What a great weekend of beautiful sunny skies and fantastic racing.
19 intrepid Harriers plus family/support crew ventured down to Wimbleball
Lake on Exmoor for the Ironman UK 70.3 triathlon. A decent contingent of
us took advantage of the incredible summer heat and camped on-site in the
beautiul grounds of the lake.
Talk beforehand focused on the type of bike to ride over this extremely
hilly course, the type of trainers to use for the varied terrain of the
run course, but for once the temperature of the lake was not a cause for
complaint at a balmy 17 to 18 degrees.
The 1.9k swim was a one loop triangle, which on the day was calm and
without too much drag in any particular direction and most found
relatively straightforward. There was even plenty of room at the start to
spread out and avoid the traditional swim-scrum, as the race started in
two waves with 15 minutes between them.
Unusually for me I managed to mess up big time in transition. Grabbing my
bike bag from the racks, I ran to the change area and wrestled my mega
clingy wetsuit to the ground, tipping the contents of the bike bag onto
the floor, only to see an unfamiliar helmet and kit that was obviously not
mine. Panic! I stuffed everything back in, spent some frustrating seconds
finding the right place to re-rack the wrong bag, then more seconds
locating my correct bag and checking its contents, before I could finally
don my helmet, stuff my wetsuit into the bag and run out to find my bike.
My bike shoes were on my bike, which I usually find really speedy, but
today the gods of transition were out to make my life difficult and as I
went to mount the elastic bands broke, sending my shoe, attached to the
pedal crashing into the floor and bringing me to a dead halt. Several
attempts later to get on uphill with upside down shoes didn't improve my
mood much but I did eventually get on and get going. Phew.
The 2-lap, 54 mile bike course starts with a seriously long climb shortly
after transition, guaranteed to tempt you to push too hard right at the
start and to get the heart rate well up. After this there's a shorter,
slightly steeper climb up on to a more major road, which rolls through the
countryside and was a fast section of the course, with only minimal winds
where there can often be fairly severe headwinds to battle against.
Another more rolling section took us to the 'no overtaking' technical
descent, a rule which is pretty universally ignored, but definitely led to
some extreme burning rubber and my lack of properly working front brakes
did cause me a couple of hairy moments here. Then we get to the proper
hills, with riders zig-zagging, falling off, getting off to push and
general hilarity. As I was in the first wave and generally with decent
cyclists, I have to say I missed most of the entertainment, but I'm
certain the others will have witnessed plenty, (and my even have
contributed to it). Following several more long climbs you arrive at the
only pont on the bike course with any real spectator support, at the top
of a hill and next to a water station. This is a welcome relief as it
signifies the end of big climbs (on that lap) and a faster, but still
hilly section towards the end of the lap. Two laps of this the, before the
final thrilling descent to the lake and last sharp climb up to transition.
I had a great ride on the bike, as when we all settled down I found myself
playing cat and mouse with about 6 other cyclists, all intent on pushing
the course hard and getting the most out of it. One lady near me was also
very strong and kept me motivated to push on, especially up the hills,
where she was a little weaker, but she was always mega speedy on the more
time-trial sections. Even in a non-drafting race it does help to have
people cycling around you, so you stay in front of some, but still have
rabbits to chase down. Anyway, I found myself stupidly sprinting up the
final hill to beat a couple of the guys to transition, not really thinking
about the effect that might have on my run legs. I fuelled the bike ride
on my home made energy bars and think I may finally have found something
that works for me whilst racing!
Transition this time was mercifully easy, with someone locating my bike
rack for me, help with getting out run kit and putting bike equipment back
in the bag. And we're off. Or possibly not. At this point I began to
realise what I had done to my legs on the bike and they didn't like it.
Shuffling was more the name of the game as I started my first lap knowing
that it had been some months since I'd run anything like this distance at
any pace. The hills didn't help and by now the sun had really come out to
make the feed stations every 1.5miles an absolute necessity. Red Bull were
sponsoring the event, so there was even Red Bull and water on the course,
which I chose to avoid, under the rule of never doing anything new in a
race, despite being tempted by the caffeine.
It was great to see other Harriers on the out and back sections of the run
course. I was worried that Marianne seemed to be about a minute behind a
really fast looking relay chap, but did seem to be catching him. In fact
it turned out she was a whole lap ahead of him! Simon Fisher was running
well, but had been held up by a tricky flat tyre on the bike course. Tony
P was working hard and I was pleased to spot Nora looking strong too. I
was under strict instructions not to finish my run before Steve Crane was
off his bike; tick!
The last half lap I picked up the pace a bit, since I was afraid that a
very fit looking lady was slowly closing in on me. I finished strongly and
coming over the finish line to hear the commentator telling me I had
finished as 6th lady was amazing, especially since the lady I had stayed
ahead of was a serious pro. It was great to see Eimar Mullen at the
finish, having come in half an hour ahead to win the ladies race yet
again. My day was made when the relay team told me the great news of their
win. Further Harriers placings were discovered later as the results came
out throughout the afternoon.
At the awards ceremony in the afternoon, the relay team squashed
triumphantly onto the top step of the podium to receive their winning
trophy for Bedford Harriers and start a stream of Harriers going up to the
podium, so much so that the commentator announced to much appreciation,
that "Bedford Harriers seems to be a running club with a triathlon
problem". How true and a successful one at that!
A huge well done to all the Harriers who made the long trip down to Exmoor
and conquered the mega tough course, but thank you also to all the
long-suffering family/ supporters who were as always unfailingly positive
and hugely supportive throughout the weekend.