In three sleeps time I will be taking on my first half-iron distance triathlon at Cholmondeley Castle. Three sleeps. I am entirely terrified about what lies ahead of me, and questioning whether I have done enough training to see me through.
Thanks to Running Heroes I won entry into this race. On event day there are a variety of different triathlon distances on offer, but given that I didn’t have to pay I naturally picked the longest and most expensive race option. The Gauntlet is a 1.9km swim, 96km cycle and 21.1km run – slightly longer than the standard Ironman 70.3 which has a 90km cycle. From everything I’ve read, it is a well-organised and enjoyable event, but that doesn’t prevent me from being incredibly nervous about how it will go.
With only 8 weeks of specific triathlon-focussed sessions under my belt (why did I think that would be enough?) I know the race will not going to be the fastest or best one ever, but I’m hopeful that I can see it through to the finish-line under cut-off limits. I will have 7 hours to finish the swim+T1+cycle, and need to be on my 3rd lap of the run by 8hrs 20min. The whole race needs to be completed in 10 hours – although preferably long before this as I need to catch my train back home!
Swim: 38 – 45min
I’m most confident about this leg of the triathlon. I completed a solid 1.8km continuous swim in the pool a few weeks ago in around 38min, which is a good indicator that I should be able to finish the swim in a decent time. It’s an open water swim, however I’ve found that I enjoy these a lot and the wetsuit seems to correct my form by keep my lower half floating higher in the water. As it’s the first leg of the triathlon I’ll be full of energy and excitement, which should help to swim fast.
I do have some minor concerns though, such as that I’ve only done two open water swims in my wetsuit, or that with the hot weather recently the water may be too warm to wear one (I hope not!). All of the Gauntlet competitors will be starting at the same time, so I need to make sure that I don’t start too far forward and get swum-over. The new thing for me in this swim is that we’ll be doing an ‘Australian Exit’ between laps were you exit the water, do a short run and then re-enter. Not sure how that will go!
Bike: 3hrs 40min – 6hrs
By my predicted timing for the cycling portion of the tri you can easily see that I am least confident about this section. On one hand everything could go incredibly well, my training focus on cycling pays off and I can cruise around at 28kph and power up the hills to finish strong. On the other hand, I could cycle at my slow normal speed (more like 20kph) on the flats, completely die on the hills, and take significant rest/crying breaks and just about manage to crawl home before cut-off. I think it will end up being somewhere in the middle of the two. I’m nowhere near confident enough on the bike to hope for a great time, but I would be over-the-moon thrilled to finish in under 4hrs 30min.
The bike course has been described an ‘undulating’ three-lap route, with a few significant hills including Hart Hill, the ‘cycling mecca’ of the area (although nowhere near as bad as Ditchling Beacon!). The triathlon in collaboration with Bikmo released a cycle-through video of the course which doesn’t look too bad and has helped alleviate some of my fears. 96km though is still a very long way and a distance I have only covered once before, so on the whole the thought of this part of the tri makes me want to throw up in fear and I will be very happy to have it over and done with!
Run: 1hr 50min – 2hrs 15min
Running is my jam, and I know that I’ll be able to finish this section without too many problems. Sure, my legs will hurt coming off the bike, it may be slower than normal and I may have to walk at times, but it’s nothing I haven’t had to deal with before. Perhaps my one concern is messing up my nutrition on the bike leg and feeling too full or not full enough coming into the run. Again though, these are both things I can get through. Short of my body breaking down, once I reach the run I know I’ll be able to finish the tri.
…I probably should have practised these! Since my last triathlon I bought cleats, which means one extra piece of kit to change over between bike and run. I did decide that I’m going to wear a cycling jersey loaded with snacks on top of my trisuit for the cycle, which means I don’t have to faff around with gels and bars in transition. The transitions are not likely to be quick, and I may fall off my bike coming into T2 but I’ll get through it.
As you can tell, I’m feeling entirely unprepared, somewhat undertrained and have no clue about how Sunday will go down. The main thing to keep in mind is that I signed up for this race (LOL WHY), and so I’m going to give it a good crack. It will be a PB no matter how fast I finish, and largely I just want to have fun! That’s what this sport stuff is all about.