It’s a great idea to push your own limits, and even when putting pen to paper it’s fairly easy to justify that you will be able to complete enough training to achieve your goal, so why not move up from Olympic to middle distance…
But when there’s just one week left and you realise that you have to achieve your 6 month weight loss, learn to run and fit in 20 missed swim sessions things start to look a little bleak – well at least the weather forecast is dry and those turbo sessions are just like being outdoors.
Day before and it’s the usual faff with kit, the panic that ensues when your bike food bag that has been on the bike for three months is reported missing, your cereal bars you hid away have been eaten by your kids and your gels are close on their sell by date – but eventually the car is packed with enough kit to cover all eventualities, including the weather which is now an 89% chance of rain and pretty cold – cold enough that the swim was shortened to 750m, which is a shame as out of the three disciplines I swim better than I bike, and I definitely bike better than I walk.
Race day starts at 4am, because whilst the event is local, the nerves set an early morning wake up call and I end up at the car park just as the gates open, a half hearted attempt to get 30 minutes shut eye fails and I meet up in transition and start the process of laying out the kit – and then changing the racking spot three times as other club members are spotted.
My experience has come on leaps and bounds since the time my wetsuit was put on inside out, and then back to front, but still I managed an inside out that resulted in a last-minute panic to change before hitting the cold water.
The Slateman swim is cold because it’s in May and in North Wales, last year it was 13 degrees. Titan was also 13 degrees because it was June, in South Wales and knew I had entered. With little time to acclimatise the horn went and we were off, when my breathing had settled and the crowds thinned the swim was quite enjoyable, only to be ended by Dave the Marshalls hand pulling me out of the water and slingshotting me into T1 whether I wanted to go or not.
T1 took 9 minutes (The average was 8 minutes - I’ve checked), yet there was no cup of tea and bacon roll, just cold fingers, a wetsuit that wouldn’t come off and socks that wouldn’t go on, further delayed by the need to put a hi vis vest on as my orange high vis jacket was not bright enough for the moors.
I’ve done the bike route twice, enjoying both times including the climbs and the fast descents. At a leisurely pace it took me four and a half hours, so with a little aggression up my sleeve I thought a four hour ride possible but not probable. I cut back on toilet stops, I pedalled where I’d previously free wheeled, I paced, I fuelled and I took no wrong turns – yet the wind and rain delivered me back with another four and a half hour ride, sodden, one frozen foot and a back that ached like it shouldn’t.
T2 and I met another club entrant, over four hours of not seeing him on the bike and we end up just two minutes apart.
I hadn’t been looking forward to the run, having lost 6 weeks of run training to painful knees, my longest prior run in the weeks leading up to the event had been 16k and that had been more of a run / walk – if only I knew at the time how appropriate that training would be.
After 500m I was walking and slightly panicking. My lower back was aching and painful, self-massage and stretching did little, so another 500m, then I heard my wife and kids which prompted another a run to the start of the first hill where I gratefully joined the walkers in front of me.
I’d also previously run the route, two laps in the sunshine and thought nothing of it, even ran a brick session with a lap of the lake after completing one of the previous cycle routes and again thought nothing of it.
This time, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how wrong I’d been, hills were walked, flats plodded, and downhills were an exercise in remaining upright.
What got me through was the support from competitors, marshals, spectators and the family. Also the fact that I had a finishers T Shirt already and couldn’t wear that without passing the finish line.
Great race, well worth entering!!