Fermoy was the centre of attention for the Blackwater Triathlon Club on the morning of Sunday the 11th of August as the Edge Sports Blackwater Triathlon once again took over the town. This was the 12th edition of the race and, as had happened in the previous years, some of Ireland’s top triathletes competed side by side with first time triathletes. The people of Fermoy added to the atmosphere of the day by turning out in great numbers to view the spectacle and to cheer on the athletes, despite the rather wet and dreary weather. Preparations had been ongoing for many months but things really stepped up on Saturday evening as various club members and their extended families set about setting up the course. In the rowing club the registration area was open for business, while hundreds of goody bags were filled by willing volunteers. Over in the park the transition area was set up and barriers erected in preparation for Sunday morning. More members were out on the run and cycle routes checking road conditions, putting out signs and, where necessary, getting brushes and shovels out to clean up gravel and grit. Fortunately due to the sterling efforts of the local council workers, the roads were in excellent condition to start with. The previous week had been very wet and we were hoping that conditions would improve for the big day. There were also concerns about the condition of the river following the combination of the recent damage to the weir and the heavy rainfall that had occurred over the previous few days. The river on Saturday evening was running very high and very fast. It looked like it might not be safe for swimmers and the club was faced with the possibility of having to cancel the swim section of the events. Various options were discussed at length by the members of the organising committee, but it was eventually decided to put off any final decisions until the morning. We were hoping to be able to run the swim, but prepared with alternate plans if conditions didn’t improve overnight.
The race was due to start at 9am on Sunday morning and most club members were up with the dawn and once again down in the park by 6am, erecting marquees (despite the lost instructions ), putting up more signs and cones and taping up half the park. Competitors started arriving just before 7a.m. as transition and registration were about to open. We were very grateful for the support we received from many other clubs around Cork and in neighbouring counties. While most of our members were helping with the organising and running of the event over 20 Blackwater Triathlon Club athletes raced on the day. For new club members, such as Anne Furlong, Sharon Morrison, Amanda Lenihan, Richie O’Brien and Pat Dunlea in the Try a tri race, it was a first triathlon. We had entrants from South Coast, Mallow, West Cork, Crosshaven and Limerick triathlon clubs, but the biggest contingent by far came from the Cork Tri Club, who had over 50 members taking part on the day. Fortunately the weather wasn’t too bad and the flow of the river had eased somewhat. Following consultation with Triathlon Ireland, The Blackwater sub-Aqua team, the kayakers and the Gardai, the club decided to go ahead with a modified version of the swims. There were three events due to place on the day; The standard, or olympic, distance race, consisting of a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and a 10km run; a sprint triathlon, which was comprised of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run; and a try-a-tri event with a 250m swim followed by a 20km cycle and a 5km run. For the olympic and sprint races the swimmers usually swam up-river for the first section before turning around and heading back down to the swim exit. Since the river was still flowing a bit too fast for competitors to swim upstream comfortably it was decided to convert both the olympic and sprint swims to a 1,000 metre down-river swim. The Try-a-Tri race would remain the same since it was already a down-river swim. As a result over 250 wetsuit clad triathletes were introduced to the joys of a Sunday morning stroll down the Barnane walk as they made their way to the new swim start. Unfortunately the rain returned, but that wasn’t really an issue for the athletes who were in their wetsuits. Instead of the usual mass start the athletes had a rolling start, entering the water over a timing mat three at a time. This worked really well with the 147 olympic race athletes taking just over three minutes to get in the river, while the sprint racers were in the water in about two and a half minutes. The unusually fast current made for some very fast swim times with some athletes finishing the 1,000 metre swim and getting back to transition in under eleven minutes! Once the Olympic and sprint swimmers had finished, the try-a-tri competitors had their chance to enjoy a quick dip in the Blackwater. They did have a mass start, entering the water at the rowing club slipway. For most of these athletes this was a first attempt at a triathlon and they were understandably nervous as they gathered at the slipway waiting for the start. Once the Go moment came though the nerves quickly dissipated and they all set off enthusiastically for the other side of the river. By the time they were out on the other side they all had big grins on their faces and were ready to for the rest of the race.
The rain kept up for the start of the cycle section, but had eased off by the time most people were starting their run. It was overcast but warm at that stage, with a little wind.
Once again the racing on the day was very competitive with a number of past winners vying for honours. First athlete home was John O’Connell in the sprint race. He finished in a time of 1:11:10, soon followed by Owen O’Connor in 1:13:21 and Jonath Finn in 1:15:01. In the ladies sprint event we had some new faces competing for honours, with Shauna Doellken O’Shea taking the win with a very impressive time of 1:16:39. Shauna is 20 years old and this was just her third triathlon. Next home was Aine Kinsella in 1:21:24 and Sian Egerton in 1:22:44. The first Blackwater athlete home was Donal Murphy who finished in 1:21:40, coming second in the 50-54 age group category. Deidre Morrison was first lady in the 35-39 category, finishing in 1:27:50 and Siobhain Steele came home in 1:56:33 to win the ladies 55-59 age group. In the Olympic race Donncha Kiely was first to cross the line in 1:54:01, followed by John O’Rourke in 1:55:17 and Luke Lyons in 1:59:07. In the ladies race the first three home were all former winners in Fermoy. The first lady home was Katie Cooke in 2:08:04, followed by Joyce Wolfe in 2:09:45 and last year’s winner, Denise Compton, in 2:17:25. The Relay winners were the East Cork team, coming home in 1:58:36, beating the Blackwater Triathlon Club relay team by just 38 seconds. The first Blackwater Triathlon Club member home was Justin Ryan, finishing in Conor Bartley was the winner of the men’s 45-49 age group, finishing in 2:03:27. Gina Lyons was the first BTC lady home in 2:22:52, winning the 40-44 category, with Ashleigh Byrne O’Brien crossing the line in 2:26:53 to win the 30-34 category. It was a good day for the O’Brien household as Ashleigh’s husband Richie, who was competing in his first triathlon, won the Try-a-Tri men’s race in 1:08:00. The first female home in that event was Caitrin De Bhal in 1:27:56. Everyone who raced on the day was delighted that the swim section went ahead and much credit must go to the Race Committee for implementing a successful Plan B in the circumstances. Credit must go to the race organisers and club members who have put so much time and effort into making the Edge Sports Blackwater Triathlon the best race it can be. We would also like to acknowledge the huge contribution made by the Fermoy town council, the Gardai, local businesses and members of the local community, without whom the event could not take place. We would especially like to thank Pauline Moriarty and Brendan O’Gorman and their colleagues on the town council, Blackwater Sub Aqua Club, Paul Hartnett and Eileen O’Sullivan of the Ayrton Group, Killavullen Canoe Club, Fermoy Rowing Club, Suzie and Dave Horan of Raffeen Parks for access to the swim exit and the folks from Triathlon Ireland. Without the marshals we couldn’t run the race on the day and we get great assistance from the people of Fermoy every year. Thanks also to club members and their very understanding families. A big thank you must also go to the residents on the route, the people of Fermoy for their support and of course the competitors.
The Edge Sports are our main sponsors again this year and we’re delighted to have them on board. We’d also like to thank our other contributors; Zeus, Hanna’s Market and Café, Riordans Supervalu, Herlihys Centra , Synergy Credit Union Ltd., Amber Service station, D & M Fruit and Veg, McCarthy Insurance Group, Podium Fit, Flahavans, The Circle K, Lyons Family Pharmacy, O’Crualaoi’s, New Ireland Assurance, The Lagan Group, Texaco, McMahons, Zurich Life, Avondhu Physiotherapy Clinic, The Irish Examiner and Abbeyville House. Part of the proceeds from this year’s race will go to Blackwater Sub Aqua Club. We can all take a few days off now before we start preparing for next year’s race. Hope to see you all in 2020.