UPDATE: TO BOOK FOR THE 2016 LOUGH CUTRA CASTLE TRIATHLON, CLICK HERE.
From time to time, I write in this blog about stuff other than animals: this includes triathlons, which are one of my other passions in life. I can get annoyingly evangelical about triathlons: I reckon that exercise is the best “treatment” for physical and mental health, and the varied combination of triathlons means that you can exercise every day without getting bored or injured. I train all year round for triathlons, under the tutelage of my excellent coach Eamonn Tilley, and I do half a dozen races every summer, organised through Triathlon Ireland.
Last week, I did my first race of the season: the Lough Cutra Castle Triathlon. It’s an unusual event – part of a series of five triathlon events known as the Castle Triathlon Series which take place between now and September. Each event is held with a castle as the focus – one in Ireland, three in the UK and one in France. A range of race distances are available, from starter short distances right through to “The Gauntlet”, which is the equivalent of a Half Iron Man event, with 1.9km swim /90km cycle /21km run. If you want to try out the sport of triathlons, these events are ideal: you can do a shorter distance yourself while watching hard core triathletes battle it out for the endurance events. The dramatic scenic nature of the setting beside a castle adds to the occasion.
I chose to do the Olympic or “Standard” triathlon at Lough Cutra Castle: this was part of the 2015 Triathlon Ireland National Series. If you complete four “national series” races during the season, you qualify to appear in a league table, ranked against other people in your own age group.
My race started with the 1.5km swim in Lough Cutra – the largest privately owned lake in Europe. The water was 13’C, which was reasonably pleasant (when wearing a wet suit). For me, swimming is the biggest challenge: I am slower than I should be (it took me over half an hour), so I need to battle even harder on the bike and run to make up for it.
After emerging, dripping from the lake, you need to run up to the transition area, where your bike is waiting. The wet suit has to be removed as rapidly as possible before you put on helmet and sunglasses and leap onto your bike. It’s then a case of pedalling as furiously as possible for 40km, along peaceful private avenues (as above), quiet closed private roads, and some normal roads that were shared with traffic. It isn’t easy to maintain the fastest possible speed on the bike: it’s tempting to slacken off and enjoy the scenery. But it is a race, and the aim is to cover the 40km in as little time as possible. It took me just over an hour and twenty minutes.
The final leg of the race was a 10km run, and again, it was scenically spectacular. After leaving the bike behind and donning running shoes, the run course headed along the edge of the lake, then up across woodland and fields, before coming back beside the castle. It was a 5km circuit, so we had to go around twice. I was close to the finish when the photo above was taken, which explains my haggard expression. I just wanted to finish.
I completed the 10km run in 44 minutes, so the whole race took just under two and three quarter hours. It sounds like a long time, but it’s done at a steady, aerobic pace, and you get used to the regular rhythm of continuous effort. Yes, it hurts, but it’s satisfying in a strange way, and the euphoria at the end makes it all worth while.
If you’d like to try a triathlon yourself this summer, there’s still time to enter some of the other events in the Castle Triathlon Series. Why not give it a go?