I signed up for this race whilst still in Cayman, keen to keep myself fit after London I knew I needed a race to aim for!
That didn't however work out quite to plan though as I found myself loosing focus on my training, I put it down to an increased work load and living my fiancé again and all the temptation of drinks and dinners that brings! Not to mention the weather is not nearly as appealing to get out on 3+ hr bike ride in the UK! But that is just an excuse, she would never stop me training, it was one of the best summers ever, I just simply didn't have the desire or focus.
I did however continue to swim at Box End lake on a regular basis so that was something!!
We drove to Henley the day before, staying locally in a travel lodge type place. Henley is beautiful, to be honest its very similar to ever little town along the Thames in that area, but none-the-less, very nice!
Henley isn't a great distance from MK, but my decision was really made for me when the organisers (The Challenge group) stated that registration must be done the day before, so we made a weekend of it! And I'm very grateful that we did, the registration process was very time consuming indeed. There are different transition places at Henley, so you need to drop your bike here, run gear there etc etc…First time I've done a race like this. I also wasn't a too keen on leaving my bike out in the open all night!
Up nice and early, popped into the local petrol station to get a coffee we headed off the event, I was keen to see the Iron distance race go off and not have to rush around. Seems like most people had the same idea as fellow racers (I'm always hesitant to use the word athlete when describing myself! It's just not accurate!!!) were flooding out of the hotel and the car park at the event filling up fast.
Mist is the word of the morning!! Well, mist and cold!! It was freezing!! Visibility on the river was not more than 20m! But spirits were high, everyone was in a great mood! I thrive on that!
Get in…we're off!
On entering the water, late, I was pleasantly surprised how warm the water was! The swim was busy, as expected, I tried to worm myself somewhere near the front but again found myself someway back come the start.
The whistle went and were off, my lake swimming was paying off, I was feeling good and had a great rhythm, I was moving up the pack catching a tow and moving from feet to feet until I found a large gap to the next set of feet, so I put my head down and applied some pressure, which turned out not so well, I keep looking up, but with visibility very very poor I soon noticed that the feet I thought I was following was in fact swimmers coming the other way, so I paused and took a good look and could see I was at least 20m off track and made a sharp bee line to get back on track.
At the turn I felt good, I never check my watch swimming (does anyone?!), so I've no idea how I was getting on time wise, I was seeing hats from the wave in front of me, so I'd made up 10 mins on some. The way back was pretty uneventful, I was now swimming with people of my same standard so tried to follow where I could, I'm not great at following, I always try to push harder, often only to find when I stick my head out into the currant I realise the dude in front it working hard, so I tucked back in!
Exiting the water at Henley is tricky, a little pontoon is put up for the race and helpers are yanking you out one by one, nothing graceful about that!!! Just a bunch of seal like shapes being yanked out of the water. I got my balance and headed off to transition. I picked my fiancé out in the crows, as every cheering me on, to which I cannot thank her enough.
A quick look down at the watch I was very happy with my time, 33:55.
Grab my T1 bag and quickly whip off my wetsuit. Earlier in the day I had stuck in a long sleeve top, not a race top, just something I thought I might want as it was so cold and wow…very grateful for that as it was freezing.
A big mistake here, I stuck on my socks (as I do for longer races) and then had to run across the grass, so when I got to my bike my socks were soaking. I tried to limit the damage by taking my bike shoes off the pedals and running in them to get to the mount point, but the damage had been done. My socks were wet..nasty!!
The bike course was on closed roads. The bike actually worked out at 92km, which apparently was 6km farther than last year.
I struggled on the bike, normally my strongest part of the race by far, I couldn't settle, I don't know why really. I wasn't hilly (there was a couple), but anything is hillier than Cayman. And the cold didn't help, I felt cold the whole way round!!
I was up and down on my tri bars, trying to find my zone, but couldn't. I held reasonable pace at 31km/h average, but was expecting closer to 35km/h. Perhaps the lack of bike miles in my legs from my poor build up was starting to show.
At one of the crazy turn points, the signage was nothing but crap to be honest, I spotted the turn points on my first lap, then they changed place on the 2nd. You had people doing the full going one way, half going the other, people on the last lap going straight on.
This was, I later found out, a very dangerous point with several crashes…although I was none the wiser and as you can see in good spirits giving my lady a smile J
Not exactly the most interesting of run courses, a simple 2 lap course for those doing the half!
I felt good on the run, perhaps because my legs didn't work so hard on the bike, perhaps because I wasn't used to running in the cold temperatures so my body was revelling in the reduced temperatures, whatever it was, I was bouncing along nicely and kept a very even pace.
Of course I now look back wishing I had pushed harder, but I'm not sure I could, at around 12km the wet socks started to bite back and I could feel some epic blisters forming! I was running in my Sketchers Go Run, they felt nice, but I've decided they don't have enough cushioning for me! (Report on those later…)
I finished the run in 1h 48. I was very happy with that indeed. Especially considering my last half iron run was 2h14 ish…That was of course in Cayman in 35 degree sun, but still!!!
And to the finish!!! Whipped my shoes and socks off as soon as possible, rammed some food down my face and picked up and *alcohol free* beer on the way out!!! This was for my fiancé!!!! Who later decided she didn't want it when she found out it was alcohol free!!!
I was later told that the locals were not happy with the race, I didn't notice that. On the run everyone was great…cheering me on.
The Challenge race is now leaving Henley and heading to Weymouth. With a swim in the sea…now that will be awesome!!!
You can see my results here, I finished in 5:30:48. Would have been nice to have pushed to break 5h 30. Oh well, a reason to come back!!
Happy Chappy!!! Although the happiness didn't last long as those awesome Oakleys you see perched on top of my head were soon to find new owners after I left them in the changing room. On returning to the changing room 10minutes later once I'd learnt of my mistake…they were gone. I emailed Challenge UK. They were of no help whatsoever.
That's the last tri of the year for me. I'm looking forward to doing something in the sun next year. September tri's in the UK, not a good idea if you hate the cold as much as me!!!!
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