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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bala Middle Distance Triathlon 2011 - Race Report

 The day before weather conditions were fine blue sky and some few fluffy clouds with a reasonable temperature (a bit on the cold side for me).
Bala 2011
Bala 2011

I was feeling fine and relaxed despite not really training enough for the Swim 2km, Cycle 81km and Run 20km in the hills of North Wales.

The forecasted weather was not looking good for race day so when I picked up goody bag after registration I was thinking about going home then but as I was up here I thought I might as well stay and do it as the lake looks quite nice.

Bala 2011

Bala 2011

A race report is available on the organising clubs web site (images may for dramatic affect and not the race day) along with the route and profile of the courses.

Race Day

On the day of the race after getting chip and number it then started to rain for the rest of the day. My idea of wearing long shorts to acclimatise was not a good idea in the cold and rain.

Bala 2011

Bala 2011

I had a good spot in transition which would be easy for me to find. Second row back from lake next to the tree (only one in transition area) it might give some shelter.


I was actually glad to get my wetsuit on, although my feet were cold on the damp grass and rain. It was getting colder while waiting for the race to start was delayed by 10 minutes

Once in the lake it felt it was warmer than standing around. It took me a few attempts to get my face in water due to temperature, I think the reported surface temp was 10c.

I started on back right of the start wave which was the first of three. Which I tried to go in a straight line to the last buoy as the rest looked like was on a slight angle from the start. This also avoided most swimmers who went to the left.

After about 950m we turned left for 100m, then the waves started before turned left again and the long swim back 950m.

I really enjoyed swim in the waves (0.5ft) getting thrown around a bit extra water swallowed sometimes when judging crest of wave wrong. I think the waves helped spotting the exit better as you were bobbing up and down and could spot the big red inflatable at the swim exit.

Got to end of the swim felt I could have done more and muscles not feeling as tiered despite the length of the swim. The hardest bit of the swim was getting out of the lake. As you are a bit disoriented after the swim trying to stand up in shallow water on stones was interesting and then walking along a pier to the transition area. It took me over a minute to get out of the lake after stopping swimming.


I kept all the layers in my tri box but separated into cycle and run sides to try and keep the kit drier for longer. I had double of everything apart from leggings which I had just my trisuit on, including 3 pairs of socks (calf length and winter cycling socks) and overshoe covers. Then I had winter gloves two hats and sunglasses (optimistic), cycle helmet and a waterproof jacket.

The person next to me I thought he was putting on his wrong shoes (running not cycling) but he was quitting after the swim


The course is a hilly out and back course. By the time I was on my bike people already turning back quitting on the cycle from the start of the cycle for miles with some of them just wearing trisuit in the poor weather conidtions. It was turning in to surviving and not a goal time.

A notable moment on the bike was about 8 miles in to the ride on the 10% downhill going 30 mph+ with brakes on (not working well in the wet) and a side wind which pushed the person in front of me in to my line and I was catching them up, it was “nice moment” with cars coming the other direction. Pity this was at a really great scenic view looking down in to the valley.

I was struggling on the hills which were not helped by the temperature being 8-11c on my bike sensor which does not include wind or rain chill.

When you see a person in phone box to keep warm you know it’s not going to be a good day. The ambulance and support vehicles were busy transporting people back to start and the marshals were in full weather gear.

Finally got to the turnaround point were the aid station was had a minutes rest filling up drinks bottle with isotonic powder I had and had something to eat. I also ensured that my kit was correctly fitting as I did not want to cold in this weather. There was quite a few taking a break from the elements. Then started off again which was up yet another hill.

There were a few supporters out in places braving the elements which was appreciated.

It seemed to be harder on the way perhaps due to the head winds and seemed more inclines. Up the 10% incline I was struggling to do 4 mph but I was catching others up until the pulled away on the down hill section.
I had oat and fruit bars on the bike every 30 minutes until the last hour then just drinks and gels, this seemed to walk for me nutritionally and I was able to open them up on the bike with my winter gloves on.

I finally made it back to T2.


When I got back to my bike rack I was asked by a marshal "if I wanted to continue as I did not look well". "It was just the cold on the bike" I said and I was ok to carry on. I then changed in to to a couple of other dry running layers but keeping waterproof on top, plus a woolly hat with a baseball cap underneath and pair of running gloves.

Also took my 0.7 litre Polish Isotonic drink, it tastes a bit like hot lemon so might be useful keeping the cold away plus a few gels.


The run is a hilly out and back along road next to lake.

The first half mile is on flat gravel path next to lake before joining the road and the only flat section that I remember. There was not many people going out still, I thought I was the last. However there was a few other that came past me after a few miles plus I was catching up others. This was going to be mentally tough as there was not going to be as much support on the run course (runners and spectators) as there normally is.

It was survival day and I was getting support from those going back and the few supporters that were out. I was planning to drink sips every mile marker and every 3 miles a gel.

After 3 miles in my muscles starting to fatigue and was walking any incline but I made time up on the down hills and any slightly flat bits.

I was really glad to see the turnaround point at the top of the steepest hill, I had some water (might be rain water). Now I was heading back to the finish only 6 miles/1 hour away.

I was now starting to Yo-yo with a few others when I was running and walking, so we were chatting a bit just to get round. By the time we had got to 2 miles from the end we were all doing our own pace to make it to the finish.

In the last half mile I saw a fellow pirate (tri club) 100m+ ahead turn around and then start to pick up pace. I nearly caught them up I need a few meters more to catch them.

However I made it, I survived Bala 2011.

Race Review   

My times below are from the official results with some analysis from my GPS devices. These were my worst times at this course and my total time was 70 minutes slower than last year.
Overall time = 7:06:06
Swim = 51:07
T1 = 10:07
Cycle = 3:42:45
T2 = 10:09
Run =     2:12:01

Based on my position on each of the three disciplines the swim was the best, followed by run and then cycle. This was a bit of a surprise for me.

I did fell I had a good swim in terms of sighting and my muscles did not feel fatigued at the end of the swim or even part way round.

The cycle need to do more especially on hills. But I did cycle in wind and rain from the start and pleased with my bike handling skills in the conditions. I had good choices of kit available and nutrition on the bike. My average speed was 13.9 mph and fastest 34.2 mph with my cadence average being 63.7 and max at 87.1 rpm. Both of these averages need to be higher but I was in low gears on the inclines which slowed both speeds down. The most consistent 4 miles were about 7 miles from the end when I realised how close we were from the end of the cycle.

Running I was pleased with the endurance including mental part plus my kit and nutrition choices were good. My average pace was 10:41 with the fastest being 6:41 pace (for 0,4 miles sprint finish). My first mile split was 9 minute mile which was possible too fast and they got slower by about 20 seconds per mile from then until mile 6 which was 1 minute slower than the previous mile. The next 6 miles the split times fluctuated but all higher than the average pace.

My T1 and T2 times need to be improved but I was concentrating on getting warm dry layers of clothes on.

I was about 13 places from the end but from the number of entries 33% did not complete the race, I DID NOT QUIT.

After all that I was glad I did this race in the worst conditions I have raced a triathlon in, pitty it was on one of the toughest courses in the UK.

The post race chips, spam fritter and cup of tea tasted great and nice and warm, mmm.

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