6:06:51 (~9k swim,32k run)
23rd Male, 33rd overall
Andy and I were both looking forward to this race as we felt that it may be the first time where we’d both got excellent consistent training done during the months ahead. The week before the race we compared what we’d done this year compared to last:
2019 : 2018
Andy – swim 89km : 30km run 667km : 402km
Me – swim 164km : 72km run 461km : 85km
We’d both raced the sprint the day before and had raced well. Andy almost certainly had the harder day as he and Lotte were in a race for the podium right form the offer so raced the whole way round to secure the third sport (and free entry for next year … meaning we’ll be back again).
The weather for our race was quite the opposite of the sprint. The skies were dark and threatening, it was peeing down and the winds were increasing. The course was changed as the long channel crossing had 3 knot currents (!!) so the crossing was moved in to a safer spot. It actually didn’t make a huge difference to the length of the course reducing the swim by a few hundred metres and the run by perhaps a km or so though it did remove some running on quite tricky ground.
We delayed getting to the start but I was still pretty cold in the start pen and was not looking forward to jumping in the icy water. I wondered whether they would skip the first swim to give us more time to warm up. No such thing with these events – they’re meant to be tough and they don’t seem to wimp out when the conditions are tough.
The gun goes and the 250m run down the quay does little to raise my body temperature. Hit the water. No where near as cold as I feared. Probably because it was above the air temperature. The first swim was no towing so we stayed left and managed to swim across with Andy right in my draft. As we scrambled out it was clear a lot of pairs just didn’t attempt to stay together as we saw loads of people stood searching for their partner. Lotte described it was ‘competitor bingo’.
Now there was a longer run and a little ascending. This allowed us to warm up before the next swim which was 1.7km. Last year this had been gorgeous as the sea colour was amazing under the clear blue skies. This year it was quite the same with dark clouds, heavy rain and quite a lot of thunder. As we started the swim a pair went cruising by us. I was a little surprised but decided to try and get on their toes, fearing I wouldn’t be able to. However I found myself on the hip of the second guy and having to slow to stay there. Eventually I realised they’d faded a lot very quickly and just swam past. Towards the end of this swim I almost swam in to a photography. I only spotted him because I sighted. It did mean he got a great underwater photo:
Following this swim was the out and back over quiet hilly terrain. Going up the first hill I could just feel myself getting colder. I needed to adjust my goggles but struggled with cold hands. As we approached the turnaround we saw the leaders coming the other way. It was great to see. The front six pairs were in a big bunch and I reckon the first dozen were still within minutes. I hadn’t appreciated it was such shoulder to should racing for so long. We discussed it and I realised that I just wouldn’t be able to face racing like that … I put it down to age ! We got our swim buoy and ran back seeing all the other athletes. I was feeling a little nervous about this long crossing. It was raining, I was still cold and we could be in the water for an hour depending on the currents, wind and my siting / route choice. It made me contemplate just how gutsy / brave the weaker swimmers are to do such a crossing.
We hit the water and it didn’t feel too bad. Michaels (the race directors) words as we entered the water stuck in my head – ‘aim left of the mast’. With this in mind I made sure I passed other swimmers to the left as typically people don’t aim enough to compensate for currents / winds. I also felt last year when we’d crossed I didn’t commit to aiming to one side of the exit for long enough. It’s easy to think you’re nearly there and start to aim direct. I kept reminding myself to trust the advice. Soon we were on our own. I occasionally saw other swimmers way off right. I occasionally looked back to try and judge how far across we were. Slowly I saw the red lighthouse below the mast, I was. Still left of it. GOOD. I could see others weren’t. As we got closer to the lighthouse I looked for the flag and saw it immediately. We were bang on track.
It took an eternity to arrive but as we excited I was pleased with how good a line I’d managed (or felt I’d managed). I also felt cold, I could sense I wasn’t able to fully concentrate and my balance was off. As we ran to aid station I really appreciated Andy saying “you nailed that swim”. By the time we got to the aid station I was shivering. I even had warm sweet tea (something I really don’t like) to try and warm up. I wasn’t as bad as some who had fully body uncontrollable shivers. I finally manage to warm myself the more natural way just before we set off. I’d not fully warmed up by the next swim but it was only about 500m and I swam it flat out which really got my body temperature back up.
Round the coast of these islands the rocks are incredibly sharp and you’re jumping from rock to rock. My balance wasn’t back so I was careful – this was about the only section we were slower than last year. Soon we were back on the main island and starting the long run. We got in to town to cheers from Rachel an Lotte but no pizza ! This was gutting as we’d both been so looking forward to it. I only had a banana because Lotte ordered me to eat something !
As we ascended to the castle and up the big hill behind the heavens opened again. It was absolutely torrential. It was actually quite pleasant as I just kept my wetsuit up and my temperature was just right for running. On the way up we were passed by a male pair where the front guy was pushing and the second guy looked spent. Across the top we found them separated. They unhooked the cord and the faster one had left. It’s funny how some pairs just appear to be at odds with each other. We say a French mixed pair who seemed to be really at odds with each other – he looked pissed off she couldn’t go as fast as he wanted.
We ran this section so much better than last year and for a while exchanged places back and forth with the 3rd ladies pair. On the final rise Andy and I were walking and chatting as we approached the top. The ladies pair caught us and started walking. I said “no need to walk because we are” to which one of them replied “at least we’re not chatting” ! They flew off down the hill not to been again till the finish line.
The race ends with a couple of decent swims. The first is very confusing to navigate as various outcrops of rock blend when sighting so it’s difficult to know where to aim for. I went a little wide here and made a mental note to look closely at a map next year. As we approached the end of the final swim we passed French pair and exited the water with the 4th ladies (who’d come by on the descent).
We hit the final 3km run and after a brief moment of uncooperative legs we got going and soon found ourselves running at 4:45 per KM and still chatting. It feels good to finish strong and confirmed it’s perhaps the best prepared we’ve been for a race.