Day 154 – TriAthy

Posted: June 6, 2012 in June, Races 2012
Tags: , , , , ,

This morning I was back in registration at six am for more t-shirt related shenanigans, and with the roads being closed from about eight onwards for the races, I’d brought everything I needed for the race with me. The giant mug of insane Brazillian espresso I had on my way over, combined with the mug of ‘Trucker’ strength coffee from the garage across the road, meant my plan of getting a bit of sleep in my car went out the window. Instead I spent most of the afternoon mooching around, chatting to Benny (who’d graciously agreed to help out with the marshalling this weekend, out of the goodness of his heart, with absolutely no thoughts about hordes of lycra clad ladies) and trying to stretch out my still tight hamstring and calf.

My race started at 5pm, with a briefing beforehand at 4:30, but I planned on heading down there as soon as transition opened around 2pm so I wouldn’t be rushing around. One small, son related, mechanical bike mishap and I had my bike checked in and was ready to go.


I never get nervous before races at all, and apart from some brief flutters yesterday when I saw the Olympic guys doing their swim, I was pretty relaxed and sanguine about the whole affair. Particularly for someone who’s previous longest non-stop swim was 50m. In my head though all was calm and composed, safe in the knowledge that it was all going to come together on the day. Once I had all the transition logistics sorted it was time to get rubbered up.

Once race briefing was out of the way it was time to make our way towards the entry point in the river. To get us there we were walked up through the town, with a pipe band leading the way, and traffic stopped for us. It was a pretty surreal walk, but it was over sooner than I would have liked as before you know it we were on the river bank with wave one being ushered into the water. I was in wave two so I edged closer to get a good look at exactly how things were going to go. There was roughly sixty in each wave, counted into the water in groups of five, ushered down a ramp where they made their way into the murk and then tried their best to hold station until everyone was in. After a few false starts the whistle went and wave one was off.

Five minutes after that it was time for wave two so I made my way towards the ramp. I wanted to get in the water nice and early to give myself a few minutes to get comfortable and acclimatised, remembering how long it took me the other evening in the canal before I could even draw a breath. Before I knew it though I heard “Ready, Steady, Go” from the bank and in a whirl of arms, legs and pink swim caps we were off. All day long I’d been going over startegy in my head, reminding myself to stay calm, one, two, breathe, one, two, breathe, nice and relaxed and take my time and oh shit, is that someone’s foot, someone’s swimming under me? I’m just getting in the way here so hang back a little, remember now, nice and easy, oh shit, oh shit, can’t breathe, can’t move my arms, doggy paddle, doggy paddle, breaststroke, breaststroke, head for the far side of the river where the exit is (and the sighting line and all those nice people in canoes who’ll save me).

I forgot literally every single thing I’d been taught about swimming over the last six months and reverted back to what I learned first, the horrible, inefficient, doggy paddle come breaststroke that I ‘learned’ in the canal across from my house when I was young. Pretty soon not only had almost all of my wave disappeared up the river from me, but my arms were really starting to ache too. Eventually I had to take a rest and reached tentatively for the bottom with my toes, thankfully managing to find it with my head (just about) over water. This went on for the next few minutes, with ocassional calls from the canoe people and marshalls on the side to see if I was going to survive. There was just over a hundred metres to go at this point, with the bridge up ahead and just after that the exit point, which was where most of the spectators had gathered. I paused briefly to gather myself for one last effort (there was no way I was going to stop once I was on the far side of the bridge and everyone could see me) and then pushed off.

Approaching the bridge my shoulders and arms were really starting to ache and the circular motion of my stroke was getting smaller and smaller. I could hear my wife, son and Benny all cheering from the river bank which helped to block out the burning feeling in my arms. I think it was at about that point that I remembered I had legs too so I stuck my face down in the water and just kicked as hard as I could. A few seconds later I was grabbing the side of the railing, was out of the water and had completed the swim part of my first triathlon. An enormous wave of relief washed over me, followed by delight, then the realisation that I was going to be just about the slowest swimmer in the whole triathlon, and finally determination that I was going to make up every single second I could now that I was out of the water.

First I had to find my bike though. In my rush to get out of the water and on to my bike I misremembered my number and ran the whole way along one rack looking for a bike that was actually one row over. Once I spotted it I clambered out of my wetsuit, got my helmet and runners on and headed for the road.

The bike route for the race was two lengths out of town and back, so four legs, each somewhere between 3.5 and 4km (I’m not entirely sure as I didn’t wear my Garmin for some stupid reason). As soon as I hopped on the bike my only thought was to pass the person in front of me, and then the next person, and then the person after that. Which was exactly what I did. For the first leg I just put the hammer down and pushed as hard as I possibly could, passing somewhere between ten to fifteen people along the way. The return leg into town was harder work as the wind was now blowing straight in our faces. If it was slowing me down though it had to be slowing everyone else down too. Any time there was a bit of an incline or I saw someone slow for just a second I picked up the pace and pushed even harder.

Coming back into Emily Square for the turnaround I’d passed another ten to fifteen people and still no one had passed me. Just as I slowed to turn around though a guy shot up my inside and made the turn harder than I did. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that pissed me off. I dragged my bike around and stamped down on the pedals as hard as I could, pulling the front wheel up for a second before I got my weight over the front and set off after my (now) mortal enemy. I could hear my wife and son cheering but I couldn’t take my eyes off the road, even for a split second. I honestly can’t recall the last time I was ever doing something where I was so focused, so intent on what I was doing. I’m not sure if it hurt, or if I was enjoying it, or if I really felt anything at all at the time. I didn’t have time to think at all, which for me was fantastic.

I never managed to retake the lead over my nemesis (which I naturally attribute purely to him having an all carbon bike worth approximately three times what mine cost and weighing in at least a couple of kgs less), but maintain my pace and over the next set of out and back legs pass another ten to fifteen on each, with no one else coming past me. It’s on the final leg back into town that I remembered I still had to do the run leg after this, and it was probably time to think about getting my heart rate down and my breathing in check.

Off the bike, runners on, out of transition and straight away my left leg was hurting. I knew my leg was going to hurt for the run but it was only 4km so I tried to stop being such a bitch about it and just got on with it. There was a guy about fifty metres up the road from me so I just focused on getting past him to start with and then trying to settle into a decent pace. Up and on to the main road and my running felt like crap. My legs were like jelly from the bike but I knew that would pass after a kilometre or two.  More importantly though I knew everyone else was feeling the same so if I just kept pushing I could make some more time back.

At the halfway point the route turned off the road, down a side road and towards the canal. I passed a guy at that point who I knew must have been really struggling. He was about my height (182cm) but easily had 30-35kg on me. I clapped him on the shoulder as I went past and just said to keep it up, only a couple of km to go. He gave me the thumbs up and then, as my legs were finally starting to loosen up a bit, I set about catching a few people in front of me. We were on the canal bank on the way back into town and I knew there couldn’t be far to go so adopted the same startegy as on the bike – just keep passing the person in front of me. I managed to pick a few off and then I saw the bridge just ahead which meant there was less than a kilometre to go. It was time to zip up the mansuit and go for it then and I managed to pass a couple more before seeing a sign for 200m to go. There was one last guy ahead of me but he was passing the 150m sign as I was going past 200m and I thought for a second that there was no way I could catch him. Thankfully I only allowed myself to think for a second, before just saying “fuck it” and giving it everything I could. I sailed past the last guy with about 50m to go, a few seconds later crossing the line to finish my first ever triathlon.

In the last year and a half I’ve done all sorts of races, from 5k to marathon, duathlons, adventure races of all sorts, some of them up to 70km long with mountains stuck in the middle of them, but nothing, absolutely nothing compared to the feeling I had when I finished this race. Whether it was relief at having survived the swim, or the thrill of pushing so hard on the bike and passing so many people, the elation of a sprint finish, maybe it was the satisfaction of having stuck at something when on more than one occassion I just wanted to give up, or most likely it was a wonderful combination of all those things, but I felt so high after I finished that I could barely contain myself. I felt like running around and just screaming. Obviously I didn’t, but I was on the verge of it, and for me that’s something. I’m going to save that for two years time when I do my first Ironman.

Results: 67th out of 246

Out of top 100: 35th bike, 46th run, 100th swim

  1. iswimbikerunstrong says:

    Great report. Congratulations.

  2. iswimbikerunstrong says:

    Great race report. Congratulations.

  3. Brid Reardon says:

    We didn’t get a photo of you on your run 1. you went too fast , 2. We had some sneaky pints to get out of the rain. But well done

  4. bifferspice says:

    great result mate. congrats!

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