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  • Writer's pictureDarren Last

Ironbourne Middle Distance Triathlon 2022 - Race Report

Mid July, Sunday morning, 2:45am and the alarm goes off. I force my head from the pillow and tap around to turn the alarm off to drag myself out of bed for the Ironbourne Middle Distance Triathlon in Eastbourne, organised by Tribourne Multisport events.

It feels like deja vu, it practically is as this was exactly what happened last year in 2021 when competing in this event. Having been such a fantastic event last year I had signed up straight away with the early bird and now here it is.....race day.

They say lightening does not strike twice but it has with the weather. The south of England is in the middle of a heatwave and the weather today is going to be the same, if not better, than last year. Glorious sun, 22 degrees plus, no wind and a sea swim flat as a pancake.

Race starts at 6am, so I have I set off to Eastbourne just after 3:30am to arrive before 5am. Register then get to transition and set up. It's a chaos getting all the gear packed and ready as well as the nutrition (no small feat given the 5/6 hours work that is gonna need fuelling). As ever check the bag three, four, five times. I am certain i check more each time and i now don't pack until the morning to save unpacking and repacking. 🤯

The last few days have been hectic juggling the many balls of life brings, charity quiz night on Friday, drop my son off for a school trip at 2:30am Saturday morning and my daughters engagement do Saturday day/evening. This is all good though, this is life, this is what we love.

I was in two minds was to whether to compete in this race as 2 weeks before tested positive for covid. Although just a head cold and tiredness I wasn't sure whether I would be fully recovered with the body able to go the distance. With middle distance being a 5/6 hour duration it is not the event to find out halfway into it that you should not have began. Neither physically or mentally.

Having experienced events where I have not been well enough I knew I would trust my body and how it felt after a few sessions leading up to the weekend. I have also been using 'Whoop' in the last few months which tracks your body composites such as Resting Heart Rate (RHR), Heart Rate Variation (HRV) and all sorts of other data which indicated I was 'primed' (Whoops way of saying how ready you are for activity) for action.

So here it was and here I go......

Ran out of time to get wetsuit on before transition closed

I arrived just before 5am as planned parking the car directly by transition, outside the start/finish, on the promenade for a worthy £8.

It was a bit of a rush as I queued for the toilet and then had to be out of transition by 5:30 following strict timelines. I had everything racked but not quite the nutrition meticulously organised as I had hoped. There was no time. I grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, ear/nose plugs and headed off to pier.

What is fantastic about Ironbourne is that the swim starts with a jump off the end of Eastbourne pier. It truly is an amazing, unique way to start a triathlon. The drop last year was approx 6ft but today the tide was not quite in so the jump was much higher. It's (rightly) cause for a bit of nervousness amongst triathletes as the jump can be quite daunting. I myself and not a lover of heights but this was ok and I also had the experience of last year. Everyone jumps in one by one in single file. Get to the edge, jump. Don't wait, don't think, just hold the goggles and jump.

So many people don't hold the goggles and end up losing them. This happened to the guy in front of me which meant I was then left lingering at the edge whilst he was handed another pair of goggles. It was ok really as the commotion with him and his goggles and when he was going to get out the way distracted me from the jump. As soon a he was out the way so was I, dropping deep into the water, a little tuck roll and to the surface I rose......with water in my goggles, which I quickly released and set up on the beautiful swim.

The swim was lovely, flat, warm, and the current was decent. If anything the current is with you for most of the swim. I felt it was much less than last year.

After 1.9km, and 34 minutes, I was running up the beach towards T1 to finally sort nutrition (I get a bit OCD like most triathletes about what goes in what pockets/bike bag as well as what needed keeping for the run). I left T1 and began the 90km bike ride that I as hoping to do under 3 hours like last year. I knew what to expect with the bike leg as it was reasonably flat until the last 10/12km which took you up the steep/windy hills of Beachy Head.

I was on the bike at precisely 7am and heading along the promenade and heading inland, all very familiar. It's funny how you end up with different people or periods where one overtakes, then some time later you come back and pass again. Then just as you wonder if you have lost them they pass with you with some friendly banter. I had this for the first half of the bike with two other guys. One with the name only as 'S' on his bib and the other was 'Harry', a younger guy who looked the business.

This is what I like about Triathlon, people out to enjoy and have a bit of banter. Of course you have the serious people who don't like to get involved in any kind of conversation, but that's fine, each to their own. They probably think I am am talking a load of rubbish. 😝

The ride was going well up and past halfway as the route headed down the closed roads segment, by this point I had lost Harry and 'S' and was riding solo until one of the MedwayTri club guys Richard came on past. Great guy Rich and plenty of banter so all was good and we kind of rolled up and down the last hills of Beachy Head together trying to muster some breath for a bit of chat.

On the final descent into Eastbourne towards transition I could see the runners coming up the hill. It was a different run route from last year and knew that the first part took you out in to the hills of Beachy Head. At the time I thought 'Ah, that ain't so bad.' I had assumed it was up this hill and then a turn point back down. Only when on the run did I realise how wrong was I? F*ck, that was just the beginning of the hills, certainly not the turn point........

So I hit transition after 3:04 on the bike, happy with that, and was looking forward to the run (my favourite part). It was steaming hot and had my new visor (all about the kit) to put on to keep the sun at bay.

Off I went up the hill I had seen previous runners heading up, and then suddenly instead of a turn point it was a sharp left down in to the hilly trails. I first got worried when I started running down a steep hill and see a runner walking up the other way past me. I thought the turning point must be at the bottom of this hill.

It wasn't.....

At the bottom of the hill was an aid station that then took you up a further hill very much away from where I wanted to be heading. After going up and down few hills eventually it turned back on itself. Jeez, this was tough. People were walking the hills and this was gonna be my tactic. Get to that last hill and then walk up there I thought.

By the time I got to the bottom of that hill I was desperate to walk. The heat and hills was beating me already and it was only 6km in to the 21km. I had to walk this hill. It was actually quite a long hill so the walk kind of acted as a bit of a recovery. Once at the top I picked up the legs and ran down the hill to the promenade for the (fairly flat) run. Here I found a pace I could sit into and keep (I suspected/hoped) for the duration.

First 6km was a killer of hills and heat.

It was boiling hot and the sun was beating down, I think its fair to say majority of runners had been zapped by the hills of the first part of the run. The rest of it felt like we were heading to the end of the earth as we ran from east along the promenade and continued, and continued and continued until we finally came across the turn and head back.

Again the run took us past the finish line to run the westbound part again but not the horror hills before bringing us back home to finish. I had kept the pace easy and was reasonably enjoying the run, stopping at water stations to hydrate and get sponges to stick on my neck to keep cool.

As ever happy to finally cross the line with a run of 1:54.

The run was tough, much tougher than last year. It wasn't particularly pleasant to venture into those hills with the heat, it was a case of just getting through it.

All in all another great day and unbelievably lucky to get such fantastic weather two years on the trot. I would highly recommend doing this triathlon. Its one of the best organised and on a hot summers day the support is just outstanding.

The jump off the pier? Just incredible way to start a swim. The flat roads and the challenging hills of Beachy Head are a joy. The run? Always love a run along a flat well supported promenade. Just don't mention those hills.

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