Taking Part in triAthlone
Updated: Jul 25, 2018
(Published in the Athlone Voice and Run Direct magazine)
The first time I ever heard anyone mention triathlon was over ten years ago when triAthlone CEO and organiser Liam Heavin wanted to find out about improving his swimming stroke, I must admit that the idea of doing a multi-disciplined event sounded very cool and I thought that it was something I would love to, excuse the pun, tri.
Over the weekend, we saw thousands of people from all over the world, come to Athlone, streets filled with cheering spectators and we saw some spectacular athletic performances. It was an amazing sight but I can still remember when it was all but an idea.
An e-mail was sent out, looking for support for a vague project which would be a massive event for the town but was still hush hush and people interested should attend a meeting in the Prince of Wales in early December 2005 to find out more, this was the weekend before the proposal would be unveiled to Athlone Town Council.
Working for the Athlone Voice at the time, I was quickly roped in as PRO and Local Liaison Officer for the event and got to break the story to Athlone with an exclusive in the Voice, the day after an impressive and inspiring presentation was delivered to the Town Council.
With little more than a great name and a lot of ambition, triAthlone 2006 aimed to be the biggest triathlon in the country and for each year to become bigger and better and to host the European Championships in Ireland.
Athlon, a Greek-derived word meaning prize or trophy was very close sounding to our midland town and the organisers intended to give triathlon a home in the centre of Ireland where spectators could watch the events from the historic bridge and banks of the Shannon and cheer the triathletes as the biked and ran through the streets of Athlone.
Being involved in getting triAtlone 2006 off the ground but never actually doing a triathlon, I couldn’t let the European Championships pass by without entering and thought, why not try.
Back in 1999, Liam Heavin had asked me to represent Athlone cycling in Portugal as part of the European People’s Festival which will be held at the end of the month, here in Athlone.
I was a lousy cyclist and the event was 2 days away, afterwards, I asked Liam why I was chosen and the response was, that I was the only one mad enough to go with 36 hours notice.
Taking the same approach, I decided on Tuesday as registration was closing, that I would do this year’s triathlon, without any training. A decision I don’t regret despite the sore joints and aches.
I checked my bike and went for a 5-mile cycle and was happy everything was working fine; I even bought some fancy pants to race in. Full of confidence, I told my friends and family what I was doing and needless to say, they taught I was mad too.
I had enrolled in the try-a-tri event which has a shorter swim than the sprint event and I hoped that some light breaststroke would carry me the 200 metres downstream to the pontoon and that I would have enough energy for the cycle.
The swim proved harder than I expected and swallowing some water along the way didn’t help. On to the pontoon and running past the cheering spectators was a great experience. After passing the crowd and heading into the army barracks to collect my bike, I decided to walk and breathe.
Strong headwinds made the cycle very tough and for 4 miles I had to keep telling myself that the turning point was only around the corner and to just keep going. The turning point took forever to reach but once the wind was on my back it was time to sprint home. The next 10 kilometres were brilliant as I overtook other cyclists. I jumped off my bike when we got back to the crowd and I had now completed 2 of the 3 stages. Unfortunately, running is my weakest point and the next five kilometres around Athlone would be very tough.
A combination of walking and running was all I could manage with my energy gone but claps and encouragement from locals and strangers alike meant that I had to plod on, as best I could. Turning down onto the strand, my friend, Eoin Kiveney ran alongside me for support and passing by Flynn’s Funeral Home, I thought it best to shout my height measurement to Seamus Flynn because I was starting to doubt I could finish the run.
By the time I had made it passed Sean’s Bar, the crowd disappeared and I thought I could walk while no one was watching. Struggling up the steep hill by the former Garbz shop, Margaret Mulligan started pushing me up the hill and I had to start running again. Nearly finished, both me and the race, I had saved some energy for one last burst, and sprinted up Church Street to the finish line. 200 metres swam, 20 kilometres cycled and 5 kilometres crawled in 90 minutes, I was glad I tried.
A difficult experience, worthwhile and one I felt I had to do, having been involved at the early stages. I was very proud to see the town looking so well, attracting so many people and the highlight for me was seeing so many people competing with various disabilities.
There were people in wheelchairs, wearing wetsuits and one blind woman running alongside her guide. If a blind person is brave enough to take part then what excuse have I when I can swim, cycle and almost run. Fair play to the vision in putting triathlon and Athlone together.