Sometimes, you have experiences where you think – ‘will anything go right’ – this was one of those times.
The race went pretty badly from the start, but maybe my character has been built a little….hasn’t it?
The alarm chirped at 5am and after a bit of a scramble around, we set off around 6.20. I shouldn’t have worried about getting there as we hardly saw much traffic and got to Seaford easily in time for registration at 8am. The weather was all misty on the way there, which I thought would clear for a bit of sun by race-time – how wrong I was.
I racked up my bike, laid out all my gear and had a quick chat with the really friendly people around me. We set off for the beach and encountered my first pain of the day, walking down the stony beach to get to the waters edge. Seriously, this was really painful and I now realise some flip-flops would have been a good move.
We watched the women’s wave set off, then had a short safety brief before making our way to the waters edge. I rinsed out my goggles and splashed my face but I saw others having a practice swim and looking mega keen. I was feeling pretty daunted as the furthest buoy looked miles away and we’d been told of a really strong current running across the course which didn’t make me feel any better.
We got the shouts of ‘one minute to go’ and then the horn and we were off. I say we, but I intentionally had hung around at the back so I was one of the last to splash in and get going. I started off with some front-crawl, getting bumped a bit by at least one other competitor and soon found it really hard to do a proper stroke and make some headway.
I tried to get my breath by doing a bit breast-stroke, but I was fighting for breath and now found myself falling really behind the others. I gave the front-crawl another go, but I was now finding myself being caught by the strong current and and getting further and further from the turning buoy.
By now I was being trailed by a safety canoeist who offered me the chance of catching my breath which I gladly took. I was finding the sea swim much harder and scarier than I’d expected, but I didn’t want to give up so I had another go and after exhausting myself I got close to the buoy against the tide. I’d lost all rhythm and technique by now and realised that the swim was simply beyond me.
I was clearly right to be worried about this leg and the lack of sea swim training proved very costly. I’d always thought that it would be hard, but had hoped I could just about creep round. I think I may have been a bit too hopeful here.
The final ignominy was being towed to the shore by the safety boat and being examined verbally by the first aid people. I reported to the organisers and was thus marked DNF (did not finish). They said I was ok to do the ride and run if I wanted.
As disappointed as I was I was determined to do the next two legs and reclaim a bit of pride. I always felt pretty confident of the bike and run so I hung around on the beach for a bit so as not to look like I’d beaten the really fit guys.
I got to the transition area, got my wetsuit off ok and slipped into my cycling stuff and got onto the road as soon as I could. The course is mostly flat, along the sea-front with a slight rise at the end so it was just a case of powering along with a big slow down for the hair-pin turns at each end.
I didn’t really know how good or bad my cycling was up-to-now as I’d always trained alone, but this is where I found out. I was doing averages of between 26-35kph but in terms of who I was passing it was just an overweight couple on a tandem and a few people doing the sprint on mountain bikes. Everyone else just sailed past me at various speeds. This didn’t matter too much as I was just keen to clock a time for myself.
Coming up to the turn, just over half way I got a puncture. ‘No biggie’ I thought, I have a spare and I’ll have this changed in a jiffy. In full view of lots of spectators I got the tyre replaced and pumped and I was on my way again. A little way up the road – another puncture!!!! One is bad luck, two is just the gods being against you. I was now out of spare inner-tubes so my friend/emergency bike-mechanic Andy tried to jury rig a repair with some duct tape, but sadly this just didn’t work.
I was now out of the bike leg too.
At least I felt I was on safe ground here, I’ve done plenty of 10k’s before and they hold no fears and there wasn’t any equipment to go wrong.
The weather, which had been grey and spitting all morning now turned to proper rain, though I personally don’t mind running in it – it’s cooling.
It was a simple four laps along the front and I was determined to make a good show of it, so I tried pushing it a little. At least on this leg I was passing a few people, some of whom looked quite fit.
I eventually managed a respectable (for me anyway) 50 minutes for the run.
I did feel a complete fraud going through the finish, with my name, number and big congrats going over the tannoy. I took my free Gatorade and banana and went for commiserations from my excellent supporters. They cheered and clapped and encouraged when it counted and did it all in the rain!
As I was clearing away my gear the woman next to me gave me some great encouragement as well as some tips on where to go for open water training. We may all be competitiors on the course, but off it everyone has been really nice.
A nutmeg of consolation
It was really hard not to feel very disappointed at the end of this race. I’d been confident of at least a finish, but that swim was really quite a toughy for someone with my level of swimming and no previous experience of the sea in a wetsuit.
On the plus side, I’ve gained a lot of experience of triathlons now and I really got to find out where I am and what I need to do to improve. I now have until next May or June to get training, improve and learn before my return. I’m putting thoughts on joining a triathlon club.
I’ll be back and next time I’ll have no excuses!
Special thanks to my supporters: Andy, Jack, Matt, Val, Stephen and last but by no means least my lovely wife Deborah and daughter Rose.