It’s been a while since I’ve written a race re-cap! It’s been amazing to return to racing, after a year off due to the pandemic in 2020. Ironbourne Triathlon was my second race this year, after the Cotswold 113 in June. I’ve been targeting half-ironman (70.3) distance races, so when I saw a new middle distance triathlon in Eastbourne, I signed up.
We arrived in Eastbourne on the Friday afternoon, so we had some time to check out the course, relax and eat lots of carbs! Racking and registration was on Saturday- I always feel strange about leaving my bike alone in a field overnight, but as usual it was fine. One different thing about Ironbourne triathlon was the boxes in transition, we had to leave all our kit in a plastic crate next to our bike. This kept the transition area clear and organised, but meant we were a bit limited on what we brought with us.
As usual, it was an early start on race morning- a 3.50am alarm to walk down to transition which closed at 5.30am. For once, I actually slept well the night before the race.
1.2 mile swim- 38:20
Ironbourne triathlon started with a jump off the end of Eastbourne Pier, which was just as terrifying as it sounds. It was actually a platform used for fishing, so it’s lower to the water (only a 6ft drop) but it still felt pretty high!
We waited in groups based on our estimated swim time while watching the earlier waves jump in. We were told that we had to go when it was our turn- the chip timing started as soon as you stepped onto the mat. No stalling or turning back! I did a little scream and jumped into the water, and immediately felt the current pulling me towards the first buoy.
The swim course went around and underneath the pier before turning back in towards the beach. In some places, you were swimming with the current and flying along, and in other places, you were swimming against the current and barely moving! I found it quite hard to stay in line with the buoys and ended up being pushed further along the beach so had to fight to get back. Swimming under the pier was fun, I was worried I would swim into the wooden beams but I made it through with no problems!
I finished in a slightly slower time than I would have liked but I did swim extra distance- 2205m.
Transition 1- 5:25
After exiting the water, you had to cross the beach, up a grassy hill and onto a path into transition. It was quite a distance, but it’s usually the case with a sea swim due to the position of the transition area in relation to the sea. All went smoothly, I found my bike easily and got ready for the bike.
56 mile bike- 3:14:13
The bike course is a single loop which is mostly very flat, until the final 10 miles which climbs over Beachy Head. The bike got off to a good start, the flat roads meant I was averaging over 20mph and felt hopeful of getting a sub 3-hour bike split.
The roads out of Eastbourne were quiet at 7am, which was good as there’s 15 zebra/pelican crossings in the first few miles- luckily I didn’t need to stop for anyone! My only criticism of the race is that the course wasn’t very well signposted, we passed through a lot of roundabouts but the signs were quite small and placed on the roundabout itself rather than on the approach. I navigated it fine, but I did hear of a lot of people who took unfortunately wrong turns.
Around halfway, we came off of the main A roads and onto country lanes. At this point, things changed for me- I started feeling sick and like I had no energy. I felt really uncomfortable on my bike, my saddle was hurting me and my hands went numb. I didn’t see anyone else for miles and convinced myself that I had got lost, which made me feel really disheartened and anxious. I got stuck behind a horsebox for ages and my average speed kept dropping.
I tried to motivate myself to keep going but the last 25-30 miles felt like a slog. I knew that the climbing would start in the final section of the race, so I wanted to save some energy for the hills but already felt so despondent.
There’s a ‘dead zone’ on the bike course which passes through an area of roadworks, so you have to cycle on the pavements. The timing stops for this area so you can go as slowly as you like. I took the opportunity to have a big gulp of my bike, stretch a bit and have another gel before pushing on.
The climbs at Beachy Head were actually not too steep, just long drags. I normally wouldn’t struggle too much but I just wasn’t in the right mindset anymore. I stopped on the final section of the climb, leaned over my handlebars and cried my eyes out! I’ve never stopped in a race before, but those few minutes were a relief from the pain my saddle was causing me. I made myself get back on (restarting on a gradient is never a good idea) and finish the ride- it was all downhill back to Eastbourne from here.
Transition 2- 3:30
I was so relieved to finish the bike course! I actually dismounted past the line so the marshal told me to go back and step over it again with my bike. Back into transition and got ready for the run. I felt disappointed about how the bike had gone, so was hoping for a better run.
13.1 mile run- 2:19:46
The run course was along the seafront with several out-and-back loops. It looked quite complicated on paper but was actually easier to follow on the day. The whole run course was very exposed to the sun, with only brief areas of shade under the pier and bandstand. I knew I was in for a long, hot slog!
As usual, I followed a 9/1 run/walk strategy with alerts on my watch to remind me. I find this works so well, as I can mentally break down the half-marathon into smaller blocks of 10 minutes. I have to be disciplined and not be tempted to carry on walking for longer than a minute, but I stuck to the plan perfectly.
After being alone for most of the bike course, it was great to see other people again! I passed Glen several times on the run and he told me he was struggling with the heat. The supporters and marshals were brilliant- this was probably my favourite thing about Ironbourne triathlon. They hosed us down with cold water at the feed stations which felt amazing!
The run felt long- I was sure it was going to be further than a half-marathon distance but it turned out to be exactly 13.1 miles.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears again and got so worked up, I couldn’t breathe properly. I was such an emotional wreck! Glen came and found me and we sat on the grass in the shade until I’d calmed down.
I was so disappointed with my result, but then realised I’d come 5th out of 10 in my age group which actually made me feel a lot better! There was some confusion over whether I’d actually come 4th, but the timing chip man confirmed it was because the results weren’t fully updated with the ‘dead zone’ time deducted.
I’d definitely like to try Ironbourne triathlon again in cooler weather conditions. I really liked Eastbourne as a location for a race and the pier jump made the race a bit different from usual. It was a well-organised event (with the exception of the signage on the bike course) particularly as it was the inaugural year for the middle and long distance triathlons.