My approach to this race wasn’t a classic, well maybe a Rosey classic but I wouldn’t recommend the buildup.

The last month saw a great volume of training, with Fudge Packer camp well and truely over and the following week a natural down week I decided on the Tuesday before the Swashbuckler to hit a local race series in Bedford and do their 6 miler instead of a steady 45 mins planned. Officially I was clocked at 39.03 but my watch had the important bit, 38.56. I felt good but my calves were still tight after every run I was doing and I needed to stretch out a bit more.

The rest of the week consisted of spinning, swimming and pre race shake down of my kit, which I didn’t get to complete until the Saturday morning of the Sunday race.

The journey south was going to be a long one, I live in Warrington, race is in Beaulieu and more specifically the New Forest National Park based out of Bucklers Hard. I had arranged to meet one of my old school mates over the weekend and he asked me where I was racing, I said Fiddlers Yard which got a silent response til I mentioned Nelsons armada, numpty, anyway, lovely location and historical to boot.

So to the journey, from HELL ! I faffed so much putting race kit together as I hadn’t used some of it for 12 months, I never left til 10.30am. The race brief and registration was 3pm, it was going to be tight.

All was going well til I hit a traffic jam on the M40, lots of effing and jeffing found me in the sticks and a 40 min diversion, at least I was moving.

I arrived at registration at 2.30pm, actually before the local lads I was meeting, Adam, who I was staying with, Loz and Piercy who were also locals I knew, and a few of the pirate massive, all looking lean and ready, well most of them 🙂

Race briefing was in a lovely location and the sun was beaming out at us. The organisers were all athletes and had prepared a good race, yes it went on for a while but you had no excuse not to know the rules and the routes.

After the briefing myself and Adam decided on a drive round the bike course and to to find a place to park the ‘love bus’ for the night.

The course was, on the face of it, quite complicated but come race day very easy, 2 loops, one long, one shorter. Adam had recceed the run and apart from the run up the centre of Bucklers Hard there was nothing to report of any difficulty.

Once back, the next 2 hours were spent faffing, again. The piccie is our abode for the night, great van and excellent for this type of race.

We decided to go and have a quick walk around the finish area to walk off dinner, this is Adam with the finish chute up the hill behind him, a small killer in a sprint finish, I was hoping I wouldn’t need one.

Morning arrived with an unbelievable change in the weather, pouring rain and a strong wind slowly rising. It wasn’t hard to get up and get sorted, we had done most of the faffing the night before, we moved the ‘love bus’ out of the car park 500m down the run course and sorted the porridge and coffee out.

Prepped up we set off for transition, it was miserable but I decided once I got in the water all would be fine, I took arm warmers but would decide at the time whether to use them. We all said our ‘race well’s’ and entered the water at our own start positions.

We funnelled into the water around 5.10am for the 5.15am start and you could already see the current as the canoes were moving quite quickly down the river towards the turnaround. I positioned at the front and the right and waited, the horn went and it was all I could do to make sure I stayed heading in the right direction, I was trying to follow the line of the boats but everytime I breathed to the left poeople were moving further away, I realised I was following the wrong line and moved across to the melee to get a draft, once in I managed to sight some of the grey buoys that now appeared out of the froth of swimmers.

I stuck to a few in front, especially at the turn as the chop on the way back was against the tide. It thinned out at the halfway point and finding people to draft became harder, the better swimmers had gone and I was catching others who weren’t fast enough to sit behind. On the final turn my prayers were answered and a swimmer, who I thought was the first woman, came past me wearing a white hat and I decided that was my tow home, it was actually a male so goodness knows where he had been but I didn’t care. Exited the water, no idea on time up the hill to transition making sure I didn’t lose any places and hoping Adam wasn’t there already.

Bonus however, was Lawrence still was, so I decided to say hello, just so he knew I was there, he should be minutes ahead at this point so that made me feel better. I had a bit of a faff though trying to put on gloves over wet hands so left the arm warmers, that was a mistake for the first 30 mins as it was very cold early doors.

The bike course has a compulsary foot down right turn that I managed to skid all the way to as my front brake wasn’t working, next time, check the adjustment lever to make sure its down you clown !!

Settled into a rhythm and set about holding my target watts of 250w for the ride. I played cat and mouse with a few guys making sure I was at least the right distance away from them but using a few to pace before making a move on a hill or fast flat piece. I enjoyed the first lap but felt cold for a good 10 miles, happily it warmed up a bit after this as that could have had quite an effect later on.

It took me 30 miles to catch Lawrence, amazing how long 2 mins takes to bridge. We exchanged a few words of encouragement and also started to pace together legally. It was a bit more incentive to push when you were feeling down and if one of us was stronger then so be it. The distance we kept gave no advantage that I could see on my SRM but I had a target in front of me and I am sure Lawrence felt the same. The next 19 miles went by quickly, the wind was picking up and it was a completely different experience into and against but I tried to keep the watts steady, going from 12mph to 35mph pushing the same watts just shows the effort you can waste or over reach when you are not using a plan.

We came into T2 together, this was the part of the race that was now dependant on how my legs had coped with the set wattage on the bike, we exited together, Lawrence getting a lot of support from the locals that he knew and raced with. I settled into a HR of 150 and this hovered us around 7.10 pace.

I immediately started thinking to the end of the race, images of Cartmel v Bayliss at HIMUK in my head, then reality came back and I stayed in the moment, both of us knew that potentially the biggest issue was Adam if he had a good bike would be taking 30-45 secs a mile out of us, we needed 6-10 mins and it was only a HIM, the race was on.

The first loop was bang on 7 miles and the rise up thru Bucklers Hard and past the finish line split myself and Lawrence up for the first time, I wasn’t naive enough to think he was gone but I relaxed a little after the hill and it wasn’t long before he was back shoulder to shoulder.

We had been told on the first lap we were 18th and 19th just as 2 guys flew past us (real runners – lol) so I knew we hadn’t been passed by many others at this point so we were still around the 20th mark. I was still trying to work it out when we came up to the next feed station at 9.5 miles, I shouted water, then again and by the time I was there all she had was isotonic, forget it, I am not stopping.

Lawrence had gone for a drink, the ‘Macca’ move had happened, not on purpose but the 10 sec gap stayed, a few minutes later Lawrence wasn’t back with me, I try to not look back in a race, so I had to imagine he was either working his way back or the elastic had snapped, I pushed on by 15 secs a mile, give a little surge, feeling strong and I can still see the guy that had overtaken me 2 miles ago, by this point there was 3 miles left, I knew I could go to a HR of 170 now, so I stepped up again.

This part of the course is gravel through the trees so you can hear people coming and you know the ones in front can hear you, I started to catch and target people on their first lap, incentives to keep me going. I had a sneaky look over my shoulder on a 90 deg turn, no-one for a while, good.

The chase up the finish hill was great, I wondered if Adam was closing in and had to look around me with 300m to go, just in case someone was sneaking a final place, no-one to worry about, great support, turned my number and smiled for the camera.

I had come in 22nd place in 4.27.

Very happy with result so early in the season, my race strategy was based around the bike work I had been doing, my aim was 250w average and then see what pace on the run I can hold after I got off.

Swim 35.12

This included the long transition so I reckon around 32 mins, OK for May.

Bike 2.11.20 SRM data

This worked out at about 22.5mph average and my average power was 266w, a bit more than I was expecting but happy with the result.

Run 1.41.24 Garmin data

I know this includes the T2 time but I also know I timed it at 1.40 so that works out at 7.13 miling
As an overall race I was chuffed but was happiest about the biking, with the Computrainer use over the early part of the season I have had a focus and application I have never had in the colder months and this is definitely showing up in the consistency I am seeing, this is also showing in the way I can run off the back, my SRM data of 266w on the bike leg cannot be compared directly to the outputs on the Computrainer until I do a side by side comparison but to be holding a target wattage in a race and be able to focus on this feedback has given me some confidence.

My CPT wattage at the start of the year has improved by over 8% with my final CP20 coming up this week to hit the target 10% so I can see having this kind of incentive and focus has made a difference I want to carry into the rest of the season and to my A race in September. I have run well too, the race in the week shows the pace I can carry and that would have been an official PB in a 10k for that extra .1 mile.

Next blog will hopefully be good news on my 20 week Computrainer improvement, I need to do this before the weekend so fingers and legs crossed 😉

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