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Jules Richards
Jules Richards

Extreme triathlon?

Triharder78by Triharder78Sep 2nd 2012
I woke to grey skies but the air was still which was a blessing. Dru and I (Dru was completing his 3rd ever triathlon, the first being Bristol - Sheltered open water swim with a flat bike and run, and Portishead - pool swim with a hilly bike) had a good early breakfast and packed our cars as the rain started to fall. Zo, Nyah and mother were up to wish us luck and would catch us before the start.

Driving up the A30 the rain really started to come down and the wind was picking up, taking the turn to Perranporth there was a lot of water on the roads and the wind turbines were giving it some so I knew the race was going to be an interesting one from that point.

We arrived good and early (first time this season!) and registered. I showed Dru transition and explained the run section (he said the cliff didn't look as bad as he had imagined) we then took the bikes for a quick pre race spin to do our last minute checks and I took Dru over to St.George's hill to show him what he had let himself in for. Luckily by this point the rain had stopped but the wind had picked up and the sea was looking pretty rough.

At race briefing we were told the race was going to be run as a full triathlon but due to the dangerous conditions they were going to have to make the swim longer! This caused a little but of a stir, the swim was going to be more like 1200-1500m instead of the normal 800-1000m because the sea was too rough?!? Growing up surfing in Cornwall and having done a stint as a beach lifeguard I understood the reasoning behind it.

After a few last minute checks we suited up and headed down to the waters edge, as we got closer we could see that the sea was really giving it some, the buoys had been put out but we could barely see them between the swell, a few intrepid swimmers went out to test the water and soon enough we were all lining up on the beach. As we were about to charge the lifeguards stopped us and informed us the swim would now start at the other end of the beach due to the wind being so strong if we swam the course in the regular pattern most swimmers would make the second buoy. This meant a good 750m run to transition across the soft sand...brilliant...a longer than normal swim and now a longer than normal transition!

Once we had a lined up again, Dru and I wished each other good luck, and we were off. Now it's said that races aren't won in the swim but they can definitely be lost, this was certainly the case today as the lifeguards showed why they are European champions pulling over 40 people out of the swim who got into trouble, that's over that's nearly 15% of starters who didn't even manage to make it through the swim! I don't know of many other races where that happens, Perranporth was certainly living up to it's name of an 'extreme' triathlon.

Once I made it through the breakwater (which took some time!) I could finally start to try and sight the buoy, but with the massive swell this was easier said than done. I managed to spot it and probably had one of my most direct swims which was good as normally im wondering off all over the place. Traversing the shore wasn't a problem, being out back meant no crashing waves, just the rise and fall of the swell and soon enough it was time to turn at the final buoy and head for shore. Now with a falling tide and a fairly hefty swell running the swim in was possibly worse than the swim out, body surfing was impossible and I took a real beating from a couple of waves loosing my goggles in the process.

I left the water with a group of about 6 other athletes having consumed a large quantity of salt water which was not feeling good in my stomach, transition was quick, and I was soon out on the bike and heading straight up St.George's hill, a 2 mile uphill slog and with a stomach full of salt water it wasn't long before I was sick over myself, not once but twice, lovely!

The rest of the bike was fairly uneventful other than the guy who kept drafting me until he managed to get on someone else's wheel and I didn't see him again unfortunately (I guess these are the problems you face when you don't have draft busters). I wouldn't say the Perranporth bike course is particularly hilly but the reason it's such a tough course (apart from being really exposed to the SW gale that was now proceeding to blow through) is that it's really difficult to get into any sort of rhythm. When I did manage it I felt really good but unfortunately these sections were few and far between. The other issue I had on the bike was the large amount of water in my ears and the feeling that I was still in the water, this made my balance quite poor so I was quite pleased to get to the end without falling off! Coming down into Perranporth with the roads closed was fantastic and having a huge cheering crowd at the bottom corner was lovely especially after the loneliness of the coast road.

Getting into transition was a bit of a blur, nearly didn't get my feet out of my shoes in time and then through transition as fast as I could. I noticed the weren't many bikes racked up so that meant I was in a good position so now all I had to do was hold on for the run. Tis is easier said than done at Perranporth as the first 500-700m are across really soft churned up sand, then straight up a 300ft cliff! There was someone in front of me to focus on which really helped and I had picked him off by the top of the cliff only to be over taken like I was going backwards by another chap who clearly was using me as his target. Once you get back onto the beach the sand firms up a bit and you can et a steady rhythm going. It's also at is point the beach stretches it in front of you and you realise how far you've still got to go. This coupled with the fact there are people already running back in the opposite direction can be a real soul destroyer!

I lost ground quite rapidly to the guy who had overtaken me but I was slowly gaining on someone else. However my quads started to cramp really badly which meant I couldn't increase my pace any more or risk having to stop altogether, the effort I had put into the bike was really starting to show. Going around the turn cone at the end if the beach I was greeted by the SW wind that had been blowing all day long and showed no sign if easing off, so just 3.75km on sand into a headwind with cramping thighs to go then...lovely!

Again the rest of the run past without incident, I still couldn't up my pace so I nearly caught the guy in front (who just happened to be the guy who had drafted me most of the way round the bike course) but not quite and luckily managed to stay in front of any other challengers.

I crossed the line 21st overall and 12th in the male open category which I was really happy with. Strangely my bike section was he strongest of my three disciplines which is the first time ever and bodes well for NZ as its a similar course. My finishing time was 2:08:44, with a 24:30 swim, a 1:12:48 and a run of 30:04.

All in all it was a race that lived up to its reputation and I feel that I left it all out on the course (the fact it took me 2 days to be able to walk properly is testament to that too!) I'd like to say a huge thanks to my support team on the day, Zo, Nyah and Mum who all stood around in the wind and rain for 2 hours shouting for me for each of the brief moments as I passed and to The Triathlon Shop for their continued support with everything and lend of the amazing ffwd F6 race wheel which undoubtedly helped me on the way to the best bike split I've ever put in during a race.

So now it's time to start my new job, rest up, fine tune my training, complete my final race at Langport and head for be honest...I can't wait!
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