8 July. Challenge Roth iron-distance triathlon

Sunday 8th July 2012
Challenge Roth Iron distance triathlon. 3.8km/180km/42.2km = 9:39:09
(158th overall, 10th in 45-49 age group)

Swim 3.8km/58:52 (1:32/100m) __ HR141(152)
T1 2:17
Cycle 178km/5:09:44 (34.5 kph) __ HR146(164)
T2 1:45
Run 42.2km/3:26:33 (7:52 min/mi) __ HR150(158)

After a pretty much completely sleepless night, another early start. In the last 10 years or so I’ve been racing/riding in bigger and longer events and my pre-race nerves have never got better, although I have, at least, learnt to rationalise them a bit and embrace that jittery, early morning adrenalin. They will be the one thing that’ll make me leave big-time sport one day though.

After the experience of 2010 where I got a little spooked by the race literature and we probably got to the car park too early, we were up at just 4:00am and soon out the door, ready to park at 5am. In the field we stopped for some breakfast – two cans of self-heating Rocket Fuel and some peanut butter in rolls for me. With an hour to go to my start time we started the trudge across the bridge and down to T2. With so many athletes about, it took me ages to pack energy bars and drink onto my bike, queue for the loo and check in my bags for post-race and the bike and by the time I got back to Jules, waiting just outside the entrance to T1, it was time to plaster myself in P20 and squeeze into my wetsuit. I wandered back into T1 and over to the swim start just as the cannon for the pro start went off. We had ten minutes to start. I was full of anticipation and actually not too nervous now – the start was close and I’d soon be in my race bubble.

Swim. I quickly got in the warm water and paddled over to the start. I was wearing my old (spare) goggles as I’d left my newer pair in the bedroom at home, d’oh. They were a bit tight and liable to fog up, but would be OK for this swim. Floating about, I chatted to a Canadian guy and looking around, quite surprised not to see everyone crowding the front  – I guess not everyone in a sub-10 finish wave is looking to swim sub 1-hour. The gun went and we were off. I sprinted the first 200-300m. There was quite a bit of biff, but slightly off the racing line towards the bank (the racing line is easy in this canal swim – you swim between the bank and the buoys) I found some clear water, settled my stroke a little and chased down some faster feet. I did most of the swim in a little group and only occasionally lost them as we swam through slower swimmers from the wave ahead. After about 2500m they started to slow, just as I find people do in my local pool, and I swam through them.

However, as I swam under the bridge near the swim start I got an attack of cramp in my left calf (despite loading up with tonic water and taking Crampex in the days previously). I had to slow up, do a bit of breaststroke, and try to stretch it in the water. I reckon I lost about 30 seconds here but I could still see the group I’d been with just ahead as I got to the swim exit. Very happy to see 58-something on my watch (my 3.8km PB is 57:45, but that was a standalone distance swim).

T1. Once I’d found my feet I picked up my empty bike bag (perhaps I should’ve put my race number in it, rather than on the bike) I had a fairly quick transition. There are helpers in the change tent so two of you can fight with the wetsuit. I ran through the racking, looking for the giant High5 bottle on the right that I was using as a marker to find my row, but it was gone! Oops. Managed to find my bike OK though. Shoes already clipped to the bike and elastic bands used to keep them at the right angle, and I was off.

Cycle. Not too many riders out on the bike yet – I’d forgotten to check whether no. 407, just along the rack from me, Paul Burton had left T1 – but maybe he was up the road? Anyway, no use thinking about that, just get into my stride. As usual, my HR was way high for the first 15-20 minutes  but I felt like I was riding sensibly. Sure enough, after the first big drag it dropped down a little and I settled into a good pace. There was quite a bit of headwind, but I just chugged along. I caught Paul along here, gave him a big shout out and we had a little chat. I could still feel a bit of cramp in my fingers, so I made sure to grab a half-banana at each feed zone, topped up with isotonic water bottles. First time up Greding was a bit of a shock, but I just stuck the bike in bottom gear (42×23) and once we were over the steep initial ramp, tickled it up through the feed station. Picked up a decent tailwind over the top  – that was nice – in 2010 it had been a grind into a headwind there.
___ There  was a fairly easy run back to the Solarberg climb, which was as mad as ever – you just have to ride at the tiny gap in the crowd and hope that they get out of the way. My charge up this climb put my HR waay high, but I quickly settled once I was over the top and was feeling good coming through the end of the lap, where Paul caught me up again and Jules was waiting to snap me as I zoomed past. The first lap had taken more than 2:26, a bit slower than I’d have liked but I was going OK.

 

___ The second lap was a bit different – the wind had changed direction and was now blowing across the course. It was getting crowded out there too with the later relay starters out on the bike. some of them were a bit random in their riding, but I was blasting past OK with the wind, down to Greding once more.

___ Over the top, there was definitely more wind in our faces and some real grindy bits that hadn’t been so bad on the first lap. I just plugged away, careful not to blow too hard. I don’t have a powermeter, just an HRM (which I don’t often look at). I think I tend to work too hard up the climbs as a result, but provided I’m not going too mad, it works out OK – I’m trying to maintain something around 12-hour TT pace, leaving me enough energy in the bank for the coming run. I was passing a few guys with start numbers from my wave, they looked like they were struggling, mentally as much as physically, with the headwinds here. Years of time trialling on exposed windy dual carriageways was paying off for me here. The second time up Solarberg wasn’t quite so manic. Just was well really, as I had to squeeze past some slower relay riders. Looking at my computer now, it seems I managed the second lap in just over 2:27 – very even pacing and an indication of how easy I was taking it. Then a nice easy cruise into T2, swapping turns with some guy in red kit with a matching red and black bike.

T2. Took my feet out of my shoes on the freewheel down the hill into T2, then a helper grabbed my bike on the dismount line and a kid picked up my transition bag for me as I undid my helmet. Straight away I was jogging OK into the change tent – seemed good. I sat down on a bench to struggle into socks and shoes (no elastic laces for me – just a couple of bows to tie on my old Asics racing flats!) while a helper applied sunscreen to my shoulders. Then up and off, grabbing a wet sponge as I went. Looked at my watch and saw 6h12. Great – I only had to run 3:47 to get under 10 hours, that seemed doable.

Run. Off at a decent jog. I was looking out for Jules, and round a corner there she was, waiting to cheer me on. That was a lift. A german guy in a blue trisuit passed me here (no.371, “Jurgen” written on his number), running at a great pace but he soon settled and I started to peg him back. Wonder what pace we’re doing? It felt slow after zooming along on the bike, but the first km passed in less than 4:30 (7:15 min/miles), maybe too quick, maybe the km marker is a bit off? Oh well, just keep moving and see what it’s like after 4 or 5km. There’s a bit of a slope up though the forest here, but on fresh-ish legs we weren’t slowed by it. The run drops down to the canal and the surface is fine gravel – great for that Ironman shuffle. We passed the 5km marker with 22½ minutes on the clock. It felt easy but I knew there was still a long way to go. My original plan had been to get to the first turn at 12½ km with 62 minutes on the clock, but that plan was going out the window. I didn’t stop through the early feed stations, just grabbed a sip of water on the move. Saw Matt Molloy coming back from the turn, damn he’s going well. We gave each other a shout. I got ahead of Jurgen at the turnaround (reached in 56-something), but he pegged me back as I stopped for coke and a half a banana at the next feed.
___ We ran the next 10km stride-for-stride before I could feel Jurgen was tiring. I stepped it up and was on my own past 22km, in around 1h40. Suddenly I realised that, yes, I was still running well and I could finish in under 9h45, blowing up didn’t look likely. The  sun was out and it was getting hot but there were plenty of sponges. I still hadn’t eaten much on the run (in hindsight, a few gels along the way would have helped a bit for the final 5 or 10 km) but was alternating coke, iso and water and the odd slice of melon or banana. I started to flag a bit at the second turnaround, but by then, there was only 13km left to run. Just my normal evening run, about an hour ;-). (It actually took me 1h10). I’d walk every-other feed station, make sure I got some coke but every time I started running again my left calf would be close to cramping up (a remnant of the cramp I’d had in the swim several hours previously). I really didn’t want to get a calf injury now so I concentrated on nice easy strides.
___ Coming back off the canal with 5 or 6km to go I had to stop for a little walk for a few metres. Definitely tiring now! It was really crowded here – dogs and kids and people all over the path. I was feeling wobbly and it was hard to concentrate. Maybe 9h41 was on the cards? I couldn’t work it out. At the next feed I stopped to down a gel and within a minute or two started to perk up a bit – I was just a bit short on sugar, evidently. Ho hum. I had to walk a bit of the climb back up to Roth, and then made myself jog the next bit though town and the beer tables before another little walk (and another feed station gel). Jurgen passed me here, I couldn’t stay with him, and then I had just the final push for the line. I came into the stadium catching another guy, but didn’t quite have the energy to overtake, nor even the strength to raise my arms in a finish-line salute.
___ Turned out I’d run the marathon in 3:26. I’m stoked with that. Although my PB from years and years ago is 2:45, only three years ago I ran just 3:10 at Luton marathon. It tells me I left plenty in the tank after the swim and bike, and that those long, hard training runs paid off.

 

I collected my medal, and Felix, the CEO of Challenge Roth was there, and shook my hand and then I found Jurgen and we had a sweaty embrace. I toddled back under the athlete’s bridge and saw Jules. I was very happy but knackered and dizzy. I told her I’d be about half an hour recovering, and it took me all of that to drink an alcohol-free Erdinger, chat to Matt (not quite sub-9) and Paul (9h51), have a shower and get changed. I grabbed some lovely salty soup in the athlete’s feeding area and then went out to find Jules so that (after a bit more sitting about feeling tired … ) we could pick up my bike and kit and ride very slowly together back to the car. That evening we headed out for beer and snitzel at a local bar in Nuremberg, damn that tasted great.

I am really happy to have come back to Challenge Roth and nailed a near-perfect performance, crushing my sub-10 hour target in the process. It’s taken coming here in 2010, plus a finish at Challenge Henley in 2011, to give me the experience to prepare and race well over this distance. Most of the quick guys reckoned the windy bike leg made it a good 10 minutes slower than usual, but I’m not tempted to come back searching for those 10 minutes another year (at least, not yet). That I finished 10th in my age group shows I was racing well, and that’s a great satisfaction to me.

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Challenge Henley iron-distance triathlon

Challenge Henley Iron-distance triathlon (3.8km/180km/42.2km) __ HR146(165)

Swim 3.8km: 1:03:13 (1:40/100m) __ HR137(154)
T1 = 4:20
Bike 176km: 5:29:07 (32.1km/h) __ HR150(165), ascent 1360m
T2 = 2:32
Run 42.5km: 3:53:37 (8:51min/mi) __ HR144(156)

Overall: 10:32:51 (44th place, 2nd in 45-49 age group)

Unusually for me I managed to get a reasonable few hours sleep, maybe I was feeling more relaxed about this race as I was really only using it to gain experience and just register a finish (although I’d said on the entry form that I’d finish in 10:40). Even so, my 4:30am alarm was quite early enough. I had some coffee and toast and drove over to the start, which was cold, and dark – I’d completely forgotten that it would still be pitch black! After a bit of faffing about, removing the cover from my bike, checking the tyres and so on (fortunately T1 was floodlit), it was time to get into my wetsuit and check in my “day clothes” bag to be transported to the finish for me.

Swim
There was a 10-minute delay as the river was completely fog-bound. There were yellow buoys to mark our route, but you could barely see the first one. Sighting was going to be tricky. After 10 minutes had passed and not much had changed, we got into the water and lined up for the start. The organisers started a count-down but with about 30 seconds to go someone in the crowd blew a whistle and we were off! They tried to call us back, but there was no stopping the leaders so the starter just sort of said “oh, go on then”.

There was the usual biff but with a bit of a sprint I had clear water after 200m. I had a bit of a problem with my right hand – I didn’t seem to be able to form a proper “paddle” with it. However I wiggled it I just could not get my fingers to cooperate. I stopped to breaststroke a couple of times to see if it’d sort itself out but some sort of nervous feedback was going on whereby it just wouldn’t work properly. Strange, as although my right hand’s been a bit weak since PBP, I’ve had no problems swimming with it. I think this affected my swim time quite a bit and I found it hard to keep a straight line – I was having to sight much more often than usual. A bit frustrating.

There was a small pack of orange-hatted female pro racers and some regular black-hats just ahead of me and not long before we got to the turn-around I was on to their feet and stayed there most of the way back to the pontoon. The fog was beginning to clear as the sun came up, which helped with sighting and you started to be able to see more than one buoy at a time. My time was a little slow for the swim, it might’ve been a long course, but I also had my problem with my right hand, so who knows?

T1
Back to the pontoon, I was hauled out of the water and walking into T1. Grabbed my bike clothes bag and was quickly out of my wetsuit. I put my sunglasses on and they steamed up pretty much straight away, but once I’d got my helmet and jacket on I walked out to the bike racks, struggling with my gloves as I went.  Just about managed to get them on as I got to my bike and then was quickly out on to the bike course.

Bike
The first couple of miles into Henley were fairly steady. It was cold, and I was glad I’d bothered to leave long fingered gloves and jacket in T1. Reading a few race accounts, I think quite a few people were caught out by how cold it was. How those racing in just a trisuit coped, I do not know. The first climb up to Bix was a good chance to get the blood flowing into the legs. I was passing quite a few faster swimmers up here, and at the first out-and-back counted the bikes coming towards me – I was 47th, cool. I caught a few more slower cyclists coming back down the hill and then overtook a couple more at the first feed station. Up the first climb of Pishill, I was looking to take it steady, but I was still a bit spooked by the large number of riders just behind me at the last turnaround, so I probably pushed it a bit too hard. At the second turnaround and the Oxford Tri feed station, mostly in wigs and cowboy hats (big cheers for me – that was a great thing to have every lap), I counted the bikes coming back to me again – I was up to 33rd. I realised that to keep pushing on like that would cost me dearly later on so dropped the effort off a touch to complete my first lap.

The next lap was steadier, I gained a place or two, lost a place or two. Picked up drinks on the way round, munched my flapjack and downed the odd gel or two, started to enjoy the roads and the supporters all around. I was glad of the comfort of my road bike, it certainly made the climbing a lot easier and was a trick I’d missed at the very hilly Ironman UK 70.3 earlier in the year. The level of support around the circuit was increasing with every lap as more and more riders streamed on to it, and it was fantastic to be racing on closed roads. We had a little shower of rain around here, but it didn’t last too long. Nathan Blake from Oxford Tri passed me on the way back down to Pishill. He was steaming along on his lo-pro. I wasn’t tempted to chase that pace and he was soon out of sight.

The last lap I took steadier still, knowing I had a marathon coming up, and an unknown effort to come. It was great to be rolling back downhill into Henley for the second transition. I wasn’t feeling too bad, but I could tell those climbs had really taken a lot out of my legs.

T2
I was quickly off the bike, passed it to a helper and then ran to collect my transition bag. In the tent I fiddled about putting socks on and tying my shoe laces (I’d decided to run in my trainers for more support, rather than racing shoes and they don’t have speed-laces in them), and then someone came over to help me stuff my helmet and jacket into the bag. I joked with a couple of other athletes in the tent about the upcoming run, and then headed out. I had 6:39 on my watch, so provided I managed a 4-hour marathon my estimated race finish of 10:40 was on. Having neglected my long-distance running a bit this year in pursuit of long miles on the bike I was unsure of how the run was going to go – on a good day I thought 3:40 would be a good ironman marathon target for me, but at the tail-end of a long cycling season sub 4-hours seemed a more realistic goal.

Run
My stomach was, as usual in these situations, feeling a bit bloated from all the carbo drink I’d consumed on the bike, but I knew it’d calm down so I just got on with setting myself a nice steady pace. However, it was still feeling a bit bad by the time I was approaching the second feed station at 3km, and there were a couple of handy portaloos along here, so I nipped into one and was feeling much relieved afterwards! The first 10½km lap passed in 55 minutes, I was walking the feed stations and jogging the rest. I imagined I was taking it pretty easy along here and assumed I’d feel better as I went along, much as happened at IMUK70.3. How wrong could I be.

Jules was waiting for me back at the finish loop just after I’d picked up the first of my coloured wrist bands (red) and it was great to get a high-five from her as I went past (I’d let her off cheering me on earlier in the day as she’d been working long shifts in the week and deserved a lie-in!). Clouds gathered and a little light rain fell as I rounded the far side of the lap. However the towpath back into Henley was really sodden – it looked like I’d missed the worst of the rain (Jules later said it had absolutely bucketed down in Henley). The second lap took 55½ minutes as I collected my white wristband, and I continued with my “jog + walk the feed stations” strategy. I was alternating water, High-5 and coke, with the occasional gel thrown in for good measure. My right foot (which I’d worried about in the previous week after straining it in my only brick session 10 days ago) was getting very sore, but I was sore all over so it didn’t seem too bad really in comparison. Although it was quiet on the far side of the lap, crowds were increasing all along the route in and out of Henley. I’m sure one of the feed stations had a couple of Elvises handing up drinks, but I’m damned if can remember where that was now! I got some good cheers from Oxford Tri team-mates.

Somewhere about 4km from the end of the third lap my brain started to get an inkling of how much more work I had left to do and my quads started to tie up with the cold wind and the effort. My already slow pace dropped off a bit more and I started rolling through on my heels rather than my normal midfoot running style. I found myself wanting to walk more, although I hated having to walk for even 20 seconds in between feeds – I wanted to be at least jogging. That third lap took 58½ minutes. As I went through the finish area having picked up my last (blue) coloured wrist band, I warned Jules that I was going pretty slowly here and the last lap might take a while! (It ended up as 64½ minutes )

I got a chunk of banana and washed it down with a cup of flat coke at every feed station from here on. I was surprised to find the banana was OK on my stomach, and the coke kept my spirits up. Around the far side of the lap I managed to get between three feed stations without a walk (save for a long walk/chat with Hanno Nickau from Oxford Tri at the far-most feed, he was still on his first lap). Back on to the towpath I was caught by a group of three, including 6th place women’s pro finisher Heike Priess. She’d been one of the swimmers I’d drafted 10 hours ago, but I’d pulled out a bit of a lead on her on the bike. I used this group to pace me for 10 minutes, feeling a bit better again, then stopped for a final walk along a quiet alleyway behind Leander RC before getting back up to warp speed (not!) for the final stretch through Henley to the finish.

Finish
It was great to turn off the normal run course and head around the final U-shaped carpeted finish lap. I put my sunglasses up on my head and waved to the crowd. Jules was here, and Chris and Anita had made it down from the Oxford Tri feed station to cheer me into finish. I crossed the line with my arms aloft, grinning my head off. Fantastic. I got a finishers medal and a cup of water and then headed over to share my experience with them.

They congratulated me and then Jules went off to get me a cup of sweet tea, lovely! After a bit of wandering about trying to find a marshal who knew where everything was we toddled off to the athlete’s area where I picked up my finishers T-shirt and the day clothes bag I’d dropped off at the start. I got changed and stuffed down a few lovely salty slices of cheesy bread with some coleslaw. Jules thought it ironic that I was eating salad after an ironman. We took it pretty slowly (especially down stairs – backwards only!) to go pick up my bike and other transition bags – now I’d stopped I wasn’t moving too quickly. Jules took the bags back to her car, drove home with them and I cycled back to the business school where we’d started and got my car for the drive home, still feeling great, if completely exhausted. Jules had bought beers on the way home and we phoned out for takeway curry. What a day.

[My results]

1st was Petr Vabrousek in 8:37:58 and fastest in my age category was Richard Ashton with 9:59:23. I was faster than him on the bike and through the transitions, but he ran a storming 3:06 marathon! I have mucho work to do there. [All results]

Swim 3200m + 10-mile trike TT

AM. Swim 3200m/54, steady

PM. Trike 27km inc. VC10 club 10-mile TT. Course F11/10. Hard

8km w/u
10 miles: 22:53 (26.220mph/42.197km/h) __ HR161(171)
3½km w/d

New PB, new club record. [Results, Gavin Atkins fastest with 20:23]

Looking like a fairly blowy evening, wind from the south west, which would be against-ish on the downhill portion of this new, fast course (Gmap_Pedometer), the F11/10 near Tring, promoted by VC10. Anyway, packed the trike in the back of the car and gave it a go. I drove the course to see how it went – the roads were quite busy at 6:15pm, but by the time we’d signed on an hour later the rush-hour had died away and it was much better. I struggled to find anywhere good to warm up – all those roads go either up or down, it’d be easier with a turbo trainer but that’s not an option on a trike.

The first 3 or 4 miles of the course is as bumpy as hell, and the first roundabout on the turn really nadgery on a trike (off-camber too!), but the dual carriageway is all nicely sheltered by high trees. Despite this, the bumps in the road make you feel like you’re working hard to no great effect. Then there’s a small rise to get back to the flyover by the start and suddenly the road surface smooths out and descends and you’re flying! I had a 55-tooth chainring on and with my smallest sprocket at the back (12) was nearly spinning out, downhill and into the wind. The flat 2 miles to the Aylesbury road roundabout at the bottom was very hard work, the wind was right in my face and killed the speed I’d built up on the descent, but I figured I’d be better off giving it everything here to make up time and risk have nothing left for the tailwind sprint to the line. Just about worked OK: I was very slow picking up speed out of the roundabout but under the second bridge and with the slip-road countdown markers in sight managed one last lifting of my pace to nip 2 seconds under Ralph Dadswell’s trike course record and shave 10 seconds off my PB/club record. Wow!

Not so many happy faces in the car park at the finish – apparently the course was running a bit slow with that wind – Gavin Atkins, who set the course record here a few weeks ago, was about a minute slower (although he said he’d had a fairly tiring day) and Ralph, riding a tandem trike with Paul Mace, didn’t reckon it was great. The later starters got the best of the conditions (I was off at no. 11)  and the last six or seven times all started with “21..”! Looks like I’d better head back there on a quieter evening.

Ironman UK 70.3, Wimbleball

Early start from our Travelodge, and we were in the car for the 22-mile drive to Wimbleball by 5:20am. There was quite a slow queue of cars for the last bit to get into the car park, and there were a few nervous triathletes hopping out of their cars, wetsuit in hand, to walk across the fields to get to the start. It didn’t seem too bad though and in fact we got the car parked with a good 40 minutes to spare – plenty enough time to walk to the lakeside, use the portaloo (no queues!), get my wetsuit on and ready to go. I relaxed by telling myself that this wasn’t an important race – I was just seeing what the M-dot experience was all about.

I said goodbye to Jules and as I wasn’t sure it was an in-the-water start, I pushed my way to near the front of the bunch, ready to get in the water. Turned out it *was* a water start, so once I was in the water I spent 10 minutes floating about near the start line buoys, treading water like mad to keep warm, and then we were off. I sprinted like mad for the first couple of minutes to get clear of as much trouble as I could and then settled down into a steadier rhythm, off to the right hand side of the leaders. Rounding the first turn after a couple of hundred metres, I found some great feet – this guy was pounding the water like a ship, I could hear his foot strokes underwater! I followed those as best I could. It was very tricky to sight the far turn buoy as the sun was right in our eyes, but once we were there I lost those nice fast feet in the mayhem and swam the rest of the way back to the shore on my own, with someone on *my* feet. Out of the water, I glanced at my watch, 31-something, about usual for my half-ironman swims.

There was a long uphill run out of the water to get to transition. I peeled off my wetsuit and jogged up the field with everyone else, and although a few guys seemed intent on sprinting up there I saw no point in getting too het up with a long uphill drag to come on the first bit of the bike course. Transition was a controlled rush for me as usual. Worried about the mud underfoot at the bike exit, I’d packed my cycling shoes into the transition bag to wear straight away. There was a helper here who very kindly scooped up my wetsuit, hat and googles into my transtion bag, and then I was off to collect the bike. Jules gave me a cheer from the barriers as we exited transition, I tried not to look too nervous, and then clipped in and we were off.

The bike course is devilishly hilly, but we’d driven it the day before on the way back to Taunton so I knew where the trickiest bits were going to be and where I could use my TT speed to good effect. I overtook quite a few people on just the climb out of transition, but after that settled into a steadier pace. It was very quick around the back of the circuit, but once we’d done the one tricky descent at about 13 miles (not good for me, my TT bike has a very poor, but very aero Shimano AX brake on the front), there was a whole sequence of nasty climbs, all marked on the map with chevrons. My bottom gear of 39×25 got a lot of use here – I was trying to just calmly spin up these climbs, without blowing up too much. I think it mostly worked because on the flatter sections of the next lap I was able to push on a bit and overtook quite a few people. I still struggled with those same climbs on lap 2 though.

It was a great relief to descend back to the lake and get ready for T2. I was out of my shoes before the dismount line and quickly jogging into transition where my bike was taken from me (nice!). I struggled to remember which rack my “run” bag was located on and that wasted a bit of time, but managed to get socks and shoes on OK while a helper took my bag and bike helmet off me. A few easy strides and then I was out into the run.

Straight away onto the uneven surface my back locked up. Jules was here, cheering me on and I tried to look good and stride out for the camera. I felt bad though, my lower back was killing me and I was still a little bloated from the drink on the bike (although I knew that feeling would quickly pass).

Once we’d done a loop of the field and were out into the trees and the climbs, I was stopping every so often just to stretch my back, try to bend it a little. Every footstep was hard work – I was in a lot of pain. It didn’t help that my shins were feeling a bit sore too – they’d been a little stiff in the previous week but I’d largely ignored it as they usually just ease up. I began to doubt whether I’d be able to manage much more than a hobble to the finish line (I was determined to finish, come what may), but over the undulating surfaces back along the lakeside after the run out on the dam wall and back, my back started to ease up and when I got to the next feed station after about 2½ miles I had a realisation that I was in nowhere near as much pain as just a couple of minutes earlier. I started to stride out more confidently.

run

I think I ran the second lap a bit too hard as a result, but it was great to be suddenly back in racing mode, picking off slower runners ahead and weaving though people who were a lap (or two) down on me, trying to guess who was in my age category at each out-and-back turn. Numbers 1005 and 456, who had both rather disappointingly just run away from me when I was going through my bad patch at the start of the run, looked about the right age, but later turned out to be in the 40-44 age group.

One last big effort from the last turn, up a grassy, uneven hill and I was sprinting, zig-zagging through lapped runners. I came up on a guy who looked over his shoulder at me (I was breathing pretty hard), he upped his game and started running hard. I had his measure though and got past just before the finish chute. I’m no sprinter but I put my head down and ran as hard as I could on that lovely red carpet. Just as well, he *was* in my age group and (a day later) I found I’d just beaten him for the win, by 7 seconds! The 3rd in my category came in soon after, another 19 seconds back.

There was time after to shake hands and compare notes – we’d been neck-and-neck the whole way round. I saw Emma-Kate Lidbury (ex-Oxford Tri, now a pro-triathlete) in the finish area and had a little chat to her, congratulated her on her fine win. We grabbed a welcome cuppa from a takeaway van and when transition was open, I collected my bike and transition bags and we headed for home to beat the rush out of the muddy field that was the car park. I didn’t want to stay for the presentation of qualification places at the Ironman 70.3 world championships in Las Vegas in September, as I’m not interested in travelling there.

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Ironman UK 70.3 (1.2mi/56mi/13.1mi), Wimbleball. Hard, HR148(164)

Swim 2000m/31:59 (1:35.7/100m)__  HR138(150)
T1 4:30 (long run)
Cycle 92km/2:54:41 (31.6 km/h) __ HR147(163) ascent 1430m
[Halfway splits ~ 1:27:48/1:27:57 ]
T2 1:55
Run 21.1km/1:39:15 (7:31 min/mi)__ HR154(164)

Total: 5:12:18, 50th overall and 1st in 45-49 age group [Results] [Photos]

Wantage Triathlon

AM. Wantage triathlon, Hard, HR153(167)

Swim 850m/13:27 (1:35/100m) HR145(150)
T1 1:02
Bike 34km/56:15 (+45 s at traffic lights) (36.3km/h) HR155(167)
T2 2:07
Run 11.5km/50:20 (7:02min/mi) HR155(166)

Total 2:03:41 (+ 45s at trfl = 2:04:26). (official results have me 4th with 2:04:25?)

Another morning driving to a race with the windscreen wipers going and the heater in the car on. I find it hard to believe there’s a drought, anywhere in this country! I’d rather have just been going out for a run, but this was a warm-up event for the following week’s half-ironman, so I’d better get on with it. I’d not done Wantage Tri before, and the course looked pretty challenging so I was looking forward to it, with some apprehension about the cold and wet.

I had a reasonably steady swim. Although when I got my start sheet earlier in the week I was seeded in the last wave of swimmers, as is usual with Soll Leisure events, more people had been left off the start list and there were at least three waves of swimmers after me so I had a bit of a fight overtaking people in my lane. I also had to swim 34 lengths instead of 32, as the lane counter in my lane mis-counted – I didn’t like to argue and just swam the extra two lengths.

T1 was OK, my new Mavic tri race shoes were a cinch to get into out on the bike, but boy, it was cold and wet out there. I worked pretty hard on the first climb up Hackpen Hill, trying to generate some heat, but it was hopeless and I fell back to a steadier rhythm, getting colder all the while. I rode pretty well, my gears were playing up a bit, but not too distracting – something to sort out before next weekend. I froze to death on the final descent back into Wantage. I sat up a bit here to slow the bike – the wind was blustery and I didn’t want to lose control. Had to come to a near-stop at the bottom as a van was reversing across the road and blocking all the traffic, but I sneaked through and then had 45 seconds or so stopped at a red light in Wantage, trying to warm up my hands. The stoppage time was supposed to be taken off my bike split, but I can see today that it wasn’t. Never mind. [As well as my extra lengths in the pool, it doesn’t look as though anyone’s stoppage time at the lights was taken into account although there were a pair of marshals at the junction taking note of these times.]

I tickled into T2. Normally I’d get my feet out of the shoes and scoot into transition, but I my fingers were so useless I couldn’t undo the velcro on the shoes. Then I dropped my bike, couldn’t get my socks on my wet, cold feet for the run so I abandoned that idea but still struggled with just my running shoes. Then I couldn’t undo my helmet strap so I had to run over to a marshal and ask them to do it for me – loads of faffing about. My T2 time was one of the slowest.

Eventually … I got out running! A couple of guys I’d passed on the final part of the bike leg had caught me in T2 and one shot past in the first 500m of the run while I was still finding my running legs. I soon got going and pegged his advantage. The energy drink I’d swallowed on the bike leg was washing about in my belly a bit, but as the run went on that feeling subsided. The other guy was a bit quicker than me up the big climbs, but on the flat I had his measure and I only just failed to catch him again with a storming last couple of kilometres. I started to enjoy the run as it was warming me up, but it was a relief to finish. I collected my souvenir shirt and mug, got changed and headed home for a hot bath!

Swim 3600m + Derren Brown

AM. Swim 3600m, steady

Steady swim. The pool was fairly quiet when I got in but the fast lanes soon filled up. Blenheim Triathlon’s only six weeks away – the local pools’ll be busy until then.

Derren Brown – Svengali
We went to the New Theatre for Derren Brown’s new show, Svengali. Another excellent spectacle, although it came across as more of a series of one-off stunts, rather than the more cohesive whole that was his last show, Enigma. We still enjoyed it hugely, although there some something missing about the choice of the final set of “random” number that could perhaps have been more dramatic in their choice (the final “reveal” was still as good as ever!). We had a couple of beers afterwards and headed home for a late snack, not ideal preparation for tomorrow’s race.

Run 10½km + swim 500m

AM. Run 10½km/56 steady, HR135(153)

PM. Swim 500m. easy

Spent the day in York. Took the park + ride and stopped off at the National Railway Museum. I was happy to wander around the engines, Jules was perhaps not so fascinated ;-). We wandered around the lanes, and did a little shopping, but didn’t stop at York Minster – it was too expensive. Saw some more art at the York Art Gallery  – there was yet another Hockney, Bigger Trees Near Warter. Had a long journey back out of York on the P&R bus – there was a traffic light problem – and got back to Shipley quite late. I went for a quick dip and then we went down the cheapie hotel bar, which tuned out to be closed so we ended up eating in their fancy restaurant. The food was great, quite an experience, I guess.