This is, in fact, deeply unfair. Most triathletes I know are very modest but, by God, they are animals. Competition is one of humanity’s basest instincts, and this sport breeds competitive dynamos.
I have never dreamed of being one. Mainly for the very simple reason that I can neither run nor swim. But that is why the concept of the relay Ironman was created. An Ironman event is a 3.8k swim, a 180k cycle, and a marathon.
Thanks to the unbounded enthusiasm and relentless persuasion of Brian McMullin, six of us began our day on Friday 17 May at 6.15am and concluded at 8.30pm that evening, as the last of the teams crossed the finishing line. The North/South Iron Law challenge saw the solicitors of the South pitted against our counterparts in the North. It was not for the fainthearted, and I would love to say it was close. But it wasn’t. Spoiler alert – we finished second.
The beneficiary was the Solicitors Benevolent Association, the all-Ireland charity for solicitors and their families who have fallen on hard times.
After months of meticulous preparation, the training and the phoney war were over. As North/South conflicts go, this one was second only to the American Civil War (and took nearly as long to complete).
Ivan Feran and Peter Jack were due to swim Lough Melvin, but due to cold conditions and very cold feet (of the metaphorical kind), as well pesky water temperature regulations, we shifted to Ballyshannon Leisure Centre. Now, 3.8km is still 3.8km, so 150 lengths later, Ivan emerged first and handed the baton to me.
All the segments are difficult, but the cycle is arguably the easiest – while also the most important – as that is the one where you can lose the most time. So, no pressure then. And I was only up against probably the best cyclist the North’s legal profession can produce, Darren Toombs. The equivalent cannot be said for my talents. To add to the trauma, the move from Lough Melvin to Ballyshannon also added another 14km to the cycle. Commencing at 7.40am, I was off.
Twenty kilometres later, it was no surprise that Darren (riding with his equally talented friend Adrian for company) had caught me. A hefty pace continued, with me holding grimly (though not literally) onto the back of his wheel for a further 55km.
At this point, the natural order was restored: they took off, and I spent the rest of the cycle in the company of Mark, another proper triathlete who was helping with the organisation. If you ever feel the need to be brought back down to earth, a chat with Mark will have the desired effect. Not content with doing several Ironmans, including two in a row, next month will see him attempt the Deca. This is a mere ten Ironman triathlons in successive days. My pathetic 194km cycle was a stroll in the park by comparison.
In through the out door
As the towns of Cavan and Meath disappeared into a blur, seven hours later, with Mark as my new best friend, the end of the cycle section came into sight. Maynooth was the handover and the final 10km flew by at an average of 40km per hour as we became demob happy and tired legs got the inevitable adrenalin rush.
Unfortunately for Team South, Darren Toombs had long ago handed the baton to Adam Wood, who was already beating a path towards Blackhall Place when I let Brian McMullin off the leash. Accompanied by his wife Julie (who regards a marathon as a training run) and for part of it by the insatiable Mark, Brian pounded the 26 miles to Dublin with the zest of a man who saw a plan coming together.
While Adam was safely home by the time Brian passed through the ‘in’ gate at Blackhall Place, a diplomatic incident then ensued. It appeared that Adam had, in fact, entered through the ‘out’ gate, which is clearly both illogical and grounds for disqualification. The kindness of Team South, who did not wish to win on a technicality, ensured the Northern team scored their deserved victory.
As an event, it was a triumph. The camaraderie between the two teams was warm and genuine throughout (notwithstanding the ‘OutGate’ scandal). While the main purpose of the event was to raise as much funds as possible for the SBA, a secondary and important factor was the solidarity between the jurisdictions of this island in these uncertain times. The presidents of both societies were involved in launching and closing the event, and it is fair to say that relations have never been better.
The fundraising was a success, with over €30,000 raised so far. Many thanks to all involved in arranging the event. Huge kudos to Brian who dreamt up an idea, which appears to be unparalleled worldwide, and then proceeded to organise the entire day seamlessly.
We are very grateful to all those who assisted on the day: Mark, Daniel, Paul, Gareth and Ronan. Also, thanks to our sponsors Xpediate, Willis Towers Watsons and O’Leary Insurance Group. Finally, the generosity of the Sandhouse Hotel who put us up the night before, and Barry Britton who provided the artwork for free, will not be forgotten.
We intend to make it an annual event and open it up to a wider participation next year. So, if you’re mad enough, start prepping for IronLaw 2020.