After almost 2 years since my last triathlon due to the pandemic, the wait was finally over to pin a number on and give the Wales Middle Triathlon a crack. Held annually in Fishguard, it’s known for its tough bike course with just over 3000ft of climbing and a very tough half marathon, a 4 loop course with around 1000ft of climbing. Whenever you mention the Wales Middle to anyone in the triathlon circuit, they all give the same look when you talk about the run course!
The Welsh Middle Champs are held at the event as well so I knew going in that there would be some quality athletes in the field so I was really excited to see how I would fair against them. I also had the added pressure from my previous race in May which ended with a DNF due to a bike mechanical a few miles from T2, so I was determined to put things right at Fishguard and put in a performance I know I’m capable of.
Standard pre-race morning, up 3 three hours before the start to have breakfast. A later start time than usual meant no 3am alarms thankfully! Due to Covid regulations, athletes were divided into 4 waves, I was lucky enough to be allocated wave one which meant less traffic in the swim and on the first lap of the bike course.
Quick warm up swim and I made my way to the swim start. I made sure I was right in the front row to take full advantage of a single loop traffic free swim. Before I knew it the horn went off and it was go time! First 100m hard to stop people staying on my feet and then I settled into a good rhythm making sure I stick to the shortest line. Activity Events Wales decided to put on a fireworks display which I thought was pretty cool. Open water swimming always comes with a few punches and kicks which I’m prepared for but to be hit on the head with a piece of firework was unexpected! Thankfully no damage and pretty much uneventful after that! First out of the water (even though that’s not a thing at the moment!) in 29minutes. Initially I was disappointed with my time however with swimming pools only opening at the start of May, it was an accurate reflection of where I am it and an indication that I have lots of work to do in the pool.
Onto the bike course, being first on the bike I had the luxury of following the safety bike for the first loop which felt pretty cool, for a brief moment I felt like a Pro! Lap one was pretty uneventful, it was a hot day, so I made sure I stayed on top of my hydration and fuel. I felt really good on the bike, legs felt good and the course suited me well, it had some very fast sections and a load of punchy climbs thrown in for good measure. The real problems started on lap two as the traffic was horrendous. I got stuck behind a tractor twice on single lane country roads and I couldn’t help but get annoyed seeing my average speed go down. I immediately put a positive spin on things and reminded myself that it’s the same for everyone and to control my controllables. Despite the traffic I got back into T2 with a 2.30 split feeling really good and ready to test my legs on the run.
You could feel the heat as soon as you started the run, with not a cloud in the sky I knew it was crucial to manage heat and with only one water station per lap you’d soon be in trouble if you missed it. It was a difficult run to pace given the hills so the plan was to pick up the pace on the flats and descents without burning too many matches and leave enough to tackle the hills on each lap. It’s the best I’ve ever felt running off the bike, I really enjoyed the run, for the first time I could actually enjoy the atmosphere which was amazing across the whole course. I felt I managed the heat well, I must have been going alright as a few times across the course someone shouted “go on Fordy”, which I took as a massive complement!
Starting the last lap, I worked out that I was on for a sub 1.30 which given the hills would be an awesome achievement for me, so I knuckled down and used the rest of my matches up. It was such a good feeling collecting my final lap band and making my way back to the finish line knowing that I didn’t have to run up that bloody hill again! I made sure to soak up the atmosphere on the final 400m and take a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come as a triathlete. Onto the red carpet, fists in the air, big grin on my face, crossing the line with a time of 4:33:08 and a 6th place finish overall.
This performance has given me a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season. Few more days rest and it’s onto the final 70.3 of the season in July before the big one in September (Hopefully!). Huge thanks to Nathan for the continued support, onto the next one!