A couple more race updates form last weekend, they were definitely worth the wait. Thanks both and congratulations to Steve for what has to be a strong contender for report of the year and to Ros for qualifying for the age group ETU champs next year.
I write this report in the full knowledge that it will potentially offend some folk. The prime candidates will be British Triathlon, Triathlon Scotland and all folks who care about the promotion of this great sport of ours. With that in mind, I have to declare that all the views expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Fusion Triathlon Club or any of its members.
Let me explain. I have involved myself in a number of sports over my years on this planet. I played football in the 70’s, in Edinburgh, to a reasonable standard. I have had “Chopper bikes” thrown at me from disgruntled parents/brothers and threatened with actual bodily harm on more than one occasion. My admittedly mediocre rugby career in the lower Scottish leagues resulted in battalions of Angus farmers doing the military two step on my head at the bottom of rucks. I have dangled from ropes while climbing and capsized on a yacht in a storm. None of this compares with triathlon, or my experience of it on Saturday. You see, open the webpage of Tri-Scotland, for example. It exudes happy, mostly middle age folk, who look as though they have just done the shopping at ASDA and pulled on a Tri-suit. The impression given is that Triathlon is nothing more than a bit of a park run with a wee swim and a whirl on the bike thrown in. That is about as accurate as a Donald trump tweet and I demand that these pictures be taken down immediately and replaced by the family snaps taken of me at the end of the race. Here is my race report.
I arrived in good time as my OCD demands of me. The weather was set fair which concerned me slightly as visions of me tottering towards the finish line a la Johnny Brownlee came to mind. Was faced with a queue bigger than a Led Zep reunion gig without the funny smells. This thing snaked around most of the rowing club carpark and appeared to form and reform at various intervals. The atmosphere was reasonably natured if slightly tense and I smelled the unmistakable aroma of testosterone and ego mixing with the fermenting E.Coli bacteria from the Loch we were about to swim in. Some clown had given one of the “ Tetley Tea Folk” a loud inhaler which blasted off at intervals with instructions no-one could understand. The old boy was well meaning and clearly took his role very seriously indeed. He wore an official looking top. However, he had a real talent for turning the most simple of instructions into a convoluted equation of chaos that Stephen Hawkins would struggle to untangle. The lines formed, reformed and formed again with various permutations of the alphabet and age group. I eventually made it and with race number, pins, hat and tee shirt clamped in my mouth made off to rack up.
This was pretty well organised. By this time most of the marshals were just happy to get everyone sorted out. The problem was that the race times were now hopelessly out of time and running late. Folk were bombing about half dressed in wetsuits trying to sort their kit out as their races were being called. It reminded me of trying to board an Easy Jet flight to Palma with Mr and Mrs “Steaming out their heads” who happen to have lost their passports and two kids, trying to check in while the last call is being announced. The effect of this was two-fold. One, my perfectly timed Beetroot Juice and caffeine regimen which was planned to hit the muscles just as the horn sounded, hit my bladder 1 hour before my race started. Two, the delay gave me time to appraise the opposition. The first thing I noticed were the bikes. These were not bikes in the sense that I recognised. Some had boarded up back wheels. They had computers, blue tooth gear changing, funny wee aerodynamic boxes attached that you could put stuff in and water bottles with 10 foot long drinking straws. They had matching, square jaw, serious looking men attached to them with matching ti-suits and funny pointy hats. Above all was the sound they made. My steed (hand me down Triban 18 with bell and pump mount removed for aerodynamic efficiency – total weight 11KG) clicked when moved. These things clanked in a menacing, “come and have a go if you think you are hard enough”, way. Someone opened the sluice gate on my pool of self confidence and I watched it flow away. I then got told the biggest porky pie since the Brexit vote – “ Don’t worry Steve, these bikes make no difference”. You know who you are and you are a charlatan!!
Swimming is a metaphor for my life – all huff and puff with very little enjoyment or return. Folks that have had the misfortune of swimming next to me at Pinkston will testify to my complete inability to swim in a straight line. I once closed my eye and managed to swim in a complete circle anti-clockwise. I have no idea why I do this. Both John and Crawford have spent more time trying to sort this out than it took to crack the Enigma code, with less success. I consequently placed myself to the far right of the “pack”, well away from trouble with the plan to drift left as I normally would do. As I bobbed about in the warm water (temp 19 degrees), I noticed that we were pretty tightly packed together. I also noticed that more and more punters were joining us in a London Tube at rush hour stylee! We were packed pretty close together when the hooter went…………….PANDEMONIUM.
Have read about this, but the experience, well lets just say, one to share over a beer. It was a nightmare. I have been at the bottom of better behaved rucks. My legs and arms were totally useless. We were a pack of neoprene clad Harbour seals trying to get to Mrs Harbour seal. Some guy was climbing all over my a@s without even the decency of buying me a drink first. I was 2 minutes into the race and I was hating it. The bloke in front had a bit of a panic attack and decide to do breast stoke. We all shunted into him. Curses were uttered and I banjoed some bloke who took a fancy to my swim goggles. Looking around, I saw a bit of free water to my left. Headed over…..straight into the washing machine on spin cycle. Nightmare. However, spin cycle appeared to be moving roughly in the right direction so hitched a ride around the first turning marker. Stretched my right arm out, found clear water, same with left… ya beauty, lets get into the race. Rest of swim went OK. No panic attacks and I actually found free water and enjoyed the swim. Managed about 14 minutes…. I will take that given the carnage at the start of the race. Up onto jetty, suit off like a pro, passed a few folk on the way to transition. Helmet on, glasses on, shoes on and laced up. Grabbed bike and was off………………then the nightmare began.
Like all plans, my bike plan was simple, deeply flawed and poorly executed. I am a mountain biker and have an anaphylactic reaction when I sit on road bikes. Mountain biking is butch and manly and appeals to my free spirit of travel. Road biking is, well, road biking!! J.J had given my his old B-Twin and she was a wee cracker of a bike. There were no pedals so I plundered a pair of old fashioned cage pedals from my daughters first road bike ( another B-Twin) which were just dandy when I was cycling about. The kids suggested clip on pedals as they felt that the Eddie Merckx, circa 1973 look, was not really up to much and not befitting a man of my biking prowess. Unfortunately, having bought the afore-mentioned pedals and shoes, I forgot to practice in them. I judged that, perhaps, the British Champs was not the best testing ground for my new purchase, so decided to stick with the cages. I also figured T1 and T2 would be simpler. Problem – I had trained with my trail shoes. These are narrower but heavier to run in. The kids suggested that I switch to running shoes as they felt I would look a complete” tube” if I ran in the trail ones. I failed to realise that the running shoes were broader. Could I get them in the cages – could I hell!!! I was weaving about like a drunken Parson doing his Sunday rounds and getting in the pointy helmets way. Further curses were exchanged. I eventually got both feet in at the bottom of the hill – thank goodness. Wrong gear – change down quickly to avoid falling off – big judder as gear slammed down – both feet slipped out of cages again – “f@@@@@@@@@@@@@k”!!!. Climbed hill unattached, eventually getting both feet securely fastened. Lost count of number of cyclists who passed me, including the novice on the Mountain Bike. However, things were at least looking up a bit and I ploughed on.
To the Charlatan I have a question. I am reasonably fit, not brilliant, but reasonable. I was peddling my little legs off. My position was as good as the You-tube video on bike position that I had studied. I felt I was going really quite quickly. How come the pointy headed 70 year old on the bike that “ makes no difference Steve” tanked past me not once, but twice. How come another 20 or 30 of his kind did exactly the same over the next 40 minutes or so. How come I arrived at T2, dismounted and wondered who had put the epidural into my back preventing both my legs from moving. Nightmare number two was on its way.
This was the thing that was least bothering me. This delusional thinking was worthy of a visit to Gartnavel Royal. Sure, run training is hard and John’s sessions are generally not for the faint hearted. By and large, I was able to turn out reasonable times during training and I allowed myself the thought that the run would be the discipline where I made up lost time in a “Chariots of Fire” way. However, I had not factored in peddling the Sherman Tank ( and I mean no disrespect to my chariot that I now love dearly) around a less than flat course for 20Km and then belting out a 20 minute 5Km. I actually thought I would manage this – bonkers eh.
I jumped off the bike. Hemet off. Glasses on to look cool in a determined, seriously minded way and made to take off. My legs would not move. they just froze. I looked down. My knees appeared to be going up and down but I was just not moving forward. I was like that guy in the Talking Heads video – “ Road to No-where” ( check it out from 0.45 onwards). WTF. Jeez, what the hell was happening. My pins had just given up the ghost. I had 5 Km to run and I could barely get out of transition. I shuffled out and would love to tell you that I slowly found my running legs and powered to the end.
Nope. No way.
The run was hell including that crappy wee hill at the turn. I mean, they could have moved the finish back and got us turning at the bottom but that would not be the Triathlon Way eh!!!!
I was hating this. My misery was compounded by the legions of fit, committed athletes ( including a free flowing George Lambie) who were effortlessly passing me on their way back. I was about to spit a very large dummy out of an even larger pram when my two Guardian Angels saved me. The first was the AA man. Yes, he really is the fourth emergency service. I clocked his broad, beaming smile on the way in to the first turn point.
“Having fun Steve”, beamed the Ali Anderson man.
I muttered some reply about living the dream but he cheered the soul and I got a bit quicker.
Soon after, an equally cheery Linzie declared that I “ looked great”.
No, I looked and felt like a burst couch but again it was great to hear a friendly voice.
I charged into the turning point, grabbed some water, missed my mouth and tipped it all over my head and ti-suit. Pretended I had meant that in the first place and took off.
I made it back in about 22 minutes, 1 minute slower than my park run time. I was absolutely shattered. It was more difficult that the two adventure triathlons that I had done for reasons that I still cannot fathom. The post race chat was cracking and it was especially good seeing JJ O’H looking so well. Lets hope the bugger gets back to full health.
Thoughts and Awards
The following two days in the E-H household were a study in gaiety and merriment. The kids started trawling the results page. They identified all the 70 and 80 year olds who had beaten me and recited their names like some Gregorian chant. They marvelled at my 30th position (age group) and 300 and something overall while dangling their winners medals in front of my coupon. Revenge is a dish best served cold I guess. Despite this, I have signed up to do the Scottish Sprint at Monickie in the hope, perhaps, of salvaging some pride.
Early awards for the X-Mas night out
The Elton John Award for decadence – George Lambie for taxiing his bike shoes to the event. Yes, taxiing folks, you heard it correctly.
The Should have gone to Speck Savers award – Guy EH. After performing a dive of Tom Dailly perfection and passing the third placed competitor by the first turning point, Guy decided that the especially constructed ramp that the 1000 or so competitors had used to exit he swim was not really what this gig was about. With steely concentration and a disregard for the officials who were chucking bits and pieces at him to stop, he swam right past the ramp. Where he was heading to is one of life’s great mysteries, like the Bermuda triangle or the Yeti. Eventually, a kayaker managed to halt his migration and set him on he right path.
The Ernest Shackleton Award – Iona Miller who decided that wet suits are for big girls blouses and swam in her tri-suit during a downpour of biblical proportions. She managed to overtake most of the competition in the bargain, plus a couple of kayakers and a family of ducks.
And not forgetting everyone who put themselves through varying degrees of pain and suffering to participate in this supposed sport.
Chapeau to you all
Excited that this race was to be in my thermo-optimal environment. All I needed was to get the nutrition right….
Made brave decision to leave my Heatseeker Orca vest & stylish neoprene hat with strap in the kit bag. Swim not awful.
Bike. Halfway round noted no timing chip on left ankle.
Probably in wetsuit leg after wrestling match in T1. Nice man on motorbike came to remind me of my number.
Great Fusion support.
Lovely to see Donna at bike dismount telling me to be careful.
Valuable seconds used extracting chip from left leg of wetsuit.
Lap 1 – Clutched chip in sweaty left hand. Glad to heed JDs advice to pour drink over my head.
Lap 2 – nice people shouting my number & inviting me to stand in Penalty box for 2 mins – apparently I was drafting.
Ultimate Fusion support when Derek offered me a Jelly Baby during my time – ‘not allowed’ he was told. I said I was enjoying the rest. ‘Stand still, no talking’ they said.
Pleased to finish.
4th in age group by narrowest of margins.
Thanks to all for brilliant support, camaraderie & photos.
Must enter draft legal race next time.