By Nick Cranston
This was my first tri beyond sprint distance. I have to say my preparation was not that great. 2 weeks prior as was returning from a 4 week holiday and in May I’d had a burst appendix, so was out for another 4 weeks. However, after a few runs at altitude and a couple of swims in the Med, I felt good and maybe that’s enough sometimes. Plus I wanted to put the incident ion May well behind me and prove to myself I could step up. I booked it 2 weeks before the event, so was one of the last entries and sometimes registration doesn’t go that smoothly when they don’t have your name down on the printed sheets! But it wasn’t too much trouble for them to sort me out and this is one of the things that made this race special. The administration was great and there were friendly helpful faces everywhere.
Pre-race I had got quite nervous, there was talk from other members ion the club about a tough bike section and as that’s my weakest area I became very anxious. Luckily a Jodie & Andy were off to recce the bike course on the Sunday before so I tagged along and I’m so glad I did. My anxieties were relieved and I have to recommend this to anyone. It was also good to get a feel for the place, too.
The day of the race I drove down early got to the T1 at 5am and then prepared for the race which was to start at 7am. Dawn broke and it was a fantastic scene of sunrise and clear skies. And that’s how it stayed – we had the most perfect weather. The swim (1900m) was fantastic, the sea was very calm, very clear with a sandy bottom and a good temperature 17 degrees. A little bit scrappy on the corners bumping into other swimmers but the start of self seeded waves of 6 or 7 at a time worked really well and made for an easy and comfortable start with space to swim.
Out of the water and into T1 which was a marquee with our specific coloured bags hung up on our numbered pegs. As it’s a long race unlike a frantic sprint, I felt I had time to take a moment, calm down, put on some socks and padded shorts and get my self ready for the bike section.
The bike was a rolling course and I took it steady knowing that I could do the distance but I had never run off the bike at this distance. Again a great course, I thought there was no way they could have a closed road event across this distance but in the main the carriageway we were taking was always clear, the marshalls were fantastic and signage very clear too. The bike was really enjoyable – more for knowing when and where the hills would come but I knew I was going to find the run hard when I hit the very last hill. I had started to get stomach cramps and on reflection wondered whether that was the energy bars – I made a mental note nutrition was something I was going to get to grips with in the future. When I got into T2, once I sorted myself out for the run, I was pretty sure my stomach cramps may be nature calling. This was my only nag of the day – no loo paper in the porta loos. Luckily one of the lovely stewards gave me her tissues – again great staffing!
Away on the run I went and was OK for the first 7km, especially with the crowds of people cheering everyone on. It really felt like I was at a major world event. The run was 3 laps of the town frontage which was mentally hard as I like to feel I’m getting somewhere with 1 loop but the upside of loops is it’s great for getting loads of support all the way through. After 7km though my lack of specific training reared it’s ugly head and I was in a mental torture corner in my head where I didn’t know whether I could make it. I persisted and plodded on, in pain, feeling low and knowing I was spent and realised then that this distance is not something to take lightly – a half marathon after the swim and 56 miles of rolling countryside riding is a big ask.
After what seemed an eternity, the finish arch came into view and I had made it! I felt pretty awful for the next hour but after a sit in the sea and a visit to the fish and chip shop, I had returned from a bad place and felt human again.
So on reflection – a fantastic event to do, seriously well organised, some cool goodies and worth the money, but you need to do some training for it! Other considerations; I would think about alternatives to a tri suit so that you have specific comfortable/padded shorts for the bike and maybe a two piece for the run, I found the tri-suit a little constrictive for this amount of time. Biggest recommendation – recce the route – it’ll calm the nerves.
As for me – whilst I swore immediately afterwards how stupid it was to be doing this event and wouldn’t do another, I’ve signed up for Ironman 70.3 in Zell em See Kaprun, Austria.