Well what a day and what a fantastic weekend! We were able to drop the kids off with my parents around midday Saturday meaning that by 1:30pm we had already checked in, unpacked and I had sourced a bowl of Scouse and a equally tasty pint of Heffe Weissen in the fabulous Baltic Fleet pub that our room overlooked. I thought Scouse was a means of stretching a cheap cut of meat into a meal but in the Baltic’s rendition of Liverpool’s classic dish I was treated quantity and quality of tender beef together with freshly baked bread and red cabbage; a great start to my pre-competition fuelling strategy.
We had to be very careful because, free of the shackles of our offspring, it would be very tempting to eat and drink to excess. The strategy I had suggested was early and gentle drinking, an early evening meal and then to slip gently into the easy slumber that daytime drinking suggests to your body if you give it half a chance. So next I had some birthday money to spend, and after a quick visit to John Lewis in Liverpool One to buy some shorts I we headed back to the Salthouse and Albert docks where I got a feel for part of Sunday’s running route, in particular the bit right next to the Pumphouse pub that sold heavenly Hoegaarden. Then back to Liverpool One, and a shuffle around Debenham’s before a swift pint of Cain’s bitter in the local Wetherspoon’s (when in Rome…).
We had booked into the Hot World buffet and joined a sizable queue to get in there early doors. The buffet nature of the dining was perfect for my pre-event fuelling and after a post meal drink in the balmy warmth of the restaurant’s terrace, we headed back to the hotel. I then watched football in bed, dozed a little, slept through Casualty watched Live at the Apollo and dozed some more before seeing most of the highlights of the day’s World Cup matches and then I had the best night’s sleep I have had in over a month. 7 hours unbroken sleep and I woke feeling ready for action.
My start wasn’t until 11 which gave me time to register before 7am and return to the hotel to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and chat to a few other competitors who were setting off in earlier waves. We grabbed all my kit and headed over to the start/finish area only managing to forget my wetsuit (doh!) which my ‘Team Manager’ nipped back to the car to pick up. There was just one transition area though it was a large one and I carefully assembled all my kit around my racked bike before heading down to the dockside to watch James start in the wave 30 minutes before me. This was great as I could focus on what he was going through as well as cheer him on. I saw him exit the water around 20 minutes later just before I zipped up my suit ready to jump in. I was actually very keen to get into the water as it was so hot and 5 minutes inside a zipped up suit was starting to make me very sticky. The water temperature was lovely; must have been over 17 degs celcius and although I tried my best not to drink any it the water was just purely salty. No debris, no algi and definately no jellyfish. The starting grid offered plenty of space for the 250 of us, I believe the starts for the more competitive olympic heats were a more compressed and ‘fractious’. I was so relaxed throughout the swim, my only concern was navigation as I couldn’t see anything and looking ahead to sight was tricky in these slightly more turbulant waters. In the end I checked to left and right each time I went to breath on that side; I figured that as long as I could see people on both sides I knew I wasn’t going wrong.
I exited the swim in less than 16 minutes, a good steady time for me and the records show that it was the 52nd fastest swim out of the 400+ competitors. My first transition was deliberately steady, ensuring I made no mistakes and I also paused at the bike mounting point to finish off my first water bottle with a isotonic drink and a couple of SIS Go gels mixed in. Once on the bike I picked up the steady pace I had developed during some recent rides along the East Lancs Road. Now comfortably cruising at 20mph on the flat, I overtook a number of bikes but it was hard to tell if they had set off at the same time as me or were on different laps. However, in the first mile I passed an expensive looking bike with a noisy and flashy rear disc wheel that I suspected was one of my competing peers. Sure enough a couple of miles later he drifted past me – the only bike to overtake me through out the race – and so naturally I set my targets upon him. With such a good bike I assumed he would set a steady constant speed that would help pace me but within a couple more miles he seemed to be slowing so I passed him. There was no immediate response but I sensed he was around me (and heard him too) and eventually he passed back. I realised I was probably going a little faster than I had intended but without a speedo, and no mile/kilometre markers, I didn’t know what speed I was doing anyway. I felt comfortable but thought that I should be sparing my legs a little in readiness for the final run leg. I overtook one more time vowing to let him go the next time he countered and sure enough a mile from the end of the ride he passed again.
As I dismounted and entered T2, my legs felt alien to me and the glute muscles throbbed indicating a good hard ride. My second transition was a lot slicker than my first and I set off on the 5k run. My only criticism of the event (apart from the lack of finisher’s goody bag) was that the run was not marked with kilometre signs and the 5 kilometres appeared to be 3.28 miles on my Garmin rather than 3.12 miles. That doesn’t sound much but when you are counting down the last 300m and they turn out to be twice the expected you get a bit upset. I was happy with my steady swim (after the Salford Quays race experience) and delighted with the pacey bike ride but the run was uncomfortable throughout. I wanted more energy but felt bloated and it was very hot too so I tried to relax, didn’t look at my watch too much and built my pace gradually leaving something for a grandstand finish. When the last 100 metres finally arrived they were slightly uphill and on crossing the finishing line I let out what James described as a ‘primal scream’ which expressed my delight and satisfaction mingled with only a slight state of distress.
My watch said 78 minutes something which was a good time, a very good time. The same time as I had done at Nantwich last year but on this occassion swimming an extra 250 metres and with a much longer transition. James phoned me later in the afternoon to deliver some truly shocking news – I had finished 12th out of over 400. This was unbelievable and to be honest until I could get back home and check the on-line data for myself I scarcely believed him. I had run 7th fastest and this together with my ride of a lifetime had pushed me to such heady heights in the table. I was a minute away from a top 10 finish which I could easily have shaved off the transitions if I had known it would have mattered that much.
So that’s my Triathlon season over. I’m tempted to move up to Olympic distance for next year with either the challenge of the open sea and Great Orme as part of the Llandudno event or the lake and stately gardens of Tatton Park. This year I still have a mile long open swim in Windermere to do but apart from that I will be mostly running. I have a new running based challenge to pursue which I will fit around my working day. I may take in an odd weekend early morning long ride as I still want to visit Anfield and Goodison Park – some unfinished business after all my early morning football stadium hunting last year, it’s just a pity the Baltic Fleet doesn’t serve breakfasts.