Epicman 2019 – by Fiona Christian

I’ve only got myself to blame.  I entered Epicman 2019 after discovering that I couldn’t, in fact, compete in an open long distance race during the world champs.  Clearly yours truly hadn’t qualified but there was definitely an open race advertised and so we booked the flights. They then removed the open race from the website.  Having started training early in the new year, I needed to find a new race and to maintain motivation. I suppose I could have just relaxed and decided not to race but my Chimp wouldn’t let me.  I’d already got a few miles in so I thought oh yes, I’ll go for a nice middle distance, checked the dates and found Epicman. I’d done their middle distance in Lancaster & the Forest of Bowland back in 2017 so I should have known it was going to be….well, epic.  But no, I thought Windermere sounded nice, not too far, not too expensive, free hoodie and undulating rather than mountainous climbs. Epic Events do know how to put on a good triathlon and they are generally quite low key events with everything that you need and not stupid prices.  A quick call to the family confirmed that I’d get decent support on the day so I paid up.

Fast forward to the 2nd June.  We’d had some nice weather so I was hoping for good conditions.  Hmm. The Lake District. In June. We arrived on the Friday and it was raining…I don’t think it stopped raining really all weekend.  We drove around the bike route to find they’d changed it to include 10km up and along a lovely single track road of varying gradients with lots of muck and 4 cattle-grids.   I’m not great with Cattle Grids. Especially in the rain. In fairness, they’d had to alter the route due to roadworks so it was necessary. I looked enviously at the Olympic Distance route, a nice out and back, not too testing.  Hey ho, I’d signed up for it, I couldn’t start whinging now and I certainly couldn’t control the weather. It didn’t help that there are several lovely spa hotels in the area and I kept thinking I could just be having a spa weekend without any triathlon at all (I’ll be back).   Back at the registration, the usual pre-race athletes trying to unsettle me ‘are you using trail shoes?’ – um, no just normal trainers. ‘Road bike or TT bike?’ um, I’ve only got the road bike…Whatever. Top tip #1 (I’ve got several) – don’t listen to other people in transition, they’ll only psych you out.  We headed back to our house for a mini pasta party and some rest.

 

Top triathlon tip #2.  If you can, find accommodation really close to the race.  It is so nice on race morning to have a leisurely breakfast and a short trip to the start.  We had less than a mile. It also helps if you have another triathlete supporting you who isn’t racing.  I think I basically just had to get in the car and put a wetsuit on. They know the drill, it’s quite a luxury!

 

Weirdly, the olympic distance were setting off first.  We saw the Fox team and Louise W from afar and not long after, they got the first wave into the water.  What on earth was I doing in the first wave? Couldn’t remember what I’d put down as anticipated swim time – maybe the slow folk were going first.  Saw a few people with their knickers in a twist wanting to change wave – seemed a bit pointless seeing as it was 0801, 0802, 0803. Anyway…

 

A lovely swim.  Yes, really lovely.  14 degrees apparently. Nice straight lines, didn’t matter that it was raining (to me, can’t say the same for the supporters).  No nav problems, no fish, no goggle issues. About as good as a swim can be. Top tip #3….swim drafting. Seriously…it’s a godsend. I am not a talented swimmer but I am a talented drafter…  I came out of the water with Andy shouting that I was 6th woman out….ha! 35 mins. Yay.

 

T1.  Muddy, very muddy.  Still wet. A painful (gravelly) and long run up to the bike and then the usual wrangling with the wetsuit and then a comedic sketch trying to get my jacket on.  Headed out onto the bike….a nice start with then a good stretch on a dual carriageway before starting on the hills. It was a bit odd. I don’t normally notice many people overtaking me on the bike (mainly because I am not that great a swimmer rather than my astounding bike prowess)….but about 30 mins in, there was a rush of other women – well about 10. The chimp did a bit of battering – I’d thought that my bike fitness was good.  Later analysis of the results proved they were all Manladies but at the time I felt pretty demoralised. Reminded myself that I’m only racing myself and hey, this is meant to be fun!! Still raining. Bits of the bike were a bit hairy for me but they’d tried to cover one of the cattle-grids and I managed to circumnavigate another. One long climb and some punchy smaller ones. A braver cyclist than I would have made better use of the descents.  I know we train on hilly terrain so I was pretty shocked that the 1600m climbing felt as hard as it did. Maybe it was just at race pace, not sure.

 

Back to transition and a personal highlight was hearing and then seeing my sister (age 47, university professor) up on a hedge and hanging off a lampost.   A LOT of cheering in T2 where I think my cheerleading camp was at 12 people. More mud and still raining. Headed out onto the run in my ordinary trainers.  To be honest, it was so muddy, I’m not sure trail shoes would have been any good either. I realised by KM 0.5 that my run training on the canal had been inadequate for this route.  I’d been hoping to break the two hours for my half but it wasn’t the course for it! I think in dry weather it would have been a bit different but the 4 lap route was increasingly dodgy on each circuit.  I should have done more hills in training. Hey ho. However, after my gastrointestinally challenged Chester middle 2018, the run was (almost) a pleasure. Top tip #4. Don’t eat fruit and veg in the days before a race and for middle distance take an Immodium pre race.  Not two (Tip #5!). Definitely a run about staying upright and just enjoying it, I don’t think I even looked at the Garmin. Lots of cheering definitely helped – how they weren’t fed up with the rain, I have no idea. Tip #6. Treat your supporters to a nice place to stay and good food and gin.  My sister yelling at me to pull my third leg out (Manx reference) was another highlight. Finish time was just over 7 hours. Pretty pleased overall. I changed my expectations mid race once I realised what I was in for – weather, mud etc and it was just a long day out. In fact that’s another tip – # 7.  Be prepared to alter your expectations, apparently women are better than men at this (in triathlon) and there is a much lower DNF rate in women racers who re-calibrate mid race than men who decide enough is enough. Interesting fact – no?

 

It’s so interesting how courses vary.  I’ve done a few middle distances now and I think I may have peaked too soon (Steelman 2014) – best result to date although it wasn’t hilly and it was a nice flat run…..although it rained all day on that one too.  Course conditions, weather conditions, personal fitness, nutrition, injuries and niggles – there are so many variables that make up what sort of race you are going to have. So I can summarise that Epicman was a success.  A great swim, a reasonable bike with no mechanicals or punctures and a run without any GI distress. Superb support and actually, the hoodie is really nice too.

 

Caveats:

 

Tips are all aimed for the newbie to the average triathlete….not the experts amongst CTC…

The term Manlady is in fact a compliment.