Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bala Triathlon

A couple of weeks ago I took part in the Bala Middle Distance Triathlon (Half Ironman Distance) in Bala, North Wales which was a 2000m lake swim, 80 km (52 miles) cycle and a 20km (12 miles) run.

On the way to transition with various kit options due to the varied weather conditions. I did not know my brother (photos courtesy of him) was there even though I must have been looking directly at him. Too my defence there was a crowd all with hoods up as it was cold and he was not wearing a top with his club name on.

On the way to transition


I was getting my various kit ready in transition with number of options for warm (I wish) and colder conditions. I had enough kit so I could even mix and match the available options depending on the conditions. However I was trying out so new kit for the first time in race conditions and only the second or third time they had been worn plus also some different nutrition options.
Luckily they were numbered areas to rack the bike and mine was one row back from the lake directly opposite the big inflatable exit arch. This was one of the easiest transition spots I have in a race.

Getting ready before the race


The stones on the way in to the swim start really hurt my feet ;-(
Others were also commenting about them and even the race announcer joked saying look at for all the ballet dancing going on!! Not quite the right image before starting a long triathlon going oh oh on tip toes.
The stones really hurt when walking on them

Just before the start with the cold lake water and walking on the stones, you could faintly smell the burgers from the catering van the other side of the finish. Due to the cold lake water conditions I had put on another tri top over my trisuit before putting on my wetsuit. I also had a thicker swim cap on  underneath my race swim cap. I decided on this due to the water temperature and the length of time in the water based on past swims.
What have I signed up for?

A view of part of the Bala lake were the swim had been and the weather conditions half way through the race.
The Lake

On the swim I started on the left side of the pack which was the nearest point to the buoys but a near the back of the pack. These would give me some more practice of being in the middle of a pack while open water swimming. The course was a big U shape course with the longer sections being about 950m and 100m section in the middle.
From the start I was sighting pretty good and staying fairly straight and was getting some more practice swimming behind and in a pack of swimmers. However my goggles were leaking a bit and I had to stop about every 200+ meters to correct. This was the first time this year they had leaked not exactly sure why, the only possible reason was the lot less hair so they were slightly lose fitting.
On the way back my sighting got a bit worse and I was heading to the right to middle of the lake, just to make sure I did a bit more swimming :-) Once I spotted the exit point I was fairly straight to that trying to avoid the faster people in the later starting waves which were on the left side.

On the exit of the swim trying to walk the plank after a 2000m swim is a bit interesting.

I completed the swim in 43:42 which I was pleased with pace wise but I had a number of stops due kit issues.

Walking the plank

On the way in to T1 getting the top half on my wetsuit on the run in to transition.

On the run from the lake exit

In T1 drying myself off a bit and trying to get a bit warmer. In the last bit of the swim I was looking at the cloud conditions to decide on what kit to use on the cycle. I decided I would not need the long sleeve cycle top but keep the extra tri top layer on but put a short sleeve cycling top on as well. I had to put a skull cap on due to the my short haircut and cold conditions. For the feet I put on my longer compression socks with a pair of normal cycle socks under those. I decided to use my tri shoes but with the shoe covers to keep some heat in and any rain out.

My T1 time from lake exit to bike mount line (far right of photo) was 6:19, this is really quick for me not sure what happened with that.

In T1


Then after a few 100m on the bike I saw and recognised my brother!! He would have to wait nearly 3 hours to see me again.
On the way out


In the meantime I am not sure if he went to the Ice Cream van. Not sure why there was not a queue for them, it looks almost tropical :-)
Not sure if they sold many ice creams!!

On the bike my target was to keep my cadence high and use my gears on the up and down hill bits. Nutritionally I was targeting to regularly take drinks and food including using Powerbar Cola Power Shots for the first time (sports sweets with caffeine).
The course is basically an out and back route, so you know what you have to do on the way back but you can also see the other riders going the other way.
The first 7 miles were mostly uphill sometimes doing only 7 mph up a hill on my aerobars!! On the fast long decent in to the valley I was doing 35mph+ in to a slight head wind with braking while trying to avoid the cars and caravans that were going down the 10% incline slowly and not leaving much space on the edge of the road. It was an interesting decent to say the least.
I got to about 16 miles before seeing the leader go flying past the other way (16 miles ahead of me). Then from about 10 minutes later there was lots of tri club mates going the other way.
The turnaround point was at the bottom of a hill with a bottle swap in the lay by. I had not finished my first bottle so I did not change bottles. Then the long up hill sections began on the steep hills including the 10% incline I kept my leg speed high (slowed down a bit) but I was overtaking people up the hills they caught me up on the down hill sections though. On this course I normally struggle up the hills on the back section so I was pleased with my bike fitness.


On the last 100m of the bike section of 51.4 miles (on my GPS), I did it in 3:05 which was an average of 16.7 mph with a max of 39 mph!! I was pleased with the pace on such undulating route which was helped by the cool conditions and also my race nutrition.


Near the end of the bike


In T2 I decided to keep any changes to a minimum due to the cool conditions. I just changed my socks to a different pair of compression socks and a pair of Ironman specific running shoes. I also had a hat and my GPS watch and a sports drink and a few gels. My T2 time was 3:10 which was a quick change over for me but there is still room for improvement.

Don't forget anything in T2!!

On the transition run exit, only a hilly 12 miles to go!!
It is looking so warm!!

Only 12 miles to go

The first and and last 1/2 km of the run was on a gravel path next to the lake.
A bit of off road running

The run has a number of undulations I went out hard but at a pace I felt comfortable with (not using watch for pacing) for the first 5 miles in just a bit over 10km pace!! As it only three weeks away from my first Ironman of the year I decided to ease back from this point. I walked up the inclines and ran the other sections, I felt ok doing this as it gave me time to recover and have any gels or drinks that I had with me. The only problem I had was when I got to the turn around point I realised I had left my race chip in T2 when changing socks!!

I kept the run/walk hill strategy until the end and I even had another energy left for a sprint finish which I kicked from about 1km out.
Sprinting to the finish

A bit of a sprint finish

From my GPS watch I completed the 12.37 mile run in 1:53 which makes it an average of 9:12 minutes/mile. I was pleasantly surprised about the pace and how I felt on the run leg of the triathlon.


A view of the finish arch and transition in the background. I finished the race with a time of 5:52 which was quicker than I had estimated event with trying a number of kit, nutrition and pacing strategies. I also think that is the quickest I have done on the this route at this event. The only issue I had was with my goggles so I may have to make some adjustments for my next lake swim, damn that will be at the Ironman!!

The finish line and transition


Like drowned routes on the way back to the car with all my gear after the race and in the rain :-(
On the way back to my car



                      

No comments: