Cian Crosbie is no stranger to Ironman triathlon, having completed three full distance events in the last 14 months. However, on 4th December, he takes on his toughest challenge yet as he undertakes the Patagonman Xtreme Triathlon to raise funds for Childhood Cancer Ireland.
On crossing the finish line, Patagonman athletes ring a bell to mark their achievement, something that children do when they finish their cancer treatment on St. John’s Ward in Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin. So Cian and Ultan are ‘Chasing the Bell’ and hope to ring it to mark Cian’s achievement and for all children and young people currently undergoing treatment.
Patagonman is said to be one of the toughest and most extreme triathlons in the world. In Chilean Patagonia, it starts before sunrise in one of the most southerly points of South America. Athletes jump from a ferry boat in the dark into the icy cold water for a 3.8km swim, before taking on a hilly 180km cycle and finally a 42.2km run on dirt trail and rubble road. While these three disciplines and distances are standard in Ironman events, the race conditions and lack of routine event support makes Patagonman truly unique.
“One of the main differences is that Patagonman is an unsupported race,” explains Crosbie. “Usually, event support would be provided along the way, but in this race you’re on your own, which means I need to bring my own support. My friend Ultan Flynn is my nominated race support and will be tasked with supporting my transitioning from one discipline to the other, providing permitted assistance at designated points during the race (the athletes must complete significant parts of the race without support), and tough words of encouragement when necessary. Simply put, I cannot do the race without Ultan providing the race support, so I am delighted that he agreed to join the team,” continued Crosbie.
All being well, race day will be long and challenging. This necessitated months of training in all three disciplines under the guidance of triathlon coach Philp Hayes of Connect to Perform, regular physiotherapy from Sarah Doherty at Kinetic Physio, and immense support from Lanesboro Triathlon Club, of which both Cian and Ultan are members.
“I’ve been training six days a week for several months, which is enjoyable for the most part. There are tough days of course but you get through them. Meeting friendly faces when out cycling or running can give you a lift, especially when the motivation might be waning. I have had massive support from members of Lanesboro Triathlon Club, which is so important. In particular, the 4km cold-water training swims in Lough Ree would not have been possible without kayak support from Bernie Dolan, Niall O’Donohue and Brendan O’Sullivan, including a 6am start in the dark on the Bank Holiday weekend.”
Cian and Ultan are raising funds for Childhood Cancer Ireland, the national parent and survivor-led charity representing the voice of children and young people with cancer, survivors and their families.
“It’s a privilege that we can do anything to help children and young people with cancer, who face challenges far greater than this every day as they fight their way back to health. I can’t think of a more worthy cause.”
Childhood Cancer Ireland brought the Beads of Courage programme to Ireland and continue to fund it. Laura Cullinan, General Manager of the charity, explained how this challenge is helping families impacted by childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer.
“Every year in Ireland 353 children, adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with childhood cancer and are thrown into this terrifying world. We were one of those families, so I know that feeling all too well. One of the programmes that we fund is Beads of Courage. During their treatment, children receive beads for each part of their journey – each chemotherapy, every blood transfusion, and every surgery…they often end up with thousands of beads which truly shows what they have been through and how courageous they are. Cian will carry a Bead of Courage throughout his challenge and afterwards, that will be given to a child with cancer as a special bead to mark a particular moment of courage and it will give them a huge lift at a difficult time.”
So, what drives Cian on to complete one challenge after another?
“Good question, I’m not sure to be honest. I love being in and around triathlon, which is a really positive and inclusive sport for athletes of all levels and abilities. An Ironman race is tough, you need to prepare well and need to be lucky in your training and on race day to avoid injuries and sickness. If all goes to plan, then the experience of preparing and completing the event is like no other. It’s addictive. We have prepared well for Patagonman, and hope lady luck will be shining down on us come race day.”
Cian and Ultan will take on Patagonman on Sunday 4th December. Follow their progress on the Childhood Cancer Ireland social media channels. If you’d like to donate you can do so here https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/CianCrosbie
For more information on Childhood Cancer Ireland’s work visit www.childhoodcancer.ie.