Sarah O Connor – Race Report

In News, Race Reports, Racing by Joe Johnson8 Comments

I really enjoyed reading Sarah’s race report because so many things that she describes are things I can absolutely relate to. The pre-race nerves, the obsessive preparation, etc. (although I’ve never spent an entire evening practicing fixing a puncture.. You’re on your own there Sarah..!). Congratulations Sarah, you have a lot to be proud of. JJ

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be spending a summer doing a string of triathlons sacrificing Friday night pints, Saturday Big-Macs and Sunday morning lie-ins I’d have laughed, snorted in fact.

As I drove to Mullingar that morning battling with my typical almost debilitating pre-race nerves I wondered what was wrong with me, why am I doing this to myself!

Anyone that has spoken to me will probably know I had a terrible first open water race experience when I did Carlow Sprint Tri earlier in the summer. Although I had managed to overcome my open water fear by getting back in and doing aquathons, sprint triathlons, many sea swims and generally wrecking everyone’s head talking about it, I had developed a new fear – lake swimming. I had convinced myself all sort of ridiculous things about swimming in a lake, how dark it would be, that the vegetation would be like something out of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and the lack of salt water would surely lead to me sinking to the bottom before I even started. So in order to combat this latest bout of over-thinking, the week prior to the race I headed to Lilliput with a few of my New to Tri buddies to do the Celtic Warrior 1.9k swim race.

Who would have thought it – Swimming in a lake is AMAZING!!!!! The lake was so beautiful, I had a great swim and was absolutely buzzing after it. Having done the 1.9k distance in a race really boosted my confidence for the following week. Surely that was it for the end of my pre-race nerves?!!

I found plenty of other things to worry about before the race, culminating in me spending a whole night teaching myself to change a puncture two nights before the race (if I didn’t end up divorcing my husband that night I never will!)

Anyway back to the Caroline Kearney race itself!


As I said the lake in Lilliput is so beautiful, no jellyfish or waves to contend with, just lovely clear water. The race was split into male and female waves. In my short time doing triathlons this was the first time I noticed how much more men were racing than women (I feel determined that this needs to change).

Normally before I race I have a look at where the buoys are and imagine myself swimming around them etc – however after doing the race the week before I was probably a bit too confident and didn’t do this. When I started swimming I realised I had no idea what the course was. I had also developed a new strategy of starting a race at the front to the side rather than at the back – not a strategy I will be returning to – between that and not being able to sight the buoys I swam a lot more than 1.5k.

Getting out of the water I checked my watch and saw I was a few mins off what I thought I’d do, I was disappointed but never mind, onto the bike!


Cycling is my worst discipline, although I love the bike part of a triathlon, think I enjoy being on the bike as I know I’ve got through the swim in one piece. I wasn’t sure how to pace myself on the bike for 40km, I’d done loads of longer 80k+ cycles in the lead up but I’m not really sure if that benefited me. I had a goal to pass 5 people out on the bike and do it in under 1.5 hours and I kept to that. I found the cycle quite tough, it was definitely not as flat as I’d heard, more of a rolling course in my non-expert opinion!!


I was so happy to be out on the run, I love running, plus I think the run part of triathlon is so exciting, the finish line is near!! Found the first few km of the run really difficult, my legs were screaming, so much worse than any brick session I’d done. Although I had to trust myself that I’d done enough brick runs off the bike that the pain would go away, and it did. About 3 or 4km into the run my legs calmed down and I got into my usual running rhythm. The route was nice and flat and I tried to keep to what was a comfortable 10km running pace for me as I wasn’t sure how much I could push myself. Had a few chats with people that I was running beside along the way – I was enjoying myself so much! Only real issue on the run was the rubbing of my toes in my runners, really should have worn socks for the run! Checked my watch and couldn’t believe it when it was 9km, that race that flown by and I felt great (apart from my now bleeding very badly toes). Crossing the finish line was a bit surreal, think I was a bit sad it was over. But overall I was buzzing, I was happy enough with my time, plenty to improve on and I wasn’t totally out of steam after the race. I really enjoyed the longer distance race, 70.3 you are up next!!!!

I am pretty sure this is one of the best summers I’ve ever had, I’ve overcome fears I never even knew I had and developed a passion for something that I didn’t know a single thing about a year ago. Belpark I thank you, for introducing me to triathlon and such a truly amazing bunch of people!

Oh and lastly, the most valuable lesson I have learned this summer – get used to seeing absolutely awful unflattering pictures of yourself racing – embrace it!!


  1. Andrew Fenton

    Sarah – you’ve captured a first season perfectly, speaking as a fellow newbie! Best of luck for next season and congratulations on progressing so far in your first year.

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