Chirk Triathlon – A Tale of the Unexpected
Chirk Triathlon is a favourite race among the North West triathlon community. It’s an early season pool triathlon in picturesque North Wales.
I did this triathlon waaay back. The exact year is lost in the mists of time (and probably my race number with the finishing time scrawled on the back is lost in our attic – imagine the last scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the box containing the Ark is stored away- that’s our attic) but it was probably 2003 or 2004. I did the race on my mountain bike fitted with road tyres and a swimsuit with a T shirt over it. Not so much as a sniff of a high tech watch in those days!
I also did the race last year and had so much fun with my Mersey Tri buddies that we all entered again. I always like to try and improve but my main aims were better transitions and a better bike time. For some reason I didn’t use my Tri race belt last year and pinned my number to my top. Big mistake! I forgot that you have to display the number on the back during the cycle leg and turn it round to the front during the run. I wasted valuable minutes in transition unpinning the numbers.
Not this year. Although I took my race belt with me, Wrecsam Tri gave out race belts and a buff as part of the goody bag in registration. Theirs was much easier to use than my existing one so it was the race belt of choice.
There was a change to the registration process this year too. We were given a time to register and once you had done that and put your bike in transition, you had to be at the pool side within 30 min ready to start.
I had an early ish start time of 9.57 by the time I joined the queue at the poolside. I managed a nice solid swim of 9 minutes and 13 seconds (includes running out to the timing mat) and into T1 to collect my bike. All went smoothly so I was feeling good as I headed out.
From last year’s experience, I knew that the bike leg is an out and back run of 23km. It is a little deceptive because it looks as if you are going downhill when in fact it is an slight uphill all the way out to Glyn Ceiriog and then a nice solid downhill ride back apart from the final hill back into Chirk. I was a bit disappointed to get held up by some cars at the roundabout at the top of said hill. However, worse was to come because I noticed an air ambulance in the field as I approached the town and then lots of blue lights from about 3 ambulances and 2 police cars. I had to slow right down and, further down the road, avoid a tanker that was parked part of the way across the road. I later learned that one of the competitors, who was said to be 72, had had a cardiac arrest and was airlifted to hospital. While he was being treated, the race was stopped.
I didn’t know this at the time though and I was therefore confused when I got back to transition and my friend Lisa came over to talk to me. She should have been out on her bike leg but as the race had stopped, she had to hang around (wet and cold) until it re-started. I was lucky enough that I could carry on the run leg as it was away from the accident scene.
It’s a really hilly run to test your mettle. I managed not to stop running last year but this year, I just couldn’t make it up the really steep hill towards the end of the run and resorted to walking.
Despite that, I was convinced that I was about to shave a few seconds off my time from last year but, in fact, I was 17 seconds slower. My bike time was 1 minute slower than last year although much of that would have been down to the accident. I was happy with my transitions though, 2 mins 13 sec for T1 and 1 min 40 secs for T2. Got to take the positives where you find them!
With hindsight, I wasn’t really all that well either. I had been suffering from a mildly sore throat and headache for the 3 days before the race but I had felt better that morning so decided to go for it. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t improved if I am being honest but it was tempered with a sense of relief that my race went smoothly and that I was alive and well and healthy enough to complete a triathlon, unlike the competitor who had the accident on his bike leg.
The accident caused the race to stop for an hour and half in the end. No doubt, this was a bit frustrating for those waiting to start but safety first. The marshals did a good job in difficult circumstances. I haven’t heard how the triathlete is but I hope he makes a good recovery. He was described as being in a serious condition.
Although there was an unexpected twist to this year’s race, it’s still a race that we all enjoy doing: well organised, nice scenic bike course, nice race goodies and great camaraderie between the competitors. I will be back next year to challenge my time yet again!