This was my first foray into middle distance racing, otherwise known as 70.3 racing. There is a first for everything, and for the first time ever I had been labelled as one of the favourites, with Tri247.com writing this Pre race review and then publishing this interview I had done, several weeks beforehand. Nothing like going into a race under the radar!
A 1900m swim, 90km bike and 21km (half marathon) run. Thinking about the distances involved scared me no end, so I thought about it in time instead: 30 minute swim, 2.5hr bike and 1hr 30min run, which sounded a lot more do-able. 4 hours 30 minutes of racing, I thought, which is a realistic time based on my current training, and when I considered 4 hours 30 minutes of exercise it didn't scare me as much as thinking of the distances. Only 7 days previously I had been out on my bike for 5 hours 30 mins, so at least I would hopefully be home and dry an hour earlier than that.
The weather forecast said rain and wind. It wasn't wrong. On Sunday at 4.30am my alarm goes off, so I pull the curtains back and there it is: wind and rain. Well done weatherman, you were right. It was an early start due to transition being open 5.30am till 6.15am. The first wave was off at 6.30, and all the females would set off at 7am in the last wave of the day.
The gun went, and off we splashed, I looked up after a few minutes and saw the lead pack of women not too far ahead, I decided to put in a big effort, in an attempt to join the pack. The dream in the swim leg is to get on some feet and benefit from a draft effect. In previous years, I just have not had the swim fitness or strength to put in the turn of pace to catch the draft, but today was different. I did it. I caught the front pack and got in the draft, and, wow, it's nice and easy when you are in a draft! This is where I remained for 3/4 of the swim, until I spotted one of the girls starting to inch ahead of the group. I decided to manoeuvre around the others in the group and keep on her feet, as she was obviously moving the quickest. I emerged out of the water in the top 3 - never before has this happened: 28.58 for 1.9km.
What to wear on the bike? I still hadn't decided, but had left a few options draped over my bike in transition. It wasn't too cold, but it was raining heavily, and you could see the flags and trees swaying violently in the wind. I opted for socks, arm warmers and a gilet in the end. I was glad I did. The 90km bike leg was in some of the toughest weather I have ever raced in. Torrential down pours of rain, alongside strong winds made for a challenging ride. I was using my Garmin to pace myself, but found it hard to even see the screen. I was trying to keep the heart rate down and the cadence (speed you spin the pedals) high. This was tough, as I'm used to Olympic distance racing, so the pace felt slow, but I knew I had a long way to go. In my mind it was all about the half marathon run, and the bike was just a warm up for that, so I had to keep a lid on it. Harder to do than you realise with adrenaline pumping around the body. 90kms cycled in 2 hours 41 minutes.
Off came the arm warmers and gilet in transition. I always get warm running, so, regardless of the weather I would only ever wear a tri suit. The rain had stopped, but the wind continued. I put my Garmin running watch on. I'm not sure if it is waterproof, hence not wearing it on the swim. I had never before raced using a watch for pace, but considering I had a fair distance to go, I thought it would be beneficial to prevent too keen a start and a potential blow up. In my mind, 7 minute miling seemed a nice pace to start - 1hour 30min pace. I went through half way in exactly 45 minutes, spot on, and feeling decent. My overall strategy was to think of the run as 3 x 30 minutes, so it seemed more do-able, and my nutrition strategy was to take a gel every 20 minutes. I had 3 gels with me. The run was 2 laps; out along the canal on the tow path, that, due to the rain had become pretty muddy in places, then around Holme pier point lake. The lake was a test of the mind, as you could see exactly how far you had to go, and it seemed a long way - especially when you turned at the far end and faced a strong head wind. I saw my pace drop, 7.4miling, to 7.08 miling. I knew I had a decent lead, so I just thought about getting to the finish - 'tap tap tap' was all I thought in my mind, step after step after step, 'tap tap tap', focusing on cadence and running relaxed. And soon enough the finish line appeared. 1.34 for 21km run (half marathon).
4.48 in total, a bit over my estimated 4.30, but in the weather conditions, a decent effort, and I was one very happy Winner of The Outlaw Half Triathlon.
A big 'Thank You' to everyone out on the course for all the cheers and shouts of support. I was also amazed by the shouts of encouragement from fellow competitors on the run, so thank you.