William’s journey from start to Shadowman
After competitive rowing for three years, where I made some great friends, I found myself at a loose end in May 2012. This was when I bought my first road bike, thinking I would be happy with leisure cycling. After completing two 100 km tours by mid-June, my friend Gary persuaded me to do the Tri-a-Tri in Athlone but first he had to explain what a triathlon was!! The fact that the extent of my swimming expertise was a short doggy-paddle did not deter me and I entered the event. A week from the event, my younger brother, Paul, was called upon to help with the problem of the swimming and I managed to get enough done to complete the 200 metre swim in Athlone. After crossing the finishing line at the Tri-a-Tri, I knew I wanted more.
With Paul’s help, I continued with the swimming and it quickly clicked for me. I continued with the cycling and took up running and by the end of the season I had completed three sprints and the half Ironman in Galway. Even though I thought that my first bike was a lifetime job, I felt the need to buy a TT bike for racing, and soon after that I traded my original road bike for a higher spec. (Hazel Cooney is now doing well for the Club on the first bike and I have no doubt it will see many more races with her).
After doing some winter training in the pool, myself and Kenny got chatting and I told him about the Shadowman race that I had seen on line. He thought it was a mad idea and I soon forgot about it again. A few weeks later, sitting in the Jacuzzi after a training session, Kenny told me he had booked his place for the Shadowman in Athlone. He got a land when he heard that I wasn’t entered too, as he booked because he thought I was going. By this stage, the idea was firmly planted in my mind and I entered that night, not realising the amount of training that had to come!!
My work life as a self-employed lorry driver means that I missed most of the long distance cycles with the Triathlon Club, and most of my training had to be done on my own. After getting in some cycling and running during the spring, I was able to buckle down to serious training in April when work got quieter.
The training consisted of one long cycle per week, usually starting at 5 o’clock on Monday mornings. The first cycle was 80 km and this increased slightly every week to get me to my longest cycle of 180 km five weeks out from the Shadowman. Training consisted also of one long run each week, building from 10 km to 32 km four weeks from the Shadowman. Swimming every second day – distances varying from 1,000 m to 3000 m. During each week as well, there were shorter runs of 6 – 10 km and shorter cycles of 30 – 70 km.
I also had a couple of events thrown in along the way to keep me motivated, including an Olympic distance at Rosses Point, a double Olympic the following week in Athy and a half Ironman in Swinford three weeks before the big one in Athlone. I did not do the half-Ironman at race pace but I tried to do it as close as possible to full Ironman pace and I knew I was in very good form when I crossed the line at my ease in 5 hours 37 minutes.
Four months before the Shadowman race, I chose to train without a heart rate monitor or GPS for running. Most of my training was done at a consistent speed at an average of 29 km on the bike. I used a 10.5 km loop near my home for running regularly which always took me almost an hour to complete, regardless of doing one or two loops. My Ironman time showed exactly the same speed.
A week out from the race, I purposely had less work on, and started sleeping as much as I could. I slept very badly for the last three nights and barely an hour on the night before the race which left me extremely worried at the start line. Two nights before the race, I had aches and pains in my legs all night. It was only after completing the race that I discovered that this is normal for most people before their first Ironman.
On race day, we left home at 4.30 a.m. I made two slices of toast and a cup of tea which I ate ten minutes from Athlone. I landed at transition at Coosan Point at 5.30 with all my gear. On my bike, I carried two water bottles behind the seat and one on the bars. Nutrition for the bike consisted of gels, chocolate bars and bananas. I was racked only two bikes from Kenny and this was very reassuring as we togged out before the race together.
The swim started promptly at 6.30 and we swam into the sunrise which left the course quite difficult to see. People quickly separated and I was able to catch quite a quick draft for the last half of the second lap of the course. Running up the ramp, I could see Kenny just ahead of me. Someone shouted at me 78 minutes. I knew I was on target as I had planned for 80 minutes for the swim.
I had a good transition and quickly hit the road on the bike. I took the bike quite steady as far as Ballymahon and then I upped the pace to my intended race speed. Cycling through Lanesboro, it was nice to see some of the Lough Key lads out cheering for us. Kenny was just behind me at this stage and he passed me just before Roscommon, looking in great form. I never saw him again until we had completed the challenge in the evening. There was good support in Athlone between the two laps and this was a great help. I spun round again and by Roscommon I could find the mileage hitting the legs. I held my pace and got back to Athlone in 6 hrs. 20 mins. at almost my 29 km average the same as training.
In my second transition, I took on more water, shoved a few bananas in my back pocket and ate one on the way out, where I saw our lads waiting with a camera! The course consisted of four 10.5 km laps which was good for me as my training loop at home was 10.5 km. I took the first lap steady as advised by fellow Ironmen in the club. My second lap was quicker and I hit my wall between 14 – 18 miles on the third lap, but I kept tipping along and I got through it. I was drinking roughly a litre of water per lap along with a few sweets and I was glad to be on the last lap and drank just coke on this lap. With a half lap to go, I realised that it was 6 o’clock (11.5 hours) and that a 12 hour finish was possible if I pushed on, but I knew it would be tight. I pushed this last half lap through the pain barriers to finish in 11 hours 56 minutes with tremendous support on the finishing line from my family and friends from the Lough Key Tri Club. I was over the moon as I had thought it would take me closer to thirteen hours to finish.
I want to thank everyone who had any involvement in getting me over that finishing line. I could not have done it without my brother, Paul, who taught me firstly to swim and then was my chief safety kayaker. Thanks too to Jen who cycled with me on most of my long runs, passing water bottles and encouraging me on. She also kayaked with me.
There was a great post-race party for me and Kenny in Murtaghs on the Monday night. Many, many thanks.
Just a word of caution, triathlon is addictive!!