It was also perfect weather which was great after such a damp week. It was a bit of a rush getting transition sorted out, but we were away by 7.30.
The water was about as perfect as lake swimming gets, with the temperature spot on and totally clean. Steve Mac got out first in 25m45s with Phil Couch just 15 seconds down, and Robin a further minute down, after that everyone came in small groups until the last one Callum who still swam a creditable 42m27s. He has a different view of his swim and what happened next and his superb report is at the end of the sheet. Martin managed to breast stroke powerfully most of the way round, and is now gaining more confidence in the swim.
Then everyone was through T1 and onto the challenging bike course. I certainly did not make it easy by having an unfixable problem with my rear tyre which caused the feeling of the brakes being on whenever I went uphill. Luckily it was a flat course so there was no real problem. Although, as everyone found - it really is relentless hills especially when you are trying as hard as you can. When I checked the bike afterwards it was clear I was lucky not to have exploded the tyre as it had worn away so much.
Naturally James Dear was the king of the bike with a seriously impressive ride. He started 5m50s behind Phil and started the run 4m25s ahead - an incredible 10m15s gain! And Phil had the 6th fastest bike split even though he found it tough. James did 69m41s including both transitions, and only 6 people broke 80mins. There were plenty of races within the race on the bike. Colin actually tried to keep up with James (downhill!) and even overtook him, but the effort caught up with him later.
The women's race was interesting with Fiona having to start her chase down of the others from way behind after the swim (in 8th place ) to start the run in 2nd place behind Hazel who was out of the water first, and then had the second fastest bike split after Fiona. Sharon started the run third after quite a battle with Fiona. Lucy was about 3 minutes further back.
On this sort of course the run becomes quite difficult after the demands of the bike lap. The fact that the fastest run was 42m45s (Phil and Bob) on an accurately measured 10k shows just how much had been taken out of even the fast boys. Only 5 people even broke 45 minutes. Phil Couch recovered from his bike leg to regain 2nd spot from Rob, but even though he gained a minute on James it was not enough to catch him, so James took the victory with 3 minutes to spare. Rob remained very comfortable in 3rd place with a 6 minute cushion over Colin. At this point there was a lot of competition with 8 places being separated by a mere 4 minutes.
In the women's race Hazel started the run with more than 6 minutes in hand but Fiona gave it all she had to finish the day with fastest bike and run splits (her run was an impressive 46m43s) and was barely 3 minutes behind at the end. Lucy also charged through the field, having come out of the swim in her customary position as last lady. She finished the bike in 4th spot and then reeled in Sharon on the run after starting some 3 minutes behind. Sharon was suffering however, and felt she had run her slowest ever 10K. Lucy meanwhile took advantage of Callum feeling dreadful to also sneak past him, which she was secretly quite pleased about. Actually she wasn't that secret about it. She was delighted!
I have to mention some of those who were doing this distance for the first time. Robin shows huge potential. He had a super quick swim, a comfortable bike and enough of a race spirit to push himself harder when he knew I was breathing down his neck towards the end. Pete Harris was a picture of pain on the run but I have a feeling he will learn a huge amount from this race and then become a very strong triathlete. Carl faded on the run after a storming bike leg, but clearly has a lot of talent.
Of the other athletes it was amazing seeing Tim finish his first Olympic. This was a man who never thought he would do any triathlons, and I am sure I heard him say afterwards that it was easier than sprint distance. I look forward to seeing Tim at the middle distance race in 5 weeks, as that should be even easier! Nikki and Jean also did incredibly well. Nikki had her baby just over 6 months ago. Nice to see Dave doing the baby care. Jean just seemed to be enjoying every minute.
Dave Lashbrook deserves a special mention. He is just coming back from injury and was clearly way off his normal form. Nevertheless he turned up and pushed himself as hard as he could in the circumstances and still finished 10th. Hopefully he will be fully fit for the middle distance soon.
Author: Steve Alden
Callum's view from the rear
My first Olympic-distance race and my first competitive open water swim. Gulp. After about 100 metres of the swim I start to panic and have to consciously try to calm myself down, despite all the open water practice this year. That's the first time I think seriously of abandoning.
By now, there are already three of us adrift at the back and, amazingly, I make it to the turn buoy first of the three, but only because the other two- Jean and someone in a silver cap - head too far off to the left and, while they're re-orientating themselves I slip in first.
On the way back to the pontoon I just about stay in touch, but by the time we reach the turn buoy again, and after a brief inadvertent tussle with the swimmer in the silver cap, I am undeniably in last position and beginning to struggle. I am very, very thankful to the two canoeists - Mat and Paul - for escorting me on the final, interminable section towards the slipway as I begin to feel, frankly, a bit weird. As we approach the pontoon, I again think of abandoning, but decide I'll struggle on to the slipway and then pack it in.
Guided to the slipway by the fluorescent jackets of the marshals, I find to my surprise that I can stand up, but announce that I'm abandoning, so just go on standing there for a bit, still feeling weird. Then I think I might as well head for transition, pulling down the top half of my wetsuit as I do so. I try a tentative jog down the grass and find, again to my surprise, that I can manage a kind of run-hobble type of action.
In transition, there's obviously only one bike left, and Steve Birchall has unhooked it for me and is urging me to get on it. So, unwilling to disappoint him, I do and I'm off on the bike leg. How has that happened? Didn't I abandon? Oh well, I think, at least I can just turn left when I get to Ardingly and freewheel back to the reservoir.
But on the way to Ardingly I overtake one or two others and begin to think maybe I'll at least finish the bike leg. Then, past Ardingly, I overtake one or two more and am beginning to feel a bit more normal. At the roadworks I see someone who has been held up by the lights and catch up with them about the Duke's Head roundabout. It's Lucy. I overtake her going strongly along the bypass past Copthorne, but as I head off up the road over the M23 she's right behind me and overtakes me as the road gets steeper.
Then it's nip and tuck, cat and mouse for the next mile or so, with me in front on the flat bits and her in front on the hills until she finally shakes me off on the long slog up towards the Cowdray Arms from the crossing back over the M23. Strong riding, Lucy!
Still, I'm going quite well now and allow myself to think for the first time that I could actually finish this bloody race.
Back in transition, running shoes on and I'm off on the run, turning down the offer of a water bottle as I go through the kissing gate. Bad move, but I've had a stitch throughout the race and only managed to get through about half of the energy drink in my bottle on the bike, and don't want to make it worse on the run.
Going over the causeway for the first time I'm beginning to run quite well and catch up with Lucy, who has the time and breath to discuss the incentive to keep going offered by the rear view of the runner in front (a male club member who will remain nameless).
Enough of this levity, and I eventually manage to overtake Lucy and reach the turn point going well - well enough that I even catch up with Dave Lashbrook heading back towards the kissing gate (except he's on his second time around and I'm only on my first). At some point I also overtake Sharon.
Then just ahead of the kissing gate, a great wave of nausea and faintness overtakes me and I think (yet again) that I'll have to abandon, but I reach the gate, take a drink of water and feel slightly better.
So I head off back up the track and reach the turn point without further incident, spurred by shouts of encouragement from Clare Parkinson. But on the way back again, the waves of nausea come more and more frequently and I have to slow down and, guess what, Lucy overtakes me again, shouting to Claire Cresswell, who's coming the other way: "I'm ahead of Callum, I'm beating Callum!"
And she does, with a tremendous finishing sprint down the grass which I can't even think of matching. It's all I can do to stagger over the line, fall over and get cramp so badly in one of my legs I have to ask someone to stretch it for me.
Oh well. It's not glorious. It's not fast. I took on a woman and lost. But I finished, and that in itself is a minor miracle.
And the swimmer in the silver cap? Turns out that was Lucy as well.