Having participated in a few events now as a member of Tritanium Triathlon club and experienced how fantastic the support is from people along the route and especially from fellow members who come out to personally cheer you on , on Saturday 19th August I decided to return the favour and support all the runners taking part in the Ten miler in the Phoenix Park .
I cheered and whooped and took woeful photos and encouraged them all over the finish line.
Joining some of the 10 milers, Barbara, Elm, Emma, Richie and Ciaran, afterwards for the well-deserved coffee and cake in the visitor centre , the chat and banter was lively, everyone delighted with their achievement and excited with their progress and training.
I innocently asked Barbara, chief cheerleader, if someone had taken her entry for the Dublin City Triathlon Olympic distance as I knew she was unable to use it due to injury. It was just part of the conversation? “No” she replied,” its still available but the transfer window closes today”
Then all of a sudden, I heard “you should take it “- “you’ll be well able for it” “go on”, “you’ve done the training” and so on.
So, in the space of a few minutes and with only a week to go I had signed up to do the Dublin City Triathlon Olympic distance.
This summer I had already done two Olympic triathlons – Athy and Harbourman so I knew what was involved.
My reluctance for not signing up for DCT before then, really, was my reluctance to get back into the Liffey.
During the summer of 2022 I had completed the Skerries Sprint, the Athy Sprint, and the Two Provinces Sprint and was signed up for DCT.
So August 2022, I was there on the day, ready to go, all prepped looking at this famous river.
I got in to the Liffey, panicked, swam a bit, panicked, swam a bit more, panicked, but just couldn’t get the breathing right and then called for help from the kayakers and got out and sought medical attention – heart rate high but all ok.
I calmed down.
The first aid team asked me if I wanted to call it and I said no I wanted to give it another go so I got into the Liffey again.
Alas, again, panic panic panic.
Tried and tried.
I even tried the backstroke to get my breathing under control.
I couldn’t get over it and I just lost my confidence.
All of a sudden, I was holding onto the rope in the middle of the river for dear life.
“F” for “fear”.
A kayaker came along and brought me to the bank.
That was it.
I wasn’t going in for a third attempt.
I walked back to transition – me and my black black black feet from standing in the muck and Liffey goo at the bank where I jumped out and decided well “ok I’ll just do the cycle and run”.
Not sure if this is allowed but off I went on my bike, got into the Phoenix Park and realised I was zapped, no energy, I wasn’t 100%, so I accepted that it was time to stop and called it a day.
“F” for finito.
So, in the back of my mind there was a reason why I hadn’t been too pushed to sign up for DCT 2023.
So why in the name of God did I take the entry from Barbara!!!.
And an Olympic one at that!!
Maybe it’s the stubbornness and “I won’t’ let this defeat me” attitude people who do triathlons have. I don’t know.
Or maybe because it was spur of the moment and I didn’t have time to think about it that I just said, “Yes I would take the entry”.
So, there I was Saturday 26th August, signed up to get into this river again and not just to do one lap but to do two???????
On Friday 25th when handed my registration, the DCT Marshall sighed and said, “Oh I’m sorry” and looked at me forlornly.
Sorry for what???
Sorry, you’re an eegit signing up to do this again??
Sorry, we’ve no XL T-shirts left?
Sorry for what????
“Sorry, your ticket number is Number 13.”
Now I am not a superstitious person, (well I kinda sorta am – I am Irish) so I said to myself, now Brenda Kearns, don’t let this get into your head – it’s nonsense – it’s not an omen, nothing is going to happen, put it out of your mind.
Saturday morning, cycling through the park at 9.30am having parked at the Ashtown gate, another participant cycled alongside me, his name was Richie by the way – but not any of the three Richies in Tritanium – and we got chatting.
“Oh you’re Number 13, you’re in the elite group!” says he!
Well Ladies and Gentlemen, I nearly fell off the bike with laughter and I told him that I had never ever been described as an elite athlete and explained that it was a last-minute thing, got the transfer yada yada yada but I would give it a go.
But in my own mind, why not be elite? Doing this would be elite for me.
I started to psyche myself up.
If I could swim 1.5km in the River Barrow, if I could swim 1.5km in the washing machine that was Wicklow harbour and swim 1.9km in a 70.3 Ironman in Mallorca, I could swim in the “FFFffin” Liffey!!!
It was great to see so many of the Tritanium team all ready to go for the Sprint, everyone wishing each other luck and telling each other we’d be great.
All those words of encouragement do sink in.
They do matter.
So, my turn.
Into the Liffey again.
“Women only” wave.
A wave start – which I now know means you wait in the river for a minute – “F” for “floating” – I held onto the pontoon until the very last minute.
The starting whistle blew.
Off I went.
I waited for the panic.
“F” for flutter.
A little flutter.
I waited for it to get worse, still only a flutter.
Where’s the panic?
I had started my counting – which is what I do – I count during my swims.
I pick a number (not 13). In this case it was 30.
I do that many strokes, slow down and get my bearings, and off I go again, another 30 strokes, pause and so on and so on. I stayed by the rope in the middle of the river as a marker and off I went.
Where was the panic???
It wasn’t there?
A nice calm “F” – “Phew”!!!
I was swimming.
I was breathing calmly, I was counting and moving along, picking out the target buoys and markers.
Turned at the buoys to come upstream.
Stayed by the rope in the middle of the river. But hang on, where was everyone else?
Why were they at the side?? I stopped and asked a kayaker, and they told me the current was strongest in the middle.
You should see my Strava picture of this swim – its jagged, spikey, zig zaggy and all over the place.
“F” for frantic swimming and getting nowhere!
So, I moved to the side and kept going.
Lap 1 finished, got around the buoys ok.
So downstream again, so stuck to the middle again and felt I was moving along nicely, got to the buoys, turned and headed to the left and headed upstream again.
Now I know people will say there are no such things, but as far as I am concerned, swimming amongst the reeds and “vegetation” along the Liffey bank, I encountered a swamp monster, something grabbed my leg, got wrapped around my leg and as far as I was concerned it was pulling me down for breakfast.
So, panic returned. “F” “F “F”!
Talk to yourself Brenda.
It’s only really long reeds.
You’ve gone in too far and you’ve got wrapped up in them.
It’s not a greeny browny swamp monster its only reeds. It’s only reeds.
So out into the stronger current.
Tiring now the last buoys in sight.
By this stage the sprinters had caught up and it was busy busy around the buoys.
But at least I didn’t kick anyone.
But I did get pushed under the big white buoy.
“F “ “ F” “F” again – this time shouting!
A kayaker told me to swim straight ahead, swim upstream as opposed to trying to turn around the buoy. I followed this advice and thankfully got out from under the buoys. I turned around and headed for the finish.
I couldn’t believe it.
I was nearly finished.
Yeay Yeay Yeay!!
I was very elegantly (not!!) pulled out onto the pontoon.
“F” for “flop” – as that’s what it was like!
I think the technical term would be “belly flopped”.
I was out.
I had done it.
I ran by the roaring and cheering Tritanium supporters!!! I high fived!!!
I had swam the “effin” Liffey! “Ffffffffffffff”.
This special “F” moment was even captured in slow motion by the official photographer.
Over to the bike, into the park, 5 laps and then the run.
4 laps of the run.
I took my time – did it at my own pace.
No pressure on you now Brenda, you had done the swim, everything now was a bonus.
There’d be no “F” for fail.
I kept going and knew I could do it.
In Tritanium we will all have our “F” moments.
Fun, fit, friendly, fearful, and fearless but ultimately fantastic moments.
All positive “F”s that get us to the most important “F” of all – the finish line.
Thanks to all the supporters and all the encouragement.
My next triathlon event will be sponsored by the much more polite letter “G”.
“G” for “Golly” “Gosh” “Gee” and of course “Go on ya good thing!!”
Come on the dots!!!