“I’m racing at beautiful Grafham Water next month and I’ve got a long weekend off work, how about we book somewhere nice and make a family weekend of it?” I said to my wife a while back. Now she’s no mug, but she is a good sport and conceded to letting me plan a 3 day jaunt as long as it had minimal sporting emphasis. I needed to make the trip memorable, but not for triathlon reasons so I set about finding us suitable a base in the area. Unfortunately, our family includes two dogs and with Huntingdon lacking a great tourist pull the only accommodation I could find was a static caravan adjacent to the A14. Obviously this was met with some scepticism, but we arrived Saturday lunchtime and initially our 9 month old daughter thought it was like one big play area. This lasted for all of an hour when her mood started to dip. We pacified her with a two hour walk around “the largest meadow in England” whilst I tried to find shortcuts home to save my race legs without voicing the inappropriateness of this particular leisure activity for a triathlete. Once fed and watered we attempted to put her to bed in the spare room conveniently located in the centre of our tin house. With creaking doors, paper thin walls and an insecure terrier that barked at every noise it soon became obvious that we were in for a rough night. After a couple of hours of soothing her to sleep only to wake her up closing the worlds squeakiest door (there wasn’t room for my WD-40 in the car!) the call was made- “if she wakes up one more time we’re going home”. Now, with Dambuster in 2 weeks as my only chance of qualifying for the World Champs at Olympic Distance this race was vital as my only OD sharpener. So I cooed, consoled and rocked Eva to sleep like never before and at 8.30pm two adults and two dogs retired to a cupboard of a bedroom on the premise that no-one was to move, talk and certainly not leave until 6am the next day. And I didn’t, only to check my watch (every 30mins) until I was able to unleash the greatest pee seen since Borat, after my pre-race hydration routine and a night contemplating a ruptured bladder! My daughter, bless her, had granted her dad the chance to race by sleeping the night through the night so I quietly ate my porridge knocked back a shot of beet it and hopped on my bike to ride to the race. Anyone who’s tried riding with an aero helmet and a rucksack will understand that that is either hideously dangerous, painful or comedic depending on which way you look at it (the pointing bit keeps getting stuck every time you move your head). 8 miles later and I arrived safely, with an only slightly cricked neck.
Suprisingly I felt better than I have before a race for some time, possibly due to being unable to waste nervous energy fiddling with my race gear the night before, and I was itching to start. With a half-Iron distance race also running support was good and the organisers had treated them to a swim that involved a mass beach start and two 750m laps with an exit at the end of the first lap and short run along the beach before diving back in to start the second lap, all very ITU. I reached the first buoy in the lead group before settling into a rhythm on the feet of another swimmer. Unfortunately as we turned past the second buoy I realised we’d dropped off the lead 3 swimmers and the gap was a bit too far to try and bridge. I kicked on a bit to minimise the deficit and left the water 4th in 21.05. Having checked out transition earlier I’d figured the grass route and mount line 50m before a major junction meant that putting my bike shoes on in transition could be a wise move. It was a good call and I moved into 3rd a few hundred metres later and caught 2nd and 1st just before the first turn around point. This was when I realised I’d been well and truly chicked in the swim and looking back the girl who came out first posted a blistering 20.15. The bike route was fairly undulating with a couple of short steep climbs and around 1000 feet of climbing in total, shy of the 1500 feet at Dambuster, but good practice. The route was quick, but conditions blustery so at times it was tough going into the wind. As at St Neots the Nice Tri guys had the course well marshalled and signposted and in the right conditions it would be very fast. I came back into transition in 58.30, just falling short of my target, but posting the quickest bike split of the day.
Back into T2 I managed to dismount keeping both my shoes attached (a first for the season) and set out on the run. Having ended up in a world of pain pushing too hard at Nottingham the week before I was aiming to contain myself so I could keep training in the lead up to Dambuster. The first 2 miles were pan flat out onto the dam wall and the out and back route meant you knew exactly where the other competitors were. I had a bit of a lead at that stage so when I bumped into Bec and Eva on the way back I stopped to give my daughter a quick kiss (probably about 4 seconds I reckon). The route then skirted back around transition, again making it spectator friendly, before heading up to Grafham village. From here the route got more undulating, no long climbs, but enough that you knew about it, good quality tracks and nice views across the reservoir. Another turn around point and back to the finish to find out I’d failed to break 2 hours, by a full 3 seconds, ”that’ll be stopping for Eva”, Bec kindly pointed out! Still, it was the first competitive 10k of the season and I was happy with 38.50 with something left in the tank.
I had a quick massage, QNT recovery shake, and momentarily felt better than I had all week until I wandered back to the car to see a pool of water under the engine. I missed the presentations whilst I was dealing with the RAC, and was forced to accept that, beside the race, the whole family weekend thing had failed miserably. We paid up at the caravan site, cut our losses and limped home to lick my wounds. I enjoyed the weekend for 2 hours and 3 seconds (probably 2 hours more than the wife) and learned that there is no pulling wool over her eyes and to try and do so will only end up in tears!