Confidence is a great thing when you've got it. It was the final race of the year and I was as fit as I've been in many years. Getting a whole season in is an amazing feeling after so many years out.
There had been a few hiccups with the bike during the week, most of them preventable but I was ready. 1km sea swim, 60km bike and a 10km trail run around Anglesey and the weather was perfect.
Standing on the pebble beach I was in a world of my own. Rosemary had headed out on her podium quest 10 minutes beforehand. I may be an amateur with a lack of talent but that doesn't mean to say I don't take my racing as seriously as many top athletes. In fact, I think it's pretty tough to push so hard with no hope of winning, but that's what most people do.
3-2-1 go...... 350 people charged down the beach into the waves, some leaping, others walking but I chose to swim as it was the quickest option. I love starts. All the thrashing of arms, getting kicked, punched, ducked in the white bubbling water. Weird, But I feel calm, probably like Cav does in the middle of a sprint. A poor girl stopped in front of me but I had no option but to swim over her. It was like a bull run in Pamplona, with no where to turn and no way to stop. The first buoy was carnage but I simply held my line, fighting for space and then it was almost clear water for the rest of the straight line swim. Wow.....I just kept passing people.
Just over 17 mins later I was heading up the pebble beach, over the sand dunes and into transition. Wetsuit off...., better than Ali Brownlee at the last ITU. It just popped off. Helmet on, glasses, socks, shoes.....off. That went smooth.
I've always been quite conservative on the bike, but it was a fast(ish) rolling course and I was determined to go under 2 hours for it. It was uphill from the beach, over loads of speed bumps, through the village of Newborough and onto the open roads of Anglesey. Sheesh....more rolling than envisaged but the gradients were such that I didn't struggle too much. Hills are a real weakness of mine, although they're getting a bit easier as I drop weight.
Sweet as very few people were passing me and I was catching loads in front. At the 30km mark I had a gel, just as I passed somewhere cooking donuts. I made that point in under an hour so was happy. There had been minimal drafting (cycling too close to other riders to get an aero advantage, a breach of the rules) until this point, when a group of 5 riders shot past. "Cheats" I roared "Cheats". It had the desired effect and they soon split and dropped behind me again, unable to pass. I recommend this strategy to other triathletes who are distressed by the unethical behaviour of others, as being publicly chastised is worse than any time penalty.
The final pedal in to Newborough was tough, with a draggy climb and a very stiff breeze. Eek...I was thirsty but had ran out of water, thinking that I could get away with having one bottle cage on my bike. It was to prove a costly mistake.
I was relived to get into transition and remove my aero helmet. My head was very hot. Trainers on, hat on off I go again. The legs were a bit jelly like but experience tells me that they will soon get into the rhythm. a quick rhubarb and custard gel and a bit of energy bar! Yuk....I couldn't eat the bar so I gifted it to the ants. Brill...legs working again and I was soon passing loads of people on the run, albeit many from the previous wave.
What happened next was unexpected. My head was feeling really hot and started to throb. My ears were pressurised, having worn the aero helmet for hours, amplifying my breathing. I tried to "pop' them but failed. It was really hot, especially running up the dunes and I started to crave water. A small group of us formed, running together and I tried to stay relaxed. Boom.... I hit the wall and went from running at an ok pace to walking. What? Walking? "Man up" I thought....Rosemary wouldn't be happy if she saw me walking.
"Where's the water station?" I asked a young marshall. "I dunno he said". Grrr. For the next 20 minutes, I went through walk run, walk run.....and was suffering as much as I've ever done in any race. That includes the one where I was on a drip for two hours afterwards. People were now passing my in droves, and I was fighting back tears of frustration. I was feeling dizzy and very sick.
The water station was at 7km and I drank 6 cups of fluid like Beau Geste at a watering hole. Immediately feeling better, I started to pass people again until the sand dune trail where my legs buckled. I stayed upright. A chap offered me a jelly baby but being a veggie, I had to decline.
Reaching the beach, I saw Rosemary running towards me looking happy and shouting "come on Andy". Normally it would had been really welcome but not this time. Hell is a place to be on your own. Up over the final sand dune and over the finishing line. My momentum kept me going, everything was blurry and I was completely disorientated, collapsing on the ground just beyond the crowds of finishers. I shut my eyes, fighting back the tears as I was utterly disappointed.
A chap came up to me and offered me water. "Mate....you kept me going" he said. It appears that he had hit the wall at the same point as me. That helped. Rosemary arrived, telling me that she had finished 4th. She did great looking after me in such a situation, especially as I wasn't being the most rational human being. It took me almost an hour to start to feel better.
There's worse things in life that happen, but I was gutted. In hindsight, I hadn't drank or eaten enough and for someone in my line of work, that is inexcusable. Writing this blip a few days later, I can reflect on a good swim and bike but that's simply not good enough. I couldn't physically have put more into the effort, but a bit more careful thought would have meant that I had done my best.