The pre race plan was elegantly simple: Arrive early, pitch the
tent, register, curry, bed. The military however say that plans
never last longer than first contact with the enemy - in this case
8 minutes into the 117 mile drive, I announce to my wife that I
have forgotten my wallet. About turn, collect wallet, try
12 minutes into the restarted 117 mile drive we hit the first of
four traffic jams - at that point I decided the only course of
action was to break out the wriggly worms.
For the uninitiated, these are some excellent sweeties made by
the natural confectionary company that Helen swears that the
gelatin content has improved her nails (race report and beauty
tips, how I spoil you...). Two bags and 50miles later and I am
feeling a little sick.
Anyway, four hours and forty minutes into the two and a half
hour drive, we arrive at Rutland water to be met by a phalanx of
MSTC members patronising the on site restaurant. I register,
collect my t-shirt, and debate how many free gels it is polite to
cram into your envelope before grabbing a large handful.
We pitch the tent in the field next door and walk the 7mins back
to the restaurant after realising that neither of us can be
bothered to drive into town for a take-out. Fish and chips are
ordered, and we settle down to enjoy the company of our fellow MSTC
athletes - who all decide it is time to head to their hotels
several miles away.
We are forced into idle small talk over dinner until a passing
Dalmatian called "Pebbles" decides she fancies my dog and destroys
a good proportion of the seating area with her extending lead in
her efforts to get to him! We are clearly causing a scene and
decide it is time to head back to the tent.
The children of the two families camping next to us put on a
delightful display of unruly behaviour until at 9:58pm (and two
minutes before my "THAT'S IT" limit) they are ushered off to bed.
Peace ensues, and we too head to our queen size inflatable
mattress/divan, feather pillows and duck down duvet. Blissful sleep
At that point the geese decide its time to get up, and see no
reason as to why we should not join them. I make a mental note to
add "shotgun" to my equipment checklist, and attempt to return to
5:15 arrives too soon, and I am up flapping like a good-un.
Breakfast is consumed en route to the facilities, and pre-race
nerves start to show. Back to the tent where I collect the bike and
my new Tri-bag, and off to transition I head.
Transition is well laid out, with plenty of space for us all.
Considering I have the least distance to travel, I am still racked
and ready a full 50mins prior to race brief, and 85mins prior to my
start time. I wander around for a bit and try to calm myself with
some caffeine. Eventually the MSTC posse start showing themselves
around the briefing area and we club together like so many lemmings
on our way to the cliff.
Race briefing had some memorable moments, with competitors being
told to take their hands off their helmets, and a joke about
Barrett homes. We wish each other luck, and start congregating in
swim hat colour groups.
The race starts with a blast of the horn, and the first wave is
off. Another wave heads out 10mins later, and then before my wave
can go, the first swimmers are coming back in - 18mins since
starting. I tell myself that jealousy is not nice, but my ego
continues to chunter unkind thoughts.
It's our turn at last and off we go over the 30ft of sharp
stones hidden below the surface. I start swimming as soon as I can,
and am amazed by the visibility in the water. We head out to the
first buoy, and I start overtaking those who went out too quickly.
My sighting practice has stood me in good stead, and I round each
buoy right next to it. Competition for this prime line is stiff,
and I have a new black eye to prove it.
Out of the water in just over 31mins, and I run to the bike. Now
I am very chuffed by this development - normally I shuffle up the
slope doing a dog trot at best with my legs not working post swim.
So shocked that I am actually running at this point, I forget to
unzip my wetsuit until I am almost at my bike!
T1 progresses well and out I head on to the bike course. All
goes well on the roads, descents are fast and ascents slowed by the
weight of traffic stuck behind slower bikes. I manage a fair bit of
overtaking and make it past the 8mile mark where my bike broke last
year. Every mile from here is going into the unknown but I am
I keep the speed average up above 20mph and finally make it back
to the main road thinking "not long now". That final 5.5mile
stretch seems to last forever, with some great potholes on the
descent into the last village almost breaking my wrists with the
shock of hitting them. Up the final hill, down the link road, and
back to T2.
I look at my watch and it shows 1:53. I have a target of 2:40 in
my head so off I go. It's going to be close - but doable.
I keep my pacing short with high cadence to get my legs working,
and all seems to be going well until the dam. A guy at the feed
station shouts "High Five", and I start wondering why the hell I
would want to high five him when what I really need is a drink. I
grab the two cups offered and pour them over my head. As I grab
another to drink someone else shouts "water", and the penny
As the sun beats down across the dam I am now a sticky mess.
I tap hands with passing club mates as we go which is a great
encouragement, but by the end of the second mile I feel myself
slowing in the heat. From the dam to the turnaround point takes
forever, but I make it to the feed station and ensure I douse
myself in several cups of water to wash off the high five.
I focus on maintaining cadence and pray for cloud to hide the
sun - but it is not to be. I look at my watch and realise that I
have little chance of running the final 4km in 16mins as it has
taken 30mins to run the first 6. I dig in for a bit, determined to
be sub 2:45.
The final rise from the cattle grids up towards the watersports
centre drains my legs some more, and I start hearing the tannoy
more clearly - almost home.
Through the yacht park I go and I am greeted with my first sight
of the finish line accompanied by the sound of cow-bells. The MSTC
posse make some noise, and I am lifted enormously as I head to the
line. I hear someone coming up behind me and I push on to hold off
their attempt to beat me at the last.
I cross the line elated and lean against the railings not
knowing whether to collapse or be sick - I know for sure I have
left nothing out there on my race. Finish time of 2:43 - but a bit
disappointed to not get 2:40. I console myself with a cheeseburger
and tell tall tales to my friends.
Overall I had great race, and am proud to have competed at a
national championships level for my sport - I am finally beginning
to believe that I am a triathlete. Best of all I did not get
chicked until 6km into the run - I must be getting better.
Andrew Lennox, 22/06/2014
Some Dambuster finishers enjoying a well earned beer
(alcohol free, of course)
Check out the MSTC flickr
group and facebook
page for more photos from Dambuster.