Miles or kilometres, old money or new? Does it really matter when it comes to the Ironman triathlon? Most don’t think so!
For the record this is what is involved - swim - 3.8kms (2.4 miles); bike - 180kms (112 miles); run - 42.2kms (26 miles - a full marathon).
Two brothers from Kilkenny, Seamus and Brendan Nugent, pitted themselves against the Ironman challenge.
The event - Ironman Austria - is one of the big spectacular events in Europe. Over 2,500 competitors lined up for the battle with each discipline.
The allure continues to grow. Seamus and Brendan had clocked up six ironman triathlons between them previously.
The picturesque town of Klagenfurt with the stunning waters of the Worthersee was the location for the 51st Ironman Austria. Fifteen years ago a mere 123 athletes started the inaugural event.
What makes this story even more of a fairytale is the finish that the Kilkenny brothers provided to their family and friends watching and tracking them. Athlete Tracking is now becoming a part and parcel of the day of Ironman.
It keeps people in touch. As the day went on, more and more people in Kilkenny were texting each other and checking progress.
As the numbers and statistics came through from Austria it became a more and more compelling story with an ending that no one could have predicted - even Seamus and Brendan!
The swim began at 6.59am. All competitors started together and it was scary. Brendan said of the swim: “It was crazy once the gun went; 2, 500 athletes going full belt to get their swim going. Your plan can go out the window in seconds.”
Brendan and Seamus stayed calm. During the 3.8k swim the congestion came over the last 800 metres as the course narrowed into a canal. The swim was the best section of the three for the brothers. Both returned Ironman bests of 64 (Brendan) and 66 (Seamus) minutes.
The weather was good. As the brothers commenced the bike leg temperatures were heading north of 26 degrees. Two loops of 90kms each faced them. The course was challenging with some climbs.
The brothers returned solid bike results although the last 30kms proved tough. Into Transition 2 (T2) and now it was only down to the run - all 26 miles of the marathon!
It is said of the run in Ironman - the marathon is where Ironman dreams die! Temperatures were now close to 30 degrees. For Seamus he was looking for Ironman number five. For Brendan it was Ironman number three.
Both tried to keep the strong momentum going. Brendan got through 10k okay. Seamus was making stronger progress and started to eat into the minutes his brother had on him. Neither were aware of the gap.
Suddenly at 30kms Seamus caught his younger brother. As he was going through a tough time, this was the impetus Brendan needed. So the fairytale started to take shape.
The brothers counted down the last 12kms. Few words were spoken. Years of training together kicked in. The goal was to break 13 hours, not PBs (Personal Bests) but the new goal for the brothers.
Seamus, a student at WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology) and Brendan now realised that they needed to up the pace over the last 5k to break 13 hours. As they entered the last kilometre it was apparent seconds would decide their goal.
Brendan surged. Seamus followed. The brothers sprinted the last couple of hundred metres. They crossed the line together with a mere three seconds to spare - breaking the 13 hour barrier. The official times were - Brendan 12 hours 59 minutes and 56 seconds and Seamus 12 hours 59 minutes and 57 seconds.
Fairytale Ironman stuff, they suggested!
The few hours after finishing Ironman are filled with all sorts of emotions, they explained. There were the calls and texts to and from home to share the moment with family; the togetherness of athletes in the Athletes Village.
So what next for the Kilkenny Ironman brothers?
Seamus will first complete his final year in college at WIT where he is studying and honours degree in Exercise and Health. Thoughts will turn to 2014 in due course.
Brendan too will take some time to see what 2014 will bring. The allure of the event remains. The analysis of Austria will happen but a break from this level of intense training always follows to allow the athlete’s body to recover.
Have no fear you will still see then clocking up miles running around Kilkenny while they plan 2014 and beyond.