Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Neath Valley Triathlon

This is a great event that is organised by my club Celtic Tri. But this is the first time that I've been able to enter it for a wide range of reasons (last year I marshaled at the run turnaround point, that was a long lonely morning)


This was going to be my first pool based triathlon for about 2 and a half years, and it felt a bit uneasy not packing a wetsuit and the usual faff that comes with it. The race was a very sensible 400m swim, 22km out and back bike and a 3km run; I set myself the arbitrary target time of 65 minutes.

Race day

My wave wasn't due in the pool until 10:38 and race briefing was at 6:50, so I took the organisers advice that it would be assumed that I would be at the briefing.

My usual race day breakfast is a bowl of porridge washed down with a cup of coffee, but due to the fact that I've being following a paleo (lite) diet, I hadn't noticed that the porridge was out of date. So a slight change of plan, but this being a sprint not too much to worry about.

I arrived at the Leisure Centre at about 8 o'clock, and obviously the first waves were already out on the course, I parked up and strolled across to registration, this took a while as I was constantly stopping to talk to the great and the good.

The weather forecast was given as cool, but dry early on with rain coming in later on. At about 9 o'clock the rain started to fall, and by 10 o'clock it was tipping down and the wind had picked up too.

As this was such a short race, my strategy was to have the bike as light as possible, no tools, no spares and not even a water bottle. However, due to the weather, I made one change to my minimalist setup; I decided that wearing arm-warmers would be wise.


The pool was setup in three lanes, with three competitors in each lane. We were travelling in a clockwise direction, and I would be first off. This meant I'd have clear water in front of me, and if I got caught, it wouldn't be a problem.

My swim was a steady 7:55, but was I was expecting something a little closer to the 7:30 mark. My position was 36 out 140 so not too shabby


Out of the pool and into transition, had to faff about a bit as my shoes and arm-warmers were soaked through. But I was off and out in 1:47


The course was an undulating out and back, and my theory was to go balls out. If I wasn't down on the aero-bars, I was out of my seat climbing whatever hills were there. And for the most part that is what I did.

The problem with wave based racing, there are only a few people who you can pass whilst you're on the road. As far as I can remember, I passed 5 whilst 2 passed me.

It was certainly a bit windy, but not too bad. But it was very, very wet; thankfully the nontechnical route meant that this did not cause any problems.

I returned to transition in a time of 43:18, which as a speed of over 30kph is reasonably pleasing, my position was 24/140


Had a bit of trouble in T2 with a combination of cold hands and wet shoes, but managed to get in and out in 52 seconds


The run  is the part of the race where I normally pick up time; so with this in mind, I gave the run everything I had. Being only 3km, this gave me the opportunity to hit it hard from the off. It was a flat run over a mix of tarmac and trail path (no need for trail shoes Steve).

Whilst I really went for the run, I still wasn't retching when I crossed the line. My run split was 12:18 (17/140)

My overall time was 1:06:10, which meant I was just outside my target time of 65 minutes, but all in all I matched my expectations in all three disciplines. My position was 24th and I was 4th vet, so not a bad day at all.

This is a great race for anyone thinking of starting in triathlon, it's aimed very much at the novices and there's plenty of advice from the marshals and other competitors.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cotswold 113 Middle Distance Triathlon


After finishing Ironman Wales last year, discussions were had regarding completing an 'easier' race to get a time in. After hearing great things about this race in it's inaugural running last year, Cotswold 113 was decided upon.

This was to be my 'A' race for 2012, with my training focused on getting to the start line in as good shape as possible. I'd set myself the arbitrary finish time of 5 and half hours.

There was plenty of talk on Twitter and there were loads of Celtic Tri entrants too. As a family we decided to spend the whole weekend camping on the race designated camp site, especially as this was the end of June, so what could go wrong with the weather. What went wrong was the wettest June on record, together with some very strong winds

Wish I'd brought me brolly


We arrived at the campsite at around 5:30pm and thankfully we'd left the rain back in Swansea; however the wind was quite strong. The campsite was nice and empty so we had the pick of the field, so set up in a sheltered corner that we could take over when the rest of the Celtic Tri guys arrived on Saturday.

Thankfully when we woke up on Saturday morning nothing had been blown away by the not inconsiderable wind. The wind did seem to be dying out which was boding well for the race.

For the rest of the day the field started filling up, with a large contingent from both Celtic Tri and Team True Spirit . I finally got around to meeting up with Jason; a fellow Jack but is now a local resident.

Registration was a five minute walk away; and it was great to meet up with friends old and new and to put faces to on line buddies.

Jason took Rich and I for a light run around part of the course, the ground was compacted trail path but standard road shoes would be more than adequate.

Later that afternoon, it rained and it rained and it rained a bit more. Bike set up was conducted inside the tent. Got us all fed and went off to be at a reasonable time, as the 6:20 start meant I had to be up before 4:30. Oh, did I mention it was still raining.

Race Day

Woke up before the alarm clock; I'm not sure if this meant I had a good night's sleep and I was fresh or I'd had a poor sleep and was just dozing.

Due to the lack of homely comforts, breakfast was cold rice pudding. I left Ang and the boys in their sleeping bags and set off to transition.

The number of competitors was twice that of last year, and this became apparent with the queue of traffic going into the car park. The resultant gridlock meant that the race was delayed by 30 minutes, which meant my start time was now 6:50


The swim was to be in one of the many lakes that are all along the M4 corridor. A single loop, compared to the two loops of last year.

This would be my first swim in anger in my new Snugg wetsuit, which was supplied by Terry and Rose of RTJ Sports.

The lake looked absolutely lovely as we watched the two earlier waves go off. Then it was time for the quite old farts to have their turn. I entered the water with Jason, with the strategy of keeping him within sight to give me a reasonable swim time.

This plan worked well for about 30 seconds where he gave me a bit of a clout and I had to clear my head and get my bearings.

Felt strong through the swim and it wasn't long before we were out and it felt like I'd had a good swim, but I had no idea of time as my watch had stopped after 17 minutes

Swim time: 37:03 (position 219th)


I was pleased to see Ang and the boys as I ran into T1, as I wasn't expecting them to be there. That put me into a good place mentally as I dealt with a bit of wooziness getting out of my wetsuit.

It was quite a long drag out through the mud out of transition and to the mount line (I wouldn't want to be the guy who had to sort out the carpet after the race had finished)

T1 time: 4:12


The bike course is two loops of approximately 25 miles, coming back to the transition area. Lots of straight roads, but with the occasional sharp turns just to keep you sharp.

The bike course boasts that it is fast and flat, and boy it does not disappoint. Apart from one hill at the turnaround point, there is very little elevation for the whole of the loop.

To try to get as good as time on the bike, I was intent on managing my heart rate with the following strategy; as I expected the bike segment to last me about 3 hours I planned it as follows

1st hour - Approx heart rate of 140bpm
2nd hour - Approx heart rate of 150bpm
3rd hour - Keep the 150bpm effort going if I still had it in my legs

And I pretty much stuck to this plan.

The one problem I did experience in the ride was a considerable pain in my lower back. However I'm not sure if this was due to holding an aero position for a long period or the fact that I'd spent the previous night sleeping on an inflatable bed.

As the day progressed, it got steadily warmer and dryer, but there was no let up from the wind. This meant getting aero was very important, but my back issues meant that this wasn't possible for extended periods.

As pleased as I was that I'd seen Ang and the boys when I came out of the water, I was disappointed that they'd missed me at the end of the first loop. It really keeps me going on a long race that I'll be seeing some friendly faces soon, so that was a bit of a let down.

Both of the loops were pretty uneventful, apart from being just behind one guy drop his bike on one of the tight 90 degree turns, he looked in a bit of a state but thankfully there were marshalls right there to assist him

My splits were very similar, with times of 1:27:00 and 1:27:27

Obviously living in South Wales I inevitably ride on hilly routes and this is by far the flattest ride I've ever done. I was surprised how difficult a flat could be, without the benefit of the recovery of climbing and descending hills

Bike time: 2:54:26 (position 270th)


Back to the muddy carpet, which was a bit drier than earlier, but no less muddy. Took a look at my trail shoes, but decided against them an plumped for the road shoes

T2 time: 3:17


The run course was a mixture of road and trail path around a couple of the lakes. We would have to complete 3 loops of the four and bit miles.

By the time I'd started running, the day had become very warm and sunny. I kicked off the run at a reasonable lick, and despite not knowing what my race time was; I was confident that my target time was on the cards.

It soon became apparent that the choice not to go with the trail shoes was a bad one. The rain had certainly taken it's toll on the trail path. Plenty of mud, deep puddles and very slippery underfoot.

Part of the course involved getting over a sleeper, and jumping over this brought on that all too familiar feeling of tightness of cramp.

Ang and the boys were on a section of the course where I got to see them twice on each lap. However, Angela's distribution of Jelly Babies has a lot to be desired!

As the run progressed, my running form deteriorated and by the third lap it was a real struggle. It felt like a stone was in my shoe but when I stopped to remove it, there was nothing there (after the race it was apparent the pain was caused by a blister down the whole of the sole of my foot, in all my previous races I've not been affected by blisters of such size and intensity and I can only assume it was caused by the dampness underfoot)

By the time I'd got to the third lap, I was really feeling the strain and it was all about motivating myself to get to the finish (having now decided that the target time was outside my grasp)

Ran for the last mile with one of the youngsters from an earlier wave, and the talking took my mind off the pain in my foot and legs.

As I came into the home straight, I left my new companion for dust and ran for all my worth. On my way through my two boys joined me and for the first time ever they crossed the finish line with me.

Run time: 1:55:36 (position 188th)


I went straight to the timing tent and punched in my number; and my doubts were confirmed, my race time was 5:34:34. Just 4 minutes over my target time, but 4 minutes none the less. My position was 219th out of 466 finishers (494 including DNFs)

Despite not hitting my target time, I was still pleased with my race. The main points to address is to try and get stronger on the bike and to increase my ability to run after a hard constant ride.

So, will I do this race again? Hell, yes! (In fact Angela has said I have to whether I want to or not)