For a quite well-educated man, I have decided that I really can be very stupid! I think Mary has known this for some years. Maybe that is how she lured me into marriage? But taking part in the Grafman Triathlon really does show off my natural flair for the downright lunacy.
Which is why I am currently coated in industrial quantities of after sun, but still glowing like a nuclear reactor on meltdown; perched gingerly between two pillows to reduce the pressure on sensitive parts whilst clutching a bag of rapidly melting frozen pea in places no man should share!
Before I share more, about the race! I have to add in a caveat from my proof reader (The Wife!) Firstly, she did say I was stupid to even try this event as my bike hadn’t made it out of the garage since a ride with Stuart last year! Secondly she did ask if I needed a supporter but I refused saying I would be fine and it would be boring to hang around to only catch fleeting glimpses of me during the long hours of the race. Thirdly she wants me to state that she was right on both counts – and as I am in desperate need for a sports massage later, I am not that daft to disagree with her!
Seeing Stuart race this last year and how well organised it was, combined with it being a fair few pounds cheaper than the Outlaw; I signed up back last year when the race came online. I knew it was the British Championship, so it would act as a qualifier for the world age group events, and that would bring the pointy hat brigade with their carbon fibre steeds and ultra-thin Yamamoto Neoprene wetsuits to enhance flexibility to allow a better stroke! I wasn’t fazed by that at all, okay maybe I was when I put my newly cobweb free dusted off aluminium framed bike on the rack and realised that the cost of just the wheels on the bikes either side were worth more than my entire tri-kit.
For this race I decided to forego the Trisuit! As looking like Daffyd from Little Britain or a Blue Peter presenters badly made sausage had no appeal to me. Don’t worry there are no race pictures of me just wearing a strategically placed race number to preserve my modesty – as on the bike the number must be on the back! Nudity is not the done thing on a tri – probably to do with the cold water and chaffing issues! So I opted for tri-shorts and after the swim pulling on a t-shirt – far easier if I have a buff moment mid race! 😉
This year Nice Tri, the organisers, went for a wave start, swimmers self-seeding into pens so that everyone gets a more pleasant swim as everyone near you should theoretical be of a similar pace and the timing only starting for you when you cross into the water. Fantastic idea and much nicer to be in the washing machine on a cycle you choose! Vichy Triathletes take note – start at the side of the pen that means you have extra space to move into rather than be swum over, kicked or punched by some lump that can’t do a decent prediction of their time!
The first lap of the 1900m swim felt all wrong – maybe it was just a different lake, or the churned up water or being surrounded by 1000 other swimmers or the kick to the solar plexus I received after 10 strokes but initially I found the going really tough. But after a few hundred meters the swimmers had become strung out and space opened up. I started to glide more and sticking to the plan (technique not gorilla swimming) I coasted round – a word I never thought I would use in relation to swimming.
Then back into transition to collect my bike – it was a struggle to find, as there where so many left on the rack – even the lovely carbon fibre jobs with Zipp Firecrest 404 wheels, every second I gained on the swim I could use on the bike to try and make the cut off.
So out onto the lovely rural roads I sped – well as much as I could manage – maths on the bike is far harder that on a track – not because of the type of calculation but you need to keep your eyes firmly focused on the roads around you and not drift off. 11.6mph was all I needed to cruise in with a few minutes to spare but with the thought Cambridgeshire was meant to be flat I started to pump away on the pedals – 18mph result!
But they found some hills!
In fact after 5 miles there was a sharp little beast that caused me to work my way down the gears until I was at the bottom – this is where training really would have help as my speed dropped – I was being overtaken by a lot of cyclist who got far to close when they pulled back in… so close in fact my front wheel was clipped causing me to slip and fall. With the speed reactions of a praying mantis and the coordination of a Ninja I unclipped from my pedal and stuck out my foot. I saved myself the embarrassment of toppling over at 8mph but in the process of this I heard a crack – I had broken my cleat. I had wanted to shout a few expletives after the cyclist but my mum would have been disappointed in me – however a few other riders and the draft buster had a few words on my behalf!
After the indignity of having to walk up the hill before trying to remount and continue, I cycled on slowly. Cleats are great as they add a pull to your pedal stroke, and mean you can have small light pedals to clip in – however without a cleat trying to balance a plastic lump onto a small metal area is hard! Having a spare cleat is not something I have ever considered having and not even mentioned in Tri Magazines – so unless I wanted a mechanical DNF I had to carry on with the balancing act – For 51miles!
It wasn’t going to be great without this equipment failure but with it, the cycle was even tougher – going down a hill was a challenge as one leg would slip off resulting in a rather large wobble and counting of my lucky stars, cornering to the right – Not able to lean in! going uphill – forget it, slip over and walk – meaning the right cleat also got mashed from the walking over time!
Soon important parts of my body started to ache, followed by legs then my knees went into a muscular spasm. At 40miles I had reach the point of wanting to give up, I was a broken man, had I seen a marshalling point or a sign to Grafham Water I would have, but no… Then reaching 42 miles I realised that 6 x 7 = 42 and as 8 x 7 = 56 I had done 75% – ¾ it was as good as over so I kept going.
The course had lots of out and backs so I could see who would shortly overtake me. I was overtaken by everything, In fact the only thing I overtook was a dead badger and I am sure if it was stuck on a bike it would have got me before the 56miles were up.
Pulling back into Grafham Water I was delighted to see the dismount line and know I would be leaving the bike behind, my behind would be delighted! An addition of socks with a change of shoes followed by a dramatic raising of the titanic as I tried to stand up, I lumbered to the runout.
Everything hurt! Just putting one foot in front of another was a challenge. This wasn’t jelly legs this was ironman legs – the film not the race – and without the special power pack. My mantra kicked in… Just keep moving!
After 1 mile, I realised I wasn’t in a good state as I still ached – runners on their second lap shuffled passed, I trundled on! Triathletes I had actually beaten in to T2 ran passed. But I kept on walking.
‘He looks in real pain,’ a kindly supporter commented loudly to her friends; she wasn’t wrong. Over the embankment path, through woods and village lanes I ambled, but I kept moving as everyone passed me! Even in the finishing straight I didn’t break into a run – well I had just walked 13miles why not walk the last 0.1!
I was so late back, although within the cut off time, finding my bike was easy – it was the only one on the racking! Okay maybe that was an exaggeration there were three others their owners having chosen to hit the bar!
Due to a parasitic shrimp all wetsuits have to have a dilute Milton wash before you can remove them to stop it spreading (Think of it as the best wash your wetsuit will ever have – they say) however it had all run out by the time I had collected my kit! Thinking I would have to leave my wetsuit behind with the rest of the race detritus the lead transition marshal said, ‘Just dry it well, that will be fine, it will kill the shrimp.’
‘I won’t be doing that!’ I replied in abject horror, ‘I have just swum in a lake where 980 people all took a pee when they went in, my wetsuit is having a double Milton wash and rinse as soon as it gets home!’ (Now that is the best wash a wetsuit can have!)
‘981, I took a pee when I was on the rescue Kayak!’ the marshal replied.
Once all the stuff was back in my car all I wanted to do was stretch out and rest, but… No supporter means no backup driver – Mary was right again!