I get up, put my cycling gear on and head out the door to work in Dublin. I do my work day, mostly in the office in the city centre and sometimes out and about around the country. At the end of the day, it’s back into the cycling gear, train home, make dinner, watch some TV and bed. Gym one or two evenings a week and I also venture out to the Dublin suburbs to stay with my Grandad one or two evenings too.
At weekends, I’m also pretty boring – long cycles around Kildare, Meath, Laois or out towards the Wicklow mountains. Then it’s food, meeting up with friends for coffee around Kildare or doing something nice with my cousin and my little goddaughter. I drink about 5 times a year and go out on the town even less than that. I love a good night out and getting my dance on, but the opportunities are few and far between these days with most of my friends (who I would do these things with!) having moved away or emigrated.
But I’m also the kind of person who is quite happy in myself and mostly content in my own company – reading, cooking, going to the cinema, following sports, whatever. I’ve always been good at keeping myself entertained and finding something to do.
I love my little world. It reassures me in many ways and I feel lucky to have somewhere I feel safe and somewhere I can call home.
But lately, I have started to feel like my world is too small and I have this itch to break out and blow it wide open – run in every direction and see where it takes me – let it tear me down, re-design me and build me back up, one foreign brick at a time.
I was lucky enough to be given a last minute opportunity at work to go to Scotland for a week to take part in a work-related course. I jumped at it – to my surprise more than anyone else’s… I am such a person of routine – I make the same things for dinners, for lunches and supper – I do much the same things every day of the week – but when given the opportunity to drop it all and have a whole week of newness and the unknown, I didn’t even hesitate.
I had a great week in Scotland, despite a wee bit of rain 😉
I met loads of great people with incredible experience, who were a joy to meet and get to know.
I saw a whole new country with stunningly beautiful scenery.
I felt free.
This trip reminded me of what life is about and what my soul really wants. I forget this. I forget because the day-to-day needs and foggery gets in the way, clouds my view and makes me forget. It forces my soul to submit, conform and behave.
But I don’t want to conform anymore.
I want to be bold, break out and live in the big, big world around me.
Tomrrow, I go to the south of France to see the Tour de France in person. First stop Biarritz, then on to Pau, Toulouse and Rodez. I can’t wait. Sun, tiny villages in the south of France, pro cyclists up close (and hopefully personal) and pure unadulterated freedom.
Freedom to roam, freedom to discover and freedom to just be me. Away from everything I know, all the crap and away from my little world into a much, much bigger one.
In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.
With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?
Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.
But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…
Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.
So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.
Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.
I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.
What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?
After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀
After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.
The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.
Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.
I’ve talked about my feet so many times on this blog that I’m starting to feel they have more of a presence than I have on here. In fairness, their drama, trips, days out, dates and life in general has been far more exciting than my own of late…
For those who don’t know (and have been saved that pedi-saga) I injured both feet in the run-up to the Paris marathon 2016, in or about March last year, which has resulted in me being benched from running for nearly 10 months now. Since then, I’ve seen numerous physiotherapists, a GP, a chiropodist and two orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in feet – all of whom have given me a different diagnosis in terms of the source of the pain in my feet. The first physio told me it was soft tissue damage, “just a battering” from all the marathon training. The second physio (from the same clinic) told me it was NOT a soft tissue injury at all, rather it was more likely a rheumatological condition, possibly rheumatoid arthritis.
On foot of what physio no.2 said, I visited my GP who ran blood tests which confirmed no inflammatory markers in my bloods. So, she ruled out the possibility that the cause of my foot pain was rheumatoidal. She referred me on to an orthopaedic specialist who specialises in foot problems on the basis that the pain could be a result of a stress fracture. On inspection of my feet, this orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that indeed the source of my foot pain was most likely a result of a stress fracture – 90% sure it was a stress fracture in the 5th metatarsal – to be precise.
Went for an MRI… went back to Mr. Ortho… no stress fracture, anywhere in my feet. He then promptly informed me that he could do nothing further for me given that the problem did not appear to be a bone problem nor could he offer any opinion on what was wrong with my feet.
At this point, I cried.
It had been 9 months of different experts, with wildly different views on what is wrong with my damn feet. And here I was, after spending a chunk of money on all these guys and having not been able to go for a run in so long standing in a car park outside a hospital thinking I’m never going to be able to run again…. and not one person can tell me what is wrong with me. So I cried. With my Dad (who had kindly come with me to the appointment) looking at me like I was crazytown.
This week I went to see another orthopaedic (foot) surgeon for a second opinion, which if nothing else, was hilarious. What my mother calls a good old-fashioned surgeon- glasses, dicky bow, abrupt, utterly unsympathetic, impatient and entirely forthright and opinionated – I loved it. After examining my feet, he took the view that I have basically bad feet. I have splayed, wide feet, with bunions, swelling in the forefoot and collapsed arches – basically, all these factors combined mean that the mechanics of my feet is all off. He told me that the custom orthotics I had made many years ago were useless on their own and that they would not be effective without accompanying exercises to make them work.
So what did he decide should be the next step? A physio! No, but not just anyone, he specifically recommended a Dublin physio who has worked with Athletics Ireland specialising in sports injuries with good experience. Given that this glowing referral came from a man who strikes me as exceptionally hard to impress, I’m expecting great things. I’m honestly very excited and feeling more positive about this than I have in months.
I have an appointment in 2 weeks time and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I also have an appointment to see a rheumatologist to investigate my Reynaud’s and just to rule out any rheumatoidal cause of my foot pain.
For the moment, I am still cycling away at weekend and early mornings before work, when I can. The mornings are slowly getting brighter earlier and the days are starting to stretch out and I can’t wait for those long Summer days… I also just joined a gym to action my new year’s resolution to get stronger this year. Strength and conditioning is an area I’ve neglected for a long time and I’m hoping if I can work on it, it might help with my feet/ knee/other injuries going forward.
Injuries suck, no doubt. I miss running massively. Word. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like there’s hope that maybe some day in the near (ish) future, one of these experts will tell me it’s time to run again.
And what a wonderful day that will be. Happy running folks, enjoy!
I’m not one for looking back or for dwelling over what might have been. Time spent wondering about things that are done, in the past and forever unchangeable has always seemed to me to be a pointless exercise… as well as an instrument of self-torture.
You cannot change what has happened so don’t bother wasting more time trying to.
I’m inherently optimistic. So if something bad or unexpected happens or things just don’t turn out how you hoped they would, my approach is always to see what good can be taken from it and move forward, constructively and better. Just like a wise man once said:
In short, 2016 has been a long year for me, full of adventure, new people and new experiences. I have loved all (with one or 2 exceptions 😉 – Is it ever any other way?) the new people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and the many new friends I’ve made through work, clubs, races, etc. Not without its sad moments however, 2016 ushered in a few sad goodbyes too.
I am very excited about 2017 and I cannot wait to get cracking.
I start a new job in January and I’m proper excited to get stuck into a new, challenging role. Travel, holidays to new places, new races and the possibility of my first ever home of my own… I can’t wait for it all.
What I Want Out of 2017 (maybe…)
Sit the NY Bar exam (Will they ever approve my foreign qualifications? Please?)
Get my own place (if the above doesn’t happen!)
Take a road trip in USA. Stay in motels. Eat ribs and grits.
Get strong. I have zero upper body strength or any strength in general. I could run and cycle all day but ask me to do a single press-up and I can’t get off the floor.
Explore my own country. I’ve been to so many places around Ireland but there are just so many other places yet to be explored. It’s shameful. 2017 is going to involve at a minimum, trips to Derry, Belfast, Killarney and more mountain climbing everywhere.
Be kind to yourself tomorrow as you ring in the New Year, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Don’t beat yourself up or get stuck on the “what-might-have-beens”.
We are none of us perfect, without flaws or free from moments we wish we should have done better.
We will not be at our best every moment, of every day.
We will not always say the right thing or do the correct things.
We will say stupid things when tired and make wrong decisions because we think it will help someone else.
We will be misunderstood, misunderestimated and mistaken all the time.
Accept this and remember it in your kindness to others. Without getting too heavy here, I just think if people were all a bit more considerate, tolerant and kinder to each other, the world would be a much nicer place to live in. It doesn’t take much and it can mean the world of difference to someone else.
And you know, as Helen Mirren recently said in the Hollywood blockbuster Collateral Beauty…
“Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”
Happy new year, enjoy the celebrations whatever you’re doing and just be sure that whatever you do in 2017, however small or grand your plans are, don’t forget to take notice of the… 😉
Life is full of big, beautiful – free – gifts. Most of the time we walk around, head down, lost in thought or glued to a screen of some variety or other and fail to notice these gifts. Or if you’re a glass half-empty sort or the moanie type, you probably… well, you probably moan.
Let’s talk Autumn – I L.O.V.E Autumn. Others don’t take to it so well, preferring to view it as the end of summer, stealer of the long, balmy evenings and thief of days spent sipping wine by the beach. The slow march into dark, cold winter.
While these things are true, I can’t resist the warm glow of autumn – the occasional warm, sunny spell, reminders of the summer just gone and the gradual change in the colour of the leaves, letting the gold, orange and burnt red colours take centre stage.
And let’s not forget, October marks the build up to pumpkin season – ie. official licence to eat as much squash and pumpkin as I like. In fact, not to do so would be wasteful and environmentally unfriendly and an all-round social injustice to not adhere to eating in-season vegetables. It does one good to prepare one’s arguments ahead of remarks such as “Butternut squash again? Are you not sick of it?” No, I am never sick of it, silly person.
Autumn on the bike is a new experience for me, as usually at this time of the year I’m at the height of marathon training for the Dublin marathon (in exactly 4 weeks time – not that I’m counting or anything 😉 ) Cycling at the moment is a real treat when you get a pleasant sunny, dry day. The temperatures are definitely coming down but it’s the nicest thing to be cycling along in the autumn sun along tree-lined roads, watching the changing colours in the trees and bushes… and saying hello to all the sheep and cows too (obvs).
The weather is not always that cooperative but when you do get those days, it’s bliss.
Two Things: Dressing correctly for cycling in autumn (or winter for that matter) is a minefield. I am braced for a plethora of days of cooked Fifi on a bike due to ridiculous over-dressing and over-dousing of layers… and freezing Fifi due to fear of the former occurring and the resulting under-dressing and under-layering debacle. Secondly, the days are WAY shorter already so early morning cycles and evening cycles before or after work are now out. Sorry autumn but you do lose a point for that.
Dark evenings may be about to strip me of a long evening cycle to wind down after a day, but autumn, in all its glorious good nature, transforms these into an irresistible, seductive gift. A proper excuse to light a fire, wrap up in a big fluffy dressing gown, spend a ridiculous amount of time in a hot bath walled in by candles and bubbles or just curl up on the sofa with a movie.
Food Glorious Food. October marks the start line for that time of year when salad for dinner starts to feel all wrong. Move over salad, hello soup, stews, curries and squash cooked every which way from Sunday. Orange coloured food everywhere. Beautiful.
I am ready for October – and when I say ready – what I actually mean is I’ve been waiting for autumn since the beginning of the summer. I know autumn actually technically starts in August but real autumn doesn’t begin for me until the temperatures start to fall, the leaves start to turn and the days begin to close in. Their time is now.
Let the joy commence!
P.S Countdown to Halloween is ON… what are your plans?
I would be the first to confess to being overly strict when in training for a big event like a marathon or triathlon. Watching what I eat, being careful about the quality of the food going into my body and trying to keep my weight at a place where I feel comfortable running and cycling. You should know though, I’m not obsessive and I have no desires to be “skinny” – rather, I train and perform better when I feel comfortable in my own skin and for me that means feeling trim and strong.
I’ve come to believe though that it’s not good to be at that point all year round – to be at what some call your “racing weight”. Apart from the possibility that it might not actually be good for your body in the long run to keep your weight lower than is healthy, it also creates too much pressure and stress for your mind. It’s like trying to be perfect ALL of the time. Not sustainable and will make you go crazy.
So how do you balance these two competing issues? I’m no expert but in the last couple of years I’ve found that works for me is allowing myself to train hard and focus coming up to a big race and then celebrate and enjoy a more relaxed time for a while afterwards. That way, I feel ready to go again for the next training period.
What does that garble actually equate to in reality? It means I take a few days of doing no training except for maybe a gentle cycle or swim, lots of bubble baths and sitting around with my legs up. Then there’s all the food. Chinese takeaways, ice-cream, M&M’s, confectionery coming out my ears and a few nice lunches or dinners out with friends and family. Lots of crap, in other words. I’d generally stay away from this kind of food when I’m in training simply because while it tastes good going down, it makes my body feel gross. It’s not the type of food that makes me feel good from the inside and if I don’t feel good, I don’t perform good. Very simple.
A few days indulging in rubbish is kiddy-like fun but then I quickly have enough and find I want to get back to eating well and training again.
Ironman 70.3 Dublin last weekend was one such big event for me. The legs were useless for Monday and Tuesday and stairs were a non-runner (pardon the pun). It was also my birthday last weekend so this week was always going to be a chill-out week. A few easy cycles in the last few days helped to ease residual tightness and fatigue in my legs, readily aided by a few long bubble baths 😉
Today I met my cousin and 4 year old godchild for lunch in Avoca along with my Mum and her friend. The food in Avoca is legendary and today’s offerings of confit duck salad with blood oranges, lentils, feta cheese and green beans finished with a lemon posset dessert was no exception. Scrumdiddly. I never pick confit of duck ordinarily but thought I’d live dangerously today and was so glad I did, it was very, very good.
I also picked up a few bits and bobs in the shop, as one cannot avoid doing when in Avoca…
Best Ever Granola from Avoca is something I’ve gotten really into lately. Apricots, big ass brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds all knockin around in there with an undertone of a funky orange oil… goes very well with some greek yogurt and berry compote, which has been my breakfast, supper and anytime snack really…
This Cake – look I honestly don’t know what it’s called but it was bloody wonderful. Maybe it’s because I eat cake all of probably twice a year that it tasted that good, but it was really very, very good. Think carrot cake meets bakewell tart. Cream cheese icing on top of a carrot cake middle, on top of a layer of jam on a pastry base. Fresh as a daisy and light as anything. C’est super.
White chocolate biscuit cake – Understand this is not all for me, I’m not that bad. I got this to give to other people but obviously had to taste it in the interests of reviewing it for you fine people 😉 This was disappointing to be honest. Very non-descript taste. I imagined it was going to have a strong white chocolate hit to it, given that it’s pretty much a solid lump of white chocolate with bits of biscuit, marshmallow and raspberries. Alas, it did not. Thumbs down from me.
Before you come to the conclusion (though I would understand if you had already gotten there!) that I am indeed a savage, I am saving the rest of my Avoca loot for another time. So you shall have to wait for my review of Avoca’s raw health food brownie and similarly raw and health foody caramel slice.
Pancakes and Birthday Cake are on the menu for tonight’s supper, along with family time, the original Blair Witch Project, and the main event… cheering on Mo Farah in the Olympic final of the Men’s 5000m race.
On Monday, I’ll be drawing up a training plan for the next few months and cracking into good eating again. I love my down time and I love my up time. But as with any seesaw, the trick in it is not letting yourself go too far up or too far down.
There is something in life that human beings crave above all else. Emotion, elation, ecstasy – teetering on the brink of an out-of-body experience that allows us mere mortals a momentarily glimpse of what heaven must be like. For some people, that’s sex. For others it’s heroin, cocaine, MDMA or other chemical formation that sets the senses alight. And for those who enjoy a bit of suffering and endurance as foreplay, that’s a marathon.
I can still remember that wave of ecstasy and joy as I ran the final mile of my first marathon in 2008 and the overwhelming bombardment of emotions as I crossed the finish line. Delighted to have completed the distance, utterly exhausted, aching all over, while bursting with pride and joy, and all I felt like doing was crying. Completely ridiculous, but there it was.
Ever since then, I’ve been chasing that same rush – that level of emotion, ecstasy and sheer satisfaction of achievement. Much like any addict, I’ve experienced similar highs since that first one, completing other marathons and triathlons of various distances, but never to the same extent. In fact, my times have come down quite a bit and I’m a much more accomplished runner/swimmer/cyclist now, but not since that first marathon have I ever experienced that same level of utter overwhelming emotion and satisfaction at the end of a race where you’ve had to dig down deep into your soul to get to that finish line.
I did it. I did IT. I DID it.
I did an Ironman 70.3 yesterday.
It might not have been pretty, it might not have been a winning time and God knows, I will NOT be buying those race photos, but I did cross the finish line, I did get a medal and yes, I now have the t-shirt.
The race could not have had a better day. The morning started off dry and warm as the 2000 odd (in more ways than one…) triathletes assembled at the Forty Foot in Sandycove for the first leg of the race, a 1.9 km swim out into Scotsman’s Bay. The course was lined with yellow buoys, most helpful as compared with most triathlon swim courses which often only have a single buoy at each turning point. The extra buoys allowed you to keep on course more easily and thereby give more energy to the actual swim as well as avoiding being kicked or punched in the head. I actually did get quite a bash to the head at one stage but having remained conscious, I considered that a victory 😉
The conditions in the water were good, not too choppy or windy and I didn’t notice much of a current. From about 1.4 km onward (ish) I did start to tire a bit and was glad when the course turned back into the bay. On towards the giant yellow Ironman banner and we were soon out of the water and onto the bikes, after a quick dash and grab through the blue bag transition area.
I loved the bike leg. The cycle used to be the worst part of a triathlon for me. I was crap at it and it’s always the longest part, so not a winning combination. But since my foot injury and not being able to run, I’ve been cycling a lot more and as regular readers might tell you, have become a little obsessed with it. So when it came to the bike leg yesterday, I was game ball.
The roads were all closed for the race which allowed competitors a rare experience of racing through Dublin city centre in the middle of the road. It was such a treat. From Dun Laoighre, the cycle route ran straight along the Coast into Ringsend past early morning walkers and supporters (and people merrily making their way home after a night on the town…!) Across the Liffey, we then powered along the quays, securely held by watchful Gardai and more late night stragglers 😀 The course then passed along the outskirts of the Phoenix Park, up Chapelizod hill and out towards Lucan, Maynooth and Dunboyne, taking in 3 counties, before looping back to the Phoenix Park.
I felt good on the bike and despite some rain for much of the second leg, I really enjoyed it. Marking the longest distance I’ve ever cycled before, I expected to feel tired by 70/80 km but the reverse turned out to be true. After 50km I began to feel strong. My legs felt good and despite some lower back pain, I was able to push on and found myself flying the last 30km, sailing past strong, toned, young men on fancy dancy carbon bikes. Me and my entry level alloy certainly had fun in this race 😉
A final spin around the Phoenix Park and the bikes were docked and swapped for running shoes.That was where the pain began. I did not intend to do the run at all. I’ve been injured and have not ran for 4 months, apart from one moment of madness. I had decided I was going to “play it by ear” – a phrase I’ve never really understood but you know where I’m going with it. Popped on the shoes and tottled out onto the run course, where I swiftly realised my legs were borderline useless and making it to 1km was going to be hard.
I shuffled at a rate of next-to-useless. It was not a good run and it was certainly not my strongest moment. I took it 1km at a time and decided I’d just finish the first lap and then stop. I walked a couple of times and I stopped at every feed station. But as I approached the finish area, I found myself deciding that maybe I might just do the 2nd lap and then I could stop. I still hadn’t spotted my Dad at that stage so also thought it might be no harm to go around again in case he was standing somewhere else along the course and I didn’t want to miss (or lose!) him.
On the 2nd lap I knew this was definitely DEFINITELY the last lap, legs were not working and my energy levels were zip. More water stations, stopped a couple more times to walk for a second. But as I was shuffling along, I was looking at everyone else around me, also suffering, also grimacing but nobody giving up. Then I started to ask myself – do I think I should stop because of my foot injury or do I just want to stop because this is really f-ing hard? My foot actually wasn’t hurting (very oddly) so I quickly came to the conclusion that if I did quit the race early, it would not have been justified and I’d likely go home that evening feeling guilty, that I’d wossed out and quit. And above all, I did not want that on my conscience.
Bobbing along up to the end of the 2nd lap, I’d already decided I was going to do the last lap, whether it meant walking, shuffling or crawling. I spotted my Dad, gave him a high five and told him “1 more lap!” More water stations, more walking and more shuffling. The only plus side was that every time I passed something now, I was reminded that this is my last lap and I will never be seeing that tree, person, water station, etc again and let me tell ya – for the suffering runner, that gives you an almighty boost! By the last 2 miles, everything was hurting and my legs were simply hanging.
Chesterfield Avenue, final kilometre – I found my legs. Started passing people for the first time in the entire 13 mile leg, and as the Ironman finishing gate came into view, I could feel a final sprint coming on. I rounded the corner, high-fived the race commentator and bounded toward the line with the stupidest grin on my face you could imagine. Crossing that line, I felt every bit of emotion, ecstasy and elation I felt in my very first marathon and more.
Relief, achievement, pride, joy, excitement, disbelief and absolute sheer physical exhaustion and satisfaction. An overwhelming wave of emotions washed over me and there it was- bursting to cry. It only took 6 hours 28 minutes of swimming, cycling and running, physically pouring out every drop of energy in my body into the earth, sea and air around me.
This was an exceptionally well-organised event and fair play to Ironman who obviously know how to run a good race. The swim, the bike and the run legs were well marked and marshalled. Not all good however and I do have a few complaints, as others did too and for future events I think it’s good to bring up:
1. Finishing Area – Athletes Only. After collecting medals and white after-race bags, finishers had to cross a path and walk a short distance to a tent for t-shirt collection and food. Not a problem. The problem is that the walk across and indeed the actual tents, were open to the public too which meant a battle to physically find and get into the tent and then squeeze past people to get into the queue for food. When I arrived, there were kids all over the tent eating food that was meant for the racers. That’s not really on, to be fair.
Better thing to do – organise it like you would the end of a marathon, a long finishing chute where you have bag collection, medals, t-shirts, water and food, all in a line and closed off completely to the public. Quick, efficient and so much less hectic and messy. I was too exhausted to keep battling in the tent and fight my way over for food and ended up just leaving it. And I really wanted cake 😦 That’s a big thumbs down lads.
2. Bike and Bag Collection
Poor, poor, poor. This was shockingly bad. The bike racks were to be open from 2.30pm for athletes to come and collect their gear. When I got there just after 2.30pm, I found that the truck containing all the blue bags from the swim transition was only just arriving in the park…. a generous 6.5 hours after the last swimmer would have docked their blue bag in transition. So why did it take 6.5 hours to make a 30 minute trip (being generous here) ?
By 3pm, I was standing in the middle of an ever-growing throng of tired athletes who wanted to just get their gear and go home but now all of sudden found themselves virtually caged into a tight space waiting for the gates to open. It was like another leg of the race. Knackered, low patience, growing faint at all this body heat around me and having not had food due to tent debacle… this was a nightmare.
I made it through in one of the first waves of people they let in to collect their blue bag and bike but many after me were still not being allowed in and I can only imagine might have waited for another hour or so.
THIS WAS VERY VERY POOR ORGANISATION. I’m loathed to let something like that ruin a good race and day out but this should not have happened and really should not have been an issue for people to have to deal with at the end of a half-ironman race. It would be great if they could sort this out for next year.
Overall, I loved it and am so glad I did it. My legs are in bits today, I can’t do stairs yet but I am smiling all the way. Now, all that’s left for me to do is decide firstly, where I’m going for a massage and more importantly … what next?