When I told people I would be doing an aquathon, it seemed to provoke the same reaction from all of them: nodding; then a moment of hesitation and confusion while they tried to figure out if (a) they heard you correctly and (b) is this a thing now? ; and then when confident that they had no prior experience or knowledge of this term, it seemed safe to ask what indeed is an “aquathon”. I am totally new to this too. An aquathon virgin, if you must! But a virgin no longer.
Last night, I took part in my first swim-run race or in the word(s) of my twitter hashtag #swimnocyclerun. The Howth Aquathon Summer Series is organised by Multisport Adventure Ireland, together with the Howth based Healthpro and takes place on the last Monday evening of the month in May, June and July in… as you may have worked out, Howth! Competitors have a choice to do either the short course or the long course. The short course comprises a 5oom swim and a 3.8km run, while the long course is twice that, effectively involving two laps of each leg. I signed up to the series ages ago and unfortunately missed the first one due to… well just laziness. I had done a 20 mile run the day before, which had me utterly wiped out and rather than leave the snug, warm sitting room at my Grandad’s house, I wussed out. Alas, not this time! And to make certain I didn’t repeat this mistake again, I drove straight to the race from home, all ready to go. It worked!
We’ve had such good weather in Ireland for the last few weeks and yesterday, though quite windy out in Howth, proved to be another pleasant summer evening. The race kicked off at around 7:30pm, with the longees launched into the water first, ahead of the short course peeps. This made me glad I’d chosen the long course because I’d absolutely rather be doing something rather than standing around, waiting. I’m not a good waiter.
As usual, it took me a little while to settle into the swim, although the swimmers seemed to spread out a lot quicker than usual, which was nice as it meant I had my own bit of space to swim in. My greatest concern when swimming is always trying to avoid getting kicked, particularly in the head or stomach. I did have a girl in a bright yellow hat, however, who was swimming just to my right and who kept veering into me, not deliberately but just seemed to have difficulty keeping straight so just had to keep an eye out for that. I found the swim out to the first buoy and on around to the second buoy okay but the final leg between the second and third buoy was a little more of a challenge due to the wind and a choppy sea. I took in a few solid mouthfuls of good quality howth salt water! I wasn’t sure how I would feel about having to do a second lap but surprisingly I felt fine about it and was happy to stay in the water for longer. Out to the first buoy was again fine but then I ended up behind a man in a green hat who was only slighter slower but unfortunately didn’t really seem up to letting me go by him. He pretty much shoved me out of the way when it came to getting around the first buoy, which is usually where I think it’s extra important to be careful and conscious of other swimmers as everyone is converging at the same point and all trying to get around the buoy. I understand people are concentrating and just want to keep swimming and he may not even have seen me but I do think we need to be considerate of everyone around us when we are out there. No matter, I managed to get around him by the time we had gotten past the second buoy and were on the home stretch back into the beach. This bit did feel a bit long but maybe I was just starting to tire from the swim.
Out of the water, it was a straight run up to the short beach and onto transition. One of the reasons I loved this race was the red foam carpet that the organisers had laid out between the beach and the transition area so no stones to jab into your feet! It was super. A whole new transition for me, it was off with the wetsuit and into the runners. No helmet or bike, or jellylegs for that matter! This was really nice and I felt really fresh going straight into the run.
The run route was an out and back along the seafront promenade and then turned up the steep hill towards the hill of howth. When I say steep, I mean STEEP. It’s short though so really you just have to dig in and hang on, then it’s over in no time and the road levels out. Of course, then you have a whopper of a downhill at the other end, which sets you flying back along the seafront and back to transition. For the long course folks, it was a quick duck under the finishing gantry and back out to do another lap. I really enjoyed the run leg of the race and felt really strong for most of it, apart from my second go at the aforementioned steep hill on my second lap as obviously I was lacking as much energy by then. I was glad that I was still able to maintain a decent enough pace and finish strong. It’s not often that I get to say that! I ended up averaging out at 7.25 per mile (7.20 pace for first lap and 7.30 pace for the second).
I have to give a hearty congratulations to the organisers of this race, it really was a triumph and such a hassle-free delight for racers. Race parking was literally beside the transition area (across a footpath), with registration across the road; the marshals were very nice and encouraging; it started bang on time with no messing around; flawlessly organised course, which was just stunning by the way (incredible views from the run route) and showed Howth for the glorious place it is; and a prizeworthy finish area. I can’t stress this enough to other race organisers out there. It makes a massive difference to race goers and in terms of enticing them to come back again the next time. The Howth folks had tables with pre-cut watermelon, oranges, bananas, apples, yummy tea brack, sugar-free cordial and bottles of water. I loved this not just because it was healthy snacks, but because these are exactly the foods you typically crave after a race. Re-hydrating, vitamin and nutrient rich, healthy carbohydrates. Not lucozade or bars filled with loads of crap. Just real food. And of course the nice, family/friend friendly area on the green where this all took place made for a very pleasant way to spend the evening and chat to people after the race. Seriously, well done. I’m already looking forward to the next one in July.
Swim: 25.55 ; T1: 2.15 ; Run: 35.05 (17.21 & 17.44). Total Time: 1.03.15