Well apparently its’ summer, has anyone noticed yet? That brief spell of summer weather we had back in May is long forgotten and it feels like Autumn already. I am seriously hoping that summer is indeed on its way… at some point!
That said, the weather hasn’t stopped me squeezing every available hour out of the day and training has been really good and consistent throughout June. Since I last wrote my weeks have included a 18 hour heavy build week, a very successful “rest and test” week of 8 hours which also saw me nail a new 10km PB in Southwark. I also got to meet swimming legend and giant of a man Mark Foster. A well organised event in aid of Prostate cancer and a nice addition of a pair of blue Y fronts in the goody bag!
Following the rest and test week I had two strong weeks of Peak training where all training gets a little more race like (meaning more brick sessions). These weeks were in excess of 12 hours each and aside from a slight cold in the middle of week 1 all went very well indeed. Week 2 included a visit to Insight Nutrition to ensure all was as it should be with my body comp. Since I had started training for middle distance I had dropped weight and didn’t feel as powerful so with some slight adjustments to the nutrition I’m back firing on all cylinders again.
Race week finally arrived and I was looking forward to going back to Kent. I had spent a few years of my childhood living very close to Hever castle. So I was looking forward to going back and seeing some of the sights from my primary school days.
Castle Triathlon – Hever castle. (www.castletriathlonseries.co.uk)
Having travelled down the night before I got my usual crappy nights sleep in a strange bed. Not ideal but something that seems to be somewhat of a habit! The usual breakfast and I left the hotel and headed for Hever castle.
On my drive to Hever castle I did notice a fair few hills and thought that it may have been an idea to read the race profile and route before race morning. “Ah well” I thought to myself and shrugged it off.
I arrived at the castle and it was just how I remembered it for 26 years ago. (Jesus, I’m old!) The impressive castle neatly surrounded by a perfectly kept moat and gardens was a stunning background for a race. Kudos to Brian Adcock for securing such a location for races.
Having registered and collected the ample goody bag (more Kudos Brian!) I set up in transition and did the usual pre race prep before heading toward the race start. A good race briefing was swiftly followed by getting in the water and taking the place on the start line. The hooter sounded and the usual washing machine of arms and legs began.
I have been swimming a lot more since the Grafman and it showed, I felt stronger in the water and swam well. The swim itself heads out to the far side of the lake before turning back on itself and into the River Eden. As I exited the water my stopwatch read 29:16 so I was happy with a sub 30 swim. However, there was then a 600m run to T1 which was included in the swim time so my official time was 31:37.
Remember that point I made earlier about reading the race brief, knowing the course and the race profile? Yes? Its good advice.
As I cycled out of the castle ground following a decent T1 I hit the first climb. Then the second, third, fourth…. it was relentless. I quickly realised I had made the wrong choice of bikes because I hadn’t read the course map and profile! Here I was on my TT bike on the hilliest race route I have ever experienced. The next 3 hours would be a battle of not only a physical nature but also a mental one. For those that know me will know that since I came off my bike in 2014 and ended up in hospital I have never been the most confident in attacking the downhill sections. Of course where you get uphill’s, you get downhill’s and I was unable to take full advantage. This was made much worse when the wind and rain started lashing down. The bike course itself was two 45km loops and I wanted to stop after one loop. I was struggling with all the climbs and couldn’t gain an advantage going downhill on wet roads. I was not a happy man. When it got to the end of the first loop I had a decision to make. I decided to man up, face my fears and see it out. So I did. Another 45km of hills, wind and rain saw me come into T2 very wet, cold and drained.
Because the bike had felt torturous and slow I immediately assumed I was way down the pack. So when I arrived in T2 and saw around 20 bikes there (out of 170+) I was surprised. A swift T2 and off I went on a run. Surely this run would be fine, it was 2 loops of the lake… wasn’t it?
No… it wasn’t. The first 4km is a winding route uphill through forest trails, gravel, farmers fields and boggy pathways which is just the thing for racing flats! A brief section of downhill was very welcome at around 5km before yet another set of testing uphill sections. The final 1.5km to complete the first loop was nice a flat so it was a relief to get some constant speed and I noted that in a loops time it made for a nice strong finish…. if my legs held out for another punishing 10.5km loop.
They did. I entered the finishing section on a strong finish and went across the line. Almost 50 minutes slower than my PB around Grafham but on such hugely different courses I was just happy to have conquered the Gauntlet. My time was 5 hours 40 minutes.
I know I joke but this highlights the importance of reading the race brief, the course map and if available the route profile. In fact, if you can get out there an ride \ run the course before race day even better. I learned a valuable lesson in Kent. I had the wrong bike, the wrong trainers and I hadn’t done enough hill training and I was made to suffer on the day.
That said, there are many positives. It was a wonderful race, perfectly organised and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a challenging triathlon. The surroundings were astounding and the route was on good well marshalled roads. I battled personal demons on the wet and windy descents and swore at the road numerous times and above all, I finished, more than in any other race I have raced before I felt spent. This was undoubtedly the hardest race I have ever done but my god I don’t half feel like I achieved something.
Amazing race – amazing feeling. Ill be back in September to do it all again! Thanks to Brian Adcock and the team at Castle Triathlon for donating two race entries to support my charity fundraising this year. Another 70.3 in the bag for Signposts.
So what’s next. I need to find some speed and after a weeks recovery I start a micro training cycle ready for the upcoming Stewartby lake Olympic distance triathlon. A local event so it should be a good one. I may even read the race instructions!
Stay safe everyone.