The build up
This weekend saw the final event in on my ‘to-do’ list for this year and also marked the first major step towards Ironman Zurich 2014. The Stowe Middle Distance Triathlon by On Your Marks Events is based at the beautiful Stowe School / House, with a 1800m swim in one of the ornamental lakes, followed by 85.4 km on the undulating roads of Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire and a 21km run around the grounds of Stowe House. For the uninitiated, a middle distance triathlon is basically a half iron distance race – they can’t call it a 1/2 ironman because ‘ironman’ is a trademarked name!!
Most of the training I have done this year has been focused on getting around this event and making the finish line, the events that have come before were really just a warm up / training for this. Having entered Zurich earlier in the month, I needed a decent showing here to give me some confidence that I could make it around the full Ironman distance. My training had been a little disrupted by the re-occurrence of a knee injury, but my knee has calmed down in recent weeks and I had managed to get some decent bike training and some not so decent run training in. I knew I was a bit short on run practice, but I had hoped for the best!
Let’s get the party started
Having arrived bright and early at the beautiful Stowe house, I was registered and my bike was racked in plenty of time. I had a few minutes to wander the paddock and catch up with a few people I knew would be racing the event. There was a nice relaxed atmosphere in transition, I think the longer distance makes most people think about finishing rather than ‘racing’. After an interesting race briefing it was time to walk the 800 metres to the start and the intermediate transition between the swim and bike – most unusual. Basically, having exited the swim there was a small transition area where running shoes were donned and there was an 800 m run to transition proper were bikes could be collected and the ride could begin.
Another brief chat by the organisers and we were in the murky lake waiting for the buzzer and the race start. As usual, all hell broke loose when the buzzer went and people were banging and barging to get some clear water. I felt the swim went OK, I was slightly hampered by not being able to see the second buoy due to the sun and my poor goggle selection. Anyway, after three enjoyable laps, I was ready to wade out of the water, have a short run and head for the bike leg. Turns out I was 111 out of the water in about 45 mins, I was hoping for a bit quicker but ho hum!
Always my favourite leg of a triathlon, I grabbed various items of food, put on some socks, donned my helmet and headed out on the bike ride. I knew the route was going to be a bit up and down but I was looking forward to getting my smoke on and making up some ground on the faster swimmers. As an aside, the weather was ace, a late summers day with a very slight breeze (which did get a bit stronger later). I was conscious to not go out like a mad man and keep something in the tank for the run. I’ve been told that the bike leg was about staying steady and making sure you drink and eat, basically preparing for the run. The bike passed pretty quick, I had a few interesting moments with overtaking motorists and horse riders but apart for that it was happy days. Food eaten and drinks drank I was ready for the run….but not prepared!
The run (aka hell run)
The organisers had described the run as ‘undulating’, I would describe it as ‘fuckin’ hilly’, it was hell on earth. There was basically 200 m of flat at the back end of the course with everything either being uphill or downhill. The course was five laps of a 4.2km route, once I was out on the run, it was a case of counting down the laps and trying to run for as much as I could. In the end, I had to walk most of the uphills on the fourth and fifth laps and ended up running nearly 2hrs for a 1/2 marathon (normally I would run 1hr30min (ish)). The only bonus was the presence of my wife, daughters and in-laws that gave me a mega boost on each lap – there’s nothing quite like a screaming 4 year old to make you smile and get on with it. Reaching the final hill for the last time was a major bonus, the wonderful feeling of success starts to coarse through you body and I tried to increase the pace for the last 100m. When I crossed the line a marshall grabbed me by the arm and inquired about my health – I looked at him, said a few choice words and tried to crack a smile. He looked at me, smiled back and suggested that if I could swear like that then I must be fine.
You might have gathered that I found the run a bit hard, but at the end of the day I made the finish line in one piece and now I chomping at the bit to get out there to get some training done and come back stronger for Ironman Zurich. I’m really pleased with the bike leg and perhaps need to cool off on the bike training and include more running (subject to knee implosion). My knee actually felt fine on the day, it’s now a bit sore but nothing too bad, generally good news all round! I finished 38th overall in a time of 05:36:26 which was 111 on the swim, 25th on the bike and 43rd on the run.