Beaver middle-distance triathlon 1900m/75km/21km, hard __ HR156(167)
Swim 1900m: 30:10 (27:25 + 2:45 run) __ HR142(151)
Cycle 75km: 2:03:32 __ HR154(164)
Run: 1:35:09 (7:15 min/mi) __ HR158(167)
Although I had a slight quad strain from the previous weekend, I was really looking forward to this almost-half-ironman distance event (the cycle section was about 9 miles short). I’d scanned the names on the start sheet in my age group but didn’t recognise anyone I knew, although I don’t really keep tabs on who’s doing what. I was hoping for something around top-20 overall and top-3 in my age group.
We had a 4am alarm call and a lovely sunny morning as we drove over to Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. It didn’t take long to park up, register, and rack my bike and kit and then a bit of sitting about sipping my energy drink and munching another Elevenses bar whilst Jules applied the factor-50 sun cream (it wasn’t enough – I still caught the sun on my shoulders, it must’ve sweated off!) . Walked down to the swim start and got my wetsuit on as the first couple of waves were departing. The water was warm and I had a good sprint for the first 200m to get me clear of the pack, as usual on the feet of the fastest swimmers. As the last wave to start (with orange swim hats), we had to swim through the slower red hats in front, and then the white hats too. Good practice for the wave starts at Roth. The lake was as murky and muddy as ever and trying to follow someone’s feet just meant you had more murk to swim through as they churned it up ahead.
I exited the swim with 27-something showing on my watch – the swim was a little short, I guess. I ran a few steps and then got my wetsuit off straight away, so I could jog up to T1 with it in my arms, much easier than trying to run with it only stripped to my waist. In T1 I put my cycle shoes straight on as the exit to the bike course was uphill – no time for faffing with shoes on the bike. There were two waves of triathletes ahead for me to catch and I powered away, probably a bit too quickly, around the first bike lap. I took the next two a bit easier, taking care to eat and drink enough for the coming run. I didn’t seem to be catching anyone with a high number, so either I was in the lead in my age group, or the leaders were away in the distance. It turned out that I had more than a 5-minute lead on my nearest age-group rival as I entered T2, having had the 10th-fastest bike split.
As soon as I donned socks and shoes and jogged to the start of the run I could feel that my legs were close to cramp and my stomach (as ever) was struggling to digest all the food and drink I’d consumed on the bike. I knew I just had to take it steady and the feeling would pass. The run was tougher than I’d been expecting with a nasty dragging climb up to the far turn, I was glad there were only 4 laps to cover. Towards the end of the first lap my legs started to come back to me and I was running a bit easier. After 5 minutes of the 2nd lap, a guy ran up to me, introduced himself with “this run is pretty tough, Howard, eh?” and then sped off. At the far turnaround I saw he had a high number and was clearly a rival in my age group (I later found out this was Roger Canham – he’d done his homework and knew who I was, I think). The fastest guy in the 50-54 group also caught me around here, but I didn’t realise until later in the event. I managed the rest of the run OK at my own pace, glad that the laps were dividing it up nicely and Jules was there to cheer me through the start/finish each lap. It was hot, and at each drinks station half my cup of water went over my head.
My new race shoes were giving me hot feet, but soon I had the last section to go and the finish was around the corner. Managed to lift the pace a little and I was across the line, happy with my 1:35 half-marathon, although some way short of Roger’s 1:24. (I later found out he’d finished Kona in under 10 hours last year, so no surprise there: I still have a little more work to do on my running, it seems!).
I was still very happy with this result. I’ve not done a lot of racing yet this year but everything seems to be falling into place. We met up with friends in a pub in the evening and I commented that if Roth was in 10 days’ time I’d be happy: although I’m perhaps not at the peak of my fitness with a slight quad strain and a kilo away from my best race weight, I’m healthy and could probably complete the distance in a good time. Six weeks to go!