Mike’s Middle Distance Magic: 70.3 Race Report

3:30am alarm can only mean one thing, Its Race day! A large coffee and pint of water and I’m on the 90 minute journey to the lake district. Lets do this race!

The scenery is lovely round here and the swim is in Lake Windermere. The middle distance started in 3 waves one minute apart. My estimated entry time of 34 minutes for the 1900m put me in wave 1 with a prompt start of 8am. I was a bit shocked to be starting in wave 1 if I’m honest, and a bit nervous. Especially from how my last open water race was a bit of a disaster and slow!!!

The race briefing was done and dusted by 7.30am and we were told to enter the water. The water was a pretty cool 15 degrees and I was like bambi on ice trying to get in the water as the rocks and pebbles near the shore were pretty hard and horrible to walk on. I was in the water by 7:40am and was just doing the regular treading water, getting the wetsuit full of water and a few 10m bursts of swims to try get the blood flowing and to warm up. It felt like I was doing this for ages and I just wanted to stop messing about and get the race started! The Race Director shouted 5 minutes to race start and everyone started to assume position and fight for where they wanted to start. I picked close to the front, about third person back and on the outside of the wave. This proved to be a pretty good idea as the gun went and I was off. A small amount of hustle bustle for the first 100m and it seemed to spread out and form packs pretty quickly. Nothing like Southport Olympic a few weeks ago! This was much more civilised.

I really enjoyed the swim and felt comfortable and fast all the way through it, it was one lap so as I was coming into transition there was a flow of athletes in front and behind me. I stood up as I my arms where just about touching the rocks as I didn’t want to walk on them as much as I did entering the lake. As I stood up I got a little bit of that light headed feeling, but nothing major. I looked at my watch and saw 32:35 1:43 per 100m pace. Bang on my CSS time. I was made up with that. Unfortunately that time didn’t resonate to my Garmin as the timing mat for the swim end was about 50m onto a pebbled shore and once again I was like bambi on ice so my 34:33. 2 mins to get out of the water and up a slope! My feet are not made for rock and stones!

Onto the bike I was feeling it was comfortable, the first 5 miles of the bike are very technical and rolling. Narrow winding country lanes often found in the Lake District! I’m not used to these types of the roads at all and it was raining and the road surface was very slippery. I just took my time and settled in but I was constantly on and off peddling and on and off my brakes. I was getting passed all the time much more confident bike handlers and I felt a bit of a fool really because when I was peddling I was producing good power, but that was quickly lost when slamming on the brakes to go round yet another blind bend with stone walls either side!

After that section we turned onto a dual carriageway and I think that was the first I actually got into a rhythm and was in the aero bars! I felt more at home and started to overtake some of the athletes that over took me on the technical section. As I mentioned in my previous blog this course had over 5,000ft of climbing! Then all of a sudden the gradient started to go up. And I could see the dreaded first hill in the background. Cut a long story short I was feeling good on the accents, holding my own, good power and feeling confident. Now where I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all was the descents. The roads were really greasy, my carbon wheels seemed to have no breaking force whatsoever and I was probably descending slower than I was ascending! I definitely need to improve my confidence and ability to handle the bike, especially in wet conditions. Well partly due to the lack of confidence and partly to do with having cheap Chinese carbon wheels around 50km into the ride my brake tract completely failed and I thought my race is over! I was partly gutted that I wasn’t going to finish and partly relieved that I wasn’t going to have to go down another decent thinking, “am I going to stop at the bottom?”

The state of the cheap carbon rim after the race

After what felt like an eternity a car came by that asked if I needed assistance, I explained my ride was over as my wheel was knackered. It turns out they were waiting for a friend to come passed and cheer her on and asked if I needed a lift back when she had. Obviously I jumped at the chance as I didn’t fancy walking back, haha.

When I got back to transition all I could think was “can I run?” I’d never had a mechanical before and was unsure of what the officials would say! Straight away the official shouted over to me, guess I stood out being the only athlete walking to transition with my bike over my shoulder! I explained my situation and he said its no problem and I could continue onto the run, I just wouldn’t get an official time and placing. I completely understood and was grateful I could continue onto the run and see how my legs would hold up.

I was feeling pretty good on the run, started feeling pretty flat and stiff, but think that was more the long time since when I was riding the bike, rather than the swim and bike taking it out of me. I started averaging 11:20 to 11:30 min per mile (~7:10 min/km) pace. That was slightly slower than I was hoping however I completely underestimated the terrain, it was rocky, hilly muddy and completely not what I was expecting. I was just happy to still be jogging! Unfortunately that didn’t last as the last 3k I was starting to cramp and the trails where that muddy and wet I was sliding everywhere! Maybe trail shoes will be put on if I do this race again, haha. I was happy to finish and came in at 2:26. and 12 min/mile (7:30 min/km) pace. A whopping 1 hour faster on the run than my last and only previous 70.3 run, so I’ll take that and move onto the next 3 months of hard, consistent training for the next 3 months to my next race!    

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