If Carlsberg did Triathlons? …..
Three Club members Alan Woodcock, Phil Binch and myself (Steve Grocock) have just returned from a week in Eilat (Israel) competing in the European Championships.
Representing Great Britain in our respective age groups (at Triathlon) has been a new experience for us all, and well, they don’t come much better!
Eilat turned out to be the perfect holiday, erm,… I mean Triathlon event. The small coastal town has it’s own scaled down Monaco-stylee Marina with bars and restaurants surrounded by the token palm trees, blue skies and golden sand. There wasn’t a ‘Life of Brian’ comedy sketch to be seen!
Route reccies were done to aplomb as our own Mr Binch doubled up as a Team Captain and organised the early morning rides before the roads became too busy. Captain Collarbone’s sea swims and desert runs gave us an insight to the lay of the land and an introduction to some invisible stingy things in the water. Hardly Portuguese Man-o-wars but nevertheless, slightly annoying, sea lice apparently.
The swim was the hot topic of the week, wetsuit or trisuit? Everybody was in debate but seeing as we hadn’t packed ours the decision was made for us, something we’d regret later!
Arriving early Wednesday but not racing until the Saturday meant a tortuous few days trying to resist pigging out at the ‘eat what you like’ buffet.
Jan, Alan’s wife thankfully supported her hubby (and newly adopted boys) by not revelling in the pudding eating. I can only apologise if my expression didn’t look one of happiness whilst eating some boring chunks of melon with natural yoghurt!
I’ll skip the Parade of Nations (flag waving), Team Photos and bike racking and fast-forward to 07:00 race day, 10 minutes before the start.
It’s our age group, the 40-44s along with the 35-39 whippersnappers before Alan’s age group the 55-59s follow us in 20 minutes later. We assembled for a beach start behind some numbered matting. Phil and I wished each other well, shook hands, slapped backs and then focussed towards the horizon, looking out at the orange buoys whilst doing an awful amount of loud sighing, gulping and large volumes of air intaking! Jan’s NLP,NPL, LPN (what’s it called again?) had been visualised. This was why we were here, all the winter’s training for this moment. Now, obviously Phil and I were taking on the best in Europe but as we joked the previous night, one of us could actually win a silver medal and be labelled the second best in Europe but not necessarily as good as the guy in the neighbouring village! Like I say, it was a joke but emphasised our own rivallry within the race. Coe versus Ovett all over again. Ok, I maybe stretching our athletic abilities a little, more Bristow versus Lowe?……..I’m sure these names mean nothing to the under 30s! So think Gareth Gates v Will Young………….probably not the best example, i’ll leave it!!
Whoops, nearly forgot, before we get wet! The excuses! Apart from dropping a clanger with not packing the wetsuits I haven’t thrown in any excuses as yet!
Here we go, first up, Phil ‘s collarbone……yawn….tumbleweeds! Now as excuses go then this must rank alongside some of Spav’s little gems. Now this Captain guy expects me to believe that his swim could be a little slower than usual because he’s had a metal plate screwed to his shoulder resulting in just 3 short swims since this side of Christmas. Show me the Doctor’s note I say?!…………..So he did! With an accompanying X-ray image straight from Barry Sheene’s scrapbook!
Despite my acerbic tone, I am of course paying my mate a compliment. The lad was up against it! (But don’t feel too sorry for him, he will still destroy you at the drop of a hat). I digress…
The foghorn blasted and the run into the sea was as frantic as most but a decent dive with goggles still in tact saw me joining a fast (wet suited) leading group. Phil’s start was a little more sensible trying to keep the windmillers off his back for 750 metres, but still within vision. The fast group I had previously latched onto all seemed to be heading in the right direction when I decided to eventually take a sighting breath. Unfortunately I had drifted and a quick direction change was needed before enjoying a faster return leg back to the beach. Steve’s 11:58 and Phil’s 13:32 were ok under the circumstances but as I’ve previously mentioned(and i will again) wetsuits were the order of the day and we should have gone with the faster swimmers’ choice.
Al was going through his pre-race preps whilst having a glance over at Phil and I emerging from the waves and about to embark on the 1 km run to T1. Al was soon on his way expecting a decent start against his fellow rivals that he’d previously raced in the two qualifiers. If we needed further proof we’d dropped the wetsuit v non wetsuit clanger then this was highlighted significantly in Al’s swim. His fellow ‘wetsuited’ rivals, whom he normally beats out of the water took great pleasure post race telling him ‘How they couldn’t believe they’d beaten him out of the water’……not what you want to hear!! Al’s time of 15:45 was, like Phil’s, not part of the plan!
Jan was now in full Lincsquad supporting mode snapping away with her camera between shouts of encouragement.
Unlike the (slight) swim disappointment, Al didn’t seem particularly phased with his bike mount that left him strewn upon the floor in the desert sand. Thinking both shoes were clipped in he rose upon the pedals to exert some serious power only to discover he was unclipped on one foot. Some gravel rash and a dusty trisuit didn’t deter the gritty Scotsman as he made his way into the wind up onto the ‘closed to traffic’ dual carriageway.
The ride out was a toughie. A steady incline into the wind favoured the stronger cyclists and umpteen triathletes could be reeled in. A wooden ramp over an Armco barrier connecting the two carriageways signalled halfway before accelerating up to 35+mph, praying for more gears and sitting on this for a good 5 miles, it was a time trialists dream. Phil and I spotted each other at this point and we exchanged glances. A series of roundabouts seemed to confuse me yet again (despite Binchy’s reccies). I found myself doubting it was the first exit and headed toward some oncoming competitors. A shout from a Marshal and some bunny-hopping over the central reservation got me back on track but left me thinking (whilst in swear mode) if I’d regret losing those valuable seconds? It didn’t matter a jot! As I made an even bigger error in transition when I thought I could go straight to my rack as the crow flies!! A lady marshal although lost in translation(and transition) managed to bring my attention to a basketball court where my fellow triathletes were already running! Idiot! Doesn’t matter if it’s the Euro Champs I still make mistakes! Almost as surprising as Phil’s daily boxer shorts theme(think Spongebob Square Pants, Pingu, Thomas the Tank) I managed the 2nd fastest bike time, got to be better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Bike splits ….Steve 32:00,……Phil 34:36,…..Alan 39:30 (with spill).
The run for me, (this is where I play my excuse card) was always going to be a struggle. Not only due to the fact It’s something I’m pants at. But even for my pathetic standards an ankle injury has meant I’ve managed just two (pedestrian) 3 mile runs in the last three months. I had to just hope I could get through it without walking. This I managed and being realistic I couldn’t expect a PB, I had been prepared to be overtaken, it’s not a defeatist attitude just being realistic! My run time being 21:22. Phil (20:33), as always, made some inroads on me during the run but fortunately for me the distance was only 5km and the finish line within reach. A check over my shoulder before patriotically grabbing a Union flag for the finish photo and that was it, Euro Championships done!
Alan was desperate to claw back the wetsuit deficit and the Braveheart, bloodied and bruised put in a great run time of 21:03. Each of his rivals being subjected to the scream…’You may take my wetsuit, but you’ll never take my freeeedoommm!!’ although it sounded more Jimmy Krankie than William Wallace! Were as I was praying for the run to finish, Al wanted another 2 laps to make use of his stronger discipline as the gap to his rivals was clearly closing.
The three of us, along with Jan all congratulated one another and genuinely respected one another’s achievements. We could all point to events that had unfolded (did I mention the wetsuits, fall offs, idiocy, collarbones and ankles?) where we’d lost valuable time! But deep down I think the inner pride of representing your country and racing against such a high standard came to the fore.
It was now pub time as we sat reflecting on the weeks events, studying our individual positions on our Ipads after searching the local bars for free WIFI and cheap beer. Reading your kind comments on the Lincsquad forum was quite touching (we didn’t cry). I think it hit home to how far we’d come on this triathlon journey. It’s natural to criticise your own performances and it’s very rare you’re completely happy with your race but seeing your name on that GB trisuit leaves you feeling proud. As years pass I will ensure my grandchildren tell their grandchildren how their Great Great Great Grandad in the Olympic year of 2012 represented Great Britain………………I’m hoping time will omit the finer details(i’ll make sure of it) and as far as they’re concerned Grandad Grocock beat Usain Bolt in the 100m final!!
Thanks to Jan, Alan and Phil, I know my suggestion to become Blood Brothers was rather frowned upon but I hope you know your company was most enjoyable and entertaining. Hope you’re still talking to me after reading this. Cheers.
Steve 7th, 1:09:56
Phil 12th 1:12:46
Alan 10th 1:21:31