Triathlon is described in the Oxford Dictionary as “the tendency to derive pleasure from one’s own pain”. A standard triathlon, for those unfamiliar with the joys, comprises a 1,500 metre swim, a 40 kilometre cycle and 10k run in quick succession. If that sounds like a breeze, then what you need is the extra long version, which requires a 3,800 metre swim, 180k cycle and 42.2k run. That last 0.2 of a kilometre seems particularly unkind, but no doubt they have their reasons. Luke Feighery, the captain of DU Triathlon Club, seems puzzled by the very question of why anyone would subject themselves to triathlon. “It’s something to do”, he shrugs, noting that the overwhelming majority of club members have never had any contact with triathlon before; as with many minority sports the need to sell it to sceptical newcomers during Freshers’ Week is paramount. In this, the club has had considerable success, with a solid core of active members driving the club forward. DUTC was set up just three years ago by Feighery’s predecessor, Tim Downing; SU President Cathal Reilly is currently the club’s sponsorship officer. Its efforts have paid off, with the likes of Sinead Roche and Downing himself representing Ireland at various levels over the past couple of years.
Beginners need not be put off by the training schedule, which at first glance looks rigorous – you could do seven sessions a week, if that’s what you’re into – but Feighery says that he himself didn’t go to all that many sessions last year, and people are entitled to pick and choose.
Many of the newbies have a background in running or cycling – indeed, the cycling and triathlon clubs almost merged this year. That move fell through, but Feighery notes that the ties between the two clubs are still close, reflecting the similarities between the two disciplines.
Triathlon only got going in this country in 1983, when the first event was organized in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. The Irish Triathlon Association, the sport’s governing body, was founded in 1984. An all-Ireland body, it has around 40 affiliated clubs on both sides of the border. Regrettably, they haven’t seen to fit to appoint a PRO in the intervening 25 years, so attempts to contact them for some more information went nowhere.
The sport itself may be going places, however: at the Beijing Olympics last August, Emma Davis became the first Irish person ever to compete in a Triathlon event. Finishing 37th in a field of 55 was hardly the stuff of dreams, but at the age of 22, in just her first year as a professional athlete, there’s plenty of scope for improvement in London 2012. Whether she’ll be joined there by any other Irish athletes remains to be seen, as the conveyer belt of young talent isn’t exactly working overtime. It is telling that insofar as varsity participation goes, Trinity and Queens are the only universities flying the flag.
Eoin McDowell, a UCD athlete who trains with their tetrathlon team (like triathlon but with horse riding and shooting thrown in, for no particular reason), feels that Belfield’s lack of a triathlon club definitely hinders his participation: “It would make the sport a lot more accessible”, he says, adding that it’s hard to get heavily involved without a club structure to motivate him.
For those Trinity students who wish to dip a toe in the water, so to speak, DUTC have organised a special ‘MiniTri’ to facilitate beginners. Taking place on the 22nd of November from 1-3 pm, it will take the uninitiated on a gentle meander through the triathlon experience: first, a 200m swim in the Sports Centre pool, followed by a 5 km static bike ride and finishing with a 1 mile run around the Trinity campus.