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Highway to Hell

Cotswold Sprint Report

ghylandby ghylandSep 11th 2010
An interesting day at the office, this would probably be best described as a 'learning experience'.
I had some unfinished business with this race - a DNF last year after a nasty crash on the bike so I was keen to at least finish. I had done almost no 'proper' training for about 6-8 weeks with pretty much zero swim time, so had crammed in about 5 swims in the previous 7 days and a long ride plus a bike/run brick, relying on my fitness from footie for the run. So I started with low expectations and wanted to enjoy myself.

The weather forecast had a said 'warm and sunny' so I had dispensed with any wet weather gear. However it rained twice during the night (where I camped on site with a mate - highly recommended but it was very crowded but had a nice atmosphere). After managing to set myself up in transition and get to the loo (they always rush you at this race, my advice is to get there early!) we stood at the swim start and it began to rain again and didn't stop! I saw Wigan Rugby League legend Denis Betts at the start too.

My swim went OK. My first cock up of the day was trying to de-mist my goggles (for about the 4th time) when the horn went. So I had to sprint the first 100m to get into mid pack, but felt OK. Sighting wasn't great as the buoys on this course are quite small. Got round in 16 mins dead which was a tad slower than I was hoping for but not too surprising given my lack of preparation and wobbled into T1. The next hiccup was my hilarious attempt at wetsuit removal, despite slapping on a bit of bodyglide I appeared to have fused my skin to the suit and eventually wrestled the thing off. Due to the rain my sunglasses had a nice layer of water inside them (but I had to wear them as I have poor eyesight, mine have a prescription in them) and they misted up nicely on the run to the mount line. During this run, my bike seemed heavy and dragging so I had a quick check of the rear brake before mounting, all looked OK.

Onto the bike, I felt something wasn't right immediately; bike felt heavy, legs were struggling to get up any speed, and I was being consistently overtaken. What was going on? My cycling was meant to be the best portion of the race plus its a nice flat course. I suffered like this, quads burning and being overtaken by pretty much everyone, for about 6km when I got the hump and jumped off to see what the hell was going on. Immediately I saw my front brake caliper had been knocked off centre and was rubbing heavily......doh! Rather than faff about trying to re-adjust it I popped open the caliper which sorted it out and hopped on. Suddenly I felt like Fabian Cancellara (well, I was now able to ride at 25mph instead of 15mph!). I soon began making up places and felt 100% better, although the previous 15-20 minutes of hard toil had taken their toll. Moving through the field I was passed by a group who were blatantly drafting, I shouted to a motorbike referee the race number of the guy at the rear and I saw later he got a penalty. Normally I don't get too bothered by drafting, I know I don't do it and my times are done fair and square but after my earlier struggles to be passed by a cheat really made me angry.

I caught my friend (who had passed me about 10 mins into the bike leg) in Cirencester on the little climb out of the industrial estate. It was his first race and he was starting to flag a wee bit, I gave him some encouragement and hit the home leg to T2. Another little mistake was that I forgot to take my gel; I usually have this about 10 mins before the end of the bike to give it time to go down but I only remembered about 1km from the finish so wolfed it down at the last minute. I reckon my mechanical failure cost me 6 minutes; looking at other bike splits for the day for people with similar run times to me. Plus I went under 38 mins at Eton which was 20km+ and very windry. I reckon I would go round this course in about 36-37mins and did it in 43 minutes. It could have been worse I suppose!

My T2 was reasonable but by now it was tipping with rain but luckily not cold. I wanted to go round in under 25mins, which I did with about 5 seconds to spare. You don't get run splits by the lap here but I am 99% sure I ran the second lap quicker than the first.

I came in just outside 1hr 28. I had hoped to trundle around in under 1hr 25 and probably looking back 1hr 22 would have been easily do-able - especially taking into account the bike problems, terrible T1/run to bike mount and sloppy swim start; I threw away probably 7 minutes in these areas alone. Next year I will come back again would love to go under 1 hr 20. I really enjoyed the course, it is much more fun than the featureless wastelands of Dorney, it is also more friendly in general.

Also, to round off my bad luck, I could not find my goggles in transition when I packed up (or swim cap but I have enough of those....). I must have dropped them on the run to T1 out of the swim. I left my flip flops at the swim start too! Oh well, at least I didn't crash this time!
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