Now having historically spent a fortune on pre-race hotels and then arriving "in the nick of time" to rack my bike in the morning, I observed that many triathlons have adjoining campsites, and thought this could reduce stress levels on the day. So three weeks before the race found me walking around camping shops looking at tents, discarding any that did not have enough room inside them for my bike, an exercise mat, sufficient storage space for race stuff, space for a large inflatable mattress, oh, and sleeping/living space for my long suffering wife.
After identifying the object I required, 3 days of watching and waiting on E-bay boiled down to an electronic game of chicken with my winning bid arriving 2 seconds before the auction ended. 1 x Outwell Montana 6 tent is now in my possession. Phase one of my plan was complete, phase two (going racing) could now commence.
After a leisurely drive to Tamworth, we arrived at the West Midlands Water centre in plenty of time to register on the Saturday, pitched our tent, sat back and waited 26mins for the kettle to boil via the 12v power supply. Our next door neighbours then arrived with their "charming" children, and promptly started having a domestic before striking camp and arguing about which car the kids would travel in for the journey home (and which one of them would therefore have to "put up with them").
The allure of camping was becoming clear to me.
Once they left however, things started looking up as other triathletes started arriving and comparing bikes. Take-away was planned, purchased, and consumed - and I retired to my bed which was kitted out with feather pillows and a duck down duvet (my wife does not do sleeping bags).
I awoke at 5:30am to force down my pre-race breakfast of oat bars, bananas, and fluid. By 06:10the bike was racked and I had achieved a PB in the porta-loo.
Now, whilst it is great to be on-site with zero stress, I now had everything ready with 1hr 20mins until race start. An unprecedented level of organisation for me.
Race brief followed, with a small panic when I noticed that no-one else had the same colour swim hat as me - it appears the BTF were using this event to get rid of their odd stock, and the colour bore no relation to my wave. Wetsuits were optional at 19.5 deg, but as I sink like a stone without one, I opted to keep mine on.
Everyone appeared to be organising themselves according to the swim lanes at the Dolphin, so I joined my fellow "athletes" on the far left and we got given the horn. Off I went drafting where I could and for once steering a pretty good course to the 750m buoy. Downhill to the finish line and out the water in an uneventful 27mins, but just to stop me getting too cocky, my tri suit zipper tag got caught in my wetsuit zip, and my first flap of the day began in earnest.
Problem solved in the 150m run to the bike, and my T1 began properly. Drills were OK, and another 100m run with the bike put me at the mount line.
So excited was I to be racing, I had gone about two miles before I realised my Garmin 310 was still showing timing for "T1" - so accurate pacing of my bike effort was going to be down to judgement rather than data. After about 10mins, I realised I had a shadow, and I spent the next 55mins swapping places with my new "friend" exchanging a bit of good natured banter each time. Nutrition worked well, with gels and water going down at a well-judged 15mins before the bike element ended.
The bike course itself was great with two loops of a course that has a couple of hills, but nothing too challenging. There was a very tight 90deg left hander which one guy screwed up taking out a Volvo coming the opposite way. He ended up with a dislocated shoulder, but the Volvo will need a new wing, bonnet, windscreen, and roof, as he managed to dent to break all of these on his way to the other side of the road.
Anyway, into T2 (slick drills on removing feet from shoes), and out onto the run pausing only to take on more fluid.
My biking buddy (Stuart) put on a spurt and came past me as we came out of T2, and we started our four lap run at about 7:30 pace. Each lap took us up and over a huge earth berm (about 80foot tall and 600ft long), and after the first lap I succeeded in getting ahead of Stuart. I then spent the next two laps overtaking another racer only for him to take offense and put in a spurt, so after wearing him out a bit by doing it a few times deliberately, I put in a big push and dropped him (heh, heh, heh). One more lap and we reached the finish. Big sprint, great finish, and then heard my new PB time over the tannoy - 2:22:17 - oh yes, who's the daddy.
Grabbed some water, and turned to shout encouragement for Stuart as he came into the finishing straight - I had a great race with him, and he with me.
The event was superb, the marshalls excellent, and I made some new friends - it kind of sums up triathlons.
Looking forward to racing again on the 22nd September at the Portsmouth Triathlon - closed road racing should make for a fast race! Our campsite in Southsea has already been identified - but I will be buying a kettle that boils quickly.