So I rounded off June with my 4th event of the month by completing the Gauntlet 70.3 at Cholmondeley castle as part of the castle triathlon series.
I had the usual bike mishaps leading up to the event and ended up changing my rear inner tube 3 times on Saturday night till I located one which didn’t go down ( with thanks to a tesco cheapie ) So I was eager on Sunday morning to check the tyre situation, once relived to find it still inflated I forced down the usual porridge and headed to drive the 30 mins to registration.
Typically early, as normal, however so early that registration hadn’t even opened this time is some sort of a record. Myself and the good wife spent a good 10 minutes looking for the water – assuming it was right next to the castle as that’s what they did in the olden days wasn’t it – but no it was right behind us and marked with the usual fluorescent buoys. First silly mistake of the day!
Registration went smoothly as ever and then I took my turn in the queue for the marshalls letting you into transition – it took ages due to one marshall altering everyone’s helmet straps – literally everyones he had a fiddle with. The racking wasn’t numbered, it was sort of a dump your gear in the next available slot – the general noise of such a process was only dampened when Lucy Gossage walked past and myself and my fellow age groupers fell to a hushed silence – like being in the presence of greatness.
I completed my usual bumbling about and ensured I used plenty of Udderly smooth before I finally got my tri suit on.
Down to the water’s edge for the briefing and trying to understand the most complicated swim layout I have done I think. It was a two lapped course with a strange layout which also required you to get out run along the bank and over a pontoon, up a bank and then back down to the edge over another pontoon then get back in. As ever my plan was just to attempt to follow the person in front. I had the usual swim and pre-race warm up (pee) and made my way to the start line. As the pro’s got ordered back I somehow managed to be right behind Joe Skipper and right next to Lucy Gossage – clearly I seem to have delusions of grandeur when it comes to my swimming ability.
Needless to say they went off like a rocket, but I managed to find some clear water and the first lap was fairly uneventful – I definitely need to work on my ability to turn corners round buoys as I seemed to lose loads of time doing that. I climbed out and ran up the bank and heard sue scream in my direction and then resisted the temptation to dive in and set about the second lap. Again not many around me and no bumps or kicks to speak of. Including the 200m or so run back to T1 I was done in 37:31
Then the next silly mistake – I couldn’t find my bike – the racking had the little stickers form a previous event and I didn’t remember that it was a dump anywhere type scenario so I spent what seemed like an age trying to find my stuff. The good news out of this was that there appeared to be still a fair few bikes around mine, so I must have done ok. I then remembered what it all looked like and started stripping off as normal. Struggled to get the 9bars into the back of my tri suit and set off in a slow for me first change.
Out onto the bike course and my bike computer wasn’t working – I couldn’t decide what to do – stop and attempt to fix or keep going. Due to knowing I had lost time in T1 I kept going and worked off my HR monitor for the first 10k, before I reconciled with myself that I was being stupid and should stop. The transmitter had slipped down the spoke so it was an easy fix and only cost me a small amount of time to fix – with Heinz sight I should have stopped straight away and sorted.
I got going again and then felt a popping noise from behind me and the feeling of something being released form my back pockets – namely one of my 9bar’s. The race belt must have been caught underneath it and as it rode up as I cycled along it must have pushed the bar up and out. Another blooming mistake. On the second lap when I was eating my remaining bar I hit a pothole so hard that I managed to drop half of it. At that point it was more a case of feeling that this was going to be one of those races, especially as my lower back seemed to be tightening and getting down on the bars became a struggle.
However on the first lap two guys came past me, the second none and the third two more – one of which I had a nice chat with as we climbed harthill for the last time and one who had an awesome IM tattoo on his calf. The route was hillier than I was expecting and I wasn’t sure to be happy or disappointed to be back at about what I thought was 3hrs ish. This time there weren’t many bikes in transition – again another surprisingly good sign.
By this time Zoe and my parents had joined sue and I managed to sneak a kiss from my daughter before I headed out on the first of three laps of the run. I figured that 10 seconds wouldn’t matter to me and it did my mood a world of good. I didn’t really know what to expect on the run route, I knew it was mixed terrain with limited feed stations so my vague plan was to run between them but make sure I got enough fuel on board when the opportunity arose. I felt pretty good setting off, no cramps and the back eased as I went. The route I think can be described as undulating and I was happy to see the first feed station at 2k – I promptly stole a gel, some jelly babies and a drink and set about keeping my HR in the right place and attempted to focus on the road in front and no further. The tactic seemed to work as I was passing a fair few of the athletes from the smaller distance events and not that many seemed to overtake me form the gauntlet. Two who noticeably lapped me were Lucy and Joe – both seemingly running on air, effortlessly floating along and past me, it’s one of the most remarkable sights to watch a pro reel you in and then blast past you.
The worst part of the run was the last, an off road climb through a forest which I walked a section of on each lap – I kept the gel till this point and reassured myself that this was time well spent, a march and a gel would see me right. Then it was up and over a bank next to the castle and down to the finish – well two more laps first. Again hearing my family shout encouragement was a great pick me up and a high 5 from Zoe meant the world to me.
I felt ok all things considering and was still surprised that not more people had overtaken me – maybe the salt capsules do work after all and by concentrating on the immediate road in front of me I was doing ok, the second lap passed without much issue and I resisted the urge to head down the finishing chute and went out for the last 7k loop. Same principle on the last lap – head down, focus on breathing, keep moving and keep counting down the k’s, look forward to the end, to the pint, to the ice cream – to the sit down at least.
As I topped the bank I could see my daughter already due to her orange outlaw top and the race director was almost holding her back so she didn’t head down the chute before me. Well she went off like a little pocket rocket and I struggled to keep up with her as we finished together. To be honest I don’t think I could have been prouder of her or myself. I looked down at the time and my watch said 5:30 something when I turned it off, my brain couldn’t compute what my run split must have been.
The organisers thought Zoe has so cute they actually gave her a medal to match mine to keep and such things are what makes great events in my eyes, keeping family and friends happy with free music and attractions is also a great idea.
I did my usual post-race lay down / sleep / drank about a litre of coke and then went to find my times – I couldn’t believe it. A 1:47 HM time is unheard of for me – in fact my stand alone HM is 1:44 so I was over the moon and it helped to ease the pain / stiffness which was developing nicely. I picked up my rucksack full of freebies and headed for the free food, which my wife said was nice, and sat watching Zoe on the bouncy castle.
To top a fantastic day out we called at the local ice cream farm on the way home and I rocked calf guards, shorts and flip flops round a packed family attraction, still smelling of sweat and with salt crusted to my face. Needless to say I got some funny looks.
Overall I was delighted with the day – nothing broke, my family had a great day out, I learnt plenty of important things from my mistakes and I finished well with less pain than previous 70.3’s. I have done 3 now still last August; ultimate half in 5:26 on a flat course, outlaw half in 5:28 on a flat course but boiling hot and now the Gauntlet on a hilly course in 5:29 and can still walk afterwards.
This morning I found out I came 24th overall in the event which considering that includes pro’s and relay teams and I made up about.