By Damian Faulkner
I actually got up at 01:08 as sleep wasn’t happening,three bowls of cereal later and my crew of Conor my son and Paul Daly an old army friend leave the B&B for the tiny hamlet of Sheildaig and race start.
It’s not raining thankfully as we park up meters from transition because I’m early (nothing new there) right on queue the heavens open and wind picks up, it’s that bad I need to prop the front wheel of the bike with my bag to prevent it blowing off the rack.
Registered and in possession of the required gps tracker and dibber, wetsuit half on as we board the busses to the swim start a few km away in a sheep shite filled field at the edge of the Lough, 05:00 horn sounds and the usual mad dash for positions begins a minute later all is calm just me a few swimmers around me and jelly fish for company, sight for the first island then take a right for 2.5 km across the open Lough to the second island, half way across we hit a massive Smack ( collective noun for jelly fish )yes I had to Google it, of jellies that many it felt like I was crawling over them and not actually swimming. It was so bad I had to swim with my head out of the water for a minute or so. Thankfully I got passed them and then lost contact with everyone so had to stop sight and try get back to the correct line, then Boom just at the second island jelly attack number two so same drill to get passed and finally I could see the burning lanterns at the slip and swim exit. Did the drunken stumble out of the water and didn’t feel to bad, into T1 quick strip hot water over my legs and feet dry robe on then the cold hit me Conor was drying me and trying to dress me at the same time, stood up and I was uncontrollably shaking. I needed to get moving on the bike so it was a slow walk trot to T1 exit and on the road, swim time 1:17 hr T1 15 mins.
Bike leg was 200 kms of constant rolling hills with a wind of 36 kph gusting 70 kph it was a loop with tail for the first 15 km then cross and the final 40km head wind, Being a unsupported race it’s up to the athletes to look after them selves so I had Conor and Paul leap frog me in the car jump out and hand me bottles food and gels on the route, I’d hoped for a 7:30 split and with 60km to go and over 2000 meters of elevation done I was well ahead of that target. Then the last right turn and the wind increases to full on flippin gale force and the will to live was slowly getting sucked outta me, it’s a 40km slightly uphill drag and I’m now looking at 11 kph on the Wahoo. I get into T2 shredded in a time of 7:35 hr. Conor grabs my bike and leads me to a spot in a field that’s T2 is just sat on a bag stuck my feet at him and said just put my runners on, so it was in and out in 3:00 and the 4th fasted T2 on the day, on this section you can take your support runner so Paul came with me as we set off my quads were cramping and I was spent and slight uphills on the trails felt like mountains, the blue tee shirt of 11hrs at T2a was slipping away and I was thinking I’ve 1:40 to get there but it’s hill running not flat and if I bust myself to make it I still have the hardest section to do and could be looking at a DNF so I made the decision to slow down and aim for the white time, which was T2a before 13 hours, the first section was easy to navigate on good trails the it disappears and it’s mountain gorse knee high for a bit before rejoining a trail but we made it the 17km to T2a well within that white cutoff and onto the second trail. Wind and rain over the top made it tough going but it eased towards the end and the last 4km was on road to the finish in 15:46 hr.
Xtri is not your typical Ironman event and attracts more endurance athletes over triathletes, but the sense of camaraderie is amazing and I’d highly recommend you guys give it a go.