A broken nights sleep, on the eve of the first Duathlon of the season, the first tick of my bucket list. Pre race check list circling my brain, Bike, Bike shoes, runners socks towel, shorts, tops, tri membership, jaffa cakes, water…..glasses! My biggest dilemma, do I or don’t I wear me glasses, in case I have to read a sign, or avoid a pothole. The sleep interrupted by a relentless list of “ what if’s”, what if it rains,? what if it snows?, what if I get a puncture,? what if my calf muscle caves in,? what if I need a lash?, what if I get piles?…what if I sleep in, because I spent the entire night awake worrying about “what if’s….”
Someone asked me “do I have a race plan”, I said I did, “ my race plan is not to have a fkin heart attack while on the bike”, that’s my race plan.
And so early Saturday morning pulling out the drive way to pick up Mike, Mount Leinster wrapped in a blanket of white. Heaven for Racing 795’s Mountain bikers, hell for us road bikers. But its dry and it’s all systems go for the first Duathlon of the season…
Mike and I punctual as hell are first to sign in and set up in transition. We meet up with Treacy (making her competitive debut) and Colm. Poor Fintan, (Treacy’s husband) tags along as our coach, sports psychologist, coffee boy, cloak room clerk, and photographer. We huddle in the car sucking jaffa cakes, sipping energiser sports drinks, and watch the temperature fall. A light dusting of snow has us piling on the layers.
250 competitors went to post, at Puncherstown Race Course. The advice was to make your way to the front so as to avoid the initial stampede. I did, and then got flushed out the back as soon as the start gun went. It was as if someone had given the group an enema. By the time I got to the gate that entered the ambulance track, Mike, Treacy and Colm had disappeared with the herd. The next time I saw them was on the cycle course, with cheers and whoops of encouragement.
Running was never my thing; I plod along, keeping a steady rhythm, trying not to panic, trying not to race, trying not to burn out of energy before I even get going…clocking 15.34 for my first run.
But its the bike that makes it all worth while, finding a rhyme, picking of cyclists as they struggle on the climbs, the ice wind sweeping of the Wicklow hills sting your face, freeze your snot, but on you go. There’s no secret, just go like the clappers till your legs die. Trying again not to panic, get into a steady rhythm, get the gear change right, and push on, steady 25k an hour, hitting 52 k on the down hill, all the time passing, picking off, feeling a rush of exhilaration on the down hill, feeling free….where else would you want to be on a Sunday in January. Chuffed to bits with the time of 40.04 Then you hit transition, feeling great, still standing, still running, dull aches and pains, the years catching up, but who cares…crossing the finish line in 16.08. Posting 3rd place in my age category…I laugh, there was probably only three entered in my age category….but who cares, this is where I want to be at 52, ticking of the bucket list, doing as much as I can for as long as I can.. ……((The winner completed his duathlon in 57.02min)
And later, tired and cramped, in front of the log fire, looking back on the day, looking back on the years and wondering what if? What if, I discovered duathlons at 25yrs old, what times would I have produced, where would it have taken me? But alas, if I was doing this at 25, look at all I would have missed…the thrill of a Saturday soccer afternoons and togging out in the battered green container pulling on the Celtic hooped jersey, lost in tall tales and laughter, in the company of great friends, and football on pitch with grass two inches too long, and a ref as blind as a bat (till he gave us a penalty off course) and later the pints in the Deadmans where we laughed and talked ourselves up, and dreamed our dreams, and told each other we were brilliant, and how we laughed and spilled pints when Jacks son told Stephen Dunne that “My Daddy told me that you were the worst footballer in the world”. Ah those were the days…no regrets, no regrets on a cold Sunday in January.