just a little as they made their way up and down the hills of West Cork. The competitors were really glad to get back to the finish line at Bantry airfield after a long hard day out. Mike Lyons cut a full 48 minutes off his 2020 time, finishing 13th overall in a brilliant time of 4:58:58. Rachel Cronin finished in a time of 7:02:55, which was a great time for a first attempt at the distance. Congratulations to all the athletes who took part on the day. It was very well organised on the day, especially considering the Covid limitations on the organisers.