Monday, 9 August 2010

Bideford Sprint Triathlon

Phew, it's been far too long since I posted but then I seem to say that on almost every post. So..... a quick catch up!
July was very nearly my biggest training month EVER. Had it not been for us spending most of the final Saturday sat in holiday traffic jams I'd have set a new target doing the bike ride that I had to scrap. It never felt like a massive month and I still had 8 days off training, but the figures don't lie and I was very close to a 50hr month. I know many Ironman athletes do many many more hours, but I don't.

August has started in record breaking fashion and based on yesterdays result it does seem to be having some effect. As I lined up on the waters edge this Sunday afternoon (the 8th August) I'd already posted 19hrs of training, including a 4.5hr bike ride the day before and a 50mile bike ride on race morning. I wasn't expecting great things, of course I had my beady eyes on which clubmates I would 'allow' to beat me and which ones I still wanted to beat even with my battered legs.
As Shelly was involved in the race organisation we had to be there rediculously early (5hrs before the race) to set up registration and generally lend a hand. For me this soon turned into chatting with old Tri pals and talking many many people around the tricky bike course that they had to deal with. Eventually it was time to get ready for the race and I realised that I hadn't actually sat down since I got there. Resting the legs? Maybe not!! I changed, popped on my wetsuit and headed 400m down the river to where the 250 competitors were waiting for the off. I may have been the first person at the race site, but I was the last one to the start line. Nothing new there then.
So to the race then. It was a first time for the event which had a 400m river estuary swim, a very hilly and technical 13mile bike course and a fast and flat 5k run.

As I stood 'chatting' amongst 250 yellow hats I was wondering how we were going to start. The start format was in waves of 15 athletes leaving off the quay steps every minute or so. I was in wave 1 which (in theory) had the fastest swimmers. Then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a small group of athletes lined up away to the right hand side. Was that my wave about to start? Oh heck, I'd better get moving. I scooted my way through the crowds and just before I reached the group they hit the water with my no more than a meter or two behind them, Phew!!!
The swim went well, I soon caught up with the leaders and settled into 3rd/4th place. No great rush, no great exertion, just a straightforward point to point swim along the riverside and looking at the watching crowds. Then as we headed into the slipway exit I felt my fingers training on the bottom, put my hands down to stand up and disappeared up to my elbows in silt!!! Yuk!!! Out of the water in 4th place (in my wave) I then made a place up on the long run to Transition only to lose that place again once we were in there (I'm not the quickest).
Out onto the bike, through a few side roads and we were soon onto the 'rolling/hilly' features of the A39. I could see the lead 3 spread out along the road and I knew my training pal Phill was right behind me, after riding 122 miles in the previous 30hrs I was amazed that my legs didn't feel too bad. Sure they weren't going to let me stand up and pound away at the hills, but so long as I stayed sat down and span away they were quite content. The fact that the leaders weren't getting away from me and Phill hadn't come rushing past me helped boost my confidence. Maybe all this Ironman training was actually making me stronger after all.
We left the A39 and just after the village of Ford I caught the 2nd & 3rd placed cyclists. Suprisingly the pre race favourite Ross MacDonald was 3rd, he's on the borders of Pro rankings and has raced ITU recently. The 2nd placed rider was Wim Korving the winner of Taunton Deane Tri and runner up to Pro Triathlete Harry Wiltshire at Exe Valley Tri. The leader was out of sight but I was mixing it with people I expected to be well ahead of me on the day.
There then followed a nasty descent through Woodtown and Yeo Vale. The roads are little more than access roads to the local farms, steep descents, nasty bends and a nice ridge of gravel down the middle. Many people pre-race were very worried about this section, I wasn't, but I had stated after my first course recce that I wouldn't be 'racing' down it. Hawaii is far to important to risk a big crash for!! I sat up and rode down it as fast as I felt 100% safe riding, no risks!! Both Ross and Wim came flying past and had disappeared 2/300m down the road by the time we got to the end. There now followed what was really the only flat section of road where you could just get on with things, but it doesn't last for long!!!!!
Next up came THE HILL!! Sure there were hills on the A39, but not like this one. This was another section of the course being talked about before the race and many folks who hadn't recce'd the course were rightly concerned. Your first warning of it came in the form of a marshall waving and shouting at you to slow down and put your bike in the little ring. The reason for this was because you were likely bombing down the road in your Tri-bars and were about to hit your brakes HARD and take a left turn that came right back on you (almost a U-turn), but the moment you hit that turn the road shot up a VERY steep climb. If you hadn't changed gear before the turn 'while you were going fast' then you wouldn't have time to change gear. The marshall's here were competent cyclists though and had a full selection of chain fixing parts on hand just in case somebody snapped theirs, which was highly likely!!
The bottom section of this hill is the steepest and I just popped my bike into the 39-25 and span away until I had no choice but to stand up, slowly but surely I was still catching back up to Ross and Wim. In the village of Littleham I caught Ross, I knew the worst of the hill was over and I was still feeling pretty good. Phill hadn't caught me either so my confidence started to build, this was the first time where I actually started to think about the race and where I might finish. I pushed on and near the top of the climb I caught and passed Wim again. There is just over a mile of climbing in total, but that climb is 330ft.
We were soon on a fast descending section that went through a couple of villages and past several sections of parked cars. I still wasn't in full race mode, partly for safety and partly because I knew there was a run to come and in a section where I wasn't full-on racing Wim came charging past me and instantly opened a gap which was to stay until T2, especially when I lost a further 10secs or so due to a few traffic issues near the end.
I hit T2 with a purpose, Wim was already on the run but I'd raced him and beaten him on the run before so if my legs would just hold together for 5k there was a chance. I was in and out quickly (for me) and soon blazing my way towards Bideford Quay, as I ran through the car park I could see Wim in the distance and sure enough, the race leader was just ahead of him. Game On!!!
For the first time today I had my race face on, I could catch these, I know I've been running well lately, just please don't let me cramp up! I charged along a packed Bideford Quay while the marshalls (who were brilliant all day) yelled at people to get out of the way. As we crossed Bideford Bridge I caught and passed Wim and we were barely 1km into the run, I could see the leader in the distance. As I left the bridge somebody shouted there was 30secs between us, as I hit the Tarka Trail it was down to 20secs as we headed to the turn around and for the first time I could see exactly who was ahead of me and it wasn't good news....
Bounding towards me looking as fresh as a daisy and resplendent in his RAF team kit came Dominic Sanderson. Whether it was because I knew this boy could run, whether it was just because he looked so comfortable, or whether it was just a combination of a huge training week and then me running 2.5k at breakneck speed I don't know but my legs just ran out of speed. Everything drained from them!
I hit the turnaround and saw that I'd got a decent gap back to Wim. I'd run so hard but in an instant I knew that it was no longer about chasing the win, it was more about protecting a 'possible' second place. I knew what to do, I've been here before and I just settled in to my cruising run pace. On the way back I was running past clubmates who were on the outward leg, they were all shouting me to chase the leader down but the gap wasn't closing any more, it was opening. As I hit the final lap around the park to the finish I must have looked over my shoulder 5-6 times to make sure nobody was gaining, I think Wim gained a little, but not much and I finally crossed the line 2nd in my wave and as it turned out in the end I had managed to pull off 2nd overall, or 1st V40 depending on what you'd prefer.

The best bit was that after I'd finished ................ I didn't feel too bad at all :-)

1 comment:

ally speirs said...

Nice, great race the Hong Kong Phooey T shirt!!