By Paul Silver
Paul pictured at a different race
Firstly, it’s a long way away on a Friday afternoon but not so far back on a Sunday evening.
I had pretty bad race nerves going into this one, training hadn’t gone to plan, the weather forecast being grim wasn’t helping either. The one time they actually get it right as well…
Still, we get the race we train for and this proved true for me on Sunday, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Arriving on Friday evening to be greeted by friends who have already created an epic set up based on an enormous gazebo was fabulous. This complex acted as a great social hub, not that I was going to get much chance to be sociable or particularly fabulous as it turned out.
Sarah (my wife) and I were cycle marshals on Saturday, operating the feed station. Fantastic fun, I can now run backwards at 15mph whilst placing open cups(!!!) of water and gels into people’s hands, the TdF guys make it look so easy…Sorry to the racers who got a soaking while we were still on the steep bit of the learning curve!
Dropped back at site things started going South. I was feeling ill. A nasty head cold had got me, and after wandering around the exceptionally beautiful gardens for a while in a bit of a daze I retired to bed, thinking I was already out of the race.
Hopefully somewhere in that I managed to congratulate Saturday’s racers who all seemed to have had a good outing. If not, well done you amazing lot!
Woke around 5pm, in time to register, fortunately feeling somewhat better. I was going to make the start.
The social in the evening sounded good, (I believe there may have been dancing later…) although the wisdom of putting a smoky fire pit inside a tent (TWICE???) is somewhat questionable, no names, eh Sean/Wayne! and it was an early night for me.
Sunday morning. It’s cold and raining, but that’s OK, I’ve dressed for it. Into the race routine. Eat. Prep the bike, stick the stickers, wrap the wristbands, forget to pack waterproof or fill the water bottle. I’ll live.
Boring detailed swim bit, mainly written for my own benefit. Skip it. I’ll never know. 🙂
Race briefing. My feet are already cold. Into the water. I can’t feel my face! Out to the unpopular end of the start line, It’s an extra five metres to the first buoy 600m down the lake and I don’t have to worry about getting hit. I ask the other three guys near me what their target times are, they wave me goodbye when I say sub 30… It’s going to be a solo swim. Still cold.
Go! Steady swim just finding my rhythm, keeping my eye on the melee kicking off 20m to my right, as usual there’s a huge number who’ve sprinted the first 50m and are level or ahead me. At 300m I’ve left the fastest of the three I started near and there’s a bunch of six to 10 keeping up to my right. The fastest few in the race are starting to pull away, they’re much faster. I don’t think about them again. I’m getting a firey glow running through me. It’s very strange and the last time I’m going to be warm for the next four and a half hours.
Approaching the first gate and I’m too close to the group on my right. I consider tucking in with them for a while. Instead, I stretch out a little to make sure I’m first to the turn with a clean line. Round the buoys and the change of direction disorients me, sitting up to try and remember that race briefing that I paid so much attention to. No, really, I did! My form falls apart for the next 100m as I worry about the river entrance and I can start to feel fatigue in my right arm. Then I see the next swimmer in line and can suddenly swim again, he’s tiring and I know I can catch him.
The river. A new experience for me and one I’d have liked to take a little more time over. Under trees and bridges is lots of fun, however I’ve noticed that changes of light when I’m swimming can spark panic reflexes, although fortunately not today. However, all the distractions ruin my form and my target gets away again. I worry about being caught, but don’t look back. (Lots of cold kayak marshals to thank going through this section too, they needed some cheering up, it looked a bloody miserable job!) I’m also starting to feel the cold seep in.
Finally out from this section, after getting directions from a friendly kayak, I find my mark is just too far away, however I’m nearly at the end, reasonably confident that I’m top 10 (which was my first race goal) and my arms forget they’re tired and it’s a fast swim to the lift out man and then a gentle bounce up the hill. (Oh, to be able to run like this after the bike…) I hear the announcer calling some names and mentioning 7th out of the water with one of them. My name is up there. Happy days. Official result is 6th in the swim. That’ll do.
I’d made the decision to sacrifice T1 time for comfort on the bike, so I layered up, although realising I didn’t have my waterproof worried me a little, I just had to go without. Lots of people in just tri suits. Really? I saw a few people put in the back of the van, too cold to continue and heard of people pulled off course with hypothermia. 77 DNFs for this race…
I wasn’t warm. By the time I was dressed I couldn’t feel my feet. Nor was I going to warm up until some way into the run.
First lap on the bike felt great, the bike has never felt so smooth or easy under me, those 25mm tyres were a good choice. I overtook people. (This is a Big Thing, I’m used to going backwards on the bike!)
I had to stop to eat, I didn’t feel I could cope safely on the move. I wasn’t alone making this call.
Second lap and that ticking sound from the bike was familiar…the rear derailleur was touching the spokes when in first gear. Bugger.
I’m not risking a catastrophic mechanical and a long walk home. My knees were already feeling the strain though and my hamstring tendon was sore on the right leg. Having to push harder to get up the hills wasn’t helpful. Still, onwards…
The rain eases up (did I mention it was raining? and 9-10°C?) and the wind picks up but the roads are still soaked and greasy. Leaves and sticks blown into the road put paid to any downhill confidence I’ve built up over the ride, I’m riding blind as my glasses are no use whatsoever…It is and it isn’t a lot of fun at the same time. I actually dry out!
I’ve slowed considerably. The lack of bike training has got me again, but I finally finish and I feel I’m in good shape. Considering.
I rack my bike very carefully and gently and then let my true feelings show by screaming “I hate you” at it very loudly. This was much to the initial consternation, then amusement of the guy who’d been in direct line of the shout. Oops.
I felt OK getting out onto the run and managed 4km including the first super fun mud bath before tiny echoes of cramp started to worry me. I’m glad I was wearing semi-trail shoes for the run, but was wishing for my mud-claws the whole time.
I’d been protecting my right knee, which has historical issues, so it was a shock when it felt like someone shoved a screwdriver into my left and then twisted. Something had tightened up and pulled my kneecap out of line. A little work loosened it up and let me run/walk for a good while. Meeting up with a few other racers and having some good chats.
Coming through the castle grounds with all the shouts of “nearly there” whilst having one lap to go was ambivalent Yes, when you’re doing 110, 10km is nearly there I guess…People and support are always a big lift for me though.
I saw Peter (Panacek) at the feed station as we crossed paths. He was looking good.
Second time through the mud I enjoyed myself, I definitely had better shoes for the conditions than most around me, but coming out of the section my knee screamed a couple more times and I resigned myself to walking the last 6km. There’s all the races in the world, but I only have two knees and really feel I need them both…At least the views were nice and I could take in the scenery. Take the positives 🙂
After a while though I started to get cold again, despite the sunshine, yes, sunshine! and knew I’d have to trot or freeze. Fortunately, at this point I met up with a chap on his first lap round and we kept each other going for the last 3-4km. I hope you had a great second lap whoever you were. Thank you.
Team mates at the finish line and the darling wife cheering made the finish chute a joy. I even had a kick left in me for the line (OK, it was the youth race coming in behind me, rather than fellow competitors, but I didn’t know that!) Sod the medal, where’s the oranges! And the curry, which was very good.
Initially, this was a disapointing race for me, I didn’t have a full run left in me when I’d hoped to. It wasn’t till Tuesday evening that I even looked at the results. I’m now much happier with the achievement of just finshing and, of course, that swim. Thank you Fiona (Ridley), and the rest of the swim team who make the pool and open water sessions happen 🙂
71/179 finishers + 77DNFs
23/57 V40 finishers.
Takeaway: I need to work on my bike. Lots. Also stretching and stability work needs attention. And I need to ride more. Some bike time wouldn’t go amiss either…
Thanks to all who came down to Hever to race and support, it provides a great atmosphere to be around. Sarah and I enjoyed the whole weekend thoroughly.