A glorious sunny day started at 5:15am in my own bed. For once the triathlon I was to attempt was within 35mins of my own house. My resident triathlon widow/driver for the day headed for the shower and I headed for the coffee and my oaty based breakfast+banana.
Prior preparation and planning had paid off for once, and though the use of a tri-kit check list developed on my I-pad following bitter experience, the car had been loaded the previous day and all items ticked off. It still didn't stop my pre-race butterflies worrying, but it helped to not do a headless chicken impression on the morning of the race.
The final pre race necessity was completed in the luxury of a non chemical environment and we were off in the car. We promptly became stuck behind the slowest driver in Wiltshire with an unbelievable amount of oncoming traffic preventing an overtake. At that point my butterflies started developing an unhealthy desire to possess and use automatic weapons.
Eventually we got into Bath and headed up the hill to the university. It took about 2mins to drive up the hill at 30mph - I sat contemplating a similar journey scheduled for about 2hrs time to be completed by bicycle, whilst my butterflies further developed an interesting Anglo Saxon vocabulary.
We arrived at the car park to the oh so familiar "pssst" sound of bike tyres being checked - another race season had started and it made me smile.
The car next to us produced a mountain bike accompanied by a beginner triathlete who admitted the bike was her sons, and whilst it had sort-of road tyres, she had not checked them and had never trained on hills. For the uninitiated, the CoB triathlon has 1,005ft of accent in its 23km bike course...
In a fit of decency I pumped her tyres up from 20 to 55psi (max on the tyre wall said 60), and we tried to encourage her to great things. At least I was unlikely to be last now.
Registration was completed, and our labels were a very professional set of bike and helmet stickers from sportstiks.com that included a "supporting 116" sticker for my triathlon widow. She declined to wear it, and I offered her the "bag label" sticker instead - and got "that look".
Bike racking followed, all organised and signposted, and we headed into the Olympic size pool for race briefing. The briefing was good with some humour to keep you awake. One memorable moment was when the race director confirmed that in the pool there would be no diving, bombing, or petting! On the bike briefing, we were told aero bars were prohibited for one of the downhill sections because of a sharp left at the bottom, but I rarely eat chocolate when riding, so ignored that advice.
We were split into groups of 8 for the swim and each group of 8 were given a lane to swim clockwise around until the magic 8 x 50m lengths were complete. Thankfully I was scheduled to be in lane 1 so would have a ladder to get in and out with - those in the middle lanes would have to clamber out over a foot tall diving plinth.
My start time came, the whistle blew, and off I went. I overtook the swimmer in front of me at the end of the first 50m, and at the end of the second 50m I felt a tap as someone wanted to pass me. I let him by at the end of the length, and he promptly went 10m and pulled up completely out of air as he had gone out too hard. Two lengths and two casualties - I am invincible!
One very slow swim later (9+ mins) and I am out and running to T1. All goes well and I am off down the road overtaking a lot of racers as I go. The course is well marshalled and I am working hard to keep the speed up and feeling cocky. The first decent (450ft) cures me of that - it is fearsome. I am doing 30mph and being passed by riders doing 40mph+ but I cannot take my hand off the rear brake as we twist and turn down the hill. At the bottom revenge comes my way as I power up the hill overtaking all the 40mph brigade and a few more for good measure.
Smile for the cameras, around the roundabout, and back the way we came. Down the non aero hill and up the other side overtaking others like the god amongst men I feel I must be. Back towards T2 and they sneak in a final hill I hadn't noticed on the way out which saps your legs just when you need them for running.
T2 goes well, and I perform the triathlete shuffle on shaky legs as I headed through run-out.
Ah yes, the run...
Now if on dating websites curvy=fat, then in triathlon "flat and on good ground" translates as steep accents through soft and occasionally mud filled woodland paths.
I took about a mile before I got into my stride, but once there I felt good and covered the ground well. At the 4km mark I realised it was on for a PB if I got my finger out, and I pushed on. At 100m to go I turned the corner to be faced with a 3m tall ridge we had to run up and across before the finish line would come into view.
Final dash to the line aiming for the photographer, and across we go with a new PB of 1:21:43 and I finished in the top third for a change!
Tea and medals followed with the usual post race bragging with my fellow athletes.
In summary it was a tough sprint race with good marshalling that I would recommend as a warm up for the Dambuster - if only because of the bike course. I even have a new favourite mug from my goody bag.