Iron Man 70.3

07th September 2011

I had the pleasure of working with "Finisherpix" at Iron Man 70.3 in Galway last Sunday Sept 4th......and wow what a day it was!!
I had a late night on Saturday thanks to working with the brilliant Weightless Cosmonauts in the Westwood hotel, and when my alarm clock went off at 4.30am on Sunday morning, I had less that two hours sleep. My fragile state soon disappeared however when I arrived in Salthill at 5.45 am for our pre-race briefing from finisherpix.....Satlhill was buzzing! The sight of over two thousand nervous competitors, 800 volunteers and the thousands of spectators that came to encourage everyone was nothing short of brilliant. With regards to the weather, it was a typical day in Galway, wind rain and sun!! Galway Bay was so choppy that race organizers reduced the length of the swim by a few hundred meters for safety reasons. It was very windy and showers started to roll in from the west....which presented me with problems that I hadn't experience to protect my camera and lenses in horrific weather....and the solutions was quite simply to tape plastic bags around my equipment to keep the rain off as much as possible.
My first role for finisherpix was to capture competitors as they were running over a magnetic carpet on the promenade in Salthill after exiting from the swim. The location wasn't the best for getting beautiful portraits of athletes in a picturesque environment, but it was practical all because of the timing matt that they were running over. Finsherpix take over 30,000 images with it's various photographers strategically located around the swim, cycle and run courses. All the competitors are "tagged" according to their race number which is displayed while they are cycling and jogging, but it's impossible to have a bib number while swimming for obvious reasons. Each athlete however has a magnetic chip attached to their body during the race, and as each chip is programmed to record data for each athlete, it's possible to get information about their timings over the various matts. Therefore, when we took images of them at the exact moment that they ran over the matt, finisherpix would be able to associate our images of the athletes by combining the metadata information from our cameras and the information recorded by race organizers of athletes going over the matts....pretty clever.
I spent about two hours on the swim exit until the last of the competitors were out of the sea....and I felt very sorry for some of the competitors who were forbidden from participating any further in the race as a result of not completing the swim in the alotted was tough for them. Some of them looked extremely fit, but swimming mightn't have been their forté and they were probably looking forward to making up some time on the cycle and run.
After this, my next port of call was the Spanish Arch in Galway where I spent almost 4 hours taking images. It was challenging to get shots of everyone passing here.....the road was narrow and divided into two as athletes had to backtrack along the same route. I really enjoyed the length of time that I spent here however, and it was good to be up close with some friends that were participating and in a position to give the some encouragement. The run got congested on occasion, athletes had to complete a loop of Galway three times before finishing, so there was quite an amount of joggers passing through at various times. Some flew by, under no physical duress, while others were cramping up, breathing heavily and basically crying out for the finishing line. Through all of this, it was brilliant to see the Galway crowds that showed up and roared on encouragement to all of the competitors. It was heart warming to witness strangers wishing each other well, roaring encouragement to people that they never met before, plenty of good will on display.....well done Galway!
At about 2.30pm I made my was back towards the finish line in Salthill Park, and all of the way back it was great to see the large crowds around the Claddagh that were offering words of encouragement to those that were still running.
I was stationed on the finishing stretch for the last hour of the event and it was cool looking at the various emotions of athletes as they crossed the finishing line. Some were physically sick, some had no energy left to display any emotion. Others crossed the line jubilantly arm in arm with colleagues and some just cried uncontrollably.
This was a superb event and well done to the 800 volunteers that gave up their time to help make it the success that it was. Galway is showing the world that it a premier venue for international sporting events, and I think we're all looking forward with great anticipation to the Volvo next May/June......C'mon Galway!

I don't know what the story is behind the athlete shown at the top of the page. Each time he passed me in The Spanish Arch however, I couldn't but wonder what his story is. I'm assuming however that he has received a vital organ from somebody that has now passed away, and if that's the case, isn't it brilliant the way he proudly displays his gratitude! Well done whoever you are!

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