Well, Saturday saw my first triathlon come and go and I have to say I quite enjoyed the whole experience. It all started about a year ago when, as a spectator, I watched the 2010 Ripon triathlon and thought "I'd like to have a crack at that" or something equally insane. Encouraged by a mate at work, I got a bike and slowly (very slowly) began to get out on two wheels, but only really got down to any serious swim training about 8 weeks back. I also joined North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Tri so I could swim in the racecourse lake and I think it's all paid off as I feel much fitter and have less aches and pains, although I confess I've ran fewer miles in recent months than is the norm.
Saturday came and I'll have to confess that I was bag of nerves, don't ask me why - perhaps it was the prospect of the mass start for the swim and the inevitable maelstrom. In any event, I was up bright and breezy and off to Ripon by 0930, so after a bit of bnater with blokes in the car park and realising that there was no backing out now it was off to registration. My pal Emma was handing out the timing chips and took the opportunity to giggle at my apprehension, I suppose it must have been written all over my face. Back to the car, carefully assembled my bike and trundled everything over to the transition area, laying all my gear out neatly. Checked out my position and did a good recce of the area, there would be no mistakes in transition. That's what I thought anyhow :-)
Back to car (Helen was arriving later with her parents) for a cuppa and slow change, when the weather - which had been alternating between overcast and sunny all morning - took a change for the worst. I was just wriggling into my tri shorts when the heavens opened and within seconds it was torrential rain, it then started hailing. Clearly, someone up there had decided that certain individuals in the area had been very naughty boys/girls and this was retribution. It stopped, eventually, and I squelched over to transition to see how my gear was. Everything was soaked, my bike shoes and trainers were just full of water, my carefully prepared (with talc) socks were useless and so like everyone else it was all systems go to dry stuff off and prepare for the start. Fortunately I had spare socks and loads of towels, but it didn't do anything for my nerves .... I have no clue why I was so nervous, but I was. Going up a mountain range in total darkness - that's something to be jittery about, but not this. Perhaps it was just unknown territory and my subconcious was playing its normal tricks? Anyhow, by now Helen and mum/dad had arrived (who are about as un-sporty as you can get and know nothing about running/triathlon), some amusement and embarrassed faces as I applied chamois cream to my nether regions (very necessary with tri shorts, not much padding) and squeezed into my wetsuit, taking great care to ensure the timing chip/strap was under the leg of the wetsuit - I didn't want it snagging in transition. The race had been delayed by 30 mins by now, this was just adding to the tension but it turned out to be a wise move and allowed the roads to dry out.
Over to transition for the race briefing (1400) and I'm committed. The sun is coming through the clouds and steam is beginning to rise from the mountains of wet kit and bikes, the familiar smell of hot/burning rubber was evident from the assembled mass of triathletes and their wetsuits. In what seemed like no time at all the first wave was off and I watched as the melee of thrashing bodies attacked the water. I was in the 4th wave, five minutes between each and I was soon inching my way into the water and swam cautiously over to the starting buoys. Now, I've swam a few times in this lake and know that it's been very weedy (if you'll excuse the term) of late, NYP Tri obviously thought so too as last week they paid to have the weed trimmed. I don't know if this was a good idea or not, as despite the weed the lake is normally very clear, but the effect of trimming it was to have a good amount of weed debris floating about and a very distinct smell of rotting vegetation. Not like this normally, so on balance - bad idea. I trod water and tried to envisage my line up to the last island, this would be the worst bit. Off we went and it was mayhem: almost immediately I got clouted round the back of the head and then kicked in the face, but this was all par for the course and expected. I got into my rhythm and focussed on breathing, confident I could destroy the 30mins it's taken me in training to do this course. Well, things started to go wrong pretty much straight away ... my mask started to mist up (a posh Aquasphere model I'd borrowed from a mate) and with the sun straight in my face I couldn't see where the hell I was going! Mistake no 1 was to follow the feet in front and predictably, the body they belonged to went seriously off course and the canoeists had to nudge us back on course, but by then we'd gone quite a way off the best line and it took precious seconds/effort to get back. Held the line until the last island and, following my practice in training, I turned to go around. Wrong. This year they'd put a buoy further up the course to ensure that nobody cut the course short and with my obscured vision I didn't see the damn thing. More time wasted. The return journey was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of people swimming over the top of me to try and get a better line, what did become clear though was that I was a faster swimmer than those I was bracketed with and I just couldn't get past them. Should I have adopted a "barge through" policy? I don't know the etiquette. In any event, I didn't want anymore mistakes so I was content to stay on course. I should add that by now my mask had let in a little water and this actually helped, as when I was face down that water cleared the mist in the lens and I could see again. A bit of a pain when I turned to breathe, but not something I found a massive problem. So, we approached the landing stage and as instructed, I began to kick hard to get the circulation back in my legs and facilitate the exit. Disaster! This had happened before and in exactly the same spot .... about 20ft from the ramp I got a nasty knot of cramp high on the medial side of my left calf, God knows why. I hobbled out of the water with my left leg locked, cursing my stinking rotten luck. Focus. Ignore the bloody cramp. As rehearsed, it was mask up, wetsuit zip down and head for my bike, found it no problem. By the time I was there, the suit was down to my waist. Mask off, goggles off, wetsuit down to ankles as taught by Emma. Right leg came out after a bit of stomping, but the left foot wouldn't come out. Minor flap. Sat down to use hands, but it was really tight and I couldn't shift it, the neoprene was biting into my ankle. After about 40 seconds of frustration I realised that what I'd done was hook my fingers inside the the sodding timing strap - concealed under the leg of the wetsuit remember - and I was trying to rip it off my ankle. Bugger. Got the thing off, dried feet with hand towel, on with socks, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, grab bike and away! Total time in transition, 2.49 - should have been less than 2 minutes, but there you go.
It's quite a hike out of transition and because of the rain, a bit muddy. My bike shoes aren't designed for running, but there was no way I could have done it barefoot like a lot of the more serious guys did, leaving the shoes clipped to the bike. I got to the mount point and could I get my cleats into the pedals? I could not, of course they were caked in mud - now you can see why some prefer to run through transition barefoot! I got away in the end, much to the mirth of HH clubmate Kirsty who was refereeing for the BTF at the mount/dismount point. I was in unknown territory from here on, I don't mean the course - which I'd practiced on - I refer to the fact that I had never been in a bike race before. As expected, a lot of people overtook me in the early stages, but as time wore on I began to claw a few places back, a lot of green numbers (ie. my swimming wave) came past after about 8 - 10 miles, proving to me that in triathlon you have to focus on everything, these guys were obviously slower swimmers but came past me like I was standing still on the bike. It was hard work, but I was getting into it and my trip computer told me I was going alright and well on course to get in under my 1hr 30 min target. My next calamity was at the roundabout before the turnaround at Dishforth: I was approaching the roundabout and the marshall waved me across, then this idiot in a BMW decided (without indicating) that he'd chosen the wrong exit and continued round, forcing me and the bloke alongside to anchor up hard. Of course, we were stuck in high gear and levering off once he'd cleared caused my stupid calf to sieze up again, Jesus it hurt. Fortunately the exit off the roundabout was slightly downhill so I unclipped and rolled down the hill with my leg stuck out and toes pushed back until it cleared, must have looked really stupid. Lost about 5 - 6 places and more time I reckon. Fortunately, that was the last of the problems with that calf although it niggled all the way and I can still feel it now despite a good workout from t' missus. God knows why it happened ... I had two bottles of electrolyte on the bike and glugged them both, maybe that helped keep it at bay? Anyhow, once around the turnaround we hit a headwind and it was really hard work to keep on pace. Up until then I'd been reckoning on around 1.25 as a finishing time, but that wind killed the prospect completely. The last two miles to the racecourse were into a vicious wind, everyone complained about it even though it was downhill. I've ridden it before and on a nice day it's pretty fast. Didn't feel like it on Saturday though and it was with some relief that I came to the dismount point and jogged into transition, legs feeling like lead.
Did a pretty fast transition (considering), pulled Garmin out of my running shoe and was on my way as fast as I could. This wasn't fast, as it happens. It's wierd, you come from a relatively fast-paced evolution (bike) and given that the last time I ran was a 3-mile club PTP where I averaged 6.50 pace, it felt very odd to be moving so slowly, my legs felt totally dead. I had done a couple of brick sessions in training, but nothing like this ... but still, I headed out onto the 10K route and have to say I was overtaking a lot of people, despite my perceived lack of speed. Splits look very average for a 10K, but I suppose they're not bad when considered alongside the preceding two evolutions. From 3K out I could see and hear the racecourse, the sun was beating down and I wanted to finish badly, my batteries were flat. With hindsight, I think I was under-fuelled for this, I had a gel on the bike at 2m and another at 20m, but a bit more energy would have helped I feel, I guess I have no clue about triathlon fuelling strategy. Came into the last kilometre and was overwhelmingly glad, this felt like finishing a marathon. Big cheers from Helen as I crossed the line, triathlon DONE.
My final time was 2.55.59 and I'm pleased with that, despite all the screw-ups and miscalculations. My final results were 30.22/444th T1=2.49 1.30.55/598th T2=1.11 50.42/354th. Can I do better? Oh yes, much better. Particularly on the bike, much room for improvement there. I will plug away, but seeing as my focus really is going to be on Lakeland BGR recce for the rest of the year it will have to fit around that. I've totally enjoyed this whole triathlon thing and will be back for more ...