Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

Challenge 120

Sunday, May 12th, 2024 | Sport

In 2015, James Lawrence, also known as the Iron Cowboy, set the world record for number of full distance triathlons completed on consecutive days: 50. In 2021, he raised the bar to 100 and then in 2023, Sean Conway raised the bar to 105.

Last week, Jonas Deichmann kicked off Challenge 120: an attempt to complete 120 full distance triathlons in 120 days. For reference, that is a 3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle and a 42.2 km run (full marathon) each day. You can follow him each day on his live tracker and there are daily updates on Instagram, too.

Triathlon For Beginners reaches 100,000 members

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024 | News

In 2018, I launched my course Triathlon For Beginners and subsequently set up a Facebook group to facilitate peer support. Six years later and I am pleased to announce the group has now hit 100,000 members.

My Running For Beginners group did the same in January.

I have some battle stories from what spammers will try in a group that size 😆. But it has been wonderful to watch so many people sharing stories, encouragement and support.

Helmsley Triathlon

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023 | Sport

Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool run a triathlon as a fundraiser each year and it has been on my list for a while: a swim in a heated outdoor pool followed by a bike course around the Moors and a multi-terrain run. It did mean getting up at 4:15 am to drive to Helmsley but surely it would be worth it for the views.

The swim

The pool is beautiful. I wouldn’t quite say bath water but it was a perfect temperature once you were swimming. The swim consisted of 32 lengths (800 metres) and I seemed to seed myself just right, with one overtake and one giveaway during the swim. My lane counter was also wonderful encouraging.

I felt a bit overwhelmed at times during the swim. It’s been very disappointing going from multiple-Ironman finisher to lacking confidence in open water again and here I wasn’t even in open water. It was just a pool that happens to be outside. It has been difficult for me to swim this year and it really shows. I was happy enough with my pace, though.

With one DNF and two cancelled swims, this turned out to be my first completed triathlon swim of the year.

The bike

They said the bike course was hilly. But they also posted a screenshot, with no GPX supplied, saying the elevation gain was 323 metres. I took this to mean they were warning anyone coming up from Lincolnshire that Yorkshire was a bit hillier than home.

But the elevation was simply wrong. We took on the Bransdale Loop through the heather of the Moors, which was very beautiful, but also amounted to 732 metres of elevation gain. There were multiple steep climbs with a maximum gradient of 18%. I was running out of food by the end because I did not expect to be out on the bike course for so long.

The views were stunning, though.

The run

The run starts with a four-kilometre climb up the hill we had just cycled down. I went for a run-walk strategy. Once the hill was completed we turned off the road and went onto trail which was practically all down hill. Game birds were hiding in the hedges and would often run out in a panic as we approached.

Most of it was well-signposted and I only got lost at one point after the farm. The answer was to just keep following the bridleway and I eventually discovered I had indeed been going the correct way. There was a final little hill to get back to the pool and then it was a victory lap of the field.

The result

My total time was:

3:27:34

And my splits were:

Discipline Time
Swim 19:41
T1 2:52
Bike 1:56:52
T2 2:31
Run 1:05:38

This put me 32nd out of 46 in the open (men and trans women) category. This year I have been concentrating on ultrarunning and not training for any kind of speed so it is probably a fair result.

A big thank you to all of the volunteers at Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool that made the race happen.

Kilkenny Triathlon

Thursday, July 20th, 2023 | Sport

Even with a leisurely start time, my alarm went off at 06:00. I debated whether to get up. After a hard time at Lough Cutra and a hard time at Metalman, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to take on Kilkenny. But I also need to get back into the water.

In the end, the swim was cancelled due to water quality anyway. Replaced by a 2.4k run along the same run course we could take on twice after the bike. The first run was easy enough. A lot of people sprinted off and soon realised that had over-paced themselves. Even after T1 the running wasn’t over as the mount line was up a steep grassy hill.

The bike was great. Lots of clear junctions or guards stopping traffic for us. The first half of the course was into a headwind and few other people were using aerobars so even riding at less than 200 Watts I was passing long lines of athletes who were struggling into the wind. Maybe only three stronger cyclists came past me, although I was in the third of three waves.

The second run was also comfortable enough. It is not a flat course but I was just about able to pace myself up the hill. We finished on the top lawn in front of Kilkenny Castle.

My overall time was:

1:20:27

I just scraped into the top half coming 100th out of 212 athletes. Of course, I’m in the M30-39 category, so that only translates to 21 of 34. My splits were:

Discipline Time
Run 1 12:02
T2 2:10
Bike 39:49
T2 2:04
Run 2 24:20

Pace wise, I was 165th in run 1 and 77th in run 2, so some nice negative splits going on there.

Metalman Triathlon

Thursday, June 29th, 2023 | Sport

Metalman is a middle distance triathlon on Ireland’s south coast. It takes place in the town of Tramore just down the road from Waterford.

The was on the Saturday so we headed down on the Friday to check into our hotel, get registered, and get a quick fish and chips by the sea. Tramore beach itself is quite exposed with some arcades and a fair ground with a Bridlington feel going on.

The swim

Rough seas meant the swim was cancelled so it was straight into a 90k bike ride. I was very relieved. I’ve struggled to acclimatise to sea swimming over here and that was before all of the jellyfish started appearing. Still, we went in reverse alphabetical order so I was one of the first people on the start line with a hundred super bikes behind me.

The cycle

The route was described as challenging but when you are from Yorkshire, it would very much be labelled as “Yorkshire flat”. That said, the first half of the loop to Dungarvan included a bit of a headwind. Nice straight roads made for plenty of aero time for those that had been practising it.

After the half-way feed stop it turns back along the coast road. This offers some glimpses of the seas before moving inland for a while and then comes back to the cliff tops for some more undulating terrain. I stand by my previous comment about the profile but there was one climb from a beach to a cliff that did briefly hit 15%.

The run

Once back into transition it was onto the run. This was hilly. There were some flat bits but some quite steep hills, too. One of the hilliest triathlon run courses I have done. Thankfully, it finishes with a long downhill. I walked a lot of the uphills but mostly ran the rest of the way.

I thought the race instructions promised Red Bull at the half way point but alas, there was only water. There was plenty at the finish line, though, which I was very glad to see.

Results

My overall time was:

5:34:40

That was good enough for 165 out of 192 athletes. My splits were:

Discipline Time
Bike 3:23:33
Transition 5:38
Run 2:05:27

In an improvement over Lough Cutra four weeks ago, this one was not a DNF. My bike spit was faster by 25 minutes. Lough Cutra was about five kilometres longer but I was definitely in a bit better shape this time, though I had skipped a swim. My run time was less than a minute behind despite all of the hills and none of the cola.

While in some ways it is a defeat because I don’t think I would have made it around the swim course if the swim had been on. But accepting that life is hard right now, the rest of the numbers are promising. I would like to say thank you to the race organisers for being so kind and welcoming.

I did make it into one of the official race photos. You can see me sitting on the wall in the bottom right:

Lough Cutra Triathlon

Monday, May 29th, 2023 | Sport

To date, I’ve completed 54 triathlons across all distances and never had a DNF. That changed this weekend. I headed over to Lough Cutra Castle to take on The Gauntlet middle distance race. It is part of the Castle Triathlon Series alongside Castle Howard which I raced last year.

Preparation

Training had been going okay. I’ve been doing around seven hours per week. I have mostly focused on ultra running this year but I was consistently getting a swim in each week. My weakness was probably the bike as I had not taken it outside much this year.

I did try to get a long ride in a few weeks ago but I got a slow puncture and had to limp home. I had the local bike shop replace the tyre and they put some sealant in it. I gave it a few days and it was holding its pressure: happy days, I was ready to race.

Finally, I arrived at the venue on the morning of the race and found the tyre completely flat with sealant leaking all over my boot. I pumped it up and hoped for the best. Everything else went okay.

The swim

The swim course is a single lap around an island and back down the lake. The water was lovely and warm. Somewhere around 17-18 degrees. The wind had really picked up, though, and it made it very choppy. I’ve never seen anything like it on a lake; it was like having a sea swim.

The first half of the course was into the wind and fighting against the waves was very disorienting every time I tried to front crawl. I kept switching to breaststroke to calm myself down and then trying again but it wasn’t getting better so I did almost all breaststroke to the turn buoy and back, hoping that on the way back it would be going with the wind and therefore easier.

It was not easier. But I was also getting increasingly tired from the breaststroke and increasing cold from not going anywhere. I kept looking at how far away the side of the lake was. I’m used to having a little panic attack in the swim, dealing with and getting on with it. But the panic just kept coming and coming.

After 45 minutes in the water, I waved the white flag. The canoeist came over and supported me until the rib arrived to haul me out of the water. They checked my temperature and dropped me off at the swim start point.

The bike

I spoke to the officials in transition and they said they were happy for me to continue if I was feeling okay. Albeit with an official DNF, of course. I took a few minutes to get myself together and did a slow transition before heading out on the bike.

Th bike course is one single 94k loop. The route heads up to south shore of Galway Bay and takes in a lot of The Burren. The landscape was stark and barren. It reminded me a lot of the the north of England. The coastline was picturesque, too, and there was wide view from the top of Corkscrew Hill.

It is a flat course with less than 800 metres of evaluation gain and only two real climbs over the 94k. I was constantly stopping to check my tyre was holding pressure and thankfully it did for the whole race. But it took me a good 30 km to trust it.

Then I hit the first climb and my front derailleur stopped working. The gear shifter was stiff and nothing happened when I pressed it. I got off and walked my bike to the top of one section. When I got off it, it worked fine. But then I would get back on and it would stop working again. Great, I thought, just when I was starting to trust the bike.

I descended the first climb and at this point, my Garmin decided to suggest I was off course and needed to make a U-turn. I couldn’t remember seeing a sign so I tracked back a kilometre until I saw another competitor going the opposite way. I was on the right road after all. That added an extra kilometre onto my route.

Later on, my front derailleur started working again. That was nice.

The big takeaway from the cycle was how evident it was that I had not spent enough time in the saddle. I was able to put the power out but my bottom was so sore by the end that I had to stop every 10k for the last 30 kilometres to give it a rest.

The run

Finally, onto something I felt comfortable. No drowning, no mechanicals, just regular running. Just 3 x 7k loops.

I felt pretty crap by this point but 21k did not seem insurmountable. I did some walking on the first lap and realised I was probably under-fuelling so tried to have a gel and some coke on each lap. This made me feel better, although my pace was pretty consistent. I wanted to chill out but also get under seven hours even though it was meaningless given I didn’t complete the swim.

The feed station had coke the entire time. Often they run out by the time I’m getting towards the end of my run. They did run out of cups, though, so we had to try and drink from the bottle without touching the bottle which ended exactly how you might imagine it to end.

Things were quiet on the second lap and even more quiet in third. Except for the occasional child on a bike coming past me as by this time, their off-road triathlon had started.

I was very pleased to arrive at the finish line. I declined the medal as I hadn’t really finished the thing. Castle Race Series do a good job of high-quality food for Gauntlet competitors and I was given a beef stroganoff (vegetable was also available, of course).

The result

My official result is, of course:

DNF

But for what it is worth, my watch recorded a time of 6:55:50 which breaks down into the following splits:

Discipline Time
Swim 45:38
T1 8:37
Bike 3:49:02
T2 4:50
Run 2:04:43

The run time was frustratingly slow. I’m not a gifted athlete. So, when I started getting my run times down, like the 1:48 I ran at Outlaw X it felt great. This was slow. Not quite Weymouth slow but I am still training seven hours a week and this is all I get?

I want to say a big thank you to all of the volunteers who cheered me on at feed stations and junctions, and gave up their time to make the race possible. And to the water safety crew for looking after me.

The aftermath

What went wrong?

My training hasn’t been stellar. I haven’t done any open water swimming this year and my training has been loosely structured. But I stress that I am still training around seven hours a week, which is a lot by any normal person’s standards and enough to complete a middle triathlon triathlon.

The lack of structure was also unhelpful. It is one thing to be putting in the hours. But I wasn’t getting the long rides in. This just made things uncomfortable; it didn’t stop my race. But the lack of open water swimming really did kill my race. This is time consuming and difficult in early season and I just haven’t had the temporal or mental capacity to do difficult and time consuming things.

More to the point, I think I am just in a bad place psychologically right now. The various crises going on in my personal life and being utterly overloaded by trying to do a PhD, work three jobs, be a dad and still train have taken its tole. I’ve felt anxious, depressed, sad, hopeless and overwhelmed. All of these challenges mean my resilience is running lower than usual. And if feeling that way wasn’t enough, here is the proof that things are hard right now. Perseverance is one of my signature strengths but it just isn’t fully there at the moment.

After the race, I felt like I didn’t want to do triathlon anymore. Or maybe just some sprints. It still hurts right now which is no place to make a decision. But I am also on the clock as I already had another middle distance booked for four weeks time.

Let’s look at what went right. I got 45 minutes into the swim. I kept myself safe. I cycled for 95 km for the first time since August. I ran a half marathon and did all of this on the same day: even though this is my fifth middle distance it is still no easy thing to do.

I find it hard to give myself and a break and say these things to myself so I am going to say them here: Chris, I love you and I’m so proud of you. For fighting for so long, for accepting it was time to quit, for getting back out there, and for all of the things you are doing to try and improve yourself.

Thanks for reading this far. I can’t wait to see you all soon.

Naas triathlon

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 | Sport

As Chrissie Wellington always says “just because you’re homeless in a foreign country, you can still do a triathlon.” She’s never said those words exactly but I think the sentiment is implied. So, being in Dublin, I signed up for the Swim Smoith Naas Triathlon, a sprint distance race that takes place at the end of September.

It’s pool-based but still includes a 750m (30-length) swim followed by a 20k bike and 5k run. I had hoped that Trinity Triathlon Club would be racing there so there would be some friendly faces but they were off doing a freshers’ week bike ride so a solo adventure it would be (with my cheering squad in the car, of course!). Registration opened at 6:30 and bib numbers were handed out in order so I was number three. I then sat in my car for a while because I couldn’t find transition. Some poor lass was wandering backwards and forwards trying to find it before eventually a crowd gathered and led the way. There was supposed to be a map in the race handbook but it had been missed off.

Most of my triathlon gear is in the UK so I had to improvise: with no race belt I had to safety pin my number to a t-shirt I could pull on after the swim. I only received one number and four safety pins. Two of which I then dropped down the side of my gear stick to disappear forever. Which meant I had to pin my number to the front with only two pins and hope for the best.

The race briefing was late, which was great because then I didn’t feel guilty about a free-race wee even though I was supposed to be on the pool deck by then. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. The start was a little chaotic. There were four people in each of the five lanes. But it was a mass start. And there are no overtaking mid-lane. I suggested we arrange ourselves in predicted swim times and this worked well. Despite the chaos, our lane marshall was lovely and I kept hearing her shout “go Chris” at the end of each lap.

I sprinted the last few lengths to get my heart rate up before emerging into the cool Irish morning air. It was freezing before the race, but luckily up to 8 degrees by the end of the swim. I didn’t have any of my fancy tri shoes so I had to sit down like a chump and tie my laces on the pair of bike shoe I did have in the country. I also pulled on some arm warmers and my race number t-shirt and was on my way. Even with all of that, I think I still went through T1 faster than some of my early races.

The bike course was reasonably flat. I came off the aero bars for a few of the hills but mostly I was able to stick it out. It was a simple out-and-back. Roads were not closed but there were garda at both ends slowing traffic (there wasn’t much) and when I stopped for a red light the marshalls instructed me to go straight through it. The road surface varied. At one point, my bike started shaking and I wondered whether I had a slow rear puncture. But then the road surface went silky smooth again and I realised that was the cause.

T2 involved more lace-tying and then I was off onto the run. This was also a simple out-and-back with very gentle hills. I didn’t have my super-shoes but my Hoka Bondis got me through. I warmed up on the run in my arm warmers and t-shirt over tri top but not to the point I was overheating. And certainly not enough for the old cup of water over the head trick at the 2.5k aid station.

Post-race goodies included a bottle of water, a banana and a t-shirt. It’s a nice technical shirt with thicker fabric on the front and back and more breathable fabric under the arms.

They didn’t hang around dismantling transition after the race. Most people still had their bikes checked in when they took the barriers away. However, it was a more relaxed event than most and there weren’t many expensive bikes in there. I’m used to being dominated by super-bikes but at this, mine was one of the higher end ones.

The race haven’t released any official results but according to my watch my time was:

1:21:37

And my splits were:

Discipline Time
SUP 17:10
T1 4:34
Bike 37:50
T2 1:40
Run 20:23

Overall, it was a fun event. A little bit more chaotic than British events but plenty of focus on safety: bikes were checked when racking, clear signage on the race course and plenty of marshalls. And all of those marshalls were very friendly. It’s a lovely way to end the season.

IRONMAN Copenhagen

Friday, August 26th, 2022 | Sport

IRONMAN Copenhahen is a full-distance (3.8/180/42.2) triathlon that takes place in Denmark. You swim in Amager bay, cycle through Zealand and run around the waterfront of the city centre. I registered for this race back in 2019 as a way to challenge myself to race in another country. After an additional two years of COVID delays, it was finally here.

Registration and racking

IRONMAN events are an entire weekend in themselves. On Friday, we headed down to Amager Strandpark to register. They have six waves based on swim times and you get to pick which wave you want to be in at registration. I went for wave 5 (1:18-1:24) despite planning to swim a 1:40, as I wanted to avoid weak swimmers who constantly stop, switch to breaststroke and generally get in the way. They had an incorrect date of birth for me, which also happened in Weymouth, but that was soon fixed.

We headed back down to the park on Saturday. This time, I cycled down. The cycling infrastructure is great in Copenhagen so the only challenge was navigating there. Luckily, I found a pack of other athletes heading in the same direction and followed them. Getting to the park and back so many times was a pain as it was about 6km from the finish line where we were staying. Bike check-in consisted of racking our bike and swim-to-bike bags, and dropping off our bike-to-run bags that would then be transported to the city centre.

Race day morning

It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose over Amager. I had pre-booked a taxi to get me to the start line and luckily it arrived right on time. Pre-race was pretty chilled as the only things I needed to do was set up my bike computer, place my nutrition on my bike and add a few bits to my bike bag. That allowed plenty of time to get through the 20-minute toilet queue.

The commentators proudly and repeadly told us that it is the only IRONMAN event that takes place in a capital city. I’m not familiar with all of the IRONMAN events but I’m pretty sure Tallinn is the capital of Estonia.

I did not want to carry bottles of Lucozade across borders so I took some gels and bars and decided to buy the rest in Copenhagen. I managed to find some Powerade and Lay’s crisps which did the trick. Alongside that I had bags of Haribo, Rawvelo brownies, the last OTE Duo I had been saving for this and a mixture of Torq and Moutnain Fuel gels.

There was a swim warm-up area next to the start where we could get in and do some strokes before setting off. It was shallow and warm. The official water temperature was 20.3 degrees, which is a couple of degrees warmer than usual and almost too warm for swimming in a wetsuit.

The swim

After all the waiting, finally it was show time. Pre-race, I was worried they wouldn’t get us in to the water on time and therefore we would have reduced cut-offs (roads gradually start re-opening at 14:00 regardless of what time you start). However, they were ahead of schedule and my 7:40 wave was all in the water on time.

It was a hard start to the swim. The first buoy was all about people finding their lanes. But as we came up to the first bridge marking the 600m I felt panicked. It felt like I had been swimming for ages (it was probably 15 minutes in) and that I hadn’t even made a dent in the distance. I thought about swimming to the shore and getting out. Then I got myself into self-coaching mode and decided to do some easy breaststroke to bring my heart rate down. After all that, I was the annoying athlete who switched to breaststroke! But at least I was out of the way by this point 😂.

From then on it got easier. As we headed up the bay towards the inlet it got weedy and shallow. At the final turn buoy most people got up and walked. At first I was determined to swim the whole thing. Then I thought self-compassion might be a better skill to develop. In the end, the practicalities of trying to swim when everyone else was walking was too much and I decided to get up and walk for a bit too.

One of the things I loved about racing in Europe was that all the signage was in metric. They had distance markers on each bridge, road signs every 10k on the bike course and kilometre markers on the run course, all without the hassle of having to convert it from imperial to standard measurements.

Transition 1

I was very pleased to be done with the swim. T1 went fine. I was in and out in under 12 minutes. That’s a long time for most athletes but over six minutes faster than I went through T1 at Outlaw. There was no messing about: change, sun cream, eat my crisps, have a wee and then the long run to get my bike and get on the road.

If you’re wondering “why not wee during the swim and save time?” I did. In fact, I spent most the final third of the swim urinating the entire time. Most of the Baltic passed through my bladder.

The bike

The first kilometre passed quickly. If only it all felt that easy. We went out through the city centre, industrial parts of the city and then onto the coastline. It was gorgcious. Riding through the city was lovely but then the coastline was beautiful beaches all of the way up. Afer that, we headed inland where the terrain was a little more rolling but took us through some lovely forests that provided shade. In total there was about 1,000 metres of elevation gain so fractionally hillier than Outlaw but still very much a flat course with no real climbs.

Towards the end of the loop you reach Geels Bakke, the course’s equivalent of Solar Hill at Challenge Roth. It is barely a hill but there were plenty of spectators cheering on the first loop, including one woman who came and ran alongside screaming, and music playing at the top. After this point there is the third aid station and then you either go on to your second lap or head back to the city.

Unfortunately, just after I had gone through this I opened my gel flask to take a second gel and then hit a pot hole. Gel went all over my hand and handlebars. It’s so sticky. I tried to wipe it off with a tissue but the tissue just stuck to it and made the problem worse. The only thing I had on my bike was two bottles of Powerade so, in the end, I resorted to washing it off with the sports drink and accepting that everything was going to be sticky until the next aid station which was a long way away.

When I finally got there, I grabbed a bottle of water and hosed down my arm, handlebars, aero bars and back pocket. The whole bike course was quiet: it’s IRONMAN so the roads are closed and there weren’t many other athletes. By lap two, the aid stations were quitening down as well. Geels Bakke only had a few spectators left. I went a bit off-script on the second lap and had a banana. I don’t like bananas but after eight hours of hard cardio your taste buds don’t care so much.

Transition 2

The final 10k was hard. I kept switching from “I’m nearly there, I can hold the aero position for 20 minutes” to “I can’t be on a bike for a second longer” and constantly riding out-ot-the-saddle to stretch my bag. At T2, volunteers were there to collect and rack our bikes at the dismount line.

This made for a pretty short transition but I wasn’t in the mood to go flying through, so I changed, put some more sun cream on, ate my crisps and carefully re-racked my transition bag before talking a leasuirly walk to the run exit.

The run

The run consisted of 4 x 10.5k loops that went south past the finish line, then turned up north and went along the docks before heading back to the T2/finish line area. You collected a different colour wristband on each lap so that by the end you had a rainbow to prove you had done the required distance.

The aid stations were poorly organised. On lap one, one of them temporarily ran out of cups. As the laps went on, this became terminal. Each aid station was a pot luck of what they had left. Some had Gatorade, some had Red Bull, some had water. The lack of cups meant they started using the hosepipes that had been cooling sprays to spray water directly into people’s mouths. With no cups left, they just started pulling 330ml cans on Red Bull on the table and I ended up running the second half the marathon with a can in my hand.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen at races. But also makes me sad because if you want to be as inclusive as possible, you want your final athlete to get the same experience as your fastest. I think, if there was ever a next time. I would take a run special needs bag and place some caffeinated energy bidons in there just in case. I did this at Dalesman and it worked well.

The first lap felt good and Elina and Venla came to cheer me on. The second lap I felt empty. I had to start walking bits because I was so tired. I try to make it to the half way point before I start caffeinating and almost made it: I was at the last of the six aid stations when I switched to Red Bull. This perked me up for laps three and four. I was surprised at how much of a difference it made. Unfortunately, as discussed, they were out of coke and low on Red Bull by this point, so can-in-hand it was.

The support on the run course was good. People were cheering and some were reading everyone’s athlete bibs and calling us out by name. There was music along the course and I had a singalong to Never Going To Give You Up and Blinding Lights. There was even a Rammstein corner out by the docks.

The finish

I stopped at a porta potty with one kilometre to go so that I could freshen up and do my hair for the finish photo. Whenever I thought about finishing earlier in the day, I had to hold back tears because of what this race meant to me. I had been waiting 1,049 days to see if I could fly to a place I had never been before, manage all of the logistics of long-format triathlon and complete the race. But when I got to the finish line, it all happened so fast.

I heard the commentator talk about how excited I looked, but it was all such a blur that I didn’t even here him saying “you are an Ironman!” I should have walked it in like I did at Outlaw X. But no matter how slowly you try to take it, the end is always overwhelming and you cannot take it all in.

On the flip side, I did make it under the 13-hour mark. By 27 seconds. I barely looked at my watch all day as I was here to “enjoy it” so I had no idea what time I was on. So, it was a nice surprise when I found that out. Not quite as fast as Outlaw but faster than everything else.

12:59:33

Foolishly, many athletes went faster than I did and finished in broad daylight, which is horrible for photos. On the other hand, I and my fellow athletes who waited until 9pm to finish received the beautiful light of the magic hour.

The splits were:

Disipline Copenhagen Outlaw Dalesman
Swim 1:35:14 1:37:20 1:33:40
T1 11:45 18:05 18:51
Bike 6:38:29 6:31:33 7:24:42
T2 11:18 17:00 9:42
Run 4:22:48 4:06:07 4:31:26

I am pleased with all of that. My swim time was comparative with last year. My transition times were to plan. My run was never going to match Outlaw, which was an all-out PB attempt, and even taking it easy (whatever that means twelve hours into a race) I was able to run faster than Dalesman.

After the race, we received a finishers t-shirt, massage and plant-based burger that was all included in the entry fee. When toy finish a full distance you’re exhausted and night is on the way, so I pulled on my leggings, base layer, HPH hoodie and the bobble hat I won at Llanberis to stay warm. In the changing tent I heard someone say “I wasn’t expecting the bike course to be so hilly.” God help that guy if he ever visits Yorkshire. My night’s sleep wasn’t too bad given the caffeine and soreness but my aging body was limping around Copenhagen for the next two days.

Conclusion

This race was not just a race to me. When I first started triathlon in 2018, I did so more to grow as a person than for any sporting reasons. I wanted to prove to myself that I was stronger than I thought I was. Now I am sitting writing in an apartment in Copenhagen, itself a miracle on the background of how much I hate travelling, as a six-times IRONMAN triathlete.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves, “I’ve done it before, it’s no so hard”. But it is that hard. We’re just stronger than our self-doubt tells us. I like full distance racing because it is so hard and so long. You can’t just grit your teeth and push through for a little bit: you have to sit with the pain for hour after hour after hour. You have to make friends with it and get comfortable with it. And that is a skill that often neglect in life.

I don’t know if this is the end of the journey. But it probably is the end of a chapter. I’ve now done 52 triathlons, six of which were full distance, and achieved everything I set out to achieve. And I’m excited about the next chapter of my life which is going to have more of a dessert cookbook theme.

Sun City Triathlon

Friday, August 12th, 2022 | Sport

Sun City Triathlon is a sprint triathlon with a sea swim that takes place in Sunderland. I signed up to get some additional sea swimming in ahead of Copenhagen.

It was a 7:30am mass start so we drove up the night before and stayed over. Registration was in the Grand Sunderland Hotel but could have done with some signage as it took me a while to find the main entrance. Thankfully, I eventually did, registered and headed to transition to setup and eat some breakfast.

The race brief was short. Long race briefings are annoying, so that was nice. But in this case, I could have done with a few more details as the no-overtaking zone wasn’t fully explained or signed. Also, the run course was not clear because the map they had sent out was for their duathlon and the instructions also referred to the duathlon. So, even having read the athlete information several times, I was still unclear. But in their defence, they did also publish a video of the course that I did not watch.

The swim

It was a cloudy but warm day on the beach and we had the chance to acclimatise in the water for a few minutes. It was super-cold. The race information suggested it would be 15 degrees. The RNLI were saying 12. I am not sure who was right, but my face was super cold but when I put it in. I did some sprinting up and down the beach to try and warm up.

Once the air horn went, the temperature was less of an issue as it was game on. I positioned myself at the back and just like Castle Howard this was a mistake. I kept getting boxed in between people switching between crawl and breaststroke. I still think of myself was a weaker swimmer so I need to change that mindset as I’m consistently stronger and faster than the back row now.

Apparently it was just moving into jellyfish season so every time I felt something or saw something in the water I was paranoid I was about to be stung. Perhaps I should have spent less time thinking about the athlete who said she went into anaphylactic shock after being stung, and more time thinking about how Daniela Ryf was stung during the 2018 IRONMAN World Championship and still went to both win the race and set a new course record.

The sea was calm but even on a calm day, there is the constant swell of the waves. Once I found some clear water, I found it easy to settle into a rhythm where I could time my strokes and my breathing with the swell. This got a little thicker on the way back as it came from behind me. The course was supposed to be triangular but there were swimmers heading off in completely different directions so I just set a line towards the beach.

The run from the swim quite a distance: up the beach, up the steps, along the promenade, up some more steps, along more promenade and finally into transition. At this point, my hands decided it had been a very cold swim after all and did not want to take my wetsuit off. I also managed to hit the lap button twice in T1, recording the entire bike section as T2.

The bike

It was a relatively straightforward bike course with a couple of U-turns and some gentle gradients but nothing to get out of the saddle for. Very little wind, either, until I was on my fourth and final lap and thinking to myself “so nice it is not windy” before I turned a corner and hit a strong headwind. I used 50% aero bars with some hoods on the up and down bits, averaging a very unsatisfying 29.9 kph average moving speed.

The run

The run went out along the cliff tops before dropping down onto the beachfront and crossing under itself beneath a bridge. Due to not properly understanding the aforementioned instructions and the route being unmarked, I got to a crossing early on and wasn’t sure if it was straight on across. Unfortunately, the marshall was on his phone at the time aod not paying attention but luckily there was another athlete from Sun City Tri just behind me who knew where he was going. After this it was smooth sailing.

The result

My official time was:

1:27:26

That gave me 60th place out of a field of 106. However, if you include the 4 DNFs and 21 DNSs, that moves me into the top half 😂. Here are the splits:

Section Time
Swim 21:47
T1 2:31
Bike 41:21
T2 1:17
Run 20:30

The swim time includes the three-minute run up to transition, so the actual swimming time was under 19 minutes. My watch clocked the run at 4.65 km. It is usually short, but not that short, so I think the run course was less than 5 km.

York Triathlon

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 | Sport

York Triathlon is a sprint distance race based at York Sport Village.

Registration gave me an C5 envelope and pointed to a packet with inside it that they said contained my stickers. What they actually meant was that the envelope as a whole contained the stickers and not the packet inside it. Which, when I opened it, turned out to be a bag of oats. I was there early enough to get a bacon sandwich (avoiding the wasps) and queue for one of the two toilets that seemed to be available: one gender-neutral one and one in the men’s changing room.

There was no assigned racking in transition so I put my bike in the first available space. However, after walking through it, the swim in and run out were at one end, and the bike in and out were at the other. So, to minimise time spent running in my bike shoes, I moved my bike as close to the bike in/out as possible. At this point, a technical official told me off for pushing my bike without my helmet fastened. This isn’t a rule.

The swim

The swim was a 400-metre pool-based swim that sort of snakes down the pool: there were four lanes and you had to do four lengths in each one before moving onto the next one. This worked well as it meant the lanes were nice and wide with plenty of space for overtaking. I’m sick of people giving bad estimates for their swim time and swimming over me so I’ve now added 30 seconds onto my actual swim time and that worked really well.

UK Triathlon (the event organiser) do not require you to wear a swim cap for their pool-based events so I was able to race in my Hyde Park Harriers swim cap.

The bike

The bike course could arguably be described as off-road. It was all on hard surface but neither was it on a road: it went through the pathways of York University campus. THere were cobbles (flat but often loose), lots of tight turns, speed bumps, road furniture and occasionally harassed-looking students wheeling large suitcases. I felt like I was playing the school level on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. To its credit, it was car-free.

The highly technical nature of the course meant that anyone with good bike handling skills could gain a lot of time. My cornering isn’t so smooth and so there was a lot of toing and throwing between the technical sections and the one or two straights.

The bike course was three kilometres long and required six laps to make up the distance. This is quite a big number to count and many people did seven.

The run

The run was four laps, mostly consisting of the cycle circuit with a few short grass sections. All of my prep has been long distance and I did not want to push too hard so I was pretty pleased with my time. There was an aid station on the final three laps so I was able to cool myself down with the some water (once I had worked out which was the High5 and which was the water!).

The result

My official time was:

1:11:00

That said, the official times are wrong. There seems to be a minute missing off the run: having compared with four other competitors we all have a mystery one-minute deduction on our run leg. Below, I’ve included the official timings and my watch timings. Given I have only ever gone sub-20 once over 5k, and it seems unlikely I would do this in a triathlon, especially one where I wasn’t trying to PB, I am included to believe my watch.

Section Official time Watch time
Swim 8:33 8:32
T1 1:09 1:18
Bike 39:46 39:29
T2 1:25 1:34
Run 20:07 21:02

Dan took a well-earned title of first Harrier home finishing 55 seconds faster. His new faster swim, combined with some solid bike handling skills, gave him an unailable lead going onto the run,

I did not splash out for the official photos ass they were £10 for one or £39 for the bundle.

Conclusion

Would I recommend it as a first triathlon? I would like more toilets, accurate timings and reasonably-priced photos. But it was well organised and, while technical, the bike course was car-free which would make it attractive for beginners.