Two thousand and twelve was a great year. Despite the recession, it’s not all bad if you get out and enjoy life. So here’s my look back on the year that was for me and the biggest sporting memories I’ll take away.
I’ve never felt fitter or more prepared doing races. It’s been a real journey but I’ve made progress and the results are PBs in all times from 5k to the marathon. I’ve completed over 30 races across multiple sports and discovered some new parts of our beautiful isle, as well as racing abroad. Winning was one of my goals – and I won my first adventure race in Wexford and had a bunch of top 3 performances in mountain running, as well as top 10s in various sports.
Multi-sport is the way to go
The best decision I made this year was to do a multitude of disciplines. While triathlon is my main sport, the season is so short, so I was glad I’d other sports to fill the gaps in the year. I took part in running, cycling, swimming, duathlon, marathon and adventure racing and had a ball at each race.
Joining a club definitely makes a difference – I joined Belpark Triathlon Club and got to know lots of new members. The 4 day training weekend held at the University of Limerick over Easter was the highlight, in terms of living the life of a pro for a few days and also getting some great coaching. I also joined Rathfarnham WSAF, a running club which really helped me with intervals to build up for summer season and then gave me loads of advice in my Dublin Marathon build-up.
My favourite races include a top 5 list, as I just can’t pick one: Dingle Adventure Race, La Milla de Sagrada Familia (Barcelona), Dunmore East Triathlon, Baltimore (Cork) Triathlon and Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford.
• Dingle Adventure Race: Dingle is just such a beautifully situated town, on the edge of Ireland, next stop Atlantic Ocean. The adventure race uses the best of the peninsula, including a run up Mount Brandon, cycling over the Connor Pass and kayaking around Dingle Harbour. This is one of the best organised races in Ireland, so a definite for 2013.
• La Milla de Sagrada Familia (Barcelona): the novelty and stunning location of this race made this unforgettable. I’d never ran the classic mile distance before and after reading Eamonn Coghlan’s autobiography recently, it fascinated me: “how far off a 4 minute mile am I?” Getting the chance to run 2 laps around Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona was amazing and running 1 mile is hard and fast. My goal is to beat 5 minutes. This year 5:09.
• Dunmore East Triathlon: a local favourite, which I’ve done for 4 years now. The atmosphere is great, with so many family and friends out supporting. The venue is perfect for a tri, where everyone can see the swim start in the harbour. The run has a killer hill, so suits me[Symbol] and the craic afterwards in the pubs is great.
• Lough Hyne Triathlon (Baltimore, Cork): a new race for me this year, but well worth the long drive down. Lovely little fishing village, with a beautiful cycle route along the coast of West Cork. Great excuse for a long weekend and so much to explore in the area afterwards.
• Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford: you won’t find a more enjoyable 6 hours on a bike route! What a way to explore our beautiful county, from Dungarvan to Carrick to Clonmel then up the Comeragh Mountains and finally the tough climb up to Mahon Falls. Great local pride, tons of food and a great feeling to finish with a group of mates.
I won one race this year, but set PBs in all my distances, so really happy with progress overall. Winning the Blackstairs Adventure Race in Wexford was a nice surprise – it gives you such an adrenaline buzz to be competing at the front and is addictive. It was the inaugural race, setup by a local community on a lovely course over mountains in west Wexford. The kayak up the Barrow in Graiguenamanagh was stunning, as it brought back memories of going up the river on my aunty and uncle’s narrowboat in the 1990s. I was tussling for the lead until the final mountain run and then pulled clear.
The Dublin Marathon was my other top performance, in terms of reaching a goal through training and preparation. There are no shortcuts to marathon success, so I was delighted to set a PB of 2:50:06. People say it must have been hard/painful/boring, but I really enjoyed the race and felt comfortable (well until the last few miles). It’s given me an appetite to think big – we can all reach big goals if we put the work in. A sub 2:30 marathon is definitely where I want to get to…
Representing your country is an honour and I got my 2nd chance in France at the World Duathlon Championships in Nancy. I was proud of my performance, doing my best against some top athletes. It’s much tougher on the legs than an Olympic triathlon, as the 10km run is flat out, the 40k bike is helter-skelter and the second 5km run is draining. While I dropped time on the bike, I enjoyed the technical course of 7 twisty laps and was stoked by the time I made up on a strong final 5k run home. The transition and finish zone in Place Stanislas was stunning – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (home of the Kingdom of Lorraine back in the day).
Life is there for living, so each year you gotta try at least 5 new things. Cross country is something I put on my list, running around a muddy field in Wexford in the Novices. Swimming 3km across Smerwick Harbour in Kerry with Nuala was unforgettable, with the stupendous scenery everywhere you look – such a feeling of freedom and WOW! Running the mile around the Sagrada Familia was so nice to mix running with such a landmark.
Cross-country skiing in the Arctic Circle in Finland in minus 30C temperatures was a bit mad, but so liberating. Discovering the Wicklow Mountains through mountain running is something I’ll do for the rest of my life. Regrets? They’re only plans for next year, so I guess I need to improve my swimming and stop making excuses. I want to win a mountain running race, as let a few slip this year. I should also think big and prioritise races/events, as you can’t do everything. One step at a time.