Paratriathlon & guiding

As a triathlete I’m selfish. I’m well organised, manage my time well, train hard, get the hours in, do lots of stuff with my family and work hard (at work). But nonetheless to do what I do I have to focus this stuff around me. Racing is about me and my performance. Training is about preparing myself for race day. The idea of doing all this for another person is a bit of a weird idea for many triathletes, but when the idea of guiding a visually impaired triathlete was mooted it sounded like a challenge. At the base of it, what I do is about challenge so why not make it harder and do something new: try to guide another athlete to his best performance? I find it difficult to say “no” when someone suggests something new, difficult and interesting. 

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Running on the Gower

I went for a run on Tuesday. It’s a run I’ve been thinking about for years, since it was mentioned to me by one of the strongest runners around. It’s a run I could only attempt at the end of a triathlon season because of the interruption in training and the risk of doing myself a mischief. Each year I’ve had a problem and have been unable to attempt it: calf tears, Achilles tendon issues, a fractured clavicle. This year I looked at the calendar and worked out a window when the tides would be right, I wouldn’t be racing, there would be enough daylight hours and what not. When that window approached the weather for Tuesday was perfect. Bizarre even, for October. A foggy start, little wind (and unusually from the east too), sun and light clouds all day. Oh bugger. It was unlikely that I’d get an opportunity like that again so I had to go for it.
What was the run? I live on the corner of the Gower peninsula, a Site of Special Scientific Interest with many National Trust bits, the new Wales Coastal Path and lots of prettiness. It’s world famous and parts of it are so well photographed that they figure in top 10 world lists. We spend a lot of time on it, running, cycling, swimming, walking, rock pooling, sand castling (that’s bound to be a verb), drinking coffee, body boarding, more coffee. We used to come here on holiday before we lived here to go rock climbing. The run is a run around the Gower. I guess you can start where you like (I started at my house) and you run around staying as wide as you can. Ish. Much of the running is on the coastal path, there are huge beaches to run along, and a lighthouse at Whitford Point to run around that you can only get to at low tide. And you have to get it right, because if you have to race the tide there you’ll lose. It’s too flat and too stony, so the tide moves fast and you move slow. Fun, eh? The route is a little variable but around 85km long. And hilly.

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Llanelli Half-marathon 2012

Early season races are all about learning. So what did I learn today?

1. Put your timing chip on your shoe the night before the race (almost a big oops).
2. Find another way of carrying Glucojuice bottles (mine wasn’t there when I went for it).
3. Slow down to grab drinks when wearing gloves (splash).
4. I can be disciplined about my pacing.
5. Check the camera the night before the race, not at the race (Kim couldn’t take any photos because of a dodgily formatted CF card).

The big rainstorm blew through before we left for the race this morning, which was great! The wind was a bit weird, coming from the north or north-west I think. Usually it blows in your face (from the west) on the way out from the start. Today, as usual for this race it paid to run in a group to hide from the wind and share the load rather than trying to run on your own at your own pace.

Nonetheless, I ran the first mile at target pace. Very unusual but good, because that was one of my main aims. Start steady and negative split the race. It was good to see Chris on the mic, and to see some Cardiff Tri vests on the start line. Dan is preparing for the Paris marathon, and James is running well as ever and I think they both had good races. I think Dan ran a PB, which is a great sign for 2012 with the wind of today.

The run out was fine, with some crosswinds that changed to in your face winds and then to your back around the roundabout circuit of Burry Port. The group I was with kicked a little early for me as we got back to the path so I let them go with the wind behind me. I needed to run the first 7 miles steady to be able to run the second half faster.

Perceived effort picked up, and when I went to my back pocket for my GlucoJuice at around 45 minutes it had gone! Darn. Maybe I should have stuck with the race belt method I had practiced. I caught my third attempt at a bottle at 8 miles as we ran past the main crowds at the start/finish area and on over the Teletubby hill to the final section.

With the wind behind I tried to push hard, but the turns and changing surfaces of this section make it a little slow. It’s funny how when you run around here in training you can’t take your eyes off the sea, the views of the Gower, the hills, the sandy beach sections and the harbours and bays. It’s really lovely. When you’re racing all you can see is the surface below your feet and the vest you’re chasing. I hope people come back to jog around here and take in the sights! The weather gave some nice displays this morning with mixes of sun through clouds, dark masses and blue patches. Very pretty.

I don’t think I took great advantage of the wind and had to stay focussed to keep pushing. It’s easy to settle off the pace later in the race when you keep slowing for turns, it’s all really starting to hurt, and the central governor is trying to tell you that you’re tired. Mental over physical.
The turn back into the wind was a bit of a shock. It was strong! Push, push, push. Hammer, hammer, hammer! I took one place back and was closing on two other vests so I reckon my pacing physiologically had been good. I was able to push hard, but my pace dropped right off. I was losing 20 seconds per kilometre. I hope all the runners behind me weren’t too demoralised by the strong wind. It’s really hard to keep driving when you’re tired at the end of a very long run and the wind’s blowing you back and slowing you down.

Back over the Teletubby hill, hard, long strides down the other side and it was clear on my watch that I wasn’t going to hit my target. I pushed hard to the line as it looked like every second would count, and by my watch I finished at 1:21:00. Damn! If I’d been a couple of seconds faster…
My legs seized up straight away. They’re not as used to running as they were a few years ago, but hey, they probably did the same thing back then. The winner, Mark Roberts, was bouncing around, jogging back to the staging area after getting changed at his car. No problems there!

Great fun, great race, extremely well organised, a good feel all around, and the first race with my sponsors’ logos. A bit disappointing but I always get faster as the year goes on. It was nice that Kim, Annabel and Jack came to watch too. There’s quite a bit of hanging around at races like this but the kids had big smiles and gave me big waves. I’m hoping Jack will want to run the children’s race at the Llanelli 10k this year again (for fun).

See you there next year. Faster next year.

Race data:


Results & stuff are in & up. My gun time for the race was 1:20:59 & my chip time was 1:21:00. Talk about going on the “b” of the bang! False start in a 13.1 mile race shocker? Nah, I was well behind the start line. The second difference must show a split second rounded up & down. Run for every second! Or sometimes for just a split second. (34th, 2500 entered I think).

Results are here on the Human Being Active website.

Photos are also up on sportysnaps. See some finishing pain!