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Monday, 20 April 2015

Challenge Five - Weymouth Triathlon - Sunday 12 April 2015

Two weeks had past since I lost my 'triathlon virginity' and now it was time to do it all over again. The Weymouth Triathlon, organised by the folks at Bustinskin, was upon me and with it Challenge 5 of my Charity Challenge Year.  From never doing a triathlon in my life I was now about to do my second in two weeks and I was ready and feeling great.
TriathlonBox and my Bike ready for the journey
The whole Challenge started a day earlier this time.  As the event registration was 0630hrs to 0730hrs on race day it would have meant leaving home about 0400hrs in the morning, which to be honest didn't fill me with joy!  Therefore the command decision was made that we would make a family weekend of it.  So Saturday morning me, Georgie (my wife), Freddie (my little boy) and Lucy (my mother in law) packed the car and set of for Weymouth.

Freddie and Georgie enjoying the donkey rides

With everything I needed for the race packed away in my TriathlonBox and my bike on the rack there was plenty of room for the bags in the boot too.  We trundled through the Dorset countryside and made our way to the hotel in Weymouth.  The staff at the Crown Hotel where incredibly helpful.  Letting me lock my bike and TriathlonBox in one of there store rooms and also organising an earlier than advertised breakfast for me and the family.  The rest of the day was spent watching Freddie running around on the beach, riding donkey's eating ice cream, building sandcastles and riding on as many fairground rides as possible.  In my eyes it was the perfect way to relax before a race.  

We all headed back to the hotel after an amazing day at the beach had evening meal (a big fish pasta dish) and went to bed ready for an early start on race day.

Although the venue was only 15 minutes drive from the hotel my alarm was set for 0500hrs which would give me time to get up, dressed and have breakfast ready to leave for the race at 0630hrs.  The family were up and ready too and the day was looking beautiful.  The weather report was dry and warm with a slight coastal breeze.  I was excited for this one!

When we arrived at the race many people had already there sorting bikes and stuffing kit into plastic boxes struggling up the little hill up to the leisure centre.  I grabbed my bike of the rack and fitted my TriathlonBox onto the top tube and strolled up to registration.  

Transition was already bustling with racers sorting their kit and placing helmets on bikes etc.  I went down to registration and picked up my numbers and swim cap.  I headed back out to the transition and found my place on the rack.  On when the bike and out of my TriathlonBox came my helmet, shoes, trainers and towels.  I placed them in order and checked and double checked.  Now I was ready to race all that was left was a quick race brief and I'd be on pool side.

The Swim

Waving to the support
The swim was a little different than at Bicester.  Each wave waited on pool side in number order.  Each racer would get in the pool and start their swim then every 20 seconds the next person would start.  After each 50m the swimmer would then enter the next lane and swim another 50m.  So 6 lanes, 12 lengths would be 300m.  As I was stood on pool side I was feeling good.  I looked up to the viewing gallery above and could see my family waving to me with little Freddie waving his hands off.  I was more than ready now and had real motivation to go!  I was number 42 but after a few changes in the line up I probably wasn't 42nd in the pool.  However my time had come.  I got in the pool and waited for the count.  The marshal counted me down from 5 and I was off! 

In what felt like the blink of an eye I was already entering lane 2 and starting my second 50.  By the end of length 3 I had caught the swimmer in front and passed him at the turn.  The first 100 was done and it had flown by.  By the end of length 5 I had caught another 2 swimmers and passed them at the turn too.  Half way down lane 6 and I got stuck behind another swimmer.  This wasn't a bad thing it actually gave me a breather for a few seconds because at the turn I passed them and was away.  Half way done and the lanes in front were now pretty clear all the way to the finish.  I just kept my stroke steady and efficient and the ladders at the end of length 12 approached very quickly.  The swim was done.  I climbed out of the pool and ran out the back door as I hit the transition carpet I hit the lap button on my Garmin - 00:06:14.

Transition 1

Making my way out of T1

From the carpet out of the back of the pool to my bike was about 50/60m I was feeling strong and headed towards my bike.  As I got there, Georgie was waiting right by my bike taking photos and cheering me on.  I could here Freddie and Lucy cheering in the background too.  On went the helmet and number belt followed quickly by my shoes.  The bike came of the rack and I ran out to the mount line. I hit the line jumped on the bike and hit the lap button on the Garmin - 00:01:57.

The Bike

Now although the race was advertised as the Weymouth Triathlon it was actually on Portland.  For those of you that don't know the island is essentially a hill and an extremely steep one too.

Round the roundabout
As I left transition there was a little roundabout to navigate on which one of the marshals shouted to me that I was to follow the road to the left and that there were two riders ahead of me.  Round the roundabout I went and I followed the road to the left.  Up ahead I could see the two riders as well as the aforementioned mega climb.  Now like any cyclist I like a hill but this wasn't a Grand Tour, this was a triathlon and I was still recovering my legs from the swim.  The hill was upon me and it lasted for about 3km from bottom to top.  The road snaked up the hill too so it wasn't a straight road to the top.  I'd caught the first of the two riders by the first hairpin about 1km in then the second very soon after.  I was going alright.  Although the hill was steep and long I was managing to keep my pace steady.  I was out the saddle for a lot of it but my legs kept pumping and in the distance more riders were being reeled in. 

Returning to Transition
Thankfully at the top it leveled out nicely and I was able to really open up staying steady at around 35-40kph on the flats.  There were still a few lumps to contend with which slowed me down a little but nothing to straining.  I was passing people frequently and each time I did I set my sights on the next one ahead.  The road was now flat and the sights were amazing.  The sea to my left looked calm and steady with the sun bouncing off the water.  I kept hammering on and in the distance I could see Portland Bill which I knew was the turning point.  

After the turn the route headed back towards the leisure centre on the same road back.  About 13km in another little bump in the road reared its ugly head slowing me down to around 20kph.  It didn't last very long however, about 1km, then the rapid decent started.  The narrow winding roads of Portland were flying past me at nearly 60kph! It was quick which was good as it meant little peddling allowing me time to recover ready for the run!  Around the last roundabout and up to transition I went and onto the dismount line. I clipped out of my peddles and ran down the side of transition and across the timing line where I hit the lap button on my Garmin again - 00:39:29.

Freddie cheering me on in T2
Transition 2

As I approached my racking area once again I was greeted by Georgie taking more photos and cheering me on.  Off came the helmet and shoes.  I spun my number round and slipped on my trainers and headed back out of transition.  Across the mat I hit the button again - 00:01:43.

The Run

Sprint Finish
As I headed out on the run my legs felt strong and I was feeling good.  Ahead I could see two other runners up the road, about 800m ahead of me.  I made the decision that I was going to catch them!  I kept my stride long and pace steady at around 5min/km.  There was a slight downhill out onto a flat section all the way out to the half way point.  The run was totally flat and was an out and back route.  The flag which indicated the half way point was along a coastal path right next to the harbour front.  

The flag was at 2.5km there was a drinks station about 600m from the flag.  It was just before here that I caught the second of the two runners.  I caught him and decided that I wasn't going past him and that I would run with him to the half way marker.  We had a little chat and both decided to run together to the end!  We kept each others pace high sticking around the 5min/km mark. The coastal path was almost like a trail route, jagged rocks and holes, ankle turners I call them, so the pace slowed slightly just to stay safe.  

The run was going extremely well so far.  As we approached the end of the race it was decided between us that when we reached the top of the little hill just outside the leisure centre we would 'give it the beans' to the finish line.  As we hit the top I opened up my stride and give it everything I had left into the finish.  I was sprinting in, well as best I could at the end of a triathlon.  In the background noise around me I could here more voices cheering me on.  The voices I heard I recognised too!  Georgie, Freddie and Lucy were there as well as Steph and Lee with their girls, friends of ours who had come up to Portland to cheer me on!  I kept going hard to the finish and crossed the line - 00:24:02!

At the finish line I was greeted with a medal and some freebies, to be honest right now I was to busy trying to get my breath back. I walked back to my racking point were I was met by my support.  I took a seat on my TriathlonBox and knocked back a bottle of water. I'd done it my second ever triathlon complete!  Challenge 5 complete.   Now for the time.  At Bicester I'd gone 01:23:47 had I gone better?  Well in a word YES!! I'd smashed in fact 01:13:03 official!!  I was delighted! I was 10 minutes quicker over a much tougher course.  I couldn't have asked for more! Having my family and friends there to see me in was just the best feeling in the world and now I'd taken 10 minutes off my PB!  To top it all off it was now only 1030hrs and we all had the rest of the day on the beach to recover.  Nothing could be better!

Challenge 5 done and who would have believed it! Please remember that all of this is for a charity close to my heart and because of the amazing generosity of many of the readers of this blog as well as family and friends I have so far managed to raise £925! Which is just incredible!! Its completely overwhelming that so many people care and have made the effort to text or visit the JustGiving  page!  But obviously as with all charity work I would love to make more so you can text the word KOMS99 followed by your donation to 70070 (i.e. KOMS99 £5 to 70070) or visit my JustGiving page! 

I cant thank you all individually but want you all to know that I am eternally grateful for all your support and hope that you will all stick with me over the next 7 challenges to come!  Next up is the Southampton Triathlon 26 April 2015!

Thank you!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Challenge Four - Bicester Triathlon - Sunday 29 March 2015

After months of training and preparation the day had finally arrived for me to take part in my first ever Triathlon!  2 years ago it was merely a pipe dream, more of an item on a bucket list than anything.  Now here I was, the night before my first ever race, packing my kit and going through it over and over again!

The time had come for me to tick that item off the list - it was time to put myself to the test!

Sunday morning arrived and I was up bright and early going through my kit list and making sure I got some breakfast in.  My start time wasn't until 1120 so I had plenty of time to get myself together and get to the event.  I left home about 0840 and hit the road to Bicester which was about a 90 minute drive.

TriathlonBox staying strong
Now before leaving I had done the obligatory weather check and it wasn't looking good! The rain was forecast all day and the wind looked strong.  The forecast said 35mph cross winds.  That I was not looking forward to one bit!  My first ever Tri and I'd be dealing with rain and intense winds!  If it wasn't challenge enough the weather gods were going to make it harder.

I arrived at the event and to be fair the organisers at 'On Your Marks' had done a wonderful job setting up with the wind in full force.  Marshals were constantly picking up fences and peoples hats as the wind took a real hold.  I'd arrived just before 10 which meant I had a bit of time to register, grab my kit and get into transition to set up.  Again the transition marshals were on fire! Constantly picking up lids and empty plastic boxes blowing around as well as towels and bottles of talc!

I did notice however there was one particular box that didn't fly away, TriathlonBox!

Kit ready in transition
As this was my first ever triathlon I wasn't entirely sure how to set my kit up.  I put the bike on the rack, attached my number to my race belt which I then clipped to my bag.  Placed both my bike shoes and running shoes next to my bag with my helmet ready to go too.  Both sets of shoes were full of talc! That was it, I was ready to go - I hoped!

The nerves were running wild now!  I'd been working for this for months, was I ready? Had I done enough? I didn't want to fall at this last hurdle, the race itself.  The crew at Stonehenge Triathlon and Road Club had put me through my paces in the pool and on the hills of Salisbury Plain and I really wanted the hard work to pay off!  Now the time had come to put it all to the test - it was 1120 and I was stood on the side of the pool waiting for the nod from the Swim Director to get in the pool and begin my first EVER triathlon!!!!

The Swim

The 'nod' was given and I got into the pool.  My heart rate was pounding now, this was it the time had come.  3,2,1 and the whistle was blown - I was off!

There was only one other swimmer in my lane and he was about 75m ahead of me having started before me.  My first 50 flew by I wasn't even convinced I'd done 50m but I had.  Before I knew it I'd done 100m and I'd caught the other chap and passed him at the turn.  I couldn't believe how well it was going.  200m down, 300m down and I was in full flow feeling great.  Now I had an issue, I'd lost count! I looked down at my watch to see where I was distance wise but the backlight was off and I couldn't see it properly.  So in my infinite wisdom I hit the stop button!! Idiot! I quickly restarted the watch and managed to get the backlight on, all whilst still swimming! I caught the distance - 400m. I'd finished the swim - however - I was at the wrong end of the pool! So I had to do an extra length to finish! 450m and the swim was done - 50m more than needed.

I climbed out of the pool and hit the lap button to start transition 1.  My Garmin said I'd swam 450m in 7.50!! The perfect start!

Transition 1

The run from the pool to the transition was about 50-60m.  I got to my bike, chucked my helmet on, strapped my number belt on - forced on my shoes took a quick swig of drink whilst slipping some High5 energy gels in my suit.  I grabbed my bike and ran out towards the mount line!  The very friendly marshal at the line informed me that the wind speeds had increased and that the cross winds were now stronger than they had been all day.  I was about to find out for myself!

The Bike

Apart from a mishap with my Garmin at the start of the ride (which I wont bore you with) it all started pretty well.  I felt strong out of the pool and got into a good rhythm quickly.  However that was all about to change.  The bright yellow boards with black arrows pointed to the left, so I obliged. Unfortunately the strong winds we had been warned about were stronger than I had anticipated.  The strong, fast rhythm I had built suddenly dropped and I was pedaling so fast but hardly moving!

I could not believe how strong the winds were.  Most of the ride was spent trying to stay upright and not be blown into the hedgerow or worse, traffic! Speed was no longer a goal for the ride just getting to the end of the ride was the goal now.  I kept pedaling and ended up overtaking a few on the first lap.  There was a short section of the ride where the wind was behind me and the road was a tad flat which gave me the opportunity to open up and get some speed going.  That was very short lived though as we had to turn left and do another lap of the 'wind tunnel.'

Lap 2 was a killer though.  Either lap one had sapped the energy out of me and I was just struggling or the wind had picked up but it was certainly a harder lap.  All I wanted to do was get to the tail wind section as I knew that the wind would be behind me all the way back to transition. Thankfully the tail wind gave me a chance to slow my cadence down but keep the speed up into transition. Which, mercifully, I was approaching.
The staff done a wonderful job.

Transition 2

Into transition I ran and found my kit.  I racked my bike and started taking of my helmet.  Off came the cycle shoes and on went the well talc'd running shoes.  Now I was very nervous.  I suppose now is a good as time as any to confess that until this very moment in time I hadn't actually done a run straight off the bike.  I know that's not a good thing given that I was currently taking part in a triathlon but we were about to find out if all the training I had done was going to pay off!

The Run

This was it! 5km, 3 miles, 5 laps of the field next to transition however it was measured this was the last leg. Out of transition, having reattached my number thanks to the wind, incredibly I felt great. Given the horrible winds on the ride and the fact I'd never ran straight of the bike before I felt strong and confident.  I was catching people which was boosting my confidence even more.  The wind was still playing its part on sections of the lap but nothing like the ride.

As the laps ticked by my pace felt good.
 I didn't look at my Garmin I just kept running at a pace that felt fast and more importantly that I could keep up.  It all went by pretty quickly and without any real problems.  The last lap flew by and before I knew it I was sprinting, yes sprinting, towards the finish.....and across the line!!

Another medal for the rack
I had done it! I had taken part in and completed a triathlon! A massive sense of pride hit me.  Knowing where I had started 2 years ago and where I was right now I knew it had all been worth it.  The great staff on the finish line hung a medal around my neck, handed me a bottle of water and recovered the timing chip from my ankle.  Oh yeah time! Before the race I had set myself a target of 1 hour 30 minutes to complete the race.  Looking at my watch the unofficial time was 1 hour 20 minutes.  I was overwhelmed and delighted.

Challenge 4 was done. I felt great and was already planning how to attack the next challenge before I'd even had a shower. How to shave time off in transition etc.  But for now I was just basking in my own glory at finishing the race.  The official time was announced at 1 hour 23 minutes which I was still amazed at! My aim now was to get those 3 minutes off at the next race.

So the race was done and of course its all for charity.  So if having read this and you've thought you know what this lads done good, then feel free to text KOMS99 plus your donation to 70070 or visit my Just Giving Page Just Giving Page - with all your amazing support so far I have managed to raise £909!  So lets get to £1000 by the end of the next race on the 12th April.

Thanks Everyone.