Last year, I’ve been tamed by a puncture in the New Forest Swashbuckler middle distance triathlon. It then cost me 1/2h because I couldn’t remove my tubular tire with frozen fingers. You’d think I’d have learnt from this? In a way yes: I don’t have tubular wheels anymore. The other problem is the cold, and… err… Well, there’s still some work to do on that…
This was a completely unplanned race. I was initially set to ride the Etape Caledonia with my good friend @Simonski, but he bailed out and the thought of going alone to Scotland wasn’t really cutting the mustard. The weather was absolutely horrendous up north at the time as well, so I withdrew from it and searched for another event to do instead!
Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for her), Gaby from my ESC D3 Triathletes club had her place to offer as she got injured and couldn’t take part (Recover quickly Gaby!!!). With only a few days to go, I was entered in this middle distance event again. Needless to say that preparation wasn’t ideal for this one!
I had however already raced a 70.3 this year in California, so I knew I could do it, but I kind of rushed things through and didn’t give myself enough time to think about kit and possible conditions in the New Forest.
I was a bit cold last year, okay. But I also remember that short gloves and a sleeveless tri top were enough. After racing 70.3 California with only a long sleeve base layer above my tri top, I thought this would have ben enough too and that the morning air would warm up quickly.
The dashboard of the car at 5am going to transition was saying 4C, and the grass around Beaulieu was so frozen that everyone was congregating on the few strips of concrete while waiting to go to the swim. Yes! The concrete was warmer than the grass!! Everyone was freezing and I was only fortunate to be on the first wave of 2 to get the swim done with. Apparently, the second wave had to wait around 30min in the freezing cold before they started.
The water temperature was only 11.3C. That’s 0.3C above the limit at which the swim leg would have to be cancelled. But at under 12C, it was going ahead, albeit shortened to around 750m.
Compared to the frozen grass and concrete under bare feet, the water didn’t actually feel that cold with a good neoprene cap (thanks Christine!). And the swim went quite well for me.
Having started around the back to avoid the sprinters’ elbows at the front, I found myself towards to back of the front pack while exiting the water in 11’55″. That must have been quite shorter than 750m, but nevertheless I was early in transition.
For some reason I was convinced that all I needed to ride was my base layer, like in California. The weather back there was crap, and even at 10C air temperature in the rain, I haven’t been cold for a second. Not in the New Forest. That’s where I should have remembered last year and have also worn a long sleeves jersey AND long gloves…
I managed around 30Km in 55min like this though, but by then the handling was getting too dangerous as I was shivering uncontrollably, and I had to stop 15min to warm up. Where I stopped, there was another competitor, stuck in a chair with a blanket and two marshals trying to warm him up but he was clearly not in a state to continue. An ambulance came to pick him up and I rode off. I knew that guy from somewhere and I realised afterwards it was Lee Piercy. Top duathlete, 1st Age group in 70.3 Antwerp 2010 and runner up here last year… I would see him later after finishing the race and he was alright. Glad for him, but he didn’t look in a good state when the ambulance arrived.
At this point, I had given up and only rode away slowly for 20min before getting my focus again and realising that I could finish that race. I was however feeling rubbish, with my whole upper body seizing up on the tri bars, with very tight legs and far from the speed I can usually do.
The sun eventually came out on the second lap, but not enough to warm up fully, and 2h40 for that ride was sluggish at best.
I took my time in T2 to rack my bike and adjust my socks, only to forget my cycling gloves but I managed to give them away to some of our supporters (Matthew’s parents!) at the first aid station just outside transition.
Surprisingly, legs felt ok at this point, even though I still had this numb feeling in my feet which made me wonder if there was something wrong with my soles.
I only warmed up on the second lap of the run (that’s almost 4h into the race!!) and although I did slow down a bit, I managed to complete the 14miles run in 1h40′, shaving 6′ off my last year time (which was a fantastic run for me), and including a 30 seconds stop to chat with Matthew’s mum at the feed station at the end of lap 1. That time also includes my second ever fastest 1/2 marathon to date. After that crap bike leg… go figure!
So all in all not too bad, I had a cracking swim where I felt very good, a great run with good feeling and a good average pace, but I still have unfinished business with the New Forest!!!
Richard and Joanne have again organised a wonderful race and they have been unfortunate this year with the weather, having had to cancel the previous week-end’s race. The friendly aspect of it is always so appealing, a very far cry from the juggernaut organisations at London or Windsor, and a very refreshing bunch of volunteers to go with it.
If you want a tough middle distance challenge without the mass media and the uber-controlled-money-making environments, then do THIS race! You won’t regret it!
I have already registered for the 2013 race. It will be just 2 weeks after Ironman Lanzarote, but I’ll do it regardless. I’m not after a performance, but after a great race without incidents. Only then will I have tamed this course, and hopefully beaten Matthew to the line in the process!
Results and data
Race photos by www.evokepix.co.uk