Neil Barkers Double Steelman 20th July 2013

If you were at the Steelman last year, you must remember the glorious mud, a lot of which we took with us when we left. It was strange to see the camp site clean, dry and grassy.
I pitched up to next to Les Thompson and Malc Pearce of Grimsby Tri who asked me where all the other Lincsquaders where……..I said “there’s only me”.
I mentioned I was nervous of a non-wetsuit swim because I knew it would slow me down, but the water did not feel too warm. After registration and handing in bottles of energy drink for the feed stations, I drove the bike route before going to an early bed. I had spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about what target times I was aiming for: happy just to finish without injury or going over the cut off times; good result under 14 hours, really good under 13.5 hours and dream result would be sub 13.
Next morning it was announced that the water temperature was 23 degrees and wetsuits would be optional – fantastic. 6:30 arrived and we were in the water. One or two competitors opted for the non-wetsuit but not me. There were to be four laps of the lake. The next thing we were off. The water was warm but not too bad. I looked at my watch at the end of the first lap and saw I had taken 22 minutes and so I was on track for the hour and a half swim. I came out of the water with a relatively slow but pleasing 1:26. As usual, I was staggering on exit and fell in the shallows.
Going out on the bike my quads felt sore and I was regretting Wednesday’s time trial. But that soon faded and I was pleased I could keep up a good speed. The course is reasonably flat with only a couple of hills. The road surface was rough in places and seemed to get worse every time I went for a drink or a gel. In some paces it felt like sitting on a pneumatic drill. I felt good for the first two laps but hit a low point on the third, between 70 and 85 miles. I thought then a fast time was out of the question. But, I picked up again on the fourth lap and I was flying by the end of the 115 miles. Yes it was 115 due to road works in Scorton, so the route took some narrow, but fast, country lanes. I ended the bike course absolutely covered in gels, sweat and snot (sorry to those of a delicate disposition) but amazed by my time of 6:11. That is much faster than I have done on much shorter rides before.
At transition my knees felt bad, very bad, and I thought the run would be tough. The weather which had been much cooler than of late was starting to warm up, with a strong sun beating down. As I ran my knees started to feel much better and eventually the pain was gone. My stomach on the other hand was beginning to feel bloated and uncomfortable. I thought the dreaded stomach cramps were beginning, but after a brief stop in the bushes on the riverbank I felt better (apologies again). It took an hour to cover the first lap of 6.5 miles. The second lap took exactly the same. It was strange that I felt like I was running more strongly and smoothly but the time splits were exactly the same. I decided to time how long it took, on the third lap, from a gate, about half way around, to the finish. It came to 25 mins. I was thinking that if my body held up on the fourth and final lap, and I was at that gate in time, I might be able to go sub 4 for the run. The sun was covered by cloud by now and it was mercifully cool. I tried to lift the pace but by the gate I had done exactly the same time as the previous lap. But sub 4 was on and I manage to stretch out my stride, push harder and get my breathing (you’ve heard my breathing?) going more strongly.
If most of the race had been very tough, this part was agony. I thought “now you earn that teeshirt”. 
With about about 1.5 miles to go, I kicked again to make sure of the sub 4 and even sprinted over the line (what a nut case). When I looked at the time I could not believe it, 3:55 for the marathon and 11: 38 total. It could not have been any better. I was 12th overall (discounting the relay folk) and 3rd in my age category. Bloody hell!
Swim 01:26:06
T1 00:03:19
Cycle 06:11:35
T2 00:02:01
Run 03:55:41
Total 11:38:42