My attempt to collate the wondeful blur of the past weekend Antwerp 70.3 into something meaningful and possibly useful. After arriving Antwerp on Friday evening, and registering the following day the reality started to materialise while digging into my complimentary pasta meal at the pasta party. Delicious pasta and good value at the additional €10 per ticket for the girls. Yes, my loyal supporters, wife and two daughters, had travelled with me to Antwerp to behold my latest assault upon myself, and help me get through it. The dawning reality so far consisted of a gift rucksack, T-Shirt and bottle of champagne. All of which I decided must wait till I found myself worthy post race.
I had decided to ignore some of the male swaggering which included arriving with either one’s bike designed through extensive wind tunnel research, or carrying your three-spoked carbon wheels with you to see registration (they must get lonely left on their own). I jest not. I was confident there would be plenty of bike gazing the next morning at the actual event.
The morning did not disappoint. After the longish walk from T2, the recommended parking, to T1 on the opposite side of the river reached by accessing a subterannean tunnel via a historic wooden esculator, the oldest of it’s kind apparently. The triathlete equivalent of “Debbie does aero bikes” started rolling when I enetered T1 to rack up, with a plethora aero carbon frames and full carbon disc wheels being almost the standard. But I was determined to be cool, I had the better engine right, right? Racking up was easy, clearly labelled, but with only part of my kit laid down since this was a split transition did leave me feeling a little odd, if not bewildered. As did the late start, I think I would have boiled half alive if I had zipped straight into the wet suit waiting in the pods. The 1130, Wave 4, had quite a long wait.
The swim went well, with me taking my time to whittle down the competition in my wave slowly, by the time the final stretch was in sight I was passing the stragglers of the previous wave. Up and out for the short run to T1 without misadventure. Rip off wetsuit and stuff it all into the blue bag that would be dropped off at T2 for me by thoughtful organisers, and after a quick wave of confidence to my supporters, I was off on the next part of the adventure.
The cycle course was not quite the mythical pan-flat course that gets bragged about in my opinion and I did find the wind direction very variable but thankfully not overly strong. I would think a windy day would be a real challenge out there in the open. Three laps of main course seemed to go by quickly without misadventure. Although despite seemlingly strict refereeing being in place I did notice something of a peloton go blazing past me at some piont (happily penalties were dispensed, thank you ref).
At T2 I happily found my running bits and peices waiting for me, and my wet suit from T1 neatly placed. Thanks Iron Man people! Unfortunately my happily non eventful triathlon ended here and the real pain and challenge of the day began. I set out at my normal half-marathon pace, ok, maybe a bit faster, closer to the Olympic distance pace. It felt good for about ten minutes or so, then… cramp here… cramp there .. pain there.. legs getting slower and uh-oh really in trouble now.. keep going … sore… keep going.. all stop as I lost all my electrolyte drink and gels, while staring into a very interesting Antwerp storm drain. It may have been too much electrolyte in the mix and my hamfisted measuring of the mixture for my second bottle. Or perhaps I had just gone to hard on the bike not sure really. Anyway the wind was really out the sails now. After the very welcome sight of Susan (my wife) and two girls, I managed to run-walk the rest, for a dismal bleak 2 and a half hour 13 mile run. I am pretty ashamed of that time, considering I normally dip comfortably below two hours during training, or quicker during race mode. But as a consequence I am now electing to run harder in training, and more maturely train for the longer run. I think probably the main error on my part.
It was the cheering on of my wife and family that kept me going when things felt the toughest. That and the shouts of “Gooo Basingstoke!” or “Come on Basingstoke!”, club colors really stand out.
So to wrap up. While feeling very confident and almost competitive at the Olympic distance I found the half-Iron a big step up and a real test of will power. I need to work harder on the run and run harder during training, but am happily surprised and pleased with the my cycle strength. The Pros of course make it all look so easy. I feel pretty hooked to the 70.3 distance. My total time 5H58, so catch you next year Antwerp.