The ‘Gatorade’ Big Half is nestled in the Trentham Estate near Stoke and fitted in nicely in my build up training for IM Wales in September. After the Swashbuckler in May I needed to use another half iron distance race to seek out any improvements and keep myself on a consistant path to the ‘A’ race.

Myself and Dan had decided to check out the course the weekend before, it nailed a 60 miler and also meant I got a heads up, talk about a surprise, I was led to believe this was a flat fast course, looks like they changed it due primarily to the issues with traffic lights but maybe due to the negative feedback I found about the boring nature of the cycle section in 2010. This was a great lumpy test, a good one for Wales, even though that hadn’t been the aim.

So to race day, slightly less manic than the drive to Swashbuckler as I already had all my kit ready the day before and it was only a 45 min drive at 4.30am with not much else on the road for company.

Talking of Swashbuckler, a quick thanks to Matt Molloy, or @ahoysavaloy on twitter, he won the Swash race and then put in a superb debut IM result at Austria (9.02) with a deserved Kona slot, his race report from Austria is the type I love to read, on course info, how hard you had to work and lots of stats, lovely stats, lol, which I had a good read of and used to some extent in this race, by the amount of comments he gets and occasional banter on twitter he also comes across as a really good bloke. Best of racing luck in Kona dude.

Anyway, I had checked the entry list the day before and not recognising too many names thought I might be able to get into top 5 or so. Walking across to register I bumped into Paul Hawkins who mentioned Martin Cain was also racing, expectations of top 3 going out the window I decided to just race my own race and see what happened.

Registration was painless, transition looked well set out, breakfast was working its way through and I thought I had plenty of time to sort everything out. However, the lack of toilets in the estate on the way to the swim meant I was still queuing with 10 mins to race start and I preferred to take my time normally 🙂 Job done, got to race start with a few minutes to spare.

There is a very long run from the swim exit to the T1 area so there is a ‘shoe transition’ at the swim exit where its compulsary to have some form of footwear to get you from the swim to the bike, probably around 400-500m I reckon, sorted this too and got into the water.

The swim was 4 laps of a triangle shaped course, I set off on the front line, never one to worry about a bit it argy bargy at the sharp end but it was surprisingly calm as I settled in behind a few pairs of feet for the first loop. It was becoming obvious I wasn’t going to hold them for much longer so I just concentrated on long body and faster tickover of arms and wait for the next person to come by, I had a few taps on the feet so knew I was being drafted but when we rounded the nexct buoy I had a sneaky look to see a line of about 8 people, I am not the best swimmer, these guys needed to come round really. At the end of lap 2 someone did, so I jumped on them. I did hold these feet for a while longer but that became difficult when we started to meet up with the back markers.

Swim time was recorded as 36.34 but this was the swim, the long run to T1 and then T1 time, so I reckon closer to 31 mins, however the sharp turns on the swim course slowed us a little and the extra traffic didn’t help so I am pleased with the improvement from May.

T1 was painless although I had remembered during the swim that I hadn’t plugged my SRM unit in so it didn’t pick up the push to registration earlier and set off the recording, so I had to sort that out. I also forgot I had put my Garmin on Auto Resume and proceeded to turn that off by pressing start thinking it wasn’t recording, another error which I sorted at 5 miles in.

I exited T1 in 8th.

I settled into my bike position and set off at target watts of 250 ave. From about 4 miles into the bike I could feel a pain in my side, under the rib cage area, the one that normally says ‘trapped wind’ but this didn’t feel the same, it was the more ominous, I need to stop for a toilet break, one I couldn’t and certainly wasn’t prepared to engage in on the move ! I have only ever had this once and that was the end of Bala a few years ago and I needed to go straight to the public toilets after the finish line. Never this early on the bike, I knew why straight away, I hadn’t prepped well enough and I was paying for rushing my pre race routine.

By the time 10 miles came I really knew I had to stop, I found a layby, protected by a lot of trees and down came the shorts, I now know what the ridges are for at the front of your cycling shoes on the carbon sole ! to hold onto when there is nothing else around to stop you falling over having a number 2 in the woods lol !! An overly aggressive gingerbread man visit later and I was sure I had finished, shorts up, stood up, oh no, not finished, repeat, aaaaaaaaannnnndddd repeat again. All in all with the Garmin on auto pause but recording static time, I know I lost 3.35.

Not my finest nutritional display but a lesson learnt.

While I had been attending to my own private T1(a) I had noticed 5 cyclists go by me, I knew not to go after them aggressively but you don’t always listen, I started off with a target, I did however stick to my target watts as much as possible and take the hills below 300w. By 22miles I had overtaken all of the guys who had passed me, I knew I was back in with a shout.

The rest of the bike course went without issue, I am very happy with the cycling right now, use of the Computrainer is certainly showing good results in the consistency I am getting and towards the end I was still feeling strong with no noticeable drop off. The course is pretty hilly but in my stats there are periods of 20 minutes where I am doing an average of 25mph so there was definitely a call for TT bike. Rolled in to T2 after 2hr38mins with 8th fastest bike, without the ‘crappy’ stop it would have been 4th, so still good result.

The run was something I hadn’t been able to check out, what is slightly unfriendly is that due to the event being run in a country estate your supporters can’t get access to the run unless they pay entry fee, while this isn’t a great deal of money it would make for a better race if you had the option to add tickets for the estate as part of your race entry at a reduced fee, more support, estate gets money, convenient too.

Anyway, its the same for everyone so into transition and by the shout on the way in I was in the top 10 at this point but he wasn’t sure if it was 6th or 7th so I forgot it and decided to work this out at the turnaround on the first lap.

The course is 4 out and back loops of just over 3 miles each loop, breakdown in my head was easy, what wasn’t so easy was monitoring who was chasing and who was in front after lap 2. I set off at around 7m/m pace and for a while struggled to get the HR down to below 165, in the end I gave up, it was only a half IM and I knew I could survive the whole run at this and the pace didn’t match the HR so I felt I wanted to stick to pace and see how long I could last. I was still reeling at the lost time in the woods, I wasn’t sure if I could have caught the guys in front but it certainly brought the chasers closer to me and running is not the strongest discipline at HIM distance, the 1/2 marathon tends to lean towards the faster runners.

After lap 1 I realised I was in about 6th place but it took me a while to work out that Martin Cain and Paul Hawkins were actually a lap ahead so they kept appearing in the wrong place, more like they were behind me than in front. The guy who overtook me on the bike was running well and I was being chased by 3 others who looked strong, I worked out that if I could hold 7-7.30 pace they would need to get down to 6.30m/m to pass me before the end.

Lap 2 passed OK, lost another minute or so on the chasers and passed one of the guys in front who was struggling, it later transpired he finished in front of me but ‘could’ have cut the run short but was actually DQ’d for only doing 3 laps of the swim ! The banter with the marshalls was great, very good all round all day but it lifted me a little on the run leg.

Lap 3 was hard, tired already, the only thing keeping my pace was that I was still ahead of the 2 faster guys chasing, no way I was catching the ones in front but they could have issues and you never know.

The pace was now out to 7.30m/m and HR was no lower (work needed over the next few weeks) but I still felt OK, gels going down just after each turnaround and making me feel all round better 🙂

I really wanted to push harder on Lap 4 but I think what really happened is my HR went up by 10 beats to stay at the same pace knowing the guy behind me needed to run a 6 min mile to catch me. It was hard to maintain but I kept thinknig it was only 3miles, funny how 3 miles seems forever when you have already run 10 at pace.

Coming down the finish line, quick look behind and relax. Was a bit confused over the line when I was told I ‘might’ be in 5th ! Turns out the guy who I mentioned earlier had been DQ’d and I was in 4th, woohoo ! I won my AG too, so even though nothing for top 3 but got some goodies for AG win. Run time was 1.36.45 without T2.

Now, you can only race who is there but what made me feel better is Martin Cain who won is an elite athlete racing at the World Champs ITU race in London in August and 2nd place was Paul Hawkins – winner of Outlaw and WTC professional, so 2nd AG overall for me. Even happier.

Thought the location of Trentham was lovely and the grounds are great for a race although the swim could do with being stretched out and reduced entry for supporters it didn’t matter to me on the day. Bike has changed a lot and felt this helped to make it more interesting. Vic and his team put on a great race and will use this again as a build up for later IM races.

Thats all my races done now before IM Wales, plenty of training to come, build on the work so far and see what happens.


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