The Centurion Triathlon is a non-standard distance event offering either 100 km or 100 mile races. Originally I entered the 100m as a ‘test’ event before Alpe D’Huez, but as that is now scrapped I decided to be a wimp and changed distance to 100 km. Given the weather, this turned out to have been a very fortuitous move!
Having also transferred my Heaver Castle entry to Chateau de Chantilly later in the season, recovery time / injury recovery (if needed) was not a concern. As the alarm went off at 4am, I was feeling pretty good about the day ahead…
If you are holding an event that involves bicycles it is not unreasonable to assume that some will turn up on roof carriers. Height restrictions to your only carpark might need to be opened as it saves a lot of problems and delay. Just a thought…
Having EVENTUALLY got parked, my first impression was that this event was a lot smaller than I had imagined. In fact the total field was circa 200 across the two races, with about 100 competing in the 100 km. Much confusion with picking up race packs and what could be left next to a bike in transition as opposed to in the transition bags provided (seemed obvious to me… But apparently some people are not able to cope unless everything is next to their bicycle).
Overall no dramas really. As far as I was concerned a smaller race meant smaller transition area, meant less chance of me getting lost and not finding my bike in T1 (yes that has happened before… Three time as you ask).
Goal for the day was really quite simple. Having never completed a half distance (I know this is 13k short of a proper half distance but close enough for the experience) see how that would feel and try and get my pacing right (which I am completely rubbish at as many of you will know!). Second objective eat and drink to plan, I often forget until I am hungry and thirsty or hit a wall. Having worked out exactly what I should consume and taken everything with me, no need for aid stations other than water on the run.
Finally a time goal: try and aim for sub 6hrs which should be achievable. Allow an hour for the 2k swim. Three hours for 80k bike which would be a stretch but I am supposed to be ok on a bike (I stress supposed to be after recent accidents). Finally a 16k run in two hours should be OK based on a standalone time of 2hrs for a half marathon. Then use a Tardis or time machine for transitions as no time allocated for them!
Swim 2k – Two laps with a deep water start.
I was feeling good about the swim. I have persuaded myself that I can now swim. I am a swimmer 🙂 Well that is what I keep telling myself!
The big question was whether this would be a wetsuit swim based on water temperature. 23c or above making it non-wetsuit legal. General feeling amongst officials and athletes was that most would feel ‘happier’ in a wet suit… And then just like magic the water temperature was declared to be 22.9c. Wet suits optional 🙂 With a note in the briefing saying “when you realise you are too hot feel free to get out after lap 1 and take your wet suit off!” Enough said.
Problems started as soon as I got in the water 🙁 I used my finger to rub some saliva on the inside of my goggles to stop them steaming up. Apparently said finger also had body glide and sun tan cream on it, leaving a smeared mess that was hard to see out of. As I turned and started to find my position for the start – I realised that swimming into the low sun, with messed up goggles and bad eyesight at the best of times, meant I really could see absolutely fuck all!! 🙁 But decided there was no time to do anything so would just have to get on with it… and try and draft someone.
The first lap was a complete disaster. I couldn’t see the feet in front of me. Went way off course and then couldn’t see the markers or the pack to navigate back. Tried taking my goggles off and in the process poked myself in the eye (you couldn’t make this shit up…). So I limped my way around the first lap, thinking about just giving up and getting out and generally having a strop. Breast stroke all the way (wet suits are just so NOT designed for that) and even had a little stop at the top of the lack to take stock of the situation.
The return leg was better as the sun was now behind me. Maybe I should carry on. After all I had paid for this, so I might as well use the opportunity to swim. I remembered something that my friend Sue had told me about picking a larger object in the distance rather than a marker buoy and that helped a lot. Enough to get me swimming properly, and even the early stages of something that nearly looked like ‘sighting’. Amazingly I found that I was able to catch up with the back markers. Maybe I could swim!
The second lap was better and faster as I was now feeling happier. Yes I was at the back of the race, but at least I was still broadly in the race!!
Not quite out of the woods. As I completed the second lap and went to get out (nobody around to help…) had the worst cramp in my right calf and just fell over and landed in the shallow water sitting on my arse.
Pretty much the last one out of the lake… Surprise!
Bike 82k (8k less than a regular half) on an undulating course
I like riding my bicycle. I had decided to take a road bike as I am not quite there on my TT bike yet and figured I would be as quick on a road bike. Still set up for the Alps (wheels and cassette) I was pretty bloody sure that any climbs would be just dandy 🙂
Even though I was obviously not really ‘in the race’ I thought that I might as well ride to the best of my ability. Which turned out to be a good plan. Overtook a few people early on and that made me smile (you KNOW it does…). A few people had mechanicals, so they were easy to overtake! Two people had got off to walk up an incline – REALLY???? Anyway, it did start to dawn on me that this was probably a long enough race for these things to add up. And that I should keep pushing as you never know…
At this point I also want to say how exceptional some of the marshalling was on the course. Exceptionally CRAP! One marshal that seemed to be looking after a roundabout and had a good view of oncoming traffic waved me on signalling all clear. She actually waved me straight into the path of an oncoming car that I couldn’t see… Driver swerved and swore at me. I swerved and swore at the marshal. The marshal shrugged her shoulders. I then decided that all marshals would be ignored and I would assume my own look out. (Which of course you should do anyway). Several other marshals were engrossed on their phones rather than even pretending to look at what was going on. And one was asleep in the sun…
Feed station was hopeless. Straight after a blind sharp left hand junction. No pre-warning signs. Bottle drop and twelve year olds waving bottles at you to grab, were all crammed into what felt like ten meters. By the time you saw them, it was too late. So as a ride through it didn’t work for me.
But all that moaning aside. I was very happy with my ride. It was a decent pace and power output sustained for the 82k. The nutrition plan worked and had no stops (just one swerve!). It was a good ride. Too good maybe… Considering I needed to run still.
Run 16k (two loops of 8k) making this 5k short of a regular half
I was expecting the first 2k to be a bit slow. That is how it always goes in training and then it all comes good after that. Today it didn’t. The run felt awful from the start and carried on feeling like that for the duration. HR and breathing was all easy and good. But my legs were completely busted and just refused to work properly.
On reflection, I think the run was actually a complete failure of my mind. Yes my legs hurt (quite a lot actually), but the bigger problem was I ‘allowed’ my self to adopt a short run / walk strategy to ‘recover my legs’ (when really I was just being bloody lazy and weak) and then felt hugely disappointed and annoyed that I had stopped running. This then just spiralled into basically a strop with myself! Yes I certainly need to adapt my training around running and have a think about that. But more than that I need to get my head sorted. I will be thinking further about the mental aspects of running.
Despite some problems it actually was not too bad an outcome! And I think that was the biggest lesson that I learned: I might be thinking that I am having a shit race, but actually you don’t know what drama everyone else is having. So it is not over until you cross the line and you might as well keep pushing till then. Anything else is a rubbish race strategy I have decided!
Secondly don’t fuck about with your goggles is another learning point. Coupled with the realisation that giving up quickly is a bad move and trying to find an improvised alternative plan is smarter. Basically learned to be flexible and re-evaluate my plan as things change. Easy to say now. Was not obvious whilst literally up to my neck in murky Hertfordshire water! Also if you end up sitting on your arse in said water – just laugh! Any other response is futile 😉
I need to learn to pace. I think I need more experience to help get this right. I went well on the bike… If it had been a bike race that would have been great. It’s a triathlon. Different. Note to self – learn. This applies to running as much as my cycling. I have lost count of the sessions that have gone wrong as I have basically just not managed my pacing and effort properly (short interval runs, long Sunday runs, turbo sessions… Pretty much the whole training shooting match really!).
I had another lovely day out indulging myself in something that I am growing increasingly keen and motivated by. Made a few new friends. Learned a ton of ‘stuff’. Didn’t get sun burned for once. Yes there are things to be moaned about, but its all part of the fun really 😉
A grand day out Grommet!!
Will I rush back next year. God no! I can’t see that I would want to race it again, unless there was a large crowd of friends that wanted to do it. In which case as a social… It’s not the prettiest location or particularly interesting course. The organisation was a bit hit and mis. The logistics weren’t great. Nice medal and polo top though!
Oh yes.. I nearly forget… I got my sub 6 hours. Crossed the line in 5 hours 54 minutes and the first thing I thought as I realised I had hit my target was “I’m bloody glad I accidentally became a triathlete!” OK, I only managed a 12th out of 16 in my age group… And yes I probably made more school boy errors than I even realise… And yes my time was slower than the Age Group Average… But I still felt awesome at the end, and isn’t that a big part of why we all do this nonsense?
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I think you are right Steph… I will certainly not be messing about with my goggles before my next race!! They were a nightmare to clean even when I got home 🤣
Triathlons like life are a learning curve….you certainly learned from this one Ed, but that’s what it’s all about! Well done in not giving up and completing it.