By John “The Scud missile” Mc Kenna
Galway an Everyman/Woman Race Report.
“Drinking in the morning sun, blinking in the morning sun, shaking off the heavy one, heavy like a loaded gun”, the opening lines to Elbows ‘One Day Like This’ and a perfect metaphor for how I felt on the morning after the day before and a late night on the tiles with the Setanta crew. Sitting in the outdoor jacuzzi in the Clybaun Hotel looking up at the crisp clear blue sky I thought of the famous George Best bellboy line “where did it all go wrong”, then I looked across to see the hungover head on Caraher in the tub opposite me and reality came crashing in, time to get back to the wife and kids!
Just 24 hours previous a gang of Setantas got up at stupid o’clock to congregate on salthill prom to race Galway 70.3. The line up included in no order of preference or ability:
Pistol Pete Tomany
Feargal “jesus he can move for a big man” Cunningham
Bryan “meet the fockers” Mccrystal
Robbie “you are what you eat” Caraher
Niall ” I wish the mrs would take up tennis” Casey
Neil “John Deere” Kelly
Yours truly John “the pocket rocket” McKenna. Unfortunately in my case the rocket involved is a Saddam SKUD which rarely reaches its target and usually blows 200 metres into the sea!
Also lining up were Clare Maher, Fra Murphy and Andrew Cunningham all of them far too nice and polite to qualify for a nick name.
And I almost forgot, a guest appearance by ,Stephen “the housewife’s favourite” Ralph. Stephen gave us a cock and bull story about being down for a relay,with Gretta, however we all knew that he was secretly hoping that Louis Walsh would be there to support Keith “the teeth” Duffy, and on seeing Ralph would realise his mistake of not picking him at his failed audition for a place in Westlife a few years back and put him in as the 6th member of One Direction.
For the majority of us the closest we will ever get to the Hawaii dream is watching re-runs of Magnum PI on Bravo or having a look at Owen Martin’s now annual October holiday pics on Facebook. Actually come to think of it Niall will probably get there; as Eve will need someone to carry her bike box and look after the kids when she qualifies. Boom! But for the select few, or in our case, the select two, Pete and Neil, Vegas was a clear goal.
Race morning the weather conditions were perfect. Dry and cool with a few rays of sun peaking through to give a little warmth. It was a relief for most of us as the sea on Saturday was that rough I don’t think even the club’s most seasoned swimmer Plug Watters would have been able to get through the 1900metres. Having rocked the casbah in College in Galway in the mid 90′s I was more used to staggering around the City of Tribes at 5am with a traffic cone on my head and spending my last 2 quid on 10 Malboro lights, so walking round at this ungodly hour with an Aero Helmet and spending my last two quid on a double caffeine gel was a whole new experience.
I was in the same wave as Pete, who is a cool customer at the best of times and is easy company on race morning. So I could not be standing beside a better person when I realised that I had left my goggles in the hotel. Of course Pete had a spare pair, so myself, himself and Niall headed up to his car to get them. Panic over. Next panic was for the 3 of us to get to the portaloo before the wetsuit went on. Strange how you but 3 irishmen together and the conversation will always turn to bowel movements. Enough of that. We met Feargal up at the start. Another cool hand Luke, he was dressed in his jeans and tshirt and was in no panic to get suited and booted for the race. Although him being in the geriatric age group with Niall they had a bit more time than the rest of us to get ready, as they were off closer to 8am, the race organises obviously feeling sorry for the aul fellas!
While getting the wetsuit on the race announcer told us the pros were getting warmed up and ready to go. I could not see them, but I had a little chuckle to myself picturing Bryan Mc down there with big headphones on ala Michael Phelps getting psyched and ready to go. I even picked the last song in the world that the big dog would be listening to before the start to pump himself up, REM’s Shiny Happy People!
The pros were off, then the young bucks, then my wave the 35-40, the biggest group of all the EMC’s (early midlife crisis set) I was actually really looking forward to getting going and wanted to get into the water as soon as, but Pete’s wise head suggested we wait until 2 mins to go so as not to get too cold. Good plan. I swam less this year than any other year and the game plan was to keep it very steady in the water and not to waste too much energy. So when the gun went I just settled into a nice rhythm behind a rather portly guy who pulled me out to the first bhouy and then dropped me, but I was in clear water and relaxed into a comfortable stroke and just tried to swim straight. That was the way it was for the next uneventful 20 odd minutes. At the turn for home I jumped on the feet of another big guy and that was it out of the water, swim over and feeling great and raring to go on the bike. I did not have a clue what my time was, as I did not want to lose the garmin in the melee at the start, which incidentally never materialised, and left it on the bike. Ended up with at 42 min swim, which included a long run to transition. Looking at the other times I would take that time again and run.
I bumped into Bryan the day before and his advice was settle in don’t force it and let the power, or in my case the 100 odd watts come! I had a meal with Neil another uberbiker on the saturday and he told me his plan was not to go over 155bpm. I listened to both of them and just relaxed into an avg 153bpm. I had hit nearly all the cuchulainn league nights this summer and was all the stronger for it, as even though I felt I was cycling very easy I just kept passing other bikers. 20mins in I started to eat and drink. A few lads passed me, but I think it was Owen’s report from a few years back that said if fellas are passing you it normally means they will blow on the run or they are simply faster, so I let them off.
I knew the road well and knew where the hills and dips where and I think that really stood to me over the bike course. At the turnaround I looked at the watch and saw 1:15ish, feck me I might be on for a good time here. I gave it a good dig around 50-75k mark and settled in for the last 15k to try and save the legs for the run. My only scare on the bike was when I took a stupid notion of trying a Mo Farah arms above the head ‘heart pose’ for the camera man in middle of road in Connemara. A speed bobble and angry camera man later I decided to stay aero for the rest of the journey back to salthill. 2:39 mins later and a flawless dismount, if i do say so myself, I hit the run course.
3 laps appeals to me over one big loop, as I don’t like running and in my mind, physiologically counting down the laps makes the time go quicker. There was plenty of support from the locals and seeing the other setantas on the run course and shouting encouragement back and forth really helped when the going got tough. The wind was strong and as the run went on I saw my avg pace slowing creep up from 7:50 to 8:00 to 8:05. I dug in hard over the 16k mark but it was not coming down. So much for a 1:45 run, but I knew it was going to be respectable. Finished with a 1:47. Mixed middling not too shabby. My friend from Galway who was waiting in the stand for me came down and said “well done is 5:19 any good?” I was coughing up some manky gel and couldn’t answer him. After a sip of water I asked him did he see my time, his response “5:19 you dope!”. I asked him was he sure and his wife confirmed it, I was ecstatic.
The club are lucky to have the two best long distance athletes in the country in Byran and Owen, two lads who no matter what sport they threw there hands to would excel, but both of whom will always give you advice, pointers and tips. But for every Bryan and Owen there are a 100 other weekend warriors who make up the ranks in triathlon like myself, who for the most part do it for a bit of craic and a bit of banter and bit of personal achievement, taking satisfaction in knowing there are worse places you could be in (not many mind you!) than the Bush Track on a miserable Monday in February with Oliver Harkin screaming in your ear, or out at the Long Woman’s grave dodging hailstones in March or landing home to your better half and getting the “all picture no sound” treatment as the 2hr saturday spin became 3.5hour. I hope she does not mind me saying it but the cheshire cat smile on Clare’s face said it all as I saw her coming off the bike and on the run and I think that’s what gets most of us out there, the good days when the sun shines, the legs spin and it all comes together nicely.
I started with the opening line from Elbow’s one day and I will finish with the closing line. “So throw those curtains wide, One Day like this a year will see me right!” What a day what a sport!
After the race Rob left me for the resident bar to watch the Dublin game and I slept for 3 hrs to be woken by a text from him saying “boggars in the bar are more fun than you, gone to the Quays to meet the lads”. Shook and body and soul creaking, I rocked in to find Alan Gray holding court in the Quays with the rest of the crew. Fra had finished, Pete has his Vegas spot. Happy days! Texted Neil and unfortunately it did not work out for him, but I would bet the negative equity in my house that neil will be booking his flights very soon, you can’t keep a good man down, especially one who has kango hammers for quads!
I witnessed a phenomena which I have to share. I never thought it possible that a person could eat deep fried chicken while asleep. Rob proved it could be done in supermacs at 1am that morning. Ripleys Believe It Or Not have already bought the rights from me to the IPhone footage.
The next morning after checking out myself and rob went to a fancy coffee shop to sober up for the journey home. The waitress even before we sat down took one look at us and said “lads I am just letting you know we don’t do a fried breakfast”. With that I knew the game was up, it was time to get out of Dodge and head for home.