5th October 2014
The race itself was 5 minutes from my house, this was great. I knew the course and exactly where to go.
My tri team (CE Vila Olimpica) decided to all meet up at 6.30am and go to the race together. This was unnecessary really, as we all had different start times and rack locations, but nice all the same!
Whilst waiting here, the heavens opened. We had a full on tropical storm, lighting, the works. We waited around until the last moment under the parasols of restaurants before heading off to the event, which was only 2 minutes away!
The transition area was in the athletics track on Mar Bella beach. At this point it has started raining hard again and the lightning was giving an awesome show. We were soaked, there was not much space to hide from the elements and what space there was filled up pretty quick. Taking some advice, I put on my wetsuit in an attempt to stay warm and a bit dry! All in all I wore my wetsuit this day for over 3hrs!!!!
We couldn't rack our bikes yet as it was deemed not safe to be around all that metal framing with the lightning coming down. So there were literally 100's of people around the track. At this point people we turning around and going home and I'd be lying if it seriously didn't cross my mind on more than on occasion, I think only the fact that I was with my new team kept me there. After all, how could the English boy (known as Guiri locally!) go home because of rain!!!
When we were finally allowed in to rack our bikes, I found my numbered spot and this is what greeted me!
I was one of the luckier people in that my spot wasn't completely underwater. Never the less, it was a mess. 10cm deep in many places and unavoidable getting to and from your spot up the middle. Stand still and your feet disappeared!
This made for my normal carefully laid out area to be more about hiding everything in bags and hanging from where I could. Many just stuck it in the mud, not me! There was good camaraderie in my area and we shared out spare bags we had and any tips for keeping shoes etc dry.
All this meant for delays. Although for me not a great deal. The pro's were due to start at 8, they started at 9. I was due to start at 9.10 in the 2nd wave of age-groupers, but started at 9.20ish. There was confusion over this, many of the officials thought everyone was delayed an hour, some not!
Time: 25:29 (including the run down and up the beach)
Having got my start time from a few officials who seemed confident I headed to the beach. This was to be my first "run in from the beach" start. I was equal parts nervous, excited to do something new and stressed about the whole mess of the situation and having been stood in the rain, in my wetsuit for the past 2+ hrs! People literally going all over the place trying to understand when/where to start!
By this time Luki had made her way here, she was hesitant to come because of the rain and I'm truly grateful that she did, even if I was stressed out and nervous at the time and really don't hide that very well. I gave her my bag with my valuables in and all the wet clothes I'd been wearing. I love doing these things knowing she is there, in the background, taking pictures and supporting me. I think she enjoys it too. Seeing the pro's and getting motivated to do sport!
Luckily for me the race start was in waves, it's no secret that I get very nervous with the swim, what could happen, being dunked etc etc. After this swim though I will be much more confident I can survive it all.
The swim was brutal, within 100m I had my goggles knocked for the first, but not last time, around the first buoy was carnage, I got a couple kicks and an elbow in the side of my head that gave me quite a shock!
It didn't ease up there however, the carnage continued for the whole swim, I had to sight every single stroke as I was constantly in a tight group with people either side and in front. At this point I tried to make a break as I could see a 5m gap ahead to the next people and desperately wanted to find some rhythm, this was to no avail though, I got past the person in front and made progress on the gap, but took people with me and was working very hard, so eased back.
My goggles also failed me with the "anti-fog", twice I had to clear them as I literally couldn't see anything through the "haze"! Weird, because yesterday they were great.
The next turn was carnage again, this time I was fully prepared and didn't give an inch!
The drag from the last turn into the beach seemed to go on forever, it was the most peaceful part of the swim, but by this time I had worked very hard and just wanted the beach to come...distance is very misleading when you're in the water I find!
All in all I'm very happy with my time and how I coped with it...
Meeting up with member of my tri club after, everyone seemed to agree that, ok, normally the start is tough, but this seemed a rough swim all the way round. One guy even had his wet suit unzipped!!!! I laughed at this comment, he didn't quite see it as funnily as I did!
Straight out of the water I was greeted with a drinks stand, this was perfect as I swallowed several large gulps of sea water and my tongue felt pretty weird!
OK, so this was epically slow, but did you see the pictures of transition!? I simply wasn't prepared to go knee deep in mud and throw my wetsuit in it. So I took my time, got the bags off my shoes, folded my wet suit up and kept it tidy, I guess I just wasn't prepared to risk ruining my wetsuit for the sake of a minute or two!!! I also put on a cycling shirt as I knew I would feel cold out on the bike, English I know, but experience tells me I really feel the cold!
I carried my bike off over the mud and once on the running track cleaned some of the crap from my feet before making my way of the "mount line". It was at this point I realised I didn't have insoles in my shoes!!! What an idiot, I had previously changed my insoles and left them in my other bike shoes!
This triathlon is a draft legal race, they don't really have a choice as it’s a street circuit and quite tight, it would be impossible not to draft. This was also a first for me in a triathlon, but I know how to ride in a group so was excited about the prospect. I knew I had to find a group. And BANG...within 2km there it was. A guy and girl who were motoring (it actually turned out that this girl was a pro and finished 2nd!) - I knew she was good based on her bike and the fact she was only wearing a little swimming costume! :-)
Anyway, I jumped on the wheel. We were flying, the guy up front was a monster, maintaining 40+kph everywhere there was a straight. Many tried to stay with us and jump on my wheel, but they didn't stay long, mostly it was just the 3 of us. They took every corner faster than me (there were lots of corners, very start/stoppy) and I had to sprint to get back on the wheel and push my way through people at time...but with only one "butt clenching" moment as I crashed handlebars with another guy.
Start of the bike, getting sorted! (not the most scenic spot of the course I must say!)
Me in the blue following behind the swimming costume!
The pro female was only on for 2 of my 4 laps before she made he way in, the other guy was on for one more. In that 3rd lap we worked together, albeit me having a minor role. He did try to drop me on the back straight, really hammering it, touching 50k up a dodgy part of the road, but I stayed!
I owed a lot to that guy, I turned around and said "Gracias" as he pulled in, he returned the thanks, but really, I owed him far more than he did me!
The final lap I was on my own, again searching for a group, I went past a couple of guys and gave a nod to work together, they jumped on and we worked well for about 5km, but I still wanted faster, so I pulled again and gapped them. At which point some dude on a Specialized with very deep wheels came "whooshing" past, I jumped up and gave chase, dropping the other guys, this guy must have been in a team, he had a very high race number. Ultimately I was coming to the end of my last lap and he was going at 50kph and dropped me on a corner (the corners were a pain, people in the way, not holding their line, wet roads, made it tricky...I knew if I didn't stay with him, I wouldn't catch and I didn't!) He was the only guy that went past me in the whole bike leg.
I was coming into the run, so eased off and rode steady into transition. Looking down at my garmin I was very happy with the time and with some simple sums I could see that running a sun 55m 10k I would be in under 2h 30.
Out the shoes and off the bike, smooth and steady...another pretty long transition, making my way around the carefully laid out path to the transition area that can only be described as a swamp by now!
Again I carried by bike over the mud and proceeded to organise my things. Getting my wetsuit nicely under the bike and tidy!
Looking down my bare feet were totally submerged in water and mud, so I took out my trainers and socks and made my way over to the running track to clean my feet in a puddle and make use of a towel that was on the ground to dry them, get my socks on and off I go! Looking around many people just slipped on their shoes and ran through the swamp...not me!
I should probably learn to run without socks, but really, for me, 1-2 mins more for the comfort is well worth it.
Ouch, within the first km, I, for the first time, started to feel the lack of fitness and training. I stopped at the first water station, got a few cups down and felt better! Also stopped to adjust my elastic laces that I'd put on late last night as my right foot was going a bit numb!!!
I proceeded to walk through every drinks station (of which there were not enough!!!). I had various pains popping up through the run, in my stomach, my chest and even my back, all of which I blame myself for not training properly.
The run course was very nice, I knew it very well as it went over much of where on run on a weekly basis. Crowd support was sporadic and apart from the odd dopey idiot walking out into the course was largely uneventful as I made my way through carefully watching the km ticking off.
Noticeably different from the UK where pretty much everyone claps for everyone, not just their friend.
Total Time: 2:27:21
Generally I'm happy, I always feel I could have ran better, but really, on the day, I don't think I could. I was suffering on the run.
It seems the Garmin timing chips didn't quite work as everyone has the same T1 times, transition time added onto the bike leg!
I learnt a great deal about "bunch swimming" and importance of brick sessions in your training! A once or twice 10 min potter on the treadmill after spinning really doesn't cut it!
There was of course a real race going on, of which Javier Gomez unsurprisingly won. With Mola coming in 2nd. Luki has a great view and commented on how small Gomez is! There were no Brownlee's in attendance at this race!! Has to be said though, I think "pound-for-pound" Jomez is the best out there, winning the 70.3 world champs the week after the ITU world champs goes to show it.
After the race start were compacted due to weather, I was really hoping to see the pro men out of the bike, but I didn't!
You probably wont recognise the girl at the back in 2nd, I wouldn't from the front either!!! But I was later told that she was who I rode with for my first 2 laps!
Fastest bike leg of the day was a Brit!
Next for me...
Next is the Barcelona Marathon in March 2015. I'm going to try and put a great deal of effort into my run training and the new tri club session, which includes a track session every fortnight will help for sure!
I signed up for this race whilst still in Cayman, keen to keep myself fit after London I knew I needed a race to aim for!
That didn't however work out quite to plan though as I found myself loosing focus on my training, I put it down to an increased work load and living my fiancé again and all the temptation of drinks and dinners that brings! Not to mention the weather is not nearly as appealing to get out on 3+ hr bike ride in the UK! But that is just an excuse, she would never stop me training, it was one of the best summers ever, I just simply didn't have the desire or focus.
I did however continue to swim at Box End lake on a regular basis so that was something!!
We drove to Henley the day before, staying locally in a travel lodge type place. Henley is beautiful, to be honest its very similar to ever little town along the Thames in that area, but none-the-less, very nice!
Henley isn't a great distance from MK, but my decision was really made for me when the organisers (The Challenge group) stated that registration must be done the day before, so we made a weekend of it! And I'm very grateful that we did, the registration process was very time consuming indeed. There are different transition places at Henley, so you need to drop your bike here, run gear there etc etc…First time I've done a race like this. I also wasn't a too keen on leaving my bike out in the open all night!
Up nice and early, popped into the local petrol station to get a coffee we headed off the event, I was keen to see the Iron distance race go off and not have to rush around. Seems like most people had the same idea as fellow racers (I'm always hesitant to use the word athlete when describing myself! It's just not accurate!!!) were flooding out of the hotel and the car park at the event filling up fast.
Mist is the word of the morning!! Well, mist and cold!! It was freezing!! Visibility on the river was not more than 20m! But spirits were high, everyone was in a great mood! I thrive on that!
Get in…we're off!
On entering the water, late, I was pleasantly surprised how warm the water was! The swim was busy, as expected, I tried to worm myself somewhere near the front but again found myself someway back come the start.
The whistle went and were off, my lake swimming was paying off, I was feeling good and had a great rhythm, I was moving up the pack catching a tow and moving from feet to feet until I found a large gap to the next set of feet, so I put my head down and applied some pressure, which turned out not so well, I keep looking up, but with visibility very very poor I soon noticed that the feet I thought I was following was in fact swimmers coming the other way, so I paused and took a good look and could see I was at least 20m off track and made a sharp bee line to get back on track.
At the turn I felt good, I never check my watch swimming (does anyone?!), so I've no idea how I was getting on time wise, I was seeing hats from the wave in front of me, so I'd made up 10 mins on some. The way back was pretty uneventful, I was now swimming with people of my same standard so tried to follow where I could, I'm not great at following, I always try to push harder, often only to find when I stick my head out into the currant I realise the dude in front it working hard, so I tucked back in!
Exiting the water at Henley is tricky, a little pontoon is put up for the race and helpers are yanking you out one by one, nothing graceful about that!!! Just a bunch of seal like shapes being yanked out of the water. I got my balance and headed off to transition. I picked my fiancé out in the crows, as every cheering me on, to which I cannot thank her enough.
A quick look down at the watch I was very happy with my time, 33:55.
Grab my T1 bag and quickly whip off my wetsuit. Earlier in the day I had stuck in a long sleeve top, not a race top, just something I thought I might want as it was so cold and wow…very grateful for that as it was freezing.
A big mistake here, I stuck on my socks (as I do for longer races) and then had to run across the grass, so when I got to my bike my socks were soaking. I tried to limit the damage by taking my bike shoes off the pedals and running in them to get to the mount point, but the damage had been done. My socks were wet..nasty!!
The bike course was on closed roads. The bike actually worked out at 92km, which apparently was 6km farther than last year.
I struggled on the bike, normally my strongest part of the race by far, I couldn't settle, I don't know why really. I wasn't hilly (there was a couple), but anything is hillier than Cayman. And the cold didn't help, I felt cold the whole way round!!
I was up and down on my tri bars, trying to find my zone, but couldn't. I held reasonable pace at 31km/h average, but was expecting closer to 35km/h. Perhaps the lack of bike miles in my legs from my poor build up was starting to show.
At one of the crazy turn points, the signage was nothing but crap to be honest, I spotted the turn points on my first lap, then they changed place on the 2nd. You had people doing the full going one way, half going the other, people on the last lap going straight on.
This was, I later found out, a very dangerous point with several crashes…although I was none the wiser and as you can see in good spirits giving my lady a smile J
Not exactly the most interesting of run courses, a simple 2 lap course for those doing the half!
I felt good on the run, perhaps because my legs didn't work so hard on the bike, perhaps because I wasn't used to running in the cold temperatures so my body was revelling in the reduced temperatures, whatever it was, I was bouncing along nicely and kept a very even pace.
Of course I now look back wishing I had pushed harder, but I'm not sure I could, at around 12km the wet socks started to bite back and I could feel some epic blisters forming! I was running in my Sketchers Go Run, they felt nice, but I've decided they don't have enough cushioning for me! (Report on those later…)
I finished the run in 1h 48. I was very happy with that indeed. Especially considering my last half iron run was 2h14 ish…That was of course in Cayman in 35 degree sun, but still!!!
And to the finish!!! Whipped my shoes and socks off as soon as possible, rammed some food down my face and picked up and *alcohol free* beer on the way out!!! This was for my fiancé!!!! Who later decided she didn't want it when she found out it was alcohol free!!!
I was later told that the locals were not happy with the race, I didn't notice that. On the run everyone was great…cheering me on.
The Challenge race is now leaving Henley and heading to Weymouth. With a swim in the sea…now that will be awesome!!!
You can see my results here, I finished in 5:30:48. Would have been nice to have pushed to break 5h 30. Oh well, a reason to come back!!
Happy Chappy!!! Although the happiness didn't last long as those awesome Oakleys you see perched on top of my head were soon to find new owners after I left them in the changing room. On returning to the changing room 10minutes later once I'd learnt of my mistake…they were gone. I emailed Challenge UK. They were of no help whatsoever.
That's the last tri of the year for me. I'm looking forward to doing something in the sun next year. September tri's in the UK, not a good idea if you hate the cold as much as me!!!!
The inaugural Mercuryman Half Iron triathlon in the Cayman Islands also happens to be my first attempt at a triathlon of this distance. The setting could not be better, the course either.
The swim, 1.9km two lap course in the incredibly clear and warm waters of the Caribbean sea, you are literally watching the fish swim around you, which can be a little unsettling I guess, but if you're used to it, it's incredible. The water is also pretty warm, up to 30, but more likely mid-twenties at this time of year.
This was small race, around 50 competitors/teams, which included three pros, two male and one female and some pretty serious local athletes! Myself not being one of them!!! It's a great crowd though, most of the entrants were locals and I knew/had trained with most if not all of them. A very special situation indeed to know pretty much everyone taking part at some level, great for encouragement out on the course and makes for a great atmosphere on the day. I loved it, and now having left the Cayman, it's one of the things I miss the most.
The organisers of the race are also residents of the Cayman Islands, a great group of people and for me at least, got every aspect of the day/weekend bang on.
To the race:
Swim, like I said, a two lap course with a pretty small group, apart from the fact that I went so far off course (pretty standard for me) that a jet ski had to intercept me and give me a friendly nudge back of course. This actually made me quite frustrated as I'd managed to pull away from my very good friend Marius Diesel and the small group we were swimming in, with this diversion I found myself swimming on his heels again, by the end of the swim I had managed to get about one minute on him and took another member of the small group with me, we worked well together for the last, against the pretty strong current, stretch of the swim.
Bike. The 90km course is also a two lap course and is probably the flattest course anywhere! The only real issue to race is the heat (high 20's by now and humidity on the way up to around 95-100%) and the wild chickens that can come out of nowhere! I've ridden the course a thousand times, but, never in the direction we went, which was for traffic reasons, the roads were not closed and this route reduced right turns (we drive on the left in Cayman, its part of the commonwealth you know!). As you know, I said my friend Marius was one minute behind me out of the water, well, I played a sneaky card here, I saw him as I was almost ready to exit T1, knowing he is also strong on the bike and our main competition is on the bike I decided to wait for him and exit transistion just behind him (he actually flew through T1 so to be honest I didn't have to wait really!), I followed him on the bike (yes, at a safe and legal distance), he knew I was there, I could see him checking and after a few variations in pace at the start he knew I wasn't going anywhere just yet! We were flying on the bike, neither of us strong in the swim, but both strong on the bike we made up a great deal of time on most people. Mid way through the second lap Marius started to pull away, still easily in sight, but easing away, Marius is considerably stronger than me on the run, I always refer to the fact I weigh 20kg more than him!! I stopped to fill up my bottle on the bike, I could have made it to the end, but with the temperature easily at 30 now and the sun beating down, I knew it wasn't worth the risk of tempting dehydration. At that point he was gone, didn't see him again, he caught one more person on the final stretch, I think we were 5th and 7th off the bike in the race (pro's excluded!).
Run. This course was pretty dull, four times up and down a road, the best thing about the course was you kept seeing people! The worst thing was the heat and sun. Holy moly…it was pure survival, water, sponges, ice down the shorts, under the hat…anywhere there was a gap or elastic, ice got inserted!!! I was really struggling when I saw Marius coming the other way and made it known to him I was struggling, he told me to drink more, I looked dry…which surprised me as I felt like I was knocking the fluids back. Anyway at the next stop I did my usual routine, stop running to a fast walk, pick as much up from the first person as I could grab, drink it/eat it, then grab more fluid and ice from the last person on the station and jog off slowly whilst I got that down me. Only this time I walked a lot slower, stopping to drink and get fully loaded with ice and sponges before taking off again.
The going was slow and getting slower, but I made it to the end in a time of 5h 31m, probably giving up all the places I made up on the bike during the run!
The final part of the race was a well thought out photo shot, we ran the final 100m or so on the beach looping round to come across the line with the sea behind us!!
My first half iron distance tri done, happily is an understatement! I hung around with my mates and cheered on anyone still out there until everyone was done I packed up and drove back home to the other side of the island…had a beer on the beach, quick dip in the sea and crashed on the sofa with the a/c cranked right up for the rest of the day!!
I decided to go for it a lot more with the swim, I still started near the back and on the wing, I’m not a great swimmer, but I’m better then my effort last week.
I wasn’t so shocked by the amount of arms and legs flying all over the place and stuck to my task, although still not in my normal rhythm, I don’t think I ever will be!! I soon started catching and overtaking people. Trying to draft where I could, but I couldn’t seem to find the right person to draft. Either too slow or too fast.
The current was against us on the way out, and you could certainly feel it! After the turn, bodies were spread out, with the current behind us it was certainly easier.
I finished the swim in just under 12mins, still a very slow time for a swimmer, I was probably 4-5 mins behind the leader. That’s still at least 2 mins slower than I would do it in a pool!
Transition took me just over a minute, I was never going to be fast. I don’t have “quick” laces, I have to double knot my trainers and with wet feet and hands, it’s tricky! I also need a good drink because the taste of salt water is horrible! Most people that come out of the water with me or just after me started the run before me!! I wasn’t worried in the slightest about that! Some of these guys are very serious!
The run went pretty much as standard! I certainly would like to have run faster, but the heat is a big factor for me, I’m not a small slim guy. I weigh over 80kg and not having been here long, I overheat … a lot!
Thoughts that stick…
- The guys and gals in Cayman are quite elitist and serious about their training. There are not many “have-a-go” people here in the races. Apparently its the same crowd for all these types of events. Bugger!
- I don’t like running straight out of the water. Wet feet don’t make it overly comfortable and my heart rate doesn’t get chance to recover like it does on the bike – which is probably my strongest event anyway…so I miss the ground I can make up after my slow swim! Also, I don’t like my nice trainers getting so wet!!!!
Next week is the final race in this Series. The swim goes up to 800m.
Then the Triathlon build-up (practice) events start. Which include a bike leg! I’m looking forward to that!
This is a series of 3 races.
1. 400m swim and 2 mile run.
2. 600m swim and 2 mile run.
3. 800m swim and 2 mile run.
(then the triathlon build up begins!)
You can check it out here. http://www.triathlon.ky/tri-events/stroke-and-stride
Last night was the first race, and my first attempt and a mass open water start. There was about 100 swimmers starting. I was feeling quite confident because I have done enough open water swimming to feel confident. I was wrong, the sound went, feet and arms everywhere. Water was so rough and I couldn’t get a rhythm. I found myself at 200m feeling really tired because I was just using too much energy swimming in this madness!! I ended up doing breaststroke at some points, where I was stuck behind people or there just wasn’t room to turn the corner.
Really the swim shocked me, I must have been 5 mins slower than anticipated. (I couldn’t tell because the battery was flat on my watch…)
I got out of the water feeling pretty tired and out of breath for a 400m swim, it felt more like a mile swim. Anyway I plodded on the with run and felt ok after half a mile, I made up a bunch of places, but came in on 29 mins. Not a good time. I was hoping for 25.
Time to practice open water swimming with people, not just me!!!
(Note to self: Do not eat a lot of broccoli for lunch, internal action is way too high!)