My Journey to IM Barcelona & Kona

My Journey to IM Barcelona & Kona

My Journey to Ironman Barcelona and Kona (Eamon McAndrew)

What a day, what a week! Ironman Barcelona this year with all my training buddies and we had a ball in Spain. Having done Mallorca the previous year I knew what to expect and I was very relaxed. My training this year had gone perfectly. I raced a half-ironman in Meath in early June - a month after my Mum passed away and I was definitely not ready to race. I remember wishing for a puncture on the bike after 50km and eventually pulling out after 10km on the run. Previous to this I was chasing glory in the duathlons but at 12 stone and a nick- name of ‘’tommy two pints’’ I was never at the races.

After Meath I started to commit to the cause as I could see I had a mountain to climb. Colm and Ross rolled out the “20 week plan to Ironman Barcelona”. I got a solid block of training done up until our two week holiday in Lake Garda in Italy at the end of July. I had only managed to drop a pound or two at this stage. I have a very understanding wife and when we go on holidays my training window is early morning till lunch. So I biked long and steady pretty much every day for the two weeks. Some days I bricked swim/bike and I would run in the evenings. All in all, I probably trained 50 hours plus in the two weeks. I love Italy, for me, it’s a training Mecca.

So my bike and run were starting to come on line, however my swimming was way off. I raced the Caroline Carney in early August. My swim was well off as I was the last of our crew out of the water. However that day I had a massive bike. I held 295 watts for the 41km,( something that I had never done before in a triathlon). I was so focused on my bike that day that I forgot to eat. As a result of the very high intensity on the bike I blew my run, posting a 38min when I expected a 36min. I was very pleased though, because this was a means to an end.

Fitness is an addiction - the more you get, the more you want. It was starting to come to me. My weight was now down to just over 11 stone. I trained hard for the next three weeks with my team mates. We followed the plan religiously. When you are following a plan it makes you feel guilty if you miss a session. My swimming was still off but they were some positives. I was now swimming consistently 3 times a week.

The Lost Sheep-(two words-Super Race)

I thought I had swam well however I came out two minutes down on the lads, which meant I was still off. That day my bike was humming, I held 260 watts across the Kerry Mountains. I remember getting off the bike and saying to myself “Run to Bust”- so I did. I tried to blow the system but because I had now been training long, the body would not stop giving. I ran 6.08 per mile for the 13 miles up and down hills. I finished 6th that day, behind the top racers in the country. Again the race was a means to an end. Coach Casey pulled me aside and told me a few home truths. My bike and run were on a par with the best of them but my swimming was shocking. He told me Ironman Barcelona was all about the swim for me. If I swam badly, I would chase the race and an ironman is all about pacing not chasing. So I started to swim five times a week. I swam twice on a Monday, (morning 3km and evenings 3km), and a further 10km over three more sessions. Suddenly I was not at the back of the swim group any more, I was holding and pushing the pace. I also changed my wet suit to a Zone 3 Aspire and this gave me a boost in the open water.

Time to Race Ironman Barcelona-8.50

Race:Ironman Barcelona

Weight: 10st 8 pound-race weight

Bike: Botteechia Choroton-just serviced and Sponsored by Chain Driven Cycles

Form: The stars were aligning (confident)

Coaches: Colm and Ross-(Flow Coaching-Plan executed)

Swim - 3.8km-0.59

I planned to swim on Ross’s toes but it was every man for himself at the start. The rolling start was great as it allowed people to find space and a bit of rhythm. The sea was lumpy which suited me as I have a fast short stroke. I felt relaxed on the swim and did loads of sighting- I also got a lot of draft. People who had done a previous ironman and that had finished in the top 10% got gold hats and everyone else got yellow ones. I decided to draft only off gold hats. Normally I swim slightly long due to poor sighting. This time I swam straight. I asked the guy at the swim exit for the time and he said 58min. I knew from that moment that I was right on it. I had a predicted time of 1.02. I also did not feel any fatigue from the swim. I would have done it again…..

Bike 180km-4.38

My plan was to bike slightly below my target watts for the first hour. However, when I got on the bike I felt invincible. I passed Kev at 1km and said “hello”. He nearly crashed his bike when he saw me.” Mouse…, What the *%@#?” I biked hard, above my predicted watts for the first 1.30, and at one of the turnarounds I could see I was in the second pace line. I was in a pace line with about thirty riders who were all strong and committed riders. Riders settled in, allowed the 10m draft rule and rode hard. In this group people knew what they were at and how to race an ironman bike. We had a draft marshal on us for I would say 90% of the race. I eat like a horse on the bike. I have 7 bars and 7 gels and 4 litres of ISO. I also had two pees (without stopping of course!). I felt good on the bike.  The conditions set up for super fast splits.

Run 42.5km-3.07

I was relishing the run. I had done a run test three weeks previous and ran 8.45 for 3 km so I was looking to go close to 3 hours and dreamed of the holy grail of breaking it. This is where I made my only mistake in the race. In T2 I switched on my garmin for the first time and it went looking for new satellites. I could not get an accurate pace until about 7 km on the run. I felt I was running a bit fast but when you come off the bike your legs feel light for the first half hour. When the pace came through it was reading 5.55 per mile pace (3.45km/h). I had just run 5 km in 19 minutes which should have taken 22.30. At 20km I lost a gear and I dropped from 6.45 to 7.00 pace. I held for a finish average of 7.04 for a time of 3.07.30. The initial surge at the start of the run had cost me dearly.

I finished 4th in my age group- 1st, 2nd and 3rd were within 40 seconds in front me. The old Irish record which was never on the cards was 4 minutes away. Oh dare to dream….The record was broken by Bryan Crystal on Sunday and now stands at 8.41. Congratulations to Bryan on this fantastic achievement.

So, I am delighted with my result- I qualified for Kona, smashed 9 hours and got to race shoulder to shoulder with my team mates of whom I am very proud. I raced 2500 people, more importantly I raced 9 people from Sligo. I chased Kev, Ross and Colm on the swim. I chased Ross on the bike. I chased and passed Ross on the run while running for my life from Gary. What a bunch of aerobic animals. My friends at Sligo Tri – Sligo Tri - Till We Die!

So thank you to everyone who helped me along the way. My wife and kids, friends, family and supporters on the day. My coaches Colm and Ross (it appears we now have the secret to ironman success under lock and key in Sligo). Stephen in Chain Driven Cycles for all my nutrition and bike tech. And finally - to my team mates who made training so enjoyable and competitive. What a year we have had, I trained all year with a smile. The lads made me chase them all year, right until the final in Barcelona.

I may have to change my name to Mighty Mouse… (Modest, as always…)

Team Sligo

Eamon Mc Andrew aka mouse - 8:50 (Hawaii qualifier)

Ross mc Lynn aka derossi 8:58 (Hawaii qualifier),

Gary Higgins 9:09 (first ironman),

Paul razor Rutherford (first ironman) 9:13,

Fergal Henry the grinder 9:23,

Kevin snout o Donnell 9:40(first ironman),

Colm aka victor meldrew coach Casey 9:45,

David shadow Gormley 9:48,

Ashley eBay Henry 10:41 first timer.