Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Triathlon!! The year of sporting excellence continues....

[The ups and downs of living in Stanley, on the Falkland Islands, south Atlantic.  To get here, turn left after Santiago, Chile, or fly via Ascension Island, courtesy of the RAF.  Either way, it's worth it.  This week we "enjoyed" the inaugural Stanley Triathlon......]

Sunday, 4th November, 2012, dawned bright and breezy, which was a mixed blessing.  My wife would be swimming 60 lengths (1500 metres)  in the local pool, and was largely unaffected by the weather.
Trusty steed near summit of Sapper Hill.  Note aerodynamic drop handlebars.
But I had to cycle 20kms (12 miles) on a hilly course, most of it uphill, and into the 30mph "breeze".   Our fellow-triathlete (how odd does that sound?), Emeka, had a 10km circuit of the town, but would be largely sheltered from the wind by housing.
Early leader completing cycling leg.
The good news for me was I had trained for several weeks in such weather, and I have to say, I had not seen another cyclist on the road during that time.  I assume many were training indoors, or just naturally superfit, but the wind here is challenging, and on the day, many of us struggled to keep the bike upright, never mind make progress.
Changing to running shoes.
There were about 50 contestants: some, like us, in teams, and some entering as individuals.  Due to space constraints in the pool, the swimming leg was staggered, with individual women starting around 8am, men between 9am and 11am, and teams around noon.
After watching the early starters set a hot pace, we were soon warming up and getting briefed on the handover protocol between team-members.  With nerves jangling and adrenalin flowing, the crowd were soon cheering on their swimming favourites.  Not being a great swimmer, (I'm more a sinker than a floater), I could only watch in admiration at the rhythmic, efficient strokes eating into the 1500 metres.

Some swimmers used a variety of strokes, and I noticed one lady changing to backstroke every other length.  - it worked for her!  

Some of the swimmers would be representing the Falklands at the Small Island Games next year in Bermuda, and it showed in their speed.  (The event was a fund-raiser to send a team). The fastest completed the distance in under 30 minutes.  Annie broke her "PB" (Personal Best), and took fewer minutes than her age, which not many other swimmers could claim, but still left me with a bit of a deficit to make up on the other cyclists.
Ready for the running.....
The first 4 miles of the cycling were mostly downhill, with a strong tailwind, to the airport.  I could see no other cyclists ahead of me until I neared the airport turning point after about 15 minutes.  As I passed the other competitors heading in the other direction, I could see from their faces that the return leg was going to be no picnic. And so it proved...
Coming back from the airport - 8 miles uphill, straight into a 30mph gale.
One advantage I had was that most of my competitors were now in front of me on the long, straight uphill section back into Stanley.  I could use each of them in turn as a target to chase, rather than just cycling on my own.  And all were riding mountain bikes with flat handlebars, which meant they sat upright, buffeted by the gale.

It's thought about 80% of a cyclist's effort goes into overcoming wind resistance.  Hence all the aerodynamic helmets and positions used at the top levels of the sport.  It does make a difference.  And even with my trusty old steed, I could use the lower section of the handlebars, and keep my head right down, plodding along and "reeling in" some of the others during the next 8 miles.

The last mile was steeply downhill to the changeover point, but the previous 2 miles were a long, hard slog up Sapper Hill.  Several people paused here to admire the view(!), but my cycling position meant I could only see about 4 feet of road on front of me.  This almost caused a collision, when I passed another cyclist standing beside his bike and regaining his strength for the final push (literally) to the end of the tarmac. 
Emeka pausing for a photo en route!  He could have been even quicker!
Going down the 1 in 10 hill to the changeover point, I now had the gale behind me again, which meant heavy use of the brakes if I was to turn into the car park where Emeka was waiting.  I managed to give him a "High Five" handover after 1 hour, 7 minutes and 49 seconds of cycling (but who's counting?). He was off like a greyhound, looking for a hare to chase.  Luckily, a stitch soon made him revert to his normal pace!
The route was sharp uphill for half-a-mile, then mostly flat, with a long downhill section in the middle.
Stylish at the finish
Not wishing to seize up, Annie and I got changed into warmer clothes, then drove the route to find and support Emeka.  He seemed to be well ahead of his schedule, as we had trouble finding him.  Only later  did he explain that his training run times included 10 minutes of exercises!  So, he, too, set a "PB", and finished in style in front of the small, but enthusiastic, crowd.

No longer Triathlon virgins!
We'd taken just under 3 hours, and finished 9th out of 13 teams.  The winning individual man took just under 2 hours- incredible!  And the winning woman, 2:38.  Some bikes broke, and some muscles pulled, but I think everyone felt a great sense of achievement.  We certainly did.
Contestant "32C" - I'm not wearing that on my front!
Our Team Manager, David, had generously prepared a chicken curry to replace the expended calories.  He couldn't actually watch our efforts, due to playing an important golf match, but we managed to give him a detailed account of each leg over the poppadums, and the home-made bread-and-butter pudding!  Thanks, David!.

Then it was on to the Narrows Bar for the prize-giving, catching up with those that had left us behind earlier, and hearing tales of competitors stopping to help others in trouble.   The juniors, particularly, had a very competitive event, which bodes well for the future health of the Falklands.

All too soon, the adrenalin wore off, and we headed home for an early night.  Tired muscles communicated to us that we perhaps should not do this every week.  But, it was time to dream of what might have been....if we'd only done a bit more training,.... or if I hadn't had that bottle of wine the night before....zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Next time!



  1. Chapeau guys, nice going, impressed with the swim Annie and riding into a 30 mph headwind, well done Pete!!!! We start whining here when it's +17mph in Richmond Park.;)

    However being a committed (and Den says I should be) cyclist I must refer you to -


    Rule 42 - A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.

    If it’s preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run, it is not called a bike race, it is called duathlon or a triathlon. Neither of which is a bike race. Also keep in mind that one should only swim in order to prevent drowning, and should only run if being chased. And even then, one should only run fast enough to prevent capture.

    Well done again to all three. Kev

    1. Thanks, Kev. yeah, despite the gale, I didn't fancy either the swim or the run. And I couldn't believe the Individual Men who just jogged out the pool and jumped on the bike, still wet! Brrr!

    2. Eek! Just read that Rules site, and it seems I broke quite a few - forgot to shave my legs; adopting the aerodynamic tuck too early - but this,Rule 9, about riding in bad weather resonates with me...
      "Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work." :-)