The Midnight Wo/Man is an amazing multi-sport event that sees competitors race through the night to the finish line. It has grown and now offers a whole range of races from sprint triathlon to full distance ironman triathlon. The friendly atmosphere is set against a backdrop of surprisingly scenic lakes in former gravel pits within sight and sound of the QE2 bridge at Dartford. Further adding to the attractions of this race is the fact that it is held on closed roads.
My chosen event was the half aquabike - 1.9k swim and 90k bike.
The evening was warm and bright with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees. 160 people milled around not wanting to get into their wetsuits until the last moment. Finally we were beckoned into the warm and clear water for a mass start. Being a rather sedate swimmer I waited until the keen ones had entered the churning mass at the front of the race and settled myself into a steady rhythm for 2 long loops of the lake. Having avoided being lapped, I was helped up a slippery slope by the welcome arms of the marshals for a short run to transition. At this point I realised that I hadn’t ever tried to get out of my new wetsuit in a hurry and probably should have greased up before the race or even have practiced. What followed must have been very amusing as I thrashed about failing to locate my zip cord and falling over my half mast suit when I did find it.
Somehow I managed to escape the clutches of my neoprene captor, clipped into the relative safety of my bike and set off into the setting sun. It was great not having to worry about cars and admiring the range of twinkling lights on competitors bikes. There was obviously a prize for the most opulent display with some people sporting full led frame lighting and disco light spoke illumination.
Offsetting the challenge of traffic was the technical nature of the course - 52 dead turns, 52 roundabout encounters, 26 right angle turns through bollards and the increasingly low sun. I have to confess to some accidental bollard bashing in my enthusiasm to negotiate the turns speedily. Counting the 13 laps was also a headache. My cunning plan of using elastic bands and pinging one off each lap went awry as the heat had caused several to let go before I even got on my bike. As the sun finally said goodbye the next challenge was gauging the speed of the slower riders by their lights and I saw a couple of near misses.
When I thought I had reached the end of lap 13 I pulled into transition for the final sprint to the line. It always feels like a cheat doing an aquabike when you see others set off for their run leg. It did mean I finished before midnight though. I had time to cheer the remaining triathletes on, especially the 10 who had elected to do the full ironman distance course. The night time temperature never dropped below 20 so it was both a balmy and barmy spectacle.
It was a treat to be part of such a welcoming and different event and realise Dartford was more than a crossing. I would really recommend this event.
Aquabike result: 3:03:53 - first in age group (55-60) and second overall (winner 3:02:06)