Ironman Cork. From the outside it should have been the years biggest disaster, a cancelled swim, dumping rain for twenty hours, cold, wind, some of the hardest roads in the country.
On the morning all the talk was of the swim cancellation and the cold, relentless rain from both the pros and age groupers. I felt sorry for any first timer who was going to do the longest brick session of their lives and still not be able to say that they had done an Ironman. You’d think that there’s always going to be an asterisk beside that result.
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Sure you didn’t even swim.
That’s not an Ironman.
This race is dead in the water I heard again and again. The first first edition of a race with no swim and horrible weather and shit roads? Who is ever going to come back to Cork?
Despite all of what should have killed it, I think instead it made it into what was the most exciting and epic race day I’ve ever experienced.
Admittedly I’m biased, both Bryan McCrystal who rolled the dice and came close to upsetting Ali Brownlee’s day and Emma Bilham the women’s race winner are good friends of mine. But even aside from that it was an unbelievable days racing.
The first edition of Ironman Cork will go down in the memory of anyone there as being probably the hardest race they’ve ever been at.
I’ve been in triathlon for almost seventeen years, Ironman for eleven. I’ve raced sixteen Ironman’s and been at well over a hundred triathlons either racing, supporting, working or watching.
Nothing has ever come close to the excitement, the emotion and the spectacle of yesterday. It was the perfect storm of disasters that unbelievably could turn Ironman Cork into the biggest bucket list race in the world.
Who ever knew that if enough things go wrong you could end up with a success?
It’s a testament to Ironman that they pulled off an excellent event regardless of what was thrown at them. I’m lucky enough to have some backroom access and get to see behind the curtain. I get to see a tiny bit of what it takes to pull off an event like this when the world keeps firing shit at you.
They were brilliant.
Ironman Cork, with the exception of Hawaii, more than any Ironman I’ve raced so far to me embodies what Ironman is, or more accurately what it started out as. This wasn’t going to be a fast, flat motorway drag race. Everything about it was going to be hard.
It was a race that had everyone afraid. Pros and age groupers, seasoned campaigners and newbies. I think a lot were unsure that they’d even finish, I’m guessing that hundreds didn’t even start.
You’d normally expect to think that with a cancelled swim that a race doesn’t count. It’s not an Ironman. We weren’t thinking that fifteen minutes into it. Even that early I knew that this was going to be probably the hardest day any of these people would ever experience and just finishing was going to be incredibly difficult, swim or no swim.
This was a race that could change lives, I seen the effect that finishing something that hard has on people. It changes the way they think, what they believe is possible.
Ironman, especially over the last ten years has become somewhat sanitised, watered down. Through necessity I guess as much as anything. The trend has been for fast, easy, big races. Ones that almost anyone can finish. We benefit with a bigger choice of races but they have to fit into the new Ironman mould. Fast, flat, dare I say easy?
When I did my first Ironman in France in 2008 I maybe knew a couple of dozen people who’d completed one. And I own a tri and bike shop and had been heavily involved in the triathlon scene for five years.
In Ireland back then most people didn’t even know one person who’d done one. And anyone who did Ironman back then seemed almost alien. They had done something that seemed impossible to most of us, myself included even with five years racing triathlon under my belt.
It’s easy to forget what it was a dozen or more years ago. There’s not that many athletes still racing long now who were also racing back then. Ironman is a hard sport to stay in year in, year out.
A lot of things have changed since I started racing, even more in the forty years since the first Ironman but Declan Byrne MD of Ironman UK and Ireland wanted to make the race hard, for it to be what Ironman was when we started out racing each other a dozen years ago.
Ironman Cork in 2019 was to me what the spirit of Ironman is. The challenge. The very real possibility of failure. Of beating your inner demons and overcoming incredibly difficult conditions.
I’ve no doubt they can fix the issues they had with this years race.
I hope they do because I’ve signed up for next years race already.
Chasing Kona eBook available
From smoker to back of the pack triathlete to the Ironman World Championships.
Read about how I overcame all of the odds and discovered what it would take to get to the Ironman World Championships – my eBook is now available to buy as an eBook on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes
It is also available as a paperback at Wheelworx.