2015 Borderman 70.3 Race Report

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2015 by grahamclarke6

I think tapering for Hardman was having an affect on Lorna as well when she suggested I do another long race to make the most of the training over the last few months! Then this race popped up on Facebook a couple of weeks before Hardman and I thought about it for a few minutes before realising it was only 8days after Hardman and quickly forgetting about it! It popped up again the Thursday we arrived home from Killarney and again Lorna strongly encouraged me to do it! After a short check on the legs (a 2min run to the chippie – I didn’t even run back home!), a quick email to see if the were accepting late entries – oh crap they were – a sleep on it and by Fri evening I’d confirmed!! No idea why – I’d never done races 2 weeks running let alone these distances, had no clue how the body would react – 1.9km swim was in Newry Canal should be OK, 90km bike around south Armagh and North Louth could be challenging and a 21km run from Newry to Warrenpoint and back could be torture.

Race morning was bright, crisp & clear. The set up seemed first class – no problem with my last minute entry and got all the info I needed. I was to be in the last of 3 swim waves which gave me an extra few minutes to savour the atmosphere and chat to a few locals doing their first half ironman – think we were all just as nervous at that stage.

Newry Canal & Swim Exit

Newry Canal & Swim Exit

A one way bus journey to the start felt much longer then the 1.9km but the canal was as flat as West Wood’s 50m pool! A short briefing on the pontoon, into the warm canal water and soon the horn went. I’d positioned myself close to the front and was soon in clear water. Felt much better than the swim in Kerry and actually felt like I was “racing” this distance for the first time. Caught a good few of the 2nd wave as the Quays came into sight and then it was along side the boats to the slipway.

Out of the water in 33mins (17th overall), into T1 and a slow change – everything that could go wrong did!

Finally out onto the bike – through the city centre, up the big hill out of Newry, still climbing through Camlough, Beleeks and into Newtownhamilton. Legs were feeling a bit tired at this stage but knew there was about 20km gradual downhill back to Dundalk to recover. Was pretty quiet on the bike route so was really hard to tell how I was going – had a constant felling that I was way towards the back which wan’t nice! Really nice spin back into Dundalk and remember looking at my Garmin and calculating average speed as 30kph – was happy with that. Onto the Carlingford Road – a section I knew like the back of my hand, very happy to pass & ignore the turns for Jenkinstown Hill and the Long Woman’s Grave! Around the Carlingford / Greenore junction the legs started to feel a bit heavy and still about 20km to go – this wasn’t boding well and around here I was dreading the run already! Best thing about it was that I love this stretch of the route – the surface is reasonable but some of the views are amazing – the Cooley’s on one side, Carlingford Lough and the Mourne’s on the other and it was a perfect morning to be out on the bike. Some blatant drafting (105!) kept me amused (and a bit annoyed!) all the way back to Newry. The last 5km was a struggle and whatever was to happen on the run I couldn’t wait to get off the bike! Ended up with 2.48 for the bike leg (20th overall at that stage without knowing it). Looking back I’m delighted with that – around what I was hoping for in Killarney but for whatever reason it didn’t happen down there.

Got a nice surprise when I saw Lorna and the kids coming into T2 and even managed a few words as I changed.

The run was as flat a course as I’ve ever run which was a huge positive and right from the off my legs felt surprisingly good – the first km was about 4.45/km which I knew I couldn’t hold for the distance – dialed it back a bit and settled into a steady pace of around 5min kilometers. The route is a long straight stretch all the way to Warrenpoint along the main duel carriageway. Was nice having runners ahead of you to act as targets but the long straights could be tough – once a thought like that entered my head it was time to look around and again enjoy the scenery of the Cooleys and Carlingford Lough. Winner Brian McCryatal passed me going the other way at my 2km mark – looked like he was flying and seemed so easy – what I wouldn’t have given to swap places at that stage!

Narrow Water Castle

Narrow Water Castle

A quick gel at the aid station about 7km in and I was was still feeling good – the aim at this stage was to keep to the 5min/km until about 15km and see what happens then! Past the Narrow Water Castle, turnaround in Warrenpoint and back out the same way, another gel at about 14km and was still feeling OK – pushed the pace a bit and had a couple of nice targets in the distance. Was surprisingly enjoying the run at this stage and was holding pace really well. Came back in towards the Dublin Rd Bridge in Newry thinking the run was going to be a little short but delighted that the finish was just around the corner only to be directed straight on!! Couldn’t believe it – heart sank for a few minutes thinking there was more to go! No choice but to get over it – couldn’t be more than a km to go so just pushed on across another bridge back down by the Buttercrane – past drafter 105 – which really made me smile! Onto the blue carpet finish shoot outside the Quays to finish the run in 1.49, total time of 5hr 16min – 21st overall. A huge PB for this distance – a nice birthday present to myself!! Delighted with the result – probably one of the most satisfying races I’ve done – maybe it was the lack of expectation I put on myself, the feeling of actually racing this distance as opposed to surviving it or just actually enjoying it – there’s a lesson in there somewhere!

20150905_140241[1]For the first year of the race I have to say it was superbly organised, the marshaling was brilliant throughout, the swim was lovely, bike was challenging but fair and the run was surprisingly nice once you looked up! The atmosphere at the finish was great with loads of people hanging around, stage and live music, nice spread of food, teas and coffees. Well done to Newry City Council and to all involved for organising the Festival of water – it also included a sprint distance race and a kids duathlon. Will hopefully be back for it next year  – would a sub 5hr be possible?!

Big thanks to Lorna again – her faith in my ability to do this one was much stronger than mine – I definitely wouldn’t have entered without her pushing me on this one!


Hardman 2015

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 22, 2015 by grahamclarke6

After finishing my first iron distance at Hardman in 2013 – one of the first things I said after crossing the finish line was that I’d do it again! Surprising as for the first time at every other distance I never wanted to do another tri again let alone an Ironman!

The decision to do it again in 2015 started somewhere around Christmas time as after almost a year of no racing I needed a new challenge again. I always expected the second one to be harder than the first – the fear of not being able to do the distance for the first was a huge motivating factor not to miss a session where as knowing that you had done it previously could lead to a complacency setting it. It sort of worked out that way – my overall totals for this years training weren’t at the same level as 2 years ago but my swim and bike times were better in comparison. A minor tear to the top of my calf in April (due to going to far to quickly – I blame the garage as they wouldn’t give me my car back and I had to run an extra 5km after an already long run!) and a re-occurrence in May – again due to my own stupidity in trying to push too quickly after coming back – I’ll learn…..someday! – meant I missed a decent bit of run mileage.

Tri an Mhi Half Iron In June was to be a good gage on progress. Due to the lack of running I started (just about – after leaving my wetsuit sitting on the back of the chair in the kitchen!) knowing I was going to DNF (did not finish) after the first loop of the run – a really hard decision to make on the course but I stuck to it hoping it would be for the long-term good! Despite not finishing there were lots of positives and I was feeling better leaving the race than going in despite a DNF!

July was tough as it was the 4 peak weeks – maxing out at 16hrs/wk but everything was coming together nicely – swim times were good, pace:HR on the bike were good and my run was getting back up towards 30km. For anyone interested in my training my logs are up to date on beginner triathlete.


Race Supplies – big thanks to MaxiFuel!

As always it was great to start tapering down and I enjoyed the shorter sessions – I did the exact same taper as 2013 but I wasn’t feeling as fresh as I remember being 2yrs ago – maybe it was in my mind but the sessions just didn’t seem as easy as they should have – especially the swim. Closer to the race I started to think I peaked a few weeks ago in the swim.

Targets for the race were 4 PB’s – overall, swim, bike & run – all conditions being equal I would have bet on swim and bike being bankers, the lack of run volume was a the big variable! If everything went perfectly then a sub 11hr was possible – a big IF!

Race Briefing

Race Briefing

Race week was pretty similar and everything was to be the same with the course & set up. Registration was relaxed and it was good to meet Alan again. Briefing on the Fri night was comprehensive and Hugh covered everything thoroughly.

Slept pretty well on Fri night, 4am start for porridge, coffee and scone, double and triple checked all bags and got everything loaded up. Woke 2 very sleepy kids – Eabha was very quick to tell me “It’s not morning time Daddy!! Everything seemed calm outside which was a relief. Got to race start at the gorgeous Killarney Golf and Fishing Club just before 6 for start at 6.30 – just enough to get set up without having too much time hanging around getting nervous!

Swim Start

Swim Start

The swim course looked a bit choppy for the first 2 legs and we were warned that it got shallow at the 3rd buoy. A total of 83 starters (inc teams) entered the water at the 5-minute warning, a quick swim and I lined myself up pretty close to the front to avoid most of the scrum at the start and went off hardish once the horn sounded. First leg went OK – it always takes me about 700m or so to fall into a rhythm but during the 2nd and 3rd leg I just didn’t feel as smooth as I should have. Got really shallow at the 3rd buoy so everyone had to walk, not sure this did me any favours or not but I wantedSwim Exit to get back swimming as soon as possible. The flashing light on the first buoy seemed to have disappeared and there was bit of confusion. I had a pretty good landmark in my head from the first lap and set off towards that only to be stopped by a kayaker after about 150-200m telling me I Swim Exithad to go around the middle buoy – I knew this was wrong & nicely told him so! – it was clearly stated at briefing to keep this to the right as it was a shallow marker and the turn for the exit. I got him to point out the next buoy and set off towards it a bit annoyed! It seemed a bit calmer on the 2nd lap and felt a bit better but still not as smooth. Was happy to turn for home and get to T1 in a time of 1:11- 12th overall and 7th individual out of the water. A bit disappointed with the time but on reflection happy with the positioning!

T1Straightforward T1 (3min 51) – just out of the wetsuit, pulled on a sleeveless bike jacket with difficulty and was soon heading down the golf club drive passing red dear out on the course and out onto the Ring of Kerry heading into Killarney.

There’s something great about flying through a town with no traffic – and great marshals to allow it – at that time of the morning and it wasn’t long before I was heading past Muckross House knowing that the 1st and biggest climb of the day is just ahead. I felt good going up Molls Gap and before long Ladies View and the Upper Lake were behind me and the Avoca shop appeared and I was looking forward to the long decent towards Kenmare – this was the bit I enjoyed most 2 yrs ago – but this time it was a bit of a disappointment – the road surface for the last few KM’s was terrible and really gave me a good shaking!

Ladies View

At Ladies View

A couple of hours in and I wasn’t as quick as I’d hope and HR was a bit higher than normal for the effort but nothing overly worrying. There’s a long draggy section to Sneem that is lit up by a couple of fantastic views that only get better the further around the Ring of Kerry you get. Nice boost at the water station in Sneem (on the wrong side of the road for some bizarre reason!) when he asked when the main group would come through – had no idea where I was at that stage but at least I was ahead of the “main group”! Coming into Cahardaniel – the views are superb – the smell of an Irish Breakfast at one of the roadside restaurants was the highlight of the days nutrition!!! Onto the 2nd big climb of the day – Coomaciste – a nice steady climb of about 10km so its just a matter of sitting in and spinning up.

Climb up Molls Gap

Climbing up Molls Gap

This year the conditions were perfect on the decent and the 7 or 8km into Waterville were pretty exhilarating – hitting over 60km/h on lovely winding roads! Flew past my cousin John at one stage but barely got a chance to wave! Still no sign of the Charlie Chaplin festival in Waterville so it was onto the long undulating section to Cahersiveen where there was the only real traffic of the day

John with his cow bells!

John with his cow bells on Coomaciste!

and took a bit of time getting through. Passed Lorna, Eabha & Noah around Cahersiveen which is always a nice boost and couldn’t believe it when Lorna said I was 12th – my time seemed much slower and I felt like I was struggling but was delighted with 12th at that stage – especially as there were more than likely a couple of relays ahead of me. I wasn’t looking forward to the slowest section of the course around Kells – it’s a lovely scenic part of the course as you’re a little more inland but it’s about 15km with 4 and 5km sections at about 2% avg gradient which just sucks the life out of you – not enough to be a proper climb but enough to slow you down considerably and it starts to wreck your head! Through a small bit of traffic in Killorglin and it was onto the final 20km drag – and it did drag! Cramp started to set into my lower quads just as I saw the whole family pulled in ahead – tried smiling through the pain so as not to worry them! The goal now was just to better my time from 2yrs ago so pushed through the only rain shower of the day to a time of 6:02 – about a minute quicker! I was 12th overall at this stage and 6th individual without knowing it!

Took my time in T2 (4:10) – a couple of chairs wouldn’t have gone amiss!! Changed socks, put on runreceived_389291381264686 shoes and headed out in the National Park for 3 x 14kmreceived_389294237931067 loops. Once I got moving the legs felt OK – I don’t usually have an issue with jelly legs after the bike so that was a relief especially after the cramps earlier. The first lap went by pretty quick (about 75mins) and I was still feeling OK and around where I expected. I run primarily by pace and feel on the run unlike HR on the bike. I would have bet the house on remembering the run course as flat but its undulating enough without any hills. Gels on the course were the same – MaxiFuel Viper Berry – as I’d brought so that avoided the need for special needs bags etc. A great tip from Hugh Carberry – original winner and also a West Wood Club member – was to use a different flavour on the run – this worked out really well & I probably used more gels on the run than I’d planned but they actually tasted pretty good! Small bouts of cramp punctuated the 2nd lap and the pace slowed a bit more than I expected (about 92mins). Ran with Hugh for a while which was nice as don’t think either of us were in a great frame of mind at that stage! We didn’t bitch about the swim buoys or the mile / km markers at all!! Had some great support on the run as well – especially from John, Richie, Roisin, Trish and Gerry who were around Ross Castle – just over half way on the run course.


The 3rd lap was similar again and I was starting / trying to work out times – knew I was pretty close to 2013 so tried to keep running as much I could. Met Sean with about 5 or 6km to go and was good to chat for a bit to take the mind off things. He probably helped more than he realises – I was suffering at that stage and just had to try and push through!! Knew once I hit the playground with about 3km to go I tried to push it a bit more which felt nice but cramp was never far away and the legs got straighter & stiffer the closer the finish line came! Met Mam & Ciaran about a km but didn’t really want to stop as knew I’d never get going again! Total run time was 4:20, again slower than I hoped but gave me an overall 10min PB with a finishing time of 11hr 42min for 12th overall.


Hard to know how I feel looking back – mixture of delight in completing my 2nd Iron Distance race and can’t help being slightly disappointed in the overall time – especially with the bike leg. My cousin Richie did the Olympic on the same course and suffered 2 punctures and a mechanical in his 40km so it puts things into perspective. Finishing his race after that is as big an achievement as finishing IM Canada as he did last year in my opinion. Chapeau Richie!

I have been incredibly lucky with they way both races worked out for me. I thought it was going to be harder and it definitely was – both from a training, family and especially the mental side. Even the same race course seemed harder!

A huge thanks to everyone who came down to Killarney and made it a great weekend – the support was great and really helped throughout the course. Special thanks to a few people – Mam for her support and interest in the training and the race itself – after only starting training herself about 3yrs ago to have completed her first half marathon and done numerous 50km cycles she really is an inspiration! Hugh Carberry for his advice and early morning chats in West Wood. To John at Leydon’s and Maxi Fuel nutrition for supplying all of my race day nutrition – the MaxiFuel products worked really well for me and as I said earlier tasted pretty good too! Thanks to everyone who messaged, texted, Facebooked etc before and after the race – you all made it harder to stop on the day!


Think Sean was trying to tell me something with this early birthday present after the race!!

Most importantly a huge thanks to Lorna, Eabha and Noah for putting up with all of this – I know it’s not easy when I’m disappearing for hours on end and the impact it has on family time and basic stuff around the house! I really couldn’t have done it without all of Lorna’s help and support. Thank you!

Intercounties Sprint Triathlon

Posted in Race Reports on May 8, 2014 by grahamclarke6

After the Wicklow Way Ultra the plan was to do the Cooley Legends Half Marathon and then up the training again for the Mourne Way Ultra. Unfortunately my foot had other ideas! I think it all links back to a slight twist of my ankle in the mountains over the winter which only flared up again 2 weeks before Wicklow. Long runs were now causing my ankle to really stiffen up afterwards and it became impossible to stick to any sort of routine.

Holywood Lake

Holywood Lake

It took a while to adjust my thinking and I’m still not sure what the rest of the season holds.  I’d done the Intercounties Tri, hosted by Mukno Tri Club, in 2011 and decided to enter at the last-minute. It’s only about 50 minutes from home and is a great family friendly event – there is a playground for Eabha to play at, a walk around the lake and as the bike course is 3 x 6.2km laps past transition its good for spectators too.

Registration was straight forward, got set up and waited nervously for the start. Race briefing was short and to the point and before long we were heading down to the start.  I was nervous about the swim as it’d been a while since I’d been in the open water and I’d only 5 pool sessions behind me so far this year.

Heading to the start

Heading to the start

Once in the water and after letting the first flow of water down the suit it wasn’t too bad – reportedly about 11° or 12°. I made sure to start towards the back to avoid the usual scrum and it worked out OK until about 100m in when I got a full force elbow perfectly square in the eye! Thankfully the goggles took the full brunt – if it had of connected with the side of my head I could have been in trouble. Somehow the goggles stayed on and only leaked a bit. The lake was really clear and the swim was OK even though my breathing was all over the place! From the second buoy I was breathing every second stroke and as usual this throws my navigation way off.

Heading up to T1

Heading up to T1

Once out of the water there was a nice climb up to T1 – a total time of 15.12 – reasonably happy with that! T1 was uneventful and was quickly out on the bike. 3 x 6km laps would really test my legs that haven’t really done anything fast in a long time!

BikeOver the 6km there was hardly a flat bit of road and the surface wasn’t the best in places.  The marshalls and guards at the junctions did a great job and seemed to allow both traffic and racers to flow freely. I felt slightly stronger as the leg went on and I think I probably held my own on the bike – apart from the 2 guys in the Cavan Kayak Run kit who drafted and took wide corners the whole time! 33.32 for the bike leg – again happy enough with that for the training I’ve done. The new bike felt good, handles really well and it felt faster if nothing else!

Leaving T2

Leaving T2

Had a nightmare in T2 – just couldn’t get my runners on – serves me right for trying a new lace set up on race day! The run course is an out and back and again is fairly undulating with a couple of short climbs to test the legs! The first thing I notice is I’ve no feeling in my feet – they seem to be frozen! First 3km’s were at a steady pace – all be it slower than I’d hoped for. Legs started to feel better after the turn around and the pace picked up a bit towards the end.  Including T2 the run time was 24.28 – slightly disappointed with that as thought I could go quicker.



All in all an average race day out. I probably should be happier as I took 17secs off 2011’s time on next to no training but everything just felt akward on the day – but it was the first tri of the year! This is a great early season sprint on a challenging course in a great location. Well done to all in Mukno Tri Club for organising it.






My No. 1 Fan!

My No. 1 Fan!


Wicklow Way Ultra Marathon

Posted in Race Reports on April 6, 2014 by grahamclarke6

This year has seen a slight change of focus – temporarily at least. After Hardman in August I really just kept ticking over without much focus. Over the winter I was trying to get at least one swim, bike and run in – more often than not the bike missed out though!

After a good bit of thinking about where to focus I decided to lean towards an ultra marathon and the first one that grabbed my attention was the Mourne Way – a 50mile race from Rostrevor to Newcastle…and back! As part of the preparation the Wicklow Way Ultra seemed to fit in perfectly – a 51km race early in the year to keep me honest over the winter!

All my long training runs were done in the Cooley Mountains just outside Dundalk and about a 15min drive from home. There was a minimum of a 20km run each week – most over the winter done at night! Most of these were done with Brian from Bell Extreme who was training for the Yukon Artic Ultra – a 300km race in Northern Canada. The last long training run was a 45km trail run of the Tain Way in the Cooley’s. This brought on a terrible foot pain which was linked to a slight twist of the ankle on a previous night run – thankfully some physio with Paul McDonald in Refresh at West Wood, Clontarf  seemed to loosen it out. That, followed by a bout of man flu, meant an enforced longer and easier than planned taper into the Wicklow Way Ultra.

Johnny Fox'sRace day started by waking up to a frozen car ….mmmmm  wasn’t expecting that but better than wind and rain. Driving down the motorway and it starts snowing … WTF! Arrived in Glencullen at Johnny Fox’s to very strong winds – got out to register and nearly froze in the 5minutes that took! Got back to the car, got changed and watched as the early starters got under way…maybe I should have gone with them?

Race Briefing

Race Briefing

Soon it was race briefing time – wind seemed to have died a little but it was still freezing – the sooner we’re under way the better! I was pretty nervous coming into this one – probably more so than a lot of previous races – deep down I knew I hadn’t enough training done – I hadn’t missed too many long runs in the run up but the I overall mileage wasn’t where it should have been at.

The first road section flew by – probably slightly quicker than I’d have liked – Sugar Loaf Viewthrough the stiles and onto the sandy track and the start of the climbing. Soon the sun made its first appearance and things started to heat up a bit – removed hat and gloves for a bit to try to stay somewhat cooler. After a nice long decent, arrived at the first checkpoint at Crone Woods pretty much where I expected to be. After Crone the climbing really started. The weather had really picked up and some of the Track overlooking Powerscourtviews out to the coast were spectacular as was the view over Powerscourt Waterfall from the single lane track. The climbs were pretty tough at this point and the steeper sections were walked to try to save some energy – it seemed to be working as a few ahead of me that ran the hills never gained much distance on me and I always seemed to pull back to them at a later stage.

Overlooking Lough Tay

Overlooking Lough Tay

Soon it was out onto the more open mountain side around Djouce and the wind had really picked up. It should have been an enjoyable section with more great views but I spent it trying to shelter somewhat from the biting wind! Onto the boardwalks and the cross winds made it pretty treacherous. I was running at an angle trying to stay on the narrow boardwalks and it was like running on a tightrope and a real balancing act!

Fire Road at Ballinastoe

Fire Road at Ballinastoe

Finally down off the mountain onto the fire road towards the turnaround at Ballinastoe – think this was only a couple of km’s and all gentle downhill but it was tough! Started to feel the beginnings of cramp, it seemed to go on for ever and getting passed by all the trail runners going the opposite way who started at the turnaround was for some reason demoralising and not something that usually effects me but today for whatever reason it did!

What have i gotten myself into?!

What have i gotten myself into?!

Met Mam & Dad at the turnaround and was there at about 3hr 05mins – probably bang on what I expected at this stage but I knew it’d be much tougher on the way back. Whatever about the windy boardwalk I really wasn’t looking forward to the climb back to reach there! Refilled the hydration pack, took another gel – Maximuscle Viper Gels – and banana and took a bottle of water to help it down. Had something in my shoes and it was a struggle to put them on again as cramp was making itself at home in my calves!

"Can't believe I've gotta go all he way back!"

“Can’t believe I’ve gotta go all he way back!”

Started walking back up the hill to get myself moving as soon as I could again and it briefly  helped. Back out onto the boardwalks and we were met with the first of 3 almighty hail shows. Combined with the wind they were coming at us horizontally and were bloody sore! I was thankful I’d taken my balaclava out at the turnaround and it helped a little but running / walking up those sleepers with that wind and those hail showers was


some of the toughest conditions I’ve run in. Finally made it onto the grassy downhill and wasn’t too bad Hailstones!here – at least I was running again! I couldn’t remember what was ahead of me at this stage so when I hit the first wooden bridge (crossing the Dargle I think?) and saw the climb that was ahead of me I could have packed it in there and then! That climb was torturous and really sapped the energy from my legs – I think there was still a couple of km’s to go to the next checkpoint at Crone and I was struggling!

Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

None of the views of the way out looked as appealing as it had gotten duller and did nothing to lift my spirits! Finally made it over and it was back into forest trail all the way to Crone and a quick top up again – jelly babies never tasted so good! That downhill section and the cramps were at their worst – I couldn’t really run more than 50m without having to walk again and there was still 13km to go. After Crone there was a really nice section along the river before another good climb to the last checkpoint at Curtlestown which didn’t didn’t make things any easier. Didn’t dwell at Curtlestown and struggled up the last climb (Prince Williams Seat?) before the long decent back down to the road to the finish. Met Mam just before the turn to the main road – she assured me the finish was “just around the next corner” – it was obviously one long corner as it seemed to go on for ever and just for good measure there was another hail shower!

Don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a finish line – 51km’s, 6hrs 50mins later and my first Ultra Marathon was done.  It really is a beautiful course – brutal but beautiful!

Final thoughts on it now that I’ve had time to think about it (& recover physically & mentally!) – my pre race concerns were confirmed – I really don’t think I’d enough done and maybe took the distance a little for granted. Definitely underestimated the course and would love to go back and try some sections of it again. Really well organised event and the guys at IMRA deserve great credit for it.

What’s next – hopefully the Cooley Legends trail half marathon, then one or 2 sprint triathlons before making a final decision on the Mourne Way Ultra – at the moment I’m leaning towards downgrading to the marathon version but we’ll see how training goes!20140322_205403[1]Capture2





Hardman 2013 – My First Ironman

Posted in Race Reports on September 5, 2013 by grahamclarke6

All of a sudden race week is here. A year in planning and training – a lot of training! Since Christmas there had been 63hrs (158,000m)of swimming, 156hrs of cycling and 90hrs of running – over 1000km! I’d followed a free online training plan from www.beginnertriathlete.com for the last 20weeks which provided the structure and focus to help me get to the startline in one piece – I was confident that I was in the best shape of my life leading into my 1st Ironman.

Race week started by travelling to Killarney on Thursday and one of the first thing you notice approaching Killarney is the mountains surrounding it – the butterfly’s were starting already!

On Friday we looked at the swim course and drove the first 30km of the bike course which contained the biggest climb of the day – Molls Gap and the decent into Kenmare. It was worse than I expected and just seemed to keep climbing for what seemed like ever. The butterflies were getting bigger and I was getting scared! Once over Molls Gap there was a long decent into Kenmare after which I’d be into the unknown!

Friday night brought race briefing which gave warnings of lamprey eels in the lake, warnings to take care for farmers, festivals (the annual Charlie Chaplin festival was on this weekend!) and funerals on the bike route and horse-drawn carriages on the run course – only in Ireland! Overall it answered a few questions and gave good info on getting through a few of the towns along the route. 2 food bags which could be picked up on the bike and run course were dropped of and soon we were done and on the way back to the house for chicken and pasta!

A very sleepless night ensued before the alarm went off at 4am. A look out the window brought the first smile of the day – it was as still as I’ve seen – hopefully it lasts all day! Porridge, jam scone and coffee got me started. Bags were set out the previous night – the logistics of the whole day are nearly more stressful than the race itself. The biggest decision was what to wear on the bike – I’d left the decision to the last-minute to see what the weather brings – so everything went into the bag!




Arriving at the start and getting set up was great to have something to preoccupy the mind – I’d arrived about 45mins before the start so had just enough time to get everything done without letting nerves set in too much. The swim course looked amazing – the sun was just coming up and the lake was glassy calm. It also looked huge! And it was 2 laps! Time for a quick “before” photo with Lorna and Eabha before entering the water. It felt great – as warm as any open water swim I’d done. A quick dip and I was all set – a quick look around and I was actually looking forward to the swim!

Swim Start

The swim went as well as I could have hoped, the water was amazing, clear and flat – and no eels! They only difficulty was in heading to the 2nd buoy – they sun was still so low it was impossible to see – I could only hope that those ahead of me were going in the right direction!  Onto the second lap and all I kept thinking was this is nearly over – unbelievable! Soon I was at the last buoy turned & kicked hard for the 100m or so to the exit. Up the ramp and was delighted to see 1.10 on the clock – slightly ahead of what I had hoped for. Only found out later that I was 9th individual out of the water & 13th overall.

A short run to T1, found my bike and got changed, decided against the change tent so just a regular T1 for me. Had my tri suit under my wetsuit so just put on a sleeveless bike jacket and was ready to go.

Leaving T1

Leaving T1

Out onto the bike course and my legs felt weird – they felt heavy but not in a tired sense and not something I’d never felt before. Nothing I could do about it – a quote from Gerry Duffy’s book – Tick Tock Ten – “control the controllables” was one of my motos for the day. I told myself they were just strong and got on with getting through Killarney. Being about 8am on a Saturday morning there was no traffic so flew through the town – this was an open road race meaning there would be traffic on the entire 180km of the Ring of Kerry – again nothing I could do about that and I’d trained on all open roads.

Once I got to Muckross House I knew the climbing was about to start. I just sat in and tried to keep a steady pace. All of a sudden I was at Lady’s View – how’d that happen?! Next target was in about 5km – what I’d called the upper lake – a small plateau which was 3km from the top. Again this flew by, the course definitely looked worse in the car and as yet I hadn’t had to get out of the saddle. Hitting that upper lake gave me a huge lift – this was going better than expected! The last 3km were the toughest but it was only 3km! A cry of “you beauty!” greeted the sight of the Avoka shop at the top of Molls Gap – that was it – the toughest climb done and it didn’t kill me. Whats more I was only passed once on the climb – usually there is a train of bikes passing me – a strange feeling.

Decent form Molls Gap

Decent form Molls Gap

From driving the course on the Friday I knew there was a long decent into Kenmare about 8km on good roads, it was great to get onto the aero bars and flew down hitting between 45-50km/hr the whole way. By the time I got to the turn in Kenmare my average speed was back to what I’d hoped for the whole ride – again this gave me a boost and knew that the hardest part was over and I’d pick up more speed over the course of the day.



Entering Kenmare

Entering Kenmare

Hitting the turn to Sneem in Kenmare I saw Colman, Sandra and the girls  – great to see them and another boost.  The road from Kenmare to Sneem was boring! I didn’t know it, had no landmarks in my head, it was slightly undulating, dull, tree covered and just passed slowly. After about 60km it started to rain and didn’t let up for about 2-3hours. About 80km in the climbing started again – I’d assumed this was Coomaciste (the 2nd big climb of the day) and was happy when I got to Caherdaniel feeling good only to find the climbing started again almost immediately. So this was it! The best part of this climb was the road surface – it was new smooth asphalt and I actually enjoyed the climb (& the decent after!). I was feeling great at this stage, legs felt strong, nutrition seemed to be going well, the stitch I’d had for the last few hours had gone & my average pace was rising.  I still had a couple of hours to go so decided to turn off the average pace monitor – I get so competitive with myself – wanting to keep average speed rising and not let it drop – that I decided to ignore it and go purely by heart rate for remainder.

Seeing Lorna & Eabha

Seeing Lorna & Eabha

Into Waterville and a quick stop to pick up some extra food and drink from the food drop bag – no sign of any Charlie Chaplins either! I don’t remember much of the spin into Cahersivin but was delighted to see Lorna and Eabha along the way here. The great thing about an open course is that supporters can travel out to see you at different points and it was always a boost to see family along the way – a big thanks to Mam, Dad, Sean, Mari-Claire & Ciaran and Colman, Sandra & the girls for driving out around on what was now a miserable day. The constant rain ment that the views were non existent but you could tell it was an amazing part of the world.  Seeing the signs for Killorglin meant the end was getting close but there was a horrible stretch after Cahersivin – a long gradual uphill drag which was so slight that you felt that you should be going faster and started putting doubts in your head about how the legs were coping. A relief to hit the water station at Kells to refill – couldn’t understand a word one of the old Kerry farmers was saying but the other one assured me the worst was over and it was easier into Killorglin from here on! Through a few dodgy junctions in Killorglin, another wave to Lorna and Eabha and it was onto the last 20km back to Killarney with the only wind of the day – a nice gentle tailwind! Finished the bike course in 6hrs3mins – almost an hour quicker than I expected but I felt that I paced it well and never over exerted and that my heart rate was still around what I had planned. Hopefully there was something left in the legs!

Entering T2

Entering T2

Which Way?

Which Way?

Entering T2 in the Castleross Hotel and after a perfect dismount, racked the bike, picked up my change bag and a quick change of socks, into runners, fresh top & hat and it was time to head out onto the run course – 2 legs down….. only a marathon to go!! The run course was 3 14km loops through the national park on a mix of road and trails.

Finishing Lap 1

Finishing Lap 1

The first lap of the run was fairly uneventful and around the pace I was expecting  for the most of it and I was feeling pretty good considering! I probably should have taken a gel earlier on the  run and this came back to haunt me on the 2nd lap. Pace had slowed slightly but again I’d expected this. Around the 24km mark I started to feel a bit light-headed and slightly blurry! The next aid station came at just the right time and I sat on the bonnet of a car for a minute while drinking about 3 cups of coke to try to get some sugar into me.  Headed of a little slower again and got about another 3km before I got the worst bout of cramp I’ve ever had in my left hamstring – the more I tried to stretch it the more my quad cramped! I actually screamed in pain at one stage – so much that a lady came running over to see if I was OK! She encouraged me to take a gel and to stretch it out more and after a couple of minutes it loosened out so I started jogging again. I met Sean a couple of hundred meters from the end of the loop and walked back to the aid station/finish area, took another gel and walked another bit out of the aid station. Had a quick glance at the clock and realised I still have about 90mins to come in under 12hrs – it didn’t really compute at that time and it was the last I thought of it until I’d get to the finish!The 3rd lap actually went by really quickly and was a mix of run 2-3km and walk a few 100m – taking on another gel and as much coke as they’d give me! At the 35km mark was the first time I’d really allowed myself to think about actually finishing, time didn’t matter and I honestly hadn’t a clue what time it was or what I’d come in at despite looking at my garmin every few minutes – the brain just doesn’t work at that stage! Finish adrenalin kicked in and the last 2km’s were my fastest of the day and I was getting excited to finish. Exiting the wooded path into the finish are and I couldn’t believe the clock still had an 11.xx on it. The last small loop around the finish area for a marathon of 4hr30 and across the line in 11.52 – way way above what I had hoped for. Needless to say I was delighted!!!

Finish Line

Finish Line

Overall I was 17th of 49 and 12th individual home – I never even considered this pre race. The day really couldn’t have gone any better for me – a week later I’m still in shock at the bike split which I have no idea where it came from – nothing in training indicated a split like that and whats more I actually enjoyed it!  This was a great race in an amazing location – I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone thinking about an Ironman at home – well done to Alan and all the organisers, marshalls and volunteers who made it such a great day.

My overall reflection on doing my first Ironman: its a huge undertaking for 6months prior to it and you really need that support of family and friends to help get you through it.  The training volume is big in places but with a sensible plan anyone can get through it – as a friend said recently to do an Ironman you just need to be stubborn and pig-headed!! I trained alone, no club or coach, used a free online plan, a basic road bike with tribars attached, have no real experience in endurance sport until I started triathlon 4yrs ago, I’ve done a handful of sprints and olympics, 2 half Ironman distances. Would I do another one?? Yes – definately but not for a couple of years and would love to do one abroad just for the experience.

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support, good wishes and congratulations – especially to my cousin John who undertook this journey with me – all be it in Canada! A day after I finished Hardman he completed Ironman Canada to hear those awesome 4 words – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN – well done John!

None if it would have been possible without the support of Lorna & Eabha – they really get the short straw in all of this & I honestly think it’s harder on them than on me. I can’t thank them both enough for putting up with me – Lorna at times was a coach, psychologist, nutritionist, supporter, shoulder to cry on all rolled into one for months on end! Thank you.

Eabha T-Shirt

Tri an Mhi Half Ironman Report

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by grahamclarke6

May wasn’t long coming around and I’m well into my training plan for the Hardman Iron distance triathlon in Killarney in August.

Jan-May TrainingThe graph on the left shows the training breakdown from January – May. Last weeks peak was a total of 13.5hrs training with over 7hrs on the bike alone.

All of my training is being done in Zone 2 of my heart rate which basically keeps the intensity very low but helps increase the volume without too many negative side effects. It took a long time to get used to as it means training slower than you would normally but after a few months I’m starting to see the benefits already.

This weeks training is one of the biggest volume wise – coming in at about 15.5hrs. It looks like:

Mon – 1.45hr swim, Tue – 2hr bike & 50min run, Wed – 1.5hr bike, Thur – 2hr run, 45min swim, Fri – 45min swim , Sat – 3hr bike, 30min run, Sun – 1hr bike, 1hr run. Thankfully I’ve a recovery week next week of “just” 8hrs!

The Tri an Mhi half ironman was booked to a) keep me motivated during the winter and b) to see how I was progressing with a final decision on the Hardman to be made after it.  I’d looked at this race in previous years and thought it was madness doing a half IM so early in the year but now see how beneficial it is if you’re looking to go longer later in the year. I didn’t really focus on training specifically for the race – just took 2 easier days training before it with 1 day recovery after so as not to impact too much on the overall plan. I had no idea what to expect in comparison to the Humbert Challenge 20 mths ago but the target was to have a better run – that would be the telling factor if training was paying off.

Tri an Mhi LakeArriving in Collinstown in Westmeath we were met with a very cold and dull morning. The lake didn’t look inviting at all and was the leg I was most apprehensive about – purely due to the water temperature (approx 10oc)  and the fact that I hadn’t yet managed to get an open water swim in due to the cold weather we’ve had. The wind just seemed to keep picking up and more and more white horses were appearing towards the middle of the lake and making the 9oc air temp feel much lower.

Tri an Mhi RegistrationRegistration and set up went fine with no major hitches – just the usual nerves! Everyone was just trying to keep as warm as possible and as it seemed to get colder the prospect of the swim being shortened or even cancelled became more real. Everyone was leaving the wetsuits until the last minute and finally an announcement was made that we would be swimming – but a shortened 750m course. I think everyone was slightly relieved and based on the next few hours I feel it was the right decision.

Everyone slowly made their way to the slipway and gingerly made their way into the water – it was freezing but not as bad as I expected! After a few dunks to get the feel of it the claxon went off. Right from the start I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be my best swim – I just felt restricted in the wetsuit and crowded in the water.The chop didn’t help and had to adjust my breathing with affected my stroke and swimTri an Mhi Startming straight! I recon I did the full 1900m from all the zigzagging I did! Was out of the water in 15.14 – slow even by my own standards!!

Only thing I remember about T1 was the difficulty in putting on my jacket over wet arms – apart from that don’t remember much but from time comparison it wasn’t too bad.

Out onto the bike and settled into a comfortable rhythm straight away. I’d deliberately left my HR on alert so that I wouldn’t go too hard which had affected me in a couple of previous races and I think it helped. The 2 loop course was pretty tough – constantly rolling country roads which seemed to suited me – I was comfortable on all the hillier sections and made ground which I promptly lost on the flatter sections. The bike leg is still my weakest leg but the gap is coming down slowly but I still felt like everyone had Tri an Mhi Bike 1passed me! My average pace for the first loop (approx 47km) was 30km/hr which is above all my training rides but I still felt comfortable. Once the 2nd lap started so did the rain which never stopped until I got off the bike.  All I could think was poor Lorna waiting with Eabha and my Mam & Dad who I spotted finishing the first lap – it had to be harder on them waiting around in that! My legs still felt good but I had pretty much no feeling in my legs from the cold. It was just a matter of getting to T2 in one piece now. I finished the 94km in 3hr 13 and an average speed of 29.1km/hr – again above what I had expected and really happy with that. Nutrition was one area I’ve been focusing on to get right for August and I stuck to my plan to take in approx 300 calories / hr on the bike. Bars went down better than the gels towards the end of the bike so need to keep that in mind.

T2 was an experience! I had to get help undoing my helmet buckle as my hands were so cold and then doing laces was interesting!! Put on a dry(ish) jacket for the run, packed a couple of gels and headed off.

Tri an Mhi RunStraight away I felt good on the run and struggled to keep my pace down at the start. Passed the 5km mark in exactly 25mins and was a bit concerned that I’d gone out too fast. I was actually enjoying it and felt great. Took a gel at the 8 & 14km mark – not sure if I needed them but I’d planned to so I stook with it. Legs were still feeling really strong so decided to up the pace for the last few km’s. Finished the run in 1hr48 and a slight negative split (2nd half faster than the first). Comparing the run with my previous half IM it was 26mins quicker which I was delighted with.

Finished in 5-24.30 – 107 out of 238 starters (approx 30 DNF’s)

Overall really happy with how the day went, the course was tough and challenging but enjoyable, the marshalls were excellent throughout – even in the worst of the conditions and the set up was really well organised. I felt solid throughout the race and really felt that the training is paying off. Nutrition went as well as could be expected and I’m happy that it’s the right way to go at the moment. Could possibly have pushed harder on the bike but not sure what effect that would have had on the run and should have pushed harder further out on the run. Heart rate data was good on review and I recovered pretty quick after the race although I’m still feeling it in my legs during this weeks training!!

Only fault I’d have with it was that as the National Championship race there was very little atmosphere created around the event –  no equipment displays, only one tea/coffee van (which ran out!), nothing for kids / families etc. I know the weather was terrible but I’d have expected more from Triathlon Ireland in this respect.

Once again – a huge thanks to Lorna and Eabha for putting up with me on this journey – it’s just as hard on them and there is absolutely no way I could do it with them. Was great having them there at the finish along with Mam and Dad.

Only 13 weeks left until the Hardman in Killarney and still a lot of work to do but after last weekend I’m confident that I’m on the right track. Roll on August!!

Hardman in Training!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2013 by grahamclarke6

At the end of the 2011 race year I put up a poll about doing an Ironman and most respondents said leave it till 2013.

Well 2013 is well and truly here and an Iron-distance event is on the horizon. This journey really started in Sept while talking to my cousin John in Canada about the possibility of coordinating schedules to meet and do IM Wales. We both agreed that an IM was possible and John was lucky enough to get a spot in the new IM Canada in Whistler so I decided to change my race to the Hardman  Iron Distance race in Kerry. Coincidently they are on the same weekend – Hardman on the Saturday and IM Canada on Sunday.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with an Ironman its a 3.9km swim, 180km bike and 42km (marathon) run all completed in one day back to back. 17hr cut off time with my time probably between 14 & 16hrs!

Training really started there and after not a huge amount done in 2012 it was almost back to the drawing board – especially with the swimming which seemed to go right back to scratch! The Carlingford Legends Olympic Tri in Sept was done on short notice and on surviving the swim (the closest I’ve come to calling it a day during a race!) the bike went reasonably and the 10km run went really well.

Up to Christmas and training was going well enough – up to 95km on the bike and a PB of 29km in the run were setting a good base. A 2 wk break over Christmas did a lot of damage and set me back weeks again.

Have decided to follow a training plan for the first time (http://www.beginnertriathlete.com) and use that to structure my workouts. Having been self coached for a few years its difficult to get into the routine but am now 3 weeks into it and its going well so far. The most nerve-wracking part of it is putting your faith in something that you’ve not tried before.

I’m still a long way out so really just building a solid endurance base and getting miles in the bank at this stage. Its all really more about frequency and time rather than distance at this stage.  The full 20wk plan starts mid April so between now and then is really about building endurance.

Have just signed up to my first race of the year – the Tri an Mhi half Iron distance (www.trianmhi.com) in May and that will be the real benchmark for me – once that is completed satisfactorily then money will be handed over for the Hardman! Between now and then there will hopefully be a few duathlons and maybe a bike race.

Training at the moment looks a lot like this (ideally!):

  • Monday – 10km run with a 1500m swim
  • Tuesday – 50min bike (or weights) with a 10km run
  • Wednesday – swim – approx 25oom
  • Thursday – 90min / 18km run
  • Friday – 50min bike with 1100 swim
  • Saturday – rest
  • Sunday – 2hr bike

With the weather a lot of this is indoor on turbo trainer or indoor bike and treadmill running so its good for getting through tough mental situations as its so easy to quit the indoor workouts and they’re pretty boring!!

Until next time ………………