With the mercury hitting 27?C in the afternoon, Sunday’s Bala triathlon was always going to be tough. I finished, but my time of ?6:12:57 was slow. Last time I did this race (2010) the conditions were much cooler and I hit the tape in a much more respectable 5:39:46.?
Looking at my split times it’s easy to see where the issues lay: my swim time of 57:49 was pretty dreadful. In fact, I was 3rd last out of the water. My swim has fallen apart completely in the last couple of years and it’s down to lack of solid swim training. I have got so disheartened by my inability to improve my front crawl in open water that I gave up on it yesterday and resorted to breaststroke early on. Trouble is I’ve not been breaststroking in the pool at all and it really showed. I have to make a decision for IMUK, because a repeat of yesterday would leave me flirting with the cut off. I’m thinking I’ll have to switch back to some solid breaststroking, after all, last time I swam in Pennington Flash I got round in under 1? hours. It’s a real disappointment because last November I did a really good swim coaching day and I felt I improved no-end, but went straight down with a really bad chest infection straight after and I didn’t get back in the pool for months. If there is one positive I can take from this, it has given me a rude awakening as to the true state of my swim.
The bike leg, on the other hand went really well. The Bala course is quite a challenging one with a total of 950m of ascent. None of it is terribly steep, but it is cumulative. There are some great downhills to compensate, and on the steepest descent a decent road surface had me nudging 75kph. I hit the turn around point on the out and back course in 1:19, but with the steepest climbs on the return leg and a strong headwind thrown in I arrived in T2 in 2:53:30. Last time out in 2010 my bike time was 2:51 and I had some minor mechanical issues costing me a few minutes so I was hoping to beat that time this year. In truth, I felt pretty good on the bike, coped with all the climbs well and was only slowed by the headwind – the return leg was fully 25 minutes slower than the outbound and although fatigue did set in to an extent, the bulk of the time lost was due to the headwind. My overall bike split was slightly slower than the average for the field, though, which is slow for me – my bike split is usually around the top third. So, there is clearly work to be done to build my resilience to avoid dropping so much time later on. I suspect that the wind got stronger as the race wore on so being so low down in the field I got hit by the strongest wind
By the time I set out on the run it was 2pm and the tarmac was beginning to melt. I immediately decided that my goal would be to take on water at every aid station and just try to keep running without being concerned about time. As it turned out I set off quite strongly; my first 7 km splits were all sub 6 minutes and it was only when the course started to climb significantly that I began to slow. Seeing runners passing in the opposite direction was worrying though. Many looked really stressed by the heat, even though they were at the head of the field. One exception to this was fellow COLT, Jenny Evans, who looked in really good shape in a strong 2nd place in the women’s race. She had just been passed by Andy Ley who was storming through to finish 20th overall. Andy, though, looked really hot and shouted at me to find every spot of shade I could. Sound advice, because as the road pointed upwards the temperatures were soaring. I made it to the turn point still running and set off downhill again. My pace was starting to drop significantly as I wilted. I kept running, though as I decided that whatever happened this would be excellent preparation for July’s Ironman. It wasn’t until the last aid station handily positioned at the bottom of a slope that I allowed myself a walk. My overall run time was 2:15:59. Slow, but that was purely down to the heat. My legs felt good as I started out on the run so even though I was 18 minutes slower than 2010 I was reasonably pleased with the performance.
So the vast majority of the time lost on 2010 was on the swim and the run with the bike times being more or less comparable. Best of all has been my recovery. Drinking lots on the run and in the immediate aftermath kept me properly hydrated and although stiff I don’t feel too bad at all. I would go so far as to say that the slow pace of the run has left me feeling less stressed and tired than on any previous half-ironman. So that’s a big positive as it means I’ll be able to get straight back to training this week – I must make sure that a decent amount of it is in the pool, though!