Marcus Shipley – Killarney Hardman Race Report

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Marcus had never done a triathlon before but decided to commit to an Ironman.. That’s impressive.. or crazy.. I’ll let the reader decide. Either way, he wanted a challenge and it sounds like Killarney Hardman delivered. Enjoy..

So I had decided to do an Ironman about 18 months ago.
I had run a couple of average marathons either side of the 4 hour mark and was looking for a new challenge.
Having never done a triathlon I decided to jump in and commit to an Ironman.

So Summer 2016 was a development summer for me… a few olympics with mixed results finishing in a half-iron in September. This gave me a taster of what to do (or not to do as was the case…forgot to eat anything on the half and bonked very hard on the run!) and I cracked on through winter training with enthusiasm.

The only full iron distance I could see in the Republic was Killarney Hardman and it was cheap (220 iirc).

Hurrah as those who know me know how tight I can be!  This is definitely a budget ironman journey!


Training went pretty smoothly to be honest. The usual tough mornings etc and other than a 3 week hiatus following a strained knee I was injury free. (I had met a south african guy going around Sally Gap and we chatted and I tried to match his pace. Turns out he was a semi-pro back in SA and only doing 40km compared to my 100k. So I just pushed too hard and put too much through that knee).


Awful… cant apologise enough to those around me during that time. Grouchy and sulky would be the two words that spring to mind!

The race

Headed down the day before and went to briefing.  It was my ideal race as it was informal, basic with no thrills.  Just a well organised, honest race that treated us all like adults and left us to it.  One question in the briefing was:

“What are the marshalls like around the bike course?” with the reply being “there are hardly any… just follow the Ring of Kerry signs”.

“What about drafting?” “no drafting allowed but shouldn’t be a problem… there are only 100 of you spread across 180km”

Swim 3.8km lake:

Was a lovely morning and the water was about 15 degrees I think. Looked calm too. Got changed and headed into the water. Race gun goes off a few minutes after we are all in and before you know it we are off. It was a 2 lap swim with one side of the square lap quite open to the wind and it was surprisingly choppy. I had been cramping in the run up on long swims and was pretty terrified. I fully cramped up while doing a training swim in Seapoint a few weeks before and had I not been using my safety buoy I could have been in real trouble… safety first people! So just took the swim really easy… too much work gone into this to get dragged out of the water after 1 hour! So took the swim easy and came out in 1hour 35.

Bike 180km round the Ring of Kerry:

Transition was fine, about 5 minutes long… bit chilly though so threw a top on over the tri suit. Off onto one of the most spectacular bike rides of my life! After I muddled my way through the town (roundabouts and junctions with no signs!) I was off up the first climb straight away. Took it nice and easy and tried to take in the views and recover from the swim a bit… get my head straight and not get drawn into any stupid decisions.

First half was tough… lots of climbs with the one before Waterville being particularly brutal. Into wind and the climb just felt like it would never end… blind corner after blind corner revealed a little bit more, little bit steeper etc. Got to the special needs feeling a bit broken… definitely more fatigued than I should be at the halfway stage. As we turned for home though you realised the wind was actually pretty strong and the second half of the bike flew past!

Felt great at 160km and was getting my head down well overtaking a few people as I went. As you would expect… the detail on the bike briefing was lacking somewhat…. we were told that once you are through the town at 160km its all downhill.  So I gave it some beans and then these false flats just started appearing and so the last 10km were tricky! To avoid crossing traffic when turning back into the golf course where transition was we were going up to a roundabout, and coming back on ourselves.

Was there a marshall there? Course not! So I actually went straight through that roundabout and up to the next one a few hundred meters on.  I went round and round that about 5 times trying to see any sign of directions and then realised my mistake.  Just thought I would add another km or 2 to the bike! Great decision!

Off the bike happy as larry! They had bike catchers which I had never experienced before so after a slight flap there I was changing for the run. Was hoping for 6:30 but had actually done 6:18 so happy days.


At this point I knew I needed a toilet stop. Before leaving transition I went to the portaloo which was out of roll and was in a pretty sorry state. So onto the run I went, remembering there were toilets a few km in. This was a tough 5km and my stomach was in bits… this was literally a case of get to the toilets… screw pace… screw everything… this was desperate times!!! Made it to the toilets which were at a famous castle often visited by tourists… they didnt know what to think of me in my tri-suit but no time to worry about fashion… straight in… business done… continue.

The run was 3 laps of 14km around the Killarney National Park and was beautiful as well. No marshals anywhere. The woods were a maze with the odd sign and at one point there was a turnaround point. About 100m to a cone, round it and then back.  You were completely on your own and could have easily just skipped it (and skipped entire sections of the run).  You could just tell from the attitude of everyone involved that no one even considered it.  Even on my 3rd lap when I was really struggling, there was no question of skipping it.  It was a great summary of the day… people out there having fun with nothing to prove to anyone other than themselves… maybe it was the exhausted delerium but that fact seemed very significant at the time.

So first 14km were OK. Then an old issue reared its head… I cant burp. Look (and laugh) it up… its actually more common than you think. So I was getting gassy and struggling to clear the stomach out. On the 2nd 14km I was having to stop every couple of km and dry heave to just try and clear the gas. This was going to be a regular occurrence.

At this point the legs actually still felt strong… just couldn’t open up the pace because it would result in crippling stomach cramps and really aggressive, painful hiccups. So by the time the last 14km was going I was pulling over every 1km… then the last 7km it was every 500m. This dented my time massively but its not meant to be easy anyway so I just tried to move forwards as consistently as possible.  Got a bit emotional as I passed the landmarks for the last time and realised I was actually going to finish this thing.

The last 500m were amazing… breaking into a decent run (it felt like it anyway) I came round the corner. The finish was a nice U turn from the course. The crowd and officials got the chance to shout “is it your last lap” to which I was nodding like a madman.  Then everyone starts cheering, I make the U-turn and have 20 metres to finish.  Cross the line a little bit dazed… mandatory cheesy fist pump and shout of C’MON! (for the cameras!) and then my girlfriend runs out for a big hug resulting in the picture below.

I was 5:18 for the marathon which was a good bit slower than I would have liked but there you go… that’ll happen after that long on the move.  Would loved to have felt like I had raced the run… even for the first half but the whole thing had been pretty brutal and my throat was wrecked.

So the total time was 13:19. I was going in thinking that a great day would be a 12:something. So considering the slow pace on the swim and the run issues… I was happy out with 13:19. Off to the AirBnB… few Guinness and commercial lagers, dominos pizza and sleep!

Writing this 1 month on I have being yo-yo-ing about whether to do another or call it a day. It was a great year and I loved having the focus… I am a bit aimless at the moment so it remains to be seen whether there will be another one in the pipeline. I would definitely recommend the Killarney Hardman. Not for those who take themselves seriously I wouldn’t say because they don’t blow any smoke up your behind. The attitude is “you got yourself here so just get on” and I loved that approach.

So thats it from me… untill next time… maybe… it is tantalisingly close to 12:something…

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