One of my favourite races to date, the Pulse National Sprint Championships is hosted in September at Port Beach, near Clogherhead, County Louth, about an hours drive from Dublin. It’s a predominantly flat course and attracts a stacked field both the national championships and as one of the last opportunities to score National Series points so one for the calendar!
The 750 swim is in the Irish Sea and includes a dry beach start so practice your shallow wading to get some early free metres when you hit the water!
Transition is straightforward and you can gauge your position viz a viz your club mates as Pulse allocate your bib number and transition rack position by triathlon club so be sure to list Belpark on your entry form for the race!
The bike course is a single loop with some rolling sections. There are limited opportunities to pick up places and speed via your bike handling so it pays to know where these locations are. It might be worth driving some of the bike course if you have reason to be out that direction or indeed the morning of the race – pay attention on your way in!
Returning to Transition there was a long run from the demount line to the racks this year so remember to undo your shoes and run in your socks/barefoot!
The run is an out and back on a local road, with a slight hill up to the turnaround with a great atmosphere at the finish!
Race Summary: Ronan Kane
The swim is from a beach near the pier at one of Irelands most westerly points in Black Sod. It’s a nice open swim with not much congestion as it is a fairly small race numbers wise. The swim was a simple triangular route, fairly good sighting of buoys and had boats following lead swimmers in case they meandered off course .As the swim is in the Atlantic has the potential to be quite choppy but was relatively calm on Race Day in 2015 although the next day looked quite rough.
T1 is on the pier in Black Sod.
The bike is a tough bike course. Within in first 1K there is a sharp ascent of 15% where weaker cyclists have been known to walk up in the past, this concurrently leads to a tricky descent (marshals do warn people to slow down) where accidents have happened in the past. It is an out and back 43K except for the aforementioned hill that thankfully is only on the outbound leg. Most of the outbound is rolling flat route. Inbound 20K was against the wind but this is weather dependent. Striking scenery with some veritable vistas to distract you from any pain being inflicted by wind or exertion.
T2 is on the pier in Black Sod.
Run is a challenging 10 K route. After 1st K, it’s a steady incline before descending towards Fanmore beach. Then comes the “off-road” bit with about 400m onto the sandy beach and through the base of the dunes. Then rolling run before re-ascending the first incline followed by a pleasant descent back towards the finish at the pier.
Not a race for a PB.
This race is very well supported by the local community with a great atmosphere throughout. Kilmore Triathlon Club but on a fairly impressive spread (full 3 course meals) for athletes in local hotel afterwards which is a nice touch. Athletes also have access to spa facilities after the race to decompress after the race. Travel time from Dublin is 4hrs ish maybe more. You should also note that it is an early start time so commuting on race day from Dublin is not really a viable option. Uisce (gaelgoir school/camp) is handy for accommodation about 10K from race start and caters for many of the travelling contingent.
Race Summary: Mark McDonnell
Looking for a new challenge this year and interested in giving half IM distance a shot? The Lost Sheep is the middle distance National Championship race in 2016, which means that points will be high, competition tough and there will be lots of Belparkers racing. Once lost in this dream race you will return ever after to summit to the sound of bongos to count those sheep and awaken to the stunning beauty of the Healy Pass!
Imagine the sun rising over a placid lake on a fresh September morning and the air buzzing with huddled excited chatter and wetsuit zipping as athletes pitter patter into the water, dodging the small pebbles in the shallows. Crystal clear waters have been choppy in previous years, perhaps even some white horses galloping but athletes were dazzled with animated selfies the last two years. It may be a mass start but group selfies are hard to find even on the frontline! The hooter goes off and you are gone like a shot chasing the shoals of feet ahead. Tap-tap; tap-tap; tap-tap. The sun is shining, the adrenaline is flowing, and you relax, as not only can you clearly see the first buoy coming slowly towards you but you can faintly see the second buoy in the distance as you circle the first. Drifting home, the artist within you may struggle to create that picture perfect postcard of the white-washed cottage in the corner of the lake, in the morning sunlight, but the sea of coloured hats bobbing ahead will guide you directly to T1.
Ready for the thrill of your life? On your bike! TT bike if you have one as there are many fast rolling hill sections and it is possible to stay down on aero-bars even for the steepest short climb at the top of the Healy Pass. Fast first 30km. Then the climbing starts and the banter begins virtually
catapulting you to the peak of the Healy Pass to the sound of bongos; boom-sling-slung; boom-sling- slung; boom-sling-slung; and crazy Tour de France spectator wanabes dancing to the beat, and the thumping of your heart is silenced by the breathtaking views below. The descent is fast and furious if you were an F1 driver in a past life and can handle switch-backs at breakneck speed or are just fearless. For the sane, it is very possible to descend at your own pace. Rolling hills for a while to recover your breath. Then a slight drag for a while and more rolling countryside before you reach Glengariff where the second major climb starts. Sure the ascent is over so quickly you begin to wonder if you missed it! Rolling-rolling-rolling. Then through the tunnel for the descent of your life if it is not too windy (disc wheels tricky with high winds and not recommended for the faint hearted but definitely manageable with lots of breathing). When the wind is calm it is one epic wide sweeping descent! Now all you have to do is keep that momentum going for the last 30km or so of rolling hills.
Home and maybe dry you race out of T2 with fresh feeling legs that may last for the first 10km. There is no hiding. It is a tough run. Rolling hills with some steep sections, especially in the last 10km but there are no words to describe that exhilarated tired and motivated feeling. Sure what is 10km when you have just biked 80+km with two steep climbs? For sure you are certainly going to keep pushing on! The first 10km is a super out and back 5km with high-5s from fellow athletes and great cheer and support from the locals. The second 10km+ is tough but somehow more rewarding. While lonely at times it is a chance to lose yourself in the magic quietness of the moment and re-live the tap-tap-tap and boom-sling-slung and listen carefully for the sound of your feet racing across the finish line and the cheer of the crowds in the distance.
Now close your eyes and click your ruby cleats three times because there is no party like a lost sheep
Race Summary: Kathleen Curren
One of the premier races in the country. Very well attended and will definitely sell out early.
The 1.5km swim is in the River Liffey at the Garda Boat club upstream of Islandbridge.
This section of the Liffey is above the tidal reach of the river so it’s a fresh water swim. In 2015 it was well marshalled with a floating lane divider so 750m upstream to a turnaround and 750m return.
The bike course is a 5 lap looped course in the Phoenix Park. There are flat sections where you can be down on your aero bars but there are also some technically demanding sections which get worse in bad weather. Because of the looped nature of the bike course it is heavily trafficked with competitors, and often with athletes who are far from confident on the bike. While it won’t be a bike course for a PB, if you invest 4 or 5 sessions training on the bike course you will benefit in terms of places.
The run is another looped affair, 3 x 3km laps, prior to this there is around a 1km run from T1 which takes you very close to the finish line where you commence your first loop. Most of the 3km loop is cross country with approx 800m of each lap on a tarmac path
2015 was exceptionally wet and I definitely could have done with my trail runners. Probably worth throwing them in the bag with you! Again given the cross country nature of the course, it would be well worth running the route a few times to familiarize yourself with the descending parts of the course where you can make up time on your competitors who will be somewhat surprised by the terrain!
The finish is in the park. In 2015 Triathlon Ireland promoted clubs to participate in a tented village at the finish to get a bit of atmosphere for Age-Groupers and to encourage them to hang around for the Category 1 Super Series Races. The weather did dampen things this year but if the weather plays ball it could make for a fantastic day out.
Race Summary: Ronan Kane
Tri the Hook is a Sprint distance triathlon located in South Wexford. The focal point of the race is the
village of Fethard-on-Sea which is located on the Hook head Peninsula so it is worthwhile making a weekend of it and seeing the rest of the Hook over the weekend.
In previous years the race started at 12 noon, but for 2016, they have moved to a 10am start.
The swim takes place on the picturesque Baginbun beach, just south of Fethard. The swim is a 1 lap 750m swim in a sheltered bay.
The bike is 1 lap 20km course where you go through Fethard town and on an anti-clockwise loop on open roads which are relatively traffic-free but can vary in road surface quality. The course is undulating, a with a few tight corners but some nice fast straight sections also. The run is 5.3km in length and starts at Baginbun beach where transition is based. The first km or so involves running along the cliff. It is relatively flat course but there is one section where the run and bike routes overlap, where runners must yield to oncoming bikes.
Overall, a very pleasant well-organised race and a good excuse to visit the Sunny South East.
Race Summary: Helen French
Belpark New Members Standard Distance Tri 2016.
The event is dedicated to one of Ireland’s leading female triathletes, Caroline Kearney who was tragically killed during a cycle training session with her French team in June 2006. It is a very well organised race and takes place in the Lilliput Adventure Centre, on the shores of Lough Ennell. This race tends to sell out early. It’s a perfect race if your trying for your first Olympic distance race in 2016.
The 1500m swim in Lough Ennell, is a 1 lap, out and back, triangular, course. Stay to the left of the first and second buoys.
The 40km bike section is a fairly flat looped course. There are quite a few junctions on the course, so care should be taken. The road surface is very good in places, particularly from Kilbeggan to Tyrrellspass. Roads are heavily marshalled but are not closed so always be aware of what’s around you.
The run is 1 lap of a lovely flat course on closed country roads.
Race Summary: Arron Fox
The swim is in the centre of Belfast in the River Lagan. It’s a wide and not crowded start heading downstream towards the sea, it takes you past the Odyssey Arena before you turn left and cross to the opposite side of the river, and head back up stream to the exit point. The race is timed to take place at high tide meaning that there is minimal flow in the river. It’s worth taking note of the course and the number of buoys you will be passing as there are both Sprint and Olympic races running together and it may be easy to get confused!
The Swim exit is a floating pontoon with ropes and helpers to get you out of the water. You run down the side Custom House and into Custom House Square and into T1. It’s a short 100m approx. run. Custom House Sq. is probably the fanciest Transition area you are likely to experience on the Irish Tri Circuit!
The bike is flat and fast, it is two 20km loops comprising of two out and back stretches. The road is in poor condition in parts and there are some speed bumps. The turnaround points are roundabouts and caution should be exercised if it’s wet! It is a bit exposed as it is near the sea so wind may also be a factor. The bike lap starts and finishes close to the Titanic Museum but that’s about the only landmark of note on the course. The rest of the lap takes you through industrial estates and commercial office parks.
T2 is back in Custom House Sq. The run is a 3 lap route around the streets of Belfast. Plenty to see and take in here. Again completely flat. It’s a clockwise lap with mainly right turns, some people were cutting corners on the path, it might be worth trying to find out what the official organisers line is on this.
The finish is in the Laganside Belfast Bus centre next transition. They had food and the usual goodies and reception at the finish. The 2015 edition was wet windy and extremely cold which probably left a bad impression with a lot of people however I think if the weather had been good it would be recognised as a fast, flat well organised race perfect for a PB or first Olympic race. Travel time from Dublin 3hrs. You should also note that it has a very early start time. Circa 8am which means arriving to Belfast before 7, so worth considering a night in the city or somewhere nearby.
Race Summary: Ben Malone
Loughrea is a handy spin from Dublin, less than 2 hours on the motorway and you’re there. At
registration there is always a surprise as you don’t get the usual race t-shirt, it’s generally something more practical like a towel in 2014 or an Amphibian King head/neck warmer in 2015. It’s a great set up as the transition area is directly beside the swim start and the finish line so it’s all very contained. Clubs are usually grouped together in the transition area which is great for chatting, understanding the logistics of getting in and out of the transition for swim, bike and run and (trying to) relax before the race begins. The setting is beautiful with the swim taking place in the crystal clear waters of Loughrea lake. It’s quite shallow and because of this it is advertised as a beginner friendly race.
A short dash from swim exit to transition and onto the bike course which is a 20km circuit and consists of some undulating hills but also some fast sections down quiet country roads. Basically it’s a loop of Loughrea town with some of the roads will closed to traffic.
The run is a 5km out and back course, with a climb to the turn and a fast descent coming back into to transition. There is a good stretch towards the finishing chute, which always has a great crowd of people pushing you on for the final 150 metres! Predator Triathlon Club, who host the Loughrea Sprint, do a fantastic job each year and generally a hot meal is available after the race in one of the hotels.
Race Summary: Katherine Howard
The Dock Beach, just outside Kinsale, hosts the start and transition area for Cork Tri’s long standing King of the Hill sprint triathlon.
KOTH is the perfect race for those who want to do their first sea swim in reasonably calm environment. The Dock Beach faces out onto the very sheltered Kinsale Bay, looking across the water towards Charles Fort, and the currents are generally mild. The course follows a triangular pattern, with a 250 meter swim out to the first buoy, a left turn into another 250 meters to the second buoy and then a final left turn towards the beach and into transition.
The 23k cycle is also nice and flat and generally follows the road from Kinsale out towards Bandon and back again. In 2015 they had to change it due to major roadworks that were taking place, but we understand the old route will return again for the 2016 race. This is a good, fast, cycle through beautiful countryside.
The transition area is very compact and there is generally a big crowd gathered where the bike route returns. The dismount is very fast and everyone gets a cheer as they hope off the bike into T2. There is always a lot of support at the race with good crowds gathering around tradition and the finish line.
The run is reasonably tough and is the reason the race is named what it is! From transition, there is a steep 1.2km hill to climb before a steep descent down Ardkilly Ridge towards Sandycove before turning back the way you came and facing the hill again on the way to the finish. It’s tough but very manageable and the finish line is right at the bottom of the hill, so you get some speed up as you get cheered down towards the end into the transition area.
Race Summary: Conal Markey
The locals of Lanesborough boast that even in winter you can swim comfortably in Lough Ree. “The water never drops below 14C” they’ll tell you proudly. This is good when the Two Provinces race is held in early summer as the water is almost guaranteed to be warmer than other lake based races.
Two Provinces is amongst the best run races on the calendar. The lake can be rough but it’s a pretty straightforward swim. After a long transition from T1 to the mount line near the main road, the out- and-back bike course takes one bend and then is arrow straight for the remaining 9km to the turnaround point. There’s a slight drag on the way out but nothing major and all in all this is almost definitely the least technical bike course in the whole race calendar.
The run is more interesting, making it’s way through an off road section for about 1km then on to a fairly flat back road on an out-and-back route. There’s usually free ice cream and food at the prize giving ceremony which takes place in a marquee tent. Keep an eye out for legend of the midlands – RTE’s Ciaran Mulloney who MC’s the race (no kidding..)
Race Summary: Kevin Keane
Summary – The clue is in the title! Starting and finishing at Kilkee Bay this is a very challenging but very rewarding course which takes in some of the most spectacular and iconic scenery along the Wild Atlantic Way.
The 1.5km swim is counter clockwise loop around Kilkee Bay, keeping the buoys to your left. This is a sheltered bay but conditions have been known to be ‘choppy’ depending on wind direction and wind speed on race day. In 2015, the swim start changed to a running beach start which makes for an interesting spectacle. The swim start is done in multiple waves and in 2015 HOTW was designated a super series race which saw category 1 male and female athletes set off first.
On exiting the water participants run up the beach towards transition.
The 44km bike leg takes place on open roads, head-winds can play a big part with bike splits on the day so take note of wind direction and wind speed prior to starting the race. Athletes immediately turn left coming out of transition and make their way through Kilkee Town with Kilkee Beach on the left. There is a little kicker of a climb just outside Kilkee town as athletes make their way along the course towards Doonbeg. The bike route is undulating but very scenic, it is extremely well marshalled by Limerick Tri Club volunteers, caution must be taken at a number of spots including the bridge at Doonbeg. Athletes make their way through Doonbeg and past Doonbeg Golf Club (Donald Trump Golf Course). There is a sharp right hand turn at the T junction of the N67 and R483 as athletes begin to make their way back towards Kilkee. Watch out for headwinds here depending on conditions on the day. Participants take a sharp right hand turn at ‘Cree’ where they make their way back towards the N67 and Kilkee. There are a couple of climbs to negotiate along the route back and the last descent into Kilkee is steep and has uneven surface in parts.
Athletes follow the same route into T2 to transition from bike to run.
The run is an out and back 10km course along Dunlicky Road it is challenging but takes in spectacular views along the cliffs of the Wild Atlantic Way. Athletes exit T2 and run along Kilkee Beach with the ocean to your right hand side and turning left onto Dunlicky Hill – this is when ‘Hell of the West’ really lives up to its name. The first 5km is generally all uphill aside from some small flat sections. Keep an eye out for the races number one supporter on the run route – dressed from head to toe in balloons shouting loudly as each athlete passes. What goes up must come down so as you hit the turnaround point it’s mostly all downhill from there, the last descent towards Kilkee down Dunlicky Hill is where you can really open up the legs. Turning right at the bottom of the hill athletes are now on the home stretch towards the finishing line adjacent to transition. Big crowds gather on this section so enjoy the moment and take it all in.
The athlete zone is another huge plus for this race as massages await and a huge spread of food to reward your efforts.
Race Summary: Mark Cannon
Summary – Flat and fast, good course for a sprint PB or beginner’s race. Belpark Club Race 2016!
The swim is based in a sheltered bay at the Quay Harbour just outside Westport Town. Depending
on the number of entries the swim is generally started in two separate waves. It is a floating start and consists of a 750m clockwise swim around 2 buoys. Given the sheltered nature of the bay currents do not generally affect the swim. Competitors exit the water up a purpose built ramp assisted by race marshals’, it is a short run into T1 from there.
In 2015, the swim course was altered due to adverse weather conditions with participants completing a 500m, tide assisted, swim instead.
The 20km bike route takes competitors from the Quay Harbour along the Atlantic Coastline to a turnaround point just beyond Croagh Patrick Mountain. On exiting T1 there is a ‘neutral’ zone (no overtaking) of about 150m as athletes make their way around a man-made pond. Marshalls guide participants through a T-junction turning right onto the coast road.
From here it is about 3 kilometres and a couple of bends to the next T-junction, turning right which takes you onto the main Westport to Louisburgh Coast Road. The next 7 or so kilometres to the turnaround point is a good stretch of road ideal for time trial racing. There is one small downhill section into a right turn passing the petrol station to your left. There is a slight incline in the final 200m stretch to the turnaround point.
Athletes follow the same course back to T2 at the Quay Harbour. The bike route is on open roads but is very well marshalled, signposted and with very little traffic.
The run course takes athletes out of T2 and into the grounds of the iconic Westport House and Country Estate. The 5km route is flat and fast with one slight incline after about 2km up a country lane to a turnaround point. Athletes exit the grounds of Westport House through the gate they entered and back along Westport Quay past the crowds to the finish line located beside transition.
Race Summary: Mark Cannon
New Members Sprint Race 2016. Belpark Tri club encourages all new members to take part in this sprint distance race. It’s very well attended and Belpark organises a post race meal in Dublin!
In 2015, the swim section was due to be an out and back course, with the first half swimming against the current and after the turnaround, swimming with the current. Due to strong currents on the day, the swim course was altered to swimming one direction downstream. Care should be taken when entering the water as it’s shallower than expected. The transition area is located very close to the river banks.
The bike section was an out and back course. There are two sharp bends when exciting Carlow town where care should be taken. The first 10km out is on a very gradual ascend, which makes the final 10km back is a lot quicker.
The run is a looped course with a short out and back along the bank of the river Barrow. You run approx 1.2km along the river bank, meet a turnaround and run back towards the park taking a left and completing the run on a street course. The finish line is adjacent to transition.
Race Summary: Arron Fox