From the outset I have to get this report right, this was the best race ever! You don’t need to read my entire page of ramblings to know you must do this event next year!
My final planned triathlon of the season, and one that I had been dreading since the beginning of the year. For some bizarre reason when hunting the 2012 race calendar for a middle distance event, I had settled on the Little Woody. No not the flatter, well trod events for me. No it had to be a decent scalp, something worth dreading, I am truly demented.
And so I found myself in the budget hotel room in Gloucester on Saturday morning – 5am feeling sick to my stomach. I had, had the chance to scout some of the cycle route the night before and was wishing I hadn’t. The hills looked really bad, massive climbs in and out of villages with Alpinesque switchbacks. Okay for training, but I was going to go racing on this stuff. Added to that the organisers touting of the event, as one of the UK’s toughest, I didn’t have an opinion on that but it did scare me. I was starting to make negotiations with my wife Susan to just go home and say we’d done the event, no one need know. This sounded more sensible.
But, I found myself queuing up on a pontoon, in my trusty Orca wetsuit at the National Diving Centre where I had racked up my bike the night before. The swim location was turning out to be stunning. Something I hadn’t appreciated in the rainy dusk the evening before. Firstly the weather was playing ball and was sunny, for a second the water at the bottom of this flooded quarry was crystal clear. Turquoise, warm and crystal clear. After waiting for some stragglers on the full Iron Man race to creep around on their final lap we set off. My plan to lay back and take it easy evaporated as I immersed myself in the environment. The swim was turning out to be the best open water swim I had ever done. Utterly breathtaking, and so I set out to enjoy the swim, meaning I soon found myself at the front pack. Drafting was simplicity itself since being able to clearly see the competition one could position oneself perfectly. I don’t mind saying I enjoyed this for the first half lap. After which it seemed sensible to not hang about. Either everybody was being far cleverer than me and preferred to conserve valuable energy resources or I was a complete mug. But I decided to enjoy myself as much as was sensible and give the competition something to chase. I emerged out the water at the ladders first. That had been easy, running out the quarry to T1 was not so! Luckily I, as had the seemingly the rest of the field stored a pair of trainers at the foot of the quarry climb. A steep climb it was too. I had decided to not go crazy at this part of the course and let the heart rate settle. I made into T1 6th after the 800m or so climb out the quarry, but was very relaxed and enjoying myself immensely.
I got to chat to my supporters (wife and daughters) while stripping off my wetsuit, before setting off on my lap of the Forest of Dean. I had decided to pace and relax myself from the outset. So while munching away on a Power Bar I rode on. The race was now entirely with myself, I would be ignoring everyone and everything else until the finish line.
The first dreaded col turned out to be very manageable. I was surprised. The second climb was even less of an issue. I began to settle down and enjoy the ride, that twisted around narrow roads, and as the name suggested oft heavily wooded roads. More than one downhill was breathtaking galloping along at 40mph+ for minutes at a time, what a rush. The signage along some of the roads warned of sheep and right those signs were, sheep everywhere in places. Where the hell was I? Fortunately towards the end of the cycle when the back was starting to tire some more hills loomed. This gave me a chance to get out of the aero position and out of the saddle, getting the circulation going and a much-needed reprieve to those muscles. Hills are not all bad it seems. I also decided to take it easy, I thought to myself 15 miles no problem, take them easy going and loose a few minutes and preserve yourself for the run. And then without seeing it coming the cycle leg was over, I still felt very fresh and had enjoyed the loop of the Forest of Dean immensely, some stunningly picturesque cycling and fast riding – that was tough??
I got to chat to the family while I moved through T2 (split transition) I was really enjoying myself. But I was still nervous about the run. My previous and first step up to middle distance had hurt on the run at Antwerp. But this time rather than throwing myself at the run like I would at an Olympic or Sprint (go mental) I was going to pace myself strictly and measure where I was. And so my run of monitoring my HRM keeping the max at 80% to 85% began. This turned out to be a very slow pace for me. Fortunately this was exactly what I had trained for recently, slow running – time on the feet.
The run turned out to be 3 laps of a vicious climb, utterly merciless and a fair portion off road to boot. The route planner is clearly a sadist. I was determined that I wasn’t going to be walking any of it. I paced and paced myself some more. I noticed that apart from a few fleet footed wonders who blazed past early on, I seemed for the most part to be maintaining my position. Painfully in the beginning, but growing stronger towards the end. In fact I think I was just settling down at the end! Were it not for a burst of excitement at the end in which I lifted my pace past carefully managed and into the red after the finish. I wont provide the full color of the details – let us just say a repeat of some of the fun in Antwerp!
Swim 00:35:25 T1 00:02:11 Cycle 03:01:52 T2 00:01:15 Run 01:54:14 Final 05:34:59
I felt I had redeemed myself at the 70.3 distance especially on a tougher course – next time quicker