As well as being a vet and an animal advocate, I’m a triathlete, so if you don’t like that topic, don’t read on. I am taking ten minutes out from my usual stuff to write a bit about triathlons, because they are on my mind right now.
I am meant to be competing in a great triathlon tomorrow – the Two Provinces near Longford – but as I’ll explain, I’ve had to drop out of it, but I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a really enjoyable day out , and I’m very sorry to be missing it.
My first triathlon was ten years ago
I did my first triathlon back in 2007: ten years ago. I just did one race that season (the wonderful King of Greystones) and the following year, in 2008, I did just one triathlon again (in Fermoy). It wasn’t until 2009 that I became properly addicted, and since then, I’ve been doing between 5 and 9 races every year. The season starts in late April, running through till late September, so that’s around one race a month.
This year was meant to be a vintage year for me: I have just moved up an age group, so I am now the youngest in my five year bracket. If you compete in four so-called “National Series Races” , you are automatically entered into the National age-group rankings, competing against all others in your age group. The dream for an older athlete like myself would be to win the age group, and if there was ever a chance of that happening, it would most likely be in the year when you move up to the next group. This was meant to be my year.
I even had a new training watch – the excellent Garmin 735XT – which made it easier than ever to track my entire life: not just my swim, cycle and run training, but also my sleep and other aspects of my daily routine. I had no excuses: what could go wrong?
2017 was meant to be a great year of racing
My first race was going to be in mid-April 2017 – the North Tipp Sprint. My training for this was going well, but I was hit a severe blow in late February when my father passed away. Everything was thrown out of kilter: my mother died last year, and when the second parent goes, it seems to be especially complex, both emotionally and practically. For a while, triathlon training went out the window.
After a while, I got back into it: swimming, cycling and running can be good meditative ways of dealing with grief and stress, and I was happy to be training again. The next big race was to be at the end of May: Lough Cutra Castle, a lovely triathlon in the West of Ireland which I thoroughly enjoyed last year. I was lined up for this, but there were complications back in Edinburgh with my father’s estate, so I had to call the race off.
So now it was June, and I still hadn’t done my first race. I checked the calendar, and the Two Provinces Triathlon in mid-July seemed like a good one. I’ve done this a couple of times before, so I know that it’s a family friendly, enjoyable event, and it counts for National Series. This was definitely going to be my starter event for 2017. I did a swim/run aquathon in Bray in mid-June, and everything went reasonably well. I had to do some interval training on the run to get my speed up, but otherwise, I was good-to-go.
The Two Provinces Triathlon was my next goal
My coach, Eamonn Tilley of ET Sports, gave me a training programme as usual, and I knew that if I stuck to this, I’d be fine. So I was working away, doing three swims, three cycles and three runs every week: I felt great. There was still time: I could still make the most of my National Series golden year.
Then last week, as I was nearing the end of a 10k run, I decided to put in a final sprint to test myself. I felt it happen: it was like an elastic band in my hamstring snapping. I had to pull up, walking with a limp for the last kilometre home. It wasn’t painful, but my leg just didn’t feel right, and I was unable to walk on it.
My physiotherapist, Carl Sexton, checked me out, and his conclusion was positive: I haven’t done any serious damage, and there’s still a good chance that I’ll be able to race later in the season. But that’s the catch: later in the season. He stuck some tape on my leg and gave me some exercises to help recovery. Ten days later, I’m running again (slowly), but I can’t speed up. My leg just doesn’t work.
So that takes me to the bad news: I can’t compete in the Two Provinces Triathlon tomorrow. My race calendar has been rejigged again.
Injury means I have had to rejig my plans
I have new races on my horizon now: the Loughrea Sprint Triathlon on 6th August, followed swiftly by the Caroline Kearney Olympic Triathlon on 12th August. With a bit of focus, and if I can firstly recover from this injury, and secondly, avoid further injuries, my hopes for the 2017 National Series are still alive.
I love triathlons: I’ve discovered that they are the only way that I can find the motivation to keep myself exercising and reasonably fit. The mix of swim, cycle and run means that exercising never gets boring, and every bit of your body is stretched in a different way, so injuries are rare.
If you haven’t done a triathlon yet, you should give it a go
If you haven’t yet tried a triathlon, think about it. There are triathlon clubs across Ireland and the UK who are keen to welcome beginners: they’ll take you through the paces, preparing you properly and making it easy for you. We all know that regular exercise is the key to good health, and triathlons are a good way of making it surprisingly easy and enjoyable to meet that goal.
Meanwhile, I wish everyone racing tomorrow the best of luck: I wish I was able to be out there with you.