Howth Aquathon Done and Dusted

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The last of the summer Howth Aquathon Series took place on Monday on a scarily stormy evening. “Scary”, according the the Oxford English Dictionary means “to cause fright or alarm”. My alarm: the torrential rain pouring down in waves on Howth harbour minutes before the race was due to start and the angry, dark, ominous clouds swiftly blowing towards us from the west. My fright: that I was going to have to leave the warm, cozy car to to set off on a nice long swim and run in that most inviting atmosphere.

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Triathletes, I have come to understand, are hard core toughies so probably encouraged mostly by just not wanting to be the only wuss in the group, I had some good stern (inward…) words with myself to just (wo)man up and get to! With the weather being so crap, I noticed that nearly everyone stayed in their cars until literally moments before the race began. It was super to be able to park right beside the transition area on a day like that and with transition in an aquathon merely consisting of running shoes and race belt with number for some (a towel and socks if you’re not quite so hard ass), there was no need to be flutering about in transition in the rain.

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The swim: 1km, consisting of two laps of a triangular (sort of…) swim course. The run: 7.4 km, again 2 x 3.7 km laps out and back along the promenade and up the hill. The swim out into Howth bay was tougher than the last day. The winds were up and the waves were strong and frequent. This made it hard to swim out on the first leg, with strong, choppy waters pushing you back and giving you plenty to swallow. Swimming across from the first buoy to the second was a bit easier without being pushed back the whole time, although the challenge with this section proved to be just trying to stay straight. Heading back across to the first buoy to do the second also had its challenges, with swimming parallel to the beach and again trying to remain on course to avoid having to swim unnecessary additional yardage.

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The run up from the beach to transition was short and handy, with a nice red carpet for racers to mind their feet on. Transition was quicker than normal for me and I managed to wrestle off the wetsuit with less struggle than usual. I’d hid my shoes and socks underneath my towel to keep them dry, which was nice. However, it did make for a sodden towel, which was…pleasant… but it was either going to be the towel or the shoes, and I cannot stand putting on sodden wet runners… and then having to run in them. Squelch, squelch. Eww. In any event, it was raining so the towel would have been rendered defunct anyway. Sorry towel.

The run course was nice. It brought you all along the seafront along the promenade where you pass by all the pretty shops and cafes in pretty Howth and then up the mighty steep and well-renowned Howth hill. I felt pretty fresh on the way out and clocked 7:55 for the first mile. The hill, understandably, meant a good dig into my general pace and I was 8:11 for the second mile. By this time, there were some people shooting past me on the way back down the hill, while others had started to fade after their first venture up the hill. I saw some seriously strong runners in this bunch and you couldn’t but be inspired to crack on and dig a little deeper.

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I was still feeling good at the turn-about at the beginning of the second lap, though I didn’t feel as strong as I had at the previous race. It’s funny how some days you just feel that bit more fatigued than others. But what can you do? I finished out doing 7:52 for the third mile and 7:58 for the fourth. I came in at 1 hour 4 minutes exactly and although a 45 second slower overall than the previous race, I didn’t mind. The water was much rougher than the last day and according to my garmin, I swam an extra 100m to top it off. As a plus, I was quicker on the run leg than the last day, despite feeling more fatigued this time around.

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Swim 1km: 27:55         (25:55 in the previous race in June)

Run Total: 33:51          (16:37, first lap; 17.15, second lap)       (35:05 in previous race – 17:21, first lap; 17:44, second lap)

A great race and a super summer series, excellently organised and overall a very enjoyable experience. I signed up to this series as one of a number of events I’d never done before but wanted to branch out and try something new and different. I’m so glad I did and I can definitely see myself signing up again next year. In fact, I kind of wish there was one of these races every month for the rest of the year! Big thanks to all the organisers and volunteers involved in getting the race ready, you’re mighty people out there in Howth. Must be the hill.

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