You know the drill with this one. I open with how all normal people should be out drinking on New Year’s Eve, etc etc etc. We all know by this point I’m anything but normal. So, by now it’ll be no surprise to learn I’d yet again signed up for the New Year’s Day triathlon, in Edinburgh.
Katie and I really enjoy our little New Year’s jaunts to Edinburgh. We’re usually accompanied by my Mum and Dave the Lion (person, not animal), and we just spend a few days relaxing, have a few nice meals, and indulge in a gentle bit of exercise. That last bit is, unfortunately, reserved for the two of us, although I’m still working on Mum and running.
I’m completely unashamed to say, we were tucked up in bed by 10:45 on New Year’s Eve after a huge 5-course meal and a few too many drinks. We were rather rudely awoken by the massive fireworks display at midnight, which apparently some people stayed up to watch or something. I remember mumbling a ‘happy new year’ to Katie before drifting off again.
One of the best things about New Year’s Day is the offering of a ‘bonus’ parkrun, so we headed to Portobello bright and early after missing out on the Saturday due to Scotland being covered in ice and snow. Katie’s return from injury continues; we ran together, and she ended up finishing 3rd female. I’ve got everything crossed that things continue to improve with the London Marathon starting to loom rather largely in the distance.
We dashed home and I just about had time to wolf down some breakfast before heading off to the Commonwealth Pool to get registered and rack my bike. The Edinburgh Triathletes run a magnificent event, and everything was sorted within minutes – easy like a Sunday (Monday) morning.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the swim at this event is one the best you’ll ever do in a triathlon. While waiting for you start time, you can laze about on the seats that surround the pool. watching the earlier swimmers toil away while you stay nice and warm and have a chat.
There’s a separate pool alongside the main Olympic sized one to warm up in, and I took the opportunity to master my dive after last year’s debacle, where my googles fell off on entry and I swam the entire first length blind. I always leave it to the last possible moment before taking my place in the starting line, as I’ve discovered this winds Mum up immensely as she’s convinced I’m going to miss my allocated start time.
Swim – 7:40 (23rd/330)
I was very intrigued to see how the swim would pan out. I’ve had a number of sessions with Ray at Swim Canary Wharf, but we’re very much looking at the longer-term picture, and as such I’d done hardly any proper swimming, instead focusing on plodding up and down the pool completing drills to hopefully fix my atrocious technique.
However, I did know I was feeling much smoother and more comfortable in the water, so I set off at a hard pace, and was rather pleasing overtaking other swimmers in the first 100m. It wasn’t quite a max effort, as I held something back for the bike/run, but I still swam the 400m in 6:55, which I think may be my fastest ever and a good minute faster than 12 months ago.
Once the time is right and I go back to doing proper ‘sessions’ in the pool, I’m excited to see where my swimming can go from here. Until then, I’ll keep working on the technique and see where I can get to by the time the summer rolls around.
T1 – 00:50 (12th/330)
I spent an extra few seconds in the pool putting on a pair of gloves, since I nearly lost my hands last year to frostbite. Socks were part of the plan too, but after spending far too much time faffing with the aforementioned gloves, I sacked them off and ran out into the cold.
It’s like getting out of a hot tub straight into a freezer, safe in the knowledge you’ve got no chance of either drying off or warming up. The best thing to do is to get moving as quickly as possible, so it was minimal faffing as ever.
Bike – 31:08 (2nd/330)
There was no bike strategy, other than warm up and ride hard. Despite being only 10 miles in length, it’s a pretty brutal course, with 3 climbs of Arthur’s Seat before bombing back down the other side. The climb is a pretty solid one, but you know once you reach the top you’ve got a few minutes to recover on the way down and on the flat before doing it all over again.
Katie, Mum and Dave had positioned themselves at the start of the laps, so it was great to see them every 10 minutes or so and give them a quick wave. Fortunately, conditions were slightly kinder than in the past, with no rain and ‘warmer’ temperatures (still freezing), and they’re always brilliant in coming out to support.
I pushed a solid tempo for the duration of the ride, and wasn’t overtaken until the last lap when someone flew past on the final climb. Spotting his number and quickly working out he started 30 seconds after me in the swim, I knew I’d have to hold on to him if I had any hopes of a high placing. I put in a big surge and managed to plug the gap to around 10 seconds or so, keeping him in sight.
We bombed back down the hill into transition, where I made a hash of getting my feet out of my shoes before the dismount line, nearly coming to a complete standstill. The tarmac was freezing on my bare feet as I ran my bike towards the racks. Slicing nearly 3 minutes off my bike split from last year is a really encouraging result, with the time only being beaten by the guy (Neil Graham) who came past me, as I posted the 2nd fastest ride.
T2 – 00:39 (7th/330)
I’m getting the hang of these transitions. Trainers on, sun glasses on (obviously?), and out on to the course, with my new nemesis Neil running off into the distance.
Run – 22:26 (2nd/330)
I’ve always loved running off the bike and luckily I seem to get into my stride quickly. As I had the fastest run split at this race last year, I thought there was a reasonable chance I may catch Neil. As I started my loop of Arthurs Seat (the run is identical to the bike, but just one lap of it, instead of three), my merry band of supporters told me he was just up the road and I had a gap to bridge. I let them know I was ‘working on it’, through a series of grunts.
As it was New Years Day and not raining, there were plenty of people out walking, no doubt clearing their heads after the previous evenings festivities, so there was a bit of weaving to be done as I made my way towards the major climb. I could always see Neil in the distance, around 20 seconds ahead, but try as I might I just couldn’t seem to close the gap.
The climb feels a lot longer on two feet, and as much as I tried to tell myself this was a walk in the park compared to the Coastal Trail Series race back in December, Neil was edging away from me and I didn’t seem to be able to respond. I knew once I hit the top, it was a downhill sprint to the finish, so I just dug in and ground it out.
With my start time being over an hour after some of the early starters, there were plenty of people out on the course, and it was great to exchange words of support with others as we all suffered together. The race has a high percentage of people doing their first ever triathlon, and it was inspirational to see everyone enjoying themselves and discovering a new sport.
By the time I got to the top, Neil was out of sight, and I’d already worked out to finish ahead of him on time I’d have to cross the line 30 seconds before him, so that was probably out of the question. However, I reminded myself that I may well be in a race with some of the later starters behind me, so I needed every second I could get. Cue a mad dash down the hill back towards the pool.
I could smell the finish now and was thoroughly enjoying myself, grinning as I came into the home straight and spotting the crew shouting their support. After crossing the line, it was a nervous wait to see where I’d finished overall. My run time was 15 seconds faster than last year; meaning I’d got faster over all 3 disciplines.
Overall – 1:02:44 (2nd/330)
Whilst waiting to see if anyone finishing behind had bettered our times, I had a chance to catch up with Neil, and he quickly went from enemy to friend, as it turns out he’s a bloody nice guy. Having finished 5th last year (I was 3rd), he’s made some great improvements in the last 12 months and I look forward to following his progress in 2018.
A few minutes later it was confirmed that we’d finished 1st and 2nd; not a bad way to start the year. 3rd last year, 2nd this time around, I wonder what next year will bring? I suppose it depends if Neil turns up again or not…