Victorious Captains

TORQ have some super talented athletes in their various specialisms, including the team managers, whom stepped up and completed an Iron-Distance race as a relay between them. With Martin Rendle doing the swim, James Emery cycling and Simon White running, we knew we had a good team and this was proven by winning the event outright by 18 minutes…

Martin Rendle (Swim leg): Having not raced an Ironman distance race since 2011, I was pleased to enter The Anglian Iron-Distance Triathlon as part of a team consisting of the TORQ Team Captains, with me being the captain for the Performance Swim Team and thus taking on the swim leg of the race.

Although I’ve raced plenty of OW swim races since my Ironman days, non-have been in the unpredictable conditions that a sea swim can bring.  Having watched the event last year as a spectator, I was hoping for “glassy-flat” sea conditions as they had in 2013 – how wrong could I have been.  From the top of the cliff-top the conditions looked not too bad, however this all changed when you got down to sea level.

The race, unlike the year before, was to be an exciting beach start – this was fantastic as most swim races start in “deep-water” and you go from a floating start.  I’d started on the front line in the hope of trying to get a good position in the water and not to get tangled up in slower swim traffic. This strategy worked and as the horn blew, I ran into the surf and headed out for the first buoy.

When we got going, the conditions didn’t seem too bad, a little swell, but nothing to disrupt the stroke too much. It was here I thought ‘ok – this is going to be a good, quick race’. As we headed south and rounded the first buoy at around 150m out to sea, the conditions changed somewhat.

The race is rapidly becoming known for being the quickest Iron-Distance swim in the country – if not the world, as it runs with the tide and the tide runs at around 4 knots per hour – pretty swift, and as we rounded the first buoy, we not only encountered the racing of the water, but also the wind had picked up and was blowing against us, and as any sea swimmer knows – wind over tide is not good and generally creates a very choppy and inconsistent sea state.

What continued for the rest of the swim was swell of around 2ft with head on wind, which made the swim very difficult to not only get into a rhythm, but also sighting the buoys was problematic. There were 6 large red buoys to navigate around, finalising in the last yellow buoy which was the indicator to the beach – the red buoys are easily 6ft in height and from the low position in the water and the condition of the sea – sighting them was pretty near impossible without the occasional stop to see which direction you were heading. After a great start and a good position of around 3rd or 4th after the first red buoy, my sighting (which is normally pretty good) went pretty much out of the window and I must have gone off course 5 or 6 times, going far too wide – in fact I’m sure I saw Holland at one point!

What was left to do was to try and hook back onto a small group of swimmers that I kept catching glimpses of in front and off to the right.  This group I managed to catch up with and soon started to pile right through the middle of them to gain a few places and it was then that I spotted the yellow turn buoy.

Being local to the area and knowing how the tide runs, I knew that I needed to start my run in early, as if you didn’t then the 4knot tide would run you way past the buoy and you’d end up having to swim back into shore against it.  This I did and managed to pick up two more places as a few of the other guys had done just that –overshot the exit.

I got to the beach which was a little rocky underfoot and then knew that I had at least a 900m run into transition to meet my fellow teammate, James.  What I’d forgotten about was that the 900m run was up a very steep zig-zag pathway up the cliff face, then along the edge of the cliff with a run back up in to the transition area – all of this in bare feet too!

Needless to say, the result was that I managed 1st swim position out of the Relay teams, 10th position out of the Swim-only category (there was a swim race only also) and 4th swim position in the Triathlon as a whole.

James Emery (Bike leg):With Martin and Simon choosing their respective specialisms, I was left with the 112 mile bike. In the past few years I have been specialising in sprint distance racing (the whole event being undertaken within an hour), so doing 112miles was quite a step up. Still I love a challenge.

The race plan was to ride easy on the first lap, following people to understand the route/competition, and then build up on the 2nd and 3rd lap. I hadn’t pre-rode the course, as Cromer is on the opposite side of the country, but assumed Norfolk was generally flat. Wrong, it is quite undulating (the flat bit is the opposite direction). However, these climbs were quite welcome as it allowed me to get out of the aero tuck without feeling guilty about ruining my aerodynamics.

I was out of transition in second place (thanks to our top swimmer), but quickly caught 1st place. I stayed behind for 18 minutes before my competitive instinct took over. So much for plan A – it was time to get into my target power zones. Being in first place was pretty cool, as I had race escort with flashing lights warning the other road users in front. This was short lived though, as 40minutes into the ride, another rider came past. I let him go and vowed to close him down later in the race.

The ride was fairly uneventful, just turning the pedals and keeping the effort up. The miles soon ticked down.

In the last lap I decided to lift the pace to see if I could catch 1st place, but this soon resulted in cramping hamstrings, so that idea was binned and I went back to riding steady. I kept catching athletes, but alas not first place, rather the back markers on the 2nd lap.

With the last climb complete, I just had the frenzy of swopping the timing chip to Simon our runner and I was done! In the end, the first place biker was an aqua-biker (swim and cycle only), so that put the team in virtual first (no pressure Simon!!!).

For my fellow geeks, Normalised power was 233watts over 5hours 29minutes, average speed was 20.4mph, elevation gain over the whole course was 5055ft (1541m). I did lap 1 in 1hr 48mins, the 2nd in 1hr 49mins and the final in 1hr 51mins. A bit of fade, but increased traffic on the course slowed me down a little (that’s my excuse anyway…).

Simon White (Run leg): Having never been involved in an ironman before, it was comforting to know that I didn’t have to swim or bike before running the final marathon leg! Martin and James did a fine job of putting us out in the lead which felt good, but added a little pressure knowing that I could be the one to throw it all away.

I didn’t fully get to grips with the course before the start and had assumed it was quite flat and so a fairly fast marathon time would be possible. My aim of somewhere close to 3 hours was fairly stupid on three counts; the first being that it was too hot, the second being that the course was too hilly and the third being that I hadn’t got the required fitness (a 50 mile race the week before is rarely a perfect taper for a marathon – JE).

About ten minutes before the start of the run the skies cleared which made things very hot. I started the first of four laps fairly quickly and all was fairly comfortable apart from the severe blisters I had picked up the weekend before on a run up in the Lakes. I had to stop and check the route a few times on the first lap, but it didn’t slow things too much and my blisters were ok and allowing me to run normally.

I clocked the first lap at about 48 minutes which would put me at 3hrs 12mins if I kept up the same pace. It wasn’t far into lap 2 that it became obvious that my early pace was not sustainable, the heat was taking its toll and the climbs were inhibiting my speed.

There was a very hot climb up the lighthouse, which was quiet on lap one On lap two it became busier with race supporters gathering at the top. This added pressure as you couldn’t really stop and walk when you were being cheered on by the crowd and even though it was only a small climb, it seemed to zap the legs before the 4 miles of undulating road that followed. Lap two was completed in about 55 minutes with lap three slightly slower again, but I still managed to run to the top of the lighthouse climb to keep the crowd happy!

Lap four slowed quite a bit with signs of wear kicking in. My mental state was good and I was still enjoying it even though I couldn’t hold any kind of pace. I managed to run it all, keeping myself well fuelled with the TORQ gels I had stashed in my key pocket. The last climb up to the lighthouse was going to be the biggest test and I had made a deal with myself to just walk it as otherwise it would destroy my legs for any kind of finish for the last half of lap 4. My plan to walk the climb quickly went out of the window as soon as I saw all of the spectators at the top of the climb. Some seemed to know my name by this point, so I definitely couldn’t walk now. I ran to the top and quickly got out of sight along the gorse lined path along the top to catch my breath.
The last few miles were great and the final run back through Cromer was a great way to finish the last of the four laps. I managed to hold on to first place and cross the line in a time of 3hrs 51mins and a combined team time of 10 hours 13 minutes.

With Special thanks to the race organisers, a fantastic event which TORQ were extremely proud to be associated with. Go do the Anglian!

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