I entered this race last year 3 weeks after Austria, whilst lying on a sun lounger on holiday. I envisaged a dry warm day with clear blue skies, this was not at all distorted by the lunch time sangria I had consumed earlier.
The months flew by and after a few set backs this year I decided that I would use Bolton as a training race for the long course European Champs in september.
As we drove up to the race on friday and then preceded to drive the length and breadth of lancashire dropping off the transition bags the next day, I mused over why IMUK was said to be in Bolton. as it starts in Leigh, crosses into Wigan and then finishes in Bolton. I suppose a pseudonym of Boleighwig would be too much for us stoical english types to cope with though.
Anyway, I arrived at Pennington Flash, or The Flash, as those cool kids with calf guards and old race Ts on were calling it, on Friday for a quick pre race dip. This involved me stripping off at the side of the golf course whilst trying to preserve my modesty under a hand towel whilst my kids simultaneously bounced random objects off my head. I muttered to my husband that I wouldn’t be long, he could come and find me if there was a problem. I’d be easy to find in the middle of a lake decked out in a black wetsuit and white cap just like the other 200 or so swimmers.
As I approached the lake I noticed a chap who was dressed a bit like Steve Irwin stood at the edge. I’m no fool though; I knew that crocodiles were unlikely in Wigan, or was it Bolton? Anyway, I then assumed he was some sort of fishing inspector and half expected him to ask me for my angling licence. He didn’t. I looked out at the yellow buoys and asked him if we had to swim a whole lap if we got in. I wasn’t planning on swimming 1900m that day and couldn’t quite fathom why everyone else was. They were all mad. They’d regret it.
Steve, or Mr Angling Inspector, looked at me and smiled “you can swim as many as you like today”
Was he nuts???? “Its only 500m love, its going to be a lot further than that on Sunday” Cue a laugh from me and a hasty entrance to the water. It later transpired that this chap was neither a crocodile hunter or a fishy man, but was the events chief medical officer. Although how we were supposed to realise this in the absence of a white coat and a stethoscope is still puzzling me.
Saturday passed uneventfully aside from my race buddy Mitten and myself gleaning some pearls, or should that be nuggets of wisdom ? from my 12 yo about how to get the best price for scrap gold. I have made mental notes.
Obviously I went to bed and slept like a log. That was on fire and constantly being thrown around.
Race day breakfast consisted of 3 expressos, a sensation of nausea and a few Mexican waves curtsey of my gut. I had arranged to meet Mitten at the swim start. Luckily neither of us had adopted our full ninja costumes and we recognized each others shakes.
Swim: I was unprepared for how narrow the entrance for the swim would be considering that the entire population of Boleighwig, Europe, north America and everywhere else was trying to cram themselves in. As the canon fired North America and everywhere else were still on dry land and preceded to hurl themselves into the water and onto everyone else. I got elbowed and dunked and turned to see Mitten get twatted on the head. We exchanged a look that said far more than I can fit in to this report, but was something along the lines of FFS!
I swam calmly, i loved it. I knew I wasn’t going very fast as it was far too easy. I was hemmed in and never got any clear water but i didnt feel the urgency to be bothered.
Time !:22 rank 17
T1: stroppy teenager meets pound land sale! This was carnage! Bags spilled from peoples hands as they scrambled for gels and shoes. I grabbed the chin strap of my Bambino Kask and pulled the whole inside strap out. Great. I spent a few minutes trying to velcro it back into position so that the helmet actually fitted my head. It wasn’t perfect but if I cycled with my head tilted to the left for the next 112 miles it would do. i wasnt hangong about any longer.
Bike: I lost a bottle going over the first speed bump – not an issue to me! Not only had I packed for a famine I had prepared for a drought too, and had plenty more on board. The beauty of an aero bike laden down with enough fluid and grub to feed a family of 5 for 3 weeks. A couple of bike panniers and i wouldnt have been any less aero.
Strange things happen whilst on the IM bike course, Random thoughts crept into my mind. A guy on a blue kestrel bike passed me and I was reminded of Kestrel Larger. Mmmmm beer….
The support on the course was great, lots of cheering and encouragement from a wide variety of ages. Everyone from a new born baby at the road side to elderly people were out cheering – unless of course I pondered, that the new born was like Benjamin Button and was actually very old and wise. Random, I told you.
The course isn’t particularly hilly but is technical and I never found a comfortable rhythm were I could open up and relax. My HR monitor wasn’t working and so I biked by feel, which wasn’t an issue but at times I did wonder if I was going hard enough.By 80 miles I was uncomfortable and I was having problems eating. It was going to be a fair few hours before carb replenishment beer arrived and so I forced down my crisp sandwiches and star bar. The only thing missing from the mobile buffet was a can of Panda Shandy. I felt nauseous, my left hamstring was sore and I wanted a nice soft cushion to sit on…… I was starting to will the miles away and had a quick word with myself. Stay in the moment Claire: Nausea and a sore arse? Mint. No thanks I will look past this moment and the following 3,569678 and think about the run.
Bike: 6:56 Rank 10
T2: uneventful. No one really cares that a large gazebo full of lycra clad nutters stinking of their own bodily fluids are tottering around on cleats or stubbing their toes on stones. And why don’t running shoes simply slip on like they do when you’re just going for a lazy stroll?
Run: Two things stuck in my head: “Don’t be shit” and its still a long way to go, patience. I set off 8 min miling and soon passed a lot of the guys who had over taken me on the bike. The line Swim, Over bike, Walk popped into my head as i had seen this slogan on twitter a few days earlier in a tweet and I smiled to myself. I felt ok and a few 7 minute miles crept in but I suspected I would regret this pace and so backed off. My friend Allie, who did Boleighwig last year, had blatantly lied to me by saying there was one hill on the run. There are three. One off the canal which the local carpenter uses to take staircase angle measurements from, one slow gradual climb up to the turnaround point and then the hill Allie told us about, which required a stair lift.
At some point I saw Mitten and decided that this was probably the best time to wipe the gel off my hands, so I crossed the road and gave her a hug whilst cleaning my hands on her tri suit :). She looked fresh and I was so pleased to see her, it gave me a huge lift.
By the time I had done my second lap I was slowing down and gave into the coke. I passed Tamsin Lewis and yelled at her. There was a guy in a MTB in front of her, didn’t he realise this was a race? I noted his bike had a sign that said First lady and so looked at him closely – he didn’t look like Michelle Obama…..Takes all sorts.
I walked the hill and the feed stations and ran/ jogged the rest. After I berated myself for not trying harder- but not for long. The support on the run was brilliant and if anything tempts me back it would be the supporters of Boleighwig. They were phenomenal. I took my time along the chute this year and high fived kids and adults alike, none of whom had the foresight to consider where my hands had been during the past 12 hours or what could be on them :)
Everyone was screaming and I had to have a quick glance down to check that they weren’t shouting at me to tell me i’d tucked my skirt into my knickers. Thank fully no. I crossed the happy.
Run: 3:50 Rank 7
Not my best race, it just never came together for me. I was far too relaxed in a way because I wasn’t using this as my A race, but on reflection I think that maybe that helped me enjoy it more. Did I enjoy it? Do we ever?. Would I do it again….. Yes, I think I would.
i decided to go to the awards ceremony to catch up with Tamsin as we kept missing each other at other races and i really wanted to chat to her. It transpired that there were 3 slots for kona in my AG, declined by the first lady and accepted by the second and third. One slot rolled,,,, right to me! I looked at my husband OMG! Its me next. ‘Take it!!” he urged, and I did. I got to kiss Crowie and get a Kona slot! My practice race just took on a whole new meaning.