Sunday, 27 July 2008

Little Bo Peep......a tale of perseverance

I rose at 0600hrs this morning so that I could be on the road to Kenmare by 0630 to register for the Little Bo Peep Olympic Distance Tri. I left Abina and the kids in bed as they had a late night. However I was just heading out the door when Abina called downstairs to say that she, Ani and Saran were coming to support and so 15 minutes later (that's a record for getting the kids dressed, half fed and out the door) we were all bundled into the car and on our way. There were a few showers of rain en route with little or no wind (slight worry about cycling in the rain - slippery surfaces etc). We arrived at the Star Sailing Centre outside Kenmare shortly before 8 and registered before the 0815 deadline (about 160 in all registered for the day). Abina and the kids stayed in the car while I set up my gear in the transition area, as a light rain began to fall. The large inflatable yellow buoys setting out the triangular swim course were being put in place as the race briefing commenced - the usual warnings about hills n more hills, (I believe you have to leave the country to compete on a flattish course) some sharp downhill bends on the cycle be careful, cycle 37km - what? the website said 40km, ah well, less cycling - more to my advantage as it is my weakest discipline. .........and then we headed down the slipway into the water to warm up. One poor soul was in swimming trunks (although the water was not that cold - saves wrestling with a wetsuit in T1) . The rain had cleared and the sun began to make an appearance. After warming up we were all called back from the end of the pier to the slipway from where the race was to start - instead of a gun the starter said "good luck 7...6....5.....4 (some splashing starting)....3 (more arms moving)......2 (where are those guys going).........1" (i'm off) - the swim start always appears to be a mad scramble, like the rush through a store opening for the Christmas sales, everyone (or at least everyone around me) goes off at the same pace for the first 100 to 200 yards until the field spreads out. I found the first 300m fairly strenuous (lack of any real warm-up) until I found my rhythm - As I was swimming on the right hand side of the field I did not get too many kicks until we converged on the first buoy - first stroke past the buoy turn on my back, quick half backstroke and onto my front pointing towards the second buoy - worked like a dream got me in front of the guy in front without expending any extra energy. While I did not stray off course this time I did a fair amount of zig-zagging between head lifts to spot the buoy. I maintained my pace and noticed that throughout the second half of the swim I was still gaining ground and passing one ot two in front - maybe the natural tendency for most is to go out faster than average pace. Coming in towards the slipway there were two swimmers in front - one kicking quite hard (evident by the trashing water at the surface every time I came up for air). A couple of attempts to take them on one side and then the other failed initially until I noticed their pace slacken off a bit as they approached dry land and I pushed harder over the last 50 yards to get past them and up the slip into transition. The clock read 23:49 as I approached the timing mat (crikes that's good). However the good time I had made was lost in T1 as I struggled to get the wetsuit off my right leg until I noticed I was trying to pull the bulky timing chip off as well. "someone's struggling" the announcer said as I coaxed the wetsuit over my foot. On with the helmet, glasses and shoes, unrack the bike and I was away - Abina, Ani and Saran cheering me on as I crossed the timing mat again and was on my way. I got into a comfortable pace on the bike from the off - but comfortable doesn't necessarily mean fast as I was passed by 3 in a row and then another 2 before I had got a few km. One guy in particular in a red top I would see frequently for the remainder of the race. A few rises and falls over the first 10km and then the gradual rise over the only real hill of the day, which got steeper as we approached the summit (about 3 km of steady climbing) I managed to pass one of my overtakers on the climb and catch up with Mr Red top but failed to pass him out (story of my day) Down the other side which was quite fast over the first 2 to 3 km but gave way to twists and turns which forced me to slow down (cornering is not my strength). Coming into one particular corner I braked early and was passed by a guy who braked just before the bend and he in turn was passed by a guy who was powering around the corner at speed when suddenly the bike went out from under him and he when skidding across the road on his arse, legs and other body parts - he was very lucky a car had not been coming in the opposite direction. I think he was ok though as he managed to get up - luckily there was an ambulance crew 100 yards down the road who we alerted as we passed. The route took us into Lauragh and along the narrow coast road (spectacular views of Kenmare Bay). I was passed by one or two guys along this stretch between 20 and 30km but did not fall far behind - keeping a steady pace over relatively flat terrain. Finally we were back on the main road towards Kenmare and I stayed within reach of those in front. Mr Red top was about 200m ahead of me all the way into transition - off the bike and a quick change of shoes, lose the helmet and out for the final leg (no place to hide here - I can't freewheel on my legs). I had been behind a girl comng into T2 but she was quicker changing (who said that women take ages to change?) and was 100m ahead for me starting the run. I passed her and 2 others before the turn off the main road at about 1.6 km. Any notion that I was going to power past those in front of me was quickly dispelled as we hit the "hill" - and boy was it steep - two of the guys in front had stopped to walk the steepest part and while I was maintaining leg turnover my stride length was literally reduced to 6 inch baby steps. I was passed by one guy going up the hill, I couldn't believe it. I still did not catch the walkers as they started up their run again as the grade eased. Just before the 3km mark the lead runner came against me - just 4+km behind, not bad at all. As the run was an out and back course I began counting the runners coming against me so as to determine my place and keep my mind occupied as I suffered. Finally we were running downhill to the 5km turnaround timing mat where I figured I was in about 29th or 30th position. Seeing the distance to the runner behind me after the turnaround gave me some confidence that I would remain in the top 30. Up the hill again keeping the pace stready and effort even. First I passed the only guy that had passed me and then the two "walkers" and one or two more until I was about 30 yards behind Mr. Red top and appeared to be closing the gap. Down the steep hill about 2 km to go. Passed a relay runner and still 20 yards behind Mr. Red Top. I thought my natural pace would catch him as we came back onto the main road. "Only a mile to go" a steward said. "shit" I thought it was more like a km, I need this to be over. I was giving all that I could but it appeared like an invisible force field was keeping Mr Red Top 20 yards ahead of me. And that is how we finished - I saw him cross under the clock at 2:21:52 and I pushed to get in just under 2:22 (02:21:59 was my finishing time - much faster than I expected - but then again my expectations were based on a 40km cycle).
Afterwards it was time for Ani and Saran to try out their new wetsuits as they splashed around in the water as competitors stood waist deep cooling off their legs. We waited around for the official results:- I finished 23rd overall out of 116 finishers (24th but No.3 was disqualified for "dangerous riding") Swim - 23:52 - 15th (25:36 Pace/2.34MPH) T1 - 02:05 (needs more training) Bike - 01:13:12 - 41st (03:11 Pace/18.8MPH) T2 - 00:59 Run - 41:52 - 17th (06:44 Pace/8.9MPH) 5k/5k 21:11/20:41 I don't know how accurate thew distances are as some said that the swim was less than 1,500m and that the cycle was 37.5km. I drove the first 5k of the run afterwards with the Garmin (too complicated to use on the cycle/run) on to get a profile. The steepest gradient reached was 13% Although the distance looks a bit off @ marginally above 3 miles.


  1. Another awesome performance. You have this triathlon thing down! Your swim times are very impressive. I can only imagine posting times like that! Congratulations!

  2. That's one hell of a climb!

    Great job. I am sure the transitions times will come down with practice/experience. You seem to have everything else in excellent shape.

    Next stop: Iron Man.

  3. That's very impressive!

    Are you using the triathlons to get fit for your next marathon, or are you switching over to the dark side in earnest?

  4. That's one impressive 5k with a hill like that. Great performance and nice to have the family along too!

  5. Well done on the 23rd place Grellan. Looks like a killer run course!

    A bit of a shame they can't get the distances right though for an "Olympic Distance" race. I'm not doubting your swimming ability, but 23 minutes is flying for 1500.

    Congrats on keeping the rubber side down on the bike leg too - not worth the gravel rash risk by going crazy on descents.

  6. Congratulations on a solid race, I'm inspired (next year).

  7. 23rd thats really good! I watched my wife do a mini TRI a few weeks ago and it looked alot of fun! might give it a go next year, but my swimming is very poor!