Late edition – Pembrokeshire Coast Triathlon 2011

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As I’m coming up to my final A race of the year (and probably final triathlon of 2011) I thought I’d better try to write up what I remember of the last race I did back in the first weekend in July. The only race this year that wasn’t wet and windy.
The forecast for the weekend was great, and Broad Haven is a lovely place so we thought we’d take the kids camping for race weekend. The race was on Saturday morning, fairly early, so we drove up Friday evening and stayed through until Sunday. Nice. I’m not sure camping and racing go together very well. I’m not sure camping with kids and racing go together well at all, but it was good fun and the kids loved it.
I didn’t get a lot of sleep sharing a tent with Jack so we were up in plenty of time for breakfast and to get down to the beach. I’d forgotten my waterbottles and High5, so had to improvise with a bottle Kim had with some squash in it, and a load of tape to thicken it up and try to get it to stay in my horizontal bottle cage. Racking my bike I found the bottle was dripping all over my new Hed 90 carbon front wheel (first race with carbon wheels!) so had to leave it standing on my towel. An extra step in T1 to trip me up. It was going to be a hot day though, so better half a bottle than nowt.
Everyone except us front guys toeing the waterline seemed to be caught out by the starting horn. It was a beach start, and living near the sea this is something I practice, but I still managed to wash my goggles off my face dolphining through the shallow water. I got them back on, still moving forward so no biggy.
The water was spectacularly clear, and swimming out to the first turn buoy we could see all the way to the sandy bottom way below us at high tide. I got on some good feet and picked up a good draft for almost the entire swim. This was probably the best swim I’ve had, with a flat sea, on the toes and hips of fast swimmers and with a gorgeous view under the water. We could have done with a few fish but I guess they were keeping out of our way. On the way back the group I was with started to aim away from the final turn buoy and I decided to take the direct line alone rather than stay with the draft as I was feeling good. This wasn’t a great idea as I didn’t make up any places but had to raise my effort.
Round the buoy and kicking hard for the shore I left the water in the group, well up in the field (for my swimming ability). T1 was fine, with the extra step of squidging the bottle into the cage on my tri bars. I spent most of the bike leg pushing the bottle back in as it kept trying to jump forward and out of the cage.
The bike route is a hilly one. I like the hills and the bike felt good, and I picked up places one by one. I traded places with a guy doing the bike leg for a relay team, but on everyone else except the leading two I think I made up time here. The biking is getting better (the carbon probably helped) and should continue to improve over the next few years. I think I pushed quite hard in the later parts of the bike leg, trying to catch the guy up front, but I wasn’t really making any inroads. I probably had to ride well to keep the gap consistent.
Glad to see the bend that signalled the descent to the beach I sorted myself out but dumped the chain bouncing into T2 so carried the bike & ran through. I missed my row though (I’d remembered that if I ran to the bins I’d gone too far) skipped back and found my stuff. Shoes on and off down the beach.
It’s great to run the length of a beach on race day, under the sun and blue sky with a crowd. It’s a great start to the run of this event, but at the end of the beach you’re out on the Pembrokeshire coastal path – a narrow, steepish, off road climb that twists a little with gates and stiles (mostly cleared or removed for the race). A little bit of dodgy route finding (I had a chat with the race organiser later about this) thanks to my memory of the race route map (I like maps – if the race has a route map it usually goes into my brain) and I got to the top and the road section. There’s a water station here and I called for one for my head and one for my mouth. Marvellous.
By the road I’d caught up with the runner of the relay team and the guy in second place, but he pushed again on the road and dropped me. The run up the hill was tough, and I’d found a pace on the road I could suffer but couldn’t push harder. With time my right calf started to shout out some nasty pain low down, unlike the previous calf pain and tightening I’d had this season. I was racing for 2nd or 3rd place by this stage so the pain was ignored. Push, push, push, and I overtook the guy and found a rhythm. I’m good at running downhill so I wanted to be in front so I could push away on the little drops.
We were both caught by a guy in blue who flew past us with some awesome running and disappeared off into the distance. OK. Racing for 3rd now. 3rd is good. I want 3rd. I was really, really suffering now. My running was not great, and my right calf was hobbling me but we all love a good suffer, eh?
A sign saying, “water ahead” cheered me up, but when we got to the water station there was no-one there yet! Onward and upward. I was pulling away by now I think, and was running to the side of the road with the most shade. Summer in Wales!
I took advantage of the steep dip, pushed, and lengthened my stride (freaking ow!), remembering the short steep upslope before the final run down to the beach. Again I stretched it out, leaning forward in the run down to the beach. I turned at the wrong turn (oops, hadn’t recce’d that), asked the marshal which way to go, turned back the way I’d come, continued running to the proper end of the beach, and then dropped down to the sand. With that turn I could see I had a fair gap (thank crap – no sprint finish) and ran the first half of the beach at 10k pace and then eased up a tad for the finish. Woo! Good to finish. 3rd overall and 2nd in the open or senior category as the runner that had overtaken me was in the vet category. Oliver Simon schooled us yet again in how it’s supposed to be done. He also showed us how good he is by shelling out for his pro license and finishing 5th at Ironman UK later this year. Awesome stuff.
Thanks to TriExercise for supporting the event and providing some top prizes. We (Cardiff Tri) missed out on the team prize, beaten by the Pembrokeshire Tri club on time.
I hobbled for the next couple of days, having ripped my right flexor hallucis longus muscle to bits, as you may have read about in this blog. He-who-looks-after-my-legs twisted his knee that week, tearing part of his meniscus that got repaired by surgery (!) so I didn’t get any treatment for a couple of weeks. 9-and-a-half weeks (ooer) later I’m still rehabilitating the damn thing. It’s pretty good now, but it took a long time. I skipped all the other races I’d planned this summer partly because of that, but mostly because of serious family illness.
Off to Bala this weekend for the standard distance race.
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