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Ironman 70.3 Staffs

Whilst many of the members were marshalling at the Mid Sussex Sprint Triathlon, three members were competing along with 2331 other participants at the prestigious Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire. The event involves a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile half marathon, finishing at the historic Shugborough Estate. 

Andrew Biggs was delighted to finish in 5hrs 19 mins, with Adam Cameron-James, who was celebrating his 40th Birthday, finishing in 6hrs 15mins 48secs and Rachel Dallimore in 6hrs 35mins. Although the conditions were wet for the bike ride making the road surface slippery, the event was hugely enjoyable. Rachel mentioned a special thanks to Julie Williams of the Tri Club who had helped her with confidence in the over water swim.

Ironman 70.3 Staffs 2015

Ironman 70.3 Staffs 2015

A small detachment from MSTC including Jules Stuart-Colwill, Matt Critchley, Morwenna (ably supporting) and Myself made the journey up to Staffordshire for the inaugural Ironman 70.3 at Shugborough country estate. It was our first attempt at a middle distance event for all of us so butterflies all round (although Jules had cheated by doing a full Ironman previously!)

Pre-race

We headed up on Friday afternoon, managing to scrape into registration thanks to some demon driving from Matt and much pleading to the security guard in the event village who initially insisted that they were already shut. It was a good job we did register on Friday as setup on Saturday was far from straight forward. The split transitions were over 12 miles apart with no direct access to T1 introducing an extra 20 minute hike over hill and dale with our bikes in tow. Maybe it wouldn't have seemed so bad if it hadn't been raining and we began to consider spending the next morning getting a soaking on the bike!

Race day started exceptionally early at 3:30am so we could drive to Shugborough then get a shuttle bus back to the swim venue at Chasewater. I'm sure everyone else was cursing my relative youth, meaning I got drawn in the first wave after the pros. But on the plus side we got to see Triathlon royalty Javier Gomez warming up right in front of us. Pretty cool to be in the same event as the world number 1, even if our times were slightly different on the day!

Race day

I found the swim great, massive red buoys made sighting easy and I managed to avoid the scrum at the start. Although it was surprisingly choppy for a lake which made me glad I'd had plenty of time to digest breakfast! Its fair to say I made the most of T1 and spent more time in there than was strictly necessary but eventually I did exit and got going on the bike course.

Early on there were some quite technical sections with narrow lanes and blind corners. I was glad to be on my trusty road bike after narrowly avoiding a pile up of TT bikes on a small sharp hill following a blind bend! I established a fairly consistent pacing, quicker than my training pace but it seemed to be sustainable. While the course definitely couldn't be described as flat with over 700 metres of climbing I did find it fairly fast... until the last 20k at least! The climb into Cannock Chase came at the worst time for me with energy running low my pace plummeted along with my spirits. However the really steep section I was dreading never arrived, instead it flattened off then left a mostly downhill cruise back to T2. All you stats fans can check out my bike leg on Strava.

So, just a little half marathon between me and a big shiny 70.3 medal. The run course was 3 laps of a varied course, around the Shugborough country mansion, out to some cheering crowds on the streets then back into the estate through a wooded section. The variety on the course made it go by pretty quickly, that and the regular flat coke refuelling stops! Apart from one 1/2k hill it was a pretty flat course making it easy to conserve energy. Unfortunately no sock change in T2 had left me with wet socks and rapidly growing blisters and plenty of opportunity to remind myself the pain is just weakness leaving my body!

Surprisingly I only saw our resident cheerleader Morwenna on my last lap and was disappointed to hear later that Ironman had abandoned several hundred supporters, including Morwenna, at the swim venue for several hours! I gather that more shuttle buses only turned up after some guerilla campaigning on social media and those buses then promptly got stuck in traffic for an hour trying to get back to T1. The organisers really must do better with logistics at this venue next year as it put a damper on the event for us and many other competitors we talked to.

Unfortunately my pacing dropped off on the final lap of the run and I finished just outside of 6 1/2 hours, leaving me to rue my tardiness in transition, plenty to work on for the future! After locating Morwenna we cheered Matt and Jules in at the end, they both turned in great performances smashing their pre race time predictions, I doth my swim cap to you both. 

Results

Staff703-2015-Group.jpg

Name Country Div Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank Swim Bike Run Finish Points
Critchley, Matthew GBR 180 1001 1116 00:46:14 03:06:26 02:16:11 06:22:16 1589
Hook, Mike GBR 170 1114 1261 00:40:10 03:22:53 02:12:57 06:31:29 1273
Stuart-Colwill, Julienne GBR 42 213 1522 00:45:25 03:38:37 02:19:21 06:53:44 1317
Gomez, Javier ESP 1 1 1 00:23:34 02:20:57 01:13:32 04:02:13 3500

Ironman 70.3 Miami - October 2014

Ironman 70.3 Miami - October 2014

We picked Miami 70.3 as a destination event to mark Mike's 50th. The aim was to roll together a weekend city break, hot weather, beaches, and cocktails with our first half ironman. A good question could be why bother with the last bit. But as the club T-shirt says, if you have to ask you will never understand.

Anyway, with the benefit of having done the event we have tried to come up with our top 10 reasons why:

  1. Ultimate bike racks. Where else can you lock your bike to a palm tree while you go for a practice swim off the beach?
  2. The weather. Hot and sunny, perfect for lazing around on the beach sipping Margaritas. But for doing a triathlon? You've got to be kidding. Fine if you're from the Sunshine State but If you're used to the rather cooler Sussex climate? Boy was it tough out on that run! They did have ice at the water stations though. Nice touch.
  3. The atmosphere. Wow. 3000 competitors and a build up like some major sporting event, national anthem, flags, completely over emotional commentator getting everyone thinking they are about to do something glorious. Complete load of tosh and we loved it.
  4. The swim course. With dolphins. Yeay, everyone likes dolphins! And jellyfish (and Emma can show you proof that they were of the stinging variety).
  5. The warm water. Nice, very different to Ardingly in October. But wetsuits banned! Meaning slow swim time for Mike with Emma coming in a few minutes ahead. Better not ask Mike about that, he's still coming to terms with it. He's trying to claim that the current was stronger for his wave.
  6. The super flat and fast bike course, closed roads marked by traffic cones for the entire route and hundreds of state police manning every road junction. Pity about the headwind though. And the really long, boring straight bit in the middle (from about mile 5 to mile 51).
  7. The run course. Spectacular scenery with palm trees, skyscrapers, blue sky and sparkling sea. Completely flat too. That's according to the race guide. Whoever wrote that forgot to mention the MASSIVE road bridge over the harbour (with one very real hill) that we had to run over FOUR times.
  8. The friendly atmosphere. Great to chat to other competitors from all over the world (particularly Latin America), even shouts of "go mid sussex" out on the run course from some chap from Brighton.
  9. The medals. The best (and biggest) ever.
  10. The party afterwards. Under the palm trees on the edge of the harbour, free beer, music and new friends. And more dolphins. And margaritas.

IronmanMiami2014-Finish

So who's up for it next year??

PS. for those that want to know how we did, we both got round more or less in our target times. Emma in 6.30ish and well inside the top half in her age group which was an outstanding result given that 95% of her group had carbon TT bikes (she was on her trusty aluminium road bike) and that all the photos show that she was enjoying the event WAY too much. Mike came in just under 5.30 despite a shocking 53 minute swim and managed a not unreasonable 10th in his age group.

Would you like a big woody for your 50th birthday?

Would you like a big woody for your 50th birthday?

It was not a question that I had anticipated from my dearly beloved, but who was I to turn up such an offer? A half day of vigorous pounding leaving me breathless and excited was not to be overlooked. Neither was the opportunity for shameless double entendre.

In my eagerness I had made my entry quite early (end of double entendre before it gets out of hand) and hadn't anticipated that my aged excuse of a body would try to completely conk out before I had reached my half century. Abdominal pain, internal examinations and colonoscopies were not in my training plan so I did what I could and crossed my fingers.

Another oversight was not reading the course details before signing over my cash. When I first looked at the course profile, I thought I had downloaded the ECG of a tachycardic pensioner.

After arriving at our nearby campsite prior to race day I left the children with my long suffering and understanding wife, the goodly Alice, and went to register and look at the race venue.

You could tell we were in the Welsh borders - even the swim was hilly. The transition to T1 was somewhat underplayed as "a gentle ramble that you may wish to slip some comfy footwear on for". Turns out it was a 700metre 8% climb on loose sharp shale. If you look at the picture above, you will note the swim (obviously in the wet stuff in the lower section of the photo) and the transition zone (at the top of the cliff at the end of the lake toward the top of the photo).

The race organiser was either a comedian or a sadist or most likely both. This was confirmed when I recce'd the bike course. The usual bike course has a 2 mile climb half way round but the road was closed because of a landslide! Just to ensure we didn't miss out the diversion included an extra short climb and a 2 1/4 mile climb that made Kidds Hill look like a hill for kids. Whilst it was brutal it was undeniably beautiful.

I didn't bother looking at the run course as it had taken me nearly 2 hours to drive the 56 miles (the long course did 2 laps) hoping that it couldn't be more challenging than the bike course (I think you can guess the reality).

Back at the registration tent, I saw Rupert, Claire and Tim who were doing the Little Woody - probably the most testing half ironman in the UK. They were looking very cheerful. I guessed they hadn't looked at the bike course yet.

I went to bed dreaming of small chainrings and big sprockets.

Race morning dawned,  well it didn't as it was still dark as I downed a peanut bagel and some lukewarm tea from the flask of tea I had made the night before. My present from Alice was a new Castelli trisuit. Ignoring all wise advice to never try anything new I decided that I should take it for a test run today.

Arriving back at the national dive centre, with first light breaking over the still lake, everything seemed tranquil as I looked down from the viewing platform to the waters far below.

The full distance racers were due to start first and we made our way down to the pontoon for race briefing. The briefing was brief but the start time came and went as the big yellow marker bouys hadn't been put out. I began to get quite nervous as all those round me were talking about their enduroman successes and there was a European deca-Ironman champion there. I started to feel as if I was in the wrong place. Sensing (smelling) the building tension amongst the waiting racers the race referee told us there would be a canoe in each corner of the lake and we had to swim round those 4 times.

Then off we traipsed before plunging into the crystal clear waters. I hadn't really appreciated that an 80m deep quarry lake would be quite that cold but my retracting testicles and hyperventilation were confirmation that it was indeed rather chilly. Over the top of the sound of gasping triathletes I heard a hooter just before being dealt a blow to the temple and losing my goggles. My ensuing fury meant that I made an unusually aggressive start and raised my core temperature to a degree where my shivering was almost controllable. It was a ridiculous amount of time before we even saw the canoes for the corners so I assumed that I was swimming rather slowly. However I was enjoying the swim now and the water was so clear you could see way down the dive lines when you went past them. It felt like you were swimming in the sky - a very odd sensation. As the laps went by I caught a number of people and when I got out of the water I was in 5th place in 1:23! That isn't my best time for 3.8km but it was an excellent time for the 5k that was measured by Garmin. Alice was waiting to cheer me on and decided to run up the path to transition with me which was a real boost.

At T1 my intestinal complaint made itself known so I took a rather long 6 minutes before I exited the loo and made my way onto the open road. By this time the little woody competitors had caught us up as they only had 2 laps of the lake. My nutrition strategy  (eat something, drink something and repeat regularly) went out of the window after the first mile when the drinking straw from my bar mounted system bounced out leaving me with a full bottle but no way of getting  at it. Being in full race mode I didn't even think of stopping to find it. This mistake found me out later as my newly quintagerian (ie 50 year old) body discovered that 800 ml of liquid is not enough for long distance triathlon.

The bike course really was breathtaking in both senses of the word. After a rollercoaster ride along the A48 the course turns inland and uphill into the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley (so called because you ask yourself why you are cycling up such a ridiculous hill). The wandering cattle served as a useful distraction from the pain as the narrow winding roads took us through glorious green scenery.

Onto the second lap of the bike course and it began to get a bit lonely and I was beginning to get a bit thirsty. I had finished my frame mounted bottle and all my gels and trying to see where the feed zone was as I hadn't seen it on the first lap. As I hurtled down a steep section I saw 2 shadowy figures lurking in the dense shrubbery. I realised too late that they were the feed station and not an amorous couple and shot past. Of course I hadn't learnt from my first "why not stop and go back incident" and carried on to finish the bike section. Into T2, where the organisers had someone ready to take your bike and hand you your run kit. . You then got to sit down in a chair in a marquee to prepare for the run. Daniel and Daisy (my children) joined me in the marquee and gave me a big hug which they soon regretted on discovering how covered in gel, snot and sweat I was.

Just a long gentle jog to go and off I went through the camping field (you can camp next to registration for free). I saw a portaloo and my stomach rejoiced at the sight. As I approached I tore down most of my trisuit at the thought of some gastric relief. But it wasn't to be. To my horror I found it was a portashower and having a poo in there may have led to a DQ at the least. By now I was too far gone to prevent the inevitable and just made it to the thorny, nettly undergrowth in time.

After crossing the adjacent field we turned left and began to climb….. and climb….and climb. Surely this must end soon…. at least the scenery is nice….maybe I can walk when I reach the next tree….please stop going up. Eventually I reached the turn after 2.5k of uphill hobbling where 2 jovial marshalls were handing out jelly beans and pretzels and some water at last. Downhill was pleasantly fast and I could really appreciate the views and how far we had come up. Lap 2 followed a similar pattern - visit the woods to lighten load, see how far I could run before I walked, stop for refreshments at the turn and tumble down the hill. Laps 3 and 4 were a bit hazy as dehydration started to take its toll. I saw Claire and Tim finish their races and my family were at the finish cheering me on to the next lap.

I spent a lot of time walking by now and the time I spent in the bushes or refuelling was escalating. As I was deciding where I should start walking on lap 5 there were only the long course athletes on the trail each in various states of decrepitude.  As the distance wore us all down the camaraderie increased with words of encouragement, offers of food and high 5's keeping us going.

By lap 6 I was thinking that even if I walked the whole thing I was going to finish even if it meant coming last. Now I was struggling going downhill and I was employing a run 20 steps walk 10 strategy. Even with the finish in sight I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other and I had to make a gargantuan effort to keep up with Daniel and Daisy as they crossed the finish line with me.

The organisers congratulated me on finishing and presented me with a large birthday cake that Daisy shared with other athletes and spectators alike.

What a lovely birthday.

For those interested in the times:

Little Woody

Rupert 5:31:48 (48:18 inc T1, 2:51:56, 1:46:45 inc T2) 27th overall

Claire Cresswell  6:54:14 (48:09, 3:30:50, 2:22:09)

Tim Cresswell  6:58:29 (48:40, 3:33:39: 2:23:12)

Big Woody

Loz 10:05:51 (1:28:45, 5:10:16. 3:21:45) 1st vet 1st over 50 2nd overall

Grateful thanks to my lovely wife and family for supporting me and following me across England and Wales so that I could celebrate my birthday in style.

Picture of Rupert at the finish - this would make a good caption competition!

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2381209

Tim Cresswell looking much fresher

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2381612

not sure if this is Claire but if it is she is showing those guys a hard time

http://www.charleswhittonphotography.com/wdc-2380900