Challenge Weymouth Half Tri – part 2 of 2

So, where did I leave you in part 1? On tenderhooks no doubt!! As I recall, I had exited the swim and was getting changed for my bike leg. This involved peeling off the rest of my wetsuit, putting on a cycle top, my cycle shoes, gloves and race belt (already stocked with 4 energy gels and some energy bars) before putting my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap into my bike bag. I took a few sips from a bottle of energy drink that I’d left in the transition bag and ran out of the changing tent to search for my bike. I’d counted how many rows I’d have to run past to get to it and found it fairly easily as there were far fewer bikes in transition as I arrived.

I got to my bike and put my helmet on before touching the bike (a golden rule of triathlon) and then unhooked my bike and ran out to the mount line. Safely past it, I climbed on and cycled off. Within seconds, my knee started rubbing the edge of one of the energy gel wrappers. 4 hours of that and it would have cut me to the bone.

As I turned out of Lodmoor Park and onto the road adjacent to the seafront, I sped up and ripped off each of the gels and put them in the back pocket of my cycle top. Next time I’ll find a better way to attach the gels to the top bar…

The first bit of the cycle leg was flat but once I reached the end of the run turnaround point, the cycle route started a gradual climb away from the sea. It was pretty easy and my legs felt fresh. I’d done lots of kicking as I swam to the shore to try and get the blood circulating as much as possible so that I wouldn’t have trouble getting upright and this had certainly woken them up ready for the run.

The climb lasted for almost 10K and peaked at 168m (from sea-level). There were some rather challenging sections including Ridgeway and the desire to get off and walk up one incline did cross my mind but I kept on pedaling and pedaling. Onwards and upwards. Ever upwards! It felt great to get to the top and to know that was the worst climb of the route over. I’d made it that far and there was no going back.

cycle map

I’ll not bother to describe the course as the map above does a much better job than I can. Given that we were going clockwise, I was surprised at how many left turns there were. The course was very well managed with marshals at every junction and no issues with other traffic. I had right-of-way at every junction and roundabout.

At about 1/3 of the way, there was an out and back section that was quite narrow in places. In fact, there had been a collision at one point half way along and an ambulance was on scene. That meant stopping to let other cyclists from the other direction through.

Once I got to the turnaround point, I headed back southwards and soon saw Tamsyn and, shortly behind her, Jan. Tamsyn had done a great job of catching up as her swim wave started 5 minutes after mine. My goal was to try and keep her behind me for the rest of the cycle course!

The next section was pretty flat. I hit the half-way mark in about 2 hours and 5 minutes. Slightly behind schedule but given the first half of the course had more ascents than descents, that was fine.

There still appeared to be too many left hand turns and I was wondering whether some of the signs had been misplaced at one point! My hips were starting to ache and I was getting saddle sore. It felt good to be over half way around the course but I can’t say that I was enjoying the ride too much. The weather was good though and there wasn’t any wind to write home about so I really couldn’t complain. I took any opportunity to stretch and get out of the saddle that I could.

Once I’d got close to Wareham, I knew the roads we’d be taking most of the way back to Weymouth. I’d struggled on them on the ride with Chris but that was largely due to the fact that at that time I’d cycled about 60 miles already. I tried to recall if there were any really challenging ascents but couldn’t remember any.

On the ride, I kept taking energy gels about every 30-40 minutes and downed 1500ml of water/energy drinks over the whole duration of the cycle leg. I should have probably had more of the latter but did the best I could. They say that it’s far better to hydrate on the bike than the run. Advice duly heeded.

Soon I passed a sign showing that Weymouth was 12 miles away. My Garmin suggested it was 9. I was hoping the Garmin was right. The rest of the ride was uneventful apart from seeing another sign saying Weymouth was 7 miles. I hoped it was 4! It turned out the Garmin was right and before I knew it, there was a roundabout where there was a choice of returning to T2 or starting a 2nd lap of the bike course (for those doing the full Ironman distance). I followed the signs to T2 and immediately questioned myself as to whether that was right. It was! Phew!

Before I knew it, I was back on the road that ran parallel to the promenade and Lodmoor Park was visible in the distance. I glanced across to the Prom to see runners. I’d get my chance before long. My hips were still achy and I wasn’t really looking forward to a 25km run.

I turned into Lodmoor Park and rode to the dismount line. Having successfully unclipped, I handed by bike to a stranger in the vague hope that I may never see it again! Once we parted ways, I found my ‘run’ transition bag and headed back into the change tent to remove my cycle gear (helmet, gloves and shoes) and put on my cap and running shoes. As I’d entered the tent, I’d seen Tamsyn roll in on her bike. She’d caught me up on the cycle. I gave her some words of encouragement and as I got ready for my run saw Tamsyn run out onto the final leg of her event ahead of me. I hoped that I’d be able to keep her in my sights for the rest of the run.

I could go into great detail about the run but it wasn’t pleasant! My hips were aching. Seeing almost the full distance we had to run from one end of promenade to the Pavilion and back wasn’t much fun!! Also, I’d forgotten two things in transition. Firstly, I’d left my cycling top on and was sweltering. Also, I’d forgotten to put socks on and almost immediately into the run I could feel sore spots developing on each instep. I have to say that the combination wasn’t great and it wasn’t long before I was taking regular walk breaks. This was going to be tough. The thing that kept me going was seeing friends out on the course as well as Eleanore, Katherine, Ant and Lyndsey who were supporting us and lots of very supportive locals (including ex-work colleague Sandy and his wife).

With our names on our race numbers, it was great to hear personal shouts of encouragement along the way. The run course was 2 and a half laps. The first 1/2 lap was from Lodmoor to the Pavilion and then then two laps from the Pavilion to the turnaround point and back. I have to say that had there been an opportunity for a short-cut I would have been tempted to take it at various points during the run but with timing mats at either end, that wasn’t a viable option!!! Darn!!

running lap 1

© Sandy Sproule

running lap 3

© Eleanore Coulthard

running past finish

© Katherine Anteney

Having completed 2 laps, I was back at the swim start at Lodmoor and was heading to the finish. I’d refueled at every water station on the run course but missed out the last opportunity as I wanted to hit my 2:30 target. I’d like to say that I’d paced it perfectly as I crossed the line in 2:30:08 but the reality was that the course wasn’t the advertised 25km but closer to the correct half marathon distance of 21km. I’d paced myself for a 25km run rather than a half-marathon though.

I’ve no idea why the Race Director thought it was 4km longer than it actually was. That can’t be accounted for by GPS errors even on a 2.5 lap course. However, it does make me wonder whether the full distance run was the correct length.

OK, so here are my vital stats for the day:

  • Swim (1.8km): 00:53:38
  • T1: 00:06:53
  • Cycle (90km): 03:59:55
  • T2: 00:03:13
  • Run (21km): 02:30:08
  • Total: 07:33:48

Overall, I was just shy of 4 minutes outside my goal time (forgetting that the run course was shorter than expected!) I was very happy to complete the course and staggered up the steps into the Pavilion to collect my race T-shirt. I was greeted by Tamsyn who was recovering from her excellent performance having finished in 07:24:54. Well done Tamsyn.

Having chatted with Tamsyn and James for a while, I headed out as I had to get to Denise’s parents to pick up the boys to get them home to bed before it was too late. As I left the Pavilion, I spotted Eleanore and then chatted with Gary, Roelie and James for a few minutes before heading back along the promenade to Lodmoor to pick up my bike and head home.

post event groupie

© Katherine Anteney

Half Ironman distance triathlon completed. Happy! I could have gone faster. That’ll have to wait until next year though. More training. Longer runs. More time on the bike tackling more hills. Lots to do! Just need to find the time!!

In hindsight, I really enjoyed the event. It was really well organised. I couldn’t have chosen a better located hotel. It was great to have so many triathlon friends at the event. The bike course was challenging but not unduly so. The sea was far worse than I expected but I now know that I could swim in pretty much any conditions! The run was great because there were so many spectators along the course and lots of opportunity to see friends as we went backwards and forwards along the prom.

Would I consider a full Ironman now? Not a chance!! I simply don’t have the time to commit to the training and don’t think I’d manage a marathon after a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike ride. Maybe one day. Until that day, I’m considering a marathon for next year but am not committing to one! I’d like to do some more half distance events too. Have a couple in mind. Maybe Weymouth again as it’s close to home. Anyone fancy joining me?

Challenge Weymouth Half Tri – part 1 of 2

My big challenge for the year was the Challenge Weymouth Half Triathlon. Having only competed in sprint distance triathlons, this was quite a big step up from what I was used to.

This is the first of a 2 part post about the event. I’ve written it at about 2am so please excuse and typos etc as I’ve not checked it yet. I’ve also borrowed some photos from friends that were also at the event. Hope that’s ok!!

My training for the event fell apart after about 8 weeks due to my back injury, work and any other excuse I can think of sharing. I did my best to get my training back on track but really didn’t do the training justice. Before I knew it, the weekend had arrived and there was no turning back.

Fortunately, several triathlon friends were competing (Tamsyn, Stuart, Gary, Roelie, James, Liz, Suzanne, Dean, Jan and Paul to name as many as I can currently remember!)

I had found a Premier Inn which I hoped was close to the race venue, Lodmoor Park, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel was adjacent to the park.

As Denise was surfing in Devon for the weekend, I dropped the boys off at their grandparents on the way down to Weymouth. My plan was to drive down, park in the local ‘Park and Ride’, take the bus to the seafront and then register at the Pavilion before heading back to the car to then drive to Lodmoor Park to rack my bike.

All went to plan and it was good meet Tamsyn, Stuart and Dean near the Pavillion before I registered.

Registration was a breeze although I’d accidentally  taken my old BTF Licence and ended up paying £5. D’oh.

Once I’d signed in, picked up the multitude of transition bags and signed my name alongside the signatures of many other competitors, consumed a pint of Erdinger along the seafront, I headed back to catch the bus back to the park and ride where I picked up the car and drove to the hotel. My room overlooked the bike racking area which was empty at the time.

Having checked in, paid for a breakfast and checked out my room, which had a great view onto the transition area and bike racking, I went down to rack my bike amongst the millions of £s of other competitor’s bikes in the knowledge that the saddle on some of the bikes cost more than my bike.

room from hotel room

Having racked I spotted Tamsyn and Stuart and we attended an informal overview of the changing and transition procedure. It was all a little confusing. As with lots of mass participation events (or so I was told), transition between each of the disciplines involved bags. Each was coloured and we had a red cycle bag which we placed our cycling clothing in, a blue run bag and a green street-wear bag. These were to be left in designated areas and then picked up as we entered T1 and T2 where we then proceeded to the changing tent to swap clothing as required. I’ll explain more as I detail the day itself.

So, that was racking done. Stuart and Tamsyn very kindly offered me a lift back to the centre so that we could attend the race briefing which was held in the Pavilion building where we’d already registered. I hadn’t given this much thought and expected a small percentage of participants to attend and for it to consequently be held in a small room. How wrong was I?

As we entered the door, it turned out that registration was being held in a theatre and it must have been attended by every participant. There was no room for spouses, other family members or children. It was full to bursting.

race briefing

The briefing was given by the Race Director, Alan, and the Chief Technical Official whose name escapes me (and would add little to this post should I recall it!)

The briefing was excellent. Very informative and amusing in many places. It lasted over an hour but didn’t seem too long and was pitched very well. At the end, there were lots of questions raised which we waited to hear about. The only unwelcome information was than the run distance had crept up to 25km (it should really be 21km)! OMG!

Having received that bombshell, we left the theatre to drown out the bad news with another Erdinger. Before doing so, we joined a few of the others for a chat and a group photo.

post reg groupie

© Photo by Janice Goble

Having discussed the over-lengthening run course, everyone disappeared to their various hotels and I walked the mile or so along the seafront back to my hotel.

As I walked, I looked out at the sea and saw it was a little choppy. This bought back memories of two sea-related incidents from my past. One was as a child when my twin brother and I were in a rubber dinghy which got overturned and I thought I was drowning before being rescued by my dad and the other episode was on a holiday in Greece where I was windsurfing and the wind picked up and I got swept out and tried desperately to get back into shore before resorting to trying to swim back with the board dragging behind me. Rather than get back safely under my own steam, I was rescued in a safety boat. Oh happy days!

As I got close to the hotel, I checked out the swim course, admired the waves, prayed that the sea would look like a mirror in the morning and received a text message from Eleanore who was camping out in the Brewers Fayre whilst waiting for Gary (her partner), Roelie and James to rack their bikes.

I went to join Eleanore and we chatted over a drink. Gary, Roelie and James arrived and we chatted some more. I haven’t really spoken to James that much in the past but he’s a legend. Really friendly, funny and good company. Roelie is too. As are Gary and Eleanore. And Tamsyn and Stuart. And Liz! Do I need to go on?!

The time was flying by and the others all headed back to their hotels and I returned to my room to try and work out what to put in each transition bag and then headed back to the Brewers Fayre for a meal. It was surprisingly quiet and I chose a pasta option to find that they’d run out. I decided on Tikka Masala instead and then subsequently hoped that it would not be a mistake the following day (it wasn’t).

Once I’d eaten, I decided to recce the eastern part of the run course along the promenade. It was quite breezy and as I’d not run for a few days, I decided to run/walk the mile or so to the turnaround point and then do the same on the way back. I was quite pleasantly surprised that the out wasn’t as far out as I’d thought but did Google map my position and compare it to the course map just to be sure.

swim start 1

run recce 2

run recce 1

I headed back to my room, once again looked out at the spectacle of 1800 bikes racked and ready for the following morning.

It was time to get my transition bags sorted once and for all. As I’ve mentioned before, we had 3 bags. For those with too much time on your hands, this is what I packed:

Cycle bag – cycle shoes, gloves, race belt with race numbers, sunglasses, gels, energy bars and a cycle top

Run bag – running shoes, socks, gels and a cap

Street bag – swim goggles, cap, trousers, T-shirt, hoodie, sun cream

I also put my numerous water bottles in the bathroom ready for filling the following morning.

Having packed everything else I had bought but didn’t need, I decided that it was time to relax, climbed into bed and took a look through the race booklet and turned off the light at 9pm in the hope of getting some sleep.

As it turned out, I slept like a baby. By that I mean waking every hour crying! Ok, so maybe there were no tears or screaming but it was certainly not a great night’s sleep. However, I know I did get some sleep as I dreamt about waking up, looking down at bike racking to see half the bikes missing and the thieves pretending to do star jumps to elude my expecting it was them involved with loading lorries with their two-wheeled lot.

During the night, I contemplated how long it would take to complete the challenge. With a 1.9 swim, I estimated that bad on my previous weekends lake swim that this would take the same time of 45 minutes. For the cycle, I estimated 4 hours. This was entirely based on the time it had taken Chris and I to cycle the first 90km of our 83 mile ride from Southampton to Weymouth a couple of weekends before.

My PB for a half marathon is 2 hours plus a number of seconds. I estimated that as I’d have a couple more miles to run that I’d add 20 minutes in and then add 10% on to account for the fact that I’d not be running on fresh legs. In fact, my legs might be completely mashed. Give or take a minute, that meant 2:30 for the 25km. Adding on 10 minutes for transitions that came to 7 hours and 30 minutes. I’d read that the average time to complete a half Ironman distance event was 6 hours so my estimate looked very sedate. In fact, it matched the average time for someone in their 80s :-S

My alarm woke me up at 5am. Yes, woke me up! I snoozed for another 10 minutes and then got up and showered. I then self-applied my race number tattoos to each arm (they are used primarily for identification if hauled unconscious out of the sea), put on my STC tri suit and t-shirt and shorts and then checked all my transition bags. In the process I struggled to remember where I’d left my keys and wallet so ended up going through the bags again.

Just before 6am, I went to drop off the transition bags and check out my bike.

bags

© Photo from Liz Carter

On the way down to hotel reception, I spoke to another competitor who asked whether I’d heard the announcement that the swim course was being shortened for the full distance competitors due to rough conditions and that there was a possibility that the swim leg might be cancelled completely. A decision would be made later about the swim for the half distance event once a better idea of the conditions had been established from seeing the full distance competitors struggle. This didn’t sound good. I didn’t want to see the severity of the conditions and hoped that the sea would calm down before my wave set off. As well as the course adjustment, all start times were delayed by 30 minutes.

Having heard the good news, I headed to transition.

bike racking

© Photo from Liz Carter

This gave me the opportunity to check my bike was in an ‘easy’ gear and add some gels to the top bar using elastic bands for easy removal on the go. I added my water bottles (containing water with High Five energy drink powder) and I was all done. As I headed to the Brewers Fayre for my continental breakfast, I saw and spoke to Mike from STC and his girlfriend who described the conditions. I then got a text from Eleanore to say that the group were camped out in the pub already.

I wandered around trying to find them but they’d gone back to their vehicle to do something so I grabbed breakfast after finding a large table with enough room for all of us to for around.

pre run groupie

© Eleanore Coulthard

Within a few minutes, Eleanore arrived so we chatted whilst consuming breakfast which for me consisted of a croissant, fruit, yoghurt and a Costa Americano.

Before long, we were joined my the rest of the group and the table was full. We had about 90 minutes until our respective waves were due to enter the sea which gave ample time to worry about the swim and the rest of the event. I was getting worried about the fact that I’d not run long for several months and hadn’t run anywhere close to half marathon distance since the previous November and had never run further than 14 miles. Too late to worry about it now though.

At about 7:45am, we got into our wetsuits (after several toilet trips) and headed out to see to the swim start area. The area was very busy and we didn’t get to see the sea until about 8:15am shortly after a group photo, spraying all around me with sun cream and dropping our green ‘street wear’ bags off.

pre-event groupie

© Eleanore Coulthard

As we walked into the beach, we said our final goodbyes, shared some hugs, good luck wishes and tried not too look at the crashing waves. Hmmm.

choppy sea

© James Nicolas

This was going to be interesting.

The green wave were called forward and Suzanne, Roelie and I walked to the start line. We shared some anxious glances and waited for the start horn to go off…

3…2…1… Honk!

I waded into the sea. It was difficult to keep upright. I imagined it would get easier once I was in the water but getting to a point deep enough to swim in was going to be challenge enough. At least whilst stood up I could see the buoys over the rolling sea. It became pretty obvious that sighting was going to get very difficult very quickly. Combined with the waves, the current and my lack of being competent in swimming in a straight line without lane ropes, there was a good chance I could be swimming much further than the 1.9km course (I forgot to mention that although the full-distance competitors had their course halved, the rest of us had to swim the full 1.9km).

As mentioned, sighting was very difficult. Not only were the buoys yellow and difficult to see anyway but only 1 in 5 attempts to sight the buoys gave a clear line of sight. More often than not, all I could see was a wall of water ahead of me. Fortunately, there were lots of kayaks out in the water and several of them were guiding swimmers back in course.

The first buoy was probably 400m from the shore. I’d estimate I swam an extra 50-75m to get there. Maybe more. The conditions didn’t get any easier and on many an occasion, I took a stroke to find I was lifted out of the water, catch and pulling in fresh air to be dumped back unceremoniously back into the sea.

I got to the first buoy eventually and tried to sight the next one. I had to stop and bob about for a couple of seconds before I spotted it and then ploughed on. Fortunately, there was only about 100m I swim to get to it. The conditions were not much better as the sea rolled threatening to take me off course.

Having rounded the 2nd buoy, it was time to head back to shore. There were a few things to use to sight and that made things a little easier. Shortly after I rounded the buoy, the lead swimmers from the following wave started swimming over me. I wasn’t concerned. I figured that I could follow them as they were clearly better swimmers than me having started 5 minutes after my wave.

This approach worked and I think my attempts to swim in a relatively straight line were quite successful.

As I got close to shore, the crashing waves made it difficult to get ashore. That was soon followed by the difficult of trying to stand up and get into the beach. Fortunately, assistance was on hand and I was hauled out to run along the beach to go through it all again. Oh joy!!

swim after lap 1

© Eleanore Coulthard

The second lap did seem slightly easier. I’d suffered it once and knew what to expect. I felt I swam a straighter course between buoys and used a little less energy. Shortly after the 2nd buoy someone swam over me at 90 degrees heading offshore. He stopped and I pointed towards to next buoys and told him that was the direction he was supposed to be swimming in.

There a great video of the sea conditions and our wave at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfMNhurT6W8

Once ashore, I peeled off the top half of my wetsuit and ran to T1. As I got there, I picked up my cycle bag and went into the changing tent, peeled off the rest of my wetsuit and sat down on an unstable bench and got ready for the 90km/56 mile cycle ride.

This post has gone on and on for more that either myself or you the reader can probably cope with so I’m turning this into a 2-parter.

Blenheim Triathlon 2014

I entered the Blenheim Triathlon several months ago after seeing it on Channel 4 and liking the idea of competing in a mass event. All of the other triathlons I’ve entered have been much smaller in comparison.

The venue was also a big draw with transition being in the courtyard of the palace. Other than some of the events that finish close to Buckingham Palace, Blenheim looked pretty spectacular.

The only negative I heard of were the 400m climb from the swim to T1. I guess the fact that the event was 75 minutes from home was also a negative as was the cost. However, I could live with those.

As a mass event, the triathlon was spread over 2 days with about 20 waves per day. Wow! A few weeks before the event, I found out that my wave time was 1:55pm. I was quite surprised it was so late but did like the idea that I’d not need to leave home before dawn!

On Saturday evening, I got all my kit together. I felt quite unprepared but my checklist meant that I had all I needed. I’d recently purchased a bike rack which fitted both cars so made sure I knew how it fitted.

IMG_8192

Having packed my kit, I was ready.

I got up at 7am on race day and my first dilemma was what to eat. I’m used to a pre-9am start for triathlons and yet my wave time meant I’d have another 5 hours to wait. I opted for 2 breakfasts in one (toast and shredded wheat) and to supplement this with energy gels later in the morning with enough, but not too much, hydration.

Originally, I’d planned to leave at about 9am but, rather than have to wait around, decided to hit the road when I was ready. That was 8:20am.

Having not used the bike rack before I was a little concerned about how secure it was and stopped to check the straps a couple of times. Each time, they’d become slightly loose.

The journey up was uneventful. Traffic was light and the weather absolutely beautiful for a day sightseeing at the Palace. It was definitely warm, sunny and a massive improvement on the previous day which had seen storms and severe downpours.

On arrival at the venue, I parked and un-racked the bike. I’d decided to leave everything in transition including my wetsuit until the last minute and carry a small rucksack with me. At registration I picked up my timing chip and neoprene ankle strap.

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As I headed for transition, I saw Ali and we chatted for a few minutes before I got to transition.

In the race pack which was posted out about 10 days before the event, you receive a security wristband and 2 labels. One label is affixed to the bars of the bike. The other to the helmet. The wristband is worn from arrival at the venue until departure and gives access to transition.

Transition is not closed which means you can come and go at will. That meant I could use it as my basecamp.

As I was in wave 16 and I’d arrived early, there were few bikes on my rack. Bikes are racked by arrival. Each wave had a rack with bikes being racked facing alternate directions. The sooner you arrive, the closer to bike in/out you are. Space between bikes is minimal and it was a bit of a squeeze getting my bucket and rucksack between my and my neighbour’s bikes.

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Having set up transition, I headed out to recce the swim assembly. I knew Teri was already at the Palace and had already done her recce. The venue was busy but not as busy as I’d expected.

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The bank down to swim entry was pretty steep and I was pretty glad we’d not need to run up that. My timing was pretty good as I got to swim assembly as a wave were preparing to start. The lake was massive and there was quite a headwind to swim into. The 750m course itself was marked out with 3 striped buoys and these looked pretty easy to sight. However, the course had a kink in it and as the wave set off, there was quite a spread across the lake of those that stuck to the line to the first two buoys and those that took a straight path to the 3rd buoy. I’m not sure which the better option was.

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Having seen the lake, I headed back to the competitor village and met up with Teri, her husband Tim and their daughter Emilia. This gave me chance to redeem the £5 for being a BTF member.

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We then all headed to relax for a while on the grass and watch the world go by. Before long, Nick and his wife walked by. We all chatted for a while before realising it was probably time to head to transition to collect our wetsuits. Transition was busier with more bikes racked and competitors competing.

IMG_8205

I double-checked my transition set up, left my deck shoes and collected my wetsuit and goggles. As it was warm, too warm, I was going to carry my wetsuit but then opted to put it half way on. It wasn’t a wrong decision.

My plan was to watch Teri and Nick’s wave which had a start time 1 hour ahead of mine and then just chill on the hill.

This plan worked well and Tim, Emilia and I watched Teri’s wave leave. With all the competitors in her wave in red swim caps, it was impossible to distinguish who was who on the pontoon.

Once Teri’s wave had set off, Tim and Emilia headed off to find a position to see her on the bike and run. I chilled and watched the safety briefing of the next wave expertly delivered by the ‘team leader’.

As I waited, I spotted Ben from Try Tri and we chatted for a while.

As wave 15 headed to the Pontoon and into the water, my wave, wave 16, were called to swim assembly for our briefing.

We were told that the bike/run course was wet in places and the wind would be problematic during the bike section. The 38lb pike was also mentioned as was the climb from the lake to T1. We were also reminded to hydrate regularly.

After a hug with another random competitor (as instructed in the briefing!), we headed onto the pontoon and into the lake. The pontoon was moving from side to side a fair amount and it felt a bit odd as we walked along it. Once I’d reached the end, there was a decision to make; sit down and shuffle in or pencil dive (no head first dives). I opted to do the pencil dive. Good choice in hindsight.

It took me a moment to acclimatise to the water temperature which was a very reasonable 18-19 deg C.

I found myself at the front of the swimmers close to the buoy nearest the pontoon. Not sure of whether that was good or bad. I’d normally position myself further back from the line but the closer to the line I was, the less distance I’d have to swim.

The start horn went off and I almost didn’t hear it. I started my Garmin and was off.

The wave was full of male swimmers and we were tightly packed at the start. It was a battle of flailing arms and legs. I succeeded in not being kicked in the face. Just.

The leg to the turn seemed very long and I followed as straight a course as possible. I sighted often. There appeared to be quite a few swimmers around including a few doing breaststroke. It was a little difficult seeing the buoys over the swimmers at times.

The water wasn’t very clear. Marginally better than a Lakeside which I was very surprised at as I’d expected it to be crystal clear.

I got to the 3rd buoy and battled to get around it due to several swimmers being bunched together. Another opportunity to be kicked which I fortunately avoided.

Once the buoy was rounded it was a case of working out where to swim to next. Another large striped buoy gave it away.

I was expecting it to be a short leg to dry land but that didn’t appear to be the case. To pump some blood into my legs and make sure they weren’t like jelly when I stood up I did a series of hard flutter kicks. After swimming so far lying horizontally (not that far really – 30 lengths of a 25m pool), getting vertical can be a challenge. I didn’t want that to be the case.

The exit had a submerged pontoon which you swim onto and then get onto your feet. Very nice exit compared to many. I swam onto it, got up and was helped by a marshal as the bank was quite steep.

Now for the tough 400m run/walk/crawl to T1. One word – nasty. Although I walked for about 30 seconds I tried to jog as much as I could. Not easy but I knew that if I didn’t, it’d take all afternoon. The sooner I crossed the finish line and got out of the sun, the better. My wetsuit was down to my waist with my goggles and swim cap in one of the arms.

Having made it up the hill and run between a well-populated spectator area, it was time to prepare for T1 which was 100m away.

I found my bike easily due to be cyan towel and red bucket. My wet suit was off fairly quickly. I decided not to wear the gel finger-less gloves as I didn’t want sweaty hands now the sun was beating down. Having put on my sunglasses and helmet, I stepped into my race belt, slid the number around to the back and put my bike shoes on. I was ready to un-rack my bike but spent a moment making sure my run-gear was ready for T2.

Then it was time to go. My racking position meant only a short run to ‘bike out’. The mount line wasn’t far so I stopped, composed myself and got on the bike. Having decided that the day was about enjoying the experience, I didn’t want to rush.

Clipping into the pedals was dreamy. So much nicer than Cotswold where my cleats were full of gravel.

The first bit of the bike course was downhill with lots of spectators. A good opportunity to enjoy some speed. It didn’t last long.

The bike leg for the sprint distance was 3 laps. That meant 1 lap to recce the course and then 2 more laps to enjoy or endure the scenery. As the course is undulating with a section of nasty climb which meant getting out of the saddle. Endure was the order to the day.

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The bike leg was largely uneventful. The crosswinds were interesting but less of an issue than Cotswold Super Sprint.

Having completed the 3 laps, it was time to head into T2 and out on the run.

T2 should have been quick but wasn’t. It was just a case of racking my bike, swapping helmet for cap and bike shoes for running shoes. However, I didn’t transition very quickly. In fact, it took over 2 minutes. Oh well.

The run leg consists of 2 laps and it really wasn’t a pleasant experience. Picturesque. Hot. Undulating. Slow.

I resorted to a few walk breaks as I could feel my quads cramping up. The run was a killer and I really didn’t enjoy it much. The weather was a huge factor. Too hot! I’m not a fan of running in heat.

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I crossed the line and picked up my medal. Pretty good! Much better was the cold (plastic) glass of (alcohol-free) lager. My word that was good.

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Having picked up my bike and equipment from transition, I headed back to the car park and bumped into Teri, Tim and Emilia who were just about to leave. Teri had done really well and had beaten her expected finish time by 15 minutes. Well done Teri.

My finish time was 1:44:51. Pleased with going under 1:45.

Splits are shown below.

Stage Time of Day Elapsed Time Position
Swim 14:11:16 00:16:17 2129
T1 14:16:38 00:05:22 1709
Bike 15:03:31 00:46:53 2702
T2 15:05:42 00:02:12 1775
Run 15:39:50 00:34:09 2973

Getting out of the car park was the major challenge of the day though. The queues were very long.

Overall, a good event. Very well organised. Good marshals. Lovely location. Challenging course in the heat. I doubt I’d do it again though. Far more triathlons to explore.

The only real issue of the day was almost losing my bike off the bike rack on the way home as one of the retainers broke. Fortunately, it was secure enough on the other retainer and strapping. I’d envisaged seeing it fly off the back of the car and end up driven over by a HGV. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Tri 70.3 training week 1 plus Eastleigh Aquathlon and my parkrun CV – part 1

With Challenge Weymouth Half distance triathlon 16 weeks away, this has been my first week of training for the event.

As I mentioned, I’m using a plan from IronFit Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success and adapting it a little to fit in with the days I already swim.

This week’s scheduled sessions consisted of the following:

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I’ve done fairly well so far.

Monday -45 min run in HR Zone 2:

As it was a Bank Holiday, I decided to get up early and do the session on the treadmill so it would not impact on the family. That worked perfectly. Also, the treadmill meant I could concentrate on keeping within the right heart rate zone.

Unfortunately, as it was a Bank Holiday, there was no STC swim session so I had planned to do a lake swim on Tuesday morning instead…

Tuesday – lake swim and brick session

So, the plan to lake swim didn’t work out. Although I had everything prepared, Daniel joined me for a cuddle at about 5am and as he’s unlikely to want Daddy-cuddles for much longer as he’s 8, I thought that the opportunity shouldn’t be spoiled by rushing out for a swim. It was the right decision. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to swim when he can’t stand the sight of me in his teens.

However, cuddles didn’t derail all my plans as I had a lunchtime session comprising a 30 minute ride and then a 15 minute run.

Having had my gears reindexed, the bike ride went well and it was great to get back on the road. The transition went well too and I got out for the 15 minute run. Both sessions were supposed to be in Z2 but after the bike, my HR was elevated and I crept into Z3 on the run I wasn’t too concerned.

Wednesday – STC swim and 45 min bike ride

Another double-session day. The first session was the early morning STC swim session with Sonia, Jan, Neil and (briefly) Jon (he moved up a lane mid-session). The session consisted of lots of 100s and 50s with lots of use of ‘toys’ (pull buoys, fins, paddles). It was yet another good session.

At lunchtime, as the weather was a little ropey, I decided to do the 45 minute bike session on the turbo trainer. This gave me the opportunity to catch up on a couple of Sky+d programmes whilst getting some bike time in.

I forgot to put my HRM on so couldn’t tell you if I was in the right zone but I probably wasn’t!

Thursday – Rest day

Although my plan calls for a rest day on Thursday, it’s Run Camp day so a little opportunity for some extra training. I drove to Southampton Sports Centre and was joined by Steve, Jules and Liz. A very select few. The session consisted of:

2 min effort: 490m (4:05 pace)
1 min recovery
4 min effort: 940m (4:15 pace)
1:30 min recovery
6 min effort: 1310m (4:35 pace)
2 min recovery
4 min effort: 860m (4:47 pace)
1:30 min recovery
2 min effort: 460m (4:24)

I over-cooked the first interval and suffered a lot later in the session but can’t complain. It was another great session!

When I got home and changed, a reporter from Breeze FM came around to interview me about the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. The reporter had 4 questions to ask and them left. A little short and he clearly had little idea who I was or why I’d been chosen as a Baton Bearer and was simply fulfilling his brief… to the letter.

Eastleigh Aquathlon:

In the evening, I’d originally planned to compete in the Eastleigh Aquathlon. However, the start time wasn’t until 7pm and I had to chair a LRR Committee meeting at 7:45pm in Redbridge Lane which meant I’d not be able to do both.

I decided that I still wanted to be part of the event so headed down at 6:15pm to spectate and give some encouragement to friends taking part.

As I parked at Lakeside Country Park (also known as Eastleigh Lakes), Chris Stocks drove in. We walked to registration and, on the way, bumped into Donna who was just heading back to her car to collect her wetsuit. At registration, we said hi to Chris Rees and Ben Cook from TryTri, the organisers of the event.

Then I spotted Teri and Nick and spoke to them. Before long, we were joined by Tamsyn, Stuart, Katherine, Liz, Ian, Paul Hammond (who was taking photos), George Sellors, Sergo, Sonia and Kev Yates (later joined by Alice) and several other friends.

As everyone got ready, putting on their wetsuits and setting up for transition, I felt a little sad that I wasn’t competing. Next time!

Ben, who was Race Director, gave his race briefing and then the competitors made their way to swim entry.

Having tentatively walked, staggered or bum-shuffled (it didn’t go unnoticed Sonia) their way into the lake, there was time to do a warmup, swim to the start line and then they were off.

I moved from swim entry to swim exit and chatted with TryTri’s MD, Chris Rees, while waiting for the swimmers to exit the lake and head to transition.

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Having taken photos of everyone I knew, I made a move at 6:25pm and headed off to Oasis Academy for the committee meeting.

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Friday – 1:15 ride

The Friday session of my plan is probably going to be the most challenging mainly due to the fact that the session duration on the bike starts at 1:15 hours and works up to over 4 hours. This is likely to be the part of the week where I have to compromise the most. However, today worked well. I started work early so I could take a slightly long lunch. I’d mapped out a 32km route and prepared for the ride.

Fortunately, the weather was on my side and again, it was great to get out on the bike.

My route took me from West End to Hedge End, Botley, Horton Heath, Colden Common, Fair Oak and then back home.

It was a lovely, undulating ride and I managed some half-decent riding until my gears started to play up. I simply couldn’t change to the larger cog on the front derailleur. Grrrr! It seems that this is a weakness of the gearing on the Boardman with the SRAM Apex. I did some googling and it sounds like a cheap solution is to change the cable set which several sources claim lets down what is not a bad set of derailleurs. I am planning to try this, or at least, getting someone mechanically minded to do so!

In the evening, I prepared for Saturday morning’s activities. Whilst doing so I got a message from Ian Fearon. Ian is a runner, a triathlete and Run Director at Southampton parkrun. Although Ian knew I was fairly actively involved in parkrun, he was asking more about my involvement – most likely to try and understand why I’d been chosen as a Commonwealth Games Baton Bearer for Southampton. I’m sure lots of people are wondering why I was chosen including many friends I’ve met in the last year or two so I racked my brains trying to summarise what my parkrun CV consisted of.

In a nutshell, it goes something like:

May 2010: attended my first parkrun at Eastleigh
Summer 2010: started volunteering at Eastleigh parkrun
October 2010: unofficially became Event Director at Eastleigh having built new team of Run Directors
Winter 2010: organised move to Southampton Uni Sports Ground for winter season
Spring 2011: have advice to Poole parkrun team on setting up a parkrun in Poole
March 2012: founded Netley Abbey parkrun in 10 days and became Event Director
July 2012: founded Southampton parkrun and became Event Director
Winter 2012: helped secure funding and helped set up Winchester parkrun. Helped secure funding for Alice Holt parkrun
Spring 2013: stood down as Event Director at Eastleigh, Southampton and Netley Abbey parkruns. Helped with set up of Brockenhurst parkrun and Queen Elizabeth parkrun and became parkrun Ambassador
March 2013: completed by 50th parkrun
Summer 2013: helped set up Southsea parkrun
Autumn 2013: set up Southampton junior parkrun and became Event Director of that event

When summarised, it seems like a fair amount of parkrun-related activity alongside the opportunity to run 80 parkruns to date. As I’ve said many times, I love parkrun, it’s helped change my life and I love having helped open several new events and seeing the event teams make each event a success. Each success is down to a passionate event team, lots of great volunteers and the amazing communities that quickly build around each event. Although my involvement over the last 4 years has involved several hundred hours of volunteering, many more hours have been spent by the Event Directors, event teams and core volunteers to ensure their event’s success.

Cotswold Super Sprint Triathlon 2014

This morning I competed in my first triathlon of the year… the Cotswold Super Sprint. A little lax I know, but it’s been a little hectic over the last few months and rather than sign up for too many events, I’ve focused on a handful.

Rather than get up before 5am, Chris Stocks and I decided to go up to Cirencester yesterday (Saturday), stay over in a Premier Inn (Swindon North) and then have a slightly longer lie-in before the event. It was a plan that worked well.

Having got all my stuff together, I needed to tune my bike a little as on the last few rides, the gears have been a little jumpy and clattery (is that a word?!) I left this until Friday afternoon for some unknown reason and was worried that would mean that if I messed the re-indexing up, I may have to ride a bike with one (inappropriate) gear. However, having reacquainted myself with the simple art of indexing gears, I got my road bike out onto my workstand and went through the process.

The fact that I’d left it so late meant that I didn’t have chance to ride the bike to check them but I was fairly confident they’d be ok… Gulp!

On Saturday morning, I’d hoped to go to Eastleigh parkrun‘s 4th Anniversary but a combination of needing to spend some time with the family and having more to do before I picked up Chris meant the anniversary celebrations would have to be missed by me 😦

Anyway… at 12:30pm I left home, filled the car with diesel before picking Chris up. I arrived a little early to find him protein loading with steak whilst he, Ali, George and Molly watched Sherlock.

Having got Chris’ kit in the car, we started our journey up to the Cotswold Water Park and Beach, the venue for the triathlon.

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A panoramic view of the lake

After about 80 minutes on the road, we arrived, parked up and headed to registration which had opened.

Once we’d picked up our timing chips, race numbers, assorted flyers for local events and services and a tech T-shirt we went to recce the course.

The swim was 400m and having spoken to a few other competitors, we believed we knew the swim route (we’d been given duff info and been told the 200m swim course instead which explains why the course we believed to be 400m looked rather short).

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Looking across the lake at the two boats that were the ‘buoys’ for the shorter swim course

Having looked at swim entry and exit (the latter required quite a climb up a steep bank), we went off to check out transition and also the cycle mount and dismount areas.

 

As the ground was mostly gravel from transition to the mount line, the organisers had kindly laid carpet down to run on. There was some discussion about whether to keep cycle shoes on the bike and run barefoot but the consensus was to wear the cycle shoes from transition (T1) to the mount line and back from the dismount to transition (T2).

On our recce of the mount/dismount area, we checked out a bit of the run route and decided that with the recent wet weather and rain forecast overnight that trail shoes would be best for the run.

As well as sussing things out ourselves, we provided some advice to some first time triathletes.

Once we were happy that we knew as much about the venue, transition, cycle mount/dismount as we were likely to find out we headed back to the car and decided to check out the cycle route.

As we drove the course, we worked out where we’d get battered by the gusty winds that rocked the MPV as we drove along.

Fortunately, the road surface looked mostly good and there were long sections which were well-sheltered by tree. There were a few sections that were more exposed that could prove a challenge if the forecast gusts joined us for the morning.

Having obtained a good knowledge of the course and worried a little about a lack of signs, signs blowing around 180 degrees and one crossroads with limited visibility in any direction, we headed to the Premier Inn.

After unloaded all our kit into the room and got organised for the following morning, we decided to retire to the restaurant/bar for a coffee and meal.

As we ate, we talked about running, triathlon, family, fellow parkrunners, etc etc. For our meal, we tried to choose the healthiest option, Mediterranean Chicken, but then went for the crumble with custard as a reward for, um, er choosing a healthy main course!!

As we finished our meal, we started to communicate with Ben and Chris (from Try Tri) and Ian Boshier who were asking about conditions and the course.

At about 9pm, we headed back to the room ready for a (hopeful) good night’s sleep.

Sunday:

After a (fairly) good night’s sleep which involved a fair amount of listening to the wind outside, our alarms woke us up at 5:30am. We had a quick breakfast of fruit and yoghurt (thanks Chris), took an energy gel and then headed to the lake.

It was a 15-20 minute drive and we arrived to find the car park we’d hoped to park in full so got shepherded to an area further away. It wasn’t too much of a problem though particularly as I’d reduced my gear to a small rucksack and bucket.

We unloaded our bikes and headed for the transition area to set up. Time flies when you’re setting up so it’s good to arrive early. As the racking was numbered, our bike positions were set and we didn’t have the luxury of finding an optimal spot close to the exit of transition. This wasn’t a major problem though as, although there was racking for about 500 bikes, the transition area was fairly small.

Once we’d set up, we spotted Ben, Chris and Ian and had a chat. 3 great blokes and a pleasure to spend time at an event with them.

With time ticking, we headed back to the car to get our wetsuits on and pay a last minute visit to the toilets. Not the first visit of course.

We barely had time to get into our wetsuits before the announcements of the very imminent closure of transition over the tannoy so grabbed our goggles and swim hats and headed back at a jog. I dropped off my cycling jacket and we exited transition and headed for the swim start area to watch the first wave set off.

Swim

Although, Ian, Chris x 2, Ben and I were in different age categories, we were all in the same wave, the 3rd to set off. We were called into the lake a few minutes before our start time of 8:13am to warm up.

The water was cold (about 14 deg C) but not unduly so. I submerged myself to acclimatise. As the cold water reached the small of my back, I realised this was no bath. However, it wasn’t very long at all before I warmed up (nothing to do with Ben creating his own little warm spot in the lake – I avoided that area!)

The water was crystal-clear. Amazingly so. I swam looking at the bottom and could make out the plants at the bottom of the lake really clearly. This was an experience I’ve not encountered in a lake in the UK before! At Lakeside, you can’t see 10cm beneath the surface!

We were then called back to the edge of the lake ready for the start horn.

HONK! We were off. I wasn’t sure how well I’d swim having not races in a lake since the HOWSC 100. However, I got into a rhythm and stuck to it. It was pretty congested at the start with lots of flailing arms and legs.

The masts of the boats we were going to go around were easy to ‘sight’ and with that and the clarity of the water, swimming in a straight line was much easier than I’d been used to in previous lake swims.

I managed to keep up with the main pack round both ‘buoys’ before heading back to swim exit. I didn’t know how well as was doing but knew it wasn’t too bad as I wasn’t trailing too far behind the pack. As I approached the bank, being able to see the bottom made it far easier to work out when to stand up and walk to the edge.

As we had to negotiate the steep bank to get out, it was great to have 2 marshals to give us a hand out of the lake.

My swim including the stumble/run to T1 took 10 minutes and 51 seconds. for 400m, I’d expect to take about 8 minutes tops so why so much longer? Well, I can put it down to swimming further than 400m. In open water, although you feel that you’re swimming in a straight line, for many of us, this isn’t the case and 400m can soon become 500m, 600m etc! Also, the time taken to get up and out of the lake and from the swim exit to T1 clearly adds time. As the Garmin 910XT uses GPS in open water and it only has the chance to get a fix on the satellite when the wrist with the watch is on is out of the water, the GPS tracking can be very eratic. In a pool as long as you swim in a straight line, you know that you’re swimming 25m per length (but, most likely, losing momentum on every turn).

T1

I ran into transition and passed Ian who had clearly had a good swim. I also spotted Chris S still preparing to get out on the bike. My swim clearly hadn’t been too shabby to see him in T1. However, due to the burst blister on my foot from last Saturday’s parkrun where I wore trail shoes with no socks, I wanted to put socks on before my cycle shoes. This would also help keep my feet warm. Unfortunately, in the rush, I didn’t put them on very well and that would cause me a problem later as you’ll (if I remember) read about that later.

I put on my sunglasses, helmet, race belt, socks, shoes and cycling jacket and that caused my T1 to be pretty slow. I’m hoping to need less and be far quicker for Blenheim.

I ran with my bike out of transition and off to the mount area. It was quite a distance but the ground was good (especially with the carpet).

Just before the mount area, the carpet ended short and this meant I got some grit or similar on the cleat on the bottom of my right shoe sole. This would cause a problem when I went to try and clip in.

Cycle

I had a little trouble mounting the bike and even more trouble clipping in with my right foot due to the grit picked up on the run. Having tried a few times, I gave up and pedalled off having lost a few places.

I was off.

The choice of wearing the cycling jacket was definitely the wise one. It would have been pretty cold with the air temperature and chill from the blustery/gusty wind.

The cycle leg went fairly well. It’s not a discipline I’m very strong at and that’s definitely something I need to work on. The course was easy to follow, well signed (more signage had been added after our recce) and well marshalled. I couldn’t have faulted it actually.

It was great that the cycle course was one lap as it was gusty. Where Chris S and I had expected the gusts to cause a problem, they did. But, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d expected.

The section through the industrial estate was fine with one last kick uphill before the descent/flat section back to the finish.

Before very long, there was a green sign for ‘Cotswold Water Park and Beach’ and I knew that the dismount area wasn’t too much further past that. At said point, I dismounted, wheeled my bike through the narrow gateway back into the carpeted path back to transition.

T2

In T2, I racked my bike, swapped my shoes, took of my jacket and finally removed my helmet before heading out on the 2-lap run.

Run

Before 100m, I felt that my left foot was uncomfortable. This was the foot with the blister and it was clear that my hastily put on sock wasn’t on properly and likely to lead to discomfort around the 5km run course. I had to choose whether to stop and adjust or to carry on. I chose the latter.

Before very long, Chris S came past me. For a millisecond, I wondered (hoped?!) that I’d somehow passed him in the bike leg and got out on the run before him but, in reality, I was overtaken on the bike by plenty of people and those I overtook were much, much fewer in number.

About 1km into the run, Ben came by and at that point I knew that both Chris S and he were a lap ahead having completed their cycle (and swim) about 10-12 minutes faster than me.

The course was flat and on a mix of grass and gravel with one short section through a car park. Trail shoes were definitely the right choice as the ground was a little damp in places.

I completed the run at a pace that meant that I expected to finish in about 27 minutes. However, my run time was recorded at 25:20. A short course?!

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Crossing the finish line looking a little leaner than my last triathlon (and wearing my new STC tri-suit)

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The breakdown of my performance on the day

I was cheered over the line by Ben, Ian, Chris x 2 and we chatted before grabbing a hotdog and bacon roll.

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Showing off our bling – with Chris Stocks, Ben Cook and Chris Rees

Overall, I was pleased with my performance in the event. I swam as well as I’d hoped. My bike leg was ok. I could have pushed harder but that may have compromised my run and the run was steady.

I had set myself a target time of 1:25:00 and had beaten it.

It’s difficult comparing different triathlons even when distances for each discipline are meant to be the same. Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon is also a 400m swim, 20K cycle and 5km run event so I’ll compare my performance last year of 1:31:17 to today’s 1:24:48. That’s a 6:30 minute improvement so I’ll take that.

PS I’m happy to report that my gears were indexed beautifully!!

Next up Blenheim Sprint Triathlon in 5 week’s time.