Ironman Cork – race report 2019
By Veronica Höiom
As long as I can remember, I wanted to go to Ireland so when Ironman announced that there would be a full distance event there 2019 there was no doubt. I wanted to do this race!
Me and Måns landed in Cork on Friday night and took a rental car and drove the 50 km to the small picturesque village called Youghal. The whole atmosphere in the village breathed Ironman and there were "Welcome Ironman" signs everywhere. I read somewhere that 10% of the village's residents participated as volunteers for this event! We stayed at an incredibly cozy place, the Ahernes of Youghal, located on the main street! The very friendly owners arranged breakfast at 4 pm on race day morning and also offered to drive participants down to the transition site! The day before the race, on Saturday, it was first registration followed by easy training on the swim-bike-run course. The sun was shining but it was quite windy.
I swam about 10 minutes in cold and choppy water of the Celtic ocean. The temperature was around 13 degrees, ok, but it was difficult to navigate in the messy water. About the same time as we were swimming, an email was sent out from Ironman Europe telling us that we would expect a delayed start and shortened swim because of the expected bad weather conditions on race day! With shivering teeth, we jumped up on our bikes and ride to the Windmill hill. Only 400m long but with a 22% slope it was very respectful!! I must say that when we drove down the hill the day before with the car I was totally terrified and thought it would be impossible to ride it up .... I felt as if the risk of rolling over halfway was quite imminent! Well, I gave it a try and up I came with shaky legs and sky-high pulse! Måns wanted to ride it again but I refused JFinally a short run. I ran over the ridge that we would need to pass 9 times during the marathon tomorrow. Pretty hard, too… The rest of the day was all about checking-in, athlete briefing and eating.
The alarm went off at 4:15 am. Time for breakfast, yoghurt, toast, bacon and scrambled eggs! It was windy and gray outside but still no rain. Uncle Runar with wifie Pia (also competing) and daughter Sara came and picked us up, always nice to have assistants during a race J! Just before we arrived at the transition site, it started to rain. Then it rained all day long until the end of my run! Stayed in the heat of the car for a while, at 5:30 am it would be announced if the swimming were on or off. At 6 am we went to check the bikes and leave our nutrition bottles at the bikes. When we saw the waves on the sea and that the buoys were still on land, we understood that the swim would be canceled. Which it was.
Instead of the swim, we would have a time trial-start on the bike. Kind of chaotic when everyone was going to change into bike clothes! People was walking around in their wetsuits as long as they could even if the swim was cancelled JLuckily, we had quite low numbers so we got off pretty early but many had to stay for a long time in pouring rain before they were allowed to start.
The bike leg was a 2-lap course around the beautiful Irish countryside. Too bad that the heavy rain and fog on my glasses made it hard to see anything! In addition, the surface was often poor so you really had to concentrate on the road! However, the crowd was amazing!! I’ve read several heart-breaking stories about people who didn’t manage to continue the race during the bike, where the locals invited them into their homes and provided them with food and warmth while they were waiting to be picked-up by the organization! Besides the weather, the course was really, really tough. A total of 1900m of climbing and poor asphalt that took all force out of your legs. As a consequence, unusually many did not manage the cut-off times for the bike and were not allowed to go ahead with the run. I read that it was about 23% DNFs! The hills were many, some long, some steep and each lap (around 88 and 178km) was completed with the steepest of them all, the Windmill hill, now also called Windmill hell. I felt very nervous when approaching it –will I have enough power to conquer the hill?? I could hear the audience’s cheers in far distance. But once you faced the hill it was kind of no retreat no surrender. Just pedal and move forward, no matter what!! The crowd was amazing. I felt like I was part of tour de France! "Keep going", "go girl", "you can do this", you're amazing, "looking strong". The audience basically lifted me up both times. On the second lap many walked uphill and I saw several who fell on the slope but who were immediately helped up! Maybe not the smartest move to ride uphill twice when a marathon was waiting, but I think my legs were pretty smoked anyway and I’ll never forget the Windmill hill!
The transition was a challenge by itself, when trying to get rid of wet shoes and clothes with ice cold, rigid fingers. Got cramps all over my stomach when I was going to roll off my wet socks. Sooo satisfied that I put in a pair of dry socks in the run bag!! I have never seen so many people standing with heat blankets and drinking coffee / tea in the exchange area before. Thought I was quite slow (kind of 7 minutes) but was actually one of the fastest in my AG ... The first part of the running track was along the beach towards the town center so you were welcomed by a massive headwind and a rain that whipped you in the face. Thanks for that, Mother Earth! Here it was just to turn into survival mode and gnaw ahead! First time up the bridge (only 8 times left ...) and then down where you passed the finish line for the first time. The legs felt in spite of the tough cycling ok, although it felt kind of funny to run on feet that were completely numb! Luckily I’ve experienced this before during Stockholm marathon 2012, so I know that it works anyway. Just keep going!
But it didn’t take long before the tough bike course, the cold and the wettnes caught me. I felt so exhausted and my body hurt, which made me walk a lot, not just in the aid stations. However, the crowd was absolutely wonderful. There were people everywhere, cheering and calling your name! Despite the weather, the atmosphere was indescribable! During the last lap it actually stopped raining and after a long, long struggle I finally reached the red carpet. I was so happy when I crossed the finish line! I had managed probably the most physically strenuous I've ever done! The only problem is that once you stop running, that is when it really starts to hurt! Walking the 1.2 km between the finish line and the hotel took a whole eternity! But, what did it do when you got to feel like a superstar in your finisher t-shirt and medal! Everyone I met congratulated me and people even came up and hugged me! Extra fun that Måns won his AG and that I actually became 5th in mine!! Only 12 min from a Kona slot. I'm getting closer!