14 June 2010 3 Comments

Full on Bala Experience

What a contrast to last September when the conditions were benign, sunny and still, and Llyn Tegid was as calm as a Constable millpond. Yesterday there was a blustery wind blowing across the lake promising strong headwinds on the outbound section of the bike course, and the occasional heavy shower sweeping through. At least the lake didn’t look too rough.

Talking to other competitors about the bike course suggested to me that it would be quite a tough proposition and after I exited the swim in a so-so (for me) 49 minutes (my slowest half-ironman swim), I set off up the long 5 mile climb to Llyn Celyn. None of the climbs on the course are steep, but boy there is a lot of ascent (550m in total) and this coupled with a headwind meant slow going. Still I was overtaking plenty of competitors who had left me for the fishes on the swim. Unfortunately, I started to experience a mechanical problem with my rear derailleur – the cable tension was wrong and I couldn’t get in to 1st (not great when I was running an 11-23 cassette) but worse was the fact that the cable housing was flopping down and getting tangled with the chain – I had to stop 5 times in all, once it threw the chain, too. In all it probably cost me 2 to 3 minutes, especially as it happend when shifting down at the foot of climbs, losing momentum. I reached the turn in 1:24 an set off back to Bala, back up all the climbs. At least the wind would be behind me!

There are plenty of really fast downhills on this course as compensation for all the climbing and it was here that the new bike (Kinesis KR 810) really came into its own. It was impressively stable, even in the gusty winds with the frame soaking up lots of the road vibration giving you real confidence to push the 11 tooth cog hard.

A really heavy downpour greeted my arrival at transition as I finished the bike leg in 2:46:53, just under 2 minutes outside my personal best for the bike leg – slightly frustrating as the mechanicals probably cost me that time. Nevertheless I was pretty pleased, given the nature of the course. I wasn’t overtaken by a single cyclist on the bike section, proving once again that I really need to do something about my swim! The question remained, would I be able to sustain my run for the full half marathon without resorting to the walk up the hills strategy that I have employed in the past – and boy were there a lot of hills on this run!

I was concerned that I had not taken on enough water on the bike so I determined to walk at each feed in order to get a decent drink, but apart from that I would do everything to keep going. The strategy paid off, and despite the monster climb up to the turn point, I reached it in 56 minutes. It was pretty painful, but I ran up every hill and kept it together to record my 1st sub 2 hour half marathon in 7 half-ironman distance races. I finished the run in 1:57:10, a whopping 15 minutes faster than my previous best despite it being the hilliest run course I have ever encountered.

The fast run gave me a finish time of 5:39:46, beating my previous best by just over 9 minutes (set at the Vitruvian in 2008). Without the mechanical issues I would have been a few minutes faster and I was also relatively tardy in transition, 6:42 in total, so maybe 5 hours 30 would be in reach on a nicer day and a faster course.

Bala has become just about my favourite place for triathlon, whatever the distance. The races are well organised, there is a nice family atmosphere and the setting is simply beautiful. I think I might get my entry in for the Olympic distance race in September soon.

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3 Responses to “Full on Bala Experience”

  1. JobySp 20 June 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Drove through Wales yesterday and encountered the B4158 – not so far from where you raced – you need to cycle on it if you haven’t already!

    And well done on the PB!

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