*** many thanks to Amin Soltani (aka the Iron Panda) for this race report ***

Dublin, Ireland what an amazing place.

The scenery is beautiful and the people are great.

You can cheat some things in life and I learnt that very valuable lesson in Austria, if you don’t put in the work you won’t make it, that’s what I learnt anyway.

I cheated myself when it came up to the race in Austria. Didn’t put in the work or training that I should have.

I decided this time it would be different. I think this is probably why I didn’t feel as nervous as I was in Austria.

I think any nerves I did have were washed away when I walked with my partner in crime to the pick up spot.

At 4am when you have to walk 4km to the bus which then drives another 30-40mins to the start of the race you get a little worried when no one else is in the street especially when you leave your phones behind in the hotel room.

Then just when you think you should start to panic you see someone come around the corner with that famous white plastic bag.

We got on the buses provided and got dropped off not far from transition 1 and the bike check.

After a quick check of the bikes, pumping up the tires, adding water bottles and nutrition to the bikes it’s time to get into the wet suit and get ready for that swim which is going to be in approximately 13 degrees Celsius.

My wave started at 7am so by 6:15am I was stretching and doing my warm ups. It then dawned on me and I had to laugh but I was surrounded by what could have been a scene from the next Borat movie. Hundreds of men with plastic gloves, plastic bags, tight wet suits and polyester. Oh did I forget the part where they were rubbing themselves with KY Jelly and Vaseline.

If you have ever had to put on a wetsuit you understand what I am talking about but if you were out taking your dog for a walk it would have been a funny site especially with the added addition of the swim caps.

I am convinced that there is no real way to pull off a wet suit unless you are James Bond in Thunderball. It’s just not flattering.

So after all the fun and games and squeezing into my wetsuit I head off down the shoot for the start of the race.

This time I was confident I would have a much better swim, I had been practicing a lot more than I did in the past and more importantly I even did a test swim the day before and I had a brand new tried and tested wet suit courtesy of Huub Middle East.

So rolling start was how this one started and its not what I thought it would be but basically when the horn goes off and you cross that line you better get into the water quickly and start swimming.

Easier said than done when you think about 50oplus men clambering past you and trying to get into the water and then suddenly they hit the water and freeze because its damn cold.

Anyway the race started and as I said I was confident the day before I had swam and it was fine the water was calm and there was no current.

Was being past tense. Things were completely different this time around. There was a current and the water was choppy.

The swim was brutal, I can’t tell you how cold it was because when my swim cap moved slightly and my ears were exposed cold didn’t come into it I just felt a piercing pain, It was a huge shock to the system and all I could think about was Paulo Costa teasing me telling me to have another drink of cement.

So I took a few gulps of that cold Irish water and continued on. Around the first buoy that seemed to be moving away from me taunting me with every stroke. The around the next one till I could see the exit before my very eyes.

There’s sometimes that bit of relief when you have done a long sea swim and when you get close to the shore you can put your feet down and walk the rest of the way.

Well no such luck here, I tried that trick and there was nothing below my feet. I maid it to the ramp and between the loss of feeling in my legs and my sheer muscle mass I found it hard to get out of the water, thankfully help was at hand to drag me out.

As I found my feet I was a cross between a newly born fawn and a stumbling drunk, I was finding it hard to undo my wetsuit due to the lack of feeling in my fingers and thankfully someone was on hand to help out, an angel ran up behind me and pulled the zip down for me.

I tried to run through to transition but that was a non starter for a good 30 seconds then I managed a slow jog.

1:02:33 for the swim. Not great but it was better than I managed in Austria so I was happy.

It only took me about 6-7mins to get that wetsuit off and then I was on the bike.

It’s my strongest discipline of the three but that’s more because how bad I am at swimming and running.

Fortunately it didn’t take me long to find my legs on the bike unfortunately the roads weren’t the smoothest and I lost one of my water bottles very on in the ride.

That wasn’t too much of the problem though thankfully the weather isn’t as hot in Dublin as it is in Dubai so I need less water than usual.

Like I said the scenery in Ireland is beautiful and the support from the locals was amazing I rode through a few towns during the 90kms and I besides a 10km stint where there was some head wind it was blissful. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I nearly forgot that I was in a race.

What I did remember was a nice chat I had with David Labouchere he had some very simple advise for me for the race.

Leave something for the run.

So this time around I remembered to not try and go all out on the bike and save something in the legs for the run.

I was doing great until around the 40km mark I heard a girls voice shouting on your right. Now I am no sexiest and there are plenty of athletes out there faster than I am especially women.

But when you know that you started 40mins before someone in the race and you still get overtaken at the 40km mark whether its a woman or man it still crushes your ego.

Anyway I swallowed my pride and carried on and was really impressed when I checked the times and three women finished the bike in under 2:35 I couldn’t help but be blown away. Like I said it had nothing to do with being a woman but that is a super fast time and something I aspire to beat.

I spent a lot of time in transition 2 and I did had a few demons come back to haunt me with the flashbacks to Austria.

In May I failed to start the run because of a headache and pain in my back, this time was no different I had a headache but it wasn’t as bad as Austria but the back was. Then again perhaps it was but my mind was just stronger this time around.

I lay on the ground and stretched and moaned looked over to a fellow entrant and we both had the same look in our eyes and smile on our face. The smile was simple, why are we doing this again?

I still managed to beat my record on the bike finishing it in 2:59:51 and started the run.

Squeezed into my shoes and off I went.

Phoenix Park is one of the largest parks in Europe and its a great venue for a race.

My back was killing me but this time I was determined to finish, even if I had to crawl the 10km. After about 3km it dawned on me.

I am going to finish this.

I can do it.

I am going to do it.

The feeling was so immense that I actually stopped running or at least that’s the excuse I am using, I was just tired. I did my first lap and felt great about it, I had two issues on the first lap, the first issue was running past a bbq and not stopping for a taste. The second was seeing the finish line and having to do a U-turn and start the second lap. It’s a little tough to see the finish line and turn away from it.

Nether the less I carried on stopped a few times. Twice to stretch out my back and the third was a call of nature. After collecting water, electrolytes and Pepsi at every aid station I was surprised I didn’t need to go more but I just had to go once.

On the third lap I was overcome by emotion some call them tears I call them sweat. Once I had less than 1km to go and had the finish line in sight. My legs seemed to take over and pick up speed. I couldn’t stop even though I wanted to. I just wanted to get to that finish line as quickly as possible.

7:10:52 was my final time. I had finally done it. Months of training and prep a couple of falls along the way but I managed to make it and proud of it. This was the first race I finished and it won’t be the last.

There will be more and I look forward to them and the challenge.

The IronPanda journey continues..