Coast to Coast 2018

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2018 by grahamclarke6

Wow – where to start!


All packed ready to go!

Met up with Colman and Mam and travelled down on Friday afternoon – car was pretty jammed as I’d brought nearly every bit of training clothing I owned! 2 things I noticed as we got closer to Sligo – there didn’t seem a flat bit of road anywhere and the road surface looked really good. Race registration / briefing / dinner was all in the Ocean Sands Hotel. It was just the way I like them, short and relaxed. Clarified a couple of points, a couple of minor changes but nothing that needed anything changing from my point of view.

Race start was 10.30am on Saturday morning, breakfast was pretty relaxed but with the start line directly across from the hotel there was a bit of hanging around as there really wasn’t much to set up at this stage which didn’t help with the nerves. There were 19 taking part in the non-stop version – 9 solo and 10 teams along with 7 doing the 2-day event. It felt like we were waiting on the beach forever but it wasn’t long before the countdown started and we were off.  There was a bit of talk prior to the start about what to wear for the beach run – it was only about 200m all in, if that – I chose an old pair of trail shoes with all my other cycling kit on meaning I only had to slip them off, put on cycle shoes and helmet and I was off on the bike in no time.


Ready for the off!

Somehow I managed to be in the first group on the road with about 4 or 5 of the teams and 1 other solo I think. Pace was crazy and with a bit of a tailwind we managed to cover the first 10km in an average of 41Km/hr. I remember going past one of those digital speed signs and it was showing 43km/hr – that was enough to cop myself on and drop off the back – there’s no way I could hold that and I’d blow up before the race even started!

I settled into my own pace for a few km before I was joined by Rachel and Sarah – a team doing it for the 3rd time. I jumped on the back with them and worked with them for the next 40odd km – working in 3min stints. They were obviously there to race it and were doing water changes on the go with their crew – I was lucky at one stage where a bottle was dropped and skipped off my front wheel. The km’s flew in


Arriving at Ballygawley

until the first support point in Ballygawley at halfway on the first leg – we had averaged 32/km/hr so far. We had only been passed once – by another solo competitor. I knew the girls weren’t stopping but I had planned to and although it would have probably been easier to stay and work with them for the rest of the cycle I think the first 10km had thought me a lesson – I was sticking to plan from here on! A quick change of a couple of water bottles and I was off again. With the route swinging a bit more to the south a combination of slight headwind and working on my own made the 2nd half a bit tougher but overall the first cycle leg flew by without any drama’s.

Total leg time (107km) : 3hrs:51mins

Total Time : 3hrs:53mins

Time of Day: 1.23pm


Transition here was about 20mins in all I think, a bit slower than planned but I wasn’t rushing. The team from Mobile Adventure and Colman and Mam had my kayak ready by the canal, so it was just a matter of sitting in and sizing it right first. They didn’t provide a spray deck which I though strange but as the day was getting pretty warm I didn’t dwell on it. Out onto the canal and onto the leg that I was both excited and nervous about. I’d only had one training session in a kayak a couple of weeks before and the rest of my training was done on an indoor rower. The longest I’d done was 2hrs 30mins on the rower and this was going to take about 4hrs.


The first of 3 lock gates – which we had to get out and carry the boat around was only 10mins away – not enough time for Colman and Mam to make it there but we were assured there would be someone to help us in and out. Of course there wasn’t but sure that only added to the session! Lock 2 was about 40mins away and again time seemed to fly by. All of the paddling had been on canal to this stage and it was mostly glassy flat just like in the image above. Got a great surprise at lock 2 where Lorna and the kids had arrived to surprise me – wasn’t expecting to see them at all so this made my day and after a few mins chat I was on the way again.

The next section involved crossing Garadice Lake – the biggest open water section on the course. The wind was firmly from the south meaning it was blowing directly across the boat – probably the worst or most uncomfortable direction for kayaking. My lack of actual kayaking showed here as I struggled a lot on the lake. There was a solo competitor well ahead of me and I could see from his direction that he was struggling a bit too. Another solo passed me at the entrance to the lake and after asking me which direction I thought we were going proceeded to put what I presume were ear plugs in (they couldn’t have been ear phones as they weren’t allowed!!). To be fair he was paddling really well and obviously had a lot of paddling experience or training done in the boats. That was the last time I was passed for the rest of the race and apart from brief glimpses of others at the next 2 transitions I never saw another competitor out on the course. Finally across Garadice and to the halfway point of Haughtons Stores where I saw Lorna and the kids again. I had planned on stopping here but Mam and Colman obviously decided I didn’t need it and went onto the next lock! I don’t remember much of the next section, there were 2 smaller lakes to cross, had similar issues on one but the other was easier and soon soon the 3rd lock at 18km in was coming into sight. We’d been told it was difficult to find via the road so I wasn’t overly surprised when Colman and Mam weren’t there! There was plenty of help around to get in and carry the boat around. Once out of the boat my knee started giving a sharp pain from bracing the side of the boat for so long – a bit of a worry as there was still 8km to go & the next 2 legs!



I could have done with the spray deck for the last bit as I felt it was getting a bit chilly & I was pretty damp, it was probably a bit of tiredness too though. It was great having the map on the front of the boat as it gave something to focus on and try to guesstimate where and how close to the finish I was. My shoulders were really stiffening up at this stage and my hands were starting to cramp up. Was delighted to see Ballyconnell come into view and get out of the boat.

Total leg time (26km): 3hrs:53mins

Total Time : 8hrs:03mins

Time of Day: 6.33pm

Another 20min transition included a cup of black coffee and a pot noodle to warm me up and get some hot calories into me. A full change of clothing and I set myself up for the night part by putting on long bottoms and under-amour. Back out onto the bike and I felt pretty good. 17km to the Share Centre on the outskirts of Enniskillen where the 2-day participants were stopping for the night. It was one of the minor changes at briefing the night before – we had to stop and clock in here so I took the opportunity to use it as a toilet stop! I remember commenting that I thought the wind had swung around to a south westerly which would be cross wind for the main part which was great as I had been thinking about a southerly headwind – turnout to be spot on.

The first half of the cycle was pretty uneventful, think I stopped in Clogher to put on my night jacket and take on some extra water. I wasn’t eating too much at this stage – not sure if I had over eaten earlier and was struggling to digest or if I was hungry or was craving something different. It was always a bit of a leap into the unknown so I just decided to keep drinking and eat when I wanted – seemed to work out OK in the end!

The rest of the night section went pretty well, having the car behind took away any security issues and it was really reassuring. Soon I was onto the toughest part of the bike course – a section that I’d ridden 3 or 4 times in training – from Caledon to Newry. First off you’ve the toughest climb out of Armagh – about 6km in total with the first km being the steepest. Towards the end of the climb I remember hearing a siren behind us – I was convinced it was the police stopping us for holding up traffic! It was an ambulance flying by – again made me think how lucky I was that I was able to do this. Took a short break to change gloves (the big downside of the night jacket was that it wasn’t breathable and the sweat was rolling into my gloves!) at Gosfort, took on some more water and had a mouthful of warm coffee before another 4km of gradual climbing past Markethill. This one was the toughest mentally as it just seemed to go on and on with only the lights of cars rising in the distance!

Finally onto the downhill into Newry, some real dodgy roads as we skirted the city centre and hit some roadworks. Actually got a bit emotional heading out of Newry – I knew it was only about 12km of flat road to go and I knew it pretty well. Finally around the last roundabout into Rostrevor and the turn into Kilbroney – for anyone who doesn’t know the entrance to the park there is a horrible short, sharp climb up to the car park – just what I didn’t need at the end of 140km!

Total leg time (140km): 6hrs:47mins

Total Time : 14hrs:50mins

Time of Day: 1.20am

I made the mistake of sitting down as soon as I entered the transition room in Kilbroney. Everything just seemed to drain from me and it took me about 15mins to even get up again. Probably took as long to do a full change of clothing and by the time I had another coffee, an energy bite and another pot noodle 45mins had passed – it flew by and as soon as I realised I was keen to get going again. Mam has since told me that if I hadn’t of left then, they were kicking me out anyway!!

Out onto the run and straight into a gradual climb for about 3km. My legs weren’t ready for this and it was pretty slow going with a decent bit of walking. Once over that it got a bit better – not much! – it was pretty easy going on the trail and the head torch was picking it out comfortably. After about 6 or 7km it opened onto a bit more open ground an it took a while to get used to the layout of that markings but once I did it made it a bit easier. Around the same time I took my worst bout of cramp – I probably hadn’t been drinking enough and once I started it never really came back – not to the same extent anyway. The first support point was about 9km in, took on a gel to help with any cramps and put on my heavy rain jacket as the weather was starting to turn.

Out onto the road for a couple of km’s with the car following (one of the changes from last year), it wasn’t needed in my opinion, I don’t think we met any traffic and didn’t really have any benefit. Back onto the trail and apart from the next couple of km’s found this section tricky enough as we circled Hen Mountain and worked up towards the road by Spelga Dam. I remember picking up a couple of gel wrappers – this really annoyed me and didn’t make my mood any better!! It was just approaching dawn, weather was getting worse and this was probably the toughest section to follow the trail but eventually could see the hairpin of the road. The footbridge actually came up a bit quicker than expected but I wasn’t complaining. Clocked in after crossing the footbridge – think I asked the time at this stage and being confused when the girl answered “about 4” – couldn’t figure out if that was time of day or how long I’d been going! From the overall splits – between my long transition and just being slow – this was my worst section of the whole race. I walked up the steep road section to meet Colman and Mam again at Spelga car park, sat in for 5mins, took on more water, had a gel, and put on a pair of socks as gloves as I’d run out thanks to the cycle! Another road section, told them not to bother following me as it was getting light, threw in my head torch and just headed off. I was moving OK when I was running, I just didn’t seem to be able to run consistently due to the terrain and checking the route in the dark. After another couple of km’s on the road, it was off road again and decent terrain along to Trassey Track and was happier with my progress now. The splits confirmed this as I was holding ground with everyone else. Once I turned after the clock-in point is where it got really tough.  It was just

Run Profile

Profile of the run course

over 20km into the run at this stage, 19.5hrs in and I don’t think the next 15km could have been tougher. I hadn’t run this route before and in a way ignorance was bliss – it was really more of a hike / climb. Heading up towards Hare’s Gap is just climbing through a rock fall, there isn’t really a route to follow – you just pick the next few best steps and go again! It didn’t get much better mentally when you reached the top and could see Slieve Donard looming ahead and the wind

Hares Gap 2

File photo of Hare’s Gap – if you look closely you’ll see a walker on the path in the bottom right corner to give an idea of scale!

was howling, making if difficult moving forward at stages. It’s about 3km along narrow trail to the base of Donard and it was tough going. Crossed the style of the Mourne Wall – this was probably the only time I felt like giving up, it looked so much easier just to skip Donard and head straight on down the trail. I was sure we had to clock in at the base of Donard before heading up, woke up the support guy in his tent only to be told to head on up and clock there! I’m sure he was loving me at that time of the morning! Slieve Donard is the highest point in Norther Ireland at 850m, it’s just under a km in distance from the style to the top climbing nearly 300m, nearly all natural stone steps! Thankfully the wall was high enough to shelter from the wind, but between that and the rain made some of the parts pretty treacherous on my tired legs! Somewhere on the climb my watch beeped and showed me a 20min / km – my heart sank but there was no option but to continue on. Clocked at the top, back down through the cloud and mist and I was hoping for better trail to get moving properly again but it never really came! 6km back to the finish – the section I was least looking forward to as I though my legs would just cramp on the way down – they did a bit but not as much as I expected! More steps before we hit the tree line, seemed even more technical here picking my way through. Lost the markers here for a bit, before eventually coming out onto a road. Was unsure which way to go, one side had a closed barrier so decided to head towards the coast as that made most sense. Only about 100m later I met a man out walking his dog and double checked – thankfully he sent me back the other way as it would have added a couple of km’s to the run! Through the park & car park, met Mam crossing the road and onto the boardwalk for the short sun to the finish! IMG_4545-ANIMATION

Total leg time (35.5km): 6hrs:38mins

Total Time : 22hrs:28mins

Time of Day: 8.58am

Training Log 2018

Training Log for the Year

After 6months of solid training – about 2900km/115hrs of biking, 620km / 63hrs of running and about 37hrs of indoor rowing – that was it done in 22hrs 28 minutes.

Not sure really how I felt immediately after – I was pretty much emotionless – there was no elation, no relief, not even real fatigue. It was just done! It probably took a few days to sink in and it wasn’t really until I was able to see all the results and splits – click here for full race details – that I really felt a sense of achievement. Finishing 9th overall and 4th solo felt good and put the whole race into perspective from a competitive point of view.

Probably the one question I’ve been asked most since is would I do it again. Honest answers is “no” – primarily down to the fact that I didn’t “enjoy”the run course. I would have liked to try and run more – maybe the course is an excuse on my side but I felt there were large sections that weren’t runable. The distance or duration didn’t really get to me and it definitely sets me up well for a future longer term goal.

Would I recommend the race – absolutely. It was amazingly well organised, the route marking was first class, the information for the crews was brilliant, the hoodies, gilets, cycling jerseys are great quality and the support from Ian, Lucy, Emma and the whole 26Extreme team was unquestionable from my first enquiry to leaving Newcastle on the Sunday morning. They have to take huge credit for organising such an amazing race on this scale.

A few thank you’s – first of all to Colman and Mam for helping out over the weekend – It really wouldn’t have been possible without you both – I can’t thank you enough.  To everyone who asked about, listened to me talk about the race / training, passed on good wishes – thank you – without all of you I’m not sure I would have gotten up Donard!

Finally to Lorna, Éabha and Noah for once again putting up with me for the last few months when everything has seemed to revolve around one weekend! Seeing you all really made the day and put a big smile on my face throughout the kayak section. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough.



Tapering & Planning!

Posted in Triathlon Training with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2018 by grahamclarke6

It’s hard to believe the race is under a week away – it doesn’t seem like long ago that I was just considering it! The first goal of any training programme is to get to the start line in one piece and, bar 1 or 2 minor niggles in the middle of the programme, touch wood I’m almost there. All the main training is done and I’m starting to enjoy tapering! Last nights run was one of the first in a long time where I felt fresh and was actually having to hold back in places!

The most stressful bit now is planning everything to pull it all together!  With the Coast to Coast being a 24hr race (give or take a few hours!) the logistics of it is something that I really haven’t had to deal with before. Thankfully Colman & my Mam have agreed to crew for me – basically following me across the country in the car, feeding me and enjoy watching me suffer – I think that’s the only reason they agreed to it, although I’m still not sure they know what they’ve let themselves in for!

One area that is very different this time around is the nutrition side of things. With Ironman distance racing it’s possible to get by with energy drinks, gels & a couple of homemade bars and a banana or 2! In Hardman 2015 I burnt just shy of 10,000 calories in 12hrs racing. It’s certainly not possible to consume that amount while racing and certainly not over double the time.


My versions! Apple & cinnamon, peanut butter and jam, raspberry & choc chip and savoury egg and ham!

The aim will be to try and use real foods as best I can. I got the book Feed Zone Portables recently and am really enjoying trying out the recipes. The one that seems to work best for me is the sushi style bites – either sweet or savoury. Other options will include fruit, lightweight died fruit, bagels, fig bars, chocolate bars, jelly beans, pretzels, baked potatoes, pies, sandwiches. Smoothies, fruit juices and plenty of hot coffee will keep the fluid intake up.



Packaged up ready to eat on the go!

I really don’t want to have to stop for any length of time so the ease of eating on the go will be a priority. I usually eat quite well on the bike & I’m hoping it will be the same on the kayak. I find it difficult to eat solids on the run so may need to resort to a gel or 2 for that section although I hoping that the food intake on the 2nd bike leg will see me through most of it.

The other area that is taking a bit of planning is the clothing needed. With the weather we’re having here in Ireland I’m just tempted to just throw everything into the back of the car and pick on the day!


Boardman jacket

A few bits of kit that I’ve had to get that I’ve already found really useful include a Boardman high-vis jacket – it basically lights up once a car light hits it and has given me great confidence in the dark. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone cycling at night. After a lot of research I’ve gone with the Raveman 1200 lights and am delighted with them so far – quick video here.

Thanks to the guys in East Coast Adventure I managed to get a great day out doing some kayak training and got a real feel for the boat and paddling over distance. It was only one session so hopefully it will be enough along with all indoor rowing!

Next week just sees a continuation of tapering with a lot of shorter sessions just to keep the legs ticking over. There’s always a bit of doubt creeping in at this stage as to if I’m prepared enough, if I’ve done enough training, done the right sort of sessions etc so a goal for the week is to really focus on the mental side of things.  A lot of visualisation work, focusing on strategies to cope with the tough sections when they come and planning on how to deal with anything unexpected thrown at me!

Apart from that there’s not much more I can do now apart from finish the preparation of equipment & nutrition and hope the weather gods are nice to us next weekend!! So far the forecast looks good with cloudy sunshine, little chance of rain and a south westerly wind which I’d take with both hands right now. All those questions, doubts, strategies will be answered next weekend

New Year, New Challenge

Posted in Triathlon Training with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2018 by grahamclarke6

A few people have been asking what my main goal is for this year. Soooooo after a lot of thinking over the winter I’ve decided on the 313km Coast to Coast race in May. Run by 26 Extreme it starts on the West coast of Ireland in Enniscrone, Co Sligo and finishes on the East coast in Newcastle, Co Down.

C2C 2018The break down of the event is:

5km beach run

107km cycle

26km kayak

139km bike

35km mountain run

Said quickly it doesn’t’ seem toooo bad!!! And individually they’re probably not – it’s combining them and racing for up to 24 hours that will be the biggest challenge.

Race starts at 10am and the first big challenge will be the 26km kayak. I think the furthest I’ve ever paddled was about 7km and that was about 20yrs ago in Oysterhaven, near Kinsale in Co. Cork! Next challenge will be the 2nd half of the 2nd cycle leg as it will be in darkness. I’ve never cycled at night before so that will be interesting!! The first half of the run from Rostrevor – probably as far as Spelga Dam – will also be at night. I enjoy running at night but I’ve only done this over trails I’ve known well – not sure if training will allow for that many trial runs on the actual route so really hoping it’s all well marked!

The average finish time for the last couple of years has been around the 21.5-22hr mark but it’s been up to 29hrs! With this being almost twice as long time wise and and about 100km longer than anything I’ve done before my main aim is just to finish in one piece.

“Why?!” is probably the most common reaction! Even after a really enjoyable 2nd half of last year competing more in short distance races, there is something about the long distance that keeps drawing me back! Since I started triathlons I’ve been fascinated with how the body adapts and pushes itself and seeing how far I can push myself. I enjoy the training which helps and the discipline that goes with it – it’s probably the only thing that I’m that disciplined with. I need a goal that pushes me and the Coast to Coast will definitely do that!

“How do you train for it?” is probably the other most asked question. To be honest I’m not sure! I’ve read as many race reports as I can find, I’ve looked at the routes to get an idea of the terrain but at the end of the day there aren’t many training plans for this type of race out there. I’m modifying the plan I used for the last Hardman in Killarney with some adjustments. As time goes on there will be a few all night sessions – training as opposed to pubs unfortunately! I’m about 5 weeks into training so far and the body is slowly adapting to the gradual volume increase. I’m still doing a mix of long and slow sessions but doing more intense stuff in the shorter ones. I’m back running in the Cooley’s to get my legs back to hill running and really enjoying that – early morning starts allow me to get used to running in the dark again while not taking up too much family time at the weekend!

The kayak is the one leg that I’m really unsure how to train for. For the moment I’m doing  a lot on the indoor rower – similar structure to bike and run sessions with one long, slower, steadier session and other shorter harder. I thought the turbo trainer was mind numbing until I did a couple of long rows! If anyone has a sea kayak lying around that’s free in May please feel free to let me know!

Bike training is going well enough. a long ride at the weekend combined with 2  indoor sessions mid week – usually late at night after the kids go to bed. I’ve started to use the indoor virtual trainer app Zwift to try to alleviate some of the boredom but also to add some realism to indoor training.

So there you have it & I’ve said it out loud now so no real going back!! A lot of ground to cover between now and then and I’ll try to do a few more updates before then. Apologies in advance to Lorna for the time I’ll be missing!


Attracta Doherty Sprint

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2017 by grahamclarke6

The Attracta Doherty or Pink and Gold Triathlon is one of the final races on the tri calendar and was my last tri of the year. It’s a charity race which is set up to help families and services dealing with cancer and was being run in Coothill at the the site of Erica’s Fairy Forest – a must go to for anyone with young kids in the area!

22046556_1540400082705206_7950696803327176231_nAs well as the sprint tri they also have a kids duathlon, adult duathlon and a 5km race. I somehow convinced Mam to take part – she’d been saying for ages she’d love to get into a triathlon or duathlon so she finally took the plunge and registered for the duathlon! She even work pink for the day!

After we got set up and figured out where we’d Dromore lakeboth be coming from and going to there was time to watch a bit of the kids race before the sprint race got underway. Dromore Lough was glassy calm for the out and back swim – swimming up in Monaghan and 146d10ca-0c0e-44f4-be80-02ed15eafe3dback down in Cavan!

After the Pulse Port Beach race in Clogherhead I’d pretty much given up on the swim side of and decided to focus on improving my run off the bike. But for whatever reason this swim was probably my smoothest of the year, stuck to the inside all the way and never felt in trouble. No idea what’s been going on with my swim this year but was happy that there was one decent swim in me! Exited the water in 22nd place – swim time was 19.xx including a longish run to transition – still think the swim was long as all times were way above what you’d expect. T1 was pretty smooth and was soon out on the bike.


High 5 with Noah!

Having done a few races already this year in Cavan and


Mam Leaving T1

with this race being in Coothill, I knew to expect a fairly undulating bike course and it didn’t disappoint.

Mam was starting just after I left transition and I was thinking about her the whole way on the bike! There were a few nasty hills on the course and I know how much she loved hills so was just hoping she would enjoy it somewhat! The first half of the bike seemed to go on forever until we got to Rockcorry and there definitely seemed like more up’s than downs!

Entering T2

Entering T2

My bike time was  a bit slower then recent races and had dropped a few places but I was hoping to make


Leaving T2

up the time on the run. T2 was pretty quick and gained a few places again. The aim was to start running hard from the start with the hope of forcing my legs to get up to speed quicker – I’d been slower over the first few km’s in earlier races and always picked up towards the end so was hoping to get up to speed quicker this week.

That was all going to plan ….for 3 or 4 minutes until a big hill appeared! This just sucked the life out of my legs but all I could think of is that Mam is going to kill me for talking her into this! I have to say it’s one of the tougher run courses that I’ve done a sprint on – most of it is on forest track / trail – really beautiful but there were a lot of short sharp climbs!

Once leaving the forest trails there was still a few hills to negotiate in and around the


Last Hill High 5’s!

town. My legs were like blocks at this stage and it was a relief to finally hit the last hill where there were a load of kids out with high 5s and the atmosphere was good around the finish with all distances finishing around the same time. Finished with a run of 23.35 and very heavy legs!

Mam Finish

Mam was still out there – I hadn’t seen her since the start and decided to repay all the times she came out to meet me during long races. I met her with about 1500m to go and typical Mam – she was still smiling!! We ran & chatted all the way back in, turned out she had enjoyed the whole thing – not even all those hills had put her off. Couldn’t have been prouder to see her cross the finish line – she continues to amaze me – totally inspiring!

Overall this is a great race on a tough course – a lovely swim, challenging bike route and tough run course. There was a relaxed atmosphere at registration and around the start – think this helped relax Mam a bit and made it easier for anyone new to the sport. The only thing I’d change is the split start finish areas – I thought there was a great atmosphere around the start and the lake. Maybe it was having the kids with us but having to rush them up the road to the finish on the main street didn’t seem to make much sense.
Really well done to Kevin and all the organisers – a super race and a great cause.
It was great having Mam race alongside me again and having Dad there watching – I think he was more nervous then both of us! Eabha and Noah loved having Nana and Granddad there – I didn’t even get a look in! Huge thanks as always to Lorna for all her support – definitely think she had a tougher race trying to get the kids to the finish line before we came in to finish!

That’s the last tri done – maybe one more duathlon before the end of the year – might even convince Mam do do another one!

Newry Triathlon

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2017 by grahamclarke6

I’d done the Borderman 70.3 in Newry 2yrs ago & loved the race set up. There was no Newry Tri 5half distance this year so was looking forward to trying the sprint distance.

The set up was again first class & registration was straightforward. There was a bit of a delay while a rogue truck was moved out of the exit from transition.

Had the same problem with my new Huub wetsuit again & and its “innovative” quick release system. Unfortunately it keeps releasing at the wrong times!!

Newry Tri 4

Swim Exit

A quick walk down the canal to the start of the point to point 750m swim, not much hanging around and soon we were off with a gentle breeze helping us back towards T1 . Got a good start & was feeling OK up to about 3/400m when my breathing went south again! Struggled to the exit in a slightly disappointing time of 13.53 considering it was wind assisted, perfectly straight and flat calm! T1 was pretty smooth, a longish run to the mount line before heading off onto the 20km out & back route. Closed roads was a real novelty and added to Newry’s reputations as a fast course.


From the start it felt like I was having to work hard for what I was getting back. A slight headwind for the first part of the bike until the turnaround in Warrenpoint meant a very fast return to Newry – averaging over 38km/hr on the way back. Have to say there was some of the most blatant drafting I’ve come across – special mention to no. 75 who passed me about 8km into the bike & sat in behind a guy all the way back to T2. In fairness he wasn’t the only one as a group seemed to form in front of me too. Pretty frustrating & something I can’t get my head around – in the end it did no. 75 no good as I overtook him in transition!

Newry Tri 2

Leaving T2

Didn’t know it at the time but it was a PB of 35.34 for the bike leg & brought me back into T2 which was a bit smoother than recent ones. The run was 3 loops around the city centre but I knew it was going to be a struggle from the first few steps. I was struggling to hold 4.35/km pace which was frustrating as I’d run faster in Lough Ramor which was a slightly tougher course and because I knew this was a fast course & I’d targeted a good time here.  The run ended up being my worst leg and lost about 5 places to end up 27th overall in 1.11.54. To cap it all off I ended up throwing up on the blue carpet before the finish line which was captured perfectly by Lorna!

For anyone looking for an introduction to triathlon or those looking for a PB then this is a perfect course. The set up by Newry District Council was first class with a great atmosphere around the Quay’s on the day. Also one of the best good bags on the triathlon circuit!

Newry Tri 6

Goodie Bag

Thanks as always to Lorna, Eabha & Noah for their great support and to Mam for taking the drive up to watch the race!






Newry Tri 1

Not my finest moment!! 

Lough Ramor Sprint

Posted in Race Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by grahamclarke6

3 weeks – 3 races! Getting a bit of a tour around the North East and another visit to Cavan this week for the Lough Ramor Triathlon hosted by the Virginia Triathlon and Cycling Club. An earlier, 10am start this week (and a wet, miserable morning) meant I was on my own for the cross country trip to Virgina. Avoiding last weeks rush at the Cavan Tri I arrived nice and early to get set up. Registration was in Virginia college and possibly the only race I’ve done where there has been indoor facilities to

Lough Ramorchange and store gear – both of which were very welcome on a day like today!

A really relaxed atmosphere around transition, there seemed to be a good mix of abilities, a good few doing their first tri and few names and faces I recognised from winning or placing in other events.

I think the picture opposite looks worse than it was but all the same I was glad to get in the water and get a bit of a warm up swim done. It seemed pretty crowded towards the inside so again I started out to the left and was in clear water from the start but could see the leaders ahead and inside me. The first leg was into straight into the chop but once around the buoy there was a nice bit of a tail wind pushing along the back part of the course. It seemed like the main group were well down wind of me but I though I had a decent line to the next buoy which I went a bit wide around. Onto the last bit and it felt like I was swimming OK so was a bit disappointed to see 16.xx on the clock getting out of the water. There was a decent run on a stoney tarred path to T1 and even though I’d been thinking about where I’d racked my bike from the last buoy it still took a few extra seconds to find it!

Out onto the bike course – 1 loop around Lough Ramor and a mix of quiet country roads and main roads. Great marshalling through the town and out onto the back undulating roads. Again found myself passing a good few people in the early stages but a few of the fast guys went by me too! There was a nice bit of a climb about 5 or 6km in followed by long downhill section with a few tight bends – but again extremely well marshalled. Out onto the main Dublin Cavan road and a good surface, picked up a couple of more places along here before getting a bit stuck in traffic coming back into Virginia town. Finished the bike in 35.38 for just over 19km.

T2 was a bit better then the last 2 weeks and was quickly out onto the run. This was a full on trail run with a few muddy and slippy bits but overall a great run route. I can feel the benefit of a few races and a couple of interval sessions during the week and was much quicker up to speed this week and splits were quicker this week despite it being a slightly tougher course than Ballybay or Cavan.  Completed the run in 23.08 for just over 5km to finish 15th overall.

This is another great race in a lovely part of the country – just a pity the weather didn’t show it off fully. Have to say the best part of the day was the cup of tea and a roasted spud at the end to warm me up!! Reasonably happy with the result – not sure what happened on the swim as it was slow in comparison to the last few races but happy with the bike and run side of things. It actually felt like I was racing this week as opposed to just taking part. Newry Tri is still on the cards for the end of the month and the last few weeks have given me a good idea of where I need to improve – there will be a lot of interval sessions coming up!!

Thanks again to all at Virginia Triathlon and Cycling Club for putting on a great race and to Lorna, Eabha and Noah for putting up with me as usual!




Cavan Sprint Triathlon

Posted in Race Reports on August 3, 2017 by grahamclarke6

Racing 2 weeks running is a bit of a novelty for me so was looking forward to testing myself in another sprint event last weekend.

The short version for those smart asses out there is great race, lovely location, better swim, challenging bike, good run, didn’t win! Now you can go back to “wandering” around Vancouver Seán!

After the calf cramps in Ballybay last week I was so sore for about 2 days afterwards that all I only did a couple of sessions during the week and can’t say they were quality ones either!

Almost mistimed the whole morning and arrived at Killykean Forest Park just as they were announcing registration and transition closing! Big panic and rush to get set up – definitely didn’t need to any extra effort to raise my HR before the race!

Walk to the Start

Walk to the Start

The swim was a 750m point to point swim, the heavens opened just before the start – Lorna and the kids got soaked, thankfully I was in my modified wetsuit at this stage!! After a bagpipe accompanied walk to the start, it was straight into the water to try and get a quick warm-up done. Was surprised to see the number of participants getting into the water – about 150 – as it didn’t look that busy at briefing.

Positioned myself to the left hand side as it looked the straightest line with less of a

Exiting Water 2

Exiting Swim

“turn” to the 2nd buoy. Was much happier with my swim & sighting this week even though it was slightly more crowed – especially when we turned at the last buoy. Came to a complete stop at one stage when someone swam right across me at a 45° angle – no idea where he was heading too!

Exit T1

Leaving T1

Out of the water in 14.58, 31st place and a bit of a run up to T1. As last week my modified wetsuit easily fell off and I was quickly out onto the long drive down the park. Much happier with getting up to speed this week and wasn’t long before we were out into the rolling Cavan countryside. With the heavy showers and a good few sharp corners and bends I was definitely more cautious than normal on the corners and as the bike leg went on could feel the effort of pushing out of the corners in my quads. The course was challenging with one short sharp climb (my gears wouldn’t shift into the smaller front ring – my quads were loving me!) but overall enjoyed the course. I’d forgotten how long the drive up the entrance was and got my feet out of the shoes way too early coming into T2 which was frustrating but ended up getting off the bike in 41.06 for the 22km course.


Leaving T2

I had the same problem as last week getting my feet into my runners and definitely lost a bit of time there – need to check that out for future! The run course was a single loop of an island in the park all on trail which was really nice. It felt much quicker into my stride this week and thankfully no sign of the cramp of last week. There were a couple of small inclines to keep the legs honest and was really happy to see my pace drop to about 4.15 for the last few km’s.

Managed a high 5 with Noah coming to the finish line to finish the run in 22.50 and a total time of 1:20:32.

Overall I was much happier with the whole race this week – was much more consistent across all 3 legs – was 31st out of the water, 31st on the bike and 29th on the run! Was pleasantly surprised to finish 27th individual overall from a field of about 145. Still loads of room for improvement but finding my racing legs again.

Next up is Lough Ramor in Virginia this weekend and then Newry sprint at the end of the month – a very flat course so looking forward to that. maybe another in between if i can find one! Suggestions welcome!

Thanks to all at Cavan Tri club for a great race & for the curry afterwards! Again thanks to Lorna, Eabha & Noah for enduring the rain showers to cheer me on!

Finally congrats to my cousin John who completed IM Canada 70.3  for another IM medal to add to his ever growing collection!

Credit to Lorna and Sonja Smith Photography for the pics!!