5:30am - Race day starts at a hotel in Coventry where my first concious effort is to down the pint of sports drink placed next to the bed, closely followed by two hob-nob cereal bars (chocolate covered), a banana, and more fluid. It's the breakfast of champions.
6:00am - I'm on the road getting increasingly nervous (and tetchy) but somehow navigate my way safely to the venue where it all starts to go quite badly wrong. I get out the car and promptly turn my ankle on a large lump in the ground, then to help me get over it the valve on my front wheel shears off as I put the pump on it - to put it in context, it is now 6:55am, race brief is in 15mins, and my wave has to be in the water in 25mins - my kit is not yet in transition, and my water bottles still need filling.
Much swearing ensues and my (long suffering) wife sorts out the water bottles and my race belt whilst I flap big style and change the front inner tube. 7:06am - wheel changed but I am flapping even more as I think I pinched the inner tune when I put the tyre back on - It is pumped up and appears sound but I still flap like a good 'un. I dare not check the pressure on the back wheel - it was 110 last night - that will have to do.
7:10am I get my kit into transition and roughly laid out. A quick sprint to the race briefing where I use the time profitably to get into my wetsuit and pray I heard all the important bits. I race back to transition to check the layout of my kit and do some last minute prep. I look at my watch and it is saying 7:25am - I should be in the water now!!!!! A quick sprint and I am at the water where I literally have enough time to let some water into the front of my suit and we are into the 30second countdown.
The horn goes and we're off. I reckon it's 350m before I man up and deal with the cold water on my face, but from then on all I can think about is whether I pinched the inner tube and am I going back to a flat front tyre. My mind is nothing if not focused! I try to practice all my drills to be hydrodynamic, and exit the water in 31mins - a PB (thank you Mark). Up the hill to transition pulling off my wetsuit as I go, at the bike my drills are a little slow but and I exit without further mishap.
I quickly get passed by one guy on a swanky looking bike, but he applies the brakes going down a hill shortly afterwards (pussy) so I pile on the gears and fly past him. Onwards we go and I quickly start passing the faster swimmers. I know I am pushing hard as my legs are feeling the burn after 5 miles, but I am having a great time hunting down those in front of me.
Into my second loop it starts to rain, but as anyone who has been cycling this summer will know - it is just part of your Sunday morning ride. I am now a little worried about the run as the course is primarily on grass and it could be a little slippery, but I am on a flying lap and stop worrying too much. All the marshals are awesome and manage the traffic to allow the bikes to exit junctions without danger - I shout my thanks to as many as I can.
Back into transition, where my wife (and fellow triathlon widows) are cheering hard. I look at my watch and realise I have done 40km in about 1:07 - ANOTHER PB!!! My goal for the whole event was sub 2:45:00 and I am well ahead of that target. Good drills follow and I am out and running (slight embellishment there - more of a fast shoe shuffle) on the four laps of a flat (Ha!!) course. What they failed to mention was the 50ft tall berm you have to climb/descend on each lap, but like a good boy I keep running (unlike some).
By the time I get to the final lap, I have been needing the loo for some time (drank too much lake water), and when the kidney pain sets in I debate the pros and cons of peeing on the run or darting behind a container - decency prevails and I lose 45seconds and 600mls - a quick dash to the finish and it is all over: 2:31:29. It's not every day you take 38mins off your PB and finish in the top half of the field (just)!
My post stretch reward is copious amounts of fluid and a bacon buttie - nutritionally dubious but well received nevertheless.
Lots of lessons learnt about prior preparation and planning - but all in all a very successful day out.