When I saw this week’s 220 Triathlon midweek Sprint in the Human Race calendar, I thought “ah, what a perfectly-timed tune-up ahead of Little Woody. I’ll do it – not race it, just use it as one last brick session and check my bike is OK.”
It might have been handy to check the weather forecast.
As any of you who were in Berkshire yesterday evening will realise, the race became one very long aquathlon. A kind of swim, swim-through-T1, swim-on-the-bike, swim-through-T2, aqua-jog affair. I’ve never done a race in conditions like that (and I did Vitruvian in 2005!)
As I sheltered under a canopy, trying to get my race numbers to stick to my sodden bike frame, I thought about going home. As I shivered, listening to the race briefing and watching people from the previous wave skidding and pitching around a corner on the bike course, I told myself it wasn’t too late.
Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing about disliking the rain, the wet or the cold (lest we forget, I’ve been wet and cold a few times in my life without complaint). No, it was all about not wanting to wipe out on the bike course and damage my bike, my limbs or my skin less than three days ahead of Little Woody.
So I got into the lake (much warmer than the air!) and told myself I could pull out whenever I wanted to, and take it as slowly as I needed to.
Lining up at the front of the swim, I looked around and realised something was amiss. All of these people had, like, stubble and stuff. Oh yeah! I was in a mixed wave! That’s new, it’s been a while since I’ve swum in a wave with men. All good practice, since I think Little Woody is all one big wave.
Ooh those chaps play rough, don’t they? All the way round, I had elbows on my head, fists on my back and someone’s very irritating hand on my ankle. One chap insisted on swimming into me at an angle (I checked, it wasn’t my sighting which was at fault) so I ended up stopping, diving over him and swimming on the other side.
I took a somewhat rakish angle to the final buoy and found myself accompanied by a friendly paddler who had presumably taken it upon herself to get me swimming roughly in the right direction.
Out of the water, it was a very careful walk to T1, down a steep grassy slope which by now had turned to mud. Arriving on the concrete, I was pleased to still be on two feet. Everything was already sodden, but I pulled my bike shoes on and rejected the idea of pulling on an extra layer. Mainly because the extra layer I’d brought was wet through.
The bike course of these midweek Sprints is six laps, with a tight turn at either end. Not ideal in those conditions. I promised myself the slowest 20km bike split I’d ever done, and a return to T2 in one piece. The bike course was littered with people’s numbered stickers, no match for the torrential rain and wind. I passed a few people, got passed by several others, and made it back into T2 just as it was getting prematurely dark.
Took me ages, because my hands were so cold that I couldn’t even tighten my elastic laces. The chap next to me was faring no better with his regular laces. I took a look at my Garmin to see how I was doing. It had drowned at some point during the bike course, so I was racing blind. Probably just as well, since I wasn’t approaching tonight as a race!
Funnily enough, running in a downpour is something I really enjoy. I could have done without the puddles to splash through, and the heavy soaking we got when the rain got even heavier but, for the main part, I loved this run. Conditions were so bad, it was ridiculous, and all you could do was smile. I felt remarkably strong and light on the ol’ feet.
I had to stop to tighten my laces at one point (after my fingers had warmed up a bit) and a Serpie woman passed me. I tried to chase her down for a while but had to remind myself I wasn’t racing. I’d hate to get to 10 miles into the Little Woody run and regret tonight. So, I pulled back, and ran my own pace.
By the time I finished it was gone 8pm and the impending darkness (!) and rain, spray and cloud meant visibility was really poor. I splashed across the line, minced over the mud, collected my bike and legged it. I’d taken a change of clothes and a towel. What a laugh. My transition box was actually filled with water and everything inside was drenched.
I had no idea what my time was, since my Garmin gave up somewhere around 10km into the bike. But Human Race are an efficient lot, so it didn’t take long for results to be online:
Finish 01:24:27 (a PW? )
750m swim: 00:14:46
T1: …computer says 16 minutes. It wasn’t that slow
20km bike (taking it very easy!): 00:41:49
T2 (with blue fingers): 00:01:58
5km run: 00:24:35
Next stop, Little Woody. Wish me luck! And let me know via a comment below, or on Twitter (@thefitwriter) if you’re racing (Big or Little!) too – see you there!