This was my only triathlon planned for this year. Indeed, I think it may have been my only real ‘race’ of the year. Thinking now I can’t actually remember doing any other races. The only thing that sticks in my mind was Baldock Half Marathon, which I DNS’d due to be ill. Snowdon marathon has gone by the way side – perhaps I need to enter some races to focus my mind a little!
Registration – Saturday
With the race happening on Sunday, and the drive being a little over an hour, I decided at the last minute I’d camp in the trusty campervan the night before. I wanted whatever sleep I could get, and if this equated to an extra half hour then excellent. I’d also remove the risk of the campervan not starting on the Sunday morning!
The campsite was basic – a field with 4 portaloos. But the company was excellent, and Tescos and the City Centre were only about 5 minutes walk away. Having got settled in, I took the 5 minute walk down to registration and got my numbers for the next day. I had to fight the urge to eat the 9-Bar placed in the goodie bag though.
It was then time to cook some pasta, and despite feeling tired couldn’t actually get to sleep until near midnight, to then awake nicely at 3.45am, questioning my sanity for doing these events.
Race Day – Sunday
Swim (1.9km) – 39:18
Setting off in the second wave I kept trying to move away from the front of the start line, but then the start whistle went and for the 1st time ever I ended up in the washing machine. With no real idea what to do I just kept swimming as best I could and tried to make my way over to the left hand side to get out of it all. Reaching the left hand side and it was like swimming through a jungle with all the weeds below the surface – decided the washing machine was better.
Never really got any clear water until the turning round point and coming back 200m to the exit point. A quick glance at my watch and it read 37 minutes something. One aim for this season was swim a mile in 32 minutes – and with a quick bit of maths this seems to have smashed it! Then it was the 400-odd metres run/walk to the transition area.
Bike (83km) – 3:05:19
I had originally set out with a target for sub 3 hours on the bike. But then I remembered that the fens, whilst completely flat, were very exposed to the wind. Setting off on the bike I also had a strange pain in my stomach region – which I hoped would go away, but then again knew deep down it was probably from pushing too hard on the swim and was my ‘weak’ core muscles complaining.
A club mate had ridden here a few weeks back and warned me about a 5 mile stretch of road that was incredibly rough, and would likely have headwind too. After about 10 miles we turned into that stretch of road for the 1st time and it was miserable. Never ending, and peddling without actually getting anywhere – with the joys of then trying to avoid the bumps, potholes and cracks on the road.
Towards the end of the 1st lap I managed to catch-up with a club mate and joked about him passing out the jelly babies. I saw him being lazy and just coasting along and so with a stretch of tailwind went flying past him at about 25 mph +. He quickly got out of lazy mode and shortly after overtook me. We continued with this for about 5-10 miles before my stomach became more painful and I had to let him go into the distance.
With the course being 2 laps I was surprised to see my 2nd lap was only 4 minutes slower than the first, despite my stomach becoming more painful and it felt like the wind was picking up slightly.
Run (21km) – 2:08:20
Getting into transition I considered not heading out onto the run. But then thought it was a 4 lap course and I could drop out after the 1st lap if things hadn’t improved. The first 5km or so were agony, and legs refused to work at all. I was surprised to be running at sub 11 minute miles to be honest – it felt a lot slower. After being gee’d on by some club mates who’d come to support I found my running legs and my stomach pain seemed to go. The next 4 miles were wonderful and I was overtaking lots of people. I’d worked out I’d get sub 6 hours (my original goal) if I managed to keep this pace up, but I was also conscious I needed the toilet.
At mile 8 I worked out my need for the toilet was greater than a sub 6 hour finish and so stopped in the cathedral toilets briefly. After this my desire to keep running as well as I had been went out the window. At Mile 11 I caught up with the club mate I’d seen on the bike and we had a joke or two to pass the time. He said we had 11 minutes to get sub 6 hours, and I pointed out that my Garmin still said we had 2 miles to go – but he was much more switched on and pointed out how much further we actually needed to go, a distance much closer to just over a mile.
At that point I said good-bye and put my foot down, pleased to the cross the line in 5hr 58m 37 seconds, but slightly disappointed I’d taken my foot off the gas earlier on in the run.
Well, a little bit of disappointment at the end with not pushing myself for the entire run. But ultimately I’d hadn’t followed any structured training, and what training I had done was just quantity over quality. My swim goal for this year has been achieved, and my bike is a hundred times stronger than last year. Now to get some quality back into my running.
A cracking little race, and with the exception of a couple of minor logistic issues (the bag drop being a fair distance from the start, a lack of toilets pre-race) I think I may well be back next year, hopefully having followed some kind of proper training plan.