I’m sat here aching and my body is telling me that I pushed it to the limit yesterday, my feet are battered and bruised and my quads ache but I just can’t stop grinning because I had a storming day at the office.
The alarm went off at 5:40am and I packed the car up with my bike and plastic transition box containing a whole array of gear. It never ceases to amaze me how much gear you need to do a triathlon and I don’t have nearly half as much as the fast guys – after all I only have one set of wheels !! A couple of weetabix and a coffee and me and Em jumped in the car to head up to the outskirts of Catterick to compete in the Cleveland Steelman. It was a scenic drive through Sedburgh and Hawes, a bit hairy at times, but we made it there 90 mins before the start to get registered and set up.
The weather forecast hadn’t been good and the wind was strong and sky black, it started to rain so I decided to abandon the way I’d set out my gear and just chucked it back in the plastic box to keep it dry. This would lead to slow transitions later ( 2:51 each time ) but it meant I was putting dry shoes and gear each time so it was worth it.
For the first time I decided to wear two swim caps and it kept my head warmer and kept my ear plugs in. I use the putty ball type ear plugs now and find them much better than the traditonal style ones. There were 180 of us treading water as we waited for the horn to go off to signal the start. As usual I started at the back and to the right to try and avoid the main scrum. The water was crystal clear and I was quickly into my swimming and passing people. I felt really comfortable and just kept telling myself to “strectch and glide” and by the second lap I had caught up to the group in front an swam through them carefully avoiding any major impacts, did get a couple of kicks and hits but nothing significant. I stumbled getting out of the water as its very rocky but unlike last year I didn’t feel dizzy or sick. I’m over the moon with my swim time of 38:13, thats over 14 minutes faster than last year !! Its still not fast but at least its now respectable.
Into transition, a slurp of energy dink and then out on the bike to the encouragement of Em and my mam and dad who’d made the journey to watch as well. The first few miles were quite crowded and I was nervous about drafting as we had all been warned about it and several people were subsequently DQ’d as a result of their “cheating”. I made a conscious decision to pedal the first 10 miles without going onto the big ring to wake my legs up ( was worried they wouldn’t perform as a result of the Le Terrier six days ago ). I started passing people as we headed up the hills ( not proper hills though ) towards North Allerton. People on fast aero bikes started passing me and I laughed to myself “crap swimmer”. At about 15 miles of the first lap the heavens opened and it was torrential downpour for the rest of the bike ride, this combined with the strong crosswind made for difficult handling conditions. At times it was like cycling through a stream and my exposed arms and legs were getting hammered by the needle like rain drops, but I felt great and was loving every minute of it.
As I started the second lap I gave the thumbs up to my cheering crew, who were soaked to the skin. It was great of them to stand out there in those conditions and support me, it can’t have been enjoyable at all. I just hammered the bike on the second lap and passed quite a few people. I’d set myself the goal of getting off the bike in a total of 4 hours if I was going to go sub 6. I was out out of T2 in about 3:50 I think. My bike split was 3:08:49 for 58 miles compared to 3:21:00 last year, a gain of 12 minutes.
My legs were stiff as I started the run and I was drenched but I soon got into my running, well as much running as you can do on a 95% offroad course that was completely flooded and muddy. For a good section of the course you spend a lot of times zigg-zagging avoided the huge flooded pot holes and the runners coming back the other way along the narrow track. I was running in my sealskinz waterproof socks which were heavy as the outside had retained water from the bike, but my feet were dry, and my off road Salomon shoes. I don’t know how the fast guys managed it normal racing flats, as I was losing traction on the muddy water logged surfaces in my ultra grippy shoes. I carried energy drink on the first lap but passed it to my mam on the beginning of the second lap. I felt strong and knew that I was on for a pb unless I blew up completely on the final lap of the run. I continued to pass people and was grinning to myself as I knew it was going well.
I crossed the finish line and realised that I had put in a decent run to finish in 1:42:51 ( 1:50:54 last year ) and smash my half ironman pb by a massive 29 minutes. I’d wanted to dip under 6 hours after doing 6:04 last year and I’d hammered it to finish in 5:35:37. I came 131st out of 180.
My legs stiffened up immediately after finishing and I knew that I’d given it my all. I owe a great big thank you to Em and my mam and dad for their support in awful conditions, I’d wanted to race well in front of them and regain my confidence after the hard lessons of Hamburg. So thanks guys.
So hopefully I can build on this now and continue to improve as one year today I’ll be in the middle of the bike leg at Frankfurt….can’t wait !