On Saturday October 13th the 'Olympic Games' of Long Distance triathlon will take place when the Ironman World Championships kicks off in Kona, Hawaii. Eleven Irish triathletes will be amongst the 1800 who have qualified for one of the toughest one day endurance challenge in the world. The race consists of a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km bike and full marathon run through the hot and windy lava fields.
Amongst the Irish team there is plenty of experience with four of them making their third trip to the Big Island and one his second.
Wexford resident Alan Ryan is one of those having qualified for Hawaii in 2008 and 2009. Alan stamped his 2012 ticket at Germany's Ironman Regensburg in June of this year, where he finished 3rd in his age group. Racing in the 45-49 age category Alan is one to watch having previously earned a podium spot at the 2009 Ironman World Championships.
"With the summer we have just had I haven't been able to train in anything close to the temperatures I am going to experience at the race." Alan tells us.
"I have had to content myself with putting my bike up on a roller in my attic to simulate warm weather training. It's not quite the same thing and not nearly hot enough."
Next up, making his third trip is County Derry's Ironman National Record Holder Martin Muldoon. Martin travelled to the US back in June getting his slot at the Lake Stevens Half Ironman held in Texas. Martin's record stands at 8 hours 49 minutes and is unlikely to come under threat in Hawaii where the blistering heat and high winds are not conducive to fast racing.
Dundalk duo Owen Martin and Liam Dolan are another pair to keep a close eye on. Liam is a previous Irish Record holder and Martin has dipper under the 9 hour mark before. Expect Liam to give up some time on the swim before powering his way through the field during the bike and run legs. He finished 2nd at the half Iron distance Lost Sheep triathlon a few weeks ago with both the fastest bike and run split of the day so was pleased with his Hawaii preparations.
Owen Martin's first attempt at Kona qualification saw him finish in the back of an ambulance after some medical issues put pay to his Ironman Frankfurt race. Undaunted Owen headed to Canada in late August and got the qualification slot for the third year running.
One man who will not give up time in the swim is London based Matt Molloy. Molloy is making his second consecutive trip to Hawaii and is likely to be amongst the first age groupers out of the 3.8km swim. Molloy sealed his slot thanks to a 10 hour 9 minute finish at Ironman Lanzarote, considered the toughest courses on the circuit.
Dublin's Rob Cummins has been competing in Ironman's for many years. This season he set his sights firmly on Kona qualification and the hard work and sacrifices paid off when he achieved that goal at Ironman UK in July.
Limerick Triathlon Club's Mick O'Brian is another first timer. Mick raced superbly in the overbearing heat of Ironman Austria this July to gain his spot. That experience will stand to him in the lava fields of Hawaii next weekend. Along with the race Mick is doubling up, using the trip as a honeymoon having recently married!
Ireland's youngest reprehensive, Sharon O'Hara racing in the 18-24 category booked her place in Hawaii thanks to winning her age group at Ironman Frankfurt earlier this year. A member of Liquid Motion Triathlon Club, Sharon has a touch of the unknown about with the World Championships being just her 2nd race of this distance.
"The weather in Kona is meant to be extremely humid, extremely windy and sunny. It'll be a challenge, I've been trying to train with extra jackets on, trying to prepare myself but you won't really know until you're over there." Commented Sharon.
The remaining members of the team include Ivan O'Gorman, James Mc Laughlin, Neil Feerick and Kate Lahart. They are a mix of both experienced and first timers but all have booked their place thanks to hard graft and talent during a full days racing. The Ironman World Championships can be viewed live on ironman.com from 5:45pm on Saturday.