I'll hold my hands up and admit that I was pretty anxious about my first attempt at doing a large open TT. It wasn't the dual carriageway nor the 120 other riders it was more that feeling in my gut "am I going to mess this up?!"
It had been on my mind for a while and the build up was long due as the entry form needing to go in so early. This didn't help matters... Andrew B from one of our neighbouring clubs (Chronos) was able to assist getting to grips with the form and giving some tips about what to do and where to go when I got there. Very kind.
Following hot on the heels of Ruth’s great write-up of her (and Tim and Phil’s) adventure at the Outlaw Ironman distance event in July, a quick summary of my first IronMan event with a couple of work colleagues at the official UK IronMan in Bolton on 4th August.
We’d travelled up on the Friday night to register early on the Saturday and get set up in transition(s). The Bolton course is complicated in having two transition sites; T1 (swim-to-bike) at Pennington reservoir and T2 (bike-to-run) at Rivington school. Like Ruth, the alarm was set for 4am for the early porridge and bananas and the drive to the swim start.
The mass swim start at 6am was frightening, all flailing arms and legs. But I had a fantastic swim, quickly got into a rhythm and amazingly clocked 1:03 and was 192nd out of the water in a field of 1600, feeling relaxed as I entered T1. With the bike my worst element, consequently, everyone went pass me on the ride. IronMan UK has a tough cycle course with a point-to-point 14 miles (Mike passed me on this) and then 3 loops of 33 miles (Simon passed on No. 2) which had a 10% climb on the notorious Sheep House Lane hill up onto the moors and a total of 7365 ft elevation.
I have been up Mont Ventoux before – in 2007 (pre cycling days,) we had a cottage in Villes sur Auzon, overlooked by the mountain. We drove up through the forest dodging hundreds of ascending and descending cyclists, cars and motorhomes, to find it packed on the summit. I assumed there was an event on, but when I asked a cyclist he replied it was like it every day through the summer! So when my wife thought it was about time we went back to the area, who was I to argue?
We travelled down by train, so I hired a nice Trek Madone 4.5 triple. I got my legs working on a couple of warm up rides up the Gorges du Nesque – stunning and beautifully quiet in the evenings, but no place for those with vertigo.
Upper Gorges du Nesque Ventoux in the distance from the lower Gorges du Nesque
Following Alasdair's promotion from his Milton Keynes Bowl win, there were three St Neots riders in this 3rd cat group for the evening's race; Richard and Wayne making up the balance. Tim's was a lonely jersey in the 4th cat group!
Both the 4th and 3rd cat groups worked well from the start and for a while the 3rds were putting time into the chasing 2nd cat group. Halfway into the race and with the 3rds breathing down their necks the 4th cat group fell into disarray. The 3rds kept their organisation more or less intact to push straight through them. A few of them managed to latch onto the group, Tim included.
In preparation for the upcoming World Championships in London in September I decided to include some open category time trials in my training as these are great for strength and speed, and don't take up a huge amount of time either in a busy week. A scan through the CTT handbook at local races saw me single out the Fenland Clarion 25 mile TT, which uses the St Ives 10 course twice with a 5 mile bolt on. Experience has taught me that this course can be hard, with a tough wind blowing across the A1 and a changeable road surface.
Wayne, Alasdair and Richard started the 9th Race in the Rockingham series. For this race the organisers played around with the handicap format by starting the 2nds and 4th cats together, with the 3rds behind. The 2nds needed to lap the 4ths to be back in contention! Alasdair was in the 4th cat group while Wayne and Richard were in the 3rd cat group.
I managed to take the bike on yet another holiday earlier this month, this time to a cottage on the East Sussex coast just inland from the village of Fairlight. With the IronMan drawing ever closer (4th August) I have to keep up the training particularly the cycling which continues to be my weakest element. So during the week, in between days walking and sightseeing with Sarah (wife) and Billy (the Spaniel) I was also able to squeeze in three 50 mile rides and show the SNCC colours to Sussex.
Read Ruth's report of doing the unthinkable - a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 bike ride and a marathon - ugh! Hats off to them all:
Heat wave? What heat wave? Perfect weather for an Ironman!
7th July was the long anticipated and trained-for day, it had been a 30 week preparation for my first full Ironman. Also in the field were Tim Pennel, and Phil Laycock, and from NiceTri Steve Childerley & Steve Hughes, and a friend from Royston Runners, Kevin Stigwood.
The 6th Rockingham race was a cold and wet one. Joining race regulars Richard, Wayne and Steve was Alisdair Higgins, fresh in his Oxford Uni kit and quite unphased by the miserable conditions. Steve and Alisdair were in the 4th cat group, Richard and Wayne in with the 3rds.
The rain had stopped once the race got under way, but the track was slippery and the groups were enveloped in spray. A rider from the leading women's group crashed on the first lap.
Although the pace was quick, every corner was taken with caution. In the 3rds group Richard and Wayne were keeping near the front, a prudent move as a crash on the courses final bend saw several riders detached from the group.
No less than three St Neots Cycling Club members, Richard Hancock, Chris Ritchie and Tom Stead represented GB in the recent European Sprint Triathlon championships. If that's not someting to celebrate, I don't know what is. Read Richard's lively report about the weekend: