Summary. Dead chuffed with time of 5:38:01. Fastest of 3 last year was 6:23 at New Forest (Mojo was 6:03 but bike and run were considerably sub-distance). Some more interesting data later for the geeks, but I would – short of being enveloped by the green slime/sludge combo – have broken 6hrs with the full swim (add 17 mins or so). Result
Right, grab a coffee, get comfy, here we go with a bit more detail.
Nerves? So, 5 hrs sleep not ideal but worked ok for breakfast at 5am (trusted routine: cereal/banana, toast, juice, tea). I know I should do porridge but it has made me gag for about 45 years! Kit well organised with options for cold. Now, this wasn’t really a race: just a ‘training session’ to prep and gauge progress en route the Outlaw IM in July. Mmm….Yeah, right! Until Saturday when the nerves kicked in for the first time. Second time they did actually, as had done a bike recce with Trisquad a few weeks back and bumped into the bumps. I don’t really do bumps. Well I do but much more slowly than I would like, and certainly not commensurate with my speed on the flat.
Weather. Nonetheless, reasonably chilled as I picked up Kevin en route. Then we arrived and got physically chilled. Distinct parallels with last year (2016 Mojo was ½ IM debut) on Saturday and indeed race day in terms of weather and thus what to wear: the perils of early season racing. Tropical storm but warm the day before; cold enough to halve the swim on the morning; decisions, decisions…Cycling jersey? Gloves? Coffee instead of sports drink? …plumped for arm warmers under wetsuit, cycling jersey at T1 just in case. Had already decided to wear gloves and socks to mimic what I plan for IM.
Swim. A good, event-free swim. It was much less cold than at least the first 2 weeks at Hannam’s, so the decision to half it was a bit of a shame. Relaxed and unusually straight swimming, but – like Doug – could not see the final buoy (foggy goggs) so followed a hat vaguely in the middle. Emerging from the slime evoked ancient memories of the sea monsters from Dr Who, but 17:36 compares very favourably with 39 mins (for double distance) in each of my 3 last year. Feeling good.
T1 was slow as I faffed with socks and gloves and briefly pondered cycling jersey, although looking around no one did so I went in trisuit and arm warmers (or comedy-tan contributors as they would become known…). I loved the new Huub, which just slid off, whereas my old Blueseventy always stuck on the calves.
Event Org n Drafting. Cannot praise the event organisation enough and the marshalls were superb. I confess (please don’t follow my lead) to not even bothering with the race brief (ok, I was in the loo Q) but all the routes were brilliantly marked and marshalled. However, the curtailed swim meant mass bunching from the start of the ride through to the first of the 3 out-and-backs. It was [politely] ‘competitive’ or rather downright dangerous: four abreast going both ways is not safe. Happily the few cars out were patient in the extreme. Now, I’m always just racing myself, the clock and my goals, but if you were ‘racing’ racing, you may have been somewhat ired by the mass drafting. Some of it early on was just an occupational hazard after the swim shortening, some of it, er, cheating.
Oh my days! Hey ho. I am not suggesting I would have podiumed if I had drafted! Not cricket though really. Oh and, in response to my ‘careful there mate’, when some chap veered right into me as I went by, the F Off in response seemed a bit unnecessary. My good swim had put me further up the peloton than previously though…Ooh, is this what it’s going to be like? Bumps, food n drink.
Remember them, the bumps that is? It was a really good bike route with enough climbs to make you go into the ‘energy-depletion bank’ on maybe half a dozen occasions, rather than just spin round saving it all for the run. Mostly smooth road surfaces too. Some stiffness in the neck and wrists being in the TT position for 3 hours: need to practice for 7… Hydration/nutrition went well. SIS 60ml gels every 45 mins and 2 zipvit bars at 1:10 and 2:20. 400ml of High5 2:1 in the bike (refilled on the go after the water point); two spare bottles on the rear saddle mount: one High5, one water. No stops planned or needed on the day.
Good but… So a good event-free ride at 18mph, which I am chuffed with too. Last year I was metronomically 17mph on these, but also went into the energy-depletion bank much more. This was, largely, a controlled ride: no chasing the next rabbit, then the next one…. But those pesky bumps meant that by the end I could feel the beginnings of cramp in my lower quads. Not ideal.
I’m on it now! Legs felt ok running into T2 with the bike, though. Yes, Mr Cramp: False alarm, ‘ave it, you mere imposter! And so I set off at 8:30 odd pace, which on reflection was a bit stupid but I felt very strong. Let’s dwell on mile 0 to mile 0.41. What a performance: picked off a couple of runners. What an athlete!
Oh FFS! 0.42 miles. Remember it well. RH lower of right quad. Then it moved to the LH side. I stopped and walked and rubbed and hit it. Then ran again. It shifted to same place other leg. This carried on for a bit, then it shifted to the hamstrings and I’m worried: still 13 odd miles left. But I had gels in my suit. I credit my continuing to be able to run to a High5 32ml Raspberry plus caffeine gel. It was probably coincidence and/or psycho-sematic as I think I had hydrated and carbed up appropriately. And, er, the c-word always happens around now. But by mile 0.92 I was running again and didn’t stop until mile 11.71, for a mini repeat on one of the cheeky climbs: this time I had a handful of jelly beans and nothing was going to stop me now. On reflection the one mistake I made was that I really like drinking when I want – pretty constantly actually – and they had plastic cups. I considered wearing a belt with two 250ml bottles and was cursing myself that I had not, especially as I always do on my long runs – one water, one High5, 3 gels. Der!
However… In between I was running at around 9:30m/mls. In terms of CV effort, I could have gone much faster; it was just the constant threat of cramp returning that made it such a challenge. But as my 2016 ½ IM pace for Mojo and Holkham was 11:45m/mile and New Forest 10:57, I’ll take it
Ya Eejit! The other schoolboy error was NO SUNCREAM. My tan lines match Kevin’s already famous ones – except with the comedy addition of my arm warmers… I blame the arctic start and equatorial finish on Brexit or Corbyn or Wenger or something.
ETC Supporters Club… Plenty said already on FB but another huge thanks to ETC crew for the best support imaginable: it had a tangible effect on that darn run. Thanks guys. It wasn’t me that fed mini scotch eggs to the gorgeous dog with the big baleful eyes btw…
So what? Well, very happy and about as on track for an IM in 2 months as I could be, although still daunting of course. I say that as last year I would have been hobbling around for a couple of days after, but I feel great and the muscle soreness actually feels nice.
Why? This has not just happened by accident or guesswork. I am indebted to my Coach Kevin for his attention and programmes and everything (incl 2 years of winter Core), which have transformed me as an athlete – or rather ‘into’ an athlete. And to Andy for technical advice on run, in the swim tank and (especially) in the winter turbo pain cave.
Fat lad at the back? Since joining ETC just over 2 years ago, I have lost 3 stone, 2lbs: I have not been 13st 9 since my early 20s, and I am fitter (endurance-wise, not speed) than I have even been. And absolutely no dieting: fads, potions or otherwise.
You can too. Most of you don’t need to lose that amount of weight or even any weight but I would recommend a conversation on getting maximum value from each training session: it really is not just the hours! If I can help anyone else become a vaguely competent triathlete – or to improve – just ask.
That is just about the only thing more rewarding than smashing one’s own PB!
Good training and racing