So in the last three weeks I have somehow managed to start two 70.3’s and an Olympic distance triathlon.
One of which wasn’t in the plan. As I was returning through Manchester airport and back into the rain after 2 weeks of sunshine and all inclusive food in Majorca, a place became available to do Outlaw Half – one of my favourite races and a location which holds happy memories of both the half and full last year. Now I am sure you all know I bloody love a freebie and this was an amazing and generous offer by not just one person but more a collective of amazingly nice, down to earth folks – who I had never met.
So with the wife duly obliging in my desires to go attempt to bumble my way round Nottingham I was despatched, minus supporters – which was a shame but I couldn’t find anywhere affordable for the three of us at such short notice, the day after I got back from holiday. I was allowed clearance to go on clear instructions to stop if it hurts. Sue still has a lot to learn – as if I had followed that advice I would have got about 300 metres into the swim before dragging my wetsuit coated ass out of the drink.
So I arrived in an as ever hot Nottingham and met up with the wonderful folk of @teambear_tri to chat, support and generally be inspired by their stories to get to the start line the following day plus some little run one of them did across a bit of sand earlier this year. Having never met any of them and only really dipped in and out of the group on social media I was a little apprehensive about meeting them all, but my fears were immediately quashed when Paul started taking the piss out of me for not wearing the hoodie – suppose he did kind of have a point as everyone else was, even in the sunshine. I think he has a thing for suffering.
Automatically I felt like I was part of the group, despite most / all others knowing each other already, they were never any moments where I felt in the way or out of place. Which considering Paul was ill and had just given me his entry was testament to his character. So much so that after the meal we had a chat outside about my recent ramblings / mind-set and the such and within 5 minutes I had a renewed confidence and what felt like a firm platform to begin to push towards Tenby.
The usual nervous micky taking and discussing weird and wonderful events ensured the meal passed quickly and apart from Vicki getting chips thrown at her everyone behaved. The hotel I was staying in was rough – so much so that I hid my bike in the shower, wrapped in towels whilst I was out for tea and I was expecting the worst in terms of noise and general disruption throughout the night. But randomly I heard nothing, which either means I was knackered or I left so early in the morning all the drunks were not yet back. Actually as I was leaving complete with bike on my shoulder down three flights of stairs a group of drunk blokes did a double take as they were heading in as I was departing into the storm.
The race itself was fairly brutal – I had a mild panic attack in the water, having been used to Majorca seas for two weeks, the temperature was a bit of a shock and also due to having no space for what seemed like an age. T1 took ages as I struggled to put some warm clothes over my wet tri suit. The bike was miserable, as my run of heat waves whilst being in Nottingham ended abruptly with heavy downpours and gusty winds. I plodded on reasonably quickly, but felt my knee on occasions and dialled it back to focus on shouting abuse at all the trains of drafting which seemed to be going on around me in the gloom.
I love the bike course, but the wind and rain made it abit of a struggle – especially because I hadn’t seen my bike for two weeks prior to the event. Back safely into T2 and another long changeover due to my tri suit falling apart – thank god I had some running shorts with me, otherwise it would have been very embarrassing. Off I plodded, past bear corner and began the out and back – I felt ok and was determined to finish so set off at all I could muster – as ever a stupid error and ran the first mile way quicker than expectation or what I could reasonably hold for any distance. The rest of the run was uneventful, I prayed to the portaloo gods and they answered me with a clean throne to which I could disgrace.
By the end I was honestly just happy to finish, albeit in my worst ever 70.3 time and 25 mins down on last year, it served as a strange confidence booster – if I can finish a half in crap weather whilst still recovering from my knee op, being unfit and still a stone heavier than last year then maybe I can scrape round Tenby in under 17hours.
But the most important thing I took away from Nottingham, apart from trench foot, was the spirit and sense of team togetherness from the bear guys. I have only experienced something similar with Team 9bar and always enjoyed those occasions immensely and this was no different. Time flew, everyone happy to help out and no one forcing agendas and I was sad that I had to start the long journey home with a car of extra smelly, wet kit.
I struggled massively in the week after and didn’t do any exercise till Wednesday which forced my decision to just do the swim and bike at Bala, something which tragically would later be a decision which would be taken out of my hands. So Sunday came, I stood waiting for the start of the tough Bala 70.3, dreading the swim, then dreading the hills on the bike, then dreading the fact that I would not be putting my run shoes on for the last leg.
The swim was shorten due to it being friggin freezing and I was glad it was only 1000m as I got booted in the face almost immediately at the start and it took me longer than usual to settle down into some sort of comfortable pace. The usual Bala scramble to exit the water followed and I discovered my hands wouldn’t work and thus it took me ages to get a cycle top over my knackered tri suit.
Off out onto the bike and saw the family and managed a smile – I think I was just happy to be out of the water, but the smile quickly disappeared on the first climb. To be honest, looking back now, it wasn’t that bad as within the climbs were plenty of downhill sections which allowed you to get your breath back and recover a little bit. The bike has actually longer than planned due to the council dumping gravel in the original turn around spot and I was eager for the turnaround point before the real tough climbs kicked in on the way back – by now I was cooking, but thankfully the knee was playing ball and I was making decent (for me) time – still plenty of people overtaking me, but I was also picking off a few.
Knowing the course I was aware of one last big climb, before some smaller stuff towards the end and I was grinding up the hill when it was clear that something was going on. Marshalls all over the side of the road calling people in to a layby for a chat. I had no idea what was going on and to be honest was glad of having a rest, at not quite the summit. The news that there was a serious road accident up ahead involving a triathlete stole all the breath from me – I only knew a couple of people doing the event, but we triathletes are a strange family come a race (as often seen on the road leg when giving encouragement to each other) and it was devastating to think something had happened.
We were told that the race had been abandoned at that point and that up the road we would have to dismount and push for a bit – but we must keep going and head back to transition at the earliest opportunity. I started off again, now cruising along chatting to others before we got to the queues of traffic and silence fell across us all. The slight of an ambulance and an air ambulance was brutally visual and due to the lack of urgency from the paramedics I assumed something serious had happened. I passed the scene and kept going – I couldn’t stop and help, I have zero first aid skills and generally am pretty useless in an emergency situation. It was horrible, we couldn’t work out what had happened as they appear to be no car on the scene, so assumed that it had, had to have been a hit and run.
I chatted some more with the guys around me and we figured that everyone would know that the race was done back at HQ – but guessed that they wouldn’t know details about the persons involved – how could they yet. So the three of us decided to pedal as if still in the race (with a bit of friendly drafting) and give it some welly back to the lake to lessen the time for friends and family to wait to hear that it wasn’t us involved (this generated the ‘you’re not bad for a big lad, do you do time trials’ comment) This seemingly was a good idea as when I got back Sue and her folks (supporting for the first time) burst into tears at the sight of me being alive and well. I am assuming that they were tears of happiness, but I have yet to have that confirmed. (Clearly my reputation for injurying myself is well known as I had a couple of messages asking if I was ok on twitter when I later checked)
The atmosphere was horrible, people stood around in silence – everyone thinking the same horrendous thoughts until they saw the triathlete they were supporting then all the emotions came out. Compare that to the usual mixture of energy, excitement and noise when getting off your bike in T2 and it was extremely sobering to say the least.
My heart goes out to the family of Daniel Cavanagh http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/tributes-daniel-cavanagh-bala-triathlon–9429538 who sadly didn’t get to finish his triathlon that day and it puts everything into perspective. The way that Wrexham Tri and all the triathletes handled the situation deserves great credit as well and goes to show that generally the people who take part, get involved and love triathlon are decent human beings. Again it reminded me of Tom and from that morning we as a family don’t leave the house without letting everyone know just how important they are to those that remain.
Sadly that wasn’t the last triathlon tragedy to hit the local area as in the following week, leading up to Chester Olympic triathlon, a member of Chester tri was knocked off his bike and killed on the local roads (http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/watch-tributes-a483-cyclist-alan-9454986) – something which has done nothing to appease Sue about me disappearing at 4:30 in the morning to dick around on my bike. The organisers and again triathletes paid the up most respect to Alan on race day and it was hard to run past the memorial on each lap, that was rightly displayed.
The race itself was good from my perspective; I got to meet up with a couple of members of Team 9bar, used my new race kit for the first time (I think I need a new lime related nickname) and amazingly my performance was actually pretty good, coming in at 2:21 – a big PB for the distance and with a bike performance I thought was only average followed by a 10k of 46 minutes – overall meant it was way better than I was expecting.
Plus I got to beat Joe and some other local boys – not bad for a fat lad with a dodgy knee.
Actually got a weekend off this time around, but plan on heading over to ride the Castle series 70.3 course if anyone fancies joining me on Saturday morning.