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For an inaugural event, Sunday’s Pettitts Super Valu Eireman Triathlon is steeped in history. Of course, it’s a history that extends back to medival days. The Gaelic “eire” translates into English as “land,” making the this first-year event on Ireland’s southeastern coast just south of Dublin a place of special significance.
As Celtic-Irish mythology states that the Tuatha De Danann (or the people of the goddesss Danu), a divine Irish race of gods, claimed a significant treasure during their travels: the Gae Assail, or Lightning Spear, which ensured victory to whomever had it in their possession.
So instead of a standard trophy, the mens and womens winners of Sunday’s Ironman-distance event (one of several distances being run over the weekend) will earn something more significant: a rendition of the Gae Assail, or Lightning Spear, and homage as the effective king and queen of Ireland—certainly a prize worth claiming.
Already one of Ireland’s largest races with over 700 entries coming from 15 different countries, Eireman is quickly gaining repute. Yes, the swim will be cold, and it is looking like it will be wet (this is Ireland after all), but it’s on closed roadways (including closed highway sections), and the pavement is butter-smooth. Pair it with a flat run along the Courtown Harbour and inland Gorey, and it’s set to be a fast, scenic race poised for personal bests times.
“I think the reason we’ve become so large so soon is the quality of the course,” said Eireman race director Eoin Ryan. “We’re quite proud of the area, and what we’ve put together for the athletes.”
The quiet debut has a decidedly Irish flavor to it. The majority of athletes taking part are Irish, with men’s favorites including Hywel Davies for the Ironman-distance event, with Dion Harrison getting odds in the half-Ironman-distance event. TeamTBB member Donna Phelan, who hails from Newfoundland, Canada (one of Ireland’s initial settlements across the Atlantic for those escaping the potato famine) is among the favorites in the women’s long-distance event.
The weekend actually consists of four races; Saturday hosted a kids Eireman Warriors super-sprint, with the swim in the local lap pool, while Sunday not only feature the Ironman-distance event, but also a half-Ironman distance race and an Olympic-distance race.
The swim for all events will take place in the Atlantic Ocean off Courtown Harbor, and will be a challenge, thanks to cold ocean temps; officials have pegged the water at 14 degrees Celcius, or 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Double caps and squid lids are being recommended for those that don’t want an ice cream headache.
But that may not be enough. Weather forecasters say a storm system is expected to pass through the area Sunday morning, bring with it rain and the potential for high winds. Organizers have already adjusted, potentially changing the two-lap 2.4-mile swim into a closer-to-shore, easier-to-monitor four-lap affair with the expected conditions. If conditions continue to worsen, organizers will eliminate the swim and turn the races into a series duathlons, with the Ironman-distance event opening the race with an eight-kilometer run.
The four-lap bike is a fairly flat disipline, headed north from Courtown along the closed-lane parkway with a u-turn near Arklow, then heading south to Clogh before heading north again to Arklow for the remaining three laps on the parkway before exiting the parkway for Courtown and T2. “The road has been described as one of the best in the country by many cyclists who have done a test run,” Ryan said.
The two-lap run is also flat, winding along the flat Courtown waterfront, some sections canopied tree in Woodlands Park, then winding several miles inland toward the town of Gorey before returning to Courtown for the finish.
Check back for a full race report and photo gallery following the race.