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IRONMAN 70.3 Dún Laoghaire – Mark Willoughby

The days leading up to the race I was feeling the nerves. Nerves really kicked in on the Friday when I went to register, I said to myself (shit have to do this now ) time had flown in from when I booked the race last November and was querying if I had done enough training??.

Didn’t sleep well on the Friday night, and kids had me up at 5am on the Saturday morning and around 10am i went out to attend the race brief and drop bike and bags off at Transition. Nerves and excitement was at maximum now. By 9.30pm I was knackered and went to sleep fairly easy and alarm woke me up at 4am. Nerves had gone, was very calm surprisingly. Had breakfast and headed for Dun Laoghaire, got to the car park for 5.15am and there was a queue a mile long. (Someone had forgot to open the gates to the competitors car park and marshals were running around like mad trying to get someone to open the gates. At around 5.45am they got a angle grinder and cut the locks on the gates and cars started rolling into car park (was going mad as I had wasted 30min sitting in car when I should have been preparing myself at transition. Car Park was about a 15min walk to transition so managed to get there just after 6am. Great buzz around transition with my club mates.

Around 6.30am made the walk to Sandycove , places myself in the 37.50min section for the swim, national Anthem played out which was deadly and then it was time to do this. From looking at the sea before getting in I could see the current was strong and pulling people away from they should be going, I knew this was going to be a tough swim from the start, before I knew it i was lined up and off I went. Water wasn’t as cold as expected so focused on my strokes and breathing. After 200m I noticed I was been pulled away so started sighting every 2nd stroke and focused on a lighthouse which was right in front of the buoy I noticed at the start. As the current was strong I couldn’t see the buoy at the start so just focused on the lighthouse. Ended up having to breath every 2nd stroke instead of 3rd as could felt I could not breath on my left due to current. Got around the first Buoy and water started to calm down a bit before I knew it I was around the 2nd Buoy and swimming for home. Could not believe the crowds of people lining the route to the transition tent, and a good few from club giving words of encouragement helped get me going for the bike.

Bike started off grand, a little climb at the start to get out of Dun Laoghaire and then was pretty flat until we got to Long Mile Hill. Legs were not fully warmed up so struggled at the start with the initial climb but by the time I got to the first aid station I was grand. I put the boot down and got to Roundwood then the fun of the climbing was about to begin. A lot of people started getting off there bikes and walked up, I said no way was I doing that so got into my granny gear, and grinded away out of the saddle getting up by Lough Tay, weather was still ok at this point but could see the fog ahead. I was now battling the Serious headwind, rain and fog, could not see the bike in front of me so just stayed in saddle and somehow managed to get to top of Sally Gap, weather was pretty bad until we got to Viewing Point when weather started to clear and from there it was all downhill to Dun Laoghaire.

Run started well for me but looked at watch and noticed I was running 4.30km pace so I knew I had to slow down. First 10km I was at 56min and felt grand, crowds of people lined the route which was amazing and at nearly everywhere on the route there was Pulse club mates supporting us and people who I didn’t know shouting “Come on Mark” which was amazing. Spotted my wife and kids in the crowd which gave me a big boost that I could do this and to suck it up,by the time I got to 15km I started to struggle on the run and ended up walking at each aid station. My energy levels felt ok but legs were starting to say enough. Pulse were manning a aid station at the end of the loop which they gave me great encouragement and made me not to stop and walk which everything in the my body was telling me to do. Then it was time for the run to the finish line, sprinted up the ramp( no idea how I did that) turned and right in front of me was the red carpet and Ironman Finish Line. Pure emotion took over and I started to fist pump and shout “Yes” gave the announcer a big High 5 and then jumped and fist pumped across the line. I had done it 🎉 one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Roll of IM Cork, I’m addicted

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

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