Well I guess the first and most important update since my last blog is that I am now a Dad! Little Manon was born on June 3rd and she and Nia are both doing great. The fact that I am still racing and training gives an idea of how amazing and supportive Nia is – although working from home does at least mean I can help out where possible.
If Manon had arrived on due date (she was 10 days late) then I had hoped to do the Bala Middle Distance triathlon, but she came the Friday before so that was never going to happen. I decided I wanted to get one more triathlon in before Celtman and searched for something else. Cotswold Middle was a possible, but a pan flat course put me off as well as the price, since it would only be a “training event”.
The Forest of Dean Olympic/Standard distance jumped out, organised by trimax events it was the second running of the event and held right in the heart of the forest. We arrived in plenty of time, so I decided to drive the bike course and see what it was like. I was pretty happy as it was twisty, technical and had one big climb and lots of little ones around the 21km course, which would be lapped twice. Although I had a nice new disc rear wheel to use, I decided against it since the course was so hilly and also very wet and I hadn’t ridden the new wheel properly and didn’t want to risk anything. The Shiv with standard 60mm clinchers had proved fast enough in training anyway.
At 9:15 we were in the lake, which was apparently 19 degrees although did feel a touch colder with plenty of little thermoclines. Unlike both previous triathlons I’ve done I wasn’t too nervous at the start and when the gun went I kicked hard to try an get a good start. My sighting wasn’t great, but I was really happy with my time, taking 2 minutes off the last 1500m swim, coming out in 22:17, which was the 16th fastest swim time.
Learning from last time, I put my cycling shoes on while in transition and ran with them on out of transition. It was so much better than the last event at Porthcawl and I have no real issue running with clipless pedal shoes on anyway. T1 was all done in 1:06, which was 5th fastest and a massive improvement.
Onto the bike and I knew that I was going to have to push hard to pull back places, so that is exactly what I did. Full gas from the start, which was flat but twisty and I was catching people pretty quickly. After 5km we arrived at the hill for the first time and I pushed on, reeling several people in and catching some female riders who set off in a swim wave ahead of us. My Mum had told me just before heading out on the bike that she thought I was 11th, so I had an idea of how many were ahead, but typically I lost track almost immediately.
The twisty course suited me, although I almost stacked it on a fast right-left over a bridge. One rider was a little naughty and basically drafted behind me for 10km – pretty sure he was caught and had a penalty for it mind. I didn’t realise at the time, but at the end of the first bike lap I was in 2nd place and the lead was just ahead of me. Just before the bottom of the long climb I took the lead and knew that this would be make or break for me. I gave it everything, dropped the drafter and the guy who was leading and hoped that my legs would hold out for the run.
I arrived at transition and that was the first time I knew that I was leading, so hoped for a smooth and quick transition. Thankfully it was OK at 51 seconds (21st fastest), but could have been a touch quicker. I would soon find out what I had left in my legs! At first they felt pretty awful and a glance back behind me after 100m I could see that someone was just leaving T2, so I had a race on my hands. I seemed to pull a gap out to my amazement although my first KM split was slower than I hoped – probably due to the effort expended on the bike.
The run course was 10km, with an out and back and gradually climbed for 3km (only 150m vertical), before descending 2km and then starting the return. My KM splits were consistent, but slower than I hoped for and I knew that the lead was in jeopardy. I didn’t look behind me at all from 1km on, taking the turn in the lead and then obviously seeing all the gaps to the chasers. I quite enjoy being out in front on the bike, but since running is a weakness I can’t say I enjoyed it. After the turn I could see that at least 2 people were running fast with a chance of catching me, but it wasn’t until the 8km mark that Ian Barrett cruised past. I guessed he would have put on a spurt to get by, so dug deep to try and stay with him but my right leg was starting to cramp and I knew it was fruitless and had to watch him disappear into the distance. His KM splits were consistently faster than I am capable of even with fresh legs.
I kept looking back behind, hoping to keep 2nd place and I could see I had a big gap and was safe. I crossed the line in 2nd, finishing in 2:20:44, just 53 seconds behind Ian who won. He had a superb 38:32 run, taking 4 minutes out of me. My run was the 4th fastest, 42:33, which is pretty close to my PB so I can’t be too disapointed, but to come so close is always a case of “What if” and where time could have been gained. A 20 second improvement in T2 would have meant only another 30 seconds to find on the bike. Possible? Probably not and if I had, my run would probably have suffered even more.
With 2 weeks to go now until Celtman, I will soon start my taper and final preparations. I am hopeful of a good result, but there is a huge amount of unknown for me. The run will be the hardest of course, especially as the longest I have run this year is around 20km and the longest ever is 32km. The Celtman run is a full marathon, 42km and also includes 2 mountain summits at around 1000m. My plan will be pretty simple, survive the swim, go all out on the bike and see what happens.