Jul 24

Ironman UK by Ric Longcake

My Ironman Experience.

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Where do I begin? I can’t really remember the exact time that I made the decision that I wanted to do an Ironman but I can remember the first time I made it public and from then on it was going to happen. I was in Portugal on holiday with all the family sat round the pool on a hot summer’s day probably with a beer talking to Mike. I announced then that I was going to do an Ironman. I can’t really remember what was said from that point but the seed was also planted with Mike. I have a great friendship with Mike so if he was to also do it, I knew it would be an amazing experience. Why? Overweight, wanted to see if I could do it, but most of all probably because of all the great Ironmen in our club. I was going to name a few but didn’t want to leave anyone out and that would have taken too long to do as our club is brimming with Ironmen. Anyone would have thought it was easy to do with the amount of Ironmen our club has!
Skip a few weeks and Mike and Andy had also decided to do the Ironman, so we all entered. I’ve only been doing triathlons for a couple of years so the honest truth was where do I begin? I had a rough idea but I needed structure and it mapping out so I was clear on what and how! In stepped Phil Binch. I cannot thank Phil enough for what he has done for me. He helped me set goals and then broke everything back into little steps and goals to achieve throughout my training right up to the day itself. Without Phil’s input I wouldn’t have had such an enjoyable day on the 20th July! Yes enjoyable the hard work was done all I had to do was keep moving forward on the day.



Training year to date:-
Swimming – Unknown too many hours to remember.
Bike – 1731.1 miles
Running – 293.5 miles
My training started officially November 2013. Plenty of running and biking with core workouts. Basic but effective plan of 2 runs a week, 2 Bikes and one swim to start. Over winter I would train between 7-8 hours a week upping it to 10 hours April to May and from then on 12 hours a week until taper. This didn’t always happen but having this sort of focus, and knowing when I needed to go long, or recover, or push myself into dark places, all helped more than I realised it ever could come race day. I also put myself through long training sessions on little food on some occasions as some of you may have seen on Strava “60 miles on a bowl of rice Krispies”. I did this so that I would hit the wall. It uses to wind Mike up but knowing what running out of energy and hitting the wall felt like made me stronger and able to deal with it when it happened. I now think it’s amazing just how far you can get on a bowl of rice krispies!
It was great having Mike and Andy to train with, we would plan our sessions around each other the best we could so we could push each other on. We would do group turbo sessions over the winter with runs off them through the week then plan long rides or runs at the weekends. We did a lot of our rides in the Peaks to get use to climbing. We also did the Dales with Conoco Phillips and some Lincsquadders, kindly arranged by Paul Fycher and Stevie G which was an awesome weekend. We started to invite ourselves out on rides with the likes of Stevie G and Clarky, purely to hang on to their back wheel. We thought this would make us faster and stronger. I remember one session we went out on, and it was like a tag team between Josh Jones, Stevie G and Clarky all taking turns on the front putting the hurt on. My god that was a long day. Going to the Peaks with Stevie G another hard day in the saddle yet some of the best routes I had done with some bloody horrible climbs in. Other rides with Phil Binch doing village sign sprints and chain ganging for miles and miles into the wind until I literally felt like I could do no more! Long runs this is where the fathering Law came in. His constant pace at 9:30 to 10 minute mileing was perfect for what I wanted. Whilst he didn’t do the whole run them first 8-10 miles at a slower pace meant I felt like I could run forever. I’ve enjoyed the banter with Mike and Andy on some of our training sessions and I think the whole experience has brought us closer together. I know more about these guys then I really should do. Mike insisted on wearing a very tight tri suit, so if you were behind him you could see the crack of his Arse as clear as you could see the seam on the tri suit. That’s one way to stop people drafting! Andy who is very nimble on his toes unfortunately runs like Andy Pandy, which gave us hours of fun. My wife can even spot Andy running in the distance just from his unique style! I have some amazing memories.
I can’t lie there’s a reason why I’m a little bit overweight and that because I’m lazy when it comes to food! I eat quick and easy rather than taking the time to prepare good food. You cannot out train a bad diet, god knows I have tried! I made sacrifices and lifestyle changes which needed to happen. I did this by setting myself little challenges, such as no chocolate for a month. I picked February for this one as it’s the shortest month. I cut sugar out of my hot drinks my god this helped weight fell off when I did this. I also didn’t have an alcoholic drink from 28th December 2013 until after the Ironman on 20th July 2014 as I didn’t want to be too rough at any point and lose training time. My diet still wasn’t all that great but I lost 2 stone so I am pleased.
Race weekend
The weekend started early for me as I took the Friday off work, I may as well have took the whole week off as I was useless the week running up to the Race. However things got worse from here on in. It was like somebody had cut the top of my head off removed my brain and stitched me back up. Work was hell that week with some late nights which meant I hadn’t fully packed by Friday morning. Also I had a puncture and split my front tyre on a training ride that Wednesday with Phil. Note to all Vittoria TT tyres are pants! Only had them 2 weeks!
So Friday morning came and I needed to finish packing, shave head take kids to school, buy new inner tubes as didn’t trust old one now tyre had split and needed a spare anyway. So this is how it went. Got up, dressed kids, got them having breakfast, made pack up, shaved head, showered, took to school, went to Halford got tubes, back home and packed, all for 10am. I was meeting Mike and Martyn, Martyn kindly lent us his Caravan and had taken the Friday and Monday off work to take it set up and tow back after. Whilst they rigged the caravan up I went to put petrol in my car. I did just that! I put £4 of petrol in my diesel car! I chuntered some quite strong words at this point and left the fore court to call Martyn to ask for advice! Because the tank was empty and I was filling it right up with £90 worth of diesel we decided to risk it. Cock up No1. We’re off, Mike and Martyn in the car towing the caravan and I in my car following so Martyn had a ride home. On the way down and bloody car driver on his phone drifted across the lanes and hit the caravan. Martyn pulled over and so did the driver. However the driver then sped off. I was a little behind at this point and didn’t see what had happened only a car skidded about as bits of caravan covered the motorway. Cock up No2. Caravan had minor damage but still very gutted for Martyn who took it in his strand. Final got to the campsite which was beautiful with very little around us and on Sheep house lane climb. I check us in, we got the caravan sorted and then Mike told me very smugly that I had missed a bit! Yes my hair, I had a bloody mohark up the back which I had missed. So I had took the kids to school speaking to people there, gone to Halfords, been to the petrol station, checked in at the camp site. Andy had also turned up at this time and they all thought this was funny. I didn’t really see the funny side at all. Cock up No3. Luckily I packed the clippers, don’t know why but as I was rushing and I just packed everything. Once all settled in Martyn wished us luck and left, and I sorted Andy’s bike. Andy left and we arranged to meet down at the Micron stadium later to register and eat.
We registered and attended the first race briefing, after the briefing we bumped into Steve Clark and arranged to meet up later at the pasta party. This made my weekend. Whilst Steve is a friend to a lot of us he is a professional triathlete. Personally he is my favourite triathlete as he also holds down a full time job saving lives and helps other achieve their dreams on the side. This to me is a big deal and in years to come I will be able to reflect back on my experience and tell everyone how we had lunch with a pro! How many people can say that? We have the added bonus of him being our chairman and willing to help us all, constantly helping and coaching us all. My only regret from the weekend is not getting a group picture with Steve.
Saturday. One day to go. This was a very busy day. Have you ever tried preparing for the biggest event of your life when your brain isn’t working right? We did a 5k run first thing, and then prep our transition bags. This is nerve racking, what if we forgot something? We sorted the bags and as it was now raining heavily we decided to take our run bag to T2 then meet up with the family for lunch before racking the bike and handing in our bike bags at T1. This turned out to be a good move as we mostly dodged the rain. Well done Mike! Mike thought of this as his brain was obviously working slightly better than mine. We got back to the Caravan as planned to relax from 16:00 on as it would be any early start. We planned to watch a movie. Something easy watching so we could relax. However we watched 300 which whilst a great film isn’t relaxing. Had my final bowl of pasta (Thank god) and sat down to watch the Inbetweeners. Again took my mind off the Ironman but not really relaxing as your too busy laughing. After the film finished I got into bed and laid in total darkness counting sheep. Not much sleeping going on at all. 02:45 and alarm goes off.

im uk swim

 

Race day. Up and on sat eating porridge at 03:00 in the morning. Got myself ready for the day, in car and on way by 15:45 I think. To be honest can’t really remember too much about the morning. I do remember been relaxed though. Everything was done, and I was all worried out there was a job to be done. Parked up at the Micron and got on the 04:00 bus to Penington Flash. I checked my bike then went to find an unofficial toilet far enough away from the officials. Whilst taking a wee I realised I wasn’t alone in there as there were 3 sets of eyes looking at me. However none of them were taking a wee! This is the un-glamour’s side of the sport! Back to T1 and got ready for the race. Handed my white bag in and queued to get into the water. 2000 people getting into a lake takes some time. Water was a beautiful temperature and I thought this is going to be a good swim. At this point Mike, Andy and I were all still together. We made our way to the start line and waited in silence! My goggles had decided to start steaming up. They never did that, why had they started now bloody things. I had a word with myself and thought that things will go wrong just deal with it. I decided to wave at the camera in the water, whilst doing this I suddenly realised I probably looked like I was drowning as I don’t tread water well. So if it is on TV, look out for a man waving his arms around and his face disappearing under the water, stop waving, re-surface, start waving again. I repeated this several times before I realised.

Start of the Ironman. The start horn sounded and within seconds I realised I was in a very hostel place all those lovely friendly triathlete turned into high turn race machine with a win at all cost mentality. My word I’ve been in friendlier fights. Punched and kicked in the face several times within the first 10minutes. We hit the first turn boy and 2000 triathlete minus the fast as ones all wanted to get a close to it as possible saving time and making the course as short as possible. This is where I realised breast stokers are they worst (Sorry Dobber). People were swimming front crawl until the boyes then breast stroking round it. Breast strokers kick like mules. A couple of them to the chin and goggles and you know about it. All so they seem to manage to kick to in the balls! I don’t know how but they do! There’s one thing worse then been kicked in the balls and that’s been kicked in the balls whilst your face is under water. You have to wait to gasp for air on your first time breathing then scream on the second time you come up for air. I thought twice about going near a breast stroker after this. I pressed on and got the swim done.
T1. Right the swim was behind me. I just needed to compose myself make sure I am comfortable and enjoy the bike ride. I had spray sun cream in T1 which worked well and I made sure I was fully lavered up before setting off on the bike. On the bike the weather was over cast and temperature was quite cool. Well pleased I put the expensive spray cream in T1 bag. My plan was to average between 16-17mph on the bike as I knew I would be able to run ok if I stuck to this. So I stuck to this. I hit Sheep house climb for the first time and just podded up no issues but at this point there was no point pushing on and blowing up later in the ride. On the decent I felt something hit my hip, I looked down and one of my arm pads on my skies had fallen off. Gutted about 30mile in and I would have to put my arm on the metal. Right, deal with it. these things happen. So I rolled my arm warmer up and positioned it on my arm where I rested on the ski. I hit the bottom on the decent and was greeted by team Dobber. Thanks guys.
I had an eating plan however after my first wrap of peanut butter and Nutella I took a powerbar bottle and drank half of it. The stomach issues started, which totally knackered my eating plan. However I knew I had to eat so I force feed myself. Towards the back end of the ride I knew I needed to eat so I went back to what I knew worked, winegums and water. It was starting to heat up at this point so I was taking bottles of cold water putting them in my tri suit just to keep me cool. No drama other than hitting Hunters Hill for the second time at 93/96 miles in which I think is twice as bad as Sheep house purely as it’s so steep. One guy shouted 400 meters to the top mate and I thought, f**k off I know it kicks up again. Made it to the top and thought right just get back to the Micron now. I had one more climb to go to the bottom of the Sheep House climb. At the foot of this I saw more friends and family all cheer and screaming at me which was great. I hit the climb and the crowds were amazing. There was only room to be in single file now and I felt like I was on a mountain stage at the TDF it was amazing. After that it was literally downhill to the Micron.
T2. Again more family here, shouting at me which was great. Handed the bike over at this point I was told Mike was out on the run. I hadn’t seen Mike at all since the start but I had guessed that he would have been out the water before me. I still didn’t know by how much time but to be fair I wasn’t interested!
I had packed my cheaper sun cream which was actually a cream so I set about applying this to myself as the sun came out just in time for the run. Ever tried applying sun cream to your back yourself? Not easy! Quick toilet stop and I was out running.

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The Run. I had stuck to my plan on the bike averaging 16.8mph so I felt fine on the run. I eased into it sticking to my 9:30/10 min/miling plan. I had put caffeine energy gels in my running bottle which tasted crap, but it was all I had until the feed station. I had planned not to stop until the first feed station on the loop and I had gels as well as the horrible gels drink so I ran through the first without stopping. I also planned to save energy on the run by walking the hills. So the first walk came up to the loops. I turned on to the loops and started running straight away. I saw Mike at this point but still had no idea how far in front he was. We cheered at each other and cracked on. I hit the first feed station and the turn point. This is when I worked out Mike was at least 4 miles maybe more in front. I had a chose to make. Run hard and catch him or stick to my game plan. Phil had said don’t break plan until the last loop. So I thought just stick to the plan.
The crowds were amazing and I was feeling good. My mum was on her bike with my step dad and a couple of their friends so they shouted and cheered me on as well. Every time I saw somebody I knew and they cheered me on I felt like crying. On one of the laps my mum shouted that Amy and the girls who could not come as they had a show they were so proud of me. My god that was it my chin was wobbling everything. I had to tell myself to man up! Emotions were defo high when you are putting yourself through this much pain. I completed the first lap. My god this was going to be a hard Marathon! The flats weren’t really flat more rolling and there was a bloody monster hill in it. Well it felt like a monster hill after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles.
My nutrition was good on the run and I was staying well hydrated. There was people collapsing on the course which was quite scary, also people running and vomiting at the same time. However I felt fine and comfortable apart from I was starting to realise I hadn’t covered all my back with sun cream or the backs of my arms! I hate sun burn with a passion and this is a mistake you can’t afford to make so I was mad with myself for this. However I couldn’t do anything about it now I had to finish.
Second loop between 14 and 20 miles the wheels fell off! I needed the mother of all wee’s but my brain wasn’t working so I every time I got to the toilet and there was queue I just pressed on! However I could run as I was so desperate. I saw Andy at this point just starting the loops. He didn’t speak much, he was in a very dark place! I felt for Andy but I knew he was a good runner so expected him to still pass me any time. This didn’t happen. I had to stop and go. I thought just stop and the next feed station and use the toilet. I walked to the next station and queued.
Finally my turn. My god what the hell had the guy before me eat!! Also he could have flushed!! My next question was how long can I hold my breathe? Anyway I got over my ordeal and cracked on. I saw Andy on the second loop again and he had picked up which pleased me. I ran the town centre everytime, people had travelled to see e do this so no matter how painful it was I was running.
On the way out on the last lap I saw Mike at the top of the hill. My god he must have been flying on that last lap as he met me at the top of the hill. We high fived and he said “finish strong”. Right I was running and running as hard as I could. The only time I would stop was at the feed station at the far turning point. Take on more food and water then continue running. This worked a treat and I just got stronger and stronger. I got my 3rd and final band. At this point I was telling myself I’m never gonna see this point again, I’m never gonna have to walk that hill again, I’ll never see you cheering me on again, thank you but do one. I was on a mission, I was gonna be an Ironman nothing was gonna stop me! I was over taking everyone. I hadn’t felt this strong all day.
Finally I hit the last downhill, I checked the time 19:27. I had predicted 19:30 for me to finish. I wasn’t gonna let this slip past. 19:30 it would be not a second longer. Head down, press on. I saw Andy at the feed station at the bottom of the hill and I tried to do for him what Mike had do for me. I slowed and shouted at him to crack on. The last lap is the shortest and easiest! I continued.
I hit the carpet everyone was there. The crowd was chanting Ric you are an Ironman!! It’s one of the best feelings ever. All these people had come to watch use all achieve this massive feat. I was so pleased with myself.
I finished at 19:29:18, Swim time 1:25:20, Bike 6:40:25, Run 5:04:59. My plan was swim 1:30, Bike 7:00, Run 5:00. So pretty spot on. T1 bang on 10:00, T2 8:34, to long, but this was my first Ironman and I was always gonna PB!
Total time 13:29:18.

Jul 24

The Cleveland Steelman

A busy weekend of racing saw many a Lincsquad member embark on the journey up North to what has now become (for some) an annual pilgrimage for the Cleveland Steelman. This event has always proved popular with the Club and as its title suggests, is a toughie. If the free T-shirt is to be believed the swim and bike distances are slightly more than your standard Half Ironman races at 2000m and 58 miles. The half marathon run is somewhat off-road as you vault 6 gates and two stiles whilst meandering through woodland and lakeside trails. Another unique appeal to this event is the cost of the entry fee. A budget price of £45 for an Half Ironman event! This has surely got to be the cheapest triathlon in the country? Massive respect to the Cleveland Tri Club for hosting a quality race whilst keeping prices so low.

group swim

 Unfortunately, something the Organisers couldn’t control was the weather and of course some pesky temporary 3-way traffic lights! Doing a reccie the previous night it was evident that some people could be lucky but others would find themselves staring at a red light counting the precious seconds as their previous hard efforts were being whittled away! As it’s a two lap course it’s ‘Swings and roundabouts’ I suppose?………………….but it isn’t is it? Some people can get lucky twice and others unlucky twice! Oh well! Introductions, handshakes and pleasantries were passed pre swim between the club’s old and ever increasing newbie contingent. Right on cue, the heavens opened and the klaxon indicated the start of the mass swim/paddle/splutter fest! Thumbing through the results sheet it was the old-hands of Steve Grocock (4th), Rob Wood (20th) & Tony Philbin (22nd) using their experience to feature at the pointy end of the race. Using this as a training session for next week’s Outlaw Rob found himself having to play catch-up to follow Tony’s much improved swim. Hanging on to Tony’s blistering bike leg before putting in a measured run saw Rob, on this occasion, just getting the better in this friendly rivalry. Second out of the water for Steve Grocock with a rather flattering time of 26 minutes suggests the distance wasn’t quite the full 2000 metres, sorry folks! Pushing too fast on the bike in the rain resulted in a heavy crash for Steve. A tough few miles followed trying to resist the urge to throw in the towel whilst coming to terms with losing his hard earned advantage. Leaving T2 with the race leader may not seem the end of the world but a healthy buffer off the bike was always going to be needed to fend off the nippy runners. A comfortable 3rd place unfortunately went pear-shaped in the final furlong as out of nowhere some Ussain Bolt like character took the final step on the podium & even worse, age group gong!

David Gibbs, David Gibbs, David Gibbs (64th)! What has this boy been eating for breakfast? With so many admirable performances by the half Ironman newbies Dave’s result still gets the ‘Man of the Match’ award. I’m sure Dave would be the first to agree that a quick google search of his previous results from times gone by would not have seen him challenging in such a lofty position. Coaching and damn hard work certainly paying dividends for this athlete. Less than two minutes separated 79th placed Mark Clements and 81st placed Gareth Crabb. Both stepping up to the longer distance for the first time the ex-mountain biker & ex runner certainly made the jump to multi-sport look easy. Both athletes cashed in on their preferred discipline to set up a close finish.

Poot swim

It was our pleasure as always to have Paul Ralph (85th) back racing with his old chums. Paul, fresh from his Tour de France trip still found the time to go back to his roots despite recently dining with several notable VIPs, Actors, Politicians and TDF dignitaries. A solid performance saw Paul finish comfortably within the top half of the result sheet. Paul wasn’t available for interviews afterwards as the Champs de Elysees beckoned.

Apologies to our next Club member Kev Jackson (100th) for not receiving the usual warm Lincsquad hearty handshakes. Kev has recently joined the club but wasn’t donning the instantly recognizable Lincsquad (or OTCF) kit. Three very respectful disciplines saw the marathon runner’s target time of 6 hr 30mins smashed by almost ¾ of an hour.

Stuart Grocock (107th) another making the big jump from sprint tris managed to achieve both of the goals he’d set himself. Raising over £500 for the cancer charity and getting under his 6 hour target time by a good 5 minutes was mission well and truly accomplished for the Gainsborough man. What he described as an absolute nightmare first open water swim (in a race) didn’t appear too bad to most as Stuart posted the 3rd fastest Lincsquad swim.

The second fastest Lincsquad swimmer was keep fit instructor and ex Euro Champs kick boxing expert Adam Johnston (113th). Unfortunately Adam’s race was marred due to chronic cramping during the run. Adam ( Ah, Grasshopper) managed to chop a few bricks in half to help block out the pain! After a bit of spiritual regrouping he rallied and still found himself sneaking under that 6 hour barrier. I’m sure it won’t be long before Adam finds himself featuring at the sharp end of these races as so many of those that have competed at a high sporting level often do.

Heavy work demands weren’t enough to deny Steve Beevers (115th) his day in the sun (or rain)! The popular Scotter Squadder used his tried and tested tactic of talking to every competitor in the vicinity to help pass the time. The recent disruption to training didn’t stop Steve from posting a respectful bike time and certainly wasn’t going to prevent him from racing wearing that broad grin.

Rob run

Next up, was Sam Martin (137th), another newbie that threw himself straight into the Half Ironman deep end with no previous triathlon experience. A clever move to introduce himself on the forum just prior and wear the Lincsquad livery ensured Sam got his fair share of cheers and extra encouragement. Sam’s running off the bike seems to be his strength as his half mara time puts him into the top half of the field.

As well as Mark and Amanda Clements Gareth Joseph (142nd), was also following in his wife’s footsteps at this family friendly event. Gareth, another mountain biker, making the step up to Half Ironman has clearly got the bug as he’s already planning his new training schedule to include the bigger distances. Gareth was probably being a little harsh on himself in his post race summary. These events aren’t easy, at least not as easy as he appeared to make it look.

  Everybody’s favourite cycling coach Steve Cannings (161st) received the biggest cheers of the day. Still nursing a broken toe, Steve surpassed his own expectations by destroying the time he’d set himself. An achievement that was made to look all the more impressive when you consider the extra weight Steve was lugging around  the course as he used this race to trial his nutrition for his upcoming ‘around the world trip with no stops’. The crowds went home happy as Steve tossed them free energy supplements from his multiple drink holders and ‘Tommy Walsh’ utility belt. (Sorry Steve but it’s captured on film).

Even more so than usual (as the weather was absolutely lousy) big thanks goes out to our supporters. Standing all day in the rain you must question why you give up your weekend to follow us around the country. We do appreciate it. 

As a club that also hosts our own events big thanks go to the Cleveland Triathlon club for hosting a quality race to which a lot of us hold a lot of affection. 
Camp site

Jul 07

Chair Races Ironman Austria


IM Austria was my first main race of the year and also my first racing under a Professional Licence for GB as a Pro. I know i’m not on the level of the other Pro athletes but at the start of the year Austria was a race I really wanted to do and as it was sold out the only way I could get an entry was to go Pro of which the opportunity came after my IM Wales 2012 performance where I hit the criteria to race as a pro.

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Jun 29

Max Power wins GHS Youth TT District qualifier

Late on in 2012 the Cycling Time Trial committee approached Lincsquad to run the local round of the GHS trophy. Unfortunately we were unable to help that year but with such a strong youth squad it made sense to run a local round and pledged to share the running of this well respected event with other Lincolnshire District clubs.

For details and history of the GHS see here. http://ww2.cyclingtimetrials.co.uk/Competition/GHS/tabid/175/Default.aspx

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Jun 21

The Etonman, Half Iron Distance

 

Steve Grocock’s recent race report.

A trip down South for the Half Ironman at the Eton Dorney Olympic rowing Lake was a golden opportunity to visit family and get them involved in a bit of support crewing. The superb venue (think Holme Pierrepoint at Nottingham but with a fresh facelift) was host to Votwo’s (VO2’s) ‘Etonman’. This event appealed to me as not only was it on my Sister’s doorstep but was billed to be one of the fastest ‘Half Ironman’ events in the country, a bold statement.

I guess this boast was based on the strength of the cycle course with its smooth surface and pan-flat elevation that follows the water line around the lake. Both true, however, three x 180 degree coned hairpins per lap (10 x 9 k Laps), and the damp surface unfortunately did their best to contradict the claim.

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The swim went well, better than expected as I grabbed onto a few quick guys’ feet and chose to save energy rather than any early race heroics. It  got even better for me when a few decided to turn at the wrong buoy and was stopped in their tracks by the kayakers making them retrace their strokes back to me, (for once I was listening at the briefing). Exiting the lake in 3rd place and in 30 mins was all I could expect but bodes well for the future when I pull my finger out and actually start to respect this discipline. First guy out of the water was a bit of fish and I was already 5 minutes in arrears!

What happened next was a bit of a shock for me as I managed to post the fastest T1! The wetsuit seemed to fall off and I was onto the bike in 59 seconds, even Coach Clark would be envious. The relevance of this time saving along with another decision to bin the socks off on the run would eventually prove pivotal toward my finishing position.

I’d been looking forward to the bike leg but yet again was torn between wheel choices due to the damp course. I opted for my clincher although not my preferred race choice. I thought getting around the 30 hairpins would be real heart in my mouth stuff with the deep rim so I figured what I’d lose in top end speed would be cancelled out by the better handling of the clincher. I made the right decision and although it took me a few laps to get accustomed to the tight hairpins I never felt it slipping underneath me. My decision was further justified, (and here was another stroke of luck) when the race leader did exactly what I’d feared I’d do, and fell foul to the deep rims, damp surface, tight corner cocktail!

bike

So, within the first 6 miles of the scheduled 56 miles I found myself leading the race and could see I’d raised the spirits of my sleepy support crew. Angie and my sister were in full voice and my Brother-in-law enjoyed his task of shouting out my split times as the gap widened every lap. It was all very Grand Prix esque. I have to admit I did enjoy the laps and never got bored as the track soon got congested with slower riders so you were constantly picking people off, thinking to yourself, that’s at least a 15 minute head start I have on you mate before going into the run. My Support crew were indicating I’d pulled out a 5 minute lead on the 2nd placed guy with a lap to go. I didn’t want the laps to end. After one lap my Garmin showed I’d averaged 23.3 mph which never wavered for the next 50 miles.

I entered an empty, bike-less T2 and found myself leaving at a pace that was clearly governed on panic/ excitement. I’d also noticed my brother and his family had also joined proceedings so the cheers had amplified a further few decibels. The run was an out and back, four times, making each lap almost 3.5 mies. I got to the first turnaround point and noted the time on my Garmin. I was hoping not to see anybody for several minutes, but this wasn’t the case. After heading back for less than 1.5 minutes I clocked the second placed guy! Wow, he looked to be flying! I stayed below 7 min/mile average for the first 5 miles yet still matey-boy was putting big strides into my lead. At 6 miles the inevitable happened and I found myself relegated into second spot and things were getting worse! The  3rd and 4th placed guys were also eating into my lead and if I’m honest my head was starting to go, I felt defeated and I found myself already expecting them to come past by the next lap. My faithful support also recognised my negativity as I went out onto the third lap. A gel seemed to perk me up a little and I found myself searching for some kind of inspiration. I tried to put into practice those little nuggets of advice Clarky and Dean had impressed on me at Tri camp and although this would help momentarily the mind is a funny thing, when it’s decided it’s not having it, it’s not having it! Fortunately this spell didn’t last too long but It wasn’t until this giant of an athlete, albeit a lap behind me coasted past that I snapped out of it and got my act together. Another of Clarky’s tips of hanging on to the coat tails of the passing runners for as long as you can definitely worked in this case as I shadowed this man mountain for over a lap.

trophy

Eventually the finishing line was in sight and an unexpected extra 400m still wasn’t enough for the charging 3rd placed guy to force me into a sprint finish, just as well! As I said earlier, the ‘no socks’ combined with a nippy T1 proved the difference, Without this I’d have been too much of a dangling carrot and would no doubt of crumbled? My green trainer was now blood red due to blisters but a small price to pay.

I do have to recommend this as a first middle distance race. Well organised in grand settings, It’s extremely spectator friendly and the bike miles just fly by whilst enjoying the race track feel. Big thanks to the wife, my family pit crew and Off that Couch Fitness for all their support. Roll on the Steelman in July.

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