What an epic day spent spectating at Ironman UK. Funny enough it’s my first time to watch an Ironman and I think it will be my last. If I’m going to go to the trouble of traveling then getting out of bed at 4am I would rather be doing a swim bike and run rather than just watching. Seeing the swim start gave me goosebumps that didn’t really go away all day. I can normally watch a race without feeling the need to partake but this was different, I just wanted to be out there. We had traveled to watch four friends who were racing. One broke the bike course record, led the race at one point against some of the strongest European and UK pros won not only his age group but the age group race overall and placed 5th beating over half of the pros. Two were there for their first Ironman’s. One of them got onto the podium and finished 68th the other was 182nd despite spending close to 20 minutes in transition. I’m not pointing any fingers but you need to sort that shit out Eoin. The fourth was chasing a Kona slot, an increasingly hard thing to do and was in the hunt until the last hour but still managed a top 10 age group performance. We had another athlete racing Challenge Roth who fairly stormed through the field after a decent swim. We didn’t have access to the tracker so were being sent updates from home but I believe he passed almost 1000 people on the bike and just kept on moving up through the run in one of the best executed Ironman’s I’ve seen. 
Despite Bryan unbelievable showing I think the performances of the day have to go to the first timers who I don’t think have a clue how incredibly well they raced. Cillian had the very exclusive experience of rocking into T2 to find it almost empty. He then spent an hour of the run sharing the course with only a handful of full time professional athletes and those fighting for Kona and podium honours. My first two Ironman runs started with over 1000 athletes already on the run course ahead of me. The first time I experienced arriving into an almost empty T2 and subsequently onto an equally quiet run course it it nearly blew my mind. I couldn’t believe I was up here racing with all of these fast people. I kept on waiting to be found out and sent back to where I really belonged.

Cillian ended his first Ironman experience on the podium and bringing home silverware.

Eoin is the only one of the four athletes we coach and although Ais mostly writes his program I spent quite a bit of time training with him. Eoins background is fighting. No not the outside the pub “I’ll have you” type of fighting but some sort of mixed martial arts. He’s a hard bugger so I wasn’t worried about him falling apart. I knew he would handle the hurt when it arrived and not collapse. His previous sporting endeavours meant if he was the falling apart type he would have spent a lot of time going home in the ambulance. He didn’t really strike me as the sort who was too familiar with the inside of an ambulance. Anyway I digress, he had a solid swim, bike and run and finished inside of the top 200 of a race with over 2000 entrants. And all of that at his first time attempting “the” distance.

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Davey “Ship my Tri bike” Sheridan was on the hunt for one of those increasingly difficult to get Kona slots and was right up there in the chase until the last hour before eventually finishing 9th in his age group. And knowing Dave I’d bet he felt like that was falling apart. It’s only a matter of time Davey, the engine is there it’s just a matter of execution. And a top ten in your age group isn’t a bad day or falling apart despite the fact that it almost certainly feels like that today.

Lastly there is Bryan Mc Crystal. Bryan is turning into one of those incredibly rare people. He’s an athlete with not just a world class engine he’s also the most down to earth guy you could meet. No bullshit, no excuses. Just go out race hard and empty the tank and while there are lots of us who try to do that we don’t really break records in the process and we don’t often beat full time professionals. Bryan went out and for a big lad who can’t swim he still managed to get out of the water in 30th place. He then got onto the part of the race where he is not just good but exceptional. As a related aside I was told a story about Bryan racing in the Ras, the 8 day international pro-am bike race that takes place in Ireland in May. The story goes that an Irish amateur riders rolls up to the start and is asked by one of the full time pros what’s the story with this Bryan Mc Crystal guy? Who the hell is he? He goes on to describe him as an animal and asks how the hell can someone who runs 6’3 and 90+ kilos go uphill as fast as Bryan can? And why does he insist on attacking again and again and again every god damned day until he eventually snaps the elastic and goes up the road chasing that ever elusive win.

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I know that we are all held in thrall of someone with not only the aggression to race in that epic, eyeballs out way but the also has the ability to pull it off.
Anyway let’s get back to Bolton where Bryan went past me at close to the 100k mark and all he wanted to know was the time split. I wasn’t in any doubt as to which time split he was asking for. He wasn’t chasing the age group race. He wanted to scalp the pros who had started over five minutes before him. One after another he thundered past them. His disc wheel announcing his arrival and just as quickly fading to a distant blur. All the time he somehow turns over his monstrously oversized 60 tooth chainring and keeps on hunting them down.

I’m guessing it was no coincidence that the main group of pros split when Bryan caught up to and promptly ride through it. There was now two groups. The rapidly diminishing group of professionals strong enough to go with Bryan and those who blew their lights trying. Harry Wiltshire afterwards said that while it was an absolute pleasure to watch Bryan ride it was much less than pleasurable to have to try to ride with him.

Bryan went on to win not only his age group but also the overall age group race and placed 5th among the pros. He had the fastest bike split of the day by over 10 minutes from the nearest pro and In the process we believe he also broke the course record.

One of our newest athletes was racing in Roth and I reckoned baring mechanical disaster he would have a great day. He went on to prove me right by knocking out a 1:20 swim, 5:30 bike and a 3:49 run. The splits tell the story of a excellently paced race. I’m looking forward to catching up and getting the full run down later this week. Well done Fergal!

A mention should also go to my long time friend Fernando Fuentes who placed 6th in his age group and as I write is in need of a single roll down to punch his ticket to the big island. I’ve all my fingers crossed Fernando.

There was a number of other Irish athletes racing including Stephen Dermody who’s aiming for 4 Ironman finished this year, IMUK was number 2. Well done Stephen!

Patrick Muckian knocked out an incredibly impressive 40th overall but as of the time of writing is outside the Kona slots in 11th in his AG. Fingers crossed for you Patrick. Patrick also deserves a mention as the most supportive racer. He gave us a shout every time he passed, he must have realised how hard this spectating is and reckoned we needed a bit of a lift.

Aidan Callaghan punched his Kona ticket and will stand on the podium with an impressive 3rd in AG, 20th overall and a savage time of 9:53:58.

Jenna Henning won her age group and earned that Kona slot.

I need to start hanging around with people who don’t get onto the podium. I’m now almost the only one without an MDot or Challenge trophy gracing the mantelpiece. I can feel the pressure building for Mallorca. Why the hell couldn’t I have written a blog about how much fun it is to do Ironman’s just for fun as a tourist. But no I had to go and dare myself publicly to try to be fast.

Jesus Robbo W.T.F!?

Related: The Kona Project: Robs training diary

The rest of the Irish results I could find were;

Liam Tyrrell: 120th 11:02

Daragh Hendley 162nd 11:17

Diarmiud Meldon 283rd 11:47

Aodhan Carson 315 11:53

Andrew Bonner 337th 11:59