Ladies & Gentlemen.
Another month and another race - this time the Brighton to Brighton Sportive organised by SRS Events and running in a big loop from Hove Lawns out westwards to Shoreham, Henfield, Partridge Green and all points west.
I missed this race, last year, after having an altercation with a straw bale, on a bend, at the Blenheim Triathlon and once again ending up on the slab and under Dave Rickett's scalpel. Peter Court, Graeme Fitzjohn and Woodyboy all did it in 2012 and were quick to appraise me of what a good event I had missed. This year it was Jeff's turn to sit it out, after introducing an aerial forward roll into his cycling skills and shattering both his cycling helmet and his left scapula when re-introduced to terra firma. So Graeme/Peter whose sitting it out next year??
Anyway, after months of training where Peter and I had dragged Graeme around Sussex every Sunday morning to the point where we knew he could ride for 5 hours+ and cover over 75 miles, we found Sunday dawning clear and bright. Down on Hove Lawns the foolhardy assembled good and early with a gentle 15 mph wind blowing from the east (fun out, in yer face coming back). Registration and collection of the timing chip was painless and Peter, Graeme and I were joined by the ever youthful, ever cheerful Del Hastings, replete in Club colours. Rupert Robinson showed up, forming part of an Evans Cycling team and being hardcore that he is, nothing less than the Classic (101 miles) for him. We satisfied ourselves with the 83 miler (Challenge).
Once registered, there was no holding back and we were out onto the seafront road swishing along towards Shoreham at a rapid pace and on really quite good road surfaces!
After months of training, and with peletons everywhere, it was relatively easy to latch onto groups but the quick pace (circa 37kph) was probably a bit too much and eventually the four amigos settled into a rhythm but it was clear that Graeme & Del were happier at a less frantic cadence and so we split. The roads were lovely, the drivers considerate and with the wind at our backs we hurtled across Sussex and Surrey before arriving at the turning point (47 miles) at Kirdford. At this point Peter and I parted company, on his orders, as I was despatched after the only rider to have been through. I just saw him as he headed out, as we headed in and so I set chase after the man in SKY kit on a black Boardman.
After weeks of cycling as a training group, it felt odd to out on my own trying to chase down the lead man. Matters were not helped just towards Billingshurst were a lady driving a Range Rover seemed to take exception to my being on the road and tore up behind me with her horn blaring and gesticulating at me as she shot by. Being the shy and sensitive sort did I a) burst in to tears: or b) scream wildly back and give the full repertoire of hand signals? Well it was probably at this moment, I completely missed a right hand turn and shortly later found myself at a roundabout at which time, with no arrows to assist, I did that unheard of thing for a bloke and stopped to look at the map. Now this was easier said than done, as the print was small and my reading glasses were 30 miles away in Burgess Hill but I reckoned (or guessed) that I had to head south, so I cycled on into Billingshurst and hung a right onto the A29. About a mile later (and later looking at a map realising I added over a 2 miles to my journey) I came to a roundabout and "eh voila!" there were the signs. The hunt was back on!!
Well the rest of the journey flew by. At Ashington I locked onto the Worthing Excelsior boys and they saw me to Steyning and then it was the Club Sunday Tea shop route in reverse until Edburton where it was along the foot of The Downs towards The Devil's Dyke - and there was my quarry! I had trouble closing him down as we pedalled up the Dyke but once I was on the flat it was just a question of time before I caught him at Shirley Drive. The run down to Hove sea front was fine but the lights were a pain. I crossed the finishing line in a PB needing to beat 6 hrs to achieve Gold, so doing it in under 5 hrs was a massive result.
It was lovely to wait on the line and see the boys come safely home and as we left the Lawns, Rupert was just returning to. Definitely one for next year.
I have had a trawl of the results and as far as I can see 8 Club Members took part:
Well done to all involved and see you all soon when the Turbo sessions start.
Ps Really pleased to see that I am as tranquil as ever and that the competitive streak has disappeared.
If you are too lazy to read the whole report, two things you should know:
For those of you willing to read on, it all started rather pleasantly on Saturday afternoon in the sunshine registering and then racking the bike in the secure storage.
Race briefings were running all afternoon, and everyone promptly got very confused about how many bike laps you had to do around the dockyard and around the lake (1 and 5 - or it could be 4 - it depends what you count). Most of us at that point decided to use either GPS or the bike computer, and cycle to "bike-in" when it got to more than 40k.
We headed off to our camp site to set up the tent, and promptly realised that we had the largest spangliest tent on the site and were surrounded by the nylon equivalent of social housing. I was suddenly very thankful my bike was in secure racking.
After an hour of being the new must see attraction for the masses, we put all valuables back into the car, and headed off to meet up with friends for a curry. We were joined by my race buddy Stuart from the BRAT Birmingham Triathlon, and started debating which injuries would slow us down the following day. He took an early lead with some form of leprosy, but I finally clinched it with "sciatic pain from an inflamed perineum". Elevenariffe will always beat Tenariffe.
Curry over, we returned to the campsite - but only after securing floor space if the thieving pikey's had stolen our tent. Luck was with us, and the tent was still standing.
Up at 5:20 for food and ablutions, and we headed into Portsmouth to secure a parking space just outside the closed road circuit. We walked onto site to find Mike and Emma J trying to convince the race organisers to let then register on the morning rather than the day before (as per race instructions). Obviously being a team player I vouched for them, and all was well.
Kit got laid out, tyres checked, pacing from rack entrance to bike measured, wetsuit on, GPS turned on, and I was ready.
I walked the 200m from transition to the swim, and when I saw Mike I tactfully mentioned that a grey swim hat (wave 2) was for the older gents. His response was touching if rather anglo saxon in its content.
Wave 1 got into the water to warm up, and a few of them walked out to the first buoy. Cue a 15min delay as the tide was out.
Mike was scouting out the swim exit and offering tidal drift advice as he had used his sailing knowledge to check tidal flow and strength. In truth it would not make any real difference as the course is the course, but suffice to say the advice in hindsight appeared to be completely wrong.
Wave 1 went off, wave two followed, and finally wave 3 (and me) were allowed to navigate barefoot down the shingle beach, across the large pebbles, and into the water. In the warm up time I worked out that I could run/walk faster than I could swim up until the sea reached 4ft deep, and so I had my plan.
Off went the klaxon, and like a startled gazelle I ran through the shallows, floundered like a girl through the mid thigh depth, and then waded like Arnie until the early swimmers started catching me.
My Navigation for once was good and the buoys all passed within a couple of feet of me. I drafted where I could, passed a few grey hats, and even some green (wave 1) and thought I was doing really well (hoping for a sub 28mins). Then rounding the final buoy heading towards the beach, I got chicked by the leader of wave 4 (the girls)! I was magnanimous in thinking that she was probably a world champion as I was having a good swim. Out of the water and hit the transition button on my 310XT - 37mins. THIRTY SEVEN - WTF?????
Off to transition with a hugely deflated ego.
Transition was ok and out onto the bike course. It felt good to be moving at speed, and even the cobbles in the dockyard were ok. I can confirm that none of the defence budget is spent on the upkeep of roads in naval bases as I was by this point wearing most of the drink I was trying to take in.
The course through the dockyard went past HMS Victory, and was very tight and technical, but the 5 laps of the boating lake and esplanade that followed were fast and great fun. I averaged over 21mph overall so was happy with that.
Into T2 which for once was quite quick, and out onto the run course. Straight away I was feeling rubbish, which was quickly compounded by Mike doing his impression of a racing snake and passing me at the end of his first 5km lap. But for all that "feeling rubbish" a glance at the 310 showed me doing 7:21 per mile - happy days. Head up, keep going, catch the bugger in front of me.
I took in a gel just before the drink station at 2.5km to give me more energy for the final third of the run - it worked for me at the BRAT Tri earlier in the year - I took on a cup water and kept going. The 2nd lap began to feel bad, I could feel heat building and dehydration starting. Another cup of water at the 7.5km mark, but it wasn't enough. At 8km my vision was going along with my legs, and I had to stop. Head between knees for two mins, got some blood back up into my head, stood up carefully, and kept moving towards the finish.
A marshal asked if I was ok, and I explained I was dehydrating - a bottle of water appeared, and promptly disappeared down my throat - I could literally feel the energy flowing back into my body - off I went running again.
10mins later and I am sprinting down the finish chute thoroughly disappointed with myself, as by then I had figured out that it was self inflicted.
Why did it work at the BRAT but not here in Portsmouth? At the BRAT it was four loops rather than two - so I had access to twice as many water stations - simple really. Gels need water. Learn from this.
Did I enjoy the race, yes.
Did I get a PB, not a chance.
Did I learn things to make me faster in the future, yes.
Will I do it next year, yes - but only to prove a point to myself.
There were mutterings that the swim was at least 300m too long, but are as yet unproven. My GPS showed 2.04km, and as stated, my sighting for once was good. Several people took over an hour to complete the swim, and my time of 37mins would have put me into sub 30min territory for 1500m if the mutterings were true - much more like normal.
Again I have to say the marshals were great and I thanked as many as I could en route. It was really good to do a Tri with friends, and I even got a medal!
Best of all, the tent was still there when we got back to the campsite.
Well I thought getting up for the Aquathlon was early.. 04:00 alarm call and I was staying 5 miles from transition, this was closing at 06:30 so quite an early start.
I approached this race quite confidant after having a good race the previous Sunday at Crowborough where I came 2nd in my age group and quite a good Worlds Aquathlon on the Wednesday, 50th in the world for my AG. My injuries were also staying calm so it looks like it could be a great day and hanging around in the Irish team tent was great fun.
I met up with Rachael who was also racing i'm sure she was blue with the cold so we went off to find some rays of sun. Unfortunately we had been informed that the swim was to be cut to 750m so as a good swimmer I was disappointed especially as it was nice and warm when i started but to be fair to them the decision was made at 07:00 when the air temp was 8 degrees.
I've learnt my lesson from the Aquathlon and pick my swim slot carefully, in the team briefing we were told no punching as the kayakers will be watching. I get a great clean start no congestion and race to the first buoy (250m) with no incidents and I'm just off the back of the lead pack. I'm approaching another buoy and a guy is trying to knock me off my line, it's a good line and I want it so we bounce off each other for a few strokes then I catch his eye and I know there is a punch coming, sure enough it lands, my goggles stay on but fill with water, no issues I still have time to take my vengeance and leave him in my wake, it's good to practice with full goggles as once you get used to it it's not that bad. I have a last 300m sprint with a few guys and come out of the water just in front of them so quite a good swim.
The run to transition is long and goes on forever T1 - 03:44 the longest to date (my last Ironman one was 03:37), Wow the roars of the crowds are amazing 3-4 deep on both sides. I'm in my national Irish kit so get loads of "Go on Ireland". You set off at a great pace to start the first lap which goes around most of the park then out into London on closed roads, again all lined with people shouting and cheering, the crowds are mostly concentrated within the park and are very enthusiastic. I spot Kay, my sister and her lad and some friends from the Midlands they are waving the Irish flag for me. Next I spot the Goodheads with their big smiles and cheers it really spurs you on, out into London on what is an iconic route unfortunately I'm a bit blinkered and don't see most of it, I am supposed to be racing after all, I go past the palace and notice the flag is up, I wonder if Queenie is watching me. Snapped out of that train of thought by a roar from Tim and Claire.
Bit more effort as there is a murderous headwind and for a supposedly flat course it's quite hard, a quick rant with a bunch of 15 drafters pointing out that they might as well be drug cheats, the course loops back down the Mall and I spot Phil Couch marshalling and he gives me a big cheer. The Bike route was great just a shame I didn't get to see much but to ride around London at those speeds is something very special you don't get to do often.
One issue I have is with irresponsible dog owners, I am myself a dog owner and if I am near a road I put my dog on a lead especially if there is a bike race going past. Im on a slight downhill in Hyde Park doing around 27mph on my tri bars and I spot a loose dog.. Tour de France style I think, sure enough out onto the road in front of me he trots, if I hit it its bad for both of us. I can't break or slow down so I let out a big roar that luckily scares the dog to a stand still, and probably everyone else around, I swerve and miss it by an inch or two, seconds later I see a marshal running up to that position hopefully to have ago at that idiot owner.
Back to transition, I opted to get off my bike unusually with my shoes on as it's a long muddy transition and we are not allowed a towel to clean our feet. i have to run up what feels like a mountain, again its a very long run in transition before we can head to our rack the bike. T2 - 04:08 again a record (my last Ironman one was 03:33).
Now my nemesis the run, its only 3 laps to make up the 10km. When I started down this world championship road my target was 40mins or less for the run, with the injuries that had to change to a conservative 45mins still a good goal.
The run start was just as amazing as the bike start, all the cheers just made you smile and feel great, I must have high 5 everyone in the first mile. I spot Rob and Ben Hoodless again big smiles and shouts of encouragement also Kay and my family. I don't think my feet touched the ground in that first lap even at the top of what was quite a sharp hill and trust the Goodheads to be there at the top high 5's at the ready. Onto the second lap still going well getting carried along on the wave of encouragement. Needless to say that around 6km my smiles stopped.
The blue carpet of the finish chute comes into vision then the line ,I cross happy in the knowledge that its all over. Now where's the pub.
What a great day and even better week the honour of racing for your country twice in a week and the amazing amount of support not only from my family and MSTC but also the general public its something that will stay with me for years.
Swim - 00:12:06
T1 - 00:03:44
Bike - 01:14:15
T2 - 00:04:08
Run - 00:53:34
Total - 02:27:45
70.3 - Half Ironman: Zell-A-See, Austria, Sun 1st Sept
Training gone well for the finale, my first half iron man, the 70.30 Austria.
The last three months swimming and cycling came on leaps and bounds since I joined the MSTC with their coaching and help from other club members. Open water swimming, new and much enjoyed, albeit after a little trepidation!
Arrived 29th August in stunning Zell-Am-See so had three days to orientate ourselves with warm and sunny weather.
Spent some time finding our bearings, finding Transition point and the more important, Finishing line. Cycled around the lake to get a real feel of the land.
Finally, race day:- Rained through the night and all through the swim and cycle, but did stop for the run!
Had a great swim and cycle but blew out on the run. But very happy overall with my result, better than I could have wished for:-
Would highly recommend this venue for a 70.3 race for achieving a PB as bike section not too hilly and a flat run.