Things are really heating up now with just two weeks to go until Ironman 70.3 Staffs!
After months of hard training I am now at the point where things are starting to calm down with a bit of tapering before the big day (although six separate gym sessions in the last four days might argue with that statement). It is funny that having been through this before with the Avenger last summer I now have slightly different concerns. Whilst previously my main concern was whether I could actually finish a race this long, I now know I can go the distance, and by accounts Ironman Staffs is supposed to have a slightly easier / flatter course (we will see…) which should mean that will take care of itself.
Also unless the weather changes a lot in the next fortnight it is unlikely to be pushing 30 degrees C during the race which will make nutrition a little more realistic and help avoid near collapses on the bike due to dehydration. Finally the cut off time is a bit longer than the 8 hours I previously had (8.30 this time) which I assume has been done especially for me and more importantly might mean I actually finish ahead of someone!
So assuming I can actually finish the course, my attention has turned to the admin side, and I honestly never thought I would have more concerns on this side of the race then actually getting around it!
First up is the location. When I booked the race (which was a mission in itself – see my post from last year on the perils of online race entry) it was because it was less than an hour away from home, which fulfils most of my criteria of being able to get to easily by car and not having to spend money on a hotel the night before. Unfortunately it is the other side of Birmingham in an area I have never been to before, so spent most of yesterday afternoon location scouting in the car, firstly driving around trying to find the venue, which was severely hampered by a load of road closures which confused the sat-nav and the fact that in general it is in the middle of bloody nowhere (I am sure there should be a question mark in the picture below!). Once we actually found it this added to my confusion as the first thing on site is a huge great petting zoo, which is definitely a first for me, although I guess being chased by an angry goat will probably ensure people achieve their PBs!
Next up is parking, and funnily enough writing this blog has made me find another issue. I was just searching for the name of the venue which I keep forgetting and noticed that car parking needed to be booked in advance ‘if you want to park there on the day’. Now bearing in mind I have already highlighted the remote location there is not really a realistic alternative available, as parking miles away and biking in with all my kit is not going to work. So another £14 (yes £14!!) to grudgingly pay on top of the massive entry fees, has at least ensured I will actually be able to park at the race and get home afterwards, assuming I can find it first.
The next, and potentially most complicated part of the day, is that the race actually takes place over two sites. So here you go: You start off at the finish.Yes, although you park up at Shugborough, that is not actually the start location. That is around 15 miles away at a place called Chasewater, where you do your swim and then ride (via a convoluted 90 km bike route) back to the start / finish place. This also means that not only do I need to go along the day before to set up on multiple sites, but on the race day itself you have to get a shuttle bus from the finish to the start. To be honest it is giving me a headache just thinking about it, so hopefully it will all just work out!
Oh, I forgot to mention that one other thing that makes this so complicated. I need to be there at bloody 5 am! So as if it was not hard enough finding the place in the day time, I am going to have to leave the house at around 4 am and find it in the dark, whilst managing to actually stay awake. This is because of this complicated set up, as I will need to get to the finish / start and check my running gear is all ok, then jump on the shuttle bus to the start / finish and again check on my bike stuff. I then need to be in my wetsuit and ready to go in the water around 7ish, for my 7.10 wave start.
That said I am actually really glad I have this start time, as my age group (30-34) is the first ‘normal’ start time, meaning some others won’t even begin until I am halfway around the bike course, which should mean I have some companions during the run, rather than the lonely, painful struggle I experienced on my last lap in the Avenger.
Finally, there is just the small matter of the ‘elite’ competitors taking part. As this is such a high-profile Ironman event (televised and everything) there are some big names in the mix, and none more so than the current ITU World Champion and Olympic Silver medallist Javier Gomez, who is in the first swim wave of the day starting just ten minutes before me. That’s right, I will be hot on the heels of one of the fastest triathletes on the planet! Well, that is probably the closest I will come to him unless his bike falls apart (although I expect he can run faster than I can ride anyway), but it is an amazing thought that I will be that close. I wonder if he will give me any encouragement before the start? That’s if I can work out where the hell it is!!