The Ironman Organisation descended on to the picturesque East Cork seaside town of Youghal on the weekend of the 23rd of June for Ireland’s inaugural Official Ironman race. A full Ironman consists of a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a full marathon of 42km. It is not an event for the faint hearted or the poorly prepared. Nine members of the Blackwater Triathlon Club had signed up for the race and had spent the previous months in intensive preparation. For some it was the first attempt at an Ironman, and for others it was an opportunity to complete the race on home soil. Adam Blaiklock, Marie MacAree and Joe Scanlan had already completed Ironman events. For Conor Bartley, Dave Murphy Vinnie McCarthy, Dave McGrath and Bryan Crowley, it was a first attempt at the distance. It was also a first for Club member Niamh Fleming, who having recently qualified as a Triathlon coach, was putting her newly earned qualifications to the test, training both Vinnie and Dave McGrath for the event. There was a great buzz around Youghal in the days leading up to the race as the Ironman Roadshow hit town. There were plenty of things to see and plenty of ways to spend lots of money on triathlon gear. It was also interesting roaming around the town looking for sightings of the professionals getting ready for the big day. It’s always interesting to see one of the famous Brownlee brothers up close. Unfortunately the weather took a serious turn for the worse over the weekend and as Sunday morning dawned it was cold and windy and very very wet indeed. Already togged out in their wetsuits the athletes were told that conditions were too dangerous for the swim portion of the event. Obviously they were very disappointed but there was still the cycle and the run to deal with. To tell the truth the triathletes may as well have kept their wetsuits on because it didn’t stop raining until late on Sunday evening. This made the conditions on the road treacherous and there were many crashes. Dave Murphy was involved in a pile up with 6 other cyclists at the 75km mark which left him with severe bruising, some very nasty road rash and a busted bicycle. His day was over. Conor Bartley also had a collision with a wall due to excessively wet brakes, but fortunately he was able to continue. He suffered bad bruising to his arm and shoulder but that didn’t stop him and he was eventually the first of the BTC crew home in 9:55:27. Despite the conditions thousands of spectators lined the street and roads around Youghal to cheer the racers on, especially on the infamous Windmill Hill, where the triathltes were greeted by the sound of cow bells and screams of “Allez Allez Allez!” The Tour de France has nothing on it. Despite the rain, the medieval town walls and picturesque beachfront provided an impressive backdrop for the marathon through the town and the locals were out in force to cheer the athletes on the four laps of the town.
Joe Scanlan, who was recovering from a recent injury, finished the cycle but decided against doing the run. Bryan Crowley crossed the line in 10:57:09 and Dave McGrath, the first of Niamh’s athletes, finished in a very impressive 12:37:12.
Christian Board came down the finishing chute in13:26:04 and Niamh’s other charge, Vinnie McCarthy, finished in 13:27:36. Adam Blaiklock finished in13:30:00 but unfortunately Marie MacAree had a bit of a mishap at the finish line and finished with a no time disqualification on the day. However, she, like all of, is very proud of her performance given the conditions and is already looking forward to her next Ironman event. She reckoned that it was far harder than the first Ironman she completed last year in Barcelona. Adam has written a first hand account of what it was like to take part on the day.
A little over 12 months ago I began to hear rumours about an Ironman event scheduled for the end of June in my adopted home of Cork, Ireland. Naturally I was curious as I completed two previous Ironman races; one in Lake Placid, New York State and the other in Tenby, Wales. Duly I signed up after the necessary discussions/arguments had taken place at home! There is a large commitment required with the training involved in Ironman racing and so ensuring the whole family are happy is a major consideration. Needless to say race day arrived with a passing of time that can only be described as lightning fast! I felt as ready as possible thanks to the work that my coach Bryan McCrystal had prescribed over the previous 6 months. Rumours had been circulating since the race briefing on the Saturday that the weather gods were going to play havoc with the conditions for Sunday morning. Unfortunately the rumours turned out to be true and as the athletes arrived for the swim start they found out there was to be no swim to start the race today. In a race some situations are uncontrollable – this was one of those situations! It was announced that the race would begin with a time trial bike start with two competitors leaving at the same time, this then involved a fairly major queue developing as around 1800 of us started to wait in the cold and wet ,kitted out in the bike wear packed and racked in transition the day before. As the morning ticked towards half past eight I rolled out of transition and started the bike section of Ironman Cork. The route, which I had managed to get out on once or twice over the previous few months, would take us out towards the coast through East Cork, rolling through Ballymacoda,Shanagarry,Cloyne and upwards through Midelton, Dungourney, Mount Uniacke before returning to Youghal and the infamous Windmill hill. This would have been a great cycle had you been able to see beyond your nose on the day, such as it was with rain pouring from the sky from the start of the day through to the end. By the time I hit the second loop of the bike sections of the road were submerged to ensure that despite not having a swim I had enough of a soaking to warrant a wetsuit! The villages that I have previously mentioned did themselves proud with lots of race banners and crowd support that always makes a day like this feel special. This was most evident in Youghal on Windmill hill, which as being a brutal climb hitting over 21% gradient allowed the crowds to gather on both sides providing a tour de France style atmosphere! I rolled into transition having completed the second loop of the bike course fairly saturated but determined to get running and finish the marathon. Feeling very thankful for the clean dry socks that I had placed in my run bag I changed as quickly as possible and headed out to complete the run. The run course for Ironman Cork was set as a four lap course passing the finishing chute on every lap – this proved to be great inspiration along with the crowds of people who had come out in force to support and witness this race. Big kudos to Blackwater Triathlon for shouting out to club members as the run progressed. I felt in a good place for the run, this was my third race at Ironman distance and the legs gradually warmed up and allowed me to be very consistent over the four loops. Gradually the miles passed and the laps ticked down until I arrived to collect my final armband and head towards the finish chute located in the middle of Youghal town centre. At this stage of the day it was starting to get dark and the lights of the Ironman arch shone out across the skyline, as I made my way down the finishing chute I knew that I would cross the line to be called an Ironman by Mr Mike Reilly, who had also called me across the line in Lake Placid way back in 2014. The day that had passed will be remembered as a very wet, windy and hilly day and shall ensure that the first edition of Ironman Cork will be talked about for years to come. I was fortunate to take part and experience this day and want to say a huge thank you to my wife Terri who assisted me training and balancing a busy home. My thanks to all the other members of my family, who have also provided support during this journey to my third Ironman.
Well done to everyone who took part on the day and to the people of Youghal for putting on a great event. Hopefully the weather will be better next year!