Baltimore is one of the TI National Series races in 2012, so I was expecting a well organised race with a good crowd. Only about 140 people took part, partly due to the location – Baltimore is far away from EVERYWHERE, even Cork! There was a predominance of West Cork, Cork and East Cork Tri clubs, and a noticeable absence of the bigger Dublin clubs. The day started fresh enough, but with no wind, the sun broke through and it got warm. The sea was flat, which was great. The location was great for spectators, who could watch the swim and transition from the pier.
It’s a great course! The 1500m swim was from the pier in Baltimore, around 2 buoys and back in. The 45km bike course was a nice route on small winding country roads, passing some lovely countryside and coastal spots like Tragumna and Lough Hyne. Only improvement would be the road surface, which was bumpy and had re-surfacing works underway due to lots of pot holes (however West Cork Tri Club did an amazing job of marking each hole or dent in the surface). The 10km run route was largely uphill on the way out and then downhill on the same small country road back into Baltimore.
We started in the water, and headed straight out for about 700m. The harbour is filled with sailboats, yachts, fishing vessels, so we passed a few nice sized yachts which wouldn’t have looked out of place in Monaco or St Tropez. I enjoyed the swim, although got a bit annoyed by fogged up goggles a few times. No kicks in the head, so happy enough to exit water in 27mins and 59th place (my target is usually under 30m, so course might have been a bit short, or else am I getting stronger?)
T1 wasn’t the fastest for me, but got on the bike and up the hill onto the Skibbereen road. I got into a good battle with #59, and we battled away, trying not to get caught for drafting by the motorbike guys. We rode tag for about 30km I’d say and entered transition neck and neck. I knew I’d made up places as a little kid was shouting positions to us from his garden wall “…36, 37, 38…” I came of the bike in 1h 20m (36th fastest bike) so had made up over 20 places.
T2 was much better and I was looking forward to the run, as I knew I’d make up places and time. I was hoping for a top 20 based on my bike position, so pushed on from the start up the hilly run route. I ate up the road in front of me – the “hills” were really manageable as I told myself I’ve climbed much worse on the IMRA races this year. The mountain running has really stood to me, physically and mentally, as now I hear loads of people talk in fear or give out about hills on tris, but I secretly have a giggle to myself, as I know these are only bumps compared to real mountains. I also think that psychologically, if you think about the hill run as a huge challenge, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and becomes more of a problem than it should for you – just go out there and push on regardless, don’t let the hill get in the way.
I flew back down the hill and figured top 15 might be possible. I felt great on the run – my heart rate was high 160s, so much lower than Max HR. When I did the mountain races, my heart rate would be high 170s on the climb, so felt I could push more (not sure if that meant I could have run faster?). I couldn’t catch 2 guys in the last kilometre, but was happy to find out I did a 34min run, 2nd fastest of the day which moved me up to 19th overall.
I was delighted with that run performance, as training and racing hills is paying off. My swim time surprised me, but I’ll take it! The bike ride was solid, especially the tussle I had with #59 (whoever you are!). Work on T1 maybe, as getting out of wetsuit cost me 30seconds compared to fast guys.
Baltimore is a beautiful little fishing village in the south western tip of Ireland. It’s pretty remote – a solid 4 hour drive from Dublin. Even when you get to Cork it’s still over 1.5 hours from there, so I decided to make a long weekend out of it, as it’s too far to come to have to hop in the car Sunday afternoon. The village has a great little centre with a bunch of pubs and restaurants nestled over the harbour. There’s loads of seating outside in a mini square, facing west, so the perfect spot to relax after the race with a pint of Murphys and some great seafood. I’d recommend Bushe’s Bar for a pint, as well as Jacob’s Bar for good grub. Casey’s up the hill has super food – the crab claws require a bit of work to crack shells and get your fingers messy, but taste amazing.
The surrounding area of West Cork has so many things to do and see. On Sunday a trip to Mizen Head, Ireland’s southernmost point was on the cards. This involved a 70km return cycle from Ballydehob to Mizen Head, passing through Schull, Goleen and Barley Cove. Some great views of Fastnet Rock in the distance as well as little villages, harbours and bays. Despite the soft rain, it was well worth the spin. That afternoon, a quick hop on the ferry over to Sherkin Island was on the cards to watch the Munster Hurling Final between Tipp and Waterford. I watched the match in the Jolly Roger pub – could have stayed there all evening I didn’t have to get the ferry back to the mainland before nightfall!
Trevor Woods won the mens race and Katie Cooke won the women’s race. Full results are available here.