As some of you may now it has been quite a while since I had to do one of these and having been quite vocal about the lack of race reports posted on the forum thought I better put pen to paper (for you young ones that’s how we old one’s used to write stuff before the days of electronic gadgets).
I suppose the report starts some time back when I spotted a post on the forum, much to my dismay and horror, suggesting that I would be up for being part of a team for Club relays. I posted back suggesting that the originator of this idea stop the lunacy with immediate effect. However the posts continued on, the entry was submitted and all of a sudden race day (using the term very loosely) was upon me. Some may be trying to work out why I just did not say “no” and that was that, well let me explain. The posts where started by the WIFE, the entry was made by the WIFE and I was told by the WIFE, do I need to say anymore.
We had somehow also decided that we would do the Sprint Quadrathlon down at Shrewsbury the following weekend as well (that was my idea) and because we had not had a break this year we would incorporate the two in to our holiday (again using the term holiday loosely).
We packed the car with two bikes, two Kayak’s, two wetsuits, two paddles, two pair of pants for me (as it was going to be a 10 day trip so thought I better take a spare pair), two large suitcases for Donna (of which most of the clothes packed did not get worn, typical), (”cor you don’t half exaggerate, I had a small weekend case and a bag of shoes…..small amount for 10 days really….ask any woman”,) two dogs and a trailer tent attached to the back. The engine roared into live, the handbrake released, lots of rev’s and the car groaned under the weight but managed to pull away.
The first part of any journey for us is always a short one; straight to COSTA coffee (other coffee shops are also available). The car signed with relief thinking we had actually arrived at our destination. The disappointment it must have felt as 5 minutes later I struck the engine back up for the 67 mile journey to Holme Pierrepont, the National Water sports centre just outside Nottingham.
The traffic was very kind to us, apart from a couple of minutes hold up near to Lincoln, we made good time.
Checked in and 5 minutes later the trailer tent was set up. The awning is a different story, lets just say strong words were had and lots of apologies where made (the strong words not mine but the apologies were). Trip to the supermarket for a small amount of food and a large amount of alcohol, after all we are athletes and need to ensure we hydrate, was the excuse used.
Ok so across to the area reserved for LINCSQUAD, the hello’s done and assisted with tent building duties complete, it is now time to get that hydration done. Not wanting to dwell on this too much but let’s just say it’s never good to employ a youth member as a barmaid.
In my defence I will say that my race was not until Sunday so did have a good 36 hours to recover, which turned out to be a good job. Donna had agreed to race both days and I had agreed to race just the Sunday (again agreed being used loosely).
So first race day (Saturday), Donna’s gear all set up for her, clothes laid out on the bed, breakfast made, bike cleaned and wetsuit hung ready to go. After I had washed the breakfast pots and given Donna a massage we made our way across the road to the venue. (“What rubbish Chappill, you did none of those things!”) For those of you who have never been the campsite is approx. 400mtrs from the start line, so it’s ideal.
The morning races where well underway and the atmosphere from all the clubs is great with everyone supporting their athletes. The weather at this point was not looking to promising but was still dry for now. With the Lincsquad awning erected people started to arrive from the site and those who had not camped started to join us. Kit and bikes laid all over ready to be racked and the nervous tension started to grow.
As a coach it is nearly impossible to switch off and many observation where made, most of which was around the fact that a lot of people believed they can ride a bike and perhaps they can, in a straight line, but when it comes to gear selection and cornering I am not so sure. From behind me I could hear the odd “ooh” and “oh dear”, turning to find Steve Cannings watching the riders as well, so it is a coach thing.
Time for our teams to get themselves ready. Down they go, rack their kit (those who could) and over to the swim start. I wondered over with Donna and tried to put her at ease with things like “that water looks cold”. Not sure at this point who was more nervous Donna or I.
She was doing the third leg so stood along the barrier waiting for her team mate. Spotted, band swap and she made her way to the water. I realised that it was definitely me who was more nervous as she went straight in and away she went. My eyes not leaving the water looking for the yellow stripe on the wetsuit I made my way to the top level, so I could get a better view.
Due to this being a 500mtr swim after the first few minutes I could not make out who was who as the water was still quiet busy with swimmers, so the nerve levels went to an all new level, one of near panic. I knew she had the ability and had put in the training however that did not help, I have always been used to being either the one swimming or at least in a support boat, but not this time all I could do was wait. I did have an idea of the timings so was pleasantly surprised when the familiar figure broke the water line standing to get out of the water and running along the shore to tag her fourth leg team mate. Anxiety levels back to normal, down to swim exit to pass her some shoes as it is a bit of a rough walk back to the Lincsquad gazebo.
Time for a coffee, a quick swim analysis done and then prepare for the second part, the bike ride.
It came round all too soon, with the team doing really well. Donna down to the tag area, me down to the wall to make sure I could see as much as I could and away she went.
The course is basically a rectangle with the long sides being about 1.5miles long, so she was soon out of sight. How long will it take to get round, will she get attacked by the geese (even the commentator said that the Water sports geese are the hardest he has ever come across as they do not move for you and have been known to push cyclists off their bikes). Lap one complete, lap two complete, yes lap three complete. That means two things; firstly she is safe secondly I can get another black coffee.
The run leg for the second, third and fourth runners start from a different transition area, so we wondered over. The weather at this point had taken a turn for the worst, the rain was coming down and the temperature had dropped.
Tag made and out onto the run. I watch for as long as I could, Donna passed the boathouse, up the bank, along the far side of the lake, passed the big score board, down the other side.
At this point there where other Lincsquaders scattered around the course, some competitors, others spectators. There where team mates running across the finishing line together, celebrating their achievements, with the weather trying it’s best to spoil this atmosphere but no one would let it.
As I stood in the woods (trying to keep dry) Donna came into sight, straight into the tag area and at last I could relax.
The walk back to the Gazebo was full of chat about what had just taken place, the enthusiastic ranting of an athlete just completing a race, the all to familiar “if only I had” or the “that was rubbish, I could have gone faster” conversations. I was just glad it was over and the nerves could return to their normal state, and of course time for another coffee.
One last thing was to watch Donna run down the finish shoot with her team mate, the sense of pride as I watched her cross the line was well worth the afternoon of nail biting, wondering about like a lost sheep, the worry and torment.
So this left me wondering is the life of the athlete easier than the life of the support crew? Was I more or less nervous when I raced (sorry took part) myself? Where can I get another black coffee from?
With my thoughts now turning to the morrow (Sunday), yes D-day. To put this into perspective this would be my first real event in over two years, having done Shrewsbury Quad in 2014 and only my second since completing Steelman in 2012.
Back across the road to the Campsite having packed up the Gazebo, Donna’s gear sorted and joined the group to devour the pre / post race meal of true athletes, Pizza.
Time for bed. I would like to say it was 2am and I had partied hard but it was closer to 9pm and I just needed a cup of tea and some sleep (it’s an age thing).
So team photo was arranged for 8am, I ate breakfast got my kit together and wondered over. Registration had been done by Richard the night before so we where already to go. The team consisted of Richard Arness, Myself, Donna and Walt Kent, going off in that order, so I already felt like the weak link.
I had trained sporadically, to say the least. Was I ready for this? Even for a super sprint distance a level of fitness is required, did I have it anymore? Did I ever have it? What was it I was doing here? Why did I agree to this (well actually I don’t think I ever did)? My mood started to change, just wanted to be left alone, just wanted to get it out the way, just wanted to be at home, just wanted it to be over and just wanted to survive the swim. You were mardy!! That may come as a surprise for some as I have been coaching and competing for over ten years and I feel like that, it’s good to remember that people have lots of different emotions going into and coming out of a race. I can recall the days when I used to watch Steve Clark race. About an hour before if you spoke to him he would look straight through you, he would not be ignoring you he would be in his zone, game face or race mode whatever you want to call it.
The swim itself has always been my nemesis. Having learned to front crawl after joining Lincsquad I found that my inner ear imbalance combined with vertigo is not conducive to swimming (I can get sea sick in the bath). Having tried earplugs, Sudafed, different swim cap positions (covering or not covering the ears), different ways of exiting the water (staying low, coming straight up) none of this has worked. Couple this with a real hate of cold water and having nearly drowned a couple of years back whilst swimming in a venue with no safety cover (which is something no one no matter how good a swimmer you think you are should do) I was not looking forward to getting into this lake.
To explain a little more about what it’s like when I swim due to my condition, imagine yourself on a nice summer’s day in the garden, someone suggests you play a party game and gets a sweeping brush out. You hold the brush shaft with both hands, you look directly down at the ground, then keeping hold of the handle of the brush you run round the shaft until you feel dizzy, you let go and try to walk in a straight line. Your eyes focus on the point at which you want to go to but your legs want to go in different directions, you feel sick and usually fall to the ground. For me they call it swim exit and it’s not much fun.
Anyway no time to back out now, I have three others who would not be able to do the race if I pulled out, so man up and get on with it.
As second leg I watched as Richard came towards the shore. This would be the first race ever I had done that I had not been given time to acclimatise, how would my body react to the cold. I stood and watched all the others just run down the ramp and dive straight in and away they went. No way was I doing that.
With the super sprint the first competitor does the full race before handing over to the second competitor, who then does the full lot and hands over to the third and so on.
Richard came out of the swim (he had gone none wetsuit), straight onto the bike, 10 minutes later he was out on the run. A 1500mtr run for Richard stood between me and the swim. In what seemed no time at all he was back, band passed and a steady walk down the ramp slowly immersing myself into the abyss, or that’s how it felt. Not happy, not happy at all, not just with the fact that I was in the water but with the fact that every second I took longer than I should did not just show on my time but showed on the overall time for the team. Stop being a fool and get on with came to mind. Head in, breath just taken away, hypertensing, relax, the breathing will follow, do breast stroke for a while until it settles, don’t do breaststroke it’s slower and everyone is watching, concentrate on the techniques, concentrate on the things that you can change not the things you can not. You know all this you coach it. Get me out of this water, where is the safety boat, you can not get out think of the others, stuff the others get me out of here. What’s that there, oh it’s the finish line, oh Ok time to get out then.
Staying low as I came up the bank starting to concentrate on the transition that lay ahead, coming up into normal walking position by the time I get to my bike, where has it gone, oh there it is, no gone again. The feeling I felt on the Saturday morning after my own personal barmaid and served me far too much red wine was back. Focus and bend down to take the suit off, oh even the floor is spinning. Why won’t this silly suit come off? It’s stuck everywhere, this has never happened before. Sure this suit has shrunk over the last few years as it feels a lot tighter than it used to do. “That’s cos you’ve got a fuller figure now!!” Eventually, and I do mean eventually it’s off. The head is feeling a little better I can now actually focus on things without them spinning. Lets get this bike thingy done, Ok ran along transition in my trainers (as we had been advised not to use cleats but flat pedals instead as it would save time going straight out onto the run). Mount line pass, then flying mount, good lord it’s a long time since I demonstrated or even did one of those and away I went.
This is the first time that I have ever ridden the course so not sure what to expect at the far end. No one in front and no one behind so head down and away I go. This seems easy enough, big ring putting the power down (that spin class maybe doing me some good), feeling comfortable. Took the first corner Ok, braked a bit hard into the second then bang, no not a puncture, no not an off but worse – a head wind. Oh bugger that’s why that section was easy it had been a back wind, now time to test the fitness. Need to keep pushing to make up the time for the team I lost in the swim (let it go the swim is over). As I approached the last corners I started to think about the dismount, what do I need to do? Firstly make sure I am off before the line; secondly remember I am in flat pedals with trainers on. Ok here we go, right foot over the frame and through between left foot and bike, there is the line, drop the right foot forward (not behind) wait for the foot to connect with the floor, drop the left foot off and away I go. Yes that worked, can I do that bit again it went well (unlike the epic dismount perform by the club secretary the previous day which consisted of two forward rolls).
Just the run to complete and I am done. 1500mtrs of tracks and grass to do would see me running down the finishing straight to hand the band over to Donna. As I approached the line I spotted her in the crowd next to the rail, band off and into my hand, arm outstretched pass the band and lean forward for a kiss, oh she has gone already, oh talk about being left hanging on a high five. “…. you should have told me – forward planning n all that…ha ha”
With my bike collected from transition I made my way around to the others. Ok so where is Donna? Looking through the water can not see her, oh here we go again anxiety levels rising, and so where is Donna? Oh must have said that out loud as a reply comes back “in transition getting her wetsuit off”.
Ok so time to stand and watch to see if she is Ok, time to chill out, calm down and reflect.
“There are only 13 teams in your category so it’s looking good for this afternoon”.
“What is looking good for this afternoon”?
“The top ten teams who qualify get to race again this afternoon”
“Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, you have got to be kidding me”
“No it’s true, this time the distance is twice as far and you all go off together”
“Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, no one told me”
“Oops must have forgotten”.
Back to the rest of the race;
Donna was soon back and out on the run and seemed to be going well. I think when I finish we laid in 12th place, having dropped a lot of position on the swim and Donna had managed to pull one or two of those back, that 10th place getting closer with only Walt to go.
Handing over the band Donna made her way to collect her stuff, I joined her to help and congratulate her on her effort. We both went to see how Walt was doing and he was just about out the swim. Still in 11th position, we thought. Again due to the short distances he was soon out on the run and then crossed the line with what must have been one of the biggest smiles of the day.
Now the wait to hear if we had qualified. Ten minutes later it was announced; no we had just missed out. The feeling of relief and shame mixed in my head until Donna then announced that she did not really want to do the afternoon either, we were joined by Richard who had raced both days and really did not want to go again and later finding out that Walt felt the same, really helped with the relief but the feeling that I had let the team time stays on.
So moving on some 4 days (Thursday), having set up camp at a site just outside Shrewsbury, on the Tuesday we where joined by Pete and Dawn Chappill and preparation got under way for the Sprint Quadrathlon on the Sunday. Again this involved a lot of hydration in the form of Guinness. The weather had been good to us all week and the forecast was for it to stay that way. Donna and I had been for a drive along the ride route as it was the first time she had done this event (in fact the first time she has done a full Quad), and it only being my second.
The event itself consist of a 500mtr down stream swim, 4.5k out and back kayak, 23K undulating bike and a 5k run (which I think is a little short).
Saturday and the weather forecast could not have been more wrong, it rained nearly all day. Tracy and Louise Beedham joined us at the site and sent up camp. Having enjoyed an evening of partying (well playing cards) we all retired as it was going to be an early start.
6am the alarm sounds, kettle on, coffee had, porridge made and eaten, toilet visited, kit in the car and the 10 minute drive completed, we all arrived at the Showground where the race is held.
The boats taken over to the shore, registration complete, toilet visited, bikes and run gear stored in transition, drinks bottle stored in holder, oops rookie mistake both Donna and I had forgotten to pack the water bottles in the car. Fortunately due to the super levels of coaching and the repeated pressure applied during her cycle training and her move across to tri then Quad Louise had brought spares. Embarrassingly, both coaches, took them with gratitude.
Donna and Louise both where due to go off first wave, with Pete and I in the second wave, some ten minutes later. The river level was up due to the amount of rain the previous day and was flowing through very quickly. This would lead to a quick swim, quick out leg on the kayak then a hard paddle back against the flow.
Donna and Lou in the holding pen for race brief and I heard the guy say the temperature had dropped to 15.7 degrees, not the best news I had heard. Still it is what it is, was my new attitude. We stood talking to some of the other guys in our wave and got ourselves ready. Donna and Lou were away so our turn to get in the pen. Race brief short and sweet then down to the backside. It’s a bit of a drop so a marshall helps you into the water. We had been told to keep out of the middle until the swim start as it would take a lot of energy to stay behind the line due to the current. I tried to relax, filled the suit, dipped the face, wet the back of the neck, and did everything I know I need to do. The water did not feel that cold, was this due to the mental attitude or did it not just feel that cold? With 10 seconds to go I noticed Pete looking at me, not sure if he was checking to see if I was going to get out or if I was Ok. 5 seconds to go and I noticed Pete had disappeared and was swimming towards the start line, good move because in the next few seconds we would reach the line right on time, so move yourself Jeff and get after him.
Straight into front crawl, that has never happened before, keep this going. Few bodies around me and I am passing them, keep this going, move over to the middle, keep this going, site on the righthand bank and follow it round the bend, couple more bodies I am moving past, keep this going. Lost my sighting, need to break and see where I am so breaststroke, ok got it back into front crawl then keep it going.
“Move over now”
Was the next thing I heard. This was the last kayaker telling me to move across the flow to the left bank for the swim exit. Core blimey this is hard; a hand reached out and grabbed me pulling me over. The river flows that fast they put marshalls in the water to pull you out or you could end up miles away. Come out the water low, keep the eyes focused on the ground, lift slowly, reach your transition point then sit if you need to, you know you can do it. Wetsuit, stuck again but do not panic. Ok let’s get into the boat. Arriving back on the shore finding that mine was the last boat was a little disconcerting as I had not been last out the swim but had lost a lot of time in transition (area for improvement). Right that’s it there is no way I am going to be the last out of the boat so time to pull my finger out and actually start to race. First focus point in sight, first focus point caught and passed, with a “keep going buddy”. Second focus point spotted, caught and passed, then third then fourth. See what happens when you try was my next thought. I had seen Pete, Donna and Louse all paddling the return leg and all looking like they are going well.
All river marshals thanked as I passed, so not even this new style race mode would stop me doing that, soon (well as soon as I could) reach kayak exit. Out the boat, paddle and buoyancy aid left behind and the 200mtr run to transition to get the bike.
Transition went well, not rushed but not too slow either. The ride exits the showground and goes out onto the undulating road that runs away from Shrewsbury centre. The road in front was very quiet and it was time to get some work done. I knew that my fitness levels were still low so could not go flat out for the full 14 miles. The out leg is a lot more climbing than the back leg but the wind was behind me so concentrated on getting the gearing right, the peddle technique and just pushed through. Caught a couple of people up, some from the Quad and some from the tri (as they run this as a joint event), wished them well and got stuck into it. I knew with it being an out and back that at some point I would see Pete, Donna and Lou coming the other way. I knew that if I did see them I could time myself getting back to that point and see if I was behind or in front (knew I was already well behind Pete as we went off in my wave). Pete somehow went the other way unnoticed, but then I did see Louise and Donna. Having checked I was up on time but needed to keep the pressure on. The turn point safely rounded and heading back to the Showground. The downhills where offset by the headwind which was a shame but it had assisted on the way out so cannot complain. Again picked a couple of people off and then started to think “have not been passed yet, so lets see if I can get back without being overtaken”. This was a case of anything just to keep the focus on what I was doing.
Back in the Showground, dismount and into transition without being passed, job done.
Ok so what is the focus now? Get settled into the run, and see if I can spot the others. After the first lap I had not seen any of them, knew they were safe and sound as Tracy and Dawn had told me but where are they? Second lap of three and one of the Quad guys came along side me and started to go past, no not having that, so stayed with him, each time he tried to edge away I went with him, thankfully he was on his last lap so he headed for the finish line as I am not sure I could have matched the pace for one more lap (saying that the mood I was in I think I would have buried myself trying). Two laps complete and ¾s the away round the final one before I came across Louise (who was on her final lap), a quick “you Ok” and moved passed, with that I spotted Donna, just turning into the home straight to finish her race. I watched as she crossed the line and felt a real sense of pride as I heard the compare say “just crossing the line is Donna Chappill from Lincsquad”, not sure if it was for the fact that she had completed it, or that she is my wife or the fact that I heard the name Lincsquad.
Ok so it’s my turn just 400mtrs to go, stay with it, what’s left in the tank? Is there a sprint finish? The answers to these questions soon came to light, nothing and no. Crossing the line I heard “another Chappill crosses the line this time Jeff, think we had brother and husband and wife”. Donna met me this time with a kiss, Pete with a handshake (none of that man love stuff) and all our attention turn to Louise. 400mtrs to go and if we had worked it out right Louise would have completed the required amount of races and win her age group overall, not sure why we ever doubted the fact that she would not complete it, as the guts and determination this young lady shows, whilst remaining one of the most modest and understated young ladies I have ever met, is a true inspiration.
As with all these race reports we finish with the results:
Four Lincsquaders started the race.
Four Lincsquaders finished the race.
Four Lincsquaders enjoyed the whole experience.
Four Lincsquaders got PB’s (giving their all)
Two Lincsquaders completing the event for the first time.
One completing their first ever Quad.
One becoming British Champion age group (to be confirmed)
That is what I call results.
So what conclusion did I draw, whilst re-hydrating in the pub later that day:
- The mental preparation for a race can be as important as the physical
- Enter races for the right reasons.
- Racers remember that the support you get from family and friends and the worry they go through whilst your out there should never be under estimated and make sure you show that you appreciate it.
- Encourage others and others should encourage you, not just your team mates but all athletes around you that have the same goal as you, to complete the event in the fastest possible time.
- Your best on the day is the best you can do on the day. Never belittle that by comparing it to others.
- When the enjoyment stops it’s time to stop.
Will I be back next year…………………….
”Yes darling you will……….Love your wife xx”