Early on Saturday morning I headed up to Northern Ireland for my last triathlon before my big race in 2 weeks’ time (at this hour everything will already be over and I might sit in the car sleeping while my mum is driving home). I wanted one last training under race conditions so I picked a race which was not too far away and not really flat to challenge myself a little bit.
I left a little before 6am and arrived thanks to some detour I think a little after 8am. On the list with the race numbers I noticed that it would be a small race with about 150 racers. I think I had waves before that were bigger. After registration – yay, I got another water bottle :P – I relaxed a little bit and then set up my gear in transition. I chatted a little bit with one of the other racers (everyone had such a weird accent, that might have been due to the fact that almost everyone was from the north :D).
Later I had a last check, if everything was still the way I had set it up but only to notice that the lady next to me had put her TT bike in the same direction as I had, so everything was very tight. Nevertheless, all my gear was still as I left it and not too long after the briefing followed and we walked over to the swim start.
The swim was in Castlewellan Lake. It was a straight swim from the start to the swim exit near the finish line. We all walked to the music of a bagpipe to the start. Before being counted in, some of the volunteers collected the shoes which were later on lined up nicely next to the finish line. This was probably just a little detail but really nice of the club to offer.
I started in the middle of the lake in the front. There was none of the usual washing machine or carnage of a water start as we were all quite spread out. The start line was marked by the canoes which followed us down to the swim exit (I think so, I never actually saw a canoe after the start). Towards the end it was more of a washing machine when the all the racers got to the swim exit. During the swim I felt quite slow and too relaxed so I picked up the pace but somehow I never got as fast as I should have been in a sprint race. The swim time in the end proved that I was probably just lazy and a better swim would have meant that 2 girls could have been behind me instead passing the finish line in front of me.
The run out of the water to the transition was lined with people who were camping in the park or were otherwise in the forest park for the day. Under loads of cheers I made up my way to see that was I was ahead of the girl on the TT bike next to me. The transition went quite well and off I was onto the bike.
The bike course was one of the reasons why I picked Mourne Triathlon as the course had a couple of small hills. The hills were not too bad but enough to curse them and question why I decided for this race. Then again, it was just a last test and training for me, and no chasing National Series points or other Belparkers. I just wanted to train under race conditions and maybe proof myself to be ready for Rügen.
It was an out and back course on a closed road. The only car was one of the TOs when he was looking for drafting offenses. The road surface was also so much better than compared with other races I did this year such as Carlow which can be a slalom around potholes from time to time.
The route starts with a steep decent which is nice to start with but then again, it also means that you need to get back up there before heading out for the run. Not too far into the course was also a hairpin bend which was nice to cycle down but on the other hand it meant that on the way back in. Not something to look forward too. When actually getting back there, it did not feel as bad as I thought. The good part about a hillier course is the descents where you can pick up a lot of speed and knowing that the road it closed makes it even more enjoyable.
I was probably around 50th around the turning point. That was a good confidence booster that the swim and bike were not too shabby and not too many others passed me on the way back.
When getting back to transition, I like to get into a smaller gear and have a high turnover before getting of my bike. The short climb back to the dismount line got in the way to do that but the more satisfying feeling was that the TT bike was not there yet and that I hold her off. Nice.
The run was a around the lake. As this was only about 4K another kilometre was added to the far end of the lake. It was a simple out and back but a steep hill. After Hell of the West I did not include that many hills anymore in my runs so I was not too happy about it and forced myself under “muss das jetzt sein?” and “wann ist das endlich vorbei?” up. Luckily it was not too far but for my taste every little hill is too much, no matter how steep.
After about 3.5K the lady next to me caught me. Not too bad, considering that I am not a good runner at all – compared to other triathletes. Unfortunately, at 1K to go 2 girls passed me and another one with about 300 or 400m to go. Nevertheless, my run was not too bad and I might survive further 16K in 2 weeks’ time. Other than that it was nice to run around a lake for a change as many races have their runs as an out and back course on a road.
Altogether I am quite happy with everything went. It was also a well organised race in a nice setting. Passing a castle on the run is definitely a little bonus. And I was back home early enough to eat some late lunch and head back out on my bike for a few hours.
I think I am all set now. Now I only need to pack and get the nutrition during week which I will need during the race in Germany as I do not like the gels or other products they are offering at the 70.3. As the tapering is about to start now, it means that I should have enough time to back but unfortunately, it also means enough time to go mad and I am pretty sure that will happen. Hopefully, I will be able to relax a little bit when I am sitting in the plane…
The next time hopefully I can share a few photos and thoughts from Germany. I will have my personal support crew at the race which will get my camera to take some photos, also of the pros (I will only see Daniela Sämmler run into the water and that’s it, so my supporters have to keep their eyes open for me). Until then…