Fail to prepare… Prepare to Fail!
It all started when Steve posted this…….
Have another look at the opening pages and read the build up…its kinda cool especially now after the event. Comments such as “Cracking event” “Bargain” “We can camp out the weekend and make it a proper Lincsquad Do” no doubt swayed a lot of people to take part in something they would never have considered without the support of the club and its members.
So…on with training….yeah….errrm kind of but nothing structured. Ride to work and back and occasionally take the long route home. Sometimes throw in a run session afterwards and then usual Sunday club session at Brigg and of course the OW swims at Hibaldstow because it a cool thing to do
Dambuster wasnt exactly a race…more of a finish. Going into the Steelman I felt good, actually I felt great and fully fit! The two weeks before Steelman had produced some great swims, enjoyable rides and a few confidence building run sessions but as always in the back of my mind was “Hmmmmm 20km run”.
To add to the list of “what can go wrong” I blistered up again on the Dambuster run so it was back to Metres to Miles for some funky new footwear as mine were no longer up to it. Kidding myself I was some sort of athlete I looked at the minimalist racing shoes on show imagining myself arms aloft as I sail past Clarkey on the run to the finish.
Turns out wearing the same shoes as Chrissy Wellington does nt actually gaurantee you have the same ability to run
Tried a few different pairs on and knocked back ones that didnt match my bike . When I tried the Brooks Adrenaline on they were like slippers! Even after trying on other makes and models everytime I went back to them they felt “right”. So…..new trainers to break in a week before my first half IM…….well played.
Next……the build up!
“Carry on Camping”
Turns out Lincsquad is full of wierdos who enjoy sleeping on the ground separated from the elements by little more then a bit of fabric. I however am neither homeless or eight years old so the only tent you’ll ever find me laid out in with my eyes closed is a beer tent.
Plans were made by the excellent TeamDobbers to basically turn our shambolic group of pretend athletes and associated hangers on into a slick looking well fed triathlon club. Pasta party planned for the Friday night, team flags, awnings & potentially the Haye Klitchco fight projected on to the side of my van on the Sat night via the power of Sky box office & Skype. Out of all of those the only thing that didnt happen was the one thing I had to do!
People appeared one by one led towards Base Camp by the Lincsquad flags & the smell of pasta bolognaise. The number of fold up seats got bigger & bigger until we all spilled outside of the awning. Registration packs were collected & t shirts tried on. All around the campsite on the edge of the lake people were chatting, eating or building up bikes.
“how many bottles you taking on the bike?”
“shouldnt we recce the route?”
After several tonnes of pasta, the occasional glass of wine & numerous large dollops of banter Pete Connelly plucked up enough courage to announce he’d not brought a sleeping bag! Offers of a Hanna Montana blanket from Huw, cuddling up to Harvey the wonder dog & a Bear Grylls style duvet made out of brambles, nettles and grass clippings were suprisingly turned down. I pretended I’d also forgot my duvet to get the Hanna Montana blanket but Huwie realising what might happen to it whilst I had it in the van locked it safely in his car.
Rather than enjoy the excitement of charging into unknown corners on the bike course Clarkey, Steve G and Phill B jumped in Pete’s toy car and went to recce the bike route.
See? Proper athletes…..the rest of us carried on eating/drinking til about 10pm
“I’d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than any city on Earth” Steve McQueen
Race day morning & Team Lincsquad surfaced 1 by 1 from their dens.
Steve Clarke for this race had the full factory sponsored package. A luxury caravan and someone to drive him there. Getting driven around and enjoying a full nights sleep was just like a normal shift at work for Fireman Steve.
Dunk Ellen & Harvey the wonder dog were probably the most prepared campers out of everyone. With inflatable/collapsible/stowable everything. They all bedded down for the night cuddled up together. Ok so in the middle of the tent was a smelly, panting, farting beast, but Ellen and Harvey didnt mind…this was Dunks trip and they would support him.
In the B paddock on the other side of the fence was Team Carvill, Team Grocock, Team Veitch, Team Broughton and Team Jamie. Despite the fact Paul and Andy helped put up most of these tents they were still there in the morning. Lets be clear here, nothing makes a man more proud than waking up in the morning & seeing a good tent.
Huw was still guarding the Hanna Montanna blanket in his single man tent. Proving size wasnt everything the previous night he pulled the little un out in front of everyone and with a flick of the wrist it was up. Sure some of the guys sniggered a little at the size but Huw wasnt bothered…..he had Hanna.
Sticking with tradition Chris Spavin slept in the back of his car just like he did at Dambuster. Phil Binch followed his lead after trying canvas at the same venue and folded himself into the back of his truck.
“If you leave the window open a crack it stops the inside steaming up as much” said Chris the night before.
Chris was obviously an old hand at spending time in fields in the back of a car.
Next door to The Binchmeister was Team Dobbers multi annexe family tent. Steve, Clair & the kids slept in one part with food for us occupying one room and Steve beer stash in the other.
Time to rack the bikes.
“Racing is life… everything before and after is just waiting.” Also Steve McQueen but as Micheal Delaney in Le Mans. Too much info?…ok….
Raceday morning and after a team photo where the photographers politley counted down when they were going to take a pic so we could suck our guts in we racked our bikes.
As said the race was starting at 10 am so it was probably the most civilised preperation in the history of triathlon. It also gave you loads more time to worry about stuff…if you chose to. Clarkey couldnt decide which puncture sealant to carry and more importantly where? A decision was made (apparently my idea of where to put it was neither helpful or practical & a back up plan of leaving the spare wheels close to transition “because thats where a puncture is most likely going to happen” – I would prove this theory wrong later.
Adding to the excitement was the Cummalitive Sweepstake. 5 Lincsquadders were picked at random and entrants had to guess what the total time for all five would be. I swear there was more thought put into this than the D Day landings! The five were…..Steven Dolby, Rob Wood, Duncan Wright, Nicky Robinson & some chancer called David Hinch. So if we all did a 6hr race it would be 30hours yes? Several explanations later and we had a healthy pot of about £20 and times ranging from 26hrs to over 28hrs. A DNF would get an average time calculated from last years results.
Saturday was hot……damn hot and it was a relief just to get in the water. I had already decided I fancied getting stuck into the washing machine of a mass start but rather than be at the front & potentially mess up a potential winners race I got centre middle to mess up a potential mid packer
An 18 strong Lincsquad pack treaded water as the starter stood in position with a big red flag. Mrs Dobber scared birds out of the trees and set off a couple of car alarms with the customary shouts of encouragement……game on!
The countdown began over the tannoy and then GO! 270 ish people started swimming around me….i say “ish” because I decide to start my watch instead of 10s earlier. Everyone around me was very helpful tho and shouted words of encouragement and helped me along by pushing my arms legs & back of the head. I’m especially grateful to the guy who noticed my swimming postion was incorrect and thought my head was too high in the water. His coaching technique of swimming over my back, shoulders and head did indeed force my head down may be considered by some as controversial. Eventually we all found our space and I tried to focus more on good technique & less on Hanna Montana. I raised my head for a sighting stroke of the orange turn bouy and fired out a dozen or so powerful strokes. I could feel myself going forward a lot better, smoother and faster.
I took another sighting stroke expecting to see the bouy…there was nothing…no swimmers…no kayakers…zip..nadda..zilch.
My powerful “faster” technique had sent me abvout 90deg off course to the opposite side of the lake.
The opening lap pretty much consisted of the same zig zagging across other people until I decide to follow the edge of the lake. At the turn I dug in again thinking my natural tendancy to turn right would help keep me on track & it did. By lap 2 others were tiring and I was picking them off one by one which always gives a racer a boost. Perhaps i start too slow but in the gloomy water I picked out a Foor wet suit same as mine. As his right hand entered the water i saw the distinctive shape of a mangled little finger…it was Bob.
Until then I’ve never actually laughed underwater. I’ve coughed, spat, blew my nose and a few other things but never laughed – not advisable BTW! Coughing up water I regained composure and drafted him for half the length of the back straight then sprinted past to exit the water ahead of him.
Get in you beauty!
“It went ground, sky, ground, sky….ambulance”
So…first blood to me. An unrushed T1 to get race belt on with the necessary gels, helmet on grab bike & we’re heading out. Since the proper bike fit my seat has been raised a lot and I didnt do the flying leap. Rob wearing mtb shoes with the recessed cleats ran & leapt onto his bike ahead of me. All was nt lost tho as I just had time to get in the aero position before the photographer took a pic – close call.
Rob was about 10m in front & I didnt really want to get into a battle as I’d decided to keep my HR within a range as I’ve read many times about how a hard bike leg can mess up your run. I settled into a easy spinning gear and look up just in time to see Rob hit the kerb on the left and land face first in the verge. Theres a big dust cloud & both Rob & the bike are tumbling along the ground. He gets up starts to get back on the bike and theres blood and dust stuck to his face. I brake but go past and shout back……
“alright mate?” No answer
“Rob you ok”
“yeah…keep going” and he starts peddling again.
By this time the two guys behind have caught us and one goes past me. I try to get back into a rythym & tell myself “ahh he’s ok…he does this a lot”…which he does.
Not reccing the course isnt good. I slow for a couple of corners that could have been taken at speed but pretty soon we’re being directed into the industrial estate then out on to the main road. Whilst on here i pass Stocky -who immediately passes me back. The effort ruins the silly old sod tho and I,m past him again. A slurp of drink every 15 or so mins and a gel at 40mins and i feel great. HR still within range. I feel great.
2/3rds around the first lap as I,m climbing a small rise I see Mark York and Lauren who have just parked up to cheer people on. Now whether I was out of the saddle climbing, taking a drink or just thinking about Hanna Montana I dont know know but as soon as I saw the drain I hit it.
By the time i’ve thought “oof I got away with tha…..” the tyre was flat.
Myth #1 You can ride on a flat tub.
No. Its shite. The noise of your expensive rear carbon wheel on the crappy british B road is just too uncomfortable to think about even now.
Myth #2 Pit Stop puncture sealants can get you out of trouble.
No. They’re shite. They’ll fix a thorn but I just got white foam goo all over the wheel. Game over!!!
By this time Stocky, Rob, Paul Ralph and a few other had come past.
I started to jog with the bike…but running in cycle shoes hurt my shins.
I kept going then thought I wonder if Yorkie was still parked up…but if he wasnt I’ve gone backwards. They’ll be a marshall point a bit further. If I’d recced the route I’d know this was nt true.
Eventually just about the whole field went by & most offered spare tubes. Occasionally I broke into a jog but running with shoes even on the grass was painful. I tried running barefoot on the road…bloody hell that hurts. So I ended up running on the grass verge barefoot with its roadkill, coke cans bottles & such like.
Eventually I got to a garage at North Cowton which according to google maps was a further 2.2miles from where I flatted. I begged a can of tyre sealant with the promise of putting the money through the post box after the race but it was for car tyres and I didnt have an adaptor on me. After explaining the problem and that I had a spare back at the camp site the garage owner suggested I borrow his car.. “as long as you leave the bike behind as it looks like its worth more than the car”
I nailed it back to the campsite. Passing Nicky R near the end of her first lap and grabbed a spare tub and a full wheel just in case the tub didnt hold. Driving back I saw Steve G at the head of the pack and then saw Clarkey.
Tub fitted I hid the spare rear wheel & set off, eventually blasting thru the marshals trying to send me in to T2.
HR up no one else in sight.
I was last.
I knew it was bad when everytime i looked up the road I couldnt see another rider.
It got worse when at the first turn there were no marshals.
All I had to follow was the breadcrumb trial of empty gel packets, discarded water bottles and the other detrius that falls from bikes during a tri.
Ok so I had an hours rest..kind of, but I decided to risk pushing harder than before. When there’s no one else around its difficult to judged your speed and pace. It felt fast but without anything to measure it by that all it was..just a feeling.
Just as I came up to where I punctured the lap before the bike marshal pulled up alongside. After a shouted conversation that started with “where did you come from?!” & ending with me saying I got a puncture he was away. Despite talking with others the night before about how they said they never stop anybody I was bothered he wanted me to stop.
He’d be wasting his time.
Not gonna happen.
I passed the (now closed) garage and saw my spare wheel was still where I hid it. Bonus.
Prior goals were 1.finish (still on) 2.sub 6hr (no chance) 3. Dont walk on the run (still on but this 2nd lap I was pushing hard) 4. Sub 5hr.30 (ultimate aim -no chance!).
I turned into transition and saw the last of the bikers setting off for their run. I’d missed catching the next rider by about 5mins. Dunno what people thought of the guy on the fast bike and pointy helmet coming into transition last. Didnt care. Half a banana and a quick drink I was off.
The first 100m were agony with severe cramps on my quads limiting me to a slow jog. Also I had no idea of the run route which would make it difficult to know when to push. After a bit the cramps eased off and I got into a rythym I was comfortable with. Gradually I could see other runners ahead of me.
I wasnt going to be last.
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.
Eventually I picked the runners ahead of me off. I caught up with Nicky and Lisa and since my fast time was shot to bits I ran with them for a bit to make sure they were ok. They both were fine. They were going to finish…no problem.
As I ran I saw other runners coming towards me. Jeez they looked rough & I wondered just how bad the run route was. As we ran along the track I saw a water station ahead & chucked one over my head & drank another. The ice cold water chucked over me shocked me everytime & provided huge entertainment for the girls on the water station.
The run was alongside a stream but on a narrow track. I,m not sure what the etiquette is for runners heading towards each other but I think I moved over pretty much all of the time. Even the guy who was walking stayed on the path. Heading back Yorkie (I dont think he was stalking me, he was there for all the Lincsquadders) shouted Dobbers was ahead. I caught him but he was on his 2nd lap and didnt have far to go. I ran on and as I got into the village heard the tannoy and crowd and as the person in front of me peeled off for the finish I whimpered slightly and turned right and started my 2nd lap.
The 2nd lap was great! Seriously! I knew where I was going and where the water stations were & had the confidence I could finish. I took on another gel a bit at a time and pretty soon I had said hi and thank you to the ladies at the furthest part of the run route turned around and heading home. I looked at my watch and I felt a sub 6hr 30 was on, a final thing to aim for & planned when to start upping the pace. As I turned right across the campsite entrance I speeded up. Across the field and over the stile I ran around the lake and through the village to finish 6hr 25ish…but gutted.
So six and a half hour half Ironman and 170th out of 270ish entrants. On paper not the best result but probably the best racing I have done in any of the sports I’ve messed about with over the years.
Looking back I *could* have turned around and begged a wheel off Mark York. I *could* have spent less time chatting with the guys in the garage about the race (seriously!) and I could have pulled in after one lap and knocked 45mins off my time.
The last option was never going to happen.
I was so bothered about getting a DNF/DSQ I took my timing chip off and left it with my bike in case I triggered something off when collecting my spare tub!
I was chuffed to bits with Jeffery at the garage and made sure I gave him some money for thrashing his car there and back. I say thrash but I never broke the speed limit – not once.
So I survived and no doubt the rest of Lincsquad all have stories to tell as well. The second most unhappiest person after me would be Gareth as my extended time meant he missed out on the sweepstake. Winner was Lewis P who was so pleased about it he took me back to collect my wheel from the garage.
Well my top tip is first of all avoid drains! I’ll still use tubs but next time I’ll carry a full pre-stretched tub and Co2. Any kind of sealant is useless!!!
The Steelman is a fantastic event and I’ll be back next year BUT if it follows the same pattern as previous events something will happen on that one as well!