Background: I’m from Dublin originally but living in Blackrock Dundalk for a long time now! I retired from my job as Principal of St. Louis Dundalk in September 2014 after many happy years there both in teaching and management. My lifestyle was quite stressful with very little time for exercise and fitness. I joined Cuchulainn Cycling Club in Dundalk in September 2013 and quickly found myself enjoying my leisure cycles with Pat’s Saturday Morning Coffee cycle group where we basically toured all the nicest little cafe’s in Louth, Meath and Down!
Why triathlon? I was in London in 2012 visiting one of my daughters when I got to see the Women’s Triathlon in the Olympics based in Hyde Park - got chatting as you do to various people who were all from various tri clubs and who were my own vintage! That definitely sowed a seed of interest as I liked cycling (sight seeing and coffee stop based!) and I could swim. Running was another matter - totally allergic to the idea! It took another while before I tried out the Blackrock Triathlon in June 2013 and then the Try-a-Tri in Camlough in August 2014 (had a major panic attack in the water and literally doggy paddled my way through !). Realising I needed to be able to run I joined a Couch-2-5K programme in Dundalk in January 2015 - the hardest thing for me to do. Over the summer of 2015 I took part in a few triathlons - notably the Crooked Lake, Blackrock and Newry City Sprint. At this stage I had joined Setanta Tri Club and was availing of their masters’ swim sessions but I wasn't taking training too seriously - I could barely run 5km. Generally I was very happy to look after the rear of the field and just complete the event. With a significant birthday looming in 2016 (my 60th!) I put my name down for an Ironman 70.3 in St. Polten, Austria - along with a number of my Setanta club mates! I thought it would be a good way to mark my new decade - whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger as they say!! I also decided to train seriously and being retired have all the time in the world for this! I signed on with Coach Oliver Harkin and he sure worked some transformation! I have no athletic background whatsoever apart from three short years as a competitive swimmer in my teens a long, long time ago! I really enjoyed the training process and literally had the time of my life last year - and did three 70.3 Ironman competitions as well!
My most memorable event so far was the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Moloolaba Beach, Sunshine Coast Australia in September 2016 - absolutely fabulous! I still have very fond memories of Crooked Lake 2015 - my first full sprint distance. I was terrified standing at the water’s edge waiting to start but buzzing afterwards when I completed it! I couldn’t even run 5km and had to walk parts of it just to get there!
Goals this year: lots happening this year - I get to represent Ireland in the Age Group European and World Championships - wearing an Ireland tri suit at my age and stage of life is just so cool! I am also hoping to complete my first full Ironman event in Frankfurt in July.
I have met wonderful people through my involvement in triathlon - a number of my Setanta club mates joined Newry Tri Club which I did also this year. I really enjoy all the training sessions - even the brutal ones!!- and feel that it is better for me to train as much as I can with other people rather than on my own. NTC is very welcoming and inclusive and really caters very well for all ability levels. I love the craic in the tri clubs and everyone gets on so well together! An interesting feature of tri clubs is that they accommodate people who don’t necessarily want to do triathlon but want to develop as a swimmer, or cyclist or runner.
If you are interested at all in the sport of triathlon - don’t hesitate - get involved ! Having only taken it up at 58 after years of inactivity I can certainly say it is never too late to do something new. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and it has come as a total surprise how much the body is capable of doing! I especially want to encourage anyone over 50 reading this - particularly ladies - it is never ever too late! I have never felt so well in all my life and am having an absolute blast - go for it!
A young GAA wannabe: the restlessness of goalkeeping subsided with a trip to Australia, and a couple of dodgy marathons. Jogging with a Walkman in the lush natural amphitheatre of Kilbroney Park ignited a spark for more. More came in the form of a trip to Newry pool one evening after discovering only some of what Kilbroney had to offer: meeting two bald friendlies and a one legged man. He with the single leg was rudely lapping me at a ratio of 4:1. "Lil, the triathlon club only has three members it seems, no wonder, they are bloody fish". The right said Fred lookalikes were super friendly, and well drilled. The bus driver was a welcome fountain of knowledge, and continues to be. The Samari gets married this week. Best wishes.
Mark McElroy lent me bikes, shorts and knowledge to enable my debut with the wheelers Tuesdays and Roe Valley Triathlon. Soon after I was 'borrowing' the school bus to cart 10 of us all over the country to participate. Festivities and fun were a plenty. Many, many a 'rough' night had the mercy of Spacer, Ciarain Hughes, Pete Quinn et al. These Armagh boys weren't so bad after all! Friendships blossomed and trips abroad were next on the agenda. Rapperswill x2, Weisbaden, Zurich, Klagenfurt, Alpe d'huez, and a war of attrition at the Inferno Switzerland brought nothing but sweat and smiles. The summer 'tours' began, itinerary dependent on the next NTC European tour destination. A car, and three vans later we still supertramp around in search of the next alpine adventure. Eternally grateful for Cait's company. Map reading, not so.
Barkin Harkin's running sessions at the theatre of dreams were almost as hard as the 'hell ride's' of the Mourne's. All shapes, all sizes, many different speeds but all with the same aim. Race as hard as you can and have as much fun as you can while doing it. No blogs, no selfies, just old fashioned sweat and tears. Tears of laughter usually at my closest friend's calamities of crashes, punctures, de helmeting himself at the top of difficult climbs, and the infamous German sabotage (crash). Paul McCann called the era of NTC's member explosion 'the golden age'. I concur. Athletes no. Rather hunters for serotonin, dopamine, and laughter. How do we get faster? Take a friend with you next time. More is better, sharing these trails with someone triples the experience. What zone do we train? We look forward, we do, then we look back. The only three zones we really need.
The philosophy of this crew is affectionate: modest, with a friendly belief in doing what you can, when you can, and smiling while you're doing it. Ignorant of background, history, occupation or even proper name at times. Who would complain about such a group. The master of all 'Uncle Tony' (words of Kenny Bagnall). The epitome of chivalry, kindness (in tongue and with pen), and such a sports fan, and sportsman. Again, humble, modest, and a role model extraordinaire. Everyone wants to be like Tony.
After a couple of years away, the clientele have changed a little but the backbone of the club: the ethos, remains the same. Cue the cliche, world wide sportspeople marvel at The Irish sense of community, togetherness and spirit. Buckets of which we have. From where? All the smiles, the 'well done's', the 'jaysus he/she's going well', the 'keep her lit's'. Do your bit for this invisible gift of company, companionship, and care. Keep going, keep smiling, as long as you can do! Oh, and buy a van!
I have always had an interest in sport from a young age, and one of my earliest memories is winning a medal for running up the cobbled streets in Carlingford. I was very lucky that my family encouraged sport from a young age, I played Galeic football, hurling, swimming and represented St. Pauls high school for athletics, so a big thank you to mum and dad for all the pick ups, drop of’s and kit washing. Unfortunately when i was 18, I damaged my knee ligaments and cartilage while playing for my GAA club Lissummon. I required 2 surgeries and now have 2 titanium screws holding my knee in place. This injury but the brakes on my sporting ambitions and sadly i stopped all sports while at university. In 2009 I went along with a friend to watch the crooked lake triathlon (mainly to compete in the 4th event after) and I was captivated by the sport! I was so impressed by the people who participated, it opened my eyes to a new and exciting sport.
When and why did u start triathlon?
After i graduated from University in 2010, I headed to Australia to seek my fortune. Australia is a sporting Mecca, everyone i met had 2 or 3 different hobbies and sports but i still suffered from knee pain which prevented me from enjoying the many organised activities. Until one night after an encounter with some alcoholic beverages and a rodeo bull, i had to get one of the screws in my knee removed. It was a turning point, I no longer had a gamy knee, and most importantly i had no excuses now. The week after i had the screw removed i bought a pair of trainers and joined my friends who where training for a series of fun runs, I was hooked on the feel good glow after a run. Next, the company I worked for had registered for a corporate triathlon and where seeking staff to take part. I jumped at the chance and remembered the admiration i had for the athletes competing at the crooked lake triathlon. My 1st triathlon was on the 14th of April 2013. I was shaking with nerves at the start line as i had never properly swam in open water before, the excitement around the transition area was electric and most importantly the craic was great! Afterwards i was buzzing with adrenaline. From then on i knew triathlon was the sport for me.
Most memorable moment so far?
My most memorable moment in triathlon is still to come, I am really looking forward to competing in the Crooked Lake Triathlon 2017. It was my inspiration to give triathlon a go and as it is my local race there will be a great atmosphere. After joining Newry Triathlon Club i have made many friends and it will be great to swim, bike and run along side them this year. The 4th event in Camlough is memorable too.
Favorite Tri Distance?
So far I have only competed in sprint distances, which are great as its fast and furious. However i have signed up for a few longer distances this year and i am looking forward to pushing the stamina barrier out a bit. The sprint distance is great to get the feel for triathlon and it can be fun to shave the seconds off the disciplines and transition.
Favorite Tri Discipline?
My favourite tri discipline is running. I never thought i would ever say that i love running, but i feel that by the time I transition into the runners my body is in 5th gear and rearing to get to the finish line. I have a competitive streak in me that tells me to push harder and catch the people in front. Wednesday night running sessions provided by NTC are amazing! Oliver Harkin really brings out the better runner in everyone that attends. It can be difficult to get out and go in the winter months but absolutely worth it. Before i joined NTC i was running 10km races around the 53-55 minute mark, the run sessions made me realise my real running pace and my PB for 10km is 42m 18 seconds, i contribute that to the excellent training provided by NTC.
What are your goals for this year?
Last year i had a injury that prevented me from competing in any competitions, i was gutted but i’m hoping to get in as many triathlons as i can this summer. It will be my 1st Crooked Lake Triathlon and i am really excited to take part. I have signed up for longer distance triathlons this year and i want to use these as a stepping stone to the likes of half iron distances next year.
If you could give advice to someone starting triathlon what would it be?
I wish i had of started Triathlon a lot sooner. NTC has some amazing young athletes that no doubt will go one to achieve incredible accolades. NTC also has inspiring athletes who are still competing to a very high standard in their 60’s! So it just proves that triathlon is a sport that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. If there is anyone out there that is considering triathlon as a sport, my advice would be go and watch a triathlon, see the sport taking place, see all walks of life taking part and see the smiles on the faces of the triathletes crossing the finish line. The sport of triathlon changed my life for the better and Newry Triathlon Club is a fantastic club that encourages everyone to take part and enjoy themselves.
I don’t even remember learning to swim.
I think I was about 3. My mum’s primary school headmaster, who was a neighbour, believed that every child in the district should learn to swim. He had a point. As country kids, growing up close to the River Bann, it was inevitable that we would fall in at some point. He just wanted us to have the skills to deal with it.
As I grew up I kept at the swimming and was a member of Portadown Swimming Club although it should come as no surprise to anyone that I was never a sprinter... My other great sporting passion was Equestrianism and I was a member of the Iveagh branch of the Pony Club for many years, until I went to London for Uni.
Once I was home and established into the routine of working life, sporting interests were placed on the back burner. I was working in Belfast and shifts combined with commuting every day didn’t leave much ‘me’ time. It was only when redundancy led to me getting a job with regular office hours in Newry that I started getting back into my swimming. A colleague who knew of my interest, suggested that I try the Lord and Lady of the Lake swim in Camlough. And so it began…
So in August 2009 I rolled up to Raymond McCreesh house for registration for my first ever open water swim. Catherine Murphy looked dubious, even though I assured her I’d been training flat out in Portadown Pool. As I boarded the bus in my togs to head up to the top of the lake, I began to understand her scepticism – every other competitor on that bus was wearing a wetsuit and I began to wonder what the hell I’d got myself into. Undeterred, I did the swim, and finished – mainly thanks to Des Murphy staying by my side in the kayak throughout (and lying about how far there was to go). The next thing I knew, I’d signed up to take part in the World Record Relay swim. As Des remarked as I was wading into the lake to do my third 1500m of the record I was; “…the woman who came to Camlough two weeks ago and never went home.”
I’d well and truly been bitten by the OWS bug, and in this part of the country that brings you into contact with a lot of triathletes who quickly became firm friends. Everyone was always on at me to give triathlon a go, even though I never thought I’d be remotely able for it. In the meantime, I kept going with my swims adding ice swimming and channel swimming along the way. I decided to join NTC at the start of 2016, mainly because my friends were all members and were having such good craic, but also to avail of the swim training opportunities provided by the club. There may have been a vague notion of starting triathlon, however fate intervened and my 2016 season was written off by ill health which led to me having three surgeries in relatively quick succession. These things happen.
By the start of 2017, I was sufficiently recovered to start training again and coincidentally had lost enough weight by that point to make cycling a realistic prospect. With encouragement from Judith Campbell, Ciara Phillips, Gary McCourt and others (including Jacqueline McClelland, who has been the little voice in my ear encouraging me to do impossible things for a number of years) I renewed my club membership, joined TI and set about triathlon training. Couch to Crooked Lake gave me a goal to aim for and a group of likeminded new friends to train with. So far I’ve completed try-a-try and Crooked Lake. I never, ever thought that it would be possible. And honestly? Without the help and support from NTC – Jack and Olive at the pool, Shane and Seamus on the bike, Orlagh on FB Messenger – it wouldn’t have been (so far, I’ve been too much of a coward to go and see Oliver at the track – not that you’d ever tell…). The good news is, if you see my name on the entry list, you cannot come last – that spot is taken!
I still have a long way to go and an awful lot to learn about triathlon, but I’m looking forward to the adventure. I’ll always be a swimmer first and foremost, but training for Crooked Lake 2018 starts this week! In the meantime, I’ll be taking full advantage of all the training opportunities and FUN that comes with being a member of our club.
Growing up in Belfast in the seventies, my early childhood sporting memories are of long summer evenings spent flying up and down the hill of the street on my Rayleigh Chopper bike. This usually involved giving a least one friend a ‘backy’ up the hill. Little did I think it would be early hill training for triathlon. Indeed I’m not really sure triathlon existed then.
For me, school sports day was definitely the highlight of the primary and early secondary school year. Lunch times were spent for weeks before practicing for the various athletic events. I always favoured running and the hurdles. Unfortunately, as was the case for many females at that time the opportunities in sport were limited and I never really pursued my athletics at that age.
University years were spent doing laps of The Botanic Inn and the Students Union as opposed to the track. There were the occasional trips to Queen’s PEC but it wasn’t until joining the real world of work that I got into running. Around that time Sean McGreevy appeared on the scene. He was sport mad and as a result, many Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent watching him play soccer in the Carnbane League for Creive Rovers and Gaelic for Clonduff. Fed up standing at the side lines and not wanting to be outdone by a County Down man, I decided, I too was going to train and started running with Sean and then competing in road races, cross country and a bit of mountain running.
Several years later the children arrived and life was somewhat different. It didn’t take long to discover that there just weren’t enough hours in a day to look after small children, work full time and race but I still enjoyed the freedom of a run. A dash out the front door to clear your head. The best medicine ever!
I am usually glued to the Olympic Games and remember the first time triathlon featured as an event. It looked exciting and I thought I wouldn’t mind giving it a go but like quite a number of adults, I couldn’t swim. I had fallen into an outdoor swimming pool when I was around six years old and had developed a fear of drowning. In 2015, after a few failed attempts at swimming lessons and a lot of gentle persuasion from Carol McCartney, I signed up for lessons again. Chapters could be written on my swim story. The journey involved the encouragement of so many people -Milo, Donna, David, Shane, Jack, Olive , Oliver, life guards at the pool, all the many accomplished swimmers in NTC and off course my morning swim lane- Mickey and Bridgeen, Pete, Ciaran and Brian, to name but a few. They are the most selfless group of athletes that I have ever met. I honestly wouldn’t be swimming without their help. Thank you all.
Most memorable moment so far
The 23rd of July 2016 Top of The Mournes. My first triathlon. I don’t know what I was thinking of or how I managed to get talked into it but it was quite an event. The atmosphere was electric, the scenery was fabulous it was just interrupted by a 1500m sea swim, 40k mountainous cycle and 10k off road run. I remember thinking, ‘I’ll be grand once I get this swim and cycle finished and onto the run’. Little did I realise that my legs would literally buckle beneath me when I got off the bike and tried to put one foot in front of the other. I still don’t know how I managed to finish.
I actually really enjoy all three disciplines now. Running for its simplicity and accessibility, you just fire on a pair of runners and away you go. Cycling, for the sense of speed and freedom on the bike. The climb to the top of the hill and the wind whistling past your ears on the way down. It’s like being a child again and there definitely is something therapeutic about swimming, especially in the sea. No two open water swims are ever the same.
Favourite distance and goals for the year
At this stage, I’ve only tried two sprint distances and Top of The Mournes. I think I’ll try a few more sprints and a few ‘normal’ Olympic distance events this year and then decide.
Be patient. You will eventually swim to that buoy and get your foot into the cleat on the bike without falling. I’m hoping for my own sake that T1 and T2 do become quicker and legs do get used to jumping off bikes and running.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to triathlon and the opportunity to meet so many outgoing and fun people of every age. I believe triathlon keeps you young…..where else in adult life do you get the excuse to plunge in a lake, horse around the roads on your bike and route through the countryside in your runners?
I played for Carrickcruppen for ten years up to minors and loved the fitness end of things, but wasn’t the greatest with the ball. Then, as I started my apprenticeship as an electrician, I turned to the dark side...I became addicted to watching the Premier League in the pubs , smoking and drinking every weekend.
I joined Newry Triathlon Club sort of by chance. Fast forward to 2014. Lisa persuaded me to come along to the Swimming Pool one Thursday night. After two lengths I was exhausted. This made me realise I had to stop smoking and get my fitness levels back up. After only a few weeks, Lisa got moved to London with work for over a year. I was at a loose end so I continued swimming on Thursday nights by myself. One night I happened to notice a large group going in as I was leaving and inquired with the receptionist who they were and why they looked so enthusiastic at this time of night. She told me they were Newry Triathlon Club and were always looking for new members...and so it all began.
My most memorable moment to date by far is completing my first Camlough triathlon. It seemed like such a monster of an event at the time. I didn’t know whether I would drown in the water, get lost on the cycle or collapse on the run. Luckily enough none of these things happened, however it turned out I was overly enthusiastic. I reckoned leading at the front was the best way to avoid danger in the swim, so I started off with the big boys. After about 50 metres I ran out of steam and had to tread water to get my breath back while getting trampled by a stampede of seasoned athletes.
My favourite tri distance is a sprint as endurance is not my strong point.
My favourite triathlon without a doubt is Top of the Mournes. The best part is when you turn left at the junction at the top of Atticall, the hill climb stops, your legs recover slightly, you catch your breath and you get a few moments to relax and admire the scenery before you realise there are two well hidden, enormous hills awaiting your ascent.
My favourite discipline swimming.
My goal this year, is to complete Top of the Mournes in under three hours. Last year I missed out by 1 minute so this year I will have my vengeance.
My advice to someone new, don’t make the mistake I did of rushing out at the start of the swim. Rule 10:: Count to five!
To me NTC is all about community, encouragement, support and the social aspect.
As a child growing up I was never able to participate in sporting activities due to a birth defect on my right ankle. This was as a result of being 3 months premature back in the mid 60's with limited medical treatment being available. I wore a caliper from the age of 4 to 12 so basically all my primary school education. I always had an interest in sports especially football but as running was out of the question it was a definite No No. Even though I had the must have chopper bike my spins along the hilly streets of Newry where I grew up were few. I was told that swimming would be helpful for my ankle so thats where I spent many a weekend and summers day trying to perfect that kick!
When and why did you start Triathlons?
The triathlon bug began back in February2010 when i entered the Bessbrook 10k charity run. It was here that i met Gerry Patton who then organised the Bessbrook Duathlon. I took part in this duathlon twice the first time on a mountain bike complete with a shopping basket! but i still managed to finish it! I knew the only thing missing was the swim so I took a drive up to see the crooked lake triathlon unfold back in 2011 .... I was buzzing and decided there and then I would do it the following year as age was only a number! I participated in the Tri a Tri Aug 2011 and loved it.
I joined Newry tri club 2012 and I have met people that I still remain friends with today. I always took the training sessions seriously and rarely missed them plus the craic was mighty. I went by the motto "winter miles summer smiles." I was never going to break any records for speed but taking part and finishing felt great.I did the Crooked Lake Triathlon 2012 closely followed by Muckno Triathlon that year.
Most memorable moment so far?
That would have to be this years crooked lake time as I took 9 minutes off the previous effort so I was delighted all that training had paid off.
Has to be swimming as it was the only discipline that I could do from that early age pain free.
Goals for this year?
To try and beat my previous time from Top of the Mourne last year. 9 minutes seems an awful lot but ill give it a go!
Work on your weaker discipline as the natural ability for the stronger one will shine through
Believe and you will achieve.
What does tri club mean?
There are no social exclusions or boundaries in this club. you are in a world where everyone helps one another no matter what. All ages all abilities and everyone is clapped and applauded and spurred onto that all important finish line.
Apart from the healthier and fitter lifestyle that comes with the commitment the fourth event and friends are an added bonus!
My journey in the world of triathlon began 6 years ago in 2011, Tale of the tape – 42 Races, 2 Punctures, 1 DNF.
Growing up my sporting history was far from illustrious. Gaelic was one of limited choices we had while growing up. Swimming was not in my skill set, Biking was just an easier option when you didn’t want to walk somewhere, and growing up on a farm running was done in Welly boots shifting cattle.
Why on earth you may ask did I take up Triathlon? Probably the same reasons as most people do; Curious, new challenge, to get fit, to enjoy the “I did it” feeling while sinking a pint in Quinn’s in early June!
Prior to joining Newry Triathlon Club, I had run a few half marathons and 10ks, none of which I enjoyed at the time, but was getting ever more addicted to the euphoric endorphin release I got crossing each finish line. A charity cycle event followed on a borrowed bike, the discipline I fell in love with immediately, left me thinking, there is 2 out of 3, now go and learn how to swim.
My eldest brother Shane a long-standing member of NTC, with multiple races of every distance under his belt advised me to go along the coached swim sessions on Thursday nights. Perseverance and stubbornness coupled with the invaluable guidance and patience of Milo over the course of 4 months got me to start line of my first triathlon.
I crossed the finish line at Blackrock (having over trained in the swim discipline by 4 months!) feeling delighted with myself, proud as punch looking at my new piece of bling smiling for photographs when I was brought back to earth with a massive thud by the Godfather of Triathlon Tony Bagnall. Every race I compete in I’ll always remember Tony gasping for air telling me “Ruairi you didn’t go hard enough, if your fit to talk now, you clearly didn’t go hard enough!”
Race after race followed, I had truly been bitten by the Triathlon bug
Travelling the length and breadth of Ireland and abroad to race with clubmates from Newry Tri Club many a memory will be cherished…
Puncturing at my first ever Crooked Lake race, being lifted by a motorbike marshal to have the puncture repaired at a nearby bike shop. Being left conveniently back in a van with a few miles to go, may or may not have happened (Catherine it’s Not a DQ offence if it wasn’t seen)
Battling it out for the imaginary “Mc Keown Cup” contrived by the 2-glass drunk Sean Featherstone, with my older siblings Darren & Shane over a number of races.
Each and every race was different, and each would tell their own story, but all run a similar pattern…
*Lining up with clubmates during race briefings assisting each other with our wetsuits with excitement of butterfly’s in the stomach flying above a pool of adrenalin.
*Jumping into cold water which suddenly turns warm 10 seconds after the starter horn and a few kicks in the face.
*Sprinting to T1, with one arm behind your back wishing that clubmate who helped you during the briefing was there to unzip your wetsuit. Not being able to find your bike and fumbling with your helmet.
*Trying to mount your bike a bit more gracefully than what looks like a baby elephant riding without stabilisers for the first time.
*Having Tony Bagnall’s words echo through my head as I ride my bike and trying to dismount a bit more elegantly than bambi on ice.
*The immaculate Transition you left as you went for your race briefing now resembles a bomb site as you fire your carbon fibre steed to one side and stumble out of T2 with jelly legs akin to a 4-glass drunk Featherstone!
*Emptying the tank on the last portion of the run remembering to not look like a donkey having an epileptic fit crossing the line.
I have no preference to any race distance, although my body and screaming heart rate prefers longer stuff, I just love racing.
The atmosphere, encouragement and sense of community at every race is clear to see. These traits are also what makes joining a Tri Club the best decision you will ever make.
Newry Tri Club has over the years ticked all those boxes for me. Not only do they have excellent training sessions and training races throughout the year, but this year have successfully organised 3 high standard races (TOTM, Newry City, SAW). Kudos must be given to the hard-working committee members.
If you have the smallest desire to take part in Triathlon, my advice is just go for it, join your local club, you have nothing to lose, you won’t regret it!
For me the journey from welly boots to wetsuit has been superb, thanks to the advice and encouragement from all the club mates and friends I have made via NTC. I hope to continue to participate in this fantastic sport for many years to come.
So I don’t come from a sporting background at all, in fact my background could not be further removed. For many years I was a musician who played in bands with lots of late nights, parties and beer!
My brother Gary was doing the Crooked Lake Tri about 4 years ago so my wife Jenny and I decided to head out to Camlough to support him and see what all the fuss was about. Little did I know how inspired I would be. The buzz and energy about the place was infectious, it was a little like being on stage people clapping and cheering urging you on , I said to Jenny I would love to do something like this, but I had no idea where to start.
A few weeks later I bought a pair of cheap “gutties” ( I had no idea how much that buy would come back to bite me) I asked Gary to go for a run with me, by the way I literally couldn’t run the length of myself, so off we went ..... That was the start of my journey.
I got a bike using cycle scheme, result!!! I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid, or been to the swimming pool in years. I found swimming the easiest even though I could only do two lengths of the pool but if u can do two lengths push a bit and get three done then four and so on next thing I knew I wasn’t counting in lengths but in 100 meters. I found running difficult at first sore knees, shin splints, blisters I have had them all but once my body adapted I really started to enjoy running. I will never forget the feeling of achievement when I completed my first 5k race and then 10k and half marathon. I find cycling the hardest discipline- not sure why, maybe someone reading this could give some help with that.
My favourite tri distance has to be sprint because I haven’t done any longer distance yet but that will soon be rectified, hopefully I am going to do the South Armagh Warrior tri later this year. I’m also thinking that a marathon could be on the horizon next year.
My favourite discipline has to be swimming especially in open water. I just love the tranquillity of being out there on your own with nothing but the sound off your breathing and the water.
If I could give someone new to triathlon some advice it would be to not be afraid to get out there and try, to not do too much too soon as it takes time for your body to adjust to so much exercise and lastly to get the right gear for you, as I said buying cheap trainers is not the way to go I was injured for a few months by just running in the wrong shoes.
I am a new member to NTC but so far it has been a really great experience. The other members are fantastic at giving you help and tips during training sessions and also at pushing you on and giving lots of support during those all important races.
Thanks NTC for everything and I’m sure I will continue to be motivated to achieve bigger and better goals.
Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.
TRI STORY TO DATE
Well it’s not a dissertation as yet but more an introductory paragraph
BACKGROUND/OCCUPATION/SCHOOL SPORTS ETC…I
Growing up I was the youngest of four children and my involvement in sports was mainly through school as I was on the netball team. That is where it ends! My childhood of playing tig, going on my skateboard and playing British bulldogs was the extent of my physical exertion.
I was passionate about Art and had the opportunity to study in Germany where I acquired a bike as a means of transporting me to college by day and the pub by night. This was then brought back to Belfast for my final year in University where I dodged the buses and pedestrians enroute to Art College every day; how I never had an accident I will never know.
Graduating from University with a degree in Design I then did a PGCE in Liverpool and remained in England working as a teacher for 10 years. 12 and a half years ago my husband daughter and I moved back to the Emerald Isle to be closer to our families. Since then I have remained in Education and also work as a practising artist from my studio.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START?
I started to walk very fast and introduce a wee trot into my stride about six years ago. This progressed into running; initially short distances and eventually doing half marathons. My running was not just for my physical wellbeing but a way to combat my struggle with depression. It was instrumental in my journey to feeling well again and the fear of it rearing its ugly head again resulted in exercise featuring massively in my daily life. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a small family of runners under the watchful eye and expertise of Jeanette Keenan. She trained us hard and gave us the technical wizardry that was needed to have good running form and prevent injury. We all shared many an early morning travelling to Dublin whether to race or support one another. Those times were precious and we all still remain in contact to this day.
About two years ago I started to feel that whilst I enjoyed running I needed a new challenge. Not many people know this but Peter Mc Conville is my brother!!! He encouraged me to go to the track sessions on Wednesday’s. So eventually I gave in and Oliver Harkin, the taskmaster and triathlete whiz kid put us through our paces and gave us no choice but to push our bodies to the limit. Listening to the others running round the track talking about the club I then decided to take the plunge and join up. Bearing in mind I only owned a polka dot bikini and only ‘doggy paddled’ on my summer holidays as a means of cooling down, I knew this was going to be one hell of a challenge. So after purchasing goggles and a swimming suit I turned up to the pool and Milo, Shane, John, David and Jacqueline started us off with the basics. Each week I was moved up a lane but really struggled with the breathing. I was overwhelmed by the support and advice offered from everyone. The plan was to do the tri a tri and not drown! I had never been in a lake in my life so that was another challenge I had to face. The tightness of the wetsuit combined with the coldness of the water and
simply the fear of not being able to swim left me feeling utterly terrified. Judith Campbell stayed by my side and my dear friend Cathal Bagnal canoed next to me on the day. I don’t think I ever felt as scared in my life. I did it, badly and with no technique and gasping like a maniac but I got out of the water, with no elegance or style. Like a drunken hippo I swayed about and managed to get to the transition area and as they say ‘more hurry, less speed’, I’m not sure of my time but I know it certainly wasn’t quick! I have to say I have never done anything as thrilling in my life. The feeling of finishing that tri a tri left me hungry for more.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT SO FAR?
Camlough Lake Tri 2017. This was my first proper sprint Tri. I had put lot of time into the swimming before this event as I wanted desperately to swim the entire distance properly taking no breaks and not gasping for air. I managed it and for the duration of the event I smiled like a Cheshire cat. The sense of achievement I felt could never be matched. Whilst I was surrounded by amazing triathletes it’s your own journey that is the most important thing. Never compare yourself with anyone else, everyone has their own story to tell and you have to start somewhere.
FAVOURITE TRI SO FAR?
Definitely the Camlough Lake Tri. Top of the Mournes relay was a super event but boy was the bike ride one hell of a challenge. Swimming in Newry Canal was another milestone, the Newry Tri was a great event, a flat course but the dead fish and rats certainly made me swim a bit faster to get out of the water.
Sprint, the distance suits me better and I can cope with the attention span for each discipline over this distance.
FAVOURITE TRI DISCIPLINE?
Well if you had asked me that question 5 months ago I would have said the running but having worked so hard on the swimming I just love the fact that I have learned to swim at my grand old age. In the words of my bro ‘anything’s possible’.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THIS YEAR?
Well I really am only just starting my journey so the aim is to train hard across all three disciplines so I am starting next session strong. I want to desperately improve my swimming, gain strength and endurance on the bike and improve my running times.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO SOMEONE STARTING TRIATHLON, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would advocate this sport to anyone! Don’t shy away from something which is new, you’re never too old for a challenge and life really is too short to have regrets. If I can do it, anyone can believe me.
SUM UP WHAT NTC MEANS TO YOU?
Well honestly it has made a big difference to my life. I get to share this with my brother whom I hero worship. The people I have met are simply incredible. The warmth, the encouragement, the friendliness and the sense of belonging is overwhelmingly. No matter what time you complete your race in everyone claps and cheers you across the finish line like you’re in the Olympics! There is always someone you can talk to and ask questions – there is a lot to learn but it’s a journey not a destination.
This is a sample text. You can click on it to edit it inline or open the element options to access additional options for this element.
I knew very little about triathlons before I joined NTC …and judging by my times I still don’t!
Coming from a GAA background but long retired from any sporting activity, taking up triathlons wasn’t premeditated. It was something that happened organically. After a back injury and spending more time with my physio than my wife, he suggested I take up cycling or swimming as alternative activities to keep fit and put less stress on the body. I didn’t own a bike and hadn’t been in a pool for the best part of 25 years. I decided the swimming was the lesser of the two evils.
I booked myself a 6 week course of adult swim lessons and took it from there. At the end of last year I then met a cousin who had recently joined NTC who encouraged me to give it a go. At that time I also met the human dynamo that is Orlagh- a great asset to NTC- who works at the leisure centre that I use. I mentioned in passing about the idea of a tri – before I got out the door she had me convinced that I was the missing Brownlee brother and I was signed up in January.
My first outing was a duathlon organised by NTC on a cold but fresh Sunday Morning on the 4th February. I borrowed a bike from a friend and had no idea how to work the gears or even attach the font wheel (I have to thank one of the Jackson five for help on that one). I just pedalled like a trojan and hoped for the best. Even the shock of my first transition from bike to running didn’t put me off- I was hooked.
I was also really impressed by the range of coached training that NTC put on and the volunteer effort to ensure newbies like me have all the skills and confidence to do a triathlon. The CTCL programme really does cater for all abilities. I was also encouraged by the fact that there were many people in the same boat as me and from a wide range of sporting backgrounds and none. I also found existing members very giving of their time in answering questions and queries and I also now know that an aerobar has a completely different meaning in tri speak.
Due to a busy work life and working as an unpaid taxi to five active children most evenings, the majority of my training is done in short bursts at crazy o clock. The 9pm start time for the swim sessions was actually one of the things that appealed to because of that. While I wasn’t able to avail of all the various sessions on offer, one of the most valuable experiences for me through the club was preparation and acclimatisation to the lake - my first time in the lake is up there with other life affirming events -marriage, children, Sam Maguire in 2002. But by race day, I can honestly say the lake was a very comfortable place to be in and I knew I could do the 750m swim having already rehearsed it. The club Aquathon series is also very good in preparation for the coached to crooked lake tri.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for me. My first tri- Crooked Lake -very nearly didn’t happen. Six weeks out from the event I got an injury and only decided the day before the event that I was going ahead (after talking to my physio who at this stage is now part of the family). I missed much of the cycle sessions around the route and hadn’t been able to run that whole time, but had it in my head that I was doing it. I also had great encouragement from other members who have had similar experiences. So my first tri was the first time I had actually put all three elements together and it was bittersweet- the fear that my untested injury would blow up but a great sense of achievement that I had done it afterwards. It was also a great carnival atmosphere and I met friends that I hadn’t seen in years, also going through the same midlife crisis.
From having done no competitive sport for years, I have done one 10k, two duathlons and four Tri’s and have come to the realisation that I’m now a medal junkie – only putting on the black and gold costume if the medal has enough bling.
My first season has been about enjoying the experience – so much so that I didn’t wear a watch for any event - I don’t wear a watch in my daily life. I am now leaning to the idea that the old wrist clock may well have to be worn next season as I hope to try to improve on some areas. For example, I hope to spend a bit more time getting better on the bike and would be happy to avail of a few good tips and sessions with the rest of the gang- except Cailum who hits the ground more times that a premier footballer in the penalty box! Only joking lad you had a great season.
I would encourage anyone who is thinking about becoming more active and even has a passing curiosity in triathlons or something different to consider the coached to crooked lake programme as it has served the class of 2018 very well.
Grownup on the Armagh road area of Newry. It would have been hard not to be into sports.
The baby boom of 1968 saw about 20 lads all the same year in school.
So we competed in the playground and at home with the same bunch.
Every time 1 tried a sport . You would be sure you would have at least 4 or 5 of the 1968 babies trying it as well.
As we all got older we started to pick the sport we thought we where best at.
One of the lads I ran around with was Barry Monaghan.
He was brilliant at any of the sports we tried in our younger days.
It was Barry who suggested that we do a triathlon back in 1983 or 84.
We where only 14 .
So Barry lead the training ( nothing much has change there then).
Myself and David McKevitt just done as we where told , with little to no knowledge if what we where doing was correct.But we knew Barry would know.
On the morning of the triathlon,myself,Barry and David line up in the middle lane in the swimming pool.
There was 3 waves and we where in the first.
My brother Phelim was in the 3rd wave.
As we stood at the back behind 3 older men.
They advised over the loud speakers that the fastest swimmers should go to the front. I said to Barry I thought we should be in front of the men.
Barry although a very good swimmer was not sure we would be faster than the adults.
But I decide to speak to men and right enough we where faster and past then twice in the 10 lengths.
Then out of the pool into the changing room to get ready for the run(yes I did say run)
I took me for ever to get dryed and dressed for the run.
We then run round the town and then picked our bikes up at the sports centre.
Me and David were together for the whole of the race.
Barry had left straight after the swim.
We cycled down the carriageway and back to the sports centre.
It was brilliant.
But that is where it stopped it would be at least 30 years later , when I would attempt my second triathlon.
My brother had kept them up right through until about 2 years before I did my second.
He thought he had retired, but when I started to get involved again, the brotherly competition started.
The first pic is the one that convinced me I had to change. This was my 40th birthday, exactly ten years ago.i started to walk and tried to eat better.For 3 years I walked and walked.this gave me a bit of fitness and stop the outward spread.But I was lacking a proper challenge to get me into shape.
I was soon to get 2.
One was toco plate the 3 peaks challenge.( walk the 3 highest peaks in Britain within the same 24 hours, including the travel between each mountain.I did this with my brother and good friend Paul Syddall.
It took me 2 attempts.
Next I receive a blue envelope from my neighbour . It had been posted into his house by mistake. It read on the front, if you choose to open this envelope you have excepted the challenge you have been set on the letter within.When I opened it the challenge was to complete the crocket lake and top of the mournes triathlons. I was not confident at all so I said nothing.Then another neighbour asked if I had received anything in the post(Jacqueline McClelland).I knew then who had put my name forward and that I would have to except the challenge. Thanks Jacqueline 😡
So i had to start trianing. My sister Jane had done a few crocked lake triathlons. this was my first call to ask where to start. She told me to start swimming and get my strenght up.
I did this for a few months. And as soon as we could we headed for the lake, this was a shock to the system. Jane advised we stay close to the shore line. But i thought i could easly do the 750 route.
The first marker seemed like it was floating away every time i lifted my head to check if i had reached it. When after what seemed for ever i reached the marker , i lay back and rested for 15 minutes. Then it was of to the next marker. This was a bit easier.
When i reached it and looked to the finish line in the distance, i thought no way can i do that. Might be safer swimming to the shore . But my little sister was there beside me and then the thought ( i cannot give up in front of my wee sister kicked in).
So of i went , every stroke felt as if i was getting no where. But the thing that i still use today and i believe the majority of triathletes use was just keep thinking to my self if i keep going forward i will eventually get to the finish.This was the same the first time i went for a proper cycle. I was cycle along not a care in the world and i stopped turning the pedals to go round a corner, When i went to start turning the pedals they had seized. it seemed to be taking all my strenght to turn the pedals.all sorts of thought where going through my head. What is wrong with this stupid bike.
Of course i now know if was my legs that had seized. Again i found my self stranded. Miles from home and legs that would not work. So i rested for 30 minutes and headed home. One turn of the pedals after the other until i got home. Running was not too bad as i always employed the i can walk if i need to strategy.
So of i went to my first tri a tri.250m swim, this was strange as all of a sudden my breathing was harder, everthing was rushed. Out of the water on to the bike and again could not seem to get enough air into my lungs, then the run.Again i could not fill my lungs. But then there was the finish line.After what seemed to not have had a proper breath for hrs and cold and wet I was finished. And l felt that sense of achievement i had not felt in other sports i had done previsely. but i did have a flash back to when i was 14 finishing the Newry triathlon and remember the same feeling.
Onto the first of my challenges.The crocked lake.Our Jane trained me for this and she was brilliant. On the day of the race Jane showed me what to do and what to watch out for.There were 3 waves. I think 200 in each. It look terrifying seeing all the people in the water. Not as terrifying as when i was my turn to get in amongst them. Even though by now i had realised that i needed to control the adrenaline so that i could control my breathing. I could not. the excitement,the nerves and the fear where in control. I had fond a nice spot to start my swim, but as we where about to start a lad move in front of me and the competitor in me kicked in and thought i not having that . And when the horn went i but my head done and swam as hard as i possible could. I do,nt think i came up for a breath for about 70m. When i did i was in the middle of all these swimmers and i was all right.I really enjoyed the swim. Out of the water and into trans 1. It took me 5 minutes to get out of my wet suit and out on the bike.The bike was tough but i did enjoy it, Off the bike and of on the run, this was hard going up the hill on the first lap was a struggle . On the second lap i thought i going to walk, but i kept going and as i turned the corner looking down Camlough lake and down the road to the finish line a calmness came over me.I was taking it all in ( for about 200m) then a fellow competitor passed me , And of i went into a sprint to try a beat them over the line, i didnt but the crowd give us both a cheer💪 the finish at the crocked lake is one of the best . Everyone was there in the crowd , family and friends .And all the other triathletes.
The 2nd part of my challenge was The Top Of The Mourns. For all triathletes this is the one that you should do. It is a though test of yourself. And also breath taking in its route.even though it was very difficult it is the one that i always fit into my season.
The best thing about triathlon is the people involved. Even though not one triathlete i have ever met does any training ( hi have you been doing much, no just ticking over, And them looking like Alistiar Brownlee). in my first steps into triathlon i trained on my own. But now i use the coached secession with newry tri club. These are brilliant. The crack is good and the time passes quickly and you improve with out realizing it .
If someone had told me four or five years ago that I’d be sitting down to write a member profile for a triathlon club, I would have definitely sent for the men in white coats for them. As a kid growing up in Newry I suppose I did all the normal sporting things. I did a bit of running as a pre-teen with Eamon Kearns up in the High Street area, played a wee bit of gaelic football with The Shamrocks (apologies to all the Bosco friends I would meet later in life, but Gooser McLoughlin hoovered all the kids in my area up for the Shamrocks) and played the mandatory 5 hour soccer games in the street and local parks until “yer Ma” called you in for your tea and it was always next goal wins regardless of the score. The goal posts were two jumpers and there were regularly protests against a ref that didn’t exist. Simpler times which I look back on very fondly. As I got into my teens I started boxing for Ballyholland, Francie Pollock trained us up in what is now the INF hall down towards the track of the foot. I also started playing golf at school in the Abbey grammar where Pat Mooney was the teacher in charge. I had to stop the boxing which I loved as I was hit quite badly with asthma as a teenager. My Ma took me to some wizened old dude somewhere down near Kilkeel who it was said had “the cure.” His solution, and I kid you not, collect the cream of the milk for 9 days in a separate bottle and then take over the next 5 days. I can still taste that rancid gloop and it still makes me wretch. That’s not the best of it though. His piece de resistance was to make some homemade soup. Not ordinary homemade soup though. No, this one had to have a special ingredient….A MOUSE!! Thankfully my Ma was scared stiff of mice so I didn’t have to endure that remedy. Sorry ma but I told you I’d get you back one day. I continued with the golf though which I played to a pretty good standard and have maintained a single figure handicap for about 35 years now. The single figure is a bit higher than it used to be nowadays though.
Favourite Sporting Personality: Muhammed Ali
When and why did I start triathlon
5 years ago, in 2013, my brother Alan and his mate Cyril O’Reilly for some reason decided to start training and get into triathlon. I think it was probably something that seemed like a good idea over a few pints in the Bears when they were reminiscing over their glory days playing for the windmill stars and genuinely wondering how the club had managed to survive their retirements. Anyway, I went along to watch them at a couple of triathlons that year, Crooked Lake and Top of the Mourne. I was I think 47 then. I wanted to lose a few pounds and eventhough I had reduced my smoking to 3 or 4 a day I wanted to kick it completely and generally feel fitter and healthier. The inexorable march of time gave this impulse a critical mass and I resolved to start to do a “wee bit” of training. When I started I couldn’t run 500m without stopping. I didn’t own a functioning bike and I could only swim the breast stroke. So I got a hold of Milo’s phone number, called him and had a few swimming lessons with him. Thanks Milo. I’m still not what I consider a good swimmer and it is the discipline I probably focus on the least so there is much room for improvement there. I got my first bike, a giant defy 0 through the cycle to work scheme and I bought a decent pair of trainers. The one big advantage I had was that I love the early morning. It is my favourite part of the day and the world is a beautiful place then. People have wonderful experiences with nature at those times of the day. Some memorable ones for me are swimming amongst seals off Clougherhead one morning. A hawk leading me down a road whilst on the bike for maybe 400m and a stag running alongside me on the other side of the hedge along the towpath. Real life affirming stuff which you don’t get lying in your bed or behind any pharmacist’s counter. So 2014 arrived and I entered my first triathlon Camlough try a tri. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but I did it and felt like I had done something good for me. 2015 was really my first full year. I joined NTC and went along to the evening swim sessions on Thursday nights. I started in the slow lane and gradually moved up until I could hold my own with the mid range swimmers. I started to enter some more events since I am the type of guy who needs something in the diary to work towards to help with motivation. In 2015 I did Blackrock Sprint triathlon, Crooked Lake, lough Neagh, Newry and Muckno. I also did some other non triathlon events like the King of Gullion 10k, PIPS 10K and my first ever 10 mile road race for H.A.N.D. The year was also punctuated with a few cycling sportives to inject some balance.
2016 arrived and I decided I would take the massive step for me of attempting a half Ironman. I would be fifty that summer and thought that would be a fitting tribute to my half century on the planet. So with much trepidation I signed up for Ironman Dublin 70.3. Before that though there was the small matter of our club race Top of the Mourne to get done. The race was tough but very rewarding and gave a great sense of accomplishment upon completion. It remains for me one of the best if not the best standard distance triathlon in the country. So if you are reading this and are not signed up for this year, what are you waiting for? Back to Ironman 70.3 and there was talk of jelly fish in Scotstown bay, Dunlaoighre and maybe a shortened swim that year but on the day everything went off as planned. I had no great expectation and finished the race in just over 6 hours. My brother Alan was there with me and he was so genuinely pleased for me at the end that I felt a bit of a lump in my throat. Thanks bro. Alan drove home. I remember sitting on the couch at home nursing my sore 50 year old body when I post came up on facebook. It said that there were some more spots being offered for the Dublin marathon. I took a mad rush of blood to the head and signed up. I had never run more than a half marathon in my life before and I had 8 weeks until the marathon. I found a 10 week half to full marathon training plan online and jumped in at week 3. Again I had no expectations on race day and was delighted and surprised to have run a sub 4 hour marathon on my first attempt. Only just, but still sub 4.
2017 duly came and was very similar to 2016 for me. I did several local triathlons and also did Dublin Ironman 70.3 and the Dublin marathon again. I managed to improve on my 2016 times in both events which was gratifying. I had also by then developed an itch that I really should have a lash at an Iron distance triathlon. I wasn’t getting any younger and had a bit of a “now or never” feeling about it. I looked around for a suitable race. None in Ireland and then my wife Carol and I received an invitation to a wedding in Scotland in early August 2018. The dates fitted in well with the Outlaw Iron distance triathlon in Nottingham, England so I signed up for that. We intend to travel over spend a few days in the Nottingham area and then the lake district before heading up to Scotland for the wedding. This race is rapidly approaching and as I write this my legs are trying to recover from having run the special Olympics Ireland and H.A.N.D. run for Autism twin peaks challenge mountain marathon yesterday. Training hasn’t gone too smoothly this year but the challenge is to overcome regardless of the obstacle. That is what I hope to do next month.
The rumour mill has been busy in recent months with talk of Ironman bringing a full event to Ireland in 2019. Sure enough, a few weeks ago it was announced and entries opened. I thought to myself, Ironman’s first full in my own country, I have to be there. I signed up for Youghal, Cork 2019.
My advice to someone starting triathlon
If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say you did your best, that’s all you or anyone else can ever ask of you. In triathlon and in all things in life.
What NTC means to me
NTC is a community of like minded people. A source of support or affirmation regardless of whether things are going well or not. It is full of friendly people who are always willing to help you meet the challenges you set for yourself.
My favourite triathlon discipline
Honestly this depends on my mood but swimming in a calm sea when feeling relaxed has a certain therapeutic value it’s hard to match.
Guilty pleasure after a race
Food!! Mostly not bothered what it is, just keep it coming. That’s why I’ll never be much good at this craic….I eat like two men and a wee lad!