Duelling Affletes

Recently, I have been Thunder Running across scorched earth during daylight and through the sort of quagmire unseen since the Somme in the First World War. I have been riding my bike on high days and holidays and having a whale of a time. I still think cycling is still cheating, mind. I have swum in a lake and not drowned myself while chilling the fuck out and calming down. And all of this was in preparation for the Cambridge Triathlon which took place yesterday.

Only it didn’t. Thank you, blue-green, pestilential and poisonous algae. You can bugger off. Cyanobacteria produce toxins which can kill people to death and sadly they showed up in the lake at Mepal where we were due to swim yesterday. I thought that drowning was going to be a greater hazard than poisoning and have practiced really quite a lot so that I hardly drown at all these days. The organisers took the view that losing participants to something which still has the hump at us for being out-evolved a billion years ago was not an acceptable risk so changed the event to be a duathlon of 6k/40k/6k. The organisers are always right but I do wish that the bloody algae would just let it go. Your time has passed, my little blue-green friends.

I had planned to get out of the lake not last having enjoyed a bit of a splash around, bimble the bike leg waving cheerily to the marshals maybe overtaking a couple of ladies of a certain age if they didn’t mind and have a wee jog round the run course, chatting to friends as I encountered them. That plan went out the window because I would now have to actually do some racing. I had a steady first run during which I was overtaken by a handful of competitors from the next wave back. They were flying. I timed the run at 27:49. I didn’t know exactly where the transition lines were so it doesn’t reflect my official time. I didn’t faff too much in T1. Helmet on. Shoe off, shoe on. Shoe off, shoe on. Bike off the rack and run with it across rough ground to the start of the bike course. I have no idea how all that took 2:16.

I had overtaken some of the women from the previous wave on the run course and one of these nailed me right at the start of the bike. She was off like she didn’t fancy being chased round the bike course by a skinny, middle-aged, bearded bloke with pubes poking through his trisuit. I wonder whether the Brownlees shave down there. Maybe they just wear thicker material. It was a fun ride. The course was as flat as week-old roadkill and I was catching and passing some of the women regularly enough. The quick guys came past me at astonishing velocities. I could hear the whum-whum-whum of their wheels as they came up behind me. One came by so closely and at such speed that I was momentarily blown off-course. On a few occasions, someone came past and then struggled to make headway. I would overtake them again and try to pull away. I managed that once, never to see the rider again. Once I yelled at someone much younger to try it again and make it stick this time. He did and was gone off up the road after his next victim. Finally, I duelled with a bloke between Earith and Haddenham. He finally got away from me on the only climb of the day, a short 300m or so up to a junction in Haddenham itself. I must have demoralised the one guy on a time-trial bike I overtook somewhere between Chatteris and Somersham. Chris gave me a huge lift when he came past me halfway round the bike course. I was yelling and shouting and may have whooped a bit. I dug in there and continued my race all the way to Haddenham. I timed the bike leg at 1:19:35 which gave me an average speed of 30km/h, as near as makes no bollocks. It was the target Chris gave me so I’m quite chuffed with that.

T2. Oh, T2. It’s when you find that someone has taken your legs away from you and left you Christy Brown’s instead. Unclip the right foot. Stop at the dismount line, Attempt to unclip the left foot. Go on. Fucking unclip. That’s it. Swing your leg over. No, the other leg. That’s not working. First leg again. That’s better, Jog through to the bike rack. No, walk through to the bike rack. Walk slowly to the bike rack. Smile at the supporters. No need to swear at them. They’re being nice. Where the chuffing fuck is my bag? That’s it! No, it’s not. That’s it there. Right, rack the bike. Helmet off. Drop shades. Bend to pick up shades. Ohhhhh fffffffffffffuuuuuuucck! Why does that hurt? Shades back on. Shoe off. Fuck! That’s sore. Shoe on. Wince. Shoe off. Shoe dropped, Fumble. Swear, Wince. Swear again. Shoe on. Jog to the run course. Walk a few steps. Remember you’re supposed to be a runner and just fucking run. 2:41. Worst experience of the day.

I thought I would not be able to run at all. My back was aching. I had some intimate chafing issues because I’d forgotten to apply my chamois cream in the morning. As it turned out, I ran slowly but well. I think it was only my technique which got me through. I had little energy left and no strength at all. I turned out to be in better nick than the people I was overtaking. I kept thinking about light steps and using my arms to drive me forwards. I tell my athletes that your arms will get you home when your think your legs can’t. Drive back with your elbows not forward with your wrists and your knees will come up themselves. You’ll keep some poise and balance. There were some very, very tired boys and girls out there. I tried to encourage them as I went by. There must have been some people overtaking me too but I don’t remember any. I caught up with Clare with 2k to go and tried to encourage her to stay with me but she was completely spent. She had a stonker of a day overall though and came 4th in her category. I’ve been given a time of 13:48 in the provisional results for my second run. 31:48 would be closer since I timed it at 28:55. I made my overall time 2:21:18 which was reasonable since I would have happily have taken 2:25:00 when I set off.

Finishing isn’t the end. No. Then you have to try not to throw up over anyone important. Chris was waiting by the finish. It was a huge pleasure to see him there. There’s something about the snot you generate in course of vigorous exercise which makes it far more viscous and unpleasant than usual. I couldn’t find my inhaler because I’d left it in my car that morning along with the tissues I keep for removing mucilage. I was using the water I’d been given to dislodge the mucus which was making me gag and looking at the banana in my other hand as if I’d never seen a banana before. It was an alien object. I’d no idea whether to eat it, use it as a weapon or take it home as a pet. I saw Clare come in and then Glyn a few minutes after that. So, I beat a girl and an elderly man. Woohoo! I feel really good.

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