On Saturday 15th November I was due to complete my first ever iron distance triathlon in training. As it happened a few things went against me, including a languishing leg injury and so I was advised not to go the full distance. So, I did half instead. It’s what is known as a 70.3. The name comes from the combined distance of
- 1.2 miles swim
- 56 mile bike ride
- 13.1 mile run
Preparation began the night before. Clothes laid out, tyres pumped up, cogs oiled, oat bars in pockets and Elivar sports drinks all mixed and in their correct bottles and bags. As this was a solo training session I wouldn’t have any fuelling options other than to take with me what I would need. I was using my home as race HQ so this did make it easier. Bottles were the order of the day for the bike and I filled up a bladder bag with 1 litre of Endure and put that in a small running rucksak and put the whole kit in the fridge for the next day.
The alarm woke me at 6am and I headed out in the car and down to the seafront to recce the water conditions for the swim. To my utter disappointment the sea was far too rough for the swim. Despite the air being as still as a it could be the waves were high and rough. I conceeded to swimming in a pool. I had to wait until the pool opened at 8:30 so had plenty of time to relax and fuel up.
I started my first swimming length at 8:40 and, having a lane to myself (that never happens) meant that I was able to pace myself and concentrate entirely on the job in hand. I really enjoyed the swim. I got into a rhythm and didn’t break it for the whole 84 lengths. I wouldn’t say my stroke was great but it served me well, felt comfortable and got me from start to finish in exactly 40 minutes. I swam a few lengths extra than the 77.5 required for the distance…just to be on the safe side.
I was out of the pool, in the car and back home well within 10 minutes. In anyone’s books this is a long transition but was the best I could do on the day. I made a quick change and got straight out on the bike. I was feeling fantastic!! There was a lot of low lying fog which made for a cold ride. The lesson I learned here was to wear another layer under my long sleeved jersey and to either wear another pair of socks or some thicker ones – my feet were freezing. Again, the bike ride went well. My leg injury made itself known a few times but didn’t stop me. I have started to learn to recognise that the pain is there and move on. It sounds simple and it is in theory but it takes practice. It’s beginning to work. The bike ride went without a hitch except for the chain popping off whilst I was pulling away from a roundabout. It was totally my fault and fortuately the bloke in the car behind me saw the funny side.
I had to take a slight detour from the mapped out route towards the end of the ride because my cycle computer told me I was 2 miles short. I got home feeling very good indeed. Another quick change, trainers on and rucksack with bladder bag grabbed from the fridge. Now, getting the legs to work properly was a challenge as anyone who has ever tried running straight after a long bike ride will tell you. But, worse than that was the terrible cold I could feel in my kidneys. I had meant to take the bladder bag/rucksack out of the fridge first thing in the morning. As it happened I had forgotten so this meant that the whole bag was very chilled. The transfer of this cold into my back and vital organs was quick, deep and painful. It certainly slowed me down for the first few miles on what was quite a flat and straight run. The chill was so intense that I could feel myself becoming shaky, I was more than a little nervous until I, and the bag, thawed out.
At 7.5k in I decided to change the route that I had planned out. I had run14.5 miles in training 3 nights previously and I just had a suddent though that the remainder of the route would bore me as I was running the same roads. So, I quickly re-routed and ran where I knew I would hit the distance but would also take me along the river and seafront…great for my morale.
As I dropped down a long hill I got the biggest surprise. My wife and daughter along with my daughters friend were standing at the bottom with my #7days7irons flag directly in my eye line and cheering me along. It’s support like this that keeps me going and makes me realise that I have the best personal support crew in the world!! To top it off I was joined at the same point buy a running pal who, kept me running and also helped pick the pace up. Again, this show of support was well timed because morale was slipping a little.
And that is my biggest take away from the weekend. When I felt low at any point I recognised that it was due to the solitude. I train almost always on my own and enjoy it but I realise that during the main challenge I will need support riders and runners to help keeo me motivated. That is a really important and timely discovery and something that I plan to work on in the coming months.
In conclusion, The swim and bike were a lot easier and faster than I had both hoped for and budgeted for. I need to increase the bike-to-run training as my legs were tiring too quickly on the run. Lastly, I really need to remember to take the bladder bag out of the fridge earlier to ensure I don’t freeze my kidneys!
Next on the agenda I will do the same again but will increase to the full distance swim (2.4 miles). That will be in the next couple of weeks. Watch this space.
- Swim 40 minutes
- Cycle 3hrs 15 minutes
- Run 2hrs 13 minutes
Thanks for reading