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Meet the member – Hilary McKeown


Well Hilary, how’s the form? How’s everything going for you?

 All good thanks, I feel somewhat of a fraud filling this in as I have been a member in name only really for a few years now but I guess we have all been somewhat in that boat the last 18 months!  I do look forward to getting back into things again though, Pulse has been part of my life for so long now I would miss it if I disappeared altogether.

 Tell us about how you got interested in Triathlon and how you came to join Pulse?

 I started running initially as I had always wanted to do the DCM, I built up the distances doing the adidas race series and then did the ¾ marathon in Athlone.  It was the first time they ran it and the crowd was tiny. My pace has always been slow and steady and after about 2k, with all the front runners well out of sight, I was on this lonely winding road thinking jaysus I’ve a long slog ahead!  Luckily 2 women picked me up and said to tuck in with them.  As we chatted they turned out to be members of Midlands Tri and said can you swim? To which I replied I could, and they said go home and join a tri club, you’ll never look back, much more social and fun.  They weren’t wrong on either score!  I did some research but a friend of my sister had been in Pulse and refused to let me even consider any other club!  That was back in 2011 and I have loved being a part of the club ever since.

Tell us about your first race?

My first race was Valentia, and it is still one of my favourites to this day.  The excitement of getting the ferry across and swimming from the mainland back to the island was what lured me in.  Back then it was second only to Kilkee as a Pulse session too, the craic after in the Royal Hotel was epic.  Being Ireland the weather didn’t play ball of course and we woke up to howling winds race morning.  We headed off to transition with black bin bags full of our stuff and got the disappointing news that the swim course was changed to a rectangular course within the harbour.  I think I had a 6 minute transition trying to get changed and off I went on my old hybrid bike.   I was glad of the weight of it that day as once you got round the other side of the island the wind would actually send you sideways!  Talk about a baptism of fire! Nonetheless it was a super weekend and I was back the next year to do it properly.  I had driven the whole way down and back in a Fiat 500 and was so hungover on the way back I actually drove straight through the toll barrier when it didn’t lift for whatever reason… god the stories Pulse has given me! Lesson learnt that day..the barriers are foam and won’t decapitate you lol. 

What’s your favourite race/distance to race?

 Probably a 70.3.  Enough distance to be a challenge and suit my slower pace without completely taking over your life like training for a full IM does. But for me, my favourite races that you can’t beat, are the ones that the club travels to en masse, nothing gets you through a race more than seeing familiar faces on the course, the roar as you go past a batch of supporters and then, of course the post race analysis panned out on some grass somewhere with whatever goodies are handed out after. That could be anything from Athy sprint to HOTW. 

What’s your favourite Pulse memory so far?

There are so many it is honestly hard to choose. Probably the beachfront parties and dancing in the hotel after Kilkee, the best weekends.  Although Roth and Barcelona Ironman have to be up there too.  Cycling up Solar Hill was so overwhelming as it was and then seeing the Pulse crew cheering at the top really crowned the moment.

There was also the perfect storm one year when I raced a 70.3 that didn’t have a big entry field and managed to come 3rd in my age category (there may or may not have been 3 finishers in my age category…!) which awarded me quite the batch of NS points.  That was the same year they decided to run Cat1 and meant that all the top females were taken out of the regular NS.  Lo and behold who got to march up on awards night and collect the top Pulse Female in her age category that year! Still very much has pride of place on the shelf beside my IM award.

What’s the best thing about being in a Triathlon club?

 The club members.  I would never have lasted as long in the sport or gone as far as I did distance wise without the support and comradery.  The club has always been known for being friendly and social, and let’s be honest, that is what most people are looking to tack onto some exercise and fitness.  I have had some of the best times of my life with a Pulse crew.

When you’re not swimming or pedalling or running, what keeps you busy?

 At the moment a toddler!

Outside of Triathlon, what’s your favourite sporting memory or achievement? (Doesn’t have to be your own!)

 The summer of ‘95 when the Dubs got the All Ireland was a memorable one, going to all the matches and the build up – and of course the sessions after, was a great time.   

Obviously Kona is the dream for a lot of members, but are there any other bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime type races you’d love to experience?

I would love to do the London Marathon.  I travelled over with my Dad when he did it back in the 80s and I just loved the buzz of it.  I have done the DCM a few times and there’s nothing like it for support.  I find marathons/half marathons/triathlons abroad so interesting as you see so much as you make your way around the city.  I went to Barcelona with some Pulsers and we actually had such a good time after the marathon that we missed our flight and I practically had to sell Michael O’Leary a kidney to get home. Thank god it was a marathon not a triathlon though and I had no bike box!

What’s the next Triathlon goal you’d like to tick off?

To do one!!  I had a baby 6 weeks before Covid hit so between lockdowns and no races/training I will be starting back from scratch but that’s only another challenge to tackle, I’ll certainly relish the chance.

What’s your favourite book/movie/tv show? What do you like about them?

I love trash tv, I like to switch off in the evening and go into bubblegum brain mode.  Anything from Gossip Girl to Made in Chelsea to Love Island, bring on the clothes and the bitching.  Reading wise I enjoy any good story, love getting lost in a book, fiction, thrillers, autobiographies anything will do.  I would love to be one of those people who can read to sleep but unfortunately I would be more likely to be still awake at 2am trying to finish it!

What are the go-to tunes/podcasts for a training session?

Some good 80s classics or 90s dance tunes.  But I always try and get company for the chats when I can for any longer distances, it takes the long slow running from torture sometimes to, I won’t quite say fun, but definitely a more enjoyable experience.  There is always somebody in the club on a similar wavelength and that is worth it’s weight in gold when you’re doing any kind of long distance. 

Who inspires you, be it in sports or in regular life?

I grew up watching my parents train for marathons and they always made it work around family life.  They both worked shift work and yet still carved out time for it.  I want the same for myself now that I have my own little one to consider.  I find exercise so important for mental health and de-stressing.  But maybe no 6hr+ bike rides for a while yet!

In triathlon I have always been in awe of Kim Hickey’s drive and determination (and modesty!) – if something is written on her training plan it happens.  End of story. I would love to be half as focused as she is.

What one nugget of advice would you give to a new member starting out on their Triathlon journey?

Enjoy it and have fun.  Don’t pay attention to the ones who take themselves too seriously if that’s not your game.  There will always be the intimidating whippety looking ones with a E20k bike and a helmet that looks like it belongs in an aquarium but there are many many more just out there having fun, keeping fit and being social.  Do what works for you!

Finally, can you tell us an interesting fact or story we don’t know about you?

Back when my parents were doing all that marathon running our babysitter was Philip Treacy, the milliner, his brother used to run with my Dad.  He was in NCAD at the time and used to bring over bits of material and run up clothing lines for our Barbie dolls!  He even made my communion dress.  It came full circle then when his brother gave me a head piece made by Philip to wear for my wedding as a gift, from one little white dress to the big one.

Pulse Triathlon Club: swimming, cycling, running and socialising since 2003

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