Bala Middle Distance Triathlon

Bala Middle Distance Triathlon (2000m/82km/20km  – http://www.wrecsamtri.org.uk). GB Age Group Championships

Swim 2000m/32:47 (1:38/100m) HR 147(167)
T1. 1:16 HR165(169)
Cycle 82km/2:20:31 (35.0km/h), ascent 927m, HR 152(169)
T2. 0:56
Run 20km/1:26:14 (6:56 min/mile), ascent 231m, HR 161(170)

Total: 4:21:46, 12th overall, 2nd +40 and 1st in 45-49 age category!

Results: http://www.stuweb.co.uk/swp/default.asp?a=2&e=292

Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39551142@N00/sets/72157619789430964/

[Edit: Another picture from the prize presentation: http://www.lluniaudobson.com/lluniau/series_one/bala2009/slides/ELD_0022.html and riding back into T2 http://www.lluniaudobson.com/lluniau/series_one/bala2009/slides/ELD_0357.html . Stripping off wetsuit: http://www.stuweb.co.uk/swp/?a=12&fldphotocode=2009-06-14-DSC01328.jpg and http://www.stuweb.co.uk/swp/?a=12&fldphotocode=2009-06-14-DSC01329.jpg ]

We spent the evening in Wrexham, it was difficult to find somewhere good to eat, but eventually found a Pizza Express tucked away in an arcade. Wrexham doesn’t look like a great place to go out, unless you’re into the binge drinking culture.

After an early start from the Travelodge the next morning, we made our way over to Bala, parking in the “quick getaway” carpark that someone on the TriTalk forum had pointed out, just down the lake shore from the main parking area.

No problems with registration and racking (save for forgetting one of my cycling shoes and having to go back to the car for it!), and after a bit of hanging about, I was suited up and ready to swim. I was using my new wetsuit, and looking forward to swimming in it. The first wave (senior men, red hats) was quickly off and then it was our turn, the 40 and 50 age group men, in our yellow hats, to get into the water. It was a pretty cold lake, and a wind was whipping up quite a chop on the surface, which we could see the previous wave ploughing through. I found a group of what looked like faster, thinner swimmers and set off with them. I had to put on a bit of a sprint to get clear of the chasing pack, but after 200m things settled down and I was once again just drifting off the feet of the fastest swimmers. I could see them ahead, but couldn’t quite reel them in. The wind was really whipping the surface up into a chop and I had to really hack my way through the waves. We started to catch the slower red hatted swimmers as we approached the far buoy, and I almost swam over one of them, displacing my goggles in the process. It only took me a couple of seconds to put them right though. Coming back to the shore we were surfing with the swell on the lake and the swimming was much easier. I lost sight of the leading yellow hats inamongst all the red ones; steering through the crowd was quite tricky whilst trying to sight on the exit.

I swam as far as I dared in the shallows before walking the last 50m on the pebbly shore and up onto the ramp into T1. Someone shouted that I was 5th from my wave, and I could see another yellow hat just ahead of me. This proved to be the winner of the 40-44 age group (Pete Eggleston), although I didn’t know that at the time. Nice short transition, so I was quickly off with my wetsuit (body shop body butter pre-applied before putting on the suit helped here) although one leg got slightly caught on the timing chip, and then out on to the bike.

There was a bit of traffic in the main street, which gave me a chance to get feet into shoes, and then we were off out into the hills. I’d overtaken Eggleston in T1, but he caught me and powered off up the hills, eventually putting 5 minutes into me on the bike. I was taking a more cautious approach, but didn’t take long to reel in the other riders from my wave. It was a bit confusing, both waves being intermingled, but by halfway I was fairly sure I was at least 2nd in my age cat. The bike course was very hilly, and although I’d put some wide ratios on my TT bike (55×42 and 12-25), I didn’t need the 23 or 25 sprockets in the end – the hills were steady drags. There were a couple of descents where I hit over 70km/h, but of course, this was an out-and-back course, so you had to come back up whatever you descended earlier.

The scenery on the bike course was fantastic, although I didn’t have much time to admire it. I was busy pedalling hard and trying to get some nutrition down me for the run. I managed to drink nearly all of two 750ml bottles + 2 cereal bars and 2 gels, before the descent back into Bala.

Turning back into transition, quickly off the bike getting ready for the run. T2 was over very quickly, and I was surprised later to see I managed it in under a minute, including putting on socks. I’d left a bottle of plain water here, to carry for the first bit of the run, but it’d got pretty warm in the sun. Nevertheless I took a few swigs and doused myself with most of the rest of it.

Out into the run, someone shouted to me that I was 1st – cool, all I had to do was to keep the run together. I went through the first mile, wobbly legs and all, in 6:33, and then caught up with a guy from Leicester Tri who seemed to be running pretty steadily, so we ran together for the next few miles. He started to fade as we came out of the shade and the road started climbing, so most of the last 11-12 km I was chasing down other runners from the previous wave, or trying to stay with people catching me. There was a nasty climb to the far turn at 10km, but I ran strongly up it, only stopping to walk for a drink at a feed station.

Coming back from the far turn I could see the other 45-49 vets chasing after me, just a minute or two back. I had a shot of adrenaline at this point, and started bounding along like I was in a 5km race, not 20km. However, with 5km to go I was back to my steadier 7 minute miling and keeping a careful eye over my shoulder on the straights, slowing right down at the feed stations to get water. It was a great relief to get to 1 mile to go  – my feet were getting sore in the heat. I was catching a couple more runners from the previous wave and put on a bit of a sprint to try to get them, but the rough ground towards the finish funnel meant I didn’t quite get them.

Such a relief to cross the line, knowing I’d probably won my age group. I felt a bit sick and everything hurt, but after a few cups of water I was starting  feel a bit more normal. Jules took a few pics of me through the fence, and then I collected my stuff from transition.

We decided to hang about for the prizes (nearly 2 hours later), as it was likely I’d won something. I was called over by the race referee and told I won 2nd prize in the over 40s. Did I want a week’s holiday cottage in Wales (worth £300), or a cheque for £100? I went for the cheque, we’d seen enough of Wales for the moment.

Only at the prize presentation, after they’d handed out the cheques and I’d got my photo taken with the local digintary (I’d packed a spare cycling club top especially for the occasion – see pics on my flickr page), did I find out that I wouldn’t be getting a gold medal for my age cat win as I wasn’t a member of British Triathlon. Bummer! The gold medal would be going to the guy who came second! It would’ve helped if they’d made that clear beforehand in the race information. Oh well, at least I had the £100 in my pocket and the satisfaction of doing the fastest time in my category on the day. BTF membership would cost me £51 anyway, so that would’ve halved my prize fund straight away. Maybe I’ll join up soon, if I’m thinking of racing for the GB age cat team next year.

[EDIT: Here’s the page I’d been referring to when I was thinking about going for an age group medal. It makes no mention of needing to be a BTF member in order to win an age group medal at the championships!  http://www.britishtriathlon.org/events/page.php?article=476&category=/events/&folder=nationalchampionships/ ]

We had a long drive home, there were roadworks on the A5, so we only just got back in time to nip to the corner shop to buy a few celebratory cans of Stella. I was still very excited about the whole day and especially my win, and found it hard to sleep. I woke up the next morning well before 6 am, despite hardly having eaten anything the day before and drinking those beers. It still feels great now, although my sore feet tell a different story. Fantastic.

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