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I-Tri 2014 (A Beginners Tale) 


We all know the famous words, ‘You can’t sing, you can’t dance and you look awful’. We also know the famous song ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’. Well for me it was ‘I can’t swim, I can cycle and I can’t run’ so I guess one out of three was bad. Here I was standing on the shoreline of the beautiful Ballyalla Lake. I was facing the slip way, bracing myself to run onto the newly laid cow mat, with about 50 other people who were trying Ennis Triathlons I-Tri for the first time. While the skills to conquer a Triathlon, albeit the Try-a-Tri, were not within my skillset, I had great friends and family behind me to raise the support flags. Saying that; my mum watched through narrowly squinted eyes as her youngest took to the water as a weak swimmer.


July 2014 was my first experience of a Triathlon. I entered into the Try-a-Tri which was being run by Ennis Triathlon Club. My husband Brian has been a member of the club for a few years and as with many people in the club, competing in Triathlons and other sporting events has become somewhat of a family phenomenon. I have since joined the club and it’s really lovely to see that its core membership is comprised of husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fiancées and friends. This is important because Triathlon training is time consuming and does involve sacrificing some family time. Therefore, to be able to do this with my husband is great, for me anyways J I am not too sure he is overly endeared by this fiercely competitive streak that seems to have come over his wife.


Anyways, where was I, oh yes … I was standing on the shoreline of the beautiful Ballyalla lake. The previous evening I have completed my longest swim ever without stopping … a massive 75 meters, I must be mad!!!! Now as I looked across the lake at the buoys I was trying to gear myself up for a 200 meter swim. Internally, I was having a full blown conversation with myself, processing all of the advice that I had been given by Brian and the friends that he had made through the club. The expert advice that was given to me was;


  • Lesson 1: Stay at the back at the beginning,

  • Lesson 2: Breathe deeply and calmly,

  • Lesson 3: Site the buoy,                                                                     

  • Lesson 4:  Go around the buoy at a wide angle so that no one will swim on top of you.

  • Lesson 5: If you get kicked, bitten or dunked, don’t get upset or take it personally. It’s just part of the fun and will toughen you up.


Before I knew it the whistle blew. Oh God, what happens now? ‘Remember the lessons Sam’, I quickly told myself.  Lesson 1 - Stay at the back, oh oh! I am in the middle.  Ok, relax and remember lesson 2, - breath and stay calm, crap, I have forgotten how to breathe. ‘What do I do? What are my options’?  At this point, I was wide eyed under my goggles and I was thinking ‘do I quit and turn around or doggie paddle like hell’? And that is what I did for 190 meters. I doggie paddled like I have never doggie paddled before. I was like a swan, all grace above the surface, while my legs and arms were going at the rate of 100 knots below the surface. I did however, do one thing kind of right, I stayed wide of the buoys, not because I was heeding lesson number 3, I simply had lost all ability to spot the buoy.  I genuinely thought I would never see the end of the 200 meters. Am I confusing you now, as I had said previously, that I doggie paddled for 190 meters. Well that’s right. Once I reached 190 meters, it was at this point that I could stand up on the newly laid cow mats. I did and walked through the last 10 meters of water. Participating in Triathlons is a very technical and competitive sport. Part of the thrill of training and participating is improving your efficiency levels at all stages of the sport. Poor Brian was near heart failure as he watched me come in, I was meant to paddle as close to the shore as possible as according to him I a) wasted so much energy walking through the water and b) let a load of people pass me out. I’ll tell you this is a mistake I won’t be making again under the watchful guidance of coach B Mc.


Thank God, I am out of the water and on solid ground. I heard my friends from Clare Ladies Cycling Club shout my name but I was so dazzled I could not see them. Sweet Lord, how do people get out of the water and run to their bikes looking fresh after 750 or 1500 meters. I have nothing but admiration, but hey I have a bike to get on so I need to switch modes. I raced from the water, pulling my wetsuit off. I remembered this lesson. Put your goggles in your cap, put you cap in your hand and when you pull of the wetsuit both items will stay in your sleeve. Another lesson I followed, pull your wetsuit off immediately, if the water drains from inside the wetsuit, it will stick to you. All this in an effort to knock valuable seconds off transition. I have never been in transition before, where is my bike, what row, was it to the left or to the right? ‘Stay calm Sam, it’s towards the front’. I threw my new wetsuit over the back, put on my helmet √, cycling gloves are not to be found but who cares, its only 20km, my hands will be fine. Cycling shoes √ and away we go. This, I should be good at. Of the 3 disciplines, I have been cycling for a year. I know the road to Crusheen like the back of my hand and so I pedalled like a bat out of hell and made up some ground that I had lost on the swim. The day was beautiful, the sun was shining and the wind was kind. I was so used to cycling in groups that all I needed to remember was to keep 10-12m from the cyclist in front unless you want to overtake. A few of us played cat and mouse for a while but I finally got back to the lake and was in transition again. Helmet off √, Bike racked √… I think that I just may have ripped my new wetsuit when I racked the bike but who cares for now, no time to check it as I need to Go, Go, Go. Runners √ and I look around panicked. Where do I go? A friendly marshal looks at my confused face and points me in the right direction with my friends screaming at me to run Sam, run Sam for the love of God will you just RUN. Again I was back to the weak link. I was a come day, go day runner. My runs were very spaced out with an odd run completed for charity, in near tears with almost no training completed on the back of any of them. I ran down past the lake and onto the main road. This is not too bad I thought. I met a girl who was walking and slowed down. I happily said, ‘well done, come on, do you want to run with me’ and she started running again. Encouragement along the way is so important. We all just need someone to say, ‘try again, you can do it’. And so we ran to the next junction and turned to face a hill. ‘It’s ok, there are plenty of smiling faces at the top with a table full of water’ I thought. It was my excuse to stop; I had yet to master the art of sipping water with dignity while running. I took a drink and got back into a stride that was somewhere between walking, gently jogging and tripping over my own legs. And then it happened … I hit the proverbial wall. ‘What is this, what’s happening … why am I slowing, why am I nauseous, why are people passing me out? And just as I had supported a girl at the earlier part of the run, a really lovely girl appeared from behind and said ‘Come on, you can do it’. And so, lesson 2 came into play again … ‘stay calm and breathe’. ‘I can do this,’ and I did. I was never so happy to see Brian and the finish line. I was on a high. I had just completed my first Triathlon and my times were not bad. The feeling of completing such an event is difficult to describe. It’s a big task to complete these events alone, putting them together, back to back, if no easy feat. But it is not an impossible feat. I-Tri is one of two events that Ennis Tri Club hosts with pride. I have been thinking what the event I-Tri means to me and for me.

While I did not break any land speed records or records for speed in the water for that matter, I do know that I held true to many of my values when participating in sport. My values, my mantra, my internal dialogue, when I participate in activities since this event include the following;


  • I-Tri with focus,

  • I-Tri knowing that I have planned and trained,

  • I-Tri knowing that I am prepared,

  • I-Tri with determination,

  • I-Tri with pride,

  • I-Tri fully supported by friends, family and teammates,

  • I-Tri through pure stubbornness (well I know that if worst comes to worst I can go back to the doggie paddle),

  • I-Tri my best. 


For anyone who dares to try a Triathlon after reading about my whirlwind tale I would strongly advise that you follow the lessons that my very wise Ennis Tri friends told me about when this journey began.  Who knows I just might see you at this years I-Tri event. I’ll be the one gliding gracefully like a swan singing ‘Two out of Three ain’t bad’.


 J Samantha McCarthy 

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