Wind and waves awaited the Redhill Cycling Club’s flourishing triathlon section on Sunday as we congregated on the coast for the Bexhill sprint triathlon.
In true triathlon style, the race briefing took place at 7.40. With quite a journey from Redhill, and bikes, wetsuits, talc, elastic laces, and all the other gizmos triathletes like to accumulate to pack and organise, this meant an early start most of us.
Dave Willsher, Neil Candler, Simon Baldwin and I took on the 500m swim, 25k bike and 5k run while Mari Balbi competed in a team with Neil’s wife Anna and Anna’s collegue and Reigate Priory Athletics Club member Shiona Enfield.
The race looked set to be blighted by windy weather and a rough sea but spirits could not be dampened and most of us saw the funny side. To choose to get up at 4.30am, drive towards the sea and then plunge headfirst into it, I suppose you have to have a slightly perverse sence of humour.
The extent of the waves saw organisers alter the swim course to avoid collisions in the water and Anna and I bonded over mutual fear. Thankfully both of us are still alive, and Anna excited the swim as one of the first in the all-female wave.
The bike ride began with some gentle, and some less than gentle “undulation” but levelled out for a flat sprint before returning to the hilly terrain near transition.
The run was a simple two lap out and back, which might have become boring if it were not for the wicked (read: evil) headwind on the way out and “wicked” (read: more positive, colloquial use) tailwind on the back.
Out and back bike and run routes meant we Redhillians passed each other in our red, black and yellow glory (my tri suit still on order!) several times and many cheers were given.
The team put on quite a show, with Neil Candler, Dave Willsher and Simon Baldwin all taking on their last race before they head off to Beijing for the World Championships.
First home was Neil, in ninth place overall with a time of 1.14.38, and exiting the swim not far behind was Dave. Simon was the third of the group to exit the water but caught up with an impressive bike and run leg, competing the race in a time of 1.14.42, just overtaking Dave who crossed the line in 1.16.58.
Even strong swimmers Dave and Neil struggled against the tides, Neil claiming he swum the first 100metres with his head above the waves and Dave joking that he consumed enough salt to make electrolyte drinks unecessary.
I came in at 1.30.35, eighth overall and first in my AgeGroup. This was my first sea swim race, and I was mainly pleased just to survive without panicking or drowning. The time, compared to a “normal” sprint is a bit painful to behold, but I was expecting this, and coming out the water so late meant I compensated with what felt like a good bike leg.
The SAS Sistas just pipped me to the finish with a time of 1.30.03 – well done girls!
Once all were clocked in, coffee, prawn sandwiches and a huge helping of fish and chips were the recovery of choice, and the sun even came out to dry off our wetsuits while we enjoyed the seaside view. A lovely day, enjoyed by all