There are things in life you cant take back, cant change, always a lingering regret, if I had that moment all over again, boy would I do it different…Like a crap Leaving Cert, too busy trying to get honours in being the biggest messer in the world..let alone the school…Or a missed sporting moment, like a once in a life time appearance in Croke Park, that just passed me by….or Tri795 2012, a haunting disaster in the pool, that has festered in the back of my mind ever since. Ill prepared, I died in the pool. Never spoken of in 795 circles, except one night Fergal K full off pints asked me did I enjoy my walk in the pool. I remember as an eight year old crying all the way home after getting beaten in an under 9 road league final (it was a war of the buttons moment). Even now a million light years away, the memory still touches a small nerve.
And so it was TriAthy, a chance at redemption. A winter spent in the pool, two mornings a week, A series of eight lessons to straighten me out. And two block sessions with James D on dark Tuesday mornings, building confidence. Crowned by a slow steady SwimAthy 750m in the Barrow the previous Sunday. I was ready…I think.
I arrive in Athy at 2pm… Instantly in the milling crowd of Olympic competitors, tired and smiling , the 795 hoody standing out like beacons, picking their way through the crowd. Mike, Frank, PJ and Adrian, you cant help looking, searching for his face in the crowd!!!.You can sense that Martin is never to far from their thoughts, Alas, This time last year…… But life goes on, and this is how it will be, especially on race day, when the club gather..Martins spirit will always linger there in the background..urging us on.
The Olympians tired and happy, their days work done,.Early morning adrenaline sapping .Wish me well, take their leave and head home( to save their marriages.)
It’s a measure of how far the club has come, when 10 members register for the Olympic,compete and only one signs up for the Sprint.
Frank is right, its not the same doing it on your own. Not having someone to talk too, compare notes, build up confidence, allay fears, distract you with small talk and bullshit. Some one to race with, against, keep a watchful eye out for on the routes. PJ has a lovely habit of high fiveng any team mates he meets on the route…..
I set up my transition spot, perfect for my bike exit, easy to find, loads of room. Go through transition in my head, for the thousandth time. Consider putting on my 795 top at T1..sit down under a tree sip an energy drink, nibble the rim of a jaffa cake till all there’s left is the jelly bit…and wait. Its not the same doing it on your own. I watch the world set it self up, watch the the first timers struggle into wet suits way to early, watch the pro’s, copy what they do. Walk the entry and exit points one more time. Run into a guy who’s brother I was friends with thirty years ago, and kill time catching up, comparing lives. The time drags, the butterfly flits in my stomach I join the ques for the portaloos for the tenth time.…I Yep its not the same doing it on your own.
Our Pink hats for Wave 5 are a source of humor. We’re drawn to one another, the auld fellas in in pink hats, coming out of the closets.What are they trying to tell us.
What can I say about the swim. It just takes practice and experience and more practice…like golf. I slogged it, took a long time to get my second wind, struggled to find a consistent rhythem. Knowing the Green caps of Wave 6 were closing fast, my confidence beginning to ebb. 18 minutes later I haul my sorry ass out of the water. Focusing now on Transition and the bike, the Helmet, the number belt, , the shoes, and hoping not to make a complete ass of myself getting out of my “black” wetsuit…
Then my day changed. Somewhere in the crowd I heard it..a shout..”Come on Niall”(pronounced Neill) For a moment looking around thinking Jaysus, there was another Niall, as bad a swimmer as me, in a pink hat!. I heard it again, out of the corner of my eye a cluster of red hoodies, PJ, Yvonne, kids on shoulders, Tracey, Fintan and the dog with his big sloppy tongue drooling on the pavement, and Orla fresh of the plane from Edinburgh last night, cheering and hollering ..and yes what a shot of adrenaline.I knew then this was going to be a beautiful day.
Slow to get the wetsuit off, a clear run to the bike exit. Lou hanging illegally over the crash barriers roaring and shouting on Emily Square (Man those Hoddies really catch your eye).. On I go, two pointy helmets low down on the tribars zip by, but that was it, after that I clipped along, a beautiful flat fast course, averaging 28, 32, 38 and 42k on the down hill’s, wind to my back. Feeling really really good, Chasing down the pointy helmets catching them on the outskirts of the town. Hard not to draft at times as I kept running into small pelathons strung out along the road..And there again like a beacon, the red 795 cheering me home. 37min later I pull into transition 2.
T2 is a lot quicker, the home straight, I feel great, buzzing. Normally on the run, I seize up, the calves knot, I cramp as I put on my runners. But not today, I feel really good, everything falls into place, and I’m really enjoying myself.
Once again passing the 795 Fan Club..PJ shouts “The Dubs are up by two points” This day is getting better and better (Not realizing that the bleeden game hadn’t even started, the btrd).
And the run was amazing, for the first time ever I was racing, not dragging sore legs around a track with a heart attack head and just trying to finish. Taking Orla O‘Ls advice on board Lift your head, relax your arms, lift your legs back. Suddenly I was passing people (not many, but passing anyway) Feeling strong, and loving the day. Down the final straight,..and there again the happy heads on the 795rs at the finish line…
Thanks a mil everyone..And Yvonne thanks for collecting Orla, you.made my day.