Chester middle distance triathlon – 12/06/16


river dee
Sun rise on race morning, before the rain arrived..


With just 6 weeks to go until Ironman Zurich, Chester middle distance (half the distance of an ironman) had been in the diary as a key warm up race for quite a while. Those who know me know that I absolutely love getting out there and racing, so I’ve not enjoyed sitting back and watching others race regularly while I’ve been training. I couldn’t wait to get out there and see what results the training would bring.

I was flying solo up north as Katie is off in Turkey working on her tan and getting in some warm weather training. Fortunately, another member of my new club (Clapham Chasers) was taking part, and I’d been in touch and arranged to grab a bite to eat in the evening.

I met George on arrival into Chester and we went to register together, making sure to get hold of our free t-shirts and additional gels that I’ll never use and will sit at the bottom of my ‘sports’ draw from now until the end of time/we move flat. We were in and out in 5 mintues, and registering the day before meant it was one less thing to think about come race morning.

After a quick check in to my accommodation, we hit up the local boozer, both salivating over a pint of beer but opting for the sensible option of a Diet Coke. After a hearty meal (2 main meals for £9 – you can’t go wrong), we went our separate ways to get an early night. I had orginally stumbled across George via his brilliant blog. I thoroughly suggest you read it. It’s much better than my drivel – he actually writes about things that matter as well as triathlon.

I watched England, alone, in bed. Bit of a sucker punch to concede so late on, but it didn’t stop me drifting off to sleep pretty quickly (although I did dream of tall Russians leaping high to send looping headers into the top corner). The alarm was set for 4.45am, but I woke a few minutes before so just got up.

After the standard breakfast of porridge with some honey, I faffed around getting my stuff together and cycled the 2 miles or so to the start. Sticking with tradition, it was bucketing it down, and I arrived to set up my stuff in transition already soaked. I don’t think I’ve ever done a dry triathlon (excluding the swim obviously), so that doesn’t bode too well for Zurich!

bike set up
Norah ready to go in transition




Time always seems to fly by during race morning, and after no time at all we were being jostled down to the riverside for the pre-race briefing. George and I exchanged good luck messages before we jumped into a relatively warm (19.8 degrees!) river Dee, the venue for the swim.

I’d done so much work on my swimming in the last 10 weeks, so I was excited and apprehensive to see if all the hard graft had paid off. We had to swim 1km upstream against the current, before turning and heading back towards transition. I placed myself in quite a bold position near the front, as I wanted to get in the mix at the start and try and hang on to some of the faster swimmers.

The hooter went and arms were flying everywhere, and I took a flailing forearm to the face, but luckily the googles stayed put. I went out hard for the first couple of minutes before settling into a rhythm and relaxing a little. The river smelt/tasted strongly of petrol which was slightly horrible, but I’ve definitely swam in worse!

swim start 2swim start

Once the swim kicks off, there’s no way of really telling how long you’ve been going for/how long is left. I just concentrated on all the things I’d been working on in training, taking it one stroke at a time. At this point I’d noticed it had actually stopped raining which certainly cheered me up.

I hit the turnaround point, looking forward to take advantage of now swimming downstream. I didn’t seem to be being passed by many swimmers so I took this as a good sign. Eventually I saw the ramp ahead where people were getting out, and pressed on, trying to squeeze out every possible second.

As I hauled myself out, I looked at my watch. 33 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. That’s a full 6 minutes quicker than my previous best time over that distance. As I ran up the steep slope to transition, people must have thought something was wrong with me, as I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat and throwing down the mini fist-pumps. There was still over 4 hours to go!

Swim time: 34:37 (8th in age group, 47th overall)

Strava link to swim

You’ll notice the time above is not 33 minutes. This was because there was a fairly long uphill run up to the transition area which took a minute or so. During this time I started to peel off my wetsuit and remove my hat and googles, ready to zoom through transition as quickly as possible.

For once, I managed to remember where my bike was racked and there was minimal fuss during the change, with the wetsuit slipping off and the new ‘look at me, I’m one of those knobish triathlete types’ sunglasses going on. I still haven’t mastered (or attempted), running out with my shoes already attached to the bike, so these also went on and I trotted over to the mount line.

 Transition 1: 01:35 (5th in age group, 26th overall)

The first few miles of the bike course went straight through the town centre before heading out into the surrounding countryside. Half the route is actually in Wales, so I sped up through there, trying to avoid any stray sheep or Welsh rugby fans who wear those stupid yellow daffodil things on their heads. Don’t even get me started on them – ridiculous.

I was in the new position of not having a shocking swim, so slightly nearer the front of the field. I was expecting to have a constant stream of people coming past me, but to my surprise I managed to hold my place, being passed by a couple and passing others.

I ride completely on feel, as I don’t have a fancy power meter, making it up as I go along. I had decided to push relatively hard as this tactic had treated me well in the past. I was expecting George to come by me at any moment, but unfortunately he had a crash on the bike course, though thankfully went on to finish and would have surely been well up the road from me if he hadn’t.


Coming back through the town to finish the first of two laps, I did the classic speed up a bit because people are watching (I’m convinced everyone does this and it’s not just me), before slowing again to a more manageable pace. I wouldn’t call the bike course hilly, there are a few minor lumps – nothing to write home about.

I was making sure to keep fuelling during the ride, demolishing a cliff bar and a few energy gels on my way around. A few spots of rain fell here and then, which was actually quite refreshing, and the legs felt good as I entered the last few miles. I pushed on as I entered the town for the second and final time, slipping my feet out of my shoes ready to leap off for a quick change onto the run.

Bike time: 2:33:30 (7th in age group, 35th overall)

Strava link to bike

The legs felt surprisingly good running into T2 with bike in hand. ‘Norah’ had served me well as always, getting me home in one peace, although an upgrade to Norah v2 may be required as I still seem to have by far the worst bike in the entire field (and mine wasn’t that cheap either!)

I decided to roll with no socks for the run (something I’d regret later), saving me approximately 9 seconds, so all I had to do was slip my run shoes on and I was away. I got about 30m towards the exit before realising I was still in fact wearing my cycling helmet, which probably wasn’t a great fashion statement for the run.

I turned and ran halfway back, before launching it back towards my bike, where it rolled to a stop right by my wheel. All those years of playing cricket had finally paid off. Amazingly, I had been able to find my racking spot immediately, helped by stealing Katie’s pink flowery towel to guide me there, although she doesn’t know about this yet so we’ll keep it a secret. I’m convinced she doesn’t read past the first paragraph of my waffling anyway, so all will be revealed soon.

As you can see by the below split, if the competition was all about who could get changed the quickest, I’d be crushing it. Who knows what could have been if I hadn’t forgotten I was wearing a helmet. I could have been the king of transition.

 Transition 2: 01:02 (2nd in age group, 7th overall)

Hitting the run course, it was fairly congested with most of the people doing the shorter Olympic distance race already on it. We followed the same course as them for a while, before heading straight on when they turned back, for an extra out and back section to get the required miles in.

I set out like a loon as always before forcing myself to slow down and just relax a bit. For me a dream day would be a 1.25 half marathon, so I tried to bring it down to around this pace, but ran more on perceived effort than anything elseI was pleasantly surprised on the out and back section to find out there weren’t that many people in front of me. The run for me is by far my favourite and strongest event, so I set out hunting people down.

The stomach wasn’t feeling great so I stuck to sips of water on the way round, sharing a bit of banter with the marshals, who were all absolutely awesome throughout the day. I was hoping to see George at some point, not knowing he’d had a spill on the bike, so was surprised to see he wasn’t a couple of minutes behind me.

The run is mainly along the river bank which was quite scenic, if not a bit sparse of support at points, apart from a few bemused tourists on one of those organised walks who decided to take photos of all the triathletes, which made me chuckle. They were also struggling to cross the run course to get to their next destination, with the guide using his golf umbrella to try and shepherd his flock to the safety of Chester cathedral.

You ran past the finish line at the end of each lap, which was where the majority of the spectators had gathered, so this was by far the best part of the lap, and it was impossible not to smile and high 5 all the kids. At this point you then head back out past transition to do it all over again. Twice.

I was hoping a gradual increase in effort each lap would lead to consistent lap splits as it gradually got harder to hold the pace, so I kept pushing through the second lap, but still holding back slightly for the final loop. On the out and back I could see I was slowly closing on a couple of lads in my age group, but the gaps weren’t closing quick enough.


I kept passing people every couple of minutes or so, and in fact wasn’t passed by an entire person on the run leg, which was a nice confidence boost. As I made my way through the finish area for the second time, it was starting to really hurt, but I tried to shut that out and concentrate on running as hard as I could.

I took satisfaction on passing through each point of the lap knowing I wouldn’t have to come by again. Time was passing more slowly now, and on the final out and back I realised the guy ahead in the same age group just wasn’t coming back to me quick enough. Still, I dug deep and with a mile to go was closing on another guy also on his last lap.

I took the advice others had given me of just sitting behind before flying by, giving them no chance to hang on. There was no way I could hold this pace until the finish, but I got enough of a gap before settling into my rhythm again. Turning onto the finish straight I gave it all I had, emptying the tank and crossing the line in a heap.


Run time: 1:18:58 (2nd in age group, 5th overall)

Strava link to run

Overall time: 4:29:44 (5th in age group, 18th overall)

Unfortunately, the run course was actually slightly short, coming in at just over 12 miles instead of the 13.1 half marathon distance is was meant to be. Still, if I add on another mile at my average pace this would’ve given me a half marathon of 1.24, way faster than I’ve managed over this distance in the past.

My running is nearly good enough to compete at the front of the field. I had the 5th fastest run of the day, and the second fastest in my age group (with the winner of my age group running a minute or so quicker than me). If the course had been the full distance, my finishing time would have been around 4.36, still a personal best by over 20 mintues. Sneaking inside the top 20 was also a nice confidence booster.

As the adrenaline wore off, my feet started to hurt, and I looked down to see my trainers soaked with blood. I had a number of fairly nasty blisters – that’s what happens when you don’t put any socks on in transition! I don’t think I’ll be making that mistake in Zurich. I’ll just have to live with the 15 seconds I lose putting them on.

I waited at the finish for George and became more and more worried that he hadn’t turned up. At this point I didn’t know he’d crashed, so eventually I had to shoot off to make my train. I messaged him and shortly after heard that he was in fact ok, bar some pretty nasty cuts and bruises. He showed a huge amount of grit and determination to even attempt the run, and actually flew round to post a ctracking run split. Very much looking forward to see how he gets on in Ironman Kalmar.

I packed all my gear up and headed back down south via a rammed Virgin train, slowly making my way through a picnic the size of which would have safely fed a family of 5 and their dog. All in all another succesful race ticked off.

3 thoughts on “Chester middle distance triathlon – 12/06/16

  1. Great write up as always Joe. And a fantastic result, congrats! Some people are good at marathons, some are good at triathlons. It seems you are bloody brilliant at both (damn you!!!!! 😉


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