Enduroman 2017 2×1 – The Year of the Goose
You can’t know true happiness until you’ve felt true pain.
This year was a little different for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly Enduroman, for once, was not going to be my ‘A’ race with the Deca coming up in October. Then there was the fact that I was returning as a winner of one of last year’s races after my “Back to Front” training program. I would no longer be greeted as a plucky finisher here to struggle around again but as someone who was expected to do something! Now, I have to say that this is all just in my head – but I think that’s where pressure comes from…
My normal excitement was a little toned down, especially after my failure at the TP100 but once we got to the New Forest and saw our first ponies the excitement ramped up to its normal Enduroman levels – off the charts! It was great to see so many “old” friends again. Even though we might only see each other once or twice a year it doesn’t seem that way after so many hours of shared suffering, pain and joy – and of course Facebook 😜. I have followed them through their other events throughout the year, some successful and some not and it is this shared bizarre mission to find and push our limits that binds us.
Having helped Claire put up the gazebo in the turning circle and the awning at the camping ground this year it was time to have a few more catchups before registration. I also started to get my bike ready which included pumping up the tyres and breaking the valve on my back wheel!! I tried to fix it but, given it’s a tubular and the glue was dry, the replacement would not stick. I had to change to smaller rims and not so quick wheels which ultimately worked well in the windy conditions we faced. That meant some fiddling with brakes and gears – something I’m useless at – thanks to Doug for fixing it for me after day 1 so I had all the easy gears I’d need to day 2!!. My mum and dad had come over from their campsite down the road so they would not only be there for the weekend but got to come along and listen to the race briefing for the first time. But not before Claire and I did a bit of filming with David Pearce for DryRobe – looking forward to seeing how it comes out!. Had a great catch-up with Chris James and his family whilst waiting for everyone to arrive and then Chris Ette went through the briefing. For new people it might be the first time they hear the ethos of the Enduroman family; that is they will do anything they can to see you finish – and believe me it is not just a throw away line at registration. I genuinely believe that if you couldn’t go on without rubbing elephant poo into your legs late at night they would send someone to the nearest zoo and get you a bag!! Maybe Ellen could bring a bag from the elephants she studies next year!
After a good nights sleep in the van it was a reasonable 6:30am start on Saturday. We were all down at the lake by about 6:15 for Dan’s briefing. I’m pretty sure we were all a little nervous about how we would get on in the cold water and I was really happy that I’d swum through the winter. I went with socks, gloves and the thermals as there was cycling to be done afterwards and I was happy that once we got going it felt okay. At any rate this event was practice for the Deca for me so I wanted to do the same as I plan to do there, especially later on in the event. At the start I hung back and set off easily but noticed that at the first buoy I was in third place. My head went from “take it easy for two days and see how it goes” to – “I’m racing”!! By the second buoy I’d managed to swim into a little lead and I pushed on as well as I could. All the while I was monitoring my chest and breathing but as the laps ticked by it all seemed to be okay. One of the main issues I had was with an angry goose who was guarding his mates nest, some extra meters were done going round him. Fair play to him though, he wasn’t going to let us bully him out of his duties to his family. I was able to stretch out my lead and it looked like I might be able to hold it until the end. But with what I thought was 2 or 3 laps to go I could see Suzie closing fast. No problem if she went by, I kidded myself, it was going to be a long day anyway. But as I headed for the next lap buoy I heard Dan calling me over, I’d missed them telling me it was my last lap! So I was able to get out with a small lead, not important – but I had my “racing head on” as Worzel Gummidge would have said.
My transition was not the quickest but got out on the bike in 4th I think. Dave K had gone for breakfast. I managed to catch the others over the first lap and felt good about being in the lead as I’d seemed to go past them all quite quickly. Graeme though was not going to let me go on the bike and we passed each other going in/out of AT each lap with him closing the gap every time I stopped for a wee! Eventually he got ahead and pushed on and managed to slowly build a little lead. We both rode really well I think on that first day, I know that he pushed me and I might have taken it a little easier had I not had this idea of trying to win in my head. As it turned out, after about 7 hours, we finished the bike leg about 4 minutes apart. The laps, although only 10 this year, seemed much shorter as I was going a few minutes quicker. Even the bottom stretch back up to Braggers seemed to go by quickly.
I need to give a huge thank you to Mark Harvey who did a bike fit for me a couple of months ago which included his recommendation of the PDQ aero bars. Over both bike legs I was aero for about 95% of the time even on a number of the uphill sections as it was so comfortable. Only on the last couple of laps on the second day did I get up twice for a little stretch – but to be honest that had more to do with what was going on just above the saddle!! Being aero for such long periods definitely helped me get such consistently quick (for me) laps on that first day as I had not yet peaked with my bike training coming into the weekend.
I made a quick transition to the run and I got out to try to take back that 4 minutes. Early on I was able to catch Graeme up and set about trying to get round to take another lap off him. During the run I felt I was moving well and it wasn’t long before I got another lap. Now my mind turned to the next day and what kind of lead I might need to be able to defend it. I was joined by Dave for quite a few laps and it always helps to pass the time with some chat. I decided that if I could get a three lap run lead that would equate to about a lap on the bike so I pushed on to see if I could get it. As it turns out that when I went past Graeme again I was getting a 4 lap lead as, unknown to me, I’d actually gone out onto the run before him. It was nice to finish day 1 in daylight as it made it feel earlier that it probably was. After my recovery shake I went and had a quick shower before coming back up to the turning circle to see Rich and Susie and get my feet taped for the following day. Doug got me a coffee and told me Graeme was due in any moment so I waited to clap him in before heading back down to the van for my evening meal and bed.
Sleep didn’t happen as well as I’d hoped, a warning for the Deca! My head was full of stuff and I was worried that I’d not be able to move in the morning as my legs really felt like they had done some work, I probably only got a few hours sleep in the end. In the morning though as I walked down to the toilet block I was pleased to note that I was moving easily and that my feet felt okay. Getting back in the water seemed intimidating but once it was underway, all was okay as far as the cold went. This time we had the 2-1 swimmers in with us so I knew Rob Dunnington for one would be flying round. As it turned out there were a few really good swimmers that I did my best to get out of the way for. In our race I had the lead for a while but Dave came by me after a few laps. I was definitely feeling the effects of yesterdays swim and my form got worse as the race went on. As Dave went by me I tried to give him a smile but it’s hard to do that whilst you’re trying to breath at the same time. The goose was a bit more agitated today, I guess with the faster swimmers and the fact that there were more of us. At one point I had to stop and splash water at him, and then later had to stop behind Kaja as she did the same – it seemed funnier that time!! I got out 6 minutes slower that the day before, not bad given how poorly I felt I’d swum. Transition again was not the quickest as I made myself ready for the day ahead in the saddle and Claire made sure I had everything I needed in terms of kit and nutrition.
It ended up being a lonely bike ride! Lap after lap I saw no one. Sadly Chris James had decided not to start day 2 after a difficult day 1 – it’s hard to come back from a Caribbean holiday and have your first open water swim in 12 degrees! His training is timed for the Deca and I’m looking forward to catching up with him again there. I went past the lady riding the team single going up a hill through Burley but never saw the other riders apart from twice seeing Graeme, ahead of me, as we crossed on the road going in and out of AT. It was a slower ride, legs were maxing out on the little hills out of Burley and up Braggers and eventually even on the little rises you don’t notice early on. I knew my times were down on the day before but again I was able to stay consistent thanks to staying in aero for almost all of the ride bar the hills. I did have to stop to change clothes at the half way point, a tri suit with its smaller pad under cycle shorts was not working so went with just the cycle shorts and the problems I was having went away immediately – another valuable lesson. In all I guessed the bike would be about 1 1/2 hours slower than the day before and I was guessing I’d be half an hour or so behind Graeme, being happy that he had not been by me to get that lap. As it turned out I was within 10 minutes of him and the others all came in within a few minutes of me. No wonder we had not seen each other, we must have been going round in an evenly spaced line at about the same speed for hours!!
So onto the second run, how would the legs be? As it turned out – great! After a lap of easy walk running I found they worked just fine which was just as well as I was going to need them. Dave Kershaw had been knocked off his bike by someone who didn’t care whilst he rode through Burley and Dave was angry, so angry he ran past me on that first lap flying down the track and then passed me again before I’d finished the loop. Lapped in the first lap!! I asked Claire at the turning circle how far Dave was back and luckily Clare McKenna had the timings up on her phone so was able to tell me it was 90 minutes. Suddenly Dave became the threat, if he kept that pace up – doubtful, but if anyone could it would be Dave – he could well take the overall win. I went from trying to win the second day, to just trying to win the over all and started to pick up my own pace to limit the damage he would be doing. I managed to put 5 quick laps in without seeing him come by me again and knew if I could keep that up he would struggle to catch me – even if he was trying, which he wasn’t – he was just annoyed! After those quick laps Claire told me he had slowed a little and had gone in for dinner, I caught him going down the hill eating out of his dinner box and I was pretty sure he would not be able to take over an hour out of me over the last 20 miles. So Dave, Graeme, Suzie and I went round and round and round – for the large part at matching speeds. Dave stayed a lap ahead of myself and Graeme and we went past Suzie just a couple of times. It seemed clear to me that not only would we all finish but we would also be able to do it again the following day if we needed to, something Dave had told me to think about with the Deca coming up. It was great to be in the turning circle to see Matthew Pritchard finish. I made sure I would be by changing into long running trousers on that lap to ease some chaffing! Matthew has done some amazing endurance stuff – I do love to watch his brother Adam and him swimming across Windermere in this video! Matthew kindly sponsored us for our Deca kit. My mum won’t be happy to hear that I aim to go down to get a post Deca tattoo at the SWYD shop to support our sponsors :-). My only regret for the weekend was that I was chasing Dave when Matthew finished so did not stop for a photo when he was by his van, when I came round again he and Adam had already had to leave to get Adam back to his teaching job – next time. Dave eventually took the day, and second overall, with me just over a lap behind. Crossing the line for me was great as, although it was really late, my parents were still there and I was able to celebrate the 2×1 win with them as well as Claire. After last years Triple win my mindset has totally changed and no matter what the event I now find myself wanting to do well. It brings with it a whole new set of stresses to replace the stress of racing the cutoffs but it is a lot of fun.
Not long after I’d finished Graeme came in looking fresh enough to know that he will be able to give the Arch to Arc a really good go next year, and I’m looking forward to doing some serious dot watching when he does. That just left Suzie, who had a couple of laps to do giving me time to go and have a quick shower before Claire and I went back up to the turning circle to watch her finish. I knew she’d put in loads of training hours to ensure she got this done and again looked strong at the finish – all positive for her 4×1 at the Deca.
So it was over for us, just like Christmas for kids, Enduroman arrives with great excitement and anticipation and then suddenly is gone. But not yet for everyone. There were still a number of Continuous Double athletes going round with their various issues. Walking sticks had been fashioned out of fallen branches and a lot of limping was being done but no one was quitting. When we got up in the morning we were told by Gary Smith that he had just done the last few laps with the final finisher to help get him across the finish line at 7:30 – 3:30 hours after the official cut off – that is Enduroman in a nutshell, if you are willing to go further – they are there to help see you do it. I should have asked, did anyone have to go out for a bag of elephant poo!!!
Thanks to everyone for their support over the weekend, to Chris, Dan, Ed and the whole Legend Endurance Events/Enduroman team – packed to the gills as they were with endurance royalty, Rich and Susie at Extreme Medics who provide a wonderful safety net for us to do stupid things, Matthew Pritchard for his kind sponsorship of our Deca kit that we used for the first time, Mark Harvey at Take3tri for a fantastically comfortable bike ride, Enertor insoles for feet that could do it all again and of course to my mum and dad for their encouragement and support over the weekend. Last but most importantly to Claire who feeds and looks after me all day, everyday – not just during events. I’ve not yet DNF’ed at Enduroman but have DNF’ed in 3 hundred milers – all of which I was doing without her support – draw your own conclusions!!