Well, after a few months of talking about it I finally got round to doing one of those Swim-Bike-Run things. It turns out Triathlon is hard, very hard. Suddenly a whole new series of challenges have presented themselves, I now realise just how ambitious it was to set myself the challenge of training for a half-Ironman in just four months. One thing is for sure, the next five weeks leading up to the big day are going to be tough.

Before talking about the race itself I’ll get the excuses out the way. Who knows? This time some of them might even be legitimate. Preparation wasn’t exactly ideal, as per usual I failed to take enough recovery time following on from my last Road Race back at the end of April. Que an extra week off. After that it was a nasty bout of hayfever that got in the way, intense exercise really isn’t much fun with a blocked nose and streaming eyes. Luckily I managed to get it under control. Next I was put on medication for something unrelated, just typical that the side effects happened to be high fatigue levels in addition to nausea when exercising. What could possibly happen next? As it turned out, losing my job and subsequently setting off on a LEJOG ride. You couldn’t make it up.

I was close to pulling out of the race altogether. At the last minute I decided to go ahead, having the Weymouth Half Ironman as my first ever triathlon wouldn’t have been a sensible idea. I’m not usually in the habit of going into races when still feeling tired and sore from previous exertions. This one was always going to be a baptism of fire.

The night before involved something of a last minute panic. I really should have noticed my tri suit had no pocket, the only solution was to tape gels to the top tube. A quick glance at the rules revealed that the race was not draft legal as I had previously thought. My trusty TT bike was pressed into service. “Why on Earth haven’t I had the common sense to ride it before now, having made all those big position adjustments?”. I thought to myself – hoping against hope that I wouldn’t end up crippling my back, knees or anything else oweing to setting up the machine so hastily.

I won’t lie and say I enjoyed the 5:30 AM start. Anyone who knows me will probably tell you I’m not a morning man, even a double espresso failed to raise my spirits. After that it was the usual pre-startline rush; Arrive, park in what seemed like an impossibly small space. Run to registration before it closed, hand over my race license and collect my number. Set up bike, making sure nothing was likely to fall off. Sneak into the race briefing five minutes late and hope nobody noticed me. Put bike and run gear in transition, taking a healthy amount of time to admire other peoples machines and wonder how much those wheels/handlebars/saddles/groupsets cost. Get changed, apply generous amounts of vaseline to avoid chafing (such a glamorous sport this). Finally line up on the startline, in this case poolside and prepare for the pain and suffering to follow.

Swim

I was apprehensive, having not entered the water for over a fortnight my chances of setting a good time were minimal. In actual fact I felt good, even managing to overtake someone in my lane. Somehow it turned out to be a 750m PB. Of course I soon managed to completely lose count of the number of lengths I was doing, being lucky enough to hear the rather exasperated official telling me to get out of the pool.

Bike

My transition was a very long way from the slick, well practiced effort you see from the pros, or for that matter anyone who has the slightest clue what they’re doing. I dried myself off, debating whether or not to put on arm warmers. On went my helmet, gloves, socks (another lesson learned, you will almost fall over from the force it takes to pull them onto wet feet), and shoes. Fortunately I remembered to set the Garmin going, after all if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen.

Once on the bike I felt a sense of calm. I may not have looked like much in the pool but this I knew how to do, all that time trial training was surely going to pay off here. I felt fast for the following 25 miles, losing count of the number of people I managed to overtake. The course was perfectly suited to a rider such as myself, rolling rather than hilly and containing some fast descents that I knew well. My Cannondale Slice may not be the most aerodynamic of TT bikes but it is one of the lightest you can get without spending silly money. Passing a couple of people wearing GB gear was one of the highlights of the race, though they easily came past me in the first kilometre of the run.

Run

I climbed off the bike and realised straight away that I’d gotten carried away and overpaced it. The following 10km really made me question whether or not I would be-able to get round a half ironman with only a month of training left. Legs felt like jelly, my chest was tight and I developed a particularly nasty stitch during the last mile. A very different experience to that had on the swim and bike legs.

A nasty sting in the tail soon followed. Within sight of the finish line I was misdirected by an official, doing an extra .8 of a mile before another one pointed out the mistake. I feel very guilty for snapping at the man whilst in my tired state – “are you %*@!?% kidding me?” I cried out in protest. That outburst showed just how hard the race had been, I can’t remember the last time I was so desperate to stop and rest.  By the time I reached the finish line I could manage little more than a jog, any remaining vestiges of energy long since depleted.

It’s over!

I had to spend ten minutes standing in the finishing area before even contemplating walking the short distance back to the car. It had only been a few days since finishing LEJOG and all that fatigue finally caught up with me. Nonetheless I did feel a sense of achievement, now able to call myself a true triathlete. I can practically hear my cycling friends shaking their heads in disappointment, don’t worry I’ll always be a roadie at heart. The final result came as a pleasant surprise, 9th overall with the second fastest bike split of the day. If not for going the wrong way during the run  I’d like to think I might have finished a couple of places higher up.

As usual I have tried to take as much away from the experience as possible. My main weakness is definitely the run, confirming what I’ve long thought – shame as it’s also the discipline in which I seem especially prone to injury. After taking a couple of days to think about it I’ve decided to delay entering a full Ironman, perhaps 2019 is a more realistic prospect. I’ll spend next year learning the craft by doing shorter races. Amongst other things not having the pressure of such a massive undertaking will make it easier to enjoy training and racing.

Thanks for reading.

 

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