After the brutal “A Day in the Lakes” triathlon of 3 weeks ago, Saturday’s Cleveland Steelman was supposed to be a breeze (well it was, but not in a good way). I was hoping for 2 things from this event: an overall pb for half ironman (and getting under 5 hours 30 mins would be a bonus) and if not that, a pb for ?a half ironman bike leg. I thought this would be on as I would be racing on an aero?bike for the first time.
One of the nice things about low key events like the Steelman is the fact that the start is at a very civilised 10am. Andy McCracken (COLT club captain) and I arrived at the venue at 8, registered and then whiled away a pleasant hour in the excellent bikeshop?(Triology)?and teashop before racking our bikes. The day was bright enough, with an occasional rain spot, but the biggest concern was the wind. Far from abating overnight, the clouds were scudding across the big skies of the flat lands to the east of the Dales at an alarming rate. With the bike course being 2 loops and fairly exposed it would be a question of how much of it would be into the wind.
Things started well enough, despite my lamentable lack of swimming I felt quite good on the swim and even managed a solid section of front crawl before my arms gave up. I was encouraged because normally it’s my terrible breathing technique that let’s me down, and here it was simply lack of any pool time: something I can work on over the summer holidays. I exited the water in 39:15 which was a personal best for a half ironman swim (I suspect that the swim was a bit short) and eased my way through transition before hitting out on the bike.
The Steelman bike course in good weather is perfect for setting fast times. Much of it is flat and any inclines are short and inconsequential. However, today, after a fast first section it was subject to really heavy crosswinds and headwinds making progress slow. Ina particular the top of the loop back to transition was very testing and the thought of having to repeat that section on lap 2 right at the end was somewhat demoralising. As always, it was the same for everyone but I was somewhat chastened to post a bike time almost exactly 20 minutes slower than last year. What was more concerning was I knew that the effort I had put in on the bike would, as the immutable laws of triathlon dictate, have a negative impact on my run.
And so it proved. To be honest, I wasn’t too disheartened with my 2:08:44, my slowest half-ironman run for 7 years (A Day in the Lakes excepted) because I kept running throughout. All the time I was focused on thinking about my upcoming Ironman in Wales and if I could keep up this sort of pace at that race I’d be over the moon.
So there we have it: 6:01:47, my third half in a row over 6 hours. I finished 14th in my age group (compared to 10th last year), not a particularly stunning performance. Nevertheless I knew I had raced hard and wasn’t capable of going much faster on the day, so to that extent I’m satisfied and it’s a significant step along the road to Ironman Wales in 2 months time.
One last footnote: I didn’t notice any effects at all from my crash?on?the previous weekend.