What do rabbits, Keith Duffy and Howth have in common? Can you make up a story involving all three? Well, I could say that Keith Duffy has formed a new band, with a few bunny rabbit sidekicks. Maybe they made their first video in the northside shipping village.
No, the real reason I ended up in Howth with Keith Duffy at 7am on a Sunday morning was to slog it out at the first ever Howth Triathlon. Not a walk in the park, but more like a fighting a bear, when you’re in the sea and arguing over the last salmon in the water. More like a John West advert.
This race was different – both exhilarating and hard-hitting (including a 6am alarm call). I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind going the extra mile.
The swim rocks. No simple route around a buoy and back to the beach. This involved a boat ride at 7.30am out to Ireland’s Eye, an island 1.8km from Howth. The plan was to be dumped on the island, like a crowd of refugees in wetsuits converging on this uninhabited island. The island is only home to a colony of rabbits. It was a strange sight – 200 wetsuit-clad people on a deserted beach. Human penguins if you will.
The swim was longer than usual, 1800m vs 1500m. On top of the distance was the fact that it was across open water, with strong winds and a current going against us. The distance wasn’t a problem, but I knew it would be much slower due to churn and roll of being in an open sea. Breathing was tricky – missing some breaths as a big swell hit you. It was fun though – just took a while. Sighting was difficult – the buoy and dry land were so far away, I’m sure I zig-zagged all over the place and probably swam over 2000m!
After running up the beach, it was great to see the big crowds lining the route into transition. No time to catch a breather, as the bike ride involved 4 laps of Howth Head, starting with an ascent of the hill towards the Summit. By lap 4 it was going to be tough, with tired legs, strong winds and still 10km to run! The climb was tough but manageable – after watching the Tour de France this week it’s made me realise these hills are only bumps compared to the Alps or Pyrenees. The marshalls were really encouraging – one group were clapping and cheering for hours – I heard them 4 times round.
Since the swim and bike were tough, I thought my legs would complain on the run, but I felt pretty strong. The route was 2 laps (2x5km) along the Head and out along the East Pier. There was a nasty little hill out of the village – another little fact which makes this race tough. We were mixed in with the Sprint runners at this stage, so it was good to see a few fresh and friendly faces (Mossyb and Blackmambodog). I finished strongly, under 4min/km pace and my heart rate wasn’t much over 160 BPM. So I wonder how much harder I could have pushed it? The only guy who pushed me was cheeky – I passed him, then he came back at me, so I upped the pace. He stayed with me, and we fought as we ran along the Pier for the 2nd time. I was determined to beat him, so pushed on in the wind and luckily left him behind. Nice to finish after a battle when the legs are tired.
So a good day out – one of the tougher races but definitely fun. You’ll never forget the swim or the bike. Pity the sun didn’t shine and make it a hot summer race, especially for spectators, but we got ice-creams after none-the-less. The Olympic distance race in Kilkenny next weekend already looks like being a breeze in comparison…
P.S. Triathlon and golf have a common theme for me this year – in April I watched the US Masters the night before the Connemarathon. Rory didn’t win that night, but it was great to relax on the couch today and watch Darren Clarke claim the Open Championship.
Second P.S. Check out The Casanova Wave, a great one man band from Tramore, Co. Waterford. I was Brian in Whelan’s tonight. Great gig.