I’d planned to do two middle distance triathlons this season as part of my long ramp up towards a full Ironman (hopefully in 2019) and reckoned the competitively priced Sundowner at the end of the tri year would be perfect. A little bit of down time from Majorca 70.3, dedicate some ‘supporting’ time to Mark’s middle tri’s and then a ramp up back to peak fitness in July/Aug/Sept! Well, I think I’m better suited to ‘early in the year’ tri’s because the summer hols, back to school activities and a hectic period at work soon put paid to any adequate training plans! At least I now know that I can perform with less training than I would ideally like, but I wouldn’t recommend it, ha ha!
The Sundowner takes its name from the fact that the race starts at midday, so you should be finishing (depending on how fast or slow you are) as the sun goes down … picturesque sunset images should fill your mind, as opposed to hundreds of sweaty athletes swaying around trying to stay upright and cross the finish line! Obviously, some of the athletes don’t even break into a sweat, but they’ve long since finished, showered and changed whilst I’m still out bumbling around the run course! The event venue is at a large static caravan site, in a flat region just south of York. The organisation and parking at the venue was good and registration was quick and easy.
The lake is quite small, we had to do four laps, and quite shallow in sections, many of the tall men were walking around one corner of the swim circuit. There were lots of safety kayaks out for such a small lake, too many in my opinion, they kept shouting whilst we were swimming which was quite distracting and I’m not sure they were paying that close attention to the swimmers as one drifted out into our swimming line. As I was turning around a buoy, I actually hit the kayak with my hand as I came around the other side of the buoy, ouch! The bike section was two laps of the flat countryside, I made good headway for the first hour keeping an average pace of about 19-20 miles an hour. The start of the second lap caused some bewilderment and amusement to the riders as a local protestor was jumping out into the middle of the road, gesticulating and shouting things like ‘endurance is a fools game, stop and help people instead’ – I did shout back at her asking how she was helping people, but I refrained from actually turning round and going back to explain that I’d raised over £1,400 for charity by doing such an endurance event – my average speed was more important to me at this point … ok, yeah I was a bit scared of her too, lol! The last 10 miles on the bike really started to hurt, the wind had picked up about halfway through and now the rain started. I could feel that I had been skimping on my ‘long’ bike rides, 2 hour training bike rides are not enough I definitely needed to do my 3.5 hours rides, lesson learnt! I’ve never ridden for so long on my tribars, the Northumbrian hills don’t allow for an extended time in that position, so at 50 miles I could no longer cope with the saddle sore and had to pop up on the hoods, cue lots of people passing me to add to my pain! Nevertheless, I completed the bike section with an average pace of 17.4 mph, so I was fairly happy!
Next the run, eurgh! 3 laps of the lake and the local country roads – I hate laps, I’d much prefer one big loop, but I managed to buddy up with a fellow competitor and we chatted, ran together and pushed ourselves to a really good pace. A half mile section of the run was on quite a busy road and I’m sure you can imagine that several hundred runners doing an out and back route three times caused quite a bit of congestion to traffic. This is the only criticism that I would have for the race, traffic couldn’t overtake and when they did it caused problems – a van managed to bash the wing mirror of a Discovery, cue shouting and cursing from the driver – fun and games on all sections of this tri! The event would definitely benefit from a traffic light system being put in place for this section of the run route. I think they could get it set out after the majority of the cyclists had set off on their second lap without it causing too much of an inconvenience to the super-fast triathletes; the staggered swim start with the faster triathletes starting later would surely reduce any issues and marshals could note down any time delays. Arrgh stomach cramps again, not as bad as Majorca but still painful! Another runner, who my buddy and I had picked up and dragged along with us, recommended Imodium before my next race. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has experienced these cramps before and if Imodium does actually help? Anyway, a short bit of walking at each corner of the road helped and with the clock approaching 6.5 hours my competitive streak kicked in and told me that if I didn’t finish in under 6.5 hours that I would kick myself severely later on. So I pushed on with one last extended stagger and finally crossed the line in 6 hours and 24 mins, ecstatically receiving my t-shirt and medal!
Two great things rounded off the day perfectly, a free hog roast sandwich for all triathletes and a lovely hot shower in the toilet block on the caravan site, bliss! I’d definitely do the race again and maybe next year a bunch of us can sign up, surely that’s our prefect kind of day out, lol!
N.B. A special mention to Emma Turnball who took part in the Sundowner sprint early in the morning on the same day and came 3rd in her age group. Another podium spot to round off her very successful tri season, well done Emma!