Many of you probably know Simon Butterworth of Louisville, Colorado. He has competed at the IRONMAN World Championships 14 times having won his age group two years ago. He competes in local races constantly and there aren’t many people on the planet who have raced more triathlons. He is from Ireland and recently competed at Cork and you will enjoy reading about his voyage “home” to race in one of the hardest and most weather challenged races he has ever done. An epic day filled with amazing people he encountered. Check out his journey!
By Simon Butterworth
I knew Irish weather could throw us a curve when I signed up last year, but I had no choice. How could a immigrant from Ireland pass up the first ever IM just 45 miles from their hometown Tramore, impossible. My enthusiasm for the race will be clear if you read my Blog. It is after all the Irish who are your hosts and there are non-better at that. It helped a lot that I managed to finish but it was a real case of “but for the grace of God” that I did. Two of my fellow old geezers got a flat which finished the race for them. Try fixing a flat when you are almost hypothermic, motion is essential to not going there.
I sincerely hope that our day does not deter other Irish Americans (and any one who becomes Irish on St Patricks Day) from going “home” to race. But do it with eyes wide open. Preparation for the possible conditions is key. Sort out an appropriate kit for the worst (and hope for the best like the day before and after), especially for the bike. I got the best kit possible (my opinion after the race) from Rapha then hoped that I would not have to use it. It made the finish possible. I should note that you can do that race in those conditions in bike shorts and short sleeve top, but you probably need to be Irish, from somewhere in the UK or a similar climate.
All IronMan races are hard it’s just that some take longer than others. That is a key consideration when picking a race and you are not blazing fast but if you can go the distance within the cutoff times you just need to plan for a longer day. You need more fluids and food and you also have to adjust your power or HR limits. You can research what to do on your own but a coach in this case makes matters much easier.
You will also hear the roads were rough. Any of us who have done Escape from Alcatraz know that they were not the worst roads in Triathlon by far. Last year I watched the pro men going airborne over the ruts and potholes on the last downhill to T2 as I was going up. There were a lot of bumpy roads but again preparation, lower tire pressure and the right bike helps. I rode on a Dimond, a beam bike that handles rough roads well. A good road bike that is stiff laterally but compliant vertically would be better than an all-around stiff tri bike. Gearing is key, I could have used a 32 cog on the rear but managed fine with a 34/28, except for Windmill.
Speaking of gearing big shout out to Niall McCarthy and Michelle Nagle, both finished 5th in their first IM, Niall did it stuck in the big chain ring for the second loop, ouch. I met both of them Tuesday before the race (a nice sunny one). Also shout out to my friends John Kelly, Chanc Wood (both from my Colorado town Lafayette) and Katie O’Brian (from neighboring Boulder). John made a brave go of it with an injured shoulder but was forced to concede to the conditions. Katie crashed but continued on learning that she had fractured her collar bone when she finished, tough. Chanc finished, the prime objective, not sure how his day went.
I can’t say enough about the people of Youghal and the surrounding towns, villages and farms who came out to support us either as volunteers or in the cheering section. Big thank you to the club in the middle of Youghal giving us the motivation to press on with some very loud chants. Seeing the same people all around the course on lap two of the bike in the rain meant that if they could do that so could we. I have not seen anything like that in over 150 triathlons and 26 IM races. Only Challenge Roth is the same, and they have the advantage of a much larger population surrounding the course, and sunny skies last year.
If I was bummed out it was not seeing more happy faces outside the pubs on the course, temptation to stay warm was strong. Imagine the crowd on the lawn of the Beer Garden at the start of the bike on a day like Monday.
Anyone with ideas of heading to Ireland next year give me a call or message. I would be happy to help with the decision making. Hope you enjoy the story of my two weeks in Ireland and race day on my blog