Newsletter Oct 2022

Chairman’s Update

Dear Tri2O’ers

Welcome to your October newsletter, with some wonderful and inspirational stories below from members who have over the past couple of months taken part in some BIG multisport races plus other monster endurance events!

A massive well done to all who have raced since our last newsletter, Tri2O has been represented in many local and UK events with some hard earned podium finishes as well as several Team GB appearances abroad, what a great mix of talent we have in the club.

Sunday September 11th saw the club lay on another successful Reading Triathlon, Pete Gough our race Director has provided a great write up below, so I will not elaborate here, but I would like to take this opportunity to give a massive thank you to ALL Tri2O members who volunteered their time to make the event a success. It is hard work but the reward of seeing so many “Happy Triathletes” giving such heartwarming feedback makes it soooo worthwhile. A special thank you to our Reading Triathlon Sub Committee and events team of Pete, Georgia and Jamie for their time and effort. Once again we can make a generous charity donation and provide funds into the club – great work “orange army”

Tri2O is a wonderful club, and over the years I have realised that any organisation whether a business or a club, its success is only as good as its people. I am proud to be your Chairman and humbled to be part of a committee of volunteers who give of their time to make the club work for all of us. We have two Main Committee members who are stepping down this year, both of whom have made a big impact on me and the club over the past few years.

Firstly our Club Secretary Sally Waterman who has fulfilled this role with great professionalism and passion over many years. Her knowledge and commitment have benefited the club greatly and her organisational skills will be sorely missed especially by the Chairman! A heartfelt Thank you Sally for all you have done for Tri2O as Club Secretary. 

Secondly our Social Secretary Tasha Skidmore who needs little introduction as the most sociable person I know! Tash has had lots of changes (all positive) in her life meaning that she is stepping down also this year. A big Thank you Tasha for what you have done for the club over the years, your ability to “rally” Triathletes into a social frenzy will also be sorely missed.

Therefore I am reaching out to all members, as we must find successors to these Main Committee roles. We hold bi-monthly Main Committee meetings and with a full compliment of committee members we can keep workloads to a minimum.  So if you feel you can give a bit back to your club and can bring some experience or skills to either of these roles please do either drop me an email or pick up the phone (07919 555555) for an initial chat, I look forward to hearing from you.

Please do diarise the date and time below for our upcoming AGM next month to be held Virtually over Zoom.

In the meantime pop the kettle on and enjoy the newsletter………….

Best wishes

Mike Nash

Reading Tri 2022

Update from Reading Tri Committee 

On Sunday September 11th our club delivered another fantastic Reading Triathlon.

For those of you that like a little bit of history the first official British Triathlon National Championships were held on 5th June 1983.

The National Short Course was held at Kirtons Farm, where 200 athletes completed a mile swim – with wetsuits not allowed – followed by a 40-mile bike ride, and a 13-mile run. The winner was Jim Wood, then Britain’s leading biathlete, with Julia Kendall taking the prize as first woman.

Local events firm My Sporting Times resurrected the event in 2012 following the success of team GB at the London Olympics and a huge increase in people taking up the sport. In 2017 MST decided that they no longer wished to run the event as their iTab business was flourishing and taking most of their time. We had some discussions with them and happily took over the reigns of running the event, fast forward to 2022 and this is now the fifth year that we have held the Tri2O Reading Triathlon.

The Reading Tri has become a key part of our club, not only does it give us a valuable income source, which goes towards subsidising our fantastic coached sessions, but it is also a great weekend where so many club members come together, have fun and, as a team, give something back to the sport that we all love.

The events world is still suffering from a post covid hangover, with many events reporting entry figures around 20%-30% down on previous years. There are many possible reasons for people not participating – some have too many events in their diaries already (due to roll over from covid cancellations), some have not come back to the sport (lost interest or long Covid), and there are those that lost entry fees etc due to cancellations and now won’t enter events. So, considering the tough climate we were really happy to have 270 entries, which was only 6% down on our 2021 event and 11% down vs our 2019 event.

Preparations for Reading Tri started back in November 2021 (yes a long way out!). We have a small but committed team (Pete Gough, Georgia Jackson and Jamie Shillam) who throughout the year make sure that everything is in place and ready for race weekend. Up until the month before the event our time is spent setting up and managing budgets, finding suppliers and agreeing quotes, doing some of the exciting things such as designing medals and seeking out some unique finisher gifts and marketing the event to try and maximise entries. August sees things pick up pace with all of the pre-race comms drawn up, race day walkthroughs, and of course seeking out volunteers from our wonderful club mates.

This year 55 members volunteered their time to help, with 19 of you helping over 2 or more days. This is certainly the best bit of the Tri for the events team – we get to work with a fantastic team of club members, setting up the site and delivering a great event. The feedback that we always get the most from competitors is how supportive and friendly the marshals are at our event, and its the reason that many people return again.

The whole weekend this year went really well. Set up the day before was went smoothly and the transformation of the site in a few hours was incredible thanks to our great team of helpers.

Race day itself went off really well. Some unplanned fog made things a little stressful first thing in the morning, which meant we had to delay the start for 30 minutes, but other than this things ran without a hitch. It was great to see quite a few Tri2O members racing, and we also had a few local clubs that held their club champs with us.

Being a British Triathlon accredited event we had a BTF Technical Official present on race day. Post event they completed an event report. They considered the event to be ‘excellent’ in all 10 criteria that they report on. They remarked on ‘The marshals being very knowledgeable, motivated and engaged’, and summed up by saying ‘It was a pleasure to officiate this excellent event’.

Post event and with all the sums done, it was great to see that we once again made a profit. The club will retain around £2000 to help subsidise coached sessions and support events. We are also donating around £400 to charity from our profits. We will then use the remaining monies as a thank you to share with volunteers (as per the amended constitution that went through earlier this year). For all those that helped over race weekend you will soon receive an email with further details regarding your Wiggle voucher and how to redeem this.

Planning for the 2023 race starts soon… next year will be the 40th anniversary of the first ever UK triathlon, so we think we should do something to mark this momentous occasions. Do let us know if you have any ideas…..

Membership Update

Hi all
We would like to welcome the following new members

  • Adam Redpath
  • Debbie Wilson
  • Giles Ifill
  • Ian McGuinness
  • James Taylor
  • Jules Hopkinson
  • Lindsay Freeman
  • Mark Cusack
  • Matthew Brazier
  • Mike Gibbons
  • Nicky Jones
  • Rory White-Andrews
  • Samuel Crampton

We hope you enjoy training and being part of the team.

Please don’t forget to sign up to your sessions on Stack Teamapp in advance and join the club Facebook group. You will have had a welcome email with the links – please let me know if you did not receive this.

Also as a wider reminder, our membership year has now changed to start in April – if you previously were a member last December, your membership for 2022 was changed to reflect this at the time of renewal, so you will not see another renewal email until March 2023.

Membership Secretary

Coaches’ Corner – Autumn and Winter Running

Whatever our favourite discipline, it’s hard to argue with the simplicity and low-faff nature of running. When it comes to getting ready, travel time, equipment, weather considerations and convenience, generally running beats them all. Even when it’s cold and wet outside, within 5 or 10 minutes you’re usually feeling toasty and warm, and it’s much easier to squeeze in a 30 minute run when you’re pushed for time.

Many people choose to focus on their running over the winter for this reason; days are shorter, nippier and soggier, and the trails are looking stunning as the leaves start to turn and fall. The feel of a squelch of mud under foot and the mist of steaming breath in the air make you feel truly alive! Make the most of the varied terrain in the woods or run along the canal towpath to build strength and resilience and keep things interesting. Taking it off the road means you can let go of worrying about pace, go more on feel, and learn to tune into your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) to guide your intensity.

Once you’re back into a bit of a routine (for those of you who’ve taken time off at the end of the racing season) it is also a great time of year to focus on strength. For that reason we’re building hill reps into our Tuesday evening Prospect Park run sessions. We’re starting with very short hill sprints to create pure strength and explosive power, and will be lengthening the intervals as we move towards winter and through to spring. Hill reps are tough work, but good fun to do with others to keep you motivated; it helps you push that little bit harder! There is a caveat though: as is usually the case with training, those activities which reap the highest rewards often come with higher risk. If you have a history of run injuries (particularly calf, Achilles or knees), then do be conservative. Start with very gradual inclines, don’t sprint from a standstill (build into your pace), walk the descents, and stop if you have any niggles or pain at all. Running up stairs can be a much safer way to get similar benefits, if this is an option available to you.

We know that lots of you miss the Thursday Run Club, so we’re going to create a regular Thursday evening Facebook event for club members to join up for a social run. We’ll include some ideas for various routes, and to start with the runs will begin in Caversham, as per tradition. However, there’s no reason why the start location can’t vary from week to week once these get going again. They won’t be coached or led, it’s just a great opportunity for club members to get together regularly and run socially, at the pace of the slowest runner.

Also, watch this space for the Winter Run Series which our Club Captain is working on behind the scenes. This is another great way to meet other club members and set yourself some mini goals over the autumn and winter.

As you can see, there’s a lot on offer with the club when it comes to your running, so come along and join in!

Georgia Jackson
Head Coach

London Edinburgh London, August 2022

by Martin Cook

This is just a bike ride of course but, is it? It has transitions, lots of them, during which you remove shoes, eat, drink, fill water bottles and at about every 5th transition collapse onto a blow-up mattress and sleep. You then put your shoes and helmet back on and head out into the sunlight, moonlight or the complete darkness.

My journey began when I watched the Amazon documentary on the 2013 edition (it’s run every 4 years, Covid allowing). It certainly looked challenging and in fact when I mentioned during the event to a fellow cyclist that the documentary was the reason that I was here he said that he could not understand how anyone would enter having watched the suffering in the documentary. It’s what we do I guess.

My preparation meant that I pretty much cleared the tri decks. I did one duathlon in March then it was cycle, cycle, cycle. Ten days cycling in Mallorca, a 2-day ride to Middlesbrough to see what it’s like to do back-to-back long days. After 2 days rest I cycled back. This was also an equipment test. I rode Ride London then had 8 days cycling from Bilbao to Barcelona as final preparation, although cycling in temperatures which went over 40C every day didn’t seem perfect! Apart from that, I did many kilometres day after day.

My preparation didn’t really seem specific enough when compared to what I was seeing other LEL people doing in their facebook posts. 300/400/600k audax’s featured frequently (260k was my maximum). It seemed that you had to combine these events with sleeping in a bus shelter to earn additional admiration from the audax community. What sort of people was I about to mix it with?

I did however have a degree of confidence that my many years of endurance training and cycling fitness might drag me through it. The unknown factors of mechanical failure and failure of other body parts due to long, long hours in the saddle made me conclude that I had a 50/50 chance of completing it within the time limit.

The time limit had in fact been “generously” increased by 3.20 to 128h 20min due to a detour involving an extra 70k and 400m of climbing which, as a bonus, took us over Chapel Fell, claimed to be the highest paved road in England.

So Sunday morning Simon Brimacombe and I set out at 09:30. A lovely sunny day which was the forecast for the entire week. Unfortunately the wind direction forecast for the first half of the event was northerly, then it switched to southernly for the second half. Headwind all the way.

The forecast was correct for the wind and cycling 100k across the fens was pretty tough, although as you hardly touch your brakes it meant that the first day yielded a 25kph average speed.

At the end of Day 1, after 300k, I reached Hessle at about midnight. The food at the control stops on the way had been good although more generous portions might have been better. Unfortunately, just when I needed a final decent meal of the day. the only option was mushroom soup and a roll. I felt sorry for the volunteer who had to tell us hungry cyclists that this is it. Into bed (blow up mattress and blanket) by 01:00.

Up at 06:00 the following morning to head out for the toughest section heading north. Over the North Yorkshire moors then onto the North Pennines, including Chapel Fell.

I eventually got into Brampton control at 10.30 after 15½ hours on the road. The organisers talk about congestion at the controls on the way north prior to people spreading out. Brampton was like a scene from the news when there’s been a natural disaster. People sleeping in corridors or anywhere else they could find space. There was in fact a pretty civilised marquee set up outside but the guy taking me there said that it’s a touch cold but it’ll warm up as more people get into it. It didn’t. Even though we’re in the middle of some pretty hot days “up north” the temperature plummeted at night. Exhaustion does however help you to sleep and once I’d put my socks on I slept OK.

Day 3 promised the turning point which is in fact Dunfermline. I don’t know if we’re taken there to admire the forth bridges or because we need to go a bit beyond Edinburgh as we started a bit north of central London. Anyway, once again there was lovely scenery all the way. There was very nice food at Dunfermline as well and they were handing out tots of whisky (not for me though as I’m not a whisky fan). As part of the organisation, participants are allowed two drop bags so that you can access clean cycling gear, energy bars, etc. Access is allowed both ways so you can in fact change and refuel 4 times in the event. I also had a bonus drop bag waiting for me in Edinburgh where my son lives. So even though it was a 2k detour I had a nice meal, chocolate milk and a decent shower. It was a lovely bonus and boost to see him even though it was only for an hour.

After leaving Nick at about 19.30 I had 50k to go to get to the control where I intended to sleep. There was a fair climb out of Edinburgh but the views back over the city were wonderful as the sun set. Arrived at about 10pm so an early night, in bed by 11pm after eating.

The next morning it was like we’d been transported to another country or climate zone. It was 4C when I set off and misty. I had every scrap of clothing on that I’d taken with me. Later on in the day it got up to 36C which must be by a long way the biggest range of temperatures I’ve cycled in. I’d nearly left my cycling leggings with Nick as I’d not used them up to then. I was very glad I’d not been so foolish. Goodness knows how the large Indian contingent coped (they were the biggest foreign entry). They were cycling in winter gear when it was mid 20’s.

This was the big climbing day on the way south. In particular the return visit to Chapel Fell. I knew from the experience of the descent on the way north that it was probably going to be fatal to my finishing chances to attempt to cycle all the way up it.  It has an 8% average gradient for 4k with ramps of 16%. Tough but achievable on a day ride, too many burnt matches on LEL so I’d already given myself permission to get off on the steepest sections even before I got there. I was far from alone. Hardly anyone was riding the whole thing. The downside was that it made my back hurt. At the top there were a couple of marvellous people who’d turned up off their own back to hand out water and home-made flapjack. It’s that kind of event.

Upon reaching Barnard Castle I faced a make or break decision. If I forced myself out at 06:00 after 200k of cycling to do the 111k to Malton then I’d have a good chance of finishing in time. If I didn’t then it was 460k in 1½ days and probably failure. I pressed on.

During this day I had to admit to myself that I needed to move on from saddle cream to sudocrem as things were getting a bit out of hand. I stopped in Alstom for sudocrem, ibuprofen gel and a magnum (to eat lest there should be some confusion). The gel was for my arm. Lack of strength work on the upper body meant that gripping the handlebars was becoming increasingly difficult.

Towards the end of the day my Garmin seemed to be getting more exhausted than I was. The dreaded “right power sensor missing” appeared every minute or so (the Garmin version of the blue screen of death) but worse than that it upset the navigation which ceased to be reliable. Luckily there were plenty of other riders around who I could follow so apart from getting me extremely stressed and angry (people who have cycled with me have probably experienced my irrational foul-mouthed rant when my Garmin misbehaves so can only imagine how badly I reacted in the middle of nowhere, in the dark and sleep deprived with the prospect of getting lost after 250k).

Also towards the end of the day my back had been hurting and on dismounting at Malton to spend the night I found that I could hardly stand upright. I’ve had problems with my back previously and it usually takes a week to go away. I prayed it would be ok for the following day. Just as well I was packing ibuprofen.

Fortunately stretching, ibuprofen and gel got my back loose. The ibuprofen also seemed to help with the discomfort of sitting on the saddle. I was now getting excited that I may actually get to the end. I’d now found that if I disconnected the Garmin vector pedals from my Garmin 820 the navigation worked. A bit annoying to lose the power data but better than losing my mind. Back over the Humber bridge, stop and check the tyres as the bike path is covered in nasty puncture inducing bits as I’d experienced in my trial run to Middlesbrough. Across the fens and at last a slight tailwind.

The last night was spent as St Ives with only 130k to go the following day to be completed by 17:50. The first 15k was on the cycle path that runs alongside the extraordinary St Ives busway. A lovely start to the day. Then 80k to the last control where I lingered for food and for the first time on the trip, two cups of tea. Only 50k to go. This must have been the most careful 50k of cycling that I’ve ever done.

The end was a bit underwhelming. We were stopped at the back entrance to the school to dismount, walk down some steps, remount and cycle to the front of the school to get the all-important brevit card stamped – 5 days 2½ hours after setting out. No finish banner. On the other hand there was a bonus for me in that my ever supportive wife had travelled out to see me finish so we had a nice hour or two soaking up the atmosphere.

All in all a great event supported entirely by wonderful volunteers at all of the control / food stations. Most people believe it to be more a mental challenge rather than a physical one. To me the mental side of it is having the will to force yourself out onto the next leg in the early evening when you’ve already cycled 200k since the crack of dawn and you know there’s 100k to go and you’ll be finishing in the dark at getting on for midnight.

In common with doing an Ironman after a couple of days all the bad bits vanish out of your head and you can see absolutely no reason not to enter again because it was all wonderful. It was a one off though and having started audax by choosing one of the toughest around I won’t be doing anything like it again.

I believe that only about 60% completed the event within the allowable time.

My top tips if you’re thinking of doing it in 2025:

  • Ignore the people who say that the best strategy is to cycle through the night (especially the first night). It seems to me it’s an approach that is most likely to elicit the least enjoyment of the event. Who wants to look at a pool of headlight instead of the mountain views? You’ll also feel sleep deprived and awful. I’ve read the blogs and most people cycling on very little sleep didn’t seem to have a good time;
  • On a similar vein, cycle during the day and get a normalish sleep during the night. You’re more likely to sleep at your usual time;
  • Put plenty of energy bars in your drop bags. Only one feed station had bars to take away;
  • Like bananas;
  • Don’t do it on a bike which makes it even more difficult than it already is. There were people on fixies, bromptons, one fat bike (!) and ellipticals.

Final stats were:

Distance: 1,539k
Climbing: 14,128m
Average speed: 22.14kph
Time pedalling: 69h 33min
Pedal revolutions: 275,594
Elapsed time: 122h 30min
Starters: 1,600
Finishers: About 60% I believe

Ironman Barcelona

by Simon Barbour

It shouldn’t ever really have been at this event. I was supposed to be doing Ironman Tallinn in 2021, but illness decided otherwise. This, it transpired, was the final nail in the coffin of my somewhat fragile mental health having attempted to navigate Covid with a young child and making a wrong move in my career, leading to a bit of a slow-motion breakdown. Things came to a head in November ’21 when for the first time in my life I went on to antidepressants, as well as coming off all social media (even LinkedIn, which I can heartily recommend leaving…)

Frankly I wasn’t particularly interested in exercising, and probably wouldn’t have bothered entering an event in ’22 had it not been for the inconvenient fact that a lot of very kind people had sponsored me to get round an Ironman to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities, and thus far I had done nothing to earn it. This, combined with the mental fog starting to lift, led to me deciding, at around Christmas time, to enter Ironman Hamburg.

Things had an inauspicious start, as 2 days into the New Year I felt a slight cough, tested positive for Covid, and had to write off most of January. I stepped onto the scales to find that my frame which had at one point got down to 78kg was now close to 100kg, with a concurrent effect on performance, particularly in running where I seemed to have lost about a minute per kilometre. I quickly reframed my goal away from any kind of target time to ‘just get round, by hook or by crook’.

Thanks to the improvement in my mental health I was no longer living every day in a barely suppressed state of terror, however motivation was also feeling hard to come by and weight loss wasn’t really happening. At the end of March I exercised the option to transfer my entry to later in the year. Barcelona in October sounded lovely, and also far enough way to be able to say ‘I’m doing an Ironman’ without really having to think too much about what it was going to take to make that a reality.

As the weather started to improve, motivation slowly started to return, and over the early May bank holiday I cycled to see a friend in South London, before we went to see the German Techno group Scooter in concert (everyone needs a guilty pleasure…). Cycling there and then back the next day, something clicked – I was actually enjoying myself! I had forgotten the simple joy of exercise for exercise’s sake, but some combination of a following wind, warm weather and the lyrical stylings of HP Baxxter awoke something within me, and all of a sudden the idea of training actually felt like something I wanted to do again.

Thanks to lockdown event deferrals I had the staging posts of rearranged Windsor and London triathlons in June and August to build a programme around, and I attacked things with new-found gusto. Even once the motivation returned however, the journey was not without its hiccoughs. Firstly, weight loss was incredibly difficult, to the point where I was only able to lose about 3kg prior to the Ironman. My ability to exercise at higher intensity levels also felt impossible to recapture, leaving me struggling to produce outputs I could normally train for hours at during running and cycling tests. My working theory is that this is something to do with the antidepressants, however thankfully Ironman is much more about plodding, and I could still plod all day despite carrying rather more weight than ideal.

The next challenge came with my bike setup – years of subtle tweaks and declining focus on my flexibility had slowly transformed my position from one that was aerodynamic and comfortable to one that was slow and uncomfortable, confirmed by my crawling round with Windsor triathlon bike leg hardly able to get into the aero position before my back cried enough. Thankfully I was able to call upon the services of friends from my time trialling days to run the rule over my position and they managed to help me get back to something sustainable and seemingly quite slippery.

The London triathlon went well other than a somewhat painful run due to overexerting on the bike, however the pleasant surprise was getting in for the swim and actually moving forwards in the group rather than being swallowed up and swum all over. All of Georgia’s Monday night coaching was starting to pay off! Later in August I did a ‘long day’ in training at about ¾ Ironman distance and felt strong. All of a sudden getting round at Barcelona didn’t feel like a pipe dream but something that might actually be possible.

I had been very lucky with my health throughout the training cycle, and regular sessions with Ben were keeping any injury niggles to a minimum. Avoiding the mistakes of the previous year I backed off immediately for a week in early September when a cold came on. Thankfully this warded it off, however a combination of the enforced break and a couple of work trips meant I wasn’t quite tapering down from the heights of fitness I had aimed at, but I was still very confident of having a good day at Barcelona. My confidence increased again when the BBC long range forecast came in and remained stable in the week leading up to the event – very low winds, low 20s, a lovely day to swim, bike and run.

Before I knew it the time was coming to travel out for the event, with a quick stop off for 3 days in Bucharest for another work trip. Amazingly enough my luggage managed not to get lost (overlanding the bike was definitely a good idea…) and I found myself at my hotel, a few hundred metres from the event village, 3 days before it started.

An Ironman is as much an exercise in logistics as endurance, particularly if you are attending one on your own. My phone was full of reminders for briefings, registration slots, kit drop off slots etc and I had a chance to recce all three of the disciplines. The run and the bike seemed straightforward enough, however having swum out into the med and found myself tossed around like a cork and dodging jellyfish I did rather worry that I might fall at the very first hurdle on the day. I soothed my troubled mind by forking out most of this winter’s heating bill at the Ironman shop, ensuring that even if the race was an abject failure I’d at least look good on the trip home.

Thankfully, the evening before the event I had taken the opportunity to attend a chat with the race announcer who gave three hugely valuable pieces of advice: relax and work with the sea rather than against it, walk through the aid stations on the run, and when it hurts remember your ‘why’. With this advice echoing around my head I made my way back to the hotel, ate, and put my head down to attempt to sleep.

Before I knew it race day was upon me and I was up at the very reasonable time of 06:00 (late-season events have their advantages) and making my way to the course. The true size of the event really hit me as I lined up for the swim start in a pen with thousands of other athletes, the PA system blaring out with tunes and the announcer on full hype mode. The faster swim waves got off into the sea and then it was my group, five off at a time, the azure blue Mediterranean in front of us…

I jogged down the beach and dived into the water, doing my best to stay relaxed and suddenly I was off and I felt wonderful and free and easy. Then someone swam over the top of me, and the first few hundred metres were a strange combination of the almost spiritual experience of being at one with the water interspersed with a punch up after one too many Panda Pops at the local pool’s disco night. As we got into the swimming the chaos reduced and I was able to keep a focus on working with the water and trying to dodge any jellyfish, which were mercifully floating around a few metres below me. The first km to the turn took a long time, but I was keeping pace with the people around me, and turning to come up the long back straight I realised this was because the wind and tide had been working against us. With them now working with us I was swimming faster than ever before, flying through the buoys and the next 2km passed so quickly I couldn’t believe I’d got to the turning buoy, but everyone else was going round it so I followed and then a few minutes later we were heading back to the shore and dry land.

I dragged myself up the beach and checked my watch – 1 hour and 16 minutes, right on plan! Next up it was a leisurely transition, drying myself off and making sure I would be comfortable on the bike, and taking on some nutrition. Now, some paragraphs ago I wrote that the BBC forecast was for next to no wind. They were wrong. After the short climb out of Calella it turned out we were to be faced with a block headwind for the first 32 miles of the course, with the respite of a tailwind for the next 23 miles before the whole exercise was repeated again. The wind got up to 40kph at points, leaving the second headwind leg of the bike in particular feeling like absolute purgatory.

Thankfully the bike is my natural home, and I was making good progress through the pack in both directions. I knew my nutrition strategy and everything was going swimmingly, with even the odd brown trouser windshear moment not causing too much concern. About ¾ of the way through the bike I had got past most of the big groups of cyclists and was able to just focus on staying aerodynamic through to the finish, knowing my back was pretty sore but that the sooner I was done the sooner I’d have the run to relieve the pressure on it. I came back into town and picked my way through the technical section at the end of the course to finish the bike in around 5:10 – a bit slower than planned but given the 70 miles of headwind I’d had to endure I was still very happy with that.

I treated myself to another leisurely transition, made sure I had my RMHC t-shirt on, and got out on the run. For this year the organisers had decided to give us all a special treat, this being a tweak to the course so that you took in the finish line four times before you actually got to cross it, in a sort of ‘look what you could have won’ way. It was evident they were also caught out by the stronger than expected winds as the pot plants they’d put out to demarcate the running lanes in this section had all fallen over in unison.

It was during the run that the second two pieces of advice I had received proved invaluable. It turns out that when you’ve already been going for six and a half hours, running a marathon takes a really long time. Focusing on the distance left to go is a recipe for disaster, but allowing a short walk at every station to take on a bit of food and drink breaks it up into much more manageable 2km chunks – run for 12 minutes, walk for a minute, rinse and repeat. The first 10k lap of the marathon passed without incident and suddenly at the start of the second lap I went from fine to urgently feeling like I needed to expel everything in my stomach in the blink of an eye. Thankfully the feeling dissipated as quickly as it came on, but for the next hour it slowly returned stronger and stronger until if felt like a question of when, rather than if, I would be sick.

At this point, with every inch of my body hurting, two things kept me going. The first was simple human loss aversion. If I stopped, I would still not have ‘earned’ the nearly £2000 of sponsorship people had kindly donated, and would find myself back in the same position at some point in the future, probably feeling just as rough. Secondly, I remembered my ‘why’. I thought about my daughter Elodie and how she takes on the challenges in her life with such simple joy. About how she somehow manages to turn every hospital trip into an adventure, and how she doesn’t get the choice to make herself feel sick through stupid over-exertion, but it’s just a natural by product of every time she wakes up from an anaesthetic. ‘If she can put up with all of that and still be a delightful happy child, then I can suck it up for a couple more hours’ I thought to myself.

With great trepidation I ate an energy gel at the next aid station and found my nausea starting to recede. From that point a strategy of a gel roughly every 30 minutes kept it at bay, and all of a sudden I was on the last lap. I knew I should be trying to take everything in to create something really memorable, but the exhaustion was such that I couldn’t really think much beyond the next aid station. I finally found myself coming past the 1km to go sign, counting down the metres and then entering the grandstands for the finish line and hearing the announcer telling me ‘you are an Ironman!’. There wasn’t really any elation crossing the line. There was relief, there was satisfaction and there was pleasure that it was over, but I think I was just too exhausted to summon up much joy. The marathon had taken me 4 hours 35 minutes, giving me a total race time including transitions of 11:16:26.

Planning as I had, there wasn’t much time to take in the achievement anyway as I had a plane to catch early in the morning and still had to get my bike and gear out of transition which was about a mile from the finish. As such I collected my medal, had a quick drink in the recovery station (the thought of food was still causing my stomach to turn), and wondered back up the course to pick up a bike and four bags, which I then had to lug back to the hotel. In hindsight this was probably a good thing as had I sat down at the end I may never have got up again!

Once bags were packed and the bike was dropped with the transportation people, I grabbed a shower, allowed myself to look at my phone, and, appetite returning, went to the McDonald’s across the street and ordered most of the menu. As I tucked into my third burger the achievement started to sink in: I’d done what I set out to do.

As mentioned in the article, I aimed to raise some money for Ronald McDonald House Charities during the Ironman, who help keep families together when a child is ill and needs an extended hospital stay. Between those who kindly sponsored me last year, and those who did this year, we’ve raised nearly £2000. There’s still time to contribute if you would like, my Justgiving link is here:

Craggy Island Triathlon 

by Clare Harris

As many people will know I can’t resist a bit of a family challenge, so when my sister suggested that we, along with our mum, do the Craggy Island Tri I couldn’t not sign up!

Craggy is a race that starts a couple of miles down the coast from Oban, you start from a small ferry jetty, swim across to the Island of Kerrera then mountain bike and run around the Island. The day started with parking at Oban high school where we were greeted by a very bright rainbow, which set the tone for the day’s weather. Best described as squally.

We rode 10/15minutes down out of Oban to the ferry. Queued up and got over to the island with our bikes. Transition was unlike any transition I had been in before, instead of your typical racking there were lines of tape on the ground and you laid your bike down and set up transition between two bits of tape!

It was then a case of judging the timing of when to wetsuit up, leave your kit in the bag drop and get the ferry back over to the mainland. In the end we were probably hanging around for about an hour in our wetsuits. This was the first year that the ‘XL’ version of the race had been run with a longer swim and bike than previous editions. The original race was a straight 500m swim across to the island. This was extended for the XL race to 900m by swimming out at an angle to a buoy and then back to the island. Waiting around for the start there was much chat about the swim. Would they shorten the swim due to the conditions – no they did not! Which buoy were we swimming to, not that green buoy over there, surely that’s too far – it very much was that green buoy and from my watch trace it was about the right distance!!

Eventually we got in the water for the start, the temperature they said was 13°C but it didn’t feel too bad, probably compared to the air temperature while we were hanging around waiting!! The air hooter sounded and we were off. Swimming out to the buoy was a bit busy but ok, after turning at the buoy you were then into the wind and all the chop it kicked up. Not a very pleasant second half to the swim, a few strokes of breaststroke were needed to check I was going in the right direction as I couldn’t see over the waves at the right point and they didn’t put anything easy to sight on the jetty on the island. Into transition and then out onto the mountain bike. The bike course at Craggy isn’t one I’d describe as overly technical with just a couple of steep descents on gravel tracks to be cautious on, you could definitely do it on a gravel bike (and some people were) though a mountain bike was probably the better option. The course was mainly on gravel tracks and grassy paths. Due to the amount of rain that had fallen recently there were some BIG puddles to negotiate, always fun when you don’t know how deep they are or what’s underneath them!! I promise you I’m in that photo!!

The bike course was pretty much a full loop round the island with what felt like endless short ups and downs, most ups were rideable, a couple I did have to get off and push. And there is one water crossing with large boulders, maybe if you’re Danny Macaskill you could bunny hop across but everyone was getting off and walking across. The last couple of miles back to transition were along a gravel track, nice and easy to ride. Back in transition both my mum and sisters bikes were gone so I knew they had survived the swim and were out on the bike somewhere. Off onto the run. You come out of transition and go up! Initially this is on a road/gravel track then you go through a gate and are following grassy footpaths steeply up to the trig point at the highest point of the island. More of a hike than a run (except for the few seconds when you notice the camera man). It was reassuring that this first half of the ‘run’ was well marshalled by the Oban Mountain Rescue team.

Once you get down to the end of Island you run through an old sea cave and pick up the same route as the bike course to hit the gravel track back to transition and the finish line! With the weather being off and on showers, I got myself changed into warm clothes to await mum and my sister to finish. I was quite happy to have soundly beaten them! After the podium awards (mum was the only crazy over 60 woman to take part!) we joined the long queue to catch the ferry back over to the mainland and then ride back to Oban.

I would highly recommend Craggy as a great race to do however, two things to bear in mind, when you live in the south of England and you are going to do a race up in Scotland maybe take more than just a long weekend to do it all in. Also be prepared for a lot of faff…..and rain.

Having used a lot of my annual leave for mine and Neil’s honeymoon Xterra adventures, the plan for Craggy was to take just the one day off work, travel up on the Friday, race the new XL format on Saturday and then come back on Sunday. Not wanting to deal with dismantling my mountain bike too much, I opted for the train route. I’m not sure I’d do that again, 12 hours of travelling each way was a bit much for a single weekend!!

This really was a fun race and a great way to end the season. I would recommend it to anyone who’s got an off road bike. They do still run the original distance on the Sunday for anyone who fancies a shorter swim and bike. Just be prepared for the back and forth faff and the Scottish weather! And don’t forget to look up every so often and take in the view!

European Sprint Duathlon Championships, Bilbao

by Sean Stewart

Last Responsible Moment

“A strategy of not making a premature decision but instead delaying commitment and keeping important and irreversible decisions open until the cost of not making a decision becomes greater than the cost of making a decision”.

This year’s European Multisport Championships were held in the Spanish city of Bilbao in the week 17-24 September. Sally and I had qualified for the sprint duathlon and had been looking forward to racing hard and seeing a city that has long been on our bucket-list.

Re-wind about three weeks though and I found myself sitting in a crowded meeting room at work hoping that the guy three chairs away, who was coughing occasionally wasn’t harbouring Covid-19. He was, and I and then Sally in quick succession, having avoided it until then, fell victim. Suddenly Bilbao looked to be in doubt. What should we do? Cancelling the trip was always an option, but we hung onto the hope that we would both have no symptoms and be clear in time to race. So we waited; the symptoms were real, and although they didn’t wipe us out completely we weren’t able to train, but we carried on.

I got my all-clear on the day I had to drop the bikes off to be driven to Spain along with hundreds of others. So I duly prepared them and drove over to Frimley to hand them over to a bloke in a car park – it must have looked like a very peculiar transaction, but nobody seemed to bat an eyelid.
With the bikes on their way I was fairly confident we would go to Spain, we just needed Sally to test negative. The days ticked by, and the positive test results kept coming, two days before we were due to fly the tension was ratcheting up, things were getting tense, and Sally was still positive.

We hatched a plan that gave us a number of “exit” points and we agreed that we’d go to Gatwick where we had overnight accommodation and Sally would take a test before we left home, when we got up in the morning and just as we were due to go into the airport. If the results were positive at the airport we’d come home and forget about it all. As luck would have it the last test at home before we set off was clear and with a huge sigh of relief we set off.

We made it through the airport and onto the plane and everything seemed to be going fine. We arrived and after a somewhat uncertain journey to our hotel were settled into our room by the middle of the afternoon. A gentle stroll around the local neighbourhood seemed like a good idea; Bilbao is at sea-level, but after 15 minutes of walking around it felt like we were half-way up Everest and we both needed to sit down and catch our breath – it was clear Covid had taken a bigger toll on us than we’d realised. Cue more worrying…

Normally in the final three days building up to a Championship race we run and cycle the routes, but we were just too tired to do this. We did manage to jog the run route, but we broke it down into stages and did a run-walk strategy. The main feature on the bike course was a 7 km continuous hill, climbing 232 m, which had been the subject of much (almost entirely negative) conjecture in the GB Facebook group. Sally was worried she might not have enough breath the get up it.

We decided not to attempt to do a recce ride up the hill as this might tire us out completely. We pretended to be tourists and went up to the top using the funicular railway which enabled us to take a look at the turnaround point. We also managed to complete the registration process rationalising to ourselves that we still had 36 hours to make a miraculous recovery and we didn’t need to pull out yet.

On Saturday morning, race day, transition opened at 06:00 and we were there nice and early to set ourselves up. We had made an agreement that we would modify our goals and set off with three things in mind 1) get across the start line, 2) don’t walk and 3) get to the finish. Neither of us had the race that we had hoped for (I was never out of breath, and I even took the opportunity to do something I’d never done in a race before – admire the views as I rode up the hill). We did both manage to tick off all three of the goals and added another International Championship finishers medal to our collection.

The rest of our time in Bilbao was wonderful, although things started badly when Sally got stung by a wasp as she was waiting for me to retrieve my bike after the race – whilst it was a painful experience and she spent the next few days with a swollen lower arm, it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves. We spent the Sunday in the Guggenheim Museum seeing an incredible collection of very rare motorcars which had been brought together to illustrate how design principles have driven change in the automotive industry. We treated ourselves to a couple of great meals and some local wines as part of our post-race recovery nutrition – we figured we’d earned them!

I guess the point of this little article is really to reflect that nothing is certain in the multisport racing game and doing everything in your power to get to the starting line may require you to change your plans and alter your goals. We made it to Spain, ticked Bilbao off our bucket list and please keep this to yourself, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the most enjoyable championship race I’ve ever done!

Dates for your diary

  • 16-Nov-2022 – Tri2O AGM (via zoom @ 08:00 pm)
  • TBC – Tri2O Annual Awards 

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