This was my longest distance race this year – equivalent to a half Ironman. Thats:
- 1.2 Miles Swim (1900m)
- 56 Miles Bike (90km)
- 13.2 Mile Run (21.2km, Half Marathon)
The race is held near Chepstow – South Wales / South West England border. The venue is the NDAC (National Diving and Aquatic Centre) which has a nice large, clean quarry for divers making it a great place for an open water swim. The bike leg is a hilly lap of the Forest of Dean and the run was a multi lap affair close to the NDAC. There is also a full Ironman distance race run at the same time – The Big Woody.
I arrived the night before after the usual traffic chaos – even early afternoon the M6 southbound was awful. I made it just in time to rack my bike and get my tent pitched before race briefing. I didn’t take much of this in to be honest – be at the waterside by 7:15am pretty much covered it. After this there was copious pasta for all the competitors so I ate up with a view of the swim and then wandered back down the A48 to my camp-site – nearly getting flattened by an idiot in a landrover – overtaking from behind while I was walking in the gutter. Why do we have roads with no pavements?
The site was basically a farmers field and had no water – though the camping was free which was good. Alas, I had no idea there would be no water, so I ended up walking about 4 miles to and from the local Tescos to stock up. My parents had dropped me off and then gone to stay with relatives – real beds etc. After I got back, I did all the final checks on my kit and packed for the transition area. I had a lot of kit for this – the weather was unsettled so I had a gillet, waterproof, leg warmers etc stashed away just in case. A night of little sleep followed and I was up and about by 0510.
I sorted myself out and wandered back to the transition area, munching my Jaffa Cake stockpile and proceded to sort out my transition. The morning was uneventful and I watched the Big Woody competitors get under way. This also provided the ideal opportunity to scope out the M shaped swim lap.
Nutrition wise I had Jaffa Cakes, a cookie, a red bull and some cheapo isotonic stuff, plus 2 high5 plus gels. Maybe not the best plan but it all went down easily. I chucked my wetsuit on and strolled down to the lake. Its actually over 400m down a steep slope from the transition to the quarry. You just know its going to hurt coming back up! On the pontoon Vince gave a good brief and we were in the water waiting for the start. I seeded myself back a bit as this was my first open water swim and I wanted to take it easy – this was a day for completing, not competing.
The race got underway and it was a quite nice swim – clear water, easy sighting on the large buoys and not too many people (133 on a large course). I didn’t get hit or messed about. Most of the field cruised of into the distance which was fine by me.
I climbed out over the rocks to finish the swim in 34:15 and found my trainers for the run to T1. I ended up walking a lot up the hill just getting back to normal. In T1 I faffed a lot – garmin HR strap on, garmin on, cycling shorts and top on, gloves, helmet, glasses, socks shoes. Total including the run up : 9:50. OUCH!
Out onto the bike leg I was feeling good and ready to get into it. I got a gel down, had a drink and got riding. I caught and passed a few people early on in the undulating A48 section. This was all about short downhills and then back up again for quite a way before we turned off across country.
The first major climb was fine, down into the small ring (triple chainset) and spin spin spin. The course was now into some much smaller roads, complete with mud on the road from the recent farming and I passed a few more here. Into feed station 1 and exchanged a bottle. This was probably where it all started to go wrong – an hour in and I had drank less than 500 ml of fluid. I picked a couple of new gels up as well. The second of the big climbs went on forever. I span up it and kept my HR under control again though. The descent of this was fun – fast flowing stuff done in the full aero tuck… max was 43.5mph.
In feed station 2 I swapped bottles again – probably drank another 400mls at over 2 hrs.
The final climb was actually fun as well! Mostly as I caught and passed quite a few people here. Same plan, 160bpm, small ring, 90 rpm. A triple chainset is clearly the way to go for the less fit cyclist – I would have struggled to keep a normal chainset turning and would have ended up out of the saddle a lot. Another descent and a fast bit back to the NDAC.
3:30 and 92nd of 133 – average HR 156bpm.
T2 – 2:30 and 78th fastest. Much better! I had drank a further 400ml making a total of 1.3 litres in 4+ hours. Not good – it should have been double that, and I should have had more gels as well.
The run started with a fairly random off road section to feed station 1. I had another can of red bull on the way out and then some high 5 at station 1. The run course was 3 laps – out of station 1, left down to station 2 and turnaround, left at the top to station 3, then back to station 2 and then station 1. This was a mess – no Marshall on the critical point and quite a few people got lost early on. I was pointed back to station 1 after 2, and wasn’t corrected until I found the race organiser Trev almost all the way back to station 1. That is 2 or so km extra already.
The course was brutally hilly. I hadn’t trained for this . This is how the run went:
Mile 1: 11:50
Mile 2: 12:02
Mile 3: 12:13
Mile 4: 12:23
Mile 5: 12:34
Mile 6: 12:44
Mile 7: 12:56
Mile 8: 13:08
Mile 9: 13:19
Mile 10: 13:31
Mile 11: 13:44
Mile 12: 13:58
Mile 13: 14:14
Mile 14: 14:27
The last bit: 14:44
As you can see it was slow but OK until about mile 5 which is where the cramps started setting in. At first I would only cramp uphill, and walk a short distance and then run again. by mail 10 I was walking a lot more – all the uphill and after any cramps elsewhere. After mile 13 I lost it totally – and pretty much walked it home. I hit the official distance (half Marathon) with 6:55 on the clock. The last mile and a half added nearly 30 mins on that – I was a bit of a mess and had given up really. I knew I was always going to finish, but not fast.
The end – 7:23
I have never had cramps before on a run. My theory is that I was lacking in hydration and electrolytes. Quite possibly it was salt levels, as my HR was down in the 130-140 bpm range on the slow ending laps – I just couldn’t go faster without cramping. I did half 1/2 a cup of high5 at every feed station plus a banana whilst on the run, but I don’t think I could have made up for the lack of fluids on the bike whatever I had done. Its recommended that you consume 750-1000+ ml per hour of the bike. That would leave me 2 litres of fluid low – and as that was the fluid I was relying on to put the electrolytes back in, you can see where it went wrong.
Thats about it – disappointed in my disaster of a run, but happy that I finished. Bear in mind that in 2005 I was a morbidly obese fool, and I only took up running in January of this year.
Next up is Helvellyn, for which I will be getting through plenty of fluids, gels and making sure my T1 is drastically reduced.