This year's Dambuster promised to be an exciting gladiatorial fight where worthy opponents slugged it out for a place at the World champs in NZ. For a club triathlete such as myself it was a bit like playing with the English National Orchestra on open strings but in which other sport can the humble part-timer rub shoulders with some seriously fit athletes J? Although going solo for the girls we had two seasoned MSTC guys Phil Couch and Jon Webster and the newly joined but equally experienced and high performing Neil Giles.
Registration on the previous evening proved to be a test of character in itself. High winds and low temperatures rendered Rutland water a danger zone and we were warned that the swim may be cancelled and the event become a duathlon. Dambuster shambuster! Welcome to the world of hardcore.we were here to race and race we would. If we couldn't swim we would run and if we couldn't run we would crawl (possibly straight back home in my case).
I understand the theory of duathlon but had only completed one in my entire life (6 weeks ago), at a fraction of the distance. I was woefully underprepared and called home for some sage words of encouragement. In a strange way that answerphone message came straight from the universe.you're on your own lady it said to me. So as I clutched my T-shirt I knew that I would have to face my greatest fear. yes, being ridiculed by my fellow club members if I wimped out, it looked like I would have to race.
That night I slept fitfully reciting the undertrained triathlete's prayer.'Please let them cancel the whole dam thing.'
I rose early and wended my way back to Rutland Water which even on a dark foreboding Saturday morning is still incredibly beautiful. Some good news awaited, the swim was on but had to be shortened by 500m. No such luck with the bike and run.
To avoid hypothermia we were allowed a quick warm up in the water but then had to come ashore ready for a walk/run start. This was a first for me and any tips would be most welcome although somewhat completely useless now. In my mind's eye I entered the water in a kind of balletic synchronised swimmer's dive, all pointy toes and aesthetic lines. In reality I minced in, trod on a really sharp stone and crashed into the water face first like a heffalump. My race had begun.
The guys, as is the convention had a head start to avoid the humiliation of being chicked but our boys did us proud with astonishing swim times of 13:23 (Neil) 14:53 (Phil) & 17:30 (Jon).....I like to think I held my end up (or was it my wetsuit doing that for me) with a respectable 20:10 minutes.
The boys were in and out of T1 in the blink of an eye.actually in Jon's case it was more of a catnap (2:35 haha) but since I was trussed up like a Christmas turkey (thank you Phil) and freezing cold I managed the shocking time of 3:13.(yes Steve Alden I know it was 2 minutes 30 secs too long!)
Out on the bike the wind was gusty and the course hilly. After a cracking swim, disaster struck when Neil had a flat. sadly, game over. Phil and Jon returned with impressive times of 1:14:01 and 1:16:32 respectively, but I'm afraid self-preservation kicked in and I only managed a disappointing 1:42:16.
A less embarrassing T2 time and then out on the run. Through woodland and then skirting the reservoir with sheep grazing the scene belied the hotly contested qualifying places. Jon christened his brand new trainers in a freshly laid cowpat ensuring they would definitely be spending the night outside of his tent. The lads stormed home with run times of 38:03 (Phil) and 40:05 (Jon). With Phil finishing in an overall time of 2:09:10 and overall position of 125 and Jon 2:18:14 - congratulations for two outstanding performances and commiserations to Neil after such an amazing start.
The field was thinning but I felt no shame in bringing up the rear. I managed to claw back a few places and after a 55 minute run bumbled over the finish line in 3:02:51 to the welcome sight and cheers of Jon Webster. We may have been thin on the ground but we made a lot of noise. One advantage of getting older is that I came 12th in my age group and no I am not saying how many took part but I wasn't last!
First male finished in 1:47:29 and first female in 2:04:59! Wow!