The Guards come whizzing towards me with their lights flashing. The driver’s window zips open and they stare me down like a sheriff and his deputy eyeballing a new stranger in town in the Wild Wild West. But I’m not in the West today. I’m in the East at Dublin’s 70.3 Ironman 2016 (Thousands of photos will be here soon).
“You’ll have to move off there because you’re an obstruction,” says the driver.
I point out that I’m on a traffic island, not the road, but it’s useless. The “sheriff” and “his deputy” have decided that I have to “move along” so I just have to. I remember what happened to Rambo, Cool Hand Luke, and all those who resisted The Borg in Star Trek (Resistance is Futile) so I simply move to a spot which is less ideal to my carefully chosen spot for taking photos. I.E: I move to the footpath at the side of the road.
Seconds later the first athlete and the days overall male winner, Ben Collins, comes speeding towards me. Then all hell breaks loose.
For the next two hours I’m non-stop gatling-gunning photos and trying to capture every single cyclist as they go past.
Changing my position regularly, to avoid stiffness and keep my camera steady, at one point I have my arm hanging over a bollard to which a cyclist shouts, “You should go back to bed, mate.”
I ignore this as I am Iron cameraman and taking photos is my own personal endurance event.
Amidst my frantic snapping I spot a battered looking cyclist with blood streaming down his face and a bashed and painful looking knee and arm and am momentarily inspired by his determination to keep moving forward.
Overwhelming amounts of cyclists come at me and merely changing a memory card causes me to miss perhaps twenty. To put it in context: my first 1,200 photo capacity card was filled in minutes as I typically, if there’s time, snap several pics of each competitor in case they blink, scratch themselves somewhere embarrassing, or look away in the first photo(s).
Two hours go by in what seems like minutes and I realise I’ve gone over the time I budgeted for getting to the run area to photo all the runners. So I have to, well, run back to Phoenix Park.
Luckily I get there on time to capture the first woman and man before they cross the finish line. They are Susie Cheetham and Ben Collins below.
Energetic music is blasting out, MC Joanne Murphy of Tri Talking Sport is cheering all the participants home and the atmosphere is electric, but then it gets slightly pre-electric, at least beside me.
I’m crouched on the ground, snapping away, when a lady decides to start clanging a loud bell within half a metre of my head. I guess it’s her way of cheering the athletes home but I much preferred “The Eye of the Tiger” which I could hear prior to this audio assault on my ears which is reverberating around my brain. I guess it was her own sweet way of encouraging the athletes. After a time she moves on, thankfully.
Pain is etched across the faces of many of the runners and one guy, who is being cheered on by his friends who are beside me, comes over to them.
“I’m pulling out; I feel terrible; I can’t go on,” he says.
“You’re nearly there; keep going; just walk if you have to,” they encourage, and he does.
Athletes are still streaming towards me when my last memory card expires. I’ve used up 7 so I figure I must have snapped about 5,000 photos and captured every participant at least once.
Iron Cameraman’s work here is done and I head back home to the Wild Wild West.