Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Triathlon Challenge: Born to Tri?

Just 22 days after restarting training for The Triathlon Challenge, having recovered 90% from my Wrestling injury (pulled ribs) I stood next to my mate Clive...both vacuum-packed in rubber, as we waited to start the Gosfield Lake Triathlon.

The (very bearded) Everyman Olympian looking apprehensive as Clive talks him through the swim route.
My thanks to Coach Harman and Born2Tri for their generous help in making my dream of completing an Olympic distance triathlon a reality - I can't recommend them enough, they're top folk!

As by body warmed the water in my wetsuit I positioned myself towards the back of the second draft of swimmers, wished Clive good luck and we were started off on our epic journey: a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run, back-to-back-to-back.

You can just make out my swimming cap, bottom centre
I'll not lie, the swim was a struggle to begin with; I couldn't establish a rhythm and I kept veering off in all sorts of directions. But then I regained my cool, remembered Coach Harman's wise words from the week before and finally managed to calm the nerves of the fellow beardy man who was paddling his canoe next to me to ensure I wasn't in serious trouble.

Exiting the water, I felt disorientated and drained; nearly falling over on the floating walkway out of the lake. Transition 1 didn't bring much confidence either, especially when I managed to make two small tears in the right calf area of the head organisers wetsuit (my apologies once again Coach Harman!).

Houdini could have escaped from the wetsuit better
Being lapped by elite athletes wearing flashy velodrome-style helmets on bikes I cannot afford is a bit like being beaten while playing your A game in a Wimbledon final by Roger Federer, there's no shame in it; this actually happened to Britain's own Andy Murray on the afternoon after The Triathlon Challenge.

The Everyman Olympian wins the race between these two orange signs
While I felt bad for the chap I passed who was walking his bike home and wouldn't finish the race, I had my sights set beating at least one active participant.

Towards the end of my first lap I passed No.91 but coming into my second 20km lap I was passed by No.119, whom I managed to keep within my eye-line throughout the remainder of the cycle; I found having this visual marker a real motivator.

We were each handed a time chip on a strap at the start of the race, which we had to wear to gain our results, but I gather No.91's chip hadn't been working as he's now on the born2tri site results page as DNS (did not start); I really feel for the guy. No.119 would beat me by 16 minutes but he probably helped get a better time in my cycling leg.

Transition 2 proved another disaster; with the bike a clear marker in the racks when I'd left the pool on transition 1 I had no qualms in finding my gear, but looking for a black towel amongst loads of black wetsuits was a nightmare - I must have lost 2 whole minutes in the search (while changing tops for a running tee must have cost me more)...lesson learned, never use a black towel in a triathlon!

Oddly enough I knew I had enough reserves to make the 10k run as I left on the final leg, so I tracked onto a man wearing a green sleeveless top - this man would become known as the Green Man as I used him as my pacemaker on the first lap of the run.

The Everyman Olympian sets off on the third section of the Gosfield Lake Triathlon 2012
The Green Man and I were quickly overtaken by a guy on his final lap, like myself he'd changed his top from the cycle and now I could see his race number (worn on the back for the cycle and front for the run as a minimum standard - we even had UK Triathlon Officials present so we had to abide by the rules).

We ran through farmer's fields, along broken private roads, muddy triathlete-created paths through corn fields and squelchy routes among trees before a short public road section to begin our second and final lap.

All the while I'd tracked the Green Man but just after we'd passed two female competitors he veered sidewards and stopped, seemingly to re-tie a trainer lace. I grabbed my opportunity and picked up the pace, the race to the finish line was on!

Back onto tarmac increased my pace again, maintaining a lead but not sure by how much. The last race official was busy chatting to cyclist pals, 'which way mate?' I interrupted, and he directed me towards a final field, thickly covered in waist-high corn. 'That's right mate' he hollered after me, but he clearly didn't see I'd entered at the wrong point - I now had sights on a chap just ahead of me but I knew the Green Man must not be far behind.

The only sign for runners nearby was set a ways into the field and hadn't helped me enter correctly, realising I'd made a wrong move a grey haired lady stood in the final low-grassed field shouted that I should cut through. The guy ahead built an unassailable advantage as I waded through the poor farmers crop.

Unbeknown to me, the Green Man has passed my brother who was taking photos by the last official and puffed 'I'm going to catch him now!'...but he too entered the corn field where I had and also lost time making a path for himself.

I cleared the crops and burst onto the final few hundred yards of grass, my legs burning and just a final route around a bright post to muster, crossing the finish line to hear my name announced by the race compare, followed by 'The Everyman Olympian...well done you've crossed Triathlon of the list...good luck with Synchronised Swimming.'

As I stood regaining my breath after a victory kiss with my missus, my father asked, 'Do you want some water, son?', 'Yes' I blew, 'They're just over there' he said - thanks dad!

Clive and The Everyman Olympian...we nailed it!
Huge thanks to the Born2Tri team and Coach Harman for the opportunity to attempt The Triathlon Challenge. I think I've found a sport I'll be coming back to!

PS Guess what pub we ended up going to for a Sunday roast after the race?...

1 comment:

  1. Well done Boris, excellent performance! Wouldn't have missed it for all the bananas in Africa. I'll buy you a big pink towel for Christmas.