Saturday, May 16, 2009

King for a Day: Epic Tri in Ireland to Kick Off in August

This one ain't a gear piece (will get back to that quickly, there's a few new things that are reaaaaally interesting to me, one in particular). And it's kinda long. So settle in...

Anytime a triathlon takes place on a course that people remind that “legend says…” then you know it’ll be an epic. Right?

“Legend says” that Madame Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, is responsible for the heat and winds come one October weekend along the Kohala Coast. Anger her and you’re fate goes to the mumuku winds.

“Legend says” that Lanzarote local Cesar Manrique wanted to attune himself to the raw natural beauty of the rugged volcanic terra of the island. To plot a route for visitors to enjoy the raw beauty, he walked the island—naked. (Anyone who has been through Timanfaya knows how frickin hot and blistering that island is.)

And of course, the birth of the first Ironman in 1978 on the legend of a bar bet, is, well, legendary.

What is it about the upstart, the intrepid spirit of doing what has never been done before? Particularly, what draws us to it? For Commander Collins to come up with a challenge that not only went from a bet to seeing fruition is impressive. It turned Ironman into a sporting juggernaut. Same with ultramarathons. I guess it’s the sheer ridiculousness of it all that pulls us to this stuff like a magnet.

But there are ways of turning it up a notch.

Put the distance events in ardent locales, like with an epic swim at Alcatraz, or a bike at 70.3 Monaco or the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon that leaves you wondering halfway through if you’ll make it through without crashing. Then you really have something.

Put it in a locale that challenges our doubts, at the same time allowing you to take in with wonderment what you’re experiencing (as you do when you flip over and absorb the Golden Gate, Alcatraz Island and The City during the Alcatraz swim, or enjoy the simplicity of a farmer hauling in olives from trees while traversing towns at Monaco—as you’re suffering up a hill.)

There’s a new event on the horizon that I think promises to be that sort of epic event, called Eireman. For anyone who has a sense of adventure can agree that a triathlon in Ireland could be one of those unforgettable experiences. A race director is putting on an Ironman on August 23rd, and we’re hoping to be there to see if this really is a legend in the making.

Why, you ask? Well, envision biking and running over that rugged, untapped escarpment… a bit of misty rain in your face, maybe a bit of crosswind. What comes to mind for me is the Kohala Coast, at a much lower temperature, and with a lot more grass over

Race organizer Eoin Ryan says that while the area is called the Sunshine Coast, because it’s Ireland, there’s a good likeihood for rain. But hell, who said triathlon can only be held in 73 and sunny conditions? Why has Kona, or courses like Lanzarote, or Monaco, or Alcatraz, or become legendary events? It’s because of the heat, or the topography, or in this case, the possible rain.

What might make it legendary? Well, I can only imagine the beauty of riding past castles, forts, abbeys, old monuments, prehistoric burial sites and thinking of just how really old that patch of green earth really is. Celtics, Vikings, Normans, all fought for their piece of territory.

And yes, there’s true legend; thousands of years ago, Garman Garbh stole the crown from the tribe’s queen. The queen got a hand from a local witch, who flooded the mudflats, drowning Garman. The harbor was then called the Lake of Garman, the Gaelic word for Wexford—host county to the race.

And those who were king and queen at the time were called Eireman. So in reality, the man or woman who wins Eireman will be, quite literally, the first king and queen of Wexford in hundreds of years.

Think about that. Is that not epic and legendary?

Of course, it always comes down to the question for those who would want to do the race: what’s the course like? Ryan thinks this course will give Roth a run for its money as one of the worlds fastest.

The race will take place in Courtown Harbour, County Wexford (which is due south of Dublin on the Southeastern tip of Ireland). The day will set off with a swim in the calm Irish Sea in a counter-clockwise fashion in this not only wetsuit-legal, but wetsuit-mandated swim.

The bike is a four-lap 112-mile course (or a two-lap 56-mile bike for the half-Iron-distance event, or one lap for the Olympic-distance event) and as advertised, dead flat, on fully closed highways. Having raced on closed highways for the first time at 70.3 New Orleans not long ago, there is no greater experience (and deterrent to drafting) than a fully open road for cyclists.

After a few snaking turns in the early miles, the run is flat and straight. The out-and-back two-lap marathon moves you from from Courtown Harbor inland to the town of Gorey and back.

While there’s not much prize money on offer as yet (this is an upstart race, after all), the winners will take up an honor not bestowed upon any triathlon, Eireman, king and queen of Ireland. Epic.

What's cool is that on the one day are the various distance events. So one spouse could conceivably do the Ironman-distance event, with the other doing an Olympic, or a half, or a relay, and not wasting their day waiting for their spouse to finish the longer event.

Thanks to a bit of luck of the Irish, Inside Triathlon is jazzed to get a chance to document this inaugural event. Ireland is such a far-flung reach from the North American or Austral-Asian, or even middle-European triathlon centers of the world, that it will undoubtedly recall those early years of our sport, when it wasn’t as heavily vested into marketing as the sport is today. It’s not an M-Dot event as yet—and maybe it’s better that way. We’ll be keen to see how legendary it can be.

Check out the site at and maybe look at booking an air ticket to be part of a kick-ass epic debut.

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