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 Post subject: NYD Tri 2007
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:09 pm 
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The Edinburgh Bicycle New Year's Day Triathlon is a popular event. It sold out the 400 available places within three weeks of going open. This is astonishing, all things considering.

It's a triathlon. In Scotland. On New Year's Day.

There are a few things you have to remember about Scotland. While we might not suffer the sort of continental weather that affects our latitudinal neighbours in Moscow, and thus we're not buried under 20 feet of snow and a couple of glaciers at this time of year, it's still perishingly cold. We have the delights of maritime weather. In winter this means freak winds laden with fat drops of rain, which in any other country would have the decency to turn to snow. Not here. Here we know just how unpleasant being cold and wet can be.

Winter in Scotland means a few odd days of blindingly brilliant sunshine dotted randomly through several months of cold, wet wind. It doesn't take a statistical genius to work out that the chances of good weather for any given day are about as high as everyone suddenly realising that Celebrity Big Brother is utterly worthless and all those watching it should be ashamed of themselves.

New Year's Eve suggested that there is likely going to be at least another three series of that damnable programme. Winds gusting at 80 - 90mph had the lights flickering and the sea crashing into the harbour wall below our flat with a sound reminiscent of an angry giant eating rice krispies out of the box. As we loaded up the car to drive to my parents' house, struggling to keep the doors from being ripped out of our hands and ourselves from being blown headlong across the car park, the Forth Bridge was being closed to all traffic and they were cancelling the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh.

Mum and Dad assured me that the wind was forecast to die down before the race, even while I was watching some puir wee BBC reporter hanging grimly onto his hat with one hand and his microphone with the other as he explained how windy it was in Edinburgh for the benefit of those viewers who thought he was standing that way for fun. We got out Trivial Pursuit and I tried not to think about how nervous I was getting.

Registration was at 10am. This meant leaving the house at 9am, which in turn meant I'd have to be up at around half seven. This is a bit early for New Year's Day, which traditionally involves sleeping until early afternoon after being up on the booze until dawn. This year I was in bed by 1am with a view to getting at least some sleep, but I was too nervous. I tossed and turned all night and got up in the morning looking like I had a hangover, even though I'd only had a couple of drinks the night before.

We loaded the car, including the big, grey, plastic box I had been told by Andy Gates would be the SOP method of keeping my kit dry in transition. My Pinarello Galileo, a £2500 race machine that normally doesn't get out between October and March, nestled between my other half and I in the back of my Dad's Galaxy. I'd fitted a rear mudguard the day before in view of the wet roads -- I have a saddle that is split down the middle for pressure relief on sensitive areas, and thus road grime flung off the wheels goes straight up into those sensitive areas in the absence of a mudguard -- and my bike had the appearance of a dog brought home from the vets wearing a lampshade. I could imagine him trying to twist round to see what this thing was on his rear stays.

We were there right at the beginning of registration, and checking the board I discovered I was number 123 and my projected start time was 13:05. Three hours of waiting. Three hours in which to try to eat a couple of flapjacks, take on some water and not get even more nervous. I managed half a flapjack and a small bottle of water, but I don't know how much good it did as I was suffering from pre-race nerves so much my digestive system seemed determined to make sure I had absolutely nothing inside me before I got in the pool. I'm amazed the toilets didn't run out of paper.

The wind had dropped, somewhat. The rain had eased off into random showers that blatted their way across Edinburgh in unpredictable succession, turning the skies black and sucking away any available heat. I sat in the Commonwealth Pool concourse with my two race numbers, a bunch of safety pins and my plastic box. Did I want the Gore-Tex jacket or would my On-One long-sleeved jersey be sufficient? I'd got the shoes all talced and packed, but would I need protection from the rain or would I get too hot?

Decisions, decisions.

In the end Frood pointed out that we were allowed to wear different clothes for bike and run -- the race pack said to put a number on the front of each if we planned to do that. I put one number on my cycle jersey and one on my jacket and packed both into the box. I could decide when it came to transition.

Box packed and checked six times, I racked my bike and memorised the route through transition. The bike watched me as I went back inside. I could see his little face. "Mum! Mum! What's the cold wet stuff? Why is it coming from the sky? Mum! Mum! I am wet but you are not cleaning me! There is no soap and it's cold! Mu-um! Where are you going? Why are you leaving me? MUM!"

Now it was just a matter of waiting until the race briefing. It was due to be at 12:20 but the results were late coming in for the Ironkids duathlon, so the main business of the day was getting on for half an hour late.

This did nothing for my nerves.

Having listened to the race organiser explain about how it all worked and which roundabouts to go round and how we had to be careful of pedestrians, swans and huskies -- part of daily existence for a cyclist like myself -- we had the swim briefing. The swim was odd. It's a big pool, the Commonwealth. It's 50m long, for a start. We had to swim alternate lanes, ducking under the ropes between each lane. If we wanted to overtake but were near the end of the lane then we were to wait until the next length. I wasn't keen on this, especially as the Elite class didn't have to do anything so silly, thus giving them even more of an advantage on top of their experience and fitness.

But that was how it was being done, so that was that.

I went down early because I wasn't sure how late we were running and each heat was supposed to be at poolside 10 minutes before they were due to start. I was heat 7.

This was when I seriously began to regret overestimating my time for the swim on the entrance form. I could tell when the other people in white swim caps all said they'd be doing breast stroke that I was going to have a hard time of it. We lined up in number order and before I knew it we were go.

I passed four people in the first couple of lengths, but I was getting held up at the end of each length by people much slower than me, plus the requirement to duck under the ropes was a real break in my rhythm. I knew my swim was poor. I could feel it, and that really didn't set me up well for the rest of the race.

Out of the pool and then it was through the doors, past the baby pool. I knew that much because I'd seen the Elites run that way. But then where? Oh. Right. Outside. Because unlike everyone else, who was changing inside where it was warm, I had left all my stuff outside in transition.

A marshal waved me towards the door. "Brave girl!" he called as I went barefooted, scantily clad and soaking wet into the cold.

My natural cyclist's homing instinct took me unerringly to my precious machine without any difficulty. I wasn't thinking. The cold had stupefied my brain. I grabbed my On One jacket, knowing that I couldn't afford to lose much more heat. Socks went on easily enough. Shoes went on. Wasn't I going to wear running tights on top? Oh, it's not that cold. Where's my hat. Need a hat. Need hat under lid to keep head warm.

The problem with cycling gear is that it is generously fitted with velcro and the velcro had stuck. In taking out my jacket I had destroyed my careful packing. It took precious seconds of fumbling to find my hat. By then my fingers were so cold I couldn't get my gloves on. It must have taken about a minute to force those recalcitrant digits into my gloves. But I got my lid on, unracked my bike and ran across the car park to the exit, with just a brief moment of smugness at having thought to take the Look pedals off the bike and fit ones that accepted recessed cleats.

I was riding the course unseen, and the first section round the hill was great. It was a fairly gentle but fast descent. I don't have great bike handling skills -- I'm not a demon descender because I get scared on tight bends -- but I do have a very flexible lower back and a strong competitive streak. I can get into an aerodynamic tuck that would rival that of any professional. Whizzing past the cyclists already on the course I was starting to enjoy myself.

Then came the climb and I realised my legs were so cold the muscles weren't working properly. I wondered if I'd manage to make it up there another two times. I ratcheted down into smallest gear on my double and stayed there, spinning where I could and heaving myself out of the saddle on the steepest section.

It's a cruel climb. I reached what looked like the top, or nearly the top, and the gradient eased off round a little lake before the road twisted round a rocky outcrop. As I came round the bend behind the rock the road suddenly aimed skywards again. At the same time I discovered that the wind may have eased off from near-hurricane, but that didn't mean it had gone away.

Something off the Siberian ice plains tried to strip the flesh from my face as, teeth bared like Roger Moore being centrifuged in Moonraker, I got over the next climb and then hit the fast descent.

I enjoyed that bit. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been continually watching out for people on 12 speed shoppers mincing down there and dozy pedestrians wandering across the road as well as enthusiastic spectators getting a bit close in cheering us on.

Plus there was a bloody great roundabout at the bottom, and no one in his right mind takes a roundabout at speed.

Twice more round, each time battling the hill, the wind, and the occasional suicidal swan. The third time I had to fight that icy wind I was reduced to swearing, which these days is usually reserved for getting my 70" fixed gear over steep hills. Last time down the descent and then it was back to transition, only I couldn't work out where to go. The previous circuits had seen funny little men in bright yellow launch themselves at me, screaming "KEEP LEFT!" like banshees with obsessive compulsive disorder. This time I had to work it out for myself.

Thankfully one of my friends and supporters was on hand to point me in the right direction.

As I approached the entrance to the car park I saw the white line that would normally be the "give way" and focused on that as my place to dismount. So focused was I that I didn't actually hear the marshal yelling at me to dismount until I was almost on it. With a quick apology for not getting off sooner I dashed for my box.

Bike racked. Helmet off. Shoes off.

I couldn't get my running shoes on. They were coated on talcum powder but I couldn't get them on. It seemed to take forever. My fingers were so cold they weren't working and my oxygen depleted brain was struggling to maintain balance while I wrestled with them. One seriously bruised finger was the price I eventually paid. Then it was back out onto the road.

There was an odd period of numbness. Everything felt wooden and disconnected for the first five or ten minutes. I thought that maybe I'd be okay after all, despite running being my weakest discipline. Then it started to hurt. It really hurt. I could feel the few swallows of water I'd taken on the bike sloshing high in my stomach and my entire rib cage cramped. There is no other way to describe it. It would have been a stitch except it was all the way across my chest. Every step jolted this huge, cramped mass of muscle and I could hardly breathe, except to whimper.

I slowed to a walk for a few paces, but that competitive urge took hold and I returned to my agonised plod. The pain didn't ease off until I had started the climb, and I couldn't tell you whether it was just my body relaxing into it or the distraction provided by a chap with enormous calves who was trying to tell me that doing a triathlon on New Year's Day was not weird at all whereas Audax was just for mad people.

It felt like everyone was overtaking me.

The run was pretty much a numb blur fuelled by stubborn bloody-mindedness. When I finally came to the descent I opened up a bit, let my stride lengthen, thought about making it a sprint to the finish. I rounded the last roundabout, hit the cobbles up towards the finish line...

My legs blew. I'd seen it on the telly, in professional races. Some guy is in the lead, sprinting for the end, and 200m out he crashes and ends up being about tenth because everyone goes straight past him. I always thought that must be agonising.

I didn't have the worry of losing the lead, or even a place, but I did want to finish and for a few awful seconds I really wasn't sure I would.

But I did.

I crossed the line 19th in category, 130th overall. I got a medal (of the well done for finishing variety). My Suunto T3 upgraded my activity class from 6 to 7.

The breakdown:

Swim: 09:57
T1: 02:20
Bike: 43:09
T2: 01:25
Run: 38:52
Total: 01:35:45

That's about 16 minutes slower than the top-ranked female. You can check out the rest of the results on the Excel spreadsheet.

Not too shoddy for my first triathlon. I'm trying not to let my competitive side (it's genetic -- my parents printed out the results and analysed them with as much focus as a personal coach would) spoil the sense of achievement.

In the past four months I've gone from someone who can ride 200km on a pint and a chinese takeaway to someone who can swim, ride and run on a flapjack and a bottle of water. You might think that 125 miles overnight from London to the Suffolk coast is a harder task. It's not. That was as hard a piece of physical work as I've ever had to do.

Question is, do I want to do it again?

There's another one in Cupar in April. 750m swim (only another 14 lengths), 20km cycle (pah) and 5km run. Entries are open already.

Well. As my dad said, it beats sitting on your arse watching <i>Celebrity Big Brother</i> any day.


Waiting to go in for the swim:
Image

Overtaking someone (lane 3):
Image

The road down off the hill:
Image

Action bike shot!
Image
Coming in for the second transition:
Image

I'm sure fathers shouldn't be taking pictures of their daughters' arses!
Image

Heading out after T2:
Image

Made it:
Image

Sam

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:01 pm 
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Many congrats Sam!

I'm sure I'd never be able to manage that.

Steve


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:04 pm 
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Well done. I couldn't even manage to come and watch (got in at 6am), so actually doing it is really impressive.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:13 pm 
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Good on ya, Sam! =D> :badger:

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:13 pm 
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Rev Will wrote:
Well done. I couldn't even manage to come and watch (got in at 6am), so actually doing it is really impressive.


You could have just not gone to bed. :twisted:

After all, you get an extra day off for New Year, don't you?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:36 pm 
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Looks fun in a loony kinda way....

Well done, have a virtual drink! :drinkers:


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 9:44 am 
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And I bet you like being thrashed with a birch and wearing hair shirts as well....maaad you are.
Well done though :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:16 pm 
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"A sound reminiscent of an angry giant eating Rice Krispies out of the box"..... Does that say anything about Munky's personal habits? :lol:
Well done.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:03 pm 
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I am strictly a flake boy. Crunchy Nut or Bran, but definitely not Krispies.

Incidentally, if you try to make Rice Krispies in a popcorn maker, it blows hot rice all over your kitchen. :oops:

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:55 pm 
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Oh Munky.

You didn't did you?

Sam

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:57 pm 
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Incidentally...

My Dad took the photos. I received a complaint that I didn't mention that in my tale :oops: .

Sam

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:48 am 
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spesh wrote:

You could have just not gone to bed. :twisted:

After all, you get an extra day off for New Year, don't you?

Most of Scotland does. People with crap shift-based jobs like myself don't. :/


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 12:44 pm 
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Ravenbait wrote:
... I received a complaint that I didn't mention that in my tale :oops: .

Sam



Go on Sam , confess all.

You know confession is good for the soul


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:00 pm 
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Ravenbait wrote:
Oh Munky. You didn't did you?


:oops: I thought brown basmati rice krispies might make a change...

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:36 pm 
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Well (and indeed) done, indeed.

Cold, damp and windy (but then <quote> It *is* a triathlon. In Scotland. On New Year's Day. </quote>)

Almost in the back garden - but we were at friends of Dr RJ and Firstborn ...

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