I’ve just made it back to Cheltenham following my triathlon weekend up in Edinburgh. I am still buzzing from the experience so I wanted to share my story. My apologies for not putting out more updates. I have a couple of other blog posts ready to fire. I promise to get those out soon.
I am sure most of you are familiar with how triathlons work: swim, bike, run. Pretty simple. Most triathletes find their way into the sport through one of those three sports. Obviously, for myself, I started as a runner. After injuring my knee during my ultra marathon last year I decided that it was time to make the switch to something that would have less impact on the knees. So I bought myself a bike and some goggles and decided to take the plunge into the triathlon Wolrd. Give it a spin if you will.
Triathlons come in all sorts of distances: Sprint (0.75km, 20km, 5km), Olympic (1.5km, 40km, 10km), Middle (2.5km, 80km, 20km), Long (4km, 120km, 30km), and Ironman (3.8km, 180km, 42km). Something for the casual and the crazy.
The race I did was a Half Ironman (so half the distance of the Ironman above). I originally intended to do the full Ironman but eventually realized that’s fucking crazy! It’s an unimaginable distance! Training for it is a full-time job and I don’t see how people find the time! A Half IM fitted in pretty well with what I do anyway so that was the more sensible route. I have done one sprint (last year) so this wasn’t my first crack at it.
I chose to do my Half IM up in Edinburgh because well, it’s my favourite UK city. And the event is new as of this year so I assumed it was destiny that I go up there. In retrospect, it would have been significantly less faff to do a more local race but I have no regrets.
I think that’s enough prelude so let’s get to the race report. My day started at an ungodly 3 am which is apparently around the time the sun rises in Scotland this time of year I drove my way over to the final transition and got a shuttle bus over to the swim start. I had about 2 hours to kill so I went to check on my bike, gave the tires a pump, gave it a good tap on the seat, had a disappointing cup of instant coffee and walked down to look at the water. We had gotten an email earlier that the swim may be shortened (from 1.8km to 0.95km) due to the choppy conditions of the water. I wasn’t happy with this because I had come up here with the intent of doing the distance. After looking at the water I thought “the water looks fine! What are they on about?”. Well, let’s just jump to the start of the swim then (and yes they did shorten the swim). I make the quick run across the beach, hurdle a couple of waves and plunge into the surf. After two strokes I am hit in the face with a wave and take in a gallon of sea water. I am thinking to myself “I’m going to die. There is no way I can survive this. What are they thinking letting us out into this!????” Somehow I managed to make forward progress and looked up to see a rescue kayak. There was an athlete hooked onto the side of it and I thought to myself “Fuck. I should join him. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!!!!” The kayak made its way into my path and instead of grabbing hold I swam past it and out into the sea. Stroke, wave, gulp, stroke, wave, gulp. It wasn’t convinced I was making any forward progress but I eventually made it to the first turn. Swimming along the waves was a bit more sensible than swimming into them but only a bit. I looked around to see different coloured swim caps being thrown around in the water. It’s hyperbolic to say but it looked like a war zone! Things improved significantly after the next turn as I was riding the waves back towards shore. There were two more turns in the loop before I finally looked up to see the shore. It felt pretty damn good to have my feet back on solid ground!
UPDATE: The swim was actually my strongest event relative to the field! What!?
After making it through transition I found myself feeling happy to be one the bike. This evaporated quickly as I couldn’t get my bike into the hardest gear. A rookie mistake not to have the bike already in the gear I want! Anyway, I had to get off and do it manually which didn’t make for a good start! The bike is my weakest link as most triathletes are cyclists turned triathletes. Zoom! There goes a 60 years old man. Zoom. There goes someone with 50 pounds on me. Man, woman, and child zipping past me like I was a spectator! Not the most motivating! I struggled for the first 20k as I was still feeling shell shocked from the swim. I eventually got into a bit of a groove as we got into the hilly part of the course which is the type of cycling I am used to. I was out of the saddle attacking the climbs and driving hard down the hills finally feeling a bit of momentum. This lasted until the final 20km which turned into a bit of a slog. I got a bit of encouragement with 10km to go from a fellow Canadian as she passed me on the bike. She’s been living in the UK for 8 years and is married to a Scot. Maybe that will be my story in 6 years time! The last bit of the bike was complete BS! A climb around Holyrood Park!??? If I had actually prepared and studied the course I would have realized this but I was blissfully unaware that this was how it ended! After a lot of swearing, I finally made it to transition and out of the saddle.
Once I got the running shoes on I felt very comfortable. I wasn’t too worse for wear (given the conditions) and had 4 hours to complete the run before being timed out (there is an 8 hour 30 minute time limit) so I knew I was sitting pretty. The run is a 3 loop course which is not good psychologically. Running that first loop knowing you have 2 more to go is not good for the brain! But I was feeling good and it felt good to be cruising past everyone who had passed me on the bike. I got a glimpse at some of the athletes who were a loop (or two) ahead of me and they were all monsters. Ripped as shit and running faster than I could completely fresh (I’ve got a lot of work to do!). I usually get emotional during races but that didn’t really happen during this race. I found my mind was lazer focused on what I was doing and just turning over the legs that there wasn’t much room to get sentimental about anything. It wasn’t until the final lap that my body started to show some signs of wear. The left knee was barking a bit! Thankfully, the last 2km or so is mostly downhill so it was an easy finish. It was a good feeling to make that turn and see that finish line!
I ended up coming in at 6:37:50 which is a fair bit slower than I wanted (under 6 hours was my goal) but there is lots of room for improvement. Probably 10 minutes to scrub out in transition by getting myself a tri-suit (kit you can bike and run in versus making a complete change of clothes for each event) and lots of time to scrub off the bike!
Will I do another one? Absolutely! Will I ever do a full Ironman? We shall see!
I’ll try to stay in better touch in the future. I’ve got lots to share!