The pre race plan was elegantly simple: Arrive early, pitch the tent, register, curry, bed. The military however say that plans never last longer than first contact with the enemy - in this case myself.
8 minutes into the 117 mile drive, I announce to my wife that I have forgotten my wallet. About turn, collect wallet, try again.
12 minutes into the restarted 117 mile drive we hit the first of four traffic jams - at that point I decided the only course of action was to break out the wriggly worms.
For the uninitiated, these are some excellent sweeties made by the natural confectionary company that Helen swears that the gelatin content has improved her nails (race report and beauty tips, how I spoil you...). Two bags and 50miles later and I am feeling a little sick.
Anyway, four hours and forty minutes into the two and a half hour drive, we arrive at Rutland water to be met by a phalanx of MSTC members patronising the on site restaurant. I register, collect my t-shirt, and debate how many free gels it is polite to cram into your envelope before grabbing a large handful.
We pitch the tent in the field next door and walk the 7mins back to the restaurant after realising that neither of us can be bothered to drive into town for a take-out. Fish and chips are ordered, and we settle down to enjoy the company of our fellow MSTC athletes - who all decide it is time to head to their hotels several miles away.
We are forced into idle small talk over dinner until a passing Dalmatian called "Pebbles" decides she fancies my dog and destroys a good proportion of the seating area with her extending lead in her efforts to get to him! We are clearly causing a scene and decide it is time to head back to the tent.
The children of the two families camping next to us put on a delightful display of unruly behaviour until at 9:58pm (and two minutes before my "THAT'S IT" limit) they are ushered off to bed. Peace ensues, and we too head to our queen size inflatable mattress/divan, feather pillows and duck down duvet. Blissful sleep awaits.
At that point the geese decide its time to get up, and see no reason as to why we should not join them. I make a mental note to add "shotgun" to my equipment checklist, and attempt to return to sleep.
5:15 arrives too soon, and I am up flapping like a good-un. Breakfast is consumed en route to the facilities, and pre-race nerves start to show. Back to the tent where I collect the bike and my new Tri-bag, and off to transition I head.
Transition is well laid out, with plenty of space for us all. Considering I have the least distance to travel, I am still racked and ready a full 50mins prior to race brief, and 85mins prior to my start time. I wander around for a bit and try to calm myself with some caffeine. Eventually the MSTC posse start showing themselves around the briefing area and we club together like so many lemmings on our way to the cliff.
Race briefing had some memorable moments, with competitors being told to take their hands off their helmets, and a joke about Barrett homes. We wish each other luck, and start congregating in swim hat colour groups.
The race starts with a blast of the horn, and the first wave is off. Another wave heads out 10mins later, and then before my wave can go, the first swimmers are coming back in - 18mins since starting. I tell myself that jealousy is not nice, but my ego continues to chunter unkind thoughts.
It's our turn at last and off we go over the 30ft of sharp stones hidden below the surface. I start swimming as soon as I can, and am amazed by the visibility in the water. We head out to the first buoy, and I start overtaking those who went out too quickly. My sighting practice has stood me in good stead, and I round each buoy right next to it. Competition for this prime line is stiff, and I have a new black eye to prove it.
Out of the water in just over 31mins, and I run to the bike. Now I am very chuffed by this development - normally I shuffle up the slope doing a dog trot at best with my legs not working post swim. So shocked that I am actually running at this point, I forget to unzip my wetsuit until I am almost at my bike!
T1 progresses well and out I head on to the bike course. All goes well on the roads, descents are fast and ascents slowed by the weight of traffic stuck behind slower bikes. I manage a fair bit of overtaking and make it past the 8mile mark where my bike broke last year. Every mile from here is going into the unknown but I am loving it.
I keep the speed average up above 20mph and finally make it back to the main road thinking "not long now". That final 5.5mile stretch seems to last forever, with some great potholes on the descent into the last village almost breaking my wrists with the shock of hitting them. Up the final hill, down the link road, and back to T2.
I look at my watch and it shows 1:53. I have a target of 2:40 in my head so off I go. It's going to be close - but doable.
I keep my pacing short with high cadence to get my legs working, and all seems to be going well until the dam. A guy at the feed station shouts "High Five", and I start wondering why the hell I would want to high five him when what I really need is a drink. I grab the two cups offered and pour them over my head. As I grab another to drink someone else shouts "water", and the penny drops.
As the sun beats down across the dam I am now a sticky mess.
I tap hands with passing club mates as we go which is a great encouragement, but by the end of the second mile I feel myself slowing in the heat. From the dam to the turnaround point takes forever, but I make it to the feed station and ensure I douse myself in several cups of water to wash off the high five.
I focus on maintaining cadence and pray for cloud to hide the sun - but it is not to be. I look at my watch and realise that I have little chance of running the final 4km in 16mins as it has taken 30mins to run the first 6. I dig in for a bit, determined to be sub 2:45.
The final rise from the cattle grids up towards the watersports centre drains my legs some more, and I start hearing the tannoy more clearly - almost home.
Through the yacht park I go and I am greeted with my first sight of the finish line accompanied by the sound of cow-bells. The MSTC posse make some noise, and I am lifted enormously as I head to the line. I hear someone coming up behind me and I push on to hold off their attempt to beat me at the last.
I cross the line elated and lean against the railings not knowing whether to collapse or be sick - I know for sure I have left nothing out there on my race. Finish time of 2:43 - but a bit disappointed to not get 2:40. I console myself with a cheeseburger and tell tall tales to my friends.
Overall I had great race, and am proud to have competed at a national championships level for my sport - I am finally beginning to believe that I am a triathlete. Best of all I did not get chicked until 6km into the run - I must be getting better.
Andrew Lennox, 22/06/2014
Some Dambuster finishers enjoying a well earned beer (alcohol free, of course)