My long term goal for the season was to complete my very first half ironman and I’d teamed up with Race Force to complete the Rubicon based at Newby Hall. A close family bereavement in the week preceding my wedding meant that unfortunately, at a time when I was supposed to be approaching the peak of my fitness, my training came to a complete halt in the three weeks prior to the event. My goal had always been to simply get round the course in one piece and so, as I approached Newby Hall on the morning of the race my plans had changed little.
The alarm went off at 4am on Sunday morning and as I checked through my phone for messages, I noticed an email from the event organiser. Due to the amount of rain we had on the Saturday the swim in the river was cancelled due to potentially dangerous river levels. Instead of a triathlon the event would now be a duathlon, with a 5 kilometre run, 90km bike and 21.1km run. My mind immediately began to whir with the new information. How would I pace this extra run? Have I actually ever run 26km in one day? I shovelled in what I could stomach for breakfast and headed to Newby Hall ready to host the race in Race Force colours.
For the purpose of this blog, I am going to focus on how the race went and not on the build-up that morning. There have been a number of negative reviews posted online of how the event was organised, and indeed I do have my own thoughts, but don’t want to use this platform to express them.
As I stood on the start line of what was now going to be the longest duathlon I’d ever done my mind was focused. I’d come to the decision to pace the first 5 kilometres as a warm up, anything quicker would surely have consequences for my second run. The run was fairly undulating and consisted of road, gravel track and some grassy fields. After 21 minutes, slightly faster than I’d wanted, I ran into transition, grabbed my bike and set out onto the bike route.
The bike course consisted of two large laps and one smaller lap, with competitors passing through the grounds of Newby Hall and passed transition on two occasions, stopping on the third. This was great as it meant spectators got a chance to see those that they’d come to support and gave those competing a much needed pick me up. The course itself was reasonably flat, especially along the old A1 section. There was a long out and back section which had a strong headwind, particularly on the second lap, and just seemed to drag on forever. I remained reasonably focused throughout the 90 kilometres, controlling my effort and not wanting to push too high a gear ahead of the final run.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the final run, and indeed what running legs I’d fall onto following the bike. I rarely cycle much further than 100 kilometres and so, even after a concerted effort over 90 kilometres, I arrived into T2 feeling pretty tired. To my surprise, I felt fantastic! I knocked off the first 10 kilometres, 2 laps, in 44 minutes and I managed to hold a similar pace for the third lap too. By this point there were a number of competitors on the run loop and so I wasn’t sure if I was overtaking people that were ahead of me in the race or lapping those that had joined the route later on. The final lap was where the wheels came off – and probably where my lack of preparation leading up to the race really began to hit me. Having stopped to take on some energy and water at the aid station, both quads began to cramp. I found it difficult to get back up to the speed and it turned into a bit of a run/walk and one I’d get round 7 minutes slower than the previous three. For me, there is always a point in the race where simply continuing becomes a battle with your own mind. I suppose as you push your body to its limit your natural response is self-preservation – stop doing what you are doing which is making you hurt! I think it’s one of the hardest parts of endurance sport, overcoming that mind set of stopping. In this race I certainly surprised myself at just how far I can push myself to keep going.I crossed the line with a mixture of exhaustion and elation, it’s a funny cocktail, but one that keeps me coming back for more. I am extremely happy to have finished in 25th overall and 3rd in my age group, particularly given the difficult three weeks I had leading up to the race.
Thank you to Race Force for giving me the opportunity to experience my first half ironman – albeit without the swim on this occasion. Thank you to my wife for being my support crew on the day, I know a 4am start on a Sunday is not exactly the honeymoon you had in mind!! Next up for me, and last of the season, is the Always Aim High Sandman Triathlon on Anglesey. Looks like I’m due to fly the Race Force flag at this event too, so look forward to seeing you all there!!
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