Who would have thought the most stressful part of a triathlon is getting to the venue!

There’s always talk about the fourth discipline in Triathlon; some say it’s the transition, some say it’s nutrition … well, I would like to add another option: getting yourself and bike to the venue in one piece.

My story starts on Friday (racing on Saturday). I fit my bike rack to my car, the first time I’ve used this bike rack on our new car. Reviews suggest it’s compatible. It feels secure enough. I go with it. All that was left to do was put the bike on and drive to Hever Castle. Simple, right?

Saturday morning alarm goes off, I go through the normal pre-race routine: coffee, breakfast, double check the kit and put my bikes on the car (I took my road bike and TT bike as hadn’t completely decided which to use). Off I went.

Driving along the M25, music playing, thinking through the race, I suddenly heard a loud crash. Looking out the rear-view mirror I see my bike rack and both bikes bouncing down the motorway. Thankfully it was 7am and the road was still quiet … which also helped as I obviously needed to run into the middle lane where it had bounced from the left hand to retrieve everything!

Making it safely back to the hard shoulder, I quickly assessed which was in the best condition and likely to make it round the course. Neither were in the best shape - neither back wheels were spinning, and chains were off. Mechanics, DIY and fixing things isn’t in my skill set (I take my bike to the shop to repair punctures), so this was not an ideal situation. One would fit in the boot, the other would need to be left for later collection (I wasn’t chancing the back rack again!) .. but where do you leave a bike and rack when you’re on a motorway?! Aaaarrrghhhh I really don’t need this when I only have an hour in transition (I normally like at least an hour and a half to faff and re-faff!).

Decision made, I am taking my carbon fibre year old TT bike and leaving my trusty Aluminium 4-year-old commuting road bike (“Daisy”, named by my wife as it is slow for competing and I look like I’m driving Miss Daisy) behind. TT bike in the back off my car, Daisy and bike rack chained to a road sign and pushed as far down a ditch a possible, so it is out of the view of passers-by.

As a side note, I got married in Carshalton and our reception was in Oxted - we broke down in our vintage VW camper in the exact same spot of the M25. Needless to say, I will be avoiding this part of the M25 for all future journeys!

I finally arrive at Hever Castle (late, obviously), missed my allocated slot to arrive so have to run from the car park, with Tri bag on my back, WTC Flag over one shoulder, bike on the other shoulder and front wheel in my hand. For those that have done Hever, the car park to transition is a long way (especially when you feel like you’ve already run a marathon!), with the additional checks and registration on the way.

Upon arrival in registration the guy said to me, after telling him my story so far, “good news if you don’t like the swim, it has been shortened to 400m”. My response was “oh that’s great news”. He then he followed up with “because the water is so cold”, to which I replied “I am not sure that is good news”.

I drop my bag in transition and run with my bike and parts to the brilliant British Bike Hire who were calm and understanding of my situation (bearing in mind I am now 30 mins before I need to be in the water). They told to me to go and get ready and while they saw what they could do. I raced to put up the WTC flag, headed back to transition to get everything ready, wetsuit on etc….then run back in wetsuit to British Bike Hire who have somehow fixed my bike in a short amount of time. Thanking them, I set off on the bike, test brakes and gears (still in wetsuit) – all seems ok. I rack my bike, then full sprint to the swim start to find people already getting in the water. I talk to some other swimmers to find the new reduced swim route, to realise I still have on my wedding ring, which will 100% fall off in cold water (I handed it to Brian the Race Director to look after), it also occurs to me that I hadn’t applied lube to neck, wrists or ankles to help get my wetsuit off or even thought about my pre-race toilet stop! But on the plus side, I didn’t have time to worry about how cold the water was going to be.

The race itself went well. My times weren’t as good as I’d hoped but, once I’d had time to reflect, I cut myself some slack, given the start I’d had and the fact I was pretty exhausted before I’d even got into the water! The route was also fairly hilly which, when you’re originally from the Fens is also not your preferred flat conditions. The race was well organised though, and a scenic spot (for your spectators who might have more time to actually take it in).

Post-race I was interviewed by Castle Triathlon Series. At least I had an interesting story to tell (even if it wasn’t the one they were expecting). Headed back to British Bike Hire to thank them again, had a post-race picnic with my family again and then finally met some of the WTC Team.

I took my bike home before doing a quick turn-around to drive back to the trusty spot on the M25 to pick up Daisy. That night, we ordered take-away pizza and scoffed a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. An eventful day all in all, but it won’t put me off doing triathons next year (mainly because the five I signed up to this year have been rolled over to next year automatically!!). I will, however, be purchasing a new bike rack.

By Steven (Also known as @SteveThePirate)

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Westcroft Leisure Centre,

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