extreme2015, race reports

Treading water in a Dam Ard Triathlon

This is supposed to be a running club but here I am talking about Triathlon. Seems like everything I seem to do these days involves cycling in some form but this week its all about swimming, cycling and a spot of running.

I am not a good swimmer. That is one honest statement and something I’ve tried hard to change. In fact I’ve been trying to build up for the last year from someone who could do a single length in front crawl to well – someone who can still only do a single length in front crawl. I’ve been swimming three times a week for about the last eight months and managed to improve my technique a lot over that time but still can’t go more then a few lengths at a time.

Alison has been steadily improving; at one point she couldn’t do a single length and I was effectively alpha fish. I was slowly improving; going from 1, 2, 4, 8 up to 10 lengths and Alison was struggling with two. Now she can do 16 and that’s after putting together twenty odd laps in warm up.

So how is it that i’m getting worse and Ali is getting better. The answer is that I injured my shoulder when I was eighteen and its come back to haunt me now I’ve decided to do something interesting with it a couple of decades later. Okay so I ignored it for twenty plus years; some might say I treated it with disdain but honestly it wasn’t anything personal. Anyway – it didn’t accept my apology letter; or the flowers I sent. Man that left shoulder is a nasty piece of work.

So this has resulted in me having to reduce my swim quota to a couple of lengths at a time and limit my time in the pool to enough to wet my shins and ensure I have a damp towel.

So with my current personal best of two lengths I set out with Alison on Sunday morning for our first attempt at a Triathlon – keenly aware that yet again i’d not done enough training.

Alison is looking eager and excited and a little nervous. I’m full of dread and expecting to drown; worst case I get the kiss of life from aunt Mildred.

Alison decided that our intended Triathlon – Drax with its 400m pool doesn’t look as exciting as another one shes found call the ‘Dam Ard Triathlon’ and is described thus:

The Dam ‘ard Triathlon is a pool based Triathlon is set around the facilities of Rishworth School in the Pennines. The course will be picturesque taking in the moors, the valleys and passing many Dams on route, finishing in front of the magnificent buildings of the School.

Slightly longer than the average pool based tri expect a few inclines (after all it is the Pennines) for an end of season challenge.

I tell Alison I don’t mind as drowning in a 400m swim doesn’t seem too different to drowning in a 500m swim.

So we arrive at the start and having had our race numbers cemented to our left legs and right arm and having put numbers on every bit of kit and on every position I can think of we are directed to the pool for the start.

They check me out and decide I’m about to scarper so direct me immediately into the pool; i’m given approximately 38 seconds to say my last prayers before they start me off. The lane marshal tells me before I start that he’ll alert me when I’ve got two lengths lefts to go – “good luck with that” I think.

At 9:47 I start swimming. The first four lengths go ok; my awesome technique mastered over the last 8 months has prepared me better then I expect for the 22.72m pool lengths. I have 22 lengths to swim in total in this odd length pool. By length six i’m loosing count already as my breathing starts accelerating. I’ve gone from breathing every third stroke to every second stroke. Sometime later I guess i’m up to 14 lengths and thinking I’m going to drown. My shoulder is fine but I struggle to think as I’m breathing like i’m doing a 400m interval session (ok what I assume a 400m internal session would feel like if i every turned up to training). By 16 laps going on 250 i’m thinking that drowning doesn’t seem such a bad idea if I can stop. The pool is deep at one end and shallow at the other and i’m in the shallow section so I decide to do another length so I can properly drown myself. By 18 lengths I feel like i’m in hell and don’t know what is going on but that I should focus on my core and make sure I don’t do something I’ve already forgotten.

Lap twenty and the marshal takes pity on me and tells me i’ve done twenty laps; really i’ve only done three but he is beginning to feel embarrassed for me so lets me off easy. I finish the last two lengths with the thoughts that I’ve survived it.

Then i get out of the pool and realise I’ve got a hilly 30K bike and a hilly 8K run still to do. I pull myself out of the pool and somehow crawl out of the building; down the back steps and up to transition to my bike.

At the bike I get my race number on; pull a t-shirt on over my trisuit and drag my bike out of transition before jumping on my trust stead and pedaling hard out and up the first of the hills I’ll encounter today. The elevation is shown below.


The swim has taken it out of me; I’ve got nothing left at all. Mt hard cycling turns into a gentle pedal; walking looks appealing; my pride somehow kicks in and tells me to man up or something like that. I plod on taking one hill at a time and eventually reach the top. There follows a number of down hills; desperate breaking maneuvers and more hills before I hit the final top and bright blue sky. After a day of mist and chill this is a tonic. I take some time to look around as I pedal like crazy along the short flat stretch before heading down the last hill before coming back into Rishworth.

I’m keen to start running; well actually keen to get off my bike but my feet are frozen so I take a quick minute to put some socks on and kick off.

The legs feel like jelly after cycling; I’m running slow. Very slow. I seriously consider walking as really seems like i’ll be quicker. The first stint is straight up a hill; god I hate race directors. The run elevation is shown below.


The run is split into a couple of big hills; the worst part for me is at the 4K part. I was just finding my legs coming back to me and thinking that I could push on when I hit a set of steps which I was forced to walk up; by the time I reached the top my legs had gone jelly again. There was a water stop at the top and then I was running along the dam where I was cheered on by a family which was quite encouraging. I then hit another hill and ended up walking up to a road where I prepared to run again. It was at that time that I noticed the Pink Assassin; yes Alison came bounding up to me all smiles and asking how I was.


Alison escorted me back to the end bless her.

Alison won here age category. Not bad for her first attempt!

It has taken two days to get the race numbers off my body. Feels like I was branded in shame.

Our results are here.

Last Name First Name Bib Number Pool In Pool Out Bike Out Run Out Finish Total
Smith Alison 168 09:48:25 10:00:48 10:04:29 11:26:16 12:12:07 2h 23m 42s
Smith Michael 175 09:47:00 09:58:00 10:01:06 11:24:00 12:12:07 2h 25m 7s

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