Saturday night was the big race of the year, Midnight Man. An iron distance triathlon starting at 6pm in the evening and going through the night into the wee small hours. It would be fair to say that the lead up hadn’t been ideal. A less than impressive Milan marathon in April followed by overcoming the sustained injury from that, followed by knackering my shoulder crashing my bike…. Well, I wasn’t expecting much. I had however had a good couple of bike rides in the shape of the Etape de Yorkshire and RideLondon so it wasn’t all bad.
Registration took place a couple of hours before, a pleasent change to doing it the day before like other iron distance races. Perks of the late start. Racked the bike, bits set out in transition I was about good to go, just enough time to continue my pre race hydration.
I had pondered how to fuel myself leading up to the race, the normal process being a big pasta dinner the night before and then a bowl of muesli the morning if the race, about 2hrs before the start. I woke on race morning, cup of tea, big bowl of pasta, sorted bike and then a nap. When we arrived to register I then tucked into some tasty homemade flapjack and malt loaf. I basically tried to recreate everything, but during the day. The nap was nice.
The last things to do before starting the swim was to lube everything and knock down a gel. The liberal application of lube is not only to prevent the west suit chaffing during the swim, but also to make it easier to remove the wetsuit, and prevent any chaffing in over more, delicate places. It’s a long time to be on the bike and you don’t want any rubbing to cause problems on the run.
The swim was 4 laps of the lake/pond starting with a deep water start. About 300 people climbing into the lake. Not all of us where doing the full distance, some where doing the half distance options (2laps) and many more doing the quarter distance (1lap) There were also people doing this distances as an aquabike (just swim/bike) and seemingly each option had a different coloured swim hat. Me, I had a nice light blue.
The first lap was frenetic as everyone set off like mad and the turn at the first buoy was madness, just as it should be! However halfway through the first lap things got much calmer, the faster swimmes off the front, the slower behind me, I had more of less open water. Head down (literally) I ploughed on, getting through the laps until it was time to exit the water. I glanced at my watch, 1:07. Blimey, that went better than expected. I’d hoped for my normal 1:15ish but feeling fresh, however this was waster and I was feeling fresh. Things where looking good.
Into T1, wetsuit off, quick towel down socks, bike shoes (unlike a normal tri where they go on the bike) arm warmers, shades with clear lenses and helmet and off!
The bike course was 20 laps, yes 20 laps. However it was closed roads and as they said no potholes. It was out and back along the duel carriageway, and then out and back along the express bus lane. All closed, all smooth, all pretty much flat! From doing it the last time I remember ether being a bit of a headwind at various points of the course, and indeed there was. However it changed every lap!
I settled into my groove. And spent the first few laps scanning the road surface for tricky bits while it was still light. Nope, pretty much all good. A few rumble strips approaching a roundabout and a metal strip on the join of a bridge, but mostly smooth. Nutrition plan had been, and indeed was the same as for RideLondon and Etape de Yorkshire, whereby I had a muesli bar after the first half hour and then every hour after and a gel in the half hour between. I had also a few bottles of energy drink to keep me hydrated as well. Nutrition worked well, I ate and drank the whole way throug and at no point did I feel like I was flagging.
The laps past and as with the swim the first few laps were full of people, and there was a load of drafting. However there were a good few motor bikes out acting as draft busters, didn’t effect me, I was too busy going past people. I was going well and then the dark came. Still passing people, and the only people passing me had much higher numbers (meaning they were doing the shorter distances) this was good. I carried on. Due to the nature of the course I was able to stay down on the tri bars for the long stretches, coming out and stretching as I turned and sprinted out of the corners. Everything was holding up well.
I was passed by a low number on lap 12, he drew along side and checked what lap I was on. We had a bit of a bitch about the drafting and then he was off. So I had one person infringement of me. Maybe I could catch him on the run.
As darkness came there was a problem. Not that I couldn’t see (council had refused to turn on street lights on the dual carriageway) but it was difficult to see all the people who had no lights. Seriously, who rides a night race with no lights?! Apparently loads of people. Still, as the laps went down more and more people finished the shorter distances. I was still passing people, my legs were still good, my spirit still high. The last few laps got colder, with there being a very cold breeze towards the turnaround but I could manage three cold laps, after all, I train in Yorkshire.
The last lap done I was into T2, shoes on, hat off, picked up gels and off! I knew I’d gone under 6hrs for the bike, something I had hoped for. No time to thing about that, the pain of the marathon awaited.
The course was 8laps and flat. Like, proper flat. I had run it four years previously at the Bridge Triathlon so I knew it was flat. The issue with my knee had meant I could only run on ultra flat suraces, so I had been limited to outdoor running, but I knew this was flat.
The first part of the lap was an out and back with a small loop in the middle with the second half of the lap being a loop. This meant that the first half of the lap I could see how I heald up with the other racers. I saw number 44, the guy who passed me on the bike and he was going well. There were also a few people who we’re going well who’s number I couldn’t see so had no idea if I was racing them. I pushed as hard as I could. I was asked before if I was going to try and negative split the run but for me the marathon of an iron distance is all about going out hard and hanging on for grim death. Exactly what I was doing.
Nutrition was a gel after kilometre 10,20,30 & 35 and as with the bike I never felt low on energy. My legs started to hurt, a lot, as the laps went on but I was keeping fairly good running form and although I was slowing I was slowing slowly. I could see number 44 each lap and every lap he kept getting just a little hit further in front. Not a lot, but just a touch. I had to keep pushing. I was running at my max and knew I couldn’t go any faster, which meant I had to hope that I pressured him into pushing too hard and bonking. It’s never nice hoping for someone to have a bit of an explosion but this did feel like we were racing each other. As we passed for the last time in lap 8 we high fives each other, he had beaten me, but who else had. The numbers had dwindled but I had no idea who was on which lap. Giving it my all I hammered the last 2km, legs burning, lungs exploding I headed to the finish line and crossed in 10:15.
Are you ok?
The nice lady at the finish asked. No, no I was not ok. Everything hurt. Everything. It was quarter past four in the morning I was tired sore and wanted to sleep.
Congratuitous, you came second!
What. That couldn’t be right, I had a good race but surely not that good. Turns out I had. Hearing that perked me right up. Staggering to my feet I collected my finished medal and T shirt and got a cup of tea.
I came second and with that came a nice trophy
But better than the trophy was my time. 10:15:40. I will talk more about the time when I do a proper analysis of the race and splits but my goal at the start of the year had been sub11, given my poor year of injuries I’d hoped for sub12. 10:15 was more than I could have ever hoped for! Time to head home as the sun came up. I needed to drink a lot of recover beer!