“Come and do something different, a more equal triathlon where you need to be good at all disciplines in equal measures.”
I was intrigued at this new concept and attracted to the new format especially the longer swim distance which those who come from a swimming background rather than on two wheels or in trainers would appreciate. Most triathlons are based on timing of 10% swim / 54% on bike / 36% running time. The aim of ISOMAN was to address the imbalance and create a triathlon where you spend an equal amount of time on each activity, so the distances are adjusted.
I signed up for the Half distance which was a 3.5 mile lake swim, bike ride of 30.6 miles and finish with 13.1 half marathon run distance. This would be the longest distance I have swum ever in either a pool or open water.
The event Start / finish / HQ was in Arrow Valley Park, Redditch and was held on a Saturday so I had to drive up on Friday with half of the UK teacher population as part of the end of term great escape. Registration and race briefing was easy and thorough with some nice goodies in form of socks, water bottles, gels etc.
Back to the local Premier Inn for food, Master Chef and a good nights kip, even better as the half distance swim didn’t start until 9:30 so loads of time to rack the bike and faff around with filling bottles and storing pork pies.
The swim – firstly 3.5 miles is a long way, however the four laps required ticked off. The first lap was a sighter, I stopped for a gel and drink at the end of the second, the third lap I was starting to sing to myself and watch the geese, then the fourth was on auto pilot which was a good job as one buoy had fallen over so harder to sight and another had slipped its teather and was resting on the edge of the lake amongst some confused geese.
The lake temp was about 19c, it was fresh, didn’t smell but was cloudy and you couldn’t see you hand as it entered the water. The three pointed star course kept sighting interesting and after the first 200m meters the lake was large enough there was no bumping or barging. The half swimmers merged with the full distance guys who were on their 4th or 5th lap out of 8, many said they were happy of the company. After the full guys got out the half were joined by the quarter distance swimmers of which there were a lot more breastrokers – I decided to go the long way round and avoid any more cracked ribs.
In hindsight I think I was a little to conservative with my swim effort, but I was going into unknown distances so wanted to make sure I completed the full distance. My laps were fairly equal too 29/30/30/29minutes per lap.
In just under 2 hours I hit the drapped purple carpet timing mat and headed for the lake exit. The minimum transition of 7 minutes was now active, this was another equaliser T1 was 7 minutes for all and T2 was 5 minutes. If you were quicker than this there was no gain, if slower this was just added to the next discipline time.
T1 was rustic, basically a carpark with some matting. There were male and female change tents but the hardcore base was too rough for my pansy soft feet. Wish I’d left some shoes at the lake edge for exit – next time.
Even though I had 7 minutes I still faffed around to fill it and add a few seconds. Don’t know why but I talced my hands ? Never done that before but suppose thought it might be nice and I had some time. I did resist tweeting or adding a FB post in transitions though.
The ride – 30.6 miles ( I did 33 miles !) Luckily the roads around this part of Redditch on a Saturday morning were quiet as we headed out along a few A roads, then onto a dual carriageway which was also an up hill drag, boring and windy for one and a half miles. This was my only dislike to the bike course as after that it flowed through villages on undulating country lanes. A few more signs would have helped as a couple of times I was wondering if I was still on course as with the bendy roads I was unsighted from other cyclists and didn’t see a confirmation route sign for 6 to 7 miles.
Towards the end I somehow managed to pick up the out signs and headed left off a roundabout back onto the devils dual carriageway. Spotting some red berries on the road I thought they look familiar which was confirmed when I saw a lorry wiper blade rubber also on the course which I recognised as first time was hoping it wasn’t a snake ! As I said before the dual carriage way was thankfully empty so I managed to do a “U” turn and head back following signs for the Arrow Valley Park where I picked up the inbound signs again. So and extra few miles brought me in just over the two hour mark.
In T2 I met many others who had similar signage issues, two need up riding the full bike course instead of the half distance, some did less miles and one other like me ended up on the dual carriage way a second time, but they had local knowledge and came back under it.
The run – 13.1 miles, half marathon distance. There was a fiddly first half mile which was grass/trail off road with a few animal holes dug to make you watch your step. Then we fed into the main loops which I would do twice. The run was in and around the park which was open to all. Whilst waiting for the swim start the Park Runners went past us. As it was a glorious day there were families, kids, dogs, mobility scooters, skaters, cyclist and walkers enjoying the park and sunshine. There were no bottlenecks as the competitors were well spread out but you had to watch for stray footballs, kids & dogs running across your path as well as look for signs or marshals to know you were still on track.
The course was thankfully pancake flat mostly on tarmac, a well stocked feed station under a bridge catered for all needs which we passed twice each loop then water & bananas at the finish / next lap point- sponges, water, gels, oranges, energy drink etc.
The sun was out and the new distance format suited me as I finished the run dead on 2 hours ( and 5 pesky seconds) but that is a half marathon PB for me whether as part of a triathlon or stand alone 🙂 Happy days. As I kicked my shoes & socks off I noticed my first ever foot injury from running – a mohican like blister on my little toe.
The finish area was a bit of an anticlimax, as runners also went under the arch to get split timings everyone was offered water of bananas but the volunteers didn’t know if you were going out on another lap or finishing. I had to ask where to hand my chip back and where to get my medal. Others were wandering around looking for medals a long time after they finished as missed them at the finish.
Finishing with 6 hours 14 minutes on my trusty Timex, I was tired but happy, especially with my run effort.
Presentations for the half were made, bands played and there was food and drink to be enjoyed in the sunshine. We were lucky with the weather but bad weather contingency plans would have to be made. I headed back to T1 to collect my bike which was a good 10 minute walk and took finishers away from the finish area and chance to support those still racing. Parking at the event was easy and plenty, I loaded my car and headed home a happy triathlete.
The following day provisional results came out which were adjusted as the transition times were taken out giving me 6 hours 2 minutes finish time with just 2 minutes difference across all three disciplines and so in the most equal half distance rankings I was number 1 🙂 being the most equal athlete. Woo Hoo – I may not be fast but I’m consistent in the water, on a bike or on my own two feet. I was later to be relegated to number 1 female and number 2 in half distance.
The new distances format suited me, the long swim was easy, the bike short enough to allow me to warm up and the flat run certainly helped me PB at the distance.
With a few tweaks (more signage, feed station for half distance cycle ride, carpeted change area in transition, more signage & marshals, make finish line special place ) this really could be a Must Do Event and I’d love to see it in a few triathlon club championships to mix things up.
Fancy a go at ISOMAN next year ? Provisional date 2nd July 2016