"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Cotswold Standard Triathlon - Saturday 28 July 2018

Every so often, you just get a race where everything goes right. I was hoping for a PB, having got a new wetsuit that  improved my swim and T1 and also having remained relatively uninjured on the running front for a few months, but you just never know until the race is underway and you see how body, mind and heart are responding.

I rested up with zero exercise for about 4 days before the Tri and had a visit to Keith the Osteopath to loosen up the problematical joints - he mobilised my ankles and got more freedom of movement into my back and neck as I'd hoped. He also took a look at my right achilles and mentioned that it was thickened a little but that I should get away with racing on it. These days that's as good as it gets!

The forecast was mixed and it was much cooler than it had been - a brief hiatus in the 2018 heatwave meant it was only 18 degrees when I arrived. Wetsuits were optional because of high water temp but mild air temp, so I pulled mine on to take advantage of the better position it gives my body in the water. I guessed that would more than make up for any time spent extracting myself from it in T1.

I felt focussed and relaxed but strangely detached - not inspired or excited, just "ready". It seemed like an age waiting for my 5th wave to start, but when we finally got in the water it was warm and clear, as close to perfect as I could ask for. From the sounding of the starting horn I felt good in the water - surprisingly good. With the new wetsuit I had less resistance and I could tell I was pulling more water. The wave was small so there was no crowding at the start and I knew I would just have to keep sighting and stay out of trouble at the buoys. The swim sprints I had practised paid off at those corners when I was able to surge a bit and get ahead of other swimmers to have a clear turn. The swim passed with no problems, no exhaustion, just a feeling of being on the limit, almost breathless but not quite, and moving forward well. In the end I clocked 27.59 which is a best ever for open water 1500m.

I took my time in T1 - getting out of the wetsuit was easy for once but I took a few extra seconds to pull on socks and arm warmers as the clear summer skies had clouded over and it was raining a little. The main shower had fallen during lap 2 of the swim which was good timing from my point of view - not so good for those on the bike already from earlier waves.

Once on the bike with the garmin switched on I was focussed on speed - 20mph average across the course was my goal and that meant pushing at race effort - real, full-on race effort - all the way. I couldn't relax to take a look around, but even so I managed to soak up some nice scenery as we passed through Cotswold villages and between golden fields. The bike leg was one long burst of effort lasting around an hour and a quarter and then, mercifully, it was time to change which as we all know is as good as a rest. The rest in this case was the flat run around the lake and again I was on the limit from the first step to the last.

I picked up my watch in T2 but at race effort I couldn't get it on to my wrist - it would have meant slowing down or stopping - so I just held it the whole way round and glanced at it as I finished each lap. I soon realised I was on for the PB and worked out my target times for each of the 6 laps. Surprisingly I was on target then ahead of it, passing other runners steadily the whole way round.

When I finished there was no energy left for a smile for the camera, it was just more intense effort right up to the line, and a pleasing PB of 2.23 at the age of 50.

Well, what a race. I didn't enjoy it the way I enjoy some races, as the effort level was hard to sustain, but at the same time I loved it. It was tough all the way but my body responded positively to it,  my mind surrendered to it and inwardly I felt totally satisfied. You can't keep getting PBs forever, but to get one at 50 is a great feeling and more than enough reward for the hard efforts in training.

There was soreness in the achilles in the run as expected but a post race massage helped and now as I turn my attention to half ironman - sorry, middle-distance - that's my main concern. I guess I'll have to work on speed-endurance on the bike and bluff my way round the run. For now though it's the satisfaction of a PB that's staying uppermost in my memories of the triathlon as the weather changes again and we're back into heatwave mode for August - who knows what I'll get in the New Forest come September? My  main aim is just to finish it, but seeing as long distance on that course took me 13 hours 9 years ago, I guess 6 hours for the half distance would be a good target.


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