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400m Pool swim
17.6 Km Bike
Saturday 5th October.
So that’s it then. The car is loaded up and I’m double checking I’ve remembered everything! I really can’t be bothered to drive for 2.5 hours to find I’m missing a shoe! Talking of shoes, it’s been raining so much this past week that I’ve noticed various animals beginning to pair up and climb aboard a boat moored up on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. I nip back into my flat and pick up my trail shoes as an option.
Before I can head down to my prestigious room at a Travelodge in Stratford-upon-Avon there is the small matter of Woodhouse moor parkrun’s 12th Birthday. If you think I’m going to miss out on a free breakfast ehem, I mean the chance to volunteer, you are very much mistaken! 600 plus position tokens distributed and a more than reasonable breakfast baguette later I’m on my way down the M1. Spotify is on fire, cracking out some juicy, dark techno bangers.
This race was my very first Triathlon this time last year. It was pretty much the last race of the season I could find. I had decided to sign up as I finally managed to crawl, breaststroke and paddle may way through 400m as of September 2018. Needless to say, a whole year on I’m benefitting from the amazing coaching courtesy of HPH Triathlon. I drove directly to the leisure centre to register and have a look at the run course. It’s 2 laps of an out and back, 2/3’s of which was already soggy trail and more rain forecast for later running all through the night and into the morning. Good call on the trail shoes John!
Travelodge forgot my evening meal order. After an hour of waiting I waspishly accepted the refund and went out for McDonalds. Turns out McDonalds is next door to where I stayed last year, about 5 mins down the road from where I am this time.
Sunday 6th October.
The Travelodge was also occupied by the team of race organisers and judging by their end of season partying on Saturday night credit to them for getting up bright and early on race day! I decided to walk the 20 mins from the Hotel to the leisure centre, and noticed I wasn’t really feeling nervous, I was feeling excited! Transition was in a carpark so no muddy fields to negotiate and there was no assigned racking number so I found a nice end of row spot a little bit out of the way and set up. Chewed the fat with a few locals and generally salivated at some of the machines around me. (The bikes were nice too) Seriously, my “Adventure bike” was perhaps looking a little out of place and the nerves started to needle their way back in again. Then, that was it. It was a quarter past eight and I was due to be pool side in five minutes. I peeled myself out of my lovely warm layers and tottered off poolside for the briefing.
The pool is a 33.3 meter pool divided into 3 VERY wide lanes. “I’ve made it easy for you”! the chap delivering the briefing explains “You do four lengths then move across a lane”. This was the best solution for a pool swim I’ve seen. Each lane had plenty of room for 4 swimmers wide so overtaking was completely acceptable but, tumble turns are ruled out. This is pleasing as I can’t do them and it means all the “proper” swimmers had that particular string to their bow cut. Ha! We’re organised in numerical order and shuffling in single file closer to the start point like lemings to a cliff edge. OK, maybe I am nervous actually. We’re being set off in 5 second intervals, my nervousness ramps up and I’m shivering even though it’s more than warm enough. Everyone in the water seems to be moving so quickly and effortlessly… shit, what am I doing here… I can’t… “ONE SIX ONE” and I’m in the water one hand on the pool side the other on my watch… “Go”!
As soon as I’m off the pool side the nerves are gone. I can’t help but grin as I’m just turning my arms over nice and steadily thinking “YESSSSS I’ve got this, it’s just a pool swim like I do every week” Then, after one or two lengths there are a pair of feet in my eye line. “OK this is unexpected” I think to myself “but hey It’s one less person to chase on the bike” and I promptly ease past them. As soon as I’ve started swimming it feels like it’s done and I’m making my last turn and thinking “hmm maybe I was a bit TOO chilled on the swim”. Nevertheless, I’m hopping out of the pool feeling pretty fresh.
As I’m about to totter into Transition someone calls “CAP PLEASE” for some reason this becomes the single most difficult thing to wrest from my scalp in the history of head wear. It’s like the damn thing is related to a limpet. In my increasing enthusiasm to remove the swim cap I’ve got a decent chunk of eyebrow and some ear as I’m wrenching at it. Even the volunteer who asked for it winces at me. However, once removed (the cap I mean, the flesh remained intact) I nailed the bin she was dropping them into from a good 5-7 paces away and I’m off towards my bike. Having experimented with bodging elastic bands on my shoes the week previously and it being a straight up fail I slip on my bike shoes and “click clack” my way to the mount line. For the first time in my life in a race environment I’m bouncing straight onto the bike and clipping in first time. Glorious!
Having cycled the route before and running the .gpx on my bike computer for a bit of forewarning I knew there was very little elevation and the small climb that did exist was towards the end of the route. I let my legs get a bit warmed up and then decide to get cracking, there were people up ahead who needed catching. This included a genuine pack of riders maybe about 4/5 strong. Great for me going past them but I did think they were taking the pee just a little bit with that. There was one chap I just couldn’t get. Every time we got a bit of an incline he came towards me but I couldn’t live with the prowess of an obviously capable person on a TT bike. Again, the ride was fairly straight forward really and before I know it I’m tap dancing my bike back to its spot on the end of rack 9.
So this was an odd one. I racked the bike, removed helmet, glasses and shoes and possibly a little bit clumsily stuffed my feet into my shoes for the run. The time it was recorded as taking makes it look like I had a cigar on! No idea why it was so slow by comparison. Things to work on next season! I spot the guy I was chasing on the TT bike removing his jacket and gloves… southerners!
“Wake up you little buggers” I mutter at my legs as I leave T2 onto the run course. If there is a bit in Triathlon where I feel I can attack, it’d be the run. The woefully scrawny limbs I like to call my legs feel like they’re switching on pretty quickly and I remind myself of the plan. “It’s essentially four lengths of running”. “Get moving on one, get breathing under control on two, build on three and, spend everything you have left on four”. That’s what happened. It was so simple. I was aware I was making a few dodgy noises by the final turn for home but by that point I was in “Idiot” mode. Short of dropping more than one limb I wasn’t looking to dial anything back. On finishing I get an announcement on the PA, he even gets my name right on the second attempt! That’s it. Done. I check my watch… Holy hell! That worked out pretty well 🙂
They have revamped the results from last year’s efforts which was just a case of find your name on a .pdf. This year there are ALL the stat’s and I bloody LOVE a stat’. As most of you may know I’d really tried to put the work in for this one. It was, to be honest “a given” that I would beat last years time of 1:15:06. The most pleasing thing for me was getting within 15% of the winning AG time considering the notable amount of GBR tri suites flying around.
So, the bottom line for me is “roll on next season”. I’m absolutely buzzing to go again.