My swim has been improving, and coach felt it was looking a lot better, with a little adjustment to get my hand to move further back to get full effect from each stroke. My main problem on the bike has always been the same, especially on hills, with a tendency to sit in a high gear and slog it out, so James patiently encourages me to explore my full set.
I wanted to do a training race to step my body up to race fitness, so entered a sprint distance at Thorpe Park. When I was handed my race number 13, it didn’t particularly bode well. This was my first sprint, so was quite looking forward to it. I got in the water, and was feeling confident and strong. The swim set off with a few minor knocks, but I found it quite easy and the nerves soon dissipated. I made my way out into transition, quickly whipped the wetsuit off, and took to the bike. I trialled a newer way of mounting, lifting myself onto the saddle while moving. It was a little wobbly to say the least, and certainly needs some further work. I was keeping up nicely with the lead pack, and feeling very strong. As we got deeper into the race, the route seemed to change into a 2nd lap. This seemed odd. I continued peddling away when the guy next to me cursed and shouted that we had gone the wrong way. A sign had been moved, so we’d gone 5 miles out. We had to turn around, and was a little annoyed to say the least, but re-focused on the run to come, as I knew I could catch some places there. This was only training after all, to blow away the cobwebs.
I started running strongly and passed quite a lot of guys, staying focused. Maybe I had too much energy left, but I felt great, and could have done it all again. It was a good start, and treated it as a session with lessons to learn. My preparation needs improving, including knowing the course beforehand, but I felt ready for my first 70.3.
Funds are still not free flowing. I’ve moved to a different job, where I have generously been given free accommodation and food to support what I’m trying to do, and was sponsored travel expenses to get to my race.
Standing facing the rugged Exmoor terrain for the third year running, I felt surprisingly relaxed. This was a far cry from my very first 70.3 race, standing on the very same hillside in 2010. As in 2010, this year Philip Graves and Fraser Cartmell where side-by-side in the pro’s, set to battle it out for first place. I was in the first wave just behind them. The sun was breaking through the cloud cover, and the heavy rain from the previous day had subsided.
The start was delayed slightly, but as the competitors entered the lake, it was apparent that the water was very cold, chilled with fresh rainwater from surrounding rivers. It was colder than it had been before. I dunked my head repeatedly as always, to get used to the icy bite, and slowly my breathing relaxed from jerking to settled. I was ready. The national anthem began, and the race was on. The main body of swimmers was quite aggressive and violent. I was hit squarely on the head once, and had someone climb onto my back and wrap their arms around my waste. Whether this was tactical, or a symptom of panic, I shook them off and stayed focused. I was beginning to see what it meant to mature as an athlete, to not be phased by things that would have previously severely inhibited my flow. I chose to swim wide of the main pack, and focus on my own race. My sighting felt improved, and I got out the swim in 33 mins.
Coming into T1 felt really cold. The previous day’s weather had inspired me to buy a lightweight rain jacket, so I decided to put it on to keep warm. Last year I had struggled to get warm on the bike, and didn’t want to face that again. I’d left it half zipped in my transition bag strategically, but it didn’t go to plan, and got my arm and head stuck, struggling. As soon I was on the bike and up the first hill, I was too hot, so had to stop and rip the jacket off. Valuable time lost. My feet were still frozen cold from the swim, and as I settled into cycling, it felt like there was a stone stuck in my shoe. It kept pressing, so I had to stop to take it out. I took my shoe off, but there was nothing there. It was the cold causing the pain. More time lost, but I worked to get back into my rythmn. I had forgotten just how tough the bike course was. The hills really began to sap my energy. I had prepared much better than previous years, with nutrition and energy strapped to my handle bars. The main challenge comes from lack of hills in the area where I train. By the second lap, I was really exhausted, and in my mind there were thoughts of stopping. As always, that was the point to look inside, to dig deep to find that motivation to continue. There it was, clear as day; helping those in need. I made T2 with a bike of 3hrs 20mins
The cramp was setting in on the run. It should be my strongest discipline, but this course doesn’t play to that, as the cycle saps everything out of the muscles. The day was definitely shaping up to be a training day. The legs slowly freed by the third lap, but a run time of 1hr 43min took me well outside the chances of qualifying for the Worlds this time. I had tried my best on the day, and was glad I was out there with the message ‘Stop the persecution of Falun Gong’ on my chest; my motivation for competing. I’m now looking towards Antwerp 70.3 in Belgium, and trying again.
You can continue to follow Marc’s journey at Triathlete Europe, and at www.forgingthedream.com. Join the Forging the Dream Facebook page and share your stories of what motivates you to be a triathlete.