It was only a training event and I had been feeling a bit poorly for the last week so it took a bit of cajoling to make me put the bike and wetsuit into the car as we went to see my folks in London. An enjoyable and late evening did little to enhance my enthusiasm as the alarm went off at 4am. Knowing that this was probably my best chance to test my equipment and body before my "A" race (the European Long Distance Championships) I reluctantly ate some toast and marmalade as I made my way along the M25 and M1 to a gravel pit in Milton Keynes.
Arriving at the venue I sensed that this is one well organised event and at a venue more attractive than I had anticipated. There was plenty of parking and plenty of loos. Massage tents, sponsor signs and transition areas were well marked out. Best of all were the giant (at least 20 feet high!) inflatable runner and cyclist that signal the way out of transition.
As the sun started to warm the air the first wave of 350 were under way. Being either a lady or an old git meant I had an extra 30 mins to decide what excuses I had either not to start or pack early on. Failing to think of anything I joined the 350 other athletes in my wave to waddle through the goose poo to the start area. The starter waited until I was facing the wrong way clearing my goggles to sound the start hooter. The water was surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly busy. I do not enjoy mass starts and took my customary place near the back and way off course. This would not usually have been a problem but the dry weather meant that my belly grounded several times and I had a bit of a tussle with some reeds.
Transition was a lame affair and poor Steve would be turning in his grave were he not alive and kicking. The bike course was a mix of delightful single carriageway and slightly less pleasant (but quite quick) dual carriageway. There were 2 and a ½ undulating laps were I managed to overhaul most of the fast swimmers.
Making sure I took a handful of chocolate éclairs - my current favourite energy source - I exited transition in an equally poor fashion to be astounded by the fact I could run. I mean proper running and not the Ironman plod I had been expecting. The run course was 4 laps of a mostly off road circuit with a couple of hills. Had I known it I was in Gold medal position coming off the bike (for my age group) but I am not sure I could have matched the 1.25 the eventual winner managed. I am also not sure if the accidental filling extraction hindered or helped me but I have made a note to go for something less toffee based next time. Still I was delighted with the 1.30 I did.
Through the finish area I found plenty of fruit, energy gels and water. By now it had become quite hot so I joined an increasing number of overcooked competitors in the lake to reflect on a great morning out.
It is a pity the other 2 Mid-Sussex crew did not make it as this is a super half. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to do a well organised but not overly challenging event.
British Championship Bronze medal in age group
44th overall (out of 700ish)
A Finnish finish - proving I made it to the end in the European Long Course Championships in Finland and was 6th in age group. I would have won gold with my time in several of the younger age groups and all of the older ones! A full report to follow.
?Author: Lawrence Wintergold