Louise Heraghty took on her second triathlon earlier this summer after starting her journey in triathlon with the pool-based Tri Laois. Read her account below of completing her first open water triathlon.
I have spent the last 3 or 4 years thinking about doing a triathlon and for one reason or another, I kept putting it on the long finger. I’m no stranger to races – running being my main sport (I’m a member of Dublin Bay Running Club) and have completed numerous marathons, adventure races and even a few duathlons over the years. However, like many other wannabe triathletes – I was nervous about open water swimming and it was the main thing putting me off. I’ve come so close – even registering for a few events in the past but always found some excuse to chicken out. I think I can swim relatively well (an experienced swimmer may argue if they saw my technique) but let’s just say I can cover 750mtrs in the pool but it was this mental block about the open water that made me reluctant.
I thought 2017 would be my year and made it my goal to sign up – so I decided to take the first step and enter Tri Laois in April which was pool based. I completed the sprint distance race having built up my swim training in the 50-metre pool in Westwood Clontarf. I got such a buzz from the race and was excited about finally getting into the open water – then I found out I was pregnant!
Fast forward one year and one baby later – I was so determined to achieve my goal that I bit the bullet and registered for Tri Athy. My son was exactly 4 months when the event came around on June 2nd and I had been back exercising and running from 6 weeks post-partum (albeit easing into it) so I was feeling ok about taking part. In saying that, I thought it best to register for the Try-a-Tri distance (250 metre swim, 20km cycle & 4km run).
Naively I thought I’d manage the swim fairly handy given the distance is a third of what I can manage in the pool. The cycle didn’t scare me although my bike wouldn’t be the greatest road bike and is five years old (a new bike isn’t top of the priority list after having a baby). And as for the run? “Sure I’ll fly through it”…or so I thought!
I drove down to Athy Saturday morning and was immediately impressed with the friendliness of the race marshals and efficiency of parking, bag drop etc. Rob from Wheelworx checked my bike and made sure it was race ready which put me at ease. Nervously setting up my bike and gear at transition I soon realised I was not the only novice – in fact almost everyone in the Try-a-Tri race was a first timer and we were all helping each other out – securing timing tags, wetsuits and sharing tips.
Myself and my DBRC club mate Sinead made our way to the swim start for race briefing. The rolling start (two by two) was a great idea as there was much more room in the river. Panic set in as I couldn’t manage to put my head under water (I was unprepared for having no visibility) something I should have realised about swimming in a river. Anyway, I managed to breast-stroke/ doggy paddle the whole way and despite being a bit panicky and annoyed at myself I felt completely safe with the kayak and lifeguards close by at all times.
It took me over nine minutes to swim the distance, but I was just relieved to be out and happy that no matter how long it would take at least cycling and running were familiar.
The cycle course was a much more enjoyable experience and as described it was pretty much flat the whole way (an out and back course). As the races were overlapping at this stage I tried not to be too intimidated by the double Olympic competitors whizzing by on their expensive bikes!
running off the bike – a new experience!
Relieved to be finished that part and onto the final stage (and my strong point), I dropped the bike at transition and got ready for the run. The first few minutes of the run were quite tough, it had been a warm morning and no matter how much experience I had as a runner, nothing could have prepared me for a 4km run after barely any sleep, my first open water swim experience and a 20km cycle!
The run course was also quite flat and once I took some water on board I was able to push my pace a little more and finish strongly. There was amazing support from the locals and a wonderful atmosphere at the finish.
I crossed the line and couldn’t help but feel a little emotional. A try-a-tri distance triathlon is a doddle to many experienced racers but for me, 16 weeks after giving birth, still breastfeeding and surviving on little or no sleep and copious amounts of coffee –
it was a big deal! To conclude I would definitely recommend triathlon to anyone who is still on the fence and the Tri Athy course is perfect for beginners. The swim experience didn’t put me off, in fact it has urged me to get some lessons.