Stage One – Ayr Open Water Triathlon

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: anaphylaxis campaign, ayr, cycle, ness, river doon, run, shakey, swim, triathlon, wetsuit |

Take a seat.  This is a long one.

At last, it’s all underway!  After a final long training ride on Saturday evening I took the opportunity for an early night.  Honestly by then I needed it – travelling to a triathlon is like planning a moon-landing – bike rack, bike, watch, water bottles, pump, repair kit, wetsuit, cap, goggles, trainers, cycling shoes, socks shorts and vest, shades, bike helmet, gels, bananas and energy bars, number belt, race licence, mobile, money, towels, warm clothes, lube and sun screen.  Now if only I had used the sun screen…………
If you have been following the blog you will be aware that Sunday was the ultimate grudge match – Phelps versus Bolt, swimmer versus runner as Stumpy and Shakey went head to head in a battle of wills and a triathlon for the first time.  In the interests of balanced reportage I have magnanimously allowed the Shakester to write her own perspective of the race (no doubt she will win that version by miles).  Did we kill each other on the drive through, were any new injuries incurred, who won?  The answer to all these questions and more will follow.

Before that, though, did you know that the Daily Mail costs 50p?  As I have now written 8 of these blogs I think that has been a damned fine return on your kind donations as I reckon I have covered more news than the Daily Mail ever does!  I have been frequently asked why I have taken on the challenge and apart from obvious personal reasons I was so incensed by an article in the Daily Mail a couple of years ago that I wanted to raise awareness of the issue and overcome bigoted, ill-informed opinions.  The article that forced me to break my shoulder, tear my calf and stub my toe (damn near fatally) is here –—Nuts.html.  Now heaven forbid chubby little Petronella can’t gorge herself on walnut cake after her goats cheese and pesto pieces but is it really unreasonable for schools to provide life-saving guidance to parents to allow children with severe alllergies to live a normal life??  Perhaps it is time to read something else while the Daily Mail encourages tripe like this to be published in it’s editorial.
Anyways, back to the racing.  A 0730 rendezvous outside Markies called for an indecently early Sunday morning.  The only other drivers on the roads had their windows down and were obviously weaving their way home from the pub but Shakey and I just stank of Powerade and Deep Heat.  Remarkably, despite our excessively competitive relationship we managed to not talk about who was going to win for the whole 2hr journey.  On arrival we managed to park about two counties away and made our way to the transition area with sherpas and pack horse to carry all the gear.  We were still an hour early, we were nervous and there were only two portaloos…….
We got our transition areas set up and wandered on to the bridge to survey the swim.  Ducks and swans frollicked in the shallows of the river and, other than their forced smiles, gave no clue of the frigid waters that lay below.  Fifteen minutes to go and, in the blazing sun, the comedy started as clowns of all shapes and sizes wrestled with their rubber suits.  The techniques adopted varied from the stork-like one legged approach to lying on the back and pulling the suit up your legs with all your might.  No-one retained any dignity.  In my shiny new Daffyd top (which is sleeveless) I sported the 2010 tourist tan from hours on the bike which looked like I was wearing a fresh white t-shirt under my tri-top.
As the temperature rose the delegates from the S&M conference gathered outside
There was a quick race briefing which mentioned road re-surfacing, danger, falling off, abrasive skin injuries, broken bodies and I started to suffer flashbacks to the last bike crash.  I made a mental note to go slow on the new road.  Unsportingly, nobody mentioned the impending water hazard.  As we went in to the polar ice flow to “warm up”  I saw some seasoned campaigners emit silent screams and curl into foetal positions – only then did it become apparent that rivers are colder than lochs!  Shakey and I timidly made our way forward with the crowd and, had I been able to breath, I would have muttered some kind words of comfort and reassurance.  Instead I emitted a squeal like a 4 year old girl that had just been handed a pink bike with handlebar streamers and stabilizers.  The look on 77 people’s faces gave away that all and sundry were deploying the internal central heating inside their wetsuits and slowly the water temperature rose a couple of degrees. 

The World Pooh Sticks Championships proved challenging this year 
The start felt like a washing machine on a spin cycle – I counted being kicked twice in the head before losing consciousness and then I had the feeling of dread as someone started to swim up my back – they came right over the top treating me to a prolonged dooking in glacial water.  As I resurfaced I gathered my thoughts, considered discretion as the better part of valour and moved from one armed crawl to breastroke.  Shakey may have drowned at the start but by this point a great white shark on weight watchers wouldn’t have made me turn around to face the 50 or so swimmers behind me closing in fast like a shoal of pirhanas.   Bizarrely the water was only waist deep so at the turn buoy everyone stood up and jogged – being economically legged I thought that they were all giants.  On the way down the second leg I passed Shakey and shouted encouragement – the response was either very swearey or an involuntary reaction to hypothermia – regardless, a race is a race and I pushed on.  By the third lap I had some space and my fear of shoulder dislocation passed; I turned on the after-burners with a two-armed front crawl, and despite an alarming tendon ping as my arm came over the top I motored past a couple of dozen tiring swimmers and exited the water to a big cheering crowd on the bridge and the shore.

With no need to do the Mel Gibson shoulder dislocation a la Lethal Weapon 2, the wetsuit came off a treat and I started the bike leg.  And then I went up a hill for miles and miles.  Despite coming back to the same place there didn’t seem to be as much downhill as up – how does that work?  Now at this point the error of my ways with the sunscreen was becoming apparent as I cut through the Ayrshire late morning like a scarlet exocet.  Whatever else happened I was going to have some new tan lines.  Well, the road resurfacing was as scary as promised and even the mentalist bikists slowed themselves down for a couple of miles but then we were on the home straight and the race was back on.  The ride back to was pleasant with great support from the marshalls and a large crowd at the transition really gave a lift before setting off on the run.  All the time I was looking over my shoulder looking for old Shakey because I knew I needed to have 6 minutes on her at the start of the run to have any chance of victory.

Now, I have discovered that one of the most depressing things in life is meeting people approaching the finish line as you are setting off on your run in a triathlon.  And they looked fresher than I felt!!  Within 1k we hit Horrible Hill which lived up to it’s billing.  One fellow runner promised me he would puke if it went on any longer and another fella took the opportunity for a pee stop.  Unusually, I really enjoyed the run although my calves we sore as anything and I even managed a sprint for the spectators as the crowd got thicker towards the finish line.  And then I waited for Shakey, and waited, and waited.  I even went to the river to see if she “hadn’t made it” but there was no sign of the Coastguard.  Sometime later my stubble had grown a couple of inches, I had developed a deep tan, I had showered and had my tea and then off along the sea front I saw the familiar loping stride picking off runners as she neared the finish line.  She finished elegantly and then, good friend that I am, I chucked a cup of water at her and had to listen to her blah, blah, blah about her cold tootsies.

The winning margin in my report was 9m 45s where I put down most of the lead in the swim but unexpectedly held on for a 25min 5km in the run.  Disappointingly the Ayr club were not offering T-shirts as campaign honours nor was there bling to wear to McDonalds for lunch.  Instead they gave us a number belt which is a bit like a suspender belt but much less interesting.  When we got back to the transition it was like Shakey had just got in from a night at Scruffy Murphys and there was a trail of swim cap, goggles, wetsuit, cycling shoes, towel, socks, bike, toast and crisps (I may have exaggerated the last two) strewn over about 20metres squared.  Compared to my neatly folded wetsuit and cycling shoes placed parallely together it was an absolute pikey disgrace.

We watched a bit of the prize giving and then thought we should head back on the 4 mile walk to the car.  Apparently my red House of Fraser carrier bag was an affront to Shakey’s high standards of triathlon style and she refused to walk with me.  Maybe it was the carrier bag or maybe she just had to shed a tear on her own……

If you are interested on another perspective of the race (ie from the back of the field) then you should read on.

So after months of training (AND whining about a sore calf, sore ankle, sore shoulder, sore toe, sore hand, sore foot, sore head etc etc) Dougie (AKA Stumpy) finally started his August challenge on Sunday….. And I rather foolishly decided to join him for the ride. Unfortunately neither of us buy into “it’s the taking part that counts” so to say things got a bit heated in the run up to the big day is a slight understatement. It’s amazing really that we were actually still talking on Sunday morning.

A departure time of 7.30am meant a quiet evening on Saturday. Despite numerous friends assurances that pints of magners in the Spiegeltent counted as carb loading, I managed to fight the urge to go out and spent the evening milling into pasta on my sofa watching Tonights the Night with John Barrowman. (I won’t be staying in on a Saturday ever again.)

The 90 mile journey to Ayr was surprisingly cordial with both of us stifling the urge to wind the other up. Now I would like to say this was a last ditch effort at good sportsmanship on both our behalfs but it wasn’t…. We were simply still a bit stunned at getting out of bed at 6.30am on a Sunday for something other than a trip to the kitchen for water to treat the hangover. We arrived at our destination fairly calm and relaxed….. and then we saw how far the transition area was from the car park…. Did these people not realise we literally only had 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run in our legs???

As we made the trek from the car to the transition area it slowly dawned on us that this was not quite the amateur affair we were hoping for. Stumpy, with his red plastic house of fraser bag, and me, with my suped up BMX (thankfully I had taken the stabilisers off of it on Saturday!!), were essentially rocking up to compete in Formula 1 in a clapped out Nissan Micra. After setting out our kit in the transition area we did a quick recce of the portaloos (I would soon realise why the organisers had decided 2 portaloos were sufficient for a 100 strong crowd) and the river we were about to launch ourselves into. For the 15th time that morning I asked myself “What the feck have I gotten myself into?!?”. It was then back to the transition area to lube up and don the wetsuits. Now for anyone looking for a few laughs on a Sunday morning I would recommend looking up your local triathlon events, as even the Fringe can’t compete with the comedy value of 100 people contorting themselves to get into rubber suits and caps…. Priceless.

At 11am we were summoned to the side of the river for the pre race briefing. This consisted of a man with a microphone yelling at us not to drown, get hit by a car or trip over our laces…. Oh and he also informed us that Ayr council, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to start resurfacing a 2 mile stretch of road so there was a good chance we would come a cropper at this point of the cycle…. Marvellous. We were then sent packing down into the arctic waters to “warm up” before kick off. When I heard the screams from those first in I decided the sensible option was to scramble back up the sand bank onto the safety of the grass. My escape was thwarted though by something gripping my arm and dragging me in. At first I thought it was one of the swams attacking me but then I noticed the yellow cap and realised it was stumpy…. For an old boy with a broken shoulder he was freakishly strong. So that was that there was no escaping now. As we stood in the river fighting hypothermia I slowly realised 2 things

1 – the combination of wetsuits and ice cold water meant there was method to the 2 portaloo madness – Use your imagination

2 – paddling in the sea in Spain 3 weeks before, and a 20min dip in Loch Ore Meadows does not qualify as sufficient training for a 750m swim in a river in Ayr

The whistle then blew and we were off… Or at least everyone else was. Now having only learned to swim properly in the last 6 months it’s fair to say that swimming is not my strong point, so I was prepared for a less than Olympic performance in the water. I was not however prepared for the kick I got in the face, the hundred odd gallons of water I swallowed or losing all feeling in my hands and feet. The swim leg of the race consisted of four 187.5 metre lengths of the river…. About 20m into the first length I considered calling over the rescue canoe to drag me out, but the fear of the swans (they can break your arm with their wing you know) and the shame of being labelled a DNF (ala stumpy in the 2010 Great Edinburgh Run in May) took over and I managed to complete this section of the race (albeit I was one of the last out of the water).

As I stumbled towards the transition area it dawned on me that if I was to claw back some of the dignity lost in the river and catch sight of Stumpy I was going to have to venture into unknown territory on the bike…. i.e take my hands of the brakes. This might seem a small thing to anyone else but given I have managed to fall off the stupid thing whilst stationery the idea of falling of it whilst moving terrifies me. Add to this my propensity for injuring myself (most recently of which a fractured coccyx…. Fancy medical term for broken arse) the idea of cycling 20km was rapidly losing it’s appeal. Nonetheless I battled on and after wrestling myself out of the wetsuit and into helmet/cycling shoes I set off. The race blurb on the triathlon website had indicated that this was not a particularly hilly cycle…. They’d lied. I figured though that as the cycle was a loop out and back with “breath taking scenery” the uphills and downhills would balance out….. they didn’t. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Oh and I didn’t notice the alleged “breath taking scenery” as my vision was blurred from the exertion of dragging myself up endless hills whilst simulataneously trying to avoid the Ayr boy racers playing chicken in their Subaru Imprezzas. Miraculously though I managed to catch a few of my opponents on the bike and actually began to enjoy the ride. The enjoyment was shortlived though as I arrived back into the transition zone to see the first of the male competitors crossing the finish line! I am now convinced that some of these guys have gills and so some sort of genetic testing should be done to validate their 9 minute swim times!!

Nonetheless as I was a mere 5km from competing my first open water triathlon I ploughed on with the run. Thankfully I’d finally gotten to the part which I could do…. Or so I thought. Having done a fair amount of running over the last couple of years, 5km is generally not particularly stressful. However after swimming (if you could call it that) 750m and cycling 20km a 5km run feels like trekking across the Andes in a pair of stilettos (Not that I or anyone else for that matter has ever done that but you get the idea). It took about a kilometre or so for the jelly legs to subside and me to regain control of my limbs (My feet finally began to thaw out from the swim now too which was a bonus). According to the race blurb this wasn’t going to be a particularly hilly course…. They’d lied… Again. About 1 and a half kilometres in chalked on the ground were warnings of “Horrible Hill Up Ahead”….. They’d conveniently forgotten that from the pre race brief. Halfway up this mountain I had to jump into a ditch as the marshalls had decided to let one of the boy racers from earlier drive up it. This was not shaping up to be a record breaking 5km for me. But as I got to the top, I spied some opponents ahead of me and finally got a second wind. I managed to speed up and again miraculously overtook a few of my fellow competitors but unfortunately none of them were Stumpy. The last 1km of the run was through a housing estate (again not quite the “breath taking scenery” Ayr triathlon club had been shouting about, but thankfully the residents were out in their gardens cheering us on. As I came up the final stretch I finally spied Stumpy loitering in his lycra at the finish line. The police were about to issue a ticket for indecent exposure but fortunately I got there just in time to explain why he was terrorising the good folk of Ayr with the S+M type ensemble.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t have a happy ending (i.e I didn’t win) but I’ve taken comfort in the fact that this is the first (and last) time Stumpy has beaten me in an official race (although I question how official this even is as there was no medals at the end) so you should too. I’ve declined Stumpy’s kind offer of joining him for his Half Ironman next weekend but I’ll be wading into Strathcylde park with him the week after for another dose of hypothermia.

How interesting!  Anyway, Shakey has decided that as she is joining me for the last and first event and is also doing the NY Marathon that she has done as much as me in the challenge.  As I have pointed out I did 20% of my challenge mileage this weekend and will do 1% in the last weekend (and it is not anal to have calculated that if you are an ex-accountant!).  Which means that next weekend is the big one with a 1.9k swim, 90k bike and then a half marathon and hopefully home for tea (which may be a tasty IV drip) on Sunday evening.  An update will no doubt folllow.

I am delighted that I have now raised almost £2.8k but I will still be fundraising for another fortnight if you haven’t had the opportunity yet!



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2 Responses to “Stage One – Ayr Open Water Triathlon”

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Good effort…I am still wondering if you are the same Dougie Cameron that I know, or just some random that emailed me about sponsorship (& happened to be called Dougie Cmaeron) !Keep up the good work fella ! We look forward to seeing the new slimline version sometime soon…& no I am not going for a run or a cycle & I officially hung up the Speedo's years ago !


Well done DC. Mega proud of you and Shakey. Posted comment yesterday as was very worried you were in hospital and Pam was to distressed to put out an update!!


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