Saturday, 5 July 2008

Lost - at sea - in transition - my saddle

Couldn't decide on a title for this post so I picked 3. My final preparations for the Lough Ine Triathlon Challenge could have been better. Cycling back from Pud's house (went to get bike tuned up) on Wednesday evening and the handlebar of the bike cracked and broke on the RHS necessitating a replacement, which was ready lunchtime on Friday. Last night the wind was up and the rain coming down in torrents with a similar forecast for Saturday (the trouble with Irish weather is that the forecast is always true for some part of the Country, but you never know which part). A quick call to triathlete neighbour Jim, who was staying overnight in Baltimore, revealed that the local weather was somewhat better. Fingers crossed. My neighbours Pat (bike & run) and Eamon (swim) were doing a relay. Last minute preparations included setting up the garmin on the handlebar of the bike for the morning - except that the garmin, which had been charging all day would not turn on no matter how many different ways I pressed the "on" button. That's it, I will have zero data to work with tomorrow (probably turned out a blessing in disguise - funnily enough it came on this evening when I returned home) And so shortly before 7:00 am today Abina, Ani, Saran and I headed off for Baltimore arriving shortly after 8. After registering I brought the bike and all my gear (helmet, wetsuit, bike shoes, DS racers, Gel Nimbus, drink, goggles, swim hat, timing chip, race number, etc. etc.) to the transition area - too much stuff. I sat there dazed for a while no knowing what to put where as those around me brought out their plastic bins with all their gear neatly stacked and ordered inside. People were warming up (run & bike) all around me. Finally the race briefing, which was supposed to take place at 9:00 started shortly after 9:30. The gist of it was:- Bike - for god sake guys be careful - plenty of hills, bends, potholes, wet surface - someone's going to come off their bike - and remember the "Hill" out of Lough Ine, you can always get off your bike and walk it. Run - more hills, 9.5 k (not the 10k I was expecting) Swim - keep the buoys to your left, let the strong swimmers go first unless you want to be trampled, watch out for the rocks. ............and then we were in the water, most thought it was cold but I felt refreshed as I warmed up (at least the mandatory yellow neoprene hat kept my head relatively warm). We all lined up behind an imaginary start line and the hooter went off and the splashing and kicking began. As I was relatively near the front and did not get too many kicks over the first few 100m I assumed that I was doing fairly well with a reasonably strong efficient stroke raising my head every so often to keep in line with the first buoy. The effort felt sustainable and comfortable and so onto to the 2nd buoy at about 600m. There was a 90 deg turn here which I executed by flipping over on my back just after the buoy, a quick back stroke and back on to my front and landed on top of the guy in front. About another 500m to the next buoy which I had difficulty spotting but tagged the swimmers in front. Around the 3rd buoy and a similar back flip and I was away..........or that's what I thought. I raised my head to spot the last buoy at the exit to transition and all I could see was an army of swimmers coming against me. I was completely disoriented for a while until I realised I had done a 180 deg turn around the last buoy. I stopped turned looked towards shore until I could spot the buoy at the exit and set off - except this time I had no swimmers to tag as they must have been 50m to my right. I finally exited the water after negotiating my way round the hull of a boat and climbed the steps to transition. I was met by Pat (waiting for Eamon). "Well done, 26" he said "Did you see Eamon" - Did I what!!!. Off with the wet suit (no problem) skins underneath. sat down, on with the cycling helmet, open my bag, out with my singlet with race number pinned to front, off with the helmet, on with singlet, back on helmet, dry feet, on with socks and cycling shoes - felt like an age as I fumbled with everything. Out with bike and ran up to cycle start and I was off on the 2nd leg.
I felt a little stiffer on the bike than I would normally expect but appeared to be keeping within range of the guy in front. That is until I began to get passed every couple of minutes - serious looking guys and gals hunched over their aerobars and everything looking effortless. A few miles in I realised I failed to put my glasses on in transition - probably worked out well as my fear of the downhill appeared to have lessened (out of sight out of mind). Eventually my endurance kicked in and I began to reel in a few victims as we headed from Skibbereen out the Crookhaven Road. Going reasonably well, both on the giving and receiving end of the overtaking maneuver. Left towards Tragumna up a few inclines and down a steep hill when suddenly there was a loud crack under my ass and I thought my saddle had split in two as when I tried to lower myself back down my rear was met by something pointy. As I couldn't sit down and my feet were clipped in I slowed down and half threw myself into the grass verge where I had a soft landing. The guy behind asked was I ok as I tried to clip out of the pedals "yeah just lost my saddle". A quick inspection revealed that my saddle (still attached to my bike by the saddle bag) had come completely off it's tracked mounting. I thought my race was over and was utterly disgusted at the thought of a DNF on my first Tri. Following a quick inspection I thought I knew how to fix it and proceeded to try and refit it manually to no avail - I was getting frustrated at this stage but knew I had to calm down if I was to deal with it rationally. If it had come off with force I wasn't going to get it back on by pushing it on. A further look revealed that I had to loosen and remove a small bolt holding the mechanism together which required an allan key , a set of which I just happened to have in my saddle bag, and so out with the keys, fumbled, dropped in the grass and eventually dismantle the assembly, fit the saddle on the mounting and bolt the bits back together, taking my time to make sure it was all tight. All the while cyclists were whizzing past. "f*@k, *u#k, 8&ck" was all I could think "I should be in front of them". Eventually I was back on the bike though and delighted that I was not out of the race. My legs were fresh from the rest and I tore road for a few miles, passing 2 or 3 guys repairing punctures, poor suckers. Back into Skibbereen reeling in those that were flagging a bit and out the Road to Lough Ine - 15km to go. And then we were approaching the "Hill". The guy in front had dismounted and was walking his bike (he must have been here last year) and boy was it tough - into the easiest gear and standing up all the way moving at a pace that was barely sufficient to maintain forward momentum, even zig-zagging across the narrow road just to get an easier grade. An official cameraman halfway up, just to capture you at your best. However the top came sooner than I expected and my recovery was quite good as I overtook a guy who had passed me earlier and continued on the final 6km descent into Baltimore. At about 4km to go I met the leading runner coming against me. The guy I had passed at the summit tracked me all the way into Baltimore and passed me before we arrived in transition. "We'll see how much of a runner he is" I thought as we entered T2. I saw the official clock for the first time showing 02:10. "ok 50 mins to get under 3 hours - should be maneagable" I thought. In to T2, off with the shoes & hemlet, on with the DS Racers, rack the bike and i'm off. Legs a bit wobbly and fatigued as I shuffled up the hill out of town. My pace felt very slow but I did notice that those in front were slower (including the guy who passed me into T2 - he was gone behind and forgotton in a instant). The gradual incline over the first 5k of the run was very tiring but despite my perceived poor pace I continued to reel in those in front of me, never getting passed. And finally the inclines gave way to a gradual decent back into town. I passed about 5 or 6 over the last 2 km picking up the pace on the descent towards the finish with 1 guy coming back at me very strong to take me about 150m before the finish Although I kept pace with him he crossed the line before me. 02:52:36 was my finishing time, which I was very happy with considering the eventful day I had. Abina, Ani and Saran were there to greet me at the finish line which was great. "Dad did you win" Saran asked. "No Saran". "Did you come 2nd" "No Saran". "Did you win the swim". "Yes" (I had to give him something positive - he wouldn't have stopped until he got a "yes"). My official splits are:- Swim 25:16 (27:06 minute mile, 2.21 MPH) - very pleased with time (fel trelatively effortless compared to other legs) T1 02:00 (not as bad as I thought) Bike 01:42:47 (03:41 minute mile, 16.3 MPH) T2 01:01 Run 41:33 (07:02 minutes per mile, 8.5 MPH) I thought I has lost at least 5 minutes on the bike fixing my saddle. After the race I met Laura Buckley from Eagla AC who said she passed me on the side of the road. As this was about half way through the cycle I came to the following conclusion about the time I lost fixing my saddle:- Laura started the cycle 01:47 ahead of me and finished 04:52 ahead of me. If she passed me at the side of the road it must mean that I caught up with her during the first half of the cycle (i.e. I made at least 01:47 on her over 22.5km - ergo I theoritically could have made up a further 01:47 on her over the 2nd half of the cycle finishing 01:47 ahead of her instead of 04:52 behind => minimum time lost = 01:47 + 04:52 = 06:39 which would give me a finishing time of 2:45:57. (i'll never know unless I Tri again) It was only when I had finished that I noticed that I had torn about a 2" circular hole in my skins showing two red lines on my bum where contact was made with the saddle mounting. A great sight for all those I passed on the run. "Skins are expensive" Jim said after the race "Thats a bummer" I came 5th in the M40-45 category, missing 4th position by 2 seconds, which pissed me off a bit - I shouldn't have let that guy pip me at the post - I give up too easliy. I took some solace from the fact that had I not had saddle problems that guy would not have been an issue - as Arni says "I'll be back".


  1. Congratulations. Not a bad race for a rookie, and at least you were able to fix your bike troubles. Still very annoying, though.

    7:02 wouldn't be very impressive for a 10k run on its own. I'm surprised the bike and swim legs take so much out of you (I'm saying that as someone who has never done a tri. Definitely not meant as a criticism.)

  2. Thomas I don't know the standard conversion between a 10k PB and a 10k Tri PB. Perhaps some of the more experienced Triathletes out there could comment on that. All I know is that a 1.5 k swim followed by a 45 k hilly bike ride does not compare to a 2 mile warmup @ easy pace followed by a few strides as preparation for a 10k run. In addition the run yesterday was over a much hillier course than my 10 k PB course and my 10k PB followed specific 10 k speed training.

  3. Awesome race! That is a great time considering that it was your first and that you had the dreaded "mechanical" on the bike. Your swim was amazing! Very impressive.
    For comparison my 1/2 marathon time is about 1:25 but after a 1.9 Km swim and 90 km bike I usually am about 1:35. So your 10k sounds pretty good to me!
    Great job! Maybe you want to set your sights on Hawaii instead of Boston!

  4. Congratulations on the race, well done! I'm really happy for you! I loved the race report, it has inspired me to try a triathlon (again) next summer.

  5. Great race and report Grellan. It seems like soon we'll be seeing you back tri-ing again in the near future.

  6. Since you asked, hill work under the Lydiard training consisted mainly of bounding or springing up the hill (a bit hard to explain). It was nowhere near as anaerobic as those hill sprints.

  7. Good stuff Grellan. I enjoyed that. Perhaps "Lost - my pants" ;)

    Bit of a bummer about the saddle dramas. Of course you'll be back to tri again!

    Re the run time difference - I think the better triathlete you are, the less time difference there is. For mugs like us, it's bigger.

    I'm impressed by your 400s session - quicker and less recovery - all good!