Preparing for Ironman Dublin 70.3

Stu and I drove to Holyhead on Thursday afternoon/evening. The traffic was heavy, so Stu did the first section on the motorway, and then I did the twisty bit on small roads in Wales. The scenery was absolutely stunning and several of the lakes and rivers we passed looked like they’d be great for swimming in, albeit somewhat cold.


We stayed in Holyhead overnight and then went to the ferry port in the morning. Steve texted to say that he was in the queue – we looked over and realised that we could see him. After we parked, we found a table on the ferry with enough room for us all to sit down.

I spy Steve and Suzanne's bikes
I spy Steve and Suzanne’s bikes

Arriving in Dublin

On arrival in Dublin, we headed straight for our hotel in Dun Laoghaire (Dunleary). The hotel had a lovely view across the bay, but we were not in sea-view rooms. After a bit of time for unpacking, we decided to head into Dublin to register. An announcement had been made that it would be possible for run bags to be left in T2 at that time. In hindsight, we should have spent a bit more time preparing and doing that bit as it would have saved time later.


Steve kindly drove the five of us into Dublin. We parked up and went to register. It was a relatively easy process, although I was worried as Stu and I have not received English Triathlon cards yet and only had printed emails and screenshots. Fortunately, this was enough. I was surprised to be given a choice of hat colour – pink or white. I chose pink as I already have a white hat (STC) and I don’t have a pink hat. However, I was a little frustrated that the women’s wave had been given such stereotypical colours. Stu got an orange hat and Steve was given a choice of two shades of green. We were also given nice rucksacks with our info in them and wristbands were attached to us.


After the (terrifying) race briefing, we had a look around the expo, but I was determined not to be tempted by anything. I liked the design of the official race kit, but I thought it might be tempting fate to buy something before the race, and also I can’t believe that any kit could be as comfortable as my SOAS kit. There were some good bargains to be had, but nothing was in sizes that would fit Stu and me – the items were mainly L or XL. There were also some cool MDot branded t-shirts, but I wouldn’t want people to assume that I have completed an Ironman.

Eating at the hotel

By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone was feeling tired and hungry. I had looked up places to eat in Dun Laoghaire and Olivetos, the hotel restaurant, had a good reputation and some positive reviews on trip adviser, so we decided to eat there. It was a good choice. The restaurant had a pizza oven and the pizzas were delicious. I ordered a chorizo pizza with mushrooms instead of chorizo as the other ingredients, including pine nuts, rocket and spinach, sounded good. I couldn’t eat the whole pizza, but I did manage to squeeze in some tiramisu!

Steve and Stu waiting on the prom
Steve and Stu didn’t seem too impressed by our antics on the beach
Annabelle found a tiny crab
T1 before the bikes arrived.

After eating, we went for a stroll along the promenade. The sea looked beautifully calm and the bay was quite sheltered, but I learnt at Weymouth just how quickly sea conditions can change. Steve and I went down to the water’s edge and dipped our hands in. It was a little cool but didn’t feel horrendous, which was good.IMG_6026

Beach time

On Saturday morning, there was an acclimatisation swim from 9-11am and bike racking was available for most of the day. We agree to meet the Cookes at 9am to stroll down to the swim area. I was surprised that Steve already had his wetsuit and dry robe on, as it was fairly warm.

Scotsman's Cove
Scotsman’s Cove

The small bay seemed fairly busy and a little disorganised. The buoys hadn’t all been put out yet and no one seemed to know what was going on. Stu, Steve and I got ready and went down to the water’s edge. We were told that we couldn’t start swimming yet, as some boats with buoys needed to go out. That was fine.

We stood at the water’s edge and my feet and ankles froze. I think the temperature was about 14C, but it felt much colder and I experienced real pain. If I had been at Lakeside, I would have walked away immediately. I spent a while wading in.

The acclimatisation swim

Steve and Stu left for a swim, but I just wasn’t ready. Eventually, I took the plunge. I could feel my lungs tighten, but the water didn’t feel as bad on my chest as it had on my feet. I started swimming and was able to breathe. My forehead felt very cold. I could only manage to breathe every two strokes.

Dublin swim
A slightly blurry pic is the only evidence of our acclimatisation swim ©Claire Cooke

After about six minutes, I started relaxing a bit and was able to swim properly. A couple of men who were in the sea chatted with me. One was from the UK’s East Coast and was used to sea swimming without a wetsuit, so he was fine. The other chap was a local Irish guy. He explained to us about the currents and the tide times, which was helpful.

I quite enjoyed the swim back. The water was clear and calm… And it didn’t feel too salty. However, I got distracted looking at the sea bed and managed to swim into a seaweed-covered rock – oops! After a single 400m loop and about 30 minutes in the sea, I decided it was time to get out. Although it had been agonising at first, I was glad to have the chance to reassure myself that I could do the swim in the morning.

Decision time for Stu

Annabelle was playing with another little girl in the sea, but she didn’t have a swimming costume and had on knee-length denim shorts, so I offered her my swimsuit. She accepted it and was quite happy playing in the sea – she’s definitely made of sturdier stuff than me!

After the swim, we went back to the hotel to collect our bikes. Stuart had warned me on the trip over that he might not take part and I was already aware that if he started, he would probably only do the swim and the bike. Unfortunately, Stu found that he was unable to kick at all in the sea and he realised that if anyone else touched his leg, he was in agony, so he decided to withdraw. I think this was an admirable decision. If it were me, I would probably have tried to do the race and would have risked further injury, because I am stubborn.

Going to transition

I showered, sorted out my bag for T1 and headed down to transition. It was fairly quiet when we got there, so there was plenty of time to walk around and put our bikes in place. Unfortunately, bike covers were not available and we were told that rain was forecast for overnight 🙁


After racking up, we went back to the hotel before going to Nando’s where I had a really nice quinoa, avocado and sweet potato salad. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it much as I was really worried. When we had gone back to our room, I realised that I had left a few crucial items out of my T1 bag: towels, my protein shake and an inhaler. I asked Steve whether he thought I would be able to access my bag in the morning. He said that I might be able to get the inhaler added as a medical need, but that I might get a 5-minute penalty. This made me feel stressed, but it was too late for me to do anything about it. It was then back to the hotel for an early night.

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