So 1 week has gone since I completed the Staffordshire Half Ironman at Shugborough, & I thought I would do a quick write up of the weekend.
Not a whole huge amount to say about Day 1 itself – 07:00am drive from sunny Stevenage to Shugborough for the following:
- T2 bag check-in
- Race briefing
- T1 bag check-in
- Bike racking
- Chip collection
Logistics wise, this was not as easy at it should have been on paper, and indeed in true British Summer style, it was raining, which of course did not make for an overly pleasant experience! -anyhow – in my mind, the experience itself was run pretty smoothly, albeit I understand that there were a lot of people who had to queue for much longer than I did.
The split transition and the lack of near parking was an issue at both sites – that said, I really don’t think there is too much that can be done about that in all honesty.
Early morning alarm call at 04:15am followed by race breakfast (pre-cooked pasta meal in a tuppaware box) eaten in the hotel room – number tattoo application to my arms and a short drive to chasewater.
Hopped in the car to Holland Park parking site and parked up and attempted to hop a shuttlebus (or 3) that turned out to not be going to Chasewater , so in the end we just walked.
Arrived at my bike, took the cover off, checked the brakes, checked the tyres, put water bottles in cages and chucked on my wetsuit and got comfy, and headed to the swim start.
By now it was probably around 06:30am or so and to be honest in stark comparison to other events that I have done, I wasn’t really that nervous even though this would be the farthest open water swim that I would have done to date.
I said my goodbyes to my support crew (mum, dad & Julie) and headed for the starting pen / athletes holding area – by now AC/DC was pumping over the speakers (they must have known a rocker was in the house…!) – and we began the walk down the pontoon to the water. One final look at the route ahead now that all the buoys were in place, noseclip on, goggles on, and a quick check for some sighting reference points and i was in!
The water itself was not too cold in light of our latitude (farther north!) – so i was quite pleased with that – but again it is another event that you really do not get enough time in the water prior to the gun going off to get warm.
I was in the water probably for around 2 mins perhaps 3 when, without any warning the air horn went off – i certainly wasn’t the only one who looked confused!
Anyhow – I digress – as always, I tried to crawl, but just couldn’t as I just wasn’t warmed up yet, and so settled into what stroke I could as the bodies thrashed around me.
By the first turn, I had settled into front crawl, and was relatively happy. I had even managed to latch onto one person and drafted them for a while, until I just lost them. By the second turning point, I was back onto someone drafting them hitching a free ride, but sadly when I hit the turning point, I lost them again. My breathing was much better and I was much warmer than at the start, and felt I was making good progress, albeit by now, I had been caught up by the next wave of swimmers as we headed to the third and final turn and the last short swim into the ramp up the the swim exit. By now, I was relatively tired, but had made excellent progress in my swim, and I was confident that I could get in under my 48 min target time.
As I rounded the last buoy, I was hit with terrible cramp – my right foot locked up entirely, and my thigh went stiff. Dammit – with only 100metres left, I was left basically bobbing in the water in quite a vulnerable position, as I was now in the way of all the swimmers attempting to round the buoy! – not ideal! I rolled onto my back, and grabbed at my foot as that sometimes works it free. But it didn’t. The only thing for it was to carry on through. So, I rolled back over onto my front, and started crawl again – this eventually freed up my locked foot! Great stuff!
Only around 50metres or so left, I was eagerly wanting to get on dry land and start the bike – the exit up the ramp was pretty smooth – no-one to grab at you which I was actually pleased about, and I exited without fuss in 49m:47s – just outside my target – but well inside the 1hr10 cutoff.
As I made my way through to T1, I made sure to keep my eyes and ears out for my supporters and saw them*, or rather I heard them (whistle!) just before I entered the T1 tent to change – managed to get a time check, and found out my approximate time, which gave me a real boost straight away – I was really pleased already! (*never underestimate the power of seeing people that you love …. it takes away all the pain!)
T1 itself went pretty smoothly – I found my bag straight away, got some of my kit out and ready, dried my feet, put on my cycling top & shorts, and put on my trainers, chucked on my helmet, race-belt and sunglasses and made my way to the bike.
My bike was racked on the second row, from the bottom, 3 racks in from the end, so i took the longer but more likely quieter route to my bike via the front bike rack which was empty by now, and as such i didn’t need to run through lots of people. I grabbed the Garmin, grabbed my bike and wheeled it through T1 heading for the mount line – 1 discipline down – 2 to go…. and ready to roll for the next 90km!
Overall I was really pleased with my swim performance – I think there could be room for improvement in the early stages of the swim, but I did a few things very well – sighting and drafting – these are completely new to me, but helped me massively on this swim, and I will definitely be using this in the future.
Uneventful overall – pleased that I could find my bag so quickly and that i could get my socks on so adeptly also!!! – 07m:43s