Triathlons in Ireland: the race season has started – the suffering has begun

Like many sports, triathlons have a “season”, and the 2014 season is now in full swing. The first races happened in April, there were a few in May, but it’s in June, July and August that most of the races take place.

For those who don’t know, triathlons are made up of three successive activities: swimming, cycling and running. The distances involved vary, depending on the race – but in general, there are two common types, the “Sprint”, and the “Standard” (also known as “Olympic”).  For the Sprint, the distances are 750m swim, 20km cycle and 10km run, while the Olympic distance is doubled (1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run). You can watch the full event, condensed into a 90 second video, below, taken last weekend in County Clare.

Hell of the West starts with a swim across Kilkee Bay in County Clare

Hell of the West starts with a swim across Kilkee Bay in County Clare

As well as the “Sprints” and “Olympics”, there are also a mix of other versions scattered throughout the season – shorter ones “”try-triathlons”, longer ones (“Double Olympic” or “Half Iron Distance”), and the ultimate long distance (“Ironman”). There are also events that only include a couple of the activities (“duathlons” involve just running and cycling, while “aquathons” mean just swimming and running). It may sound complicated, but when you’re involved in the sport, it’s very simple. All the events are just variations on a theme of suffering while you swim, cycle and run.

Ireland is the perfect destination for triathlons, for a few reasons:

  • Our climate in the summer is just right: not too hot, and not too cold.
  • Ireland has a rich resource of water, with rivers, lakes and coastline, ideal for the swim leg of the event.
  • Ireland has amongst the greatest density of tarmacked roads per square kilometre in the world, so there are plenty of reasonable roads for cycling and running.
  • The Irish countryside can be glorious to view: something to look at while you suffer.
The suffering is nearly over

The suffering was nearly over as I approached the finishing line last Saturday in Kilkee, Co Clare

There are triathlons taking place across Ireland every weekend throughout the summer, but most triathletes prefer to focus on steady training, with no more than a couple of events per month: my plan usually involves half a dozen events through the summer.

I did my first race of the season last week: the appropriately named Hell of the West Triathlon, which took place for the thirtieth time last weekend. Over 1000 people too part, with the fastest person finishing it in just over two hours, and the slowest just over four hours. I came in at just under two and a half hours: 11th out of 53 in my age group, leaving me with a sense that if I can only swim, cycle and run that little bit faster and harder next time, I can improve things. It’s that desire to go faster that motivates triathletes – we are optimists who live in the belief that one day, everything will go right, and we will run that race of our dreams.

This is the best bit: race analysis in the sunshine sitting outside the pub

This is the best bit: race analysis in the sunshine sitting outside the pub

Whatever about running the race of my dreams, the after-race socialising is always the most exhilarating bit of triathlons. The hard work is done, and you have earned your pint of beer and plate of food. And it’s a long time (well… a few weeks) till you need to suffer again…..

My next race is one of my favourites – the Two Provinces Triathlon in Lanesborough, near Longford which takes place on Saturday 12th July. It’s a family friendly day, even including a kidathon for children aged from 8 – 15. If you are curious to learn more about triathlons, please come along.

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