Completion not competing was my focus for this event whilst I have fun, be safe and enjoy the new race.
In the mad scrabble to get a place secured in this inaugural event I managed to beat 10,000+ other interested athletes to get a place on the start line. The first battle was won. This was going to be my A race of the season back when I registered, but inconsistent training due to family illness and bereavements changed that.
I was over weight and under trainined but was going along to enjoy this traithlon and give it all the wellie I could on race day. I did however reduce my own expectations taking my road bike instead of my carbon beauty as I’ve only been out on it once since IMUK and took my old fat fitting wetsuit !
Leading up to the race it was well advertised and promoted with the three G’s star line up was announced – Gomez, Gossage & Gordon. Mr J Ross pulled out, afraid of being chicked ? I’m sure Gomez and Gordon were stalking me as they appeared behind me various times over the weekend in the shop, registration area, loo queues, briefings and in transition. All were very approachable and chatty and never tired of selfies asked by others. Gordon’s wife was a little more nervous at her first 70.3 and happy to take advice.
As expected from ironman event there was a comprehensive Ahletes Guide, information emails covering everything from camping, parking, accommodation, training, etc. Note to novices – read this guide it saves a lot of stress, questions and tears at race weekend.
I had company to drive up with on the Friday which was nice. Approaching Shugborough Hall we could see the ironman circus was in town, lorries, inflatables, flags and banners signposted our route. All ran smoothly, we got to the ironman village to register, shop and attend the race briefing. I was like an excited kid at Disneyland happy to be back in a familiar environment of ironman events. Even the afternoon downpour didn’t dampen my spirits.
Whilst I was relaxed knowing I’d downgraded from an A race my travel companion was a lot more stressed as this was his main race he had trained for but had picked up a leg injury the weekend before – talk about chalk and cheese stress levels. Back at our respective hotels he went to roller, massage, pop painkillers whilst I ate, watched TV filled up Facebook, laid all my kit out and went to sleep after TGI.
Saturday was a washout as far as weather was concerned, it poured down from 7am to 7pm. We had our blue & red backs to drop off and bikes to rack. Parking was easy and we walked our bikes and bags to T1 and got the shuttle bus back.
T1 was very very soggy ! Puddles everywhere even inside the change tents. The lake didn’t look inviting and was as grey as the sky. T2 wasn’t much better but had mole hills dotted around. A friend went on a reeky of the run course and came across a puddle that would have swallowed the Vicar of Dibbley in it. After a social media share this was dealt with by the way of lots sand lots of straw which worked perfectly on race day even after 9,000 feet stomping over it.
Race Day – or a long training day with lots of friends old & new in a great location.
4am alarm to get to Shugborough Hall to park car at the finish area and hop on a shuttle bus to the start. These were full of nervous chatter and steamed up windows. Get there on time and no issue. On arriving the sun was out and blue skies – that wasn’t in the forecast, damn I brought my clear not polarised goggles.
SWIM: I was in the penultimate wave which was first of two ladies waves and relays ( which I don’t agree with, more on that later). So any men we passed on course were ‘Chicked’ ! There was a 10 minute delay of the first wave but this was back on track by mine at 8:30am, also by this time the clouds had formed and the wind picked up quite a bit. Starting front and off centre I had a clear water and was quickly into my rhythm, bilateral breathing and clear view of the buoys for sighting. There was two left hand turns and a final right. As I was coming upto the right turn I was passing quite a few orange, black and blue swim caps, men from previous waves I did think “This swim is long”
Exiting the water with 41mins on my watch I was confused and annoyed, why such a bad swim time ?? It bugged me throughout the bike too. Transition from lake to T1 was painful, rough concrete, stone chipping and gravel. Simple solution of matting would have made huge difference and running possible but we all walked and there were a lot of bloody sore feet in T1. This was my only issuer negative about the event.
BIKE: Exiting Chasewater was like going over a hundred crocodiles laid in the road, the surface was rough and broken up and the speed bumps never ending. The first 6 miles had a few sharp bends highlighted by plenty of tyres skid marks and indents in the hedges, larger or more warning signs would help. Then the last 50 miles the course flowed, it certainly wasn’t the Fast N Flat as promoted ! but the scenery, variety improved road surface and support was all fantastic. Yes on my race bike I’d have let rip for sure and cyclists must have loved it. Just over the three and half ours I was OK with that on a tougher than expected course. It as actually over in a flash and I could have ridden all day. T2 was a case of tiptoe through the mole hills and don’t go flying.
RUN: Like the bike I loved the variety, scenery and support on the run, again not flat ! We had sand, gravel, cobbles, stone bridges, saw, grass and luckily the hills were on tarmac. Three laps to collect coloured bands so you could tell where people were on course in relation to finishing. Whilst not congested it was great have so many runners together on course, yes I chatted to a few old friends and made some new ones. The support was phenomenal and funny too, inparticular those at the pub and Gin Garden Party got louder, more excited and drunker each lap, it was brilliant. I saw two other pirates on course and a third in the finishers tent, we high five’d and Aaarrgghh’ed our way round the course in true Pirate fashion.
As a bit of fun I added my birth nation onto my entry form so I was representing Jamaica fro Staffs 70.3 so had a Jamaican flag on my race number. I was born there, married there and have a passport somewhere 🙂 Wearing PSOF kit I really was the Pirate from the Caribbean this weekend and loved the support, banter and the fact I was the first Jamaican to finish !
Paul Kaye did his thing as I floated down the magic red finisher carpet, I was soaked from the drizzle but soaked up the atmosphere an cheers. Then I got photo bombed by a bloody relay team as they were fresh and fast down the finishers chute – ggrrrhh. So no head-on picture of me coming over the finish line with Shugborough Hall as a back drop. 2:25 for a soggy, multi terrain not so easy run course. Even Gomez commented on Twitter that the bike & run courses were tough. Seems ironman doesn’t do easy course but goes for scenic locations and support.
Video montage Staffs 70.3 – click to view
All in all I loved this race, being the first, the scenery, the supporters, the atmosphere, the organisation the feeling of doing a triathlon for fun & fitness. It may not be be the best for a novice with split transition, but if you read the guide, plan and follow instructions it’s easy.
Feed stations were perfectly located on the run and ride courses, the marshals, volunteers and organisation was spot on.
Apart from laking carpet from the lake and it taking me and hour and a half to exit the carpark before a 3 hour drive I had 101 positives and compliments for the event verse 2 negatives.
I found out after the race that the swim was indeed long for the last 5 or 6 waves as many athletes recorded 2200m on their Gamins. As the wind increased it must have blown one of the huge buoys off course. Swim times were 5 to 8 minutes of peoples usual times for the late waves. Which is a relief as I though I had become a shit swimmer overnight.
Not sure if it was lake water or too many Aaaarrrggghh’s on course but I’ve had a sore throat for three days post race 😷
ironman have an initial 3 year contract to run an event in Staffordshire and already been talking about extending it. This is a great venue and event and after a few teething troubles can be one of their best European events.
I finished very happy, safely and massively enjoyed my Staffordshire ironman 70.3 weekend. Sometime you just need to do triathlons for fun and enjoy the moments.I can get my race face on for another event at another time when I am ready.