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Paddling and Plastic

Sandman Sprint Triathlon

Steve C left his distinctly uncomfortable ‘comfort zone’ of bonkers-ultras to take part in the Sandman Sprint Tri (400m (sea) swim / 25K bike / 5K run) set in and around the beautiful venue of Newborough Forest, Anglesey. Never one to make events easy - even short ones - Steve takes up the story:

“I like to think I'm a fairly organised sort of chap in my own sporting sphere but obviously my organisational skills don't transfer to multisports. Before judging me too harshly, as I worked late on Friday, we did have to get up at 2.30 in the morning to walk Len and drive to Anglesey for registration.

The swim was not my fault. Apparently the organisers over-compensated for a changing tide that dragged competitors out to sea last year by staging the course too close to land this time (out to a buoy then parallel to the shore). The result was you could - and many did - paddle the whole course! It was sad to see even the elite guys who were trying to swim only able to take 15 seconds out of those walk / running it.

The bike was OK. It was an uphill start which tested me and made for a slightly hairy finish at it was littered with road humps to slow general traffic. I talked with one lady who was complaining that a friend of hers had told her the bike course was flat. We decided she must have misheard her friend who concluded must have said: 'flat for Wales'.

I say the bike was OK, well it was but for a slight problem with my cycle shoes. They’d started to disintegrate and I didn't notice this until I was setting up in transition. (Fortunately, the swim leg was such a farce that I was able to take the strapping out of my goggles whilst paddling ashore and use that to tie my shoe in place). They are old Sidi shoes that have a ratchet system on solid plastic which meant I had assorted shards of brittle plastic inside the shoes while honking up the hills (I doubt my style could be described as dancing on the pedals).

I’m thinking of taking them back - I've only had the 25 years out of them.

The run was so my thing. It was on tracks and trails through wooded stabilized sand dunes where I’ve previously done a much harder caniX route with the lad. Relative to anyone else in my bit of the race I was flying [pic] and must've overtaken 20-30 people.

Sadly, I don't know my overall result. I think the organisers must have had me down as going out with the first wave since my 'swim' time appears to be 3 times that of most people. I sent in a message to try to right this egregious wrong and I hope it might eventually make all the difference as to whether I came in 100th or 125th.

After the race we drove to Benllech and much drink was taken while we waited to get into our holiday let. In no way connected to said drink, this proved much easier when I found Bryn Meirion was the name of the terrace rather than the house, and there were 4 houses with this name on them… and I’d realised I  was trying to break into the keypad sited on the back of number 4 rather than number 2.

Back to ultras, I think.”

Sundowner Middle Distance Triathlon

Meanwhile, Steve W - in a bid to leave options over for Euro / World age-group events next year - flipped places with Steve C and instead of his usual sprints took on the Sundowner Middle Distance Tri (1900m swim / 90K bike / 21K run) held around Allerthorpe near York.

For different reasons to Steve C’s swim, Steve W’s swim also started as something of a farce. Many of the competitors (including Steve) were caught out by an unseasonably cold water temperature, which made the 1900 metres of murky, choppy and crowded waters a real battle. Strong swimmers seemed unfazed: Steve struggled with frozen muscles and an ice-cream headache.

The windy and tough bike leg brought better fortune, though, and Steve made up a good deal of ground passing literally hundreds of competitors in both his own wave and waves that had set off beforehand. He’d chosen to ride an old favourite steel-framed bike with only a single freewheel (52 x 16) with nothing even approaching a deep-dish rim in sight. Many riders of carbon-framed aero-wheeled ‘super bikes’ he passed must have wondered what on earth was going on.

The run proved tough. A half marathon is no easy distance in its own right and run off the back of a soul-freezing swim and 56 mile bike, it becomes a whole new world of pain. In spite of some rough patches Steve held on reasonably well to his places gained in the bike and finished in 4:55:39 with a position that should see an easy qualification to next years Euro and World age-group championships.