Bala Middle Distance triathlon

Bala Middle was back as the UK National Age Group triathlon championships (for Middle distance, i.e. half-ironman), and as I was expecting to be able to carry over some run form from London Marathon (ha!) I thought I’d do OK. In the end that achilles ache I’d picked up a couple of weeks earlier was still bothering me and I’d barely managed more than a couple of easy jogs.

The swim was cut short from 2000m to only 1200m due to the very low temperatures in the lake, and lowering myself into the water it was breathtakingly cold, even more so than the Merchant Taylors’ Tri I’d done in 2010, up until now a byword for me for cold-water swimming. Off the start I could hardly bear to put my face in the water and was alternating 10 strokes of crawl with 10 strokes of breastroke. The pack of +40 age groupers disappeared into the distance and it wasn’t until I’d rounded the first buoy that I started to swim more normally. I made my way back through the slower swimmers on the way back to the shore, and then emerged on to the jetty, staggering about due to the extreme cold and seemingly unable to extract myself from my wetsuit. I was not alone in this – many of us were suffering.

Eventually I hauled myself out of town on my bike and, finding myself smack in the middle of the age-group pack, set about overhauling them up the climbs. I have never been worried about drafting before, I’m usually off up the road and away, but after 30 minutes I was pretty much always leapfrogging the same four or five guys. Eventually we all got caught in traffic on the way to the turnaround and found ourselves drafting the big trucks here anyway. Less than ideal racing conditions.

I picked up a bottle at the turn and then this little group seemed to split up a bit. I think they were fading where I had the motivation of keeping my power numbers even. Towards the top of the big climb on the way back to Bala we were called off the road – the race was being stopped due to an accident. We were allowed ride a bit and then walk past the scene to get back to the start. It didn’t look good, the air ambulance was parked on the road and paramedics were giving CPR to a rider.

We freewheeled back down to transition to a sombre scene. Our timing chips were removed and we didn’t really know what to do. A few guys put on their trainers and went for a jog, but I didn’t really feel like it (and anyway, my achilles would thank me for another day’s rest from running). I packed up my gear and went home, later to hear that the rider, a 40-year-old from Liverpool and a fit father of two, had died of a heart attack on the bike course [–9429538], a very sad outcome to the day’s racing.