Conducting the Orchestra: Phoenix Park Duathlon

27th April 2019: What do you call a duathlon without a bike leg? One of the many questions I pondered as we dealt with the tail end of Storm Hannah today. You learn in life that things will always take a twist, just when it looks like plain sailing.

Well today I’m proud of the work that my club members put in. I’m proud of putting on one of the few run or bike events in the country today. Many were cancelled due to the weather. I get a huge sense of satisfaction from my contribution to letting others race – 8 months of planning squeezed into 8 hours of work.

Highlights include seeing a dog in tri-suit (yes 3D Tri!). Clothing choice was another variable: from goose pimple exposed skin to swim-dry jackets. Plus, the Blessington Tri beanie hats finally came in useful. Other memories are seeing our largest field of entrants – over 300 registered from 30 clubs, and 229 taking part (30% no show).

I was really delighted at how well our Belpark marshals dealt with everything. Feedback from competitors has been great: so encouraging and so copped on when stuff needed to be sorted.

Being race director is a little like being a conductor of an orchestra or a bainisteoir of a hurling team. Once things get going, you’re kind of useless and redundant. Things just flow and you can’t stop them, once the athletes are off on the run.

Funny memories are standing under the trees at 6:45AM in a bitter wind, devising alternatives to our registration area. Tents weren’t an option – they’d take off and end up in the Irish Sea. One option was hiding in the trees, but that wasn’t any better.

A bright idea was to move to the leeward side of the Papal Cross. I could then give my race briefing to the devoted pilgrims of the duathlon faith, following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francisco (I was well impressed with the size of his transition area last summer – it could fit a million bikes).

The idea of canceling the event was real. The officials were concerned about crosswinds on the exposed roads, knocking over cyclists. It would have been a tough call, but safety is paramount. Would a duathlon without a bike be….a uniathlon? Or a noathlon? Maybe a runathon? Or, just a really long run.

It reminded me of the T&Cs of signing up for the Naas Duathlon few years ago. They asked you to tick a box to confirm “I agree with the weather.” How true. How could you disagree?

I unwound by going for a run around the park. I got a taste of how tough those winds were. Glorious sunshine had emerged. The park is a jewel. I passed the Áras, a cricket match, the Polo Grounds, the Khyber Pass, the Zoo, the Munich Mile around the Magazine Fort and the Papal Cross – all within a few kilometres of each other.

Now my feet are up, it feels good. A nice tiredness. Is lá eile é amárach – back to racing tomorrow night, then onto planning the next race…

Phoenix Park Duathlons

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