Tri an Mhi - Irish National Middle Distance Championships 2013

Casting a Shadow over The Shadowman

hayesandrew7by hayesandrew7Aug 6th 2013
Well here we go - 5 weeks to my D-Day on the Beaches and the Glens and Valleys of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales, The Universe on September 8th.
It is now just over 11 weeks since my last race in the Tri an Mhi National Series Middle Distance championships in May and so much training and hard work has gone into the intervening period. I had Identified Shadowman at the very start of my training regime as one to do, given its close proximity to the main event and the fact it was the only half iron event on at a time that fitted my schedule, 5 weeks out so above anything else, it would serve a purpose.
My key aims were always to: 1) Race Hard 2)Practice Nutritional and Equipment strategy for race day to identify any issues / improvements / adjustments that need to be made.

What the buildup to this race taught me was that just when you are cruising towards your end goal in sport and your training is overall fluid, consistent and positive both mentally and physically, Life has a funny way of taking you down a peg or two and literally sending you flying back where you came from!

That is exactly what happened on Wednesday evening as i had finished my shower and was heading down for some food when i went to fetch something from the bathroom when BOOMMM....wet floor equals dazed and confused Andy as my legs went from under me and i collapsed in a heap with my legs heading in angles they just shouldnt.

A few scratches but relatively unscathed, i continued with my evening and thought no more other than a tight left hip area.
Next morning as i dashed for the bus, i realised my left leg was sending nerve messages to my brain that pointed to something not quite right.
Christ.... i had forgotten what being injured or having a niggle was like.........historically it had been overtraining that had crocked it was a having a poxy shower that spelt disaster.

A few days of reduced intensity left me on Saturday afternoon agreeing with my coach Eamonn that I would approach shadowman with the aim of doing the swim and the bike but when it comes to the run, less will be more if I have any concerns. Whether I did 100% or 75% of race, I would gain benefit for the main event and I had to keep that in the back of my mind.

So decision made and race prep completed, it was time to chill with eve ahead of a 4.30am start time in the morn.
The usual rushing around and usual lateness on my part - it was my turn to drive and pick up Niallo and despite my best efforts to be early, my digestive system had other ideas! Nearly 20 mins late, I was met by a less than enamoured Niall but apologies made, off we went with me wondering why my there in '5 minutes' always takes longer than expected.

We hit Athlone in good time and through registration and off into transition where I took a call from Alex my physio to discuss my injury and he concurred with my race plan and recommended some additional stretch work per race. I couldn't help but feel a little hard done by about the fall and was definitely struggling to focus wholly on the task at hand but a little personal pep talk and I was back on track.
Soon the 5 minute warning was being sounded and it was on with the wetsuit and down to the swim start with the other 270 competitors.

The Full Ironman event had kicked off nearly 2 hours previously and there was still one last remaining competitor in the water and a nice touch which showed the good spirit within the sport was at the gentleman in question hit the shore and made his run to transition he received a huge round of applause from the assembled crowd and carried on his merry way.

Swim (35 mins)
Overall i was very pleased with my swim -we were given little if any time to warm up when counted into the lake but i was determined to stay calm, start strong and find my rhythm as soon as possible. The start was fine but it was at about 400m in that i came upon the group ahead of me and those behind joined me also in a washing machine of activity so it was a case of controlling my breathing and working through it. In the past these moments have knocked my momentum and confidence but i just trried to stay out of trouble and keep moving forward.
Around the 2 buoys and i was on my way in. The swim had opened up at this stage and i found for a few minutes my concentration waned as i ended up out of line with the final buoy.
Making the necessary adjustments , i took the swim home and out of the water in 59th place. My concern now was how my leg would react now i was back on dry land.

Bike 2.33
Through transition in 2.5 mins, my mind was distracted by possible leg weakness and i got the order of my transition a bit askew.........socks went on prior to helmet and glasses and threw me a bit but lesson learnt i was on my way.
Initially, i felt like my legs were quite heavy and tired but i focused on the road ahead and the bigger picture and 20 mins in, as i had my first bit of energy bar , i was beginning to feel i was in the sought after 'zone'.
It was a very exposed course and there was alot of jumping between hard shoulders and open roads through Westmeath, Roscommon and Longford.
The field was very strung out and at times i had to take a second look at my garmin to confirm i was going at a good clip as no bikes were in site. Had all the good cyclists signed u pfor Shadowman?
Slowly but surely, over the 90k, i realed more and more in and as we returned to athlone, i found myself off the bike with the 17th fastest bike split of the day.

Run 1.16
Tansition was a bit of a blur - we hadnt seen T2 prior to the race (different location to t1 but had been told it was laid out exactly the same) - that was well and good in theory but when you are in a rush it is fierce confusing.

I hopped off the bike and immediately my leg was sending me odd messages but i ignored them as i had agreed on the 2k run rule.
Off i went and as soon as we left transtion and i saw my fellow competititors ahead, focused Andy came to the fore and i was off tracking them down like a rabid animal.
3k in and while i didnt feel like i was running well, a quick look at my splits told me that i was well and truly flying.
Runner after runner was passed and while i didnt know where i was in the field, i knew there wouldnt be many running as well.
i really enjoyed the run - a nice loop - undulating hills but relatively shaded in the hot sun.
Soon i was tracking into transition and just before the end passed 2 lads who i guessed were coming to the end of their race - they let a sigh out and i knew my running was having the desired effect.

The crowd started to get veryexcited when i went to enter the finishing shute and i found that a bit odd until i crossed the line and the MC announced was second man home with the fastest run split of the day - my podium in triathlon and the perfect boost i needed in my final weeks to Ironman Wales (I actually didnt get to stand on podium as the organisers decided a BBQ the following day was the best time to do prizes - clever eh!)

It was a decent event, with plenty of improvements possible including the existence of marshalls please, proper post race food and value for money in terms of entrance fee. Will i be doing it again? unlikely - nicer places to go then the midlands but it served a purpose and the result will live long in the memory too.
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