Jonathan Morris – my triathlon journey so far

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My interest in triathlon first began in a town in Western Australia in 2012. Albany is a town on the south west coast with beautiful coastline made for cycling and swimming. I joined the local triathlon club and set myself the target of completing the Olympic distance triathlon that was held there every year. I came from a hurling background and had already done some 10km running races so the run was less of a worry. The swim was a completely different story. Swimming 1.5km in the ocean worried me a lot. I spent 3 months just trying to get my breathing right in the pool. I think I quite annoyed the two seventy year old women that swam in the slow lane every morning. Swimming gains have never come easily to me and have been a big challenge. I eventually built up to doing some group swim sessions in the pool and then in the open water. I borrowed a wetsuit and a time trial bike and completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. I loved it! That day I won a spot prize of entry into the next year’s local half Ironman distance race. There and then I committed to another year of training which has led to triathlon being a big part of my life.

Skip forward 6 years, I’ve moved home to Ireland and I’ve raced pretty consistently over the years apart from a year in the middle where work got pretty intense. I like to think I’ve learned a lot over that period, usually learning the hard way. Last year I had my first major injury, rupturing my quad muscle in a sprint finish for 18thplace in a super series race. You look back and think what was I doing sprinting for 18thplace but at the time it felt very important. I made some bad decisions and kept racing in 2017 and made things worse.

I eventually got some help and started off 2018 with 4 months of physio and strength and conditioning. I also took on board a coach, someone who could see the bigger picture and hold me back when required and push me at the right times of the year. I had a few aims leading into 2018, some of which conflicted with each other and didn’t quite work out. Something that had been in my head for a number of years was the Ironman 70.3 worlds. The notion of qualifying simmered in the back of my mind and I thought if the race came back to Europe I’d give it a good go to qualify. When Dun Laoghaire 70.3 was announced with a new bike route leading up through the Sally gap, I hoped it was a course that would suit my strengths more than the previous flat course of the Dublin 70.3. I finished the Dublin 70.3 race in 2016 in 8thplace in my age group after a fall off the bike on wet roads, luckily no major injuries just some road rash. I did feel like I had unfinished business on that course but I was happy to let it go when the new course was announced.

 

2018 started off in earnest at the Carlow sprint triathlon where I put in a performance similar to the previous year. I was happy with the performance on the day given I had come through a serious injury. I wasn’t sure if I could get my running back to the kind of times I had ran previously but with structured coaching and an emphasis on strength and conditioning leading into the season it looked like I was set to improve on my run. Next up was the Mixed team Relay at Lough Cutra in Galway. Before the race I was probably more nervous than I have ever been before any race. The Team had won the National Title the previous year and I didn’t want to let them down. The relief when I crossed the line was huge. Belpark had retained the title for another year and we had earned the right to compete at the European club championships in Lisbon. In mid-July I took the opportunity to train at altitude in St Moritz in Switzerland for 10 days. The volume of training was high and took me a week to recover afterwards. The balance between work and training is a tricky one, I work as a Civil Engineer with Garland. They are quite supportive and flexible, after some particularly early mornings, I have been known to take a lunchtime nap and mealtimes for me come around quite often.

August is where my season really came together, I took out the overall win at the Caroline Kearney standard distance triathlon. This was my first win of a national series race but it was a little bittersweet as the swim was cancelled so it was reduced to a duathlon. My search for a national series overall win will continue. A week later my A race for the year arrived, Dun Laoghaire 70.3. The conditions on the day suited me, the swim conditions were relatively rough and times were slow. Consistently swimming around 15km a week had my swim endurance in a good place even if my technique still left a lot to be desired. I came out of the water 150 places higher than 2 years previous which meant a lot less people to manoeuvre around on the bike.

The conditions up at the Sally gap were foggy, wet and windy and knowing the course was a big advantage. I had planned to cycle hard up the hills and recover on the descents while attempting to keep steady power on any of the flat sections. The conditions on the day meant lots of people had crashed out on the bike course, I was reserved when descending especially in the 2ndhalf of the bike as I could feel I was having a good day and didn’t want to take any chances. Coming off the bike onto the run I could feel my legs weren’t fantastic after a hard bike but I just went about my business at a pace I thought I could hold for 21km.

The support out on the course was fantastic and helped a lot when I felt like slowing down, Thank you so much to everyone who cheered me on the day, I really appreciated it! I’ve been known to be a pretty grumpy racer but this was a day where a smile came naturally. I ended up winning my age group by just over 8 minutes and was the 6thamateur across the line. It was a result I hadn’t expected and it really made all the work over the year worth it. I was delighted to accept my place at the World Championships in 2019 in Nice, France.

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