Crooked Lake - another magnificent race

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

UNDOUBTEDLY the Crooked Lake Triathlon keeps getting bigger, better and faster every year.
On Saturday afternoon the scene around the picturesque lake was alive with excitement, colour and drama as almost 600 triathletes plunged into the choppy waters to swim 750-metres before biking 20 hilly kilometres around the lake and then running 5,000 metres.
And each and every athlete, professional or total amateur, was cheered on by masses of enthusiastic, knowledgeable spectators.
Surely this National Series sprint event, in its 11th year, is the best triathlon race in the nation and indeed, if going by the spread of competitors who arrived in the welcoming village of Camlough from all parts of Ireland (and beyond), this would seem to be the case.
And amazingly in all 11 races (since 2003) the weather has been brilliant. It was feared that Saturday was going to be the exception, as the day began damp and wet and indeed in various other parts of the province, it poured all day. But not at Camlough Lake. From noon onwards the weather kept getting better, the wet, dangerous roads dried out and towards the end of the race the sun blazed down. Thanks in no small way to the intercession of Catherine 'Lady Sunshine' Murphy and her ongoing agreement with Him above.
The overall winner of the event was Ben Shaw, who just seven days previously mixed it with Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, his Olympic bronze-medallist brother Johnny, along with series leader Javier Gomez in London's Hyde Park in a World Triathlon Series race.
And in fact Shaw was just over a minute behind the Hyde Park winner Mario Mola.
Leap forward seven days and instead of Shaw taking on the Brownlee brothers it was the Hughes brothers Ciaran and Miceal, or the McKeown boys Shane, Ruairi and Darren, along with the Newry Triathlon Club's top men Sean Featherstone and Barry Convery.
In any case the Irish International was a comprehensive winner, posting a stunning course record of 54.08 with no one able to live with his searing pace. Shaw was the fastest swimmer in 8.37 and he ran quickest in 16.46. Furthermore his 26.52 for the bike ride was second only to Charles Maltha's sizzling 26.31.
After the event the likeable Shaw said: "The Crooked Lake is a really good race. The scenery is great (although I didn't get time to see much of it), it's a fine course and it's an extremely well-organised event."
In second spot was Rory Sexton from the GoTri Club who posted a fast 56.32 while Aidan Callaghan (24/7 Triathlon Club) was third in 56.56.
In the ladies sector Piranha's Katie Cook was the overall winner in a time of 1.03.38. In second spot, 30 seconds adrift, was Carolyn Hayes (GoTri) with Irish Junior Triathlon squad member Aoife Fay third in 1.06.18.
Race director Catherine Murphy, who runs the event with co-director Patricia McParland, was delighted at how things went as she said: "The day started dull and damp but it finished in a blaze of glory - and sunshine. It's our biggest and fastest race to date with the course record smashed. In the event we had top professionals rubbing shoulders with first timers and that's what The Crooked Lake Triathlon is all about. It's all-embracing and encouraging.
“I would like to thank everyone who took part or helped marshal the race. Also I would like to thank our sponsors and in fact Brian Conlon, First Derivatives Chief Executive officer, and Adrian Garvey of O'Brien's, two of our main sponsors, actually took part in the race," said Murphy.
Other sponsors include Wheelworx and Newry and Mourne Council.
From a local race angle, Sean Featherstone was the first Newry Tri Club member over the line in the excellent time of 1.00.19. Sean was 14th, with splits of 11.50 (swim), 27.04 (third fastest bike time) and 19.22 (run) while Barry, who was 22nd, had trouble in the swim, and was forced at times to breaststroke, recovered well to clock 1.02.31, with splits of 12.38, 27.36 and 19.59.
Other locals at the sharp end of things were Ciaran Hughes (1.05.18) who was over two minutes faster than brother Miceal (1.07.55), Liam Hutchinson (1.06.28), Mark McElroy (1.06.39), Finbar O'Grady (1.06.58), Rory Loughran (1.07.07), Oliver Harkin (1.07.15), Mark McGivern (1.08.29) and Kenny Bagnall (1.09.26). Incidentally Kenny, who arrived at the start line with mere minutes to spare, had been playing trumpet at a wedding in the Newry Cathedral. The service started a noon and he didn't get away until after 1.30pm. And with the Crooked Lake race starting at 2pm, he knew time would be at a premium so he wore his wetsuit to the church!
Meanwhile one of the big stories of the event was that all eight members of the Mallon family were registered to participate in the race. But just before the start Padraig pulled out to help the Crooked Lake life-saving team. However, the other seven members of the family took part. That magnificent seven: Father Mickey (O/65 winner), mother Bridgeen, sons Sean and Martin with girls Colleen (Local Bessbrook/Camlough winner), Selene and Michelle. And speaking of Colleen, the speedy swimmer who clocked 9.39 for the swim and hopes to conquer the gruelling North Channel this year, only returned from Australia two days before the event.
Another back-from-the-land-down-under for the Crooked Lake event was Paddy Duffy who looked in great shape. But though he raced well, he didn't win the Bessbrook/Camlough award. This went to Peter Tomany who posted a slick 1.05.10. Peter edged Kieran Hughes in second spot by a scant eight seconds.
Age-group winners from the locality, not mentioned previously were: Caitlin Malone (1.22.58) who was second in the 20-24 age group, Teresa Fearon (third in the 50-54 age group) and Brendan Campbell, second in the 55-59 age category. Also the teams of David Garey and Kevin O'Callaghan were second and third in the relay competition.
There were some amazing performances from seasoned triathletes but there was even more satisfaction and joy from those who competed their first triathlon. Foremost of these were the fabled Rubber Duckies team of Margaret Trainor, Judith Spence, Michaela McKeever, Ciara Phillips, Ciara Havern, Aine Fegan, Barry Clarke, Gerard English and Sean Quinn who all completed the course before sampling the magical finish line and the cheers from hordes of fervent spectators. Other first timers included former Windmill Stars footballers Alan McGreevy and Cyril O'Reilly, brother and sister Adrian and Sinead O'Hanlon, father and son Vincent and Niall Auden. By the way 16-year-old Niall was the youngest competitor and he did brilliantly to record 1.27.16.
Meanwhile, apart from the fierce competition at the sharp end, most races are all about getting a scalp or two and here's just a few who claimed those much-cherished prizes: Nicola Quinn was delighted to beat her husband Paul out of the water, Shane McKeown repelled the challenge from brothers Ruairi and Darren, both Mickey Mallon and Caitriona Courtney easily left Tony Bagnall for dead but Tony had the satisfaction of edging out Aoife Lynch (by one second) and Deirdre Loughran by 10 seconds. And finally in the south Armagh VIP duel, Conor Murphy crossed the line before his great rival Jarlath Burns.

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