Tag: ironman

IronMan UK 2015 (Iain)

This week, I realized I have a lot of old posts from a previous blog. So that they don’t go to waste, and to save me having to write new blogs I’m going to publish some of the more interesting ones.

This is from 2015….

Bolton was home to Fred Dibnah. He climbed chimneys and became a TV star.  When he died a statue was erected in his honor. Bolton was home to Nat Lofthouse. He was one of the greatest English footballers. When he died a statue was erected in his honor. Bolton was home to Vernon Kaye. He presented the TV show which tried to drown celebrity’s – “Splash.” I hope he doesn’t get a statue for it!

If he doesn’t then he will, at least, get a mention in a remembrance book at Bolton Wanderer’s stadium. It lists all the Bolton fans that died that day….which is a bit creepy. Do they phone up the hospital and check who the recently deceased supported?

Bolton

IronMan UK which is based at Bolton’s stadium. The race is a 2.4-mile  swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and then a run of 26.2-mile.

Registration/Setup

Registration and Transition 2 are based at the stadium. It’s convenient for parking and easy to get to/from the motorway. The expo/merchandise is smaller than IronMan Frankfurt (which I’d visited a few weeks beforehand) so don’t wait until after the race to buy anything as it will most likely be gone by then.

You can request a special needs bag for the bike section but its not given out automatically.

We stayed in http://www.hiexpressleigh.co.uk/ which is next to the swim start but about 10 miles from Bolton. It was a good choice. We walked to the swim in the morning and they supplied an early breakfast and a pre-race dinner.

After registration we parked the car in a multistory next to the finish line. The car parks free at the weekend. After the race we’d only have a short walk from the finsish to the car park.  We took a bus back to Leigh and picked up a race essential – a Subway sandwich for the special needs bag. I wasn’t going to spend all day racing without eating some real food.

Unfortunately the hotel room didn’t have a fridge so I created one from ice cubes and a sink. I suspect I was the only one racing who eat a Subway.

Fridge

Our pre race rest comprised walking to the cinema to watch Ant Man. It was rubbish but watchable. I got to bed about 20:00 and set the alarm for 04:00

Swim (01:21:46)

The rain was pelting down when I got up. The start was only a short walk away so instead of getting clothes wet I wore the wet-suit from the hotel to the start line. As I walked along I passed people in wetsuits who also were also wearing rain smocks! Why??? Surely they can’t be concerned about the wet suit getting wet!

The swim is a rolling start so you queue in a line and enter the water and start swimming. Where you stand in the line represents how quick you think your swim time will be. I queued towards the back.

The swim is two laps of the course. The queue start meant there was no getting battered and bumped at the beginning of the race. The second lap was trickier as the weather was abysmal which made it tough to spot the buoys. I was surprised when I got out to do so at the exact same time as my brother. I hadn’t seen him at all on the course during either lap!finisherpix_0955_006476

Transition 

There is only one tent. Other races have two (one for male, one for female) so if you want to get naked you have to do so in a corner of the tent that’s blocked off. Its pretty pointless as it’s not very well blocked off so you can see everything. I apologize to anyone who got an eyeful. I can only claim that the water was very, very cold.

Bike (07:46:48)

It was still raining when we came out of transition. The forecast was for the sun to come out within an hour but I wore waterproofs. I’m glad I did because the weather forecast was wrong and it was mostly a cold and very windy ride.

The first section is a 14 mile urban ride to the start of a two loop circuit. The circuit has two hills on it. Neither of which is particularly difficult as we are used to Scottish hills. The support on both is excellent as a lot of people come out to cheer you on as you make your way up.  The wind never abated on the laps and it felt it was more against than for me.

Nothing much interesting happened on the ride other than a man rode into the back of Andrew at the special needs section. Luckily neither Andrew or his sandwich were hurt. At another point we took a wrong turn but we weren’t the only ones who did so and it was quickly rectified.

In terms of organisation there aren’t many toilet spots on the loop and support vehicles seemed to be few and far between. It didn’t cause us any issues but its worth noting that help might not be immediately at hand.

This years bike split times are much slower than last year’s. This has a good analysis of it http://www.coachcox.co.uk/2015/07/20/ironman-uk-2015-results-and-analysis/

finisherpix_0955_001229Transition 

There was only one tent so a similar system of nakedness replied. Again, I apologize for anyone who got an eyeful.

Run (05:04:09)

The weather in Bolton was nice,  the sun had come out (at last!) We had a strategy of running the flat/downhill and walking the uphill. After two minutes of leaving transition we came to the first hill. It felt strange to stop but a strategy is a strategy!

The first part of the run takes you into Bolton city centre. It’s pretty dull slog along a canal as there are no mile markers. I had to rely on a GPS watch to know how well/badly I was doing.

After this there were three loops of the city centre. The amount of supporters, or they may just be people who like to watch other suffer,  lining the streets was unbelievable. At time I was running into a wall of noise. A wall that likes shouting encouragement. Unfortunately I do better with criticism  so I just ignore the encouragement but I do appreciate the atmosphere. Without it the run would have been a struggle. One women did make me laugh as she shouted “two for the price of one” after spotting myself and Andrew.

The loop is surprisingly hilly. A steady climb out of town and steady descent back. As the hills were long I abandoned the hill strategy and replaced it with ‘the cone game’! I’ll share this wonderful game so you too can go slightly mental on a race.

It’s very simple. The course is lined with cones so pick a number of cones to run past and then a number to walk. On the way down the hill on the first lap we’d do a 4-2 strategy. 4 cones running, two cones walking. On the way back up the hill 3-3. The strategy would change depending how we felt so if we were tired we could drop to a 3 cones on 4 cones off etc

From this I learnt that Andrew has trouble counting as he’d say “was that the second cone or the third?”

I also believe I can now recognize every cone in Bolton! By the end they all had individual personalities. I might have gone loopy. It was a really good way to get through the run as we could always see where our next run or walk section was.

Their was a lack of toilets on the route but luckily neither of us had any issues on the day. We both just eat a little bit of everything in moderation and that worked fine.

The finish was excellent. Big crowds and the man saying “lain…you are an IronMan” but better than that was the free pizza in the finish tent.

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Overall (14:45:50)

A good experience that means I’ll never have do another one! I’ve always preferred shorter races and this didn’t change my opinion although I would like to know – If I did  an IronMan abroad would they say “you are an IronMan?” or would it be”eres un hombre de hierro” or  “vous êtes un homme de fer” or…

IronMan Edinburgh 70.3 (Andrew)

“Is it safe?”

In the film Marathon Man this quote is repeated as Sir Laurence Olivier performs an increasingly painful dental treatment on Dustin Hoffman.

In IronMan Edinburgh this quote is repeated by everyone on the start line as we gaze out to sea.

“Is it safe?”

Swim

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Last week we had a recce of East Lothian to check the swim start and to cycle part of the bike route.

It was windy, over 20 mph, and the water at Preston Links at Prestonpans was choppy and covered in white caps.

A woman got out of a car beside us. She was wearing an IronMan hoodie and IronMan cap. So was her father, who came out next.

“Are you racing?” We said, which was a daft question as he was clearly in his seventies. 🙂

She answered for him.

She was racing. And she was there to practice the swim. But, on looking at the water, she said: “Not today. I’m not going out in that!”

She had an English accent so we thought she wasn’t local (though, with Edinburgh so close, an English accent could be local!) and we tried to reassure her: “It won’t be like this next week – this is a one off! It’s just a bit of wind!”

Unfortunately for her we were completely wrong. It wasn’t just a bit of wind, it was the start of a week long howl that kept going all through Monday to Friday, sped up on Saturday and wasn’t due to slow down until the race was over.

On Saturday, the forecast was for winds of 15mph plus. Too strong for a calm swim. By Saturday night the organisers were predicting a shortened swim and by 6am they’d shortened it from 1900m to 950m. One lap of a course that had been rearranged to try and avoid the worst of the currents.

But not at the start. The first 100 metres would be straight into the waves and current and wind. The perfect storm.

For the first 100 metres I could see people struggling. Not only was there the shock of cold water, the tightness of my chest constricting, the shallow breaths and the constant gulps of salt water as I tried to time the waves correctly so that my mouth is, and this is crucial bit, above the waves, not below them. But there was also the need to sight the first buoy, to avoid fellow athletes and to generally survive in conditions that even blockbuster movie shark Jaws would say: “Don’t go into the water!”.

But, after the first turn, as we swam along the beach, not out to sea, the conditions improved. It was easier to breath with the waves at my side, than right in front.

Of course, being an idiot, I then decided I had to clear my goggles as they’d filled with condensation. I tried to duck under the water, remove my goggles to rinse them out, then put them back on in one smooth fluid motion.

It didn’t happen.

I ducked. I spluttered. I got salt in my eyes. I couldn’t see. I swallowed half of the Firth of Forth, I ended up swimming in the wrong direction – but I did all that in one smooth fluid motion, so at least I got something right.

For the rest of the swim I had leaky goggles, I had to keep taking them off to clear them of water, while, when they were on, I had to keep one shut to avoid the salt water seeping in. And swimming with one eye is not easy – just ask Captain Hook, if he’d had two eyes, he’d have been able to swim away from that crocodile.

Despite my one eye, I got to the final buoy and turned back to shore. The swim back was a relief, and with the current behind, fast too.

The swim was over. I hadn’t drowned, which in itself felt like an achievement.

Bike

Bike

The bike route started in Prestonpans and then headed out through East Lothian, through Haddington and Gifford, before turning back and heading in almost a straight line to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

But, it was only the direction that was straight. The elevation promised a course with very few flat sections and plenty of ups and downs with some short sharp climbs.

And, because it was still windy, the course also added 25 miles into the wind as we came into Edinburgh.

The crowds were out in force, at least in the villages we passed. The largest town, Haddington, had the fewest spectators. Literally, one man and his dog. A man, and his dog, standing in his driveway. I can only guess the rest of the town must have been in church. Either that or the four hour road closure on a Sunday morning wasn’t appreciated by locals who decided to protest by staying away.

The course was varied, with plenty to see, from rolling hills, to leafy hedges, to forest canopies, farmlands, and, at one point, one of my work’s housing developments (which was nice to see, though not perhaps a selling point from anyone but me).

The final few miles saw a short burst of pave, the Edinburgh cobblestones, and then a climb around the back of Arthur’s Seat. This comes as a shock after 54 miles but not as much of a shock as the sign at mile 40 that “This is the high point, it’s all downhill from here!”. Only it wasn’t. Not in the slightest.

The last mile is downhill and provides a couple of minutes to relax, stop pedalling and getting focused on the run, or, in my case, to try and swallow an energy gel but forget how fast the road falls away and get tangled between trying to eat the gel and desperately apply the brakes to slow down.

I read afterwards that some people complained the road wasn’t in great condition and that there were a lot of punctures. I didn’t see any more punctures than normal and I thought the road was no better or worse than most Scottish roads.

Run

Run

I’d seen Iain in transition after the swim but couldn’t see him in the run transition. I knew he was ahead of me so I thought he must have left so I decided to follow him out.

And, by quickly, I mean for around 500 metres. Then the climbing starts. A one mile plus climb up Arthur’s Seat.

This was going to be a long run…

The run route is deceptively hilly. Deceptive in that even the flats bit are steeper than you think. Especially on the third time around the four and a bit mile course.

The run up Arthur’s Seat was tough, but the course itself was varied and featured a long run through the Innocent Railway tunnel, which was lit by a spinning light show and soundtracked with classic rock.

It’s worth racing IronMan Edinburgh just for the tunnel. Nothing beats running through a dark tunnel with AC/DC singing Highway To Hell and disco lights spinning round.

And then you have another hill. Followed by another hill. Then another hill. Then you finally get to run back down Arthur’s Seat before you have to do it two more times.

It was tough.

Much tougher than expected and I was pleased to get round in around 2 hours 10 minutes so at least I was getting round in around 10 minutes a mile. Not great, but after the swim and bike, I was happy with it.

I finished the race with Iain. As it turned out, he’d been in the toilet so I’d missed him in transition, but he caught me up, then passed, then slowed down at the end as I caught up with him. I conceded he’d won the Todd Championship point and we finished the run together.

The finish-line

I wasn’t sure if the announcer would shout: “You Are An IronMan!” as we crossed the line. It seemed wrong, you should only get that for the full distance, but, as an IronMan event, I wondered if they’d also do it for 70.3.

They didn’t. Instead we had hardcore dance tracks. “Shake that ass! Shake that ass! Shake that ass!” it cried before the announcer quickly said “Um, maybe that’s the wrong song, let’s get something more family friendly”.

We crossed the line in around six hours. Just under for Iain, just over for me (boo!). A tough race but a fair one with some great views of Edinburgh and East Lothian. Also a race that attracted the highest proportion of female athletes than any IronMan event, with over 20%. It was great to see a less male dominated race and, perhaps next year, IronMan could rename it the IronWoman Edinburgh 70.3.

No asses were shook for the podium picture.

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A short history of my bikes – part 7 (Iain)

Bike 7 is a summer bike which in Scotland means it’s used once a year!

It’s a Planet X Nanolight with super light carbon wheels. Its the fastest and most expensive bike I’ve ever owned which means it spends most of its time in doors as i’m too afraid to get it dirty.

I currently have it set up on a turbo trainer. Its my cuddle closet! See https://norseman2016.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/welcome-to-my-pain-cave-andrew/

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Last winter, I did my turbo sessions following a strict schedule…a TV schedule.

My training regime was

Hard Session – Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location.

Medium Session – Grand Designs.

Easy Session – George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces

I didn’t get any better at biking but I can now design my own home.

This year I’m taking training seriously. My aim is to beat Andrew at the Caledonian Etape. A feat I’ve never managed.

So I’m going to investigate Zwift (https://zwift.com/)and Trainerroad (https://www.trainerroad.com/) the two leading turbo training software companies to see which is the best home trainer. I’ll report back next time unless I get distracted working on the blueprints of my dream home!

Triathlons are really boring to watch (Iain)

This weekend is Ironman Kona – the triathlon equivalent of the world Cup final. The winner can call themselves the Ironman World Champion. At the event are the best athletes in the sport – but no UK TV channel will show it.

Why? Simple – triathlons are really boring to watch!

What’s more boring than swimming for an hour? Watching someone else swim for an hour!

What’s more boring than biking on a motorway for five hours? Watching someone else bike on a motorway for five hours!

What’s more boring than running for three hours? You get the idea…

In fact I  can’t think of anything worse than watching a Triathlon.

[Checks TV guide. I spot Sky Sports are showing Scotland versus Lithuania]

Actually…does anyone know where I can watch Kona? 🙂

Race Nutrition (Iain)

“Are you eating a Subway sandwich?” Asks a man to me.

“Yes,” I reply, as I bite into a delicious foot-long Spicy Italian.

“And your doing the Iron Man race?”

“Yes. Its going well! I’m halfway through the bike leg,” I take a drink of Coke and unwrap a chocolate Twix.

The man looks at me and then cycles off. I think he’s jealous of my mid-bike-leg Iron Man picnic.

Many folk more qualified in nutrition than me can tell you what to eat during a race. They will break it down to the exact level of carbs, protein and salt.

I say: “Eat what you like!”

If you normally have a sausage roll and bit of cake during your long bike rides then bring a sausage roll and cake to an Iron man. Your body is used to it so why have something else?

I had a full lunch on my bike leg of the Iron Man and felt great afterwards. The only time I’ve ever felt ill during a race was when I eat just gels and powders.

During one race I stopped and had a burger, beer and a desert. It was great!

The race itself was terrible. It was called the Rat Race and it took place in Edinburgh comprised  of bike/run/kayaking sections as well as puzzles.

For example one section was a treasure hunt on Arthur’s Seat. I had to find three flags. If I didn’t find them I’d get a 10 minute penalty per flag. I took one look at the massive area I had to search in and left for the next section. The 30 minute penalty was less than the actual time it would take to complete the task.

I then calculated that if I finished the race without doing any of it the penalties I would still have less than the expected winning time. So, I stopped and had lunch at a pub. Afterwards I went to the finish and took my penalties. I was disqualified as the organiser said it wasn’t in the spirit of the competition! I disagreed. I’d out thought the race and surely that’s worth a win.

I’ve never done an adventure race since but it did leave me with a desire for a proper lunch during long races.

Norseman Swim (Andrew)

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The dark water grips like a giant’s hand. I kick upwards and grin. I’ve made it. I’ve escaped. I’ve jumped from the ferry.

Earlier, it’s 3am and we’ve been up for 10 minutes. My back feels fine. The physio’s promise has come true. It was okay for Saturday, she made no promises for the rest of the week. I pull my wetsuit on over my legs but don’t pull it on over my arms. Instead I wear a couple of t-shirts. It would be too warm to walk around in a full wetsuit.

I grab my bag for the boat and we drive five minutes to Eidfjord and park behind the main street. We walk down to the pier and… we’re lost. We’ve walked the wrong way and we’re facing a school building. Good start, especially in a town that only has a handful of streets, most of them pointing down to the shore.

We walk back and take the right street.

At transition we have another scare. They check the bike for lights and for working brakes. They check my bag to make sure I have a hi-viz top for the first 20 miles but they say mine doesn’t have enough fluorescent stripes. “It’s doesn’t?” I say dumbly, thinking, “Is this it?” But they have spares and I get a baggy extra large Norseman hi-viz top instead. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t matter.

We take the bike and bag and I join the queue to board the ferry. We need to be on board by 4am and, through the windows, I can see the Olympic opening ceremony playing on a tv in a lounge. I remember that it’s not quite morning, that it’s still Friday night no matter what time my watch shows.

The deck of the boat is empty as everyone finds a seat in the lounges upstair. I sit beside a Canadian and a Swedish man who has the same type of wetsuit as me. “You must have had the shortest journey?” I say to him to make conversation. “I drove for 14 hours,” he said. D’oh.

At 4:45 I apply Powerglide and ask the Canadian to zip up my wetsuit. I wish both of them luck and I go down to the car deck, which is not filling up with athletes getting ready for the race to start.

At the back of the deck I see the hose pumping and spraying sea water. I know I need to adjust to the cold water so I walk straight into it  –

– and start hypeventilating –

– so I duck out of the spray, then duck in again.

And again. Again. For 10 minutes. Until the water no longer feels cold, until I can breathe normally, until I feel ready to jump.

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A tannoy annouces the jump will start in two minutes. I put on my large swim cap to cover my ears, my goggle and my race cap. I walk as close to the front as I can. I don’t want to wait. I want to go straight in without hesitation.

The jump starts.

People fall like lemmings in front of me. It only takes a few seconds for me to stand on the edge of the deck. Another second for me to jump. To raise my hand to my google to make sure they stay in place. Then I strike the water and it’s cold, and dark, and surrounding me completely holding me tight in it’s grip, but it’s not too cold. And as I kick to push myself up and break the surface I see lights on the coastal road, dawnlight peaking over the fjord and I grin. And I shout in joy. I’d faced my fear and I’d won.

There is line of canoes ahead of me. I swim over, using breaststroke and a few crawl strokes to acclimatize more to the water.

I look back and people are still falling. The boat squats on the water and I know that everything will be okay.

I float for a few minutes. “Enjoy this,” I tell myself. Dark cliffs tower above, in front and to the side. The water is cool. And fresh, the winter snows creating a freshwater layer that masks the salt. The canoes drift. I stay near the front, floating between two canoes. I know everyone will pass me but I like the thought of being in the lead if only for a second.

I wait for the ferry’s horn to sound.

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWUUUUUURRRRPPPP

And we’re off. I’m quickly overtaken but I settle into a rhythm. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. And I breathe to my left every time I count 4.

I have no idea where I am. I can see lights in the fjord ahead. Daylight wakens and I know which direction to go but I can’t tell how far I’ve gone or how far I have to go.

Even when we turn the corner of the fjord and face Eidfjord directly I don’t know if this is one mile or one metre away.

At times I follow the feet of a swimmer in front. At others I have a Siamese twin. A swimmer breathing to my right keep pace and only a feet away to my left. Some times I even swim near a pack, though most of the time I’m on my own. I’m further out than others but as I’m heading in the right direction I don’t try and move closer.

In Eidfjord they light a bonfire on a beach to help you find your way. I didn’t know this when I swam but I could see an orange light and I used that to get me to the first (and only) bouy. From there it’s about 500 metres across Eidfyord pier to a small rocky beach. This final stretch is tough. It was the same area we’d swum yesterday in a practice session. Yesterday, however, it was flat calm. Today, the wind had picked up waves and the current was against me. But I was nearly ‘home’. I kept going.

Round the pier I thought there was another 100 metres to the finish but I was wrong, it was only 20 metres. I kicked my legs to try and get some feeling into them. I wobbled on the stoney ground when I stood up. I tried to balance and looked at the people on the beach and the pier above to see if I could find Iain.

I started to jog. (As if it would help!). I was happy, I was done. I told myself: “You will never do this again!”, the same thing I told myself last year at IronMan UK. I’m good at lying to myself.

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Norseman – Part 3

“How’s the legs?”

“Sore” replied Andrew.

He’s lying in bed in rjukan. A nice wee town at the base of “Zombie Hill.” The famed section of Norseman where runners switch from running on the flat to climbing  Mt. Gaustatoppe.

I’m feeling fit so I’ve decided to take the bike out and head up the mountain. The climb is hard but its more a mental thing than anything else. It doesn’t have many hairpins so each section feels like a long slog.

On the road people have painted zombies or inspirational words. Its easy to tell the UK supporters as they’ve painted the wrong side of the road!

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I stop once I get to the Furnicular railway that takes tourists to the stop. I notice its open and running so I head back down hoping to convince Andrew that we should go the top. It feels like the logical conclusion to our trip should be on top of the mountain!

Thankfully he’s up for it and even more thankfully he’s done all the packing!

Th13906646_10154314344108162_7927054594518622418_ne funicular is great. Its split into two trains. One that takes us into the mountain and then another that takes us to the top. We share a cabin with an older couple.

From the exit its just a few hundred metres to the Norseman hut. Its great to see the finish line even if its 24 hours later!

We take some pics and record a video of Andrew crossing the finish line.

We then pop into the hut to buy waffles. All races should have waffles at the finish!

On the way back down the same couple are in our train carraige. The man says “Not much to see, was there?”

Not really but if we hadn’t gone up we’d always have regreted it!

The aim of the trip was to enjoy the adventure. We had an adventure and we enjoyed it. What more to life is there than that? 🙂

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Norseman – Part 2 (Iain)

If 3 am is an ungodly time to get up, getting up at 2.30 am is even worse.

Today was the day. It was now or never. Which is a strange expression. It should actually be “It was now or never or…in a minute! Cant’t you see I’m busy. I’ll get to it when I can!”

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We left the B&B quickly and headed to Eidfjord. There’s plenty of parking spaces near the ferry but Andrew refused to use them. He was worried that the police would turn up and fine us. Its 3 am. I think the police have got better things to do than check anyone is parking illegally.

We park at the the school. On the walk to the ferry I point out to Andrew all the Cars parked in the spaces he said not to use.

The port is busy. A lot of athletes and supporters are here. I look at the ferry and notice it has a TV lounge! And comfy chairs! And its showing the Olympics! Extreme Triathalon? My Arse!

On the way into transition Andrew has to show that his bike’s front and back lights work and that he has a reflective jacket.

The volunteer checks his jacket and says its not reflective. It is very yellow but its not reflective! Andrew blames it on buying a cheap one from Decathalon. Idiot!

Luckily the volunteer had a spare so he gave that to Andrew. The winner has a black T-shirt but I bet he doesn’t have a Norseman branded reflective vest.

I wish Andrew luck and he heads onto the ferry.

I decide to drive down the coast to watch the start. Surprisingly no-one else had thought of this so I was on my own watching the start. I can’t imagine what people did in town. It must be pretty dull waiting for the swimmers to come back.

13873048_10153645915211196_6084655913261949439_nAfter they jumped in I headed back to town. I stopped at a pier near the yellow buoy and watched the race leaders zoom past. My watch said 50 minutes so it seemed like they were slow or the race had started late. I later found out this years swim times were slow due to the tide.

I got back to the pier in enough time to watch Andrew come out. I showed him over to the transition point and helped him get changed. About half the swimmer were still in the water so his swim time was pretty good.

I sent him off and said I’d see him in a couple of hours time at the top of the hill.

I notice a man at the pier has made fresh pancakes. I buy four so that Andrew will have a treat at the top of the hill. I then eat two. Oh well. Two is still a treat!

I then headed back to the B & B to get some breakfast. Mmm waffles. Its a hard life being a support team!

I’ve lost Andrew.

I saw him a minute ago. I passed him in the car. I gave him a wave and the parked at the next available parking spot. I’ve now waited 20 minutes and he’s not gone past!

I’m on the plateua. Due to thick mist visibility is 100m and it’s freezing cold. I wouldn’t like to be in a car in these conditions, let alone on a bike.

I decide something has gone wrong. He’s gone past and I didn’t notice or something’s happened before he got here.

I decide to head back down the road. I travel for 10 minutes and don’t spot him!

Its now colder and wetter and I imagine he will be wondering where I’ve gone.

I race along the road. After 10 minutes I still haven’t spotted him.

After 20 minutes, I’m worried. Something must have gone wrong.

After 30 minutes I spot a very cold and wet looking cyclist ahead. Its Andrew!

I pass and wave and this time park where he can see me.

It turns out he had cycled past me. My parking spot was in an awkward place. He assumed it wasn’t my car. I must have missed him as I was too busy concentrating on not crashing the car as I maneuvered into the space!

I thought he’d be angry so I pull out my trump card – the pancakes!

I think quickly and then ask him.

“Do you want a Twix?”

Andrew is standing in front of me. He’s shaking due to the cold. I offer him the sweet. He’s still cold and shaking but at least he gets chocolate biscuit snack.

He says he’s struggling to bike due to the cold. The weather is bad and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.

Luckily I’d packed Goretex trousers, thick fleece top and a jacket. He takes off his wet clothes and replaces them with the new ones. He now looks ready…to climb Everest!

At least he’ll be dry and warm even if he’s not going to be very aerodynamic.

He says he’ll cycle to the next town before deciding whether to carry on.

I hope he keeps going. It would be a shame to finish at this point.

We pass the next town and come off the plateau. That section is supposed to be fast but due to the weather he never got up to a good speed.

Thankfully he now feels warmer and decides to continue.

13886465_10153645913911196_8173376943594334046_nThe next half of the race has four climbs. They are all manageable. There’s a climb of 400m near Glasgow called the Crow Road. So we split each section into how many Crow Roads it is. As in, this next climb is 1.5 crow roads. The one after is 2x Crow Road etc It helps to put each bit into perspective.

For the next 50 miles we get into a pattern of he bikes and I drive a short distance up the road. He then either passes me or pulls in and gets food. It seems to work well.

At the top of the last climb support has to end. Its all downhill now so I leave him to it and head to Transition 2. There’s not many folk here. Most of the competitors have already been through. I go for a walk and watch a couple posing for wedding photos.

Andrew eventually arrives. I expect him to call it a day. He’s been out on the bike for 8 hours+ and is pretty knackered!

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He decides to quit. He doesn’t have the energy to run over  a speed bump let alone a huge hill.

We pack up and head off. As we drive the route towards our accommodation we see the athletes struggling along the road. No part of either of us thinks we wish we’d continued.

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Tenby Long Course Weekend – Part 1 (Iain)

When learner drivers sit their driving test they have to watch a hazard perception video. The footage was shot in Wales. How do I know this? Because one of the frequently asked questions in leaner centres is – why does it say “ARAF” on the road? “Araf” is Welsh for “slow” and it’s only seen in Wales.

Having now driven through Wales I’ve come to the conclusion Araf doesn’t mean slow down, it means your journey will be slow. Much slower than I thought it would be. It’s so slow I wondered if I ‘d ever get to my destination.

Wales is beautiful but I’d still build a motorway through it!

My destination was Tenby for the Long Course Weekend. Instead of swimming/biking/running in one day I’d be doing it over a more leisurely three days.

Before I detail the race I’ll mention the one complaint I have about it.

My start time for the bike ride was 0945. The organisers of the event implemented a cutoff at mile 66 of 1330.

When signing up for the event I was asked whether I wanted an early or late start but there wasn’t a cutoff mentioned. If I’d known I’d have chosen the early start.

I contacted the organisers to ask for an earlier start. I was told changing the start time was not possible and “sorry for the inconvenience”.

It’s more than an inconvenience to know in advance that I won’t complete a section of an event due to something I was not told in advance when signing up.

I checked the results and of the 3393 people in the race only 60 went at a pace that could have made the 1st lap cut-off (if they had started at 0945). I also checked and a number of riders who were due to start at 0945 had set off much earlier. Their times had been registered despite being told in the race notes that the timing chips would only be active ten minutes before the start time.

I asked why those riders were allowed to start early and it was reiterated that the start times couldn’t be changed due to “health and safety reasons.” Yet they didn’t disqualify any early starters despite the fact those riders must have been breaking the health and safety rules!

Even the top 10 racers in the event got to start earlier.

There was a number of very angry riders at the end of the 1st lap who weren’t allowed to continue.

In future I hope they implement a less strict cutoff time. 15mph is the common timing on most races I’ve entered. They should also ask riders for an anticipated time rather than an early or late start.

The races has rules, punish riders who break them not the ones who follow them.

Continued in Part 2!

Tenby or not Tenby – Part 2 (Andrew)

Friday (Swim)

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There’s no water, which is a problem when you’re swimming.

We’re one hour away from starting and the tide is out. We could jog to the first buoy and walk half the course. However, as the beach is flat, it didn’t take long for the water to rise and for me to take off my trainers and put on my goggles.

By the time we start, as fireworks explode to our right blanketing the start in smoke, we actually have some water to swim in, which is good, as there’s 2000 people behind us in wet-suits.

The start area is crowded. Somehow we ended up near the front of the pack. The swimmers aren’t separated into different groups so it’s everyone for themselves as we’re herded into a big pen on the beach. It’s good to be near the start because even with only a few hundred around us the water is crowded for the first 10 minutes. Everyone is turning, kicking and trying to find their rhythm. 2,000 people means 4,000 legs and 4,000 elbows to avoid.

But the swimmers quickly become spread out. The swim course at the Long Course Weekend takes in two laps of Tenby harbour in a rough anti-clockwise triangle along the coast, back through some fishing boats, before turning back to shore for an Australian exit, which is not an upside down exit, but a short run along the beach before returning to the start for a second lap. I don’t know why it’s called an Australian exit. It should be an Austrian exit as you’re surrounded by land.

I’ve not swam 3.8 km this year. The longest I’ve swum is 2.5 km. It’s also a sea swim and the last time I swam in the sea I was sick after drinking too much salt water. I wasn’t looking forward to this but, while choppier than it looked, the conditions were good, I was able to settle into a rhytmn and I had the advantage of being near the start and getting the benefit of the tide. How can the tide be a benefit? Well, as it was coming in, those at the back has to swim further than those at the front who get the benefit of splashing through the first few meters and having more of the beach to run up for the Australian exit.

It’s not enough of an advantage though to beat Iain. As our GPS showed later, he was able to swim in a straightline, I, on the other hand, made at least three breaks for the open sea. My sighting is so erratic that for one leg of the swim it looks like I’m drawing a staircase on the GPS map.

I finish five minutes behind Iain. The second lap feels easier than the first though at one point I spot one man clutching the anchor rope of a fishing boat with an expression which said “I will only release this for death or a rescue boat – and I will gladly accept death than swim another meter!”

I know how he felt after needing the rescue boat myself the last time I tried a sea swim. It was at the Weymouth Half in September 2014. The organisers had promised a calm swim but the wind was in the wrong direction and the water was choppier than a hyperactive lumberjack. It was impossible to swim over the waves, instead I had to duck under and try and swim round while trying not to drown or get pushed back to shore. By the second lap I was vomiting from drinking too much salt water. By the final 400 metres I’d called over a canoe twice to give me time to hang on while I vomited over my wetsuit. The third time I called the canoe I knew the swim was over. I was too weak to keep fighting and I just needed to get back onto shore.

That’s why I was nervous about this swim. I hadn’t swum in salt water since and I knew I needed this swim as good preparation for Norseman. I needed to know I could swim the distance and that I could swim in the sea.

So, while I was feeling tired towards the end of the swim, I was also feeling happy as I knew the distance was okay and I’d overcome my nervousness about swimming in the sea.

Then I found out that Iain had finished ahead of me. And that I needed to win the run and the bike if I was to have any chance of beating him in competitions this year.