One of the decisions I had to make pre-race, was what to do with my runners. Stage 1 was a hilly cycle and then the rest was on foot or on the water. Closer to race day it was raining, so the off road would be wet and muddy, so I would be using trail runners anyway. As I wanted to maximise my cycling power I would be using cycling shoes and cleats and then switching into the runners. That left the question of how to carry the runners. As I would be bringing my Camelbak, I didn't see why I'd need to use the bike's bottle mounts, so that's where I put the runners.
I managed to find two of the shortest bungees ever to hold them in place too.
The night before the race involved settling into the hotel (after a 5 hour drive to Dingle), getting all my race things ready and going out for dinner. The food itself was almost no carbs, lots of healthy fats and some protein (no alcohol too).
I used a phone app to monitor how much sleep I got - 5 hours, no much, but ok.
Breakfast was bacon, eggs and tea. No bread or fruit juice, i.e. no carbs/sugar.
Before too long, it was just after 8AM and the race started at 9, so time to get moving. It was only a 5min cycle to the starting area though. There was a high wind, gusting up to 50kph so we were advised that the kayak section may not go ahead for the full distance and was cancelled for the Sport and Mini distances. As I was doing the full, we were told that a decision would be made by 11AM and we would be informed at a checkpoint during the race. Not much else anyone could do.
At the start I was wearing a technical, long sleeve base layer, a technical cycling t-shirt, fingerless cycling gloves, a buff around my neck, tri shorts and a cycling helmet...and I was still cold, thanks to the wind.
Before long we got the rolling start going with a police escourt out of Dingle and heading for the hills/mountains.
The pic above shows the spot where the escourt left us and we started racing on up to Conor Pass.
Pretty soon the field had spread out and we were on the main part of the climb. With all/most of us in first gear, some people had to walk this section with their bikes. Towards the top I got chatting to another cyclist and passed the time.
Once over the top of the pass the downhill was nicely intense! The road is cut out of the rock on the right and big drop offs on the left as you are careering down the narrow road - fantastic! No time for looking at the sights though.
When we got to the bottom of that part we were on the opposite side of the Dingle Peninsula, so the course goes left, along the coast. Unfortunately this also meant a strong headwind for 6-7k, but you just had to keep pushing the legs and keep moving.
Before long we got to T1 and dropped the bikes. Switching into the trail runners took a minute or so and I left the cycling shoes and helmet on the bike, taking everything else with me. I started running straight away and was surprised how fresh my legs felt. In no time at all we were going uphill on single track trails and over rocks and mud. Very few places to overtake. So began the long uphill to the top of Brandon Mountain, over 920m of vertical covering about 7km. The last 1k of it was tough and steep going. Once we got to the ridge the wind hit us and almost immediately turned the beads of sweat on your face to what felt like drops of ice. We were in the clouds now and visibility was down to 4-5m. The directions were spot on though and lots of signage. I was behind a guy in shorts and a t-shirt and he walked straight by the checkpoint at the summit - he was that tired and cold. The race marshall called him back though.
Once we had checked in it was back to jogging/running but this time we had gravity to help/contend with. One guy overtook me on the trail and only a minute or so later I was stopping to help him after he had twisted his ankle.
The downhill was about 4k long, so it went by pretty quick and the second half was on grass. When we got to the checkpoint at the bottom we were told that due to the high winds the kayak section was cancelled, so we were to run all the way to Dingle - 11k.
By this time, the weather at sea level had improved, although it was still windy. I started running and taking on water and felt fine. The road was lined with other racers running back to the finish, although none of us going too fast. A few of us had been going through the race at roughly the same pace, and it was good to see the same people again. Conversation was flowing and it was good to be able to laugh to take your mind off the distance. Again, before long we were nearing the finish and I picked up the pace for the last 2k including a sprint over the line.
The finish line was great - a free locally brewed beer, fruit and water. I had to hang around along with a few others until our bikes were shipped back, so a hot drink would have been good, as it was cold once you weren't moving. All in all a great, but tough day in the country. I'll most likely do it again, but hopefully the weather is better so the kayak stage is on.
During the 4 plus hours of the race, I didn't eat anything and only drank water. Energy levels were very good and I was never hungry. Once I got back to the hotel I had a protein drink and slept for an hour before dinner. Again the food was all low carb, high fat and moderate protein, although this time I added a glass of wine :-)