Cobh Triathlon Club

Triathlon Club Cobh Ireland


May 30th, 2013





To complete an ironman was always a dream of mine, after watching with fascination footage over the years on television and on You Tube it was always lurking at the back of my mind coming to the surface every so often.

After a couple of sprint triathlons, half marathons and marathons etc the seed was planted in my head by fellow Cobh Tri Club member Robbie Doherty. Ironman training on my own I would never have attempted but with a training partner the prospect of completing an Ironman became real. I think I speak for Robbie as well when I say the training, strategising, sorting out the small details was a lot easier when you had someone in exactly the same situation as you. We really helped each other on our journey, if we arranged to meet at Cuskinny at 6.00am we were both there come rain, hail or sunshine notching off another training session or marking the end of another weeks training.

Ironman is as much a mental journey as a physical one, it takes you to places in your head you thought you’d never be able to go, you’re definitely stronger afterwards.


Ironman as a race is not that difficult, you are racing against nobody except yourself, any pressure you feel is self inflicted, I was never going to be in the shake down for a spot at the Kona World Championships so I approached the race with a sensible attitude and it certainly paid off, I can honestly say I enjoyed the race, where else would you rather be at about six in the morning standing on a beach with 1300 other lunatics.

The training is relentless, six days a week with the long cycles and runs taking place at the weekends. Mondays were meant to be my day off but I used to go to Norma O Driscoll for deep tissue massages. I’ve often finished a session with Norma and have been more shook than any training session I have completed. The upside of this is I had a new pair of legs for the weeks training ahead. A big thank you to Norma for keeping all my injuries at bay, keeping me going, when the body was physically stressed to the limit.


The Race:


Travelled to Regensberg on the Thursday prior to the race on Sunday, the bike arrived intact and I checked into the apartment, sorted out all the gear, made all the necessary lists I would require for each segment of the race. My wife, Annette and eldest daughter, Charlotte were arriving on the Saturday, would I be glad to see them, they would be a welcome distraction to going over the same detail time and time again hoping you haven’t forgotten something.

Drove out to the lake on the Saturday had a short swim, the weather was absolutely boiling, about 32 degrees Celsius, Robbie and myself declared to each other “ we’re absolutely f**ked if this is the weather for tomorrow”. We were used to training in a balmy 2- 7 degrees, we had visions of collapsing during the run.

Morning of the race got up at 4am, slept fitfully, when you set an alarm call why are you generally always awake before it? Managed to eat some food, went downstairs, met Robbie and we proceeded to get the bus to the transition area for the start of the race.


This is what it all came down to, after nearly 8 months of constant training and planning, here I was standing on the beach ready to take on “The Ironman” and see what challenges it threw at me during the day. To get to the start line is an achievement in itself, to stay fit and healthy for the duration of the training programme is fantastic, everybody arrives with some niggle or strain and just prays it won’t raise its ugly head.

Consumed a bottle of Powerade and an aqueos gel, shook hands with Robbie, wished each other good luck and said see you on the other side.

The gun went for the start of the race and we all descended into the lake. I went in about halfways between the front and the back and this proved to be a good decision, despite a bit of argy bargy and finding it hard to get a rythmn going for the first 700 metres, everything settled down, most people were sensible and realised this is going to be a long day and there was no need for bloody noses.

Enjoyed the swim, kept aerobic at all times, just kept stroking it out as I’ve done incalculable times in the pool, +/- 5 minutes to your swim time will make very little difference when you’re putting in a 12 hour shift at the office. Exited the water, I was happy with my time, I had not pushed hard and felt fresh.



Into the bike transition area, slipped off the wetsuit, applied all the necessary Vaseline/suncream and off I went. All I can say about the bike is I felt it was long and I was happy to get off it. This wasn’t due to any particular reason other than 6hrs 25 mins is enough cycling for one day. I didn’t push very hard on the bike, stayed on the drops during the big descents, no point being a superhero and crashing out, this day was all about finishing the race, there would be other days when the pedals wouldn’t get a rest.

The cycle race was 2no. loops with a long 20km stretch back into Regensberg, the support was fantastic all along the route.


Into the run transition area and as I said before I was only racing against myself, this mindset was very important for the whole race, I put myself under no time pressure and I knew once I got off the bike segment I was going to finish my Ironman adventure even if I had to crawl over the line.

Changed into my running gear, applied the necessary vaseline and nipple patches, set the garmin to run and then sat down and enjoyed 3no. jam sandwiches and a cup of tea from my flask. This was like heaven, you wouldn’t believe how nice they tasted after eating rotten gels and powerade drinks all day long. I spent approx 16 mins in T2 which is excessively long I know, but I was dressed for battle, had food in my stomach and was ready for road. Came out of transition saw my wife, Annette and daughter, Charlotte went over for a brief chat and then set off on the last leg only a marathon to go.

I can honestly say I thought I would find the run more difficult, it was 4 loops around the streets of Regensberg, a beautiful city with great support all around the course for the athletes. There were plenty of water/fuel stops throughout the course, the water sponges and ice cubes really kept me cool as the temperature peaked about 28 degrees during the marathon. I stopped every loop, stretched the hamstrings, loosened everything out and off I would go again.

After completing  4no. loops I turned the corner to see the finishing chute in the distance, spotted my wife, Annette and daughter, Charlottte. Charlotte handed me the tri-colour  and with it held high I crossed the finish line to the famous “ Alan Bardsley you’re an Ironman”.

My race was over, I had fulfilled one of my dreams, what a great day, both Robbie and I completed the Ironman, we were both in one piece and we had our wives and families around us to share the moment.

A special thanks to my wife, Annette and family for filling in all the time I was away training or missing from a family function/event. I would also like to thank everybody who helped me, offered support/advice and for their encouragement along the way.


Yours in Sport,


Alan Bardsley



Ironman Frankfurt 2012 (by Padraig Purcell)

May 1st, 2013

I arrived in Frankfurt on Friday evening the 5th of July with my wife Gill and my daughter Sophie after driving from Cork.  My plan was to register on Friday evening have a look around the Expo for a while, leaving Saturday to go for a small spin in the morning before heading to transition early and being back in my hotel to relax for the afternoon and evening.  What is it they say about the best laid plans?  Well I missed registration Friday evening, the expo was closed and Sophie did not want to be hanging around!  Slight change of plan, register on Saturday morning, have a quick look at the expo and drive to transition all in time to be in the hotel by mid afternoon.

Saturday 6th July 2012 (day before the race)

Registration completed and off to the Expo, temperature was in or around 30˚C and sunny!  Had a wander around and managed to spend €15 on a pair of sock for the race that ‘massage your feet as you run’ (they didn’t!), pictures with some pro’s and x-pros such as Faris Al-Sultan, the 2005 Ironman World Champion, and Norman Stadler, 2004 Ironman World Champion.

Then off we (my college friend, Peter Murtagh, was also racing and returned a super 10:05 with a back wheel falling off on the bike!) went to transition and it seemed to get hotter the closer we got and peaked at 35˚C!  I was convinced that it would be a non-wetsuit swim and I would then melt on the bike!  Transition was an experience and made me feel like a pro, somebody took my bike and escorted me to my bike rack and assisted me with all my set-up and gave some great advice to deflate my wheels as the heat could make them pop.

Once the bike was racked and all my bits were set up Peter and I had a wander around and I almost ended up on a nudist beach, that’s a different story for a different day.  We headed back to the hotel to chill out for the evening before the longest day of my life!

Sunday 7th July (Race day)

Padraig Purcell


4am my alarm went off, not that I needed an alarm as sleep was very hard to come by with the mixture of nerves and excitement.  I headed down stairs with my quick oats (thanks to Gill for remembering) for a hearty breakfast of porridge and any other carbs that I could stomach.  After breakfast I went back to my room to get the best wishes from Gill and Sophie (Sophie was just 1 so it was not an option to bring her to the swim start as it was much too early).

We arrived at transition and the buzz was fantastic, weather looked good, not as sunny as the past 2 days but not too bad.  I went to my bike and made all the final checks and pumped up my tyres, although the track pump I used was not great and I didn’t manage to get the pressure as high as I wanted (more on this later!).  With the race start fast approaching and my nerves/excitement/emotions coming closer to the surface it was time to hand over my transition bag and head to the water.  The support from all the marshals and early morning crowd was super but difficult to appreciate knowing what lay ahead.

In the water and the warm up is finished, the announcement that we are 30 secs from the start, I’m feeling nervous but confident as I know I’ve put the work in and taken the advice of my coach (Steve Davis  I had positioned myself where I wanted in the swim to try and avoid as much of the ‘washing machine’ as possible, to the side and near the back half.  However, when I looked over my shoulder to the shoreline I noticed I had made a bit of a mistake!  I was actually positioned at the side but closer to the front!  Too late to change now just get on with it!  The hooter went and so did I, the swim was a 2 lap course with a small beach run between laps.  The first section of the first lap was extremely difficult and I have to admit I swam with my fist’s clinched and times to get some clear water (if you can’t beat them join them).  After lap 1 of the swim I really thought that I was after a slower than expected time due to the crowds but I was pleasantly surprised to see my watch reading 40mins.  So it was confidence up and into lap 2 and kick on!  I finished the swim in 1:16! Thanks in no small part to super swim coach Francais Buckley!

Into T1 and get the head focused on the bike.  That’s when I noticed that it had started to rain!  Decision time, I had included a jersey and a pair of arm warmers in my T1 bag just in case the weather was cold.  Forget the jersey and arm warmers it’s only light rain and the last few days have been in the thirty’s I won’t need them.  Wetsuit off, bike in hand helmet on sunglasses and off we went for 180km.  Coming out of T1 I got a feel for what the support was going to be like with shouts of support from the entire crowd, especially the Irish supporting.  Just as I reached the first fast straight section of road the heavens opened and I wished I had put on my jersey and arm warmers, too late now!

The bike course was 2 laps on a rolling course.  The rain was relentless for the first lap and there were lots of crashes, mainly due to tyre pressure being too high for the conditions (I was thankful that mine were not as high as I wanted or could also be on my ass).  My focus on the bike was to keep my cadence and heart rate as steady as possible when I wasn’t going up hill.  There are 8 climbs in total on the course and this is where most of the support was, even in the rain the course was lined.  One of the climbs is up cobbles and is nicknamed ‘the nut cracker’ (I’ll leave you decide why, I have my own opinion).  Climbing on wet cobbles is no fun as traction is very difficult and sometimes it feels like you’re not moving.  As the second lap approached the sun started to break through and things started to look up.  The second lap was tougher than the first because when the rain went away the wind arrived!  The final 25-30km of the bike was into the wind and also had the toughest climb of the course.  The support on the climb was amazing, it was like the tour de France.  People 3 or 4 deep cheering you on and the gap of people to ride through got smaller the closer you got to the top and the shouts of ‘allez, allez’ and ‘up, up, up’ got louder!  Having made it to the top of the climb it was decision time, push on for my target of sub 6 hours on the bike or ease off a little and save some for the run?  That’s when I though of some advice from my training partner Paul Walshe (Paul had raced IM Austria the week prior to me) ‘do what you should, not what you could’ – great advice Paul.  So I ended up finishing up the bike in 6:06, still close enough to my target.

Into T2 and feeling like a pro continues as a marshal takes my bike at the entrance to transition.  Found my run bag and into the tent to change my shoes (and put on my €15 socks).  My German helper didn’t get my joke either – when she’s asked if I had everything I asked if she had seen my legs, to which she replied ‘no, but I’ll go look’ think it must be the language barrier.  So it’s marathon time, 4 laps of a 10km and a bit course.  The plan this time as discussed with coach Steve is, if you feel good push because you won’t feel good too often!  The first push started as soon as I left T2 and yet again the crowds were fantastic, the run route was lined 4 deep with spectators for the majority of the course.  Lap 1 went to plan, and so did the start of lap 2 and then my stomach started to grumble….all the gels and drinks seemed to be taking their toll on my stomach and a trip to the loo was called for.  I had used all my nutrition as part of my training so I didn’t expect this to happen.  Laps 3 and 4 I had the same problems and I had to break the golden rule of not trying anything new on race day, so instead of gels and iso drinks it was bits of banana and flat coke (this did the trick).  Onto the last lap and I was struggling, the demons in my ear telling me I wouldn’t finish, telling me I couldn’t finish.  That’s when the crowd came into play especially the group of lads from Nass tri club that saw me struggling (walking) and really got behind me to get that extra bit of energy to push on to the finish and hopefully make it under 12hours.  As I crossed the final bridge for the final time it looked like I was going to make my target of sub 12hours (baring disaster).  At this point I could relax a bit more but not too much and start to enjoy the experience again.  As I passed through the marshals handing out the wrist bands for the last time it felt like I could keep going for another lap!  Finally I was going to run up the finish chute that I had passed at the start of every lap and finally get to see Gill and Sophie.  When I started onto the finish chute I was greeted with cheers from Gill and waves from Sophie, I stopped for a kiss and to run up the finish chute with Sophie in my arms.  Unfortunately, a race referee told me because Sophie could not walk she could not come with me.  So after 11hours 55mins and 18 secs I was finally an IRONMAN!!!!  Now the decision, to get a tattoo or not?

Finally, I am the Ironman but it would not have been possible without the help and support of the following people; coach Steve – when I met Steve it was taking me almost 11 hours to complete a sprint triathlon!  I’m proof that his programs work, check him out at Francis Buckley swim coach – all those seemingly crazy drills have paid off, I was a very poor swimmer and between Steve and Francis I have, and continue, to improve.  My training partners, Paul, John, and Aengus – it was always a pleasure to head east on the long rides, and Paul heading to Dungarvan at stupid o’ clock and making me ride 6km further than you!  To all my friends and family for your ongoing support and understanding.  Finally and most importantly to Gill and Sophie thank you for giving me the support and strength to achieve my goal of becoming an Ironman.  When I went to the dark places during the marathon it was thinking of you waiting at the finish line that got me there!  I love you both so much and can’t wait to cheer Gill across the line if she ever chooses to complete a marathon!