Sometimes when you look back at an event it is interesting to recall what happened in the past leading up to the event. The event was the Sneem Triathlon 2013 when all four of our children took part. There was nothing in their breeding to suggest that this should happen!
Sneem is a most picturesque little village on the Ring of Kerry and each year the local athletic club run a triathlon event. This year’s Sneem Triathlon as I mentioned, saw all of our four children taking part. Whilst three of them Owen, Eamon and Nora completed the entire three sections of the triathlon. Oonagh did it as part of a team.
She did the run section, Rossa her husband completed the cycle and Marina, Owens’s wonderful girlfriend from Australia started them off by doing a great swim. That was a proud day for Mary and me. It was special too as two of our grandchildren Nell and Cathal were with us to cheer on their Mum and Dad Oonagh and Rossa.Well done to all!
Triathlons are wonderful social events normally organised by local voluntary committees. For most of the participants it is all about taking part and the great fun and feel good factor they get from the training beforehand and the incredible relief and satisfaction they get from actually finishing the triathlon. Whether they finish first or last doesn’t matter! (That’s a lie)
The Sneem Triathlon starts with an ocean swim of 750 metres that starts near the rowing club. The swim is then followed by a cycle of 20 kilometres along the Ring of Kerry road with a good hill climb towards Castlecove and then the cyclists head back to Sneem and discard their bikes and take off as fast as they can on a tough run of about 5 kilometres up the hill behind the village of Sneem.
Neither Mary nor I were ever involved in running or any similar sport and after the Triathlon I just started to think back as to how our children’s interest in the wonderful world of sport and triathlons evolved.
When Owen was a teenager and doing his transition year at school he was going through the usual difficult teenage years and whilst he was a little involved in rugby and hurling, he really wasn’t really that happy with either and as a result was not creating the close friendships that team sports can bring about.
During his transition year at school he made the decision to join Cork Boat Club and this was without doubt the most positive and wonderful thing for him to do, as it transformed his life in the most brilliant way.
Cork Boat Club is situated on the bank of the River Lee just upstream from the wonderful Blackrock Castle. It is a traditional rowing club and before long Owen was rowing in an eight with 7 other lads under a wonderful but demanding Cox Cormac O Regan.
The Cox together with the lead rower the stroke (normally the strongest, coolest and fittest rower on the boat) effectively control the number of strokes or pulls that the crew take per minute, mostly they are trying to get the boat to move faster than the rowers are capable of pulling!
Most importantly in addition to the great training and fun, they were really enjoying spending time on the beautiful and now clean River Lee. In addition great friendships developed that are still strong today more than 10 years later.
Owen in particular became friends with and rowed with many of the wonderful Mc Sweeney family whose late father Denis was always a hero of Owens and was indeed the inspiration to Owen to complete a triathlon some years later at the base of The French Alps that finished with a cycle up the famous Alpe d’Huez. This was something Denis had done some years earlier when he was battling brain cancer.
When Owen was doing the Alpe D’Huez cycle the road was open and so foolishly I decided to follow the cyclists as they cycled from the swim section to the base of the mountain and then up the 14 kilometres consisting of 21 hairpin bends before the summit is reached. The climb they do on the bicycle is about the same height as Ireland’s highest mountain Carrantuohill!
Just before the climb started, we were surrounded by cyclists and Mary suggested to me that it wasn’t the cleverest thing I had ever done but there was nothing I could do at that stage because if I stopped I would definitely have killed a few triathletes. There was nothing to do except drive to the top of the mountain with the cyclists and we must have passed out hundreds on the way to the top. It certainly was the most exciting and frightening drive of my life. Not sure that Mary has yet forgiven me!
When we got to the top and parked the car we then watched the finish of the triathlon which was a run of 7 kilometres along the top of the mountain. The pint of French beer we enjoyed with Owen after he finished was well earned and wonderfully satisfying.
To go back to the Sneem story. When Owen was at college at UCC doing law (by the way when he finished law at UCC he decided that he would be happier and more useful to mankind by going to Trinity as a mature physiotherapist student…that’s another and quite expensive story!) He decided to run a little charity event called a 3 by 3. The idea was that each person who raised some money for charity would be a part of a three person team and each team member would have to walk or preferably run three kilometres.
This event was a great success and all of our children took part to support him. This really was the first time that any of our other three children had taken part in a run of any consequence and bit by bit they all developed an interest in running inspired by Owen. Their motivation was basically to keep fit. One year all four took part in the Ballycotton 10 which is a ten mile road race around the fishing village of Ballycotton in East Cork and I always said that was one of the great days. Nora admitted to a fellow competitor who queried her interest in running “that she ran because she loved her food”!
Owen then started to get involved in triathlons whilst studying physiotherapy at Trinity. And we had great fun following him to the various events during the summer holidays in Youghal, Dunmore East, Bunmahon, Kinsale Caherciveen Kilkee and a memorable one where the swim was on the River Liffey and the run and cycle around the PhoenixPark. We left Kerry at 3 am that morning to get to the PhoenixPark for a 8 am start!
He was making good progress and getting very competitive. He was placed a few times and eventually won his first triathlon at Kenmare but to our regret we weren’t there to see him win as we were on holiday
Probably the highlight was a visit to Hamburg when he was part of the Irish team in the world student championships and to see him cross the finish in a great time with Ireland on his back was a special moment for us.
Owen also ran the Dublin Marathon accompanied by Eamon’s wife Gene another fine runner. Not to be outdone Nora in Australia who was on a year out, decided to do a mini triathlon there. Eamon was also thinking of doing a marathon and started to get into serious training. Bit by bit our four children were getting support from one another and Oonagh in NewcastleWest and her husband Rossa kept at the running too.
Mary and I have travelled to some great places to watch the competitions and a few years ago went with Owen to the lovely City of Florence where he and Cormac the Cox, on his rowing crew took part on what was a horrible day when the rain bucketed down and both of them finished like drowned rats and frozen to death. Owen was trying to break the 3 hour barrier for the marathon in Florence but didn’t quite make it.
The next marathon planned was Barcelona and Eamon decided that this would be his first and Owen also decided that he would have one last go at beating the 3 hours. Eamon was just hoping that he would be able to finish the race and do a respectable time. Gene travelled too and was a fantastic help in getting us from point to point on the underground so than we could follow the lads progress.
The day dawned sunny in Barcelona and we had a smashing day watching Eamon and Owen achieve each of their goals. Subsequently they decided that they didn’t really enjoy the world of marathon running and that the triathlons were perhaps more fun and less dangerous on the body.
So to Sneem 2013 when all four took part and as you can see from the attached photo they were so proud of themselves. Owen came out of the water in just over 10 minutes and led from start to finish in a time of just over an hour. The icing on the cake for us on a great and memorable day was that we were there for the first time to see him winning a triathlon. Thanks Owen.
But it is taking part that is the most important thing and so overall we were just so proud of all of our family who swam and cycled and ran just as fast as they could, and that’s the truth!
I went about a half mile from the finish to encourage Nora towards the end of her race and as she ran slowly past me she simply said “O my God I am so tired!” The life of an athlete is a tough one!