The 17th annual Lost Sheep Triathlon took place in Kenmare on Saturday the 31st of August. This middle distance event, which takes place through some of the most beautiful parts of Kerry and West Cork, is renowned as one of the toughest races on the Irish Triathlon calendar. Entries are limited to 400 each year and competition for those places is fierce. Amongst the entrants this year were more than a dozen members of the Blackwater Triathlon Club. Traditionally staged in late August or early September each year, the race starts with a 1900m swim in the scenic Kenmare Bay. This is followed by an 83km cycle which takes competitors from Kenmare out along the ring of Beara peninsula before going up and over it to the other side. This journey takes competitors over two category one climbs. The first of these is the Healy Pass, where the competitors cross the county border from the northern Kerry half of the peninsula into the southern Cork side. This is a relatively short but very challenging climb featuring a really steep lung busting 8% gradient section at the very top. Then having successfully made the ascent the athletes are faced with having to navigate their way down the other side with its 6 switch back hairpins. A true test of the Triathletes’ tour de France style descending technique on what can only be described as Ireland’s answer to l’Alpe d’Huez’s. The route then continues on down to the ring of Beara, through the small town of Adrigole and on to Glengarriff. On this stretch of road the competitors are treated to stunning views over Bantry bay with Sheeps Head and Whiddy Island in the background. The next challenge is the Caha pass which takes the riders from Glengarrif back to Kenmare over the Caha mountains. This is a long climb of over 9km with the cyclists climbing over 300 metres to reach the top. The 150 metre tunnel at the summit of the Caha pass takes the cyclists back into Kerry and a long descent back to Kenmare and T2. The recently updated 21km run course is almost as challenging as the cycle! Its quiet country roads undulate along by the river Sheen before turning back and approaching Kenmare town over more hilly terrain. The final few kilometres of the race sweep downhill to the finish line in the heart of Kenmare town. This is not a race for the faint hearted or poorly prepared. The Blackwater crew travelled down to Kenmare on the Friday evening to attend the mandatory race briefing. It’s a challenging course and the organisers, Cork Tri Club, take the safety aspect very seriously. Following the briefing it was time for plenty of carb loading and a good night’s sleep before an early start on Saturday morning. The race started at 8am so the athletes were up and about with the dawn, eating plenty of porridge and making sure everything was prepared. Conditions on the day were pretty mixed. The swim section was particularly tough. The wind was high and the sea was quite rough with lots of big rolling waves to contend with. To make matters even more difficult, the rising sun was directly in the swimmers’ eyes as they tried to find the second of the marker buoys, making sighting extremely difficult. Of the 362 athletes who started the race that morning, 46 failed to make it past the swim section. Even in a notoriously hard race like The Lost Sheep, this is a very high attrition rate. Many were just exhausted coming out of the water and a few missed the cut-off time, including a couple of our own members. The sea conditions made for some very slow swim times. Last year, BTC’s Stephen Dalton, on his middle distance debut, finished the swim in a very impressive 33:52. This year it took him 51:58. Having survived the swim, the athletes now had to take on the bike course, hoping that the scenic nature of the route would help take their minds of the effort required. Fortunately the inevitable rain held off until towards the end of the cycle, which made the climbs, and more importantly, the descents, somewhat easier. The run section of the Lost Sheep is very hard, with BTC member Eddie O’Brien describing it as “nothing short of physical and mental assault” after his first attempt at the race a few years ago. The runners were cheered on along the energy sapping miles by lots of cheering spectators, including their own friend and families. Justin Ryan was the first of the Blackwater contingent home, crossing the finish line in 4:38:39, finishing 5th overall and 2nd in his age group. Eileen Ryan and Brian Baker also had good results, both finishing in 3rd place in their respective age groups. Eileen finished in 5:53:37 and Brian came home in 5:44:28. Well done to the entire BTC contingent who took part on the day and to their long suffering and very patient families. Credit must also go to Cork Triathlon Club for once again organising such a fabulous event. The atmosphere on the day was amazing with lots of encouragement from organisers and marshals throughout the course.