New Forest Tri: One misty moisty morning...
Five in the morning is a very rude time to be woken up, especially by a cheery text message: "Are you awake yet?" But that was a friend who was probably racking his bike for the New Forest Tri while I was up at the campsite doing what the English do under stress: making a nice cup of tea.
Cuppa downed, I ambled down to transition to meet up with cronies and a bunch of chaps from the Tri-Talk forum - I'm officially the most recognisable forummer, which is a mixed blessing: plenty of "doing good, mate!" from other folks; no hiding my glacial run.
The start was fast! A quick briefing and then the waves were off in strict three-minute intervals. No standing around getting panicky and cold: a hallmark of these guys' no-nonsense businesslike race organisation. The swim was solid once I found my rhythm (which took a while to come). The melee was fun. I took the course wide (for I am verily the Flying Dutchman), but was still in my wave by the end. By far the best mass-start swim I've had, if not the cleanest actual swimming. Some nice moving-meditation moments, but the navigation barfs broke the mood. Once again, that sight of a wave of triathletes swimming together - from water level, framed by your own arm, flat water and the bank scudding by - struck me as one of those images that is a rare privilege to see.
T1 was a clown parade. Giddy and gumby-legged to start with, then having to - oh noes!!1! - think about what to wear. Would the drizzle clear or get worse? Would it be wetter, or colder, up on the moor? I went with no socks, no waterproof, and it paid off. Munky was looking damp propped up on my tri-bars.
Bike was solid and steady, lots of time on the aero bars. There was that light drizzle that really cools you down, Zen rain  - which I love 'cos I get really hot when I work. After the initial climb - which I had to force myself to take gently in order to keep stuff in reserve for later, and to shake the swim out of my legs - I got to chunter along in an aero tuck, steaming and bright blue. I am the Mallard. As well as the Dutchman. It's a steampunk boat/train combo thing (if you think this is bad, the drive to the campsite was accompanied by an entire hallucinatory manga). Many people punctured, there were a few mechanicals and a couple of nasty offs; a good handful of people finished bloody.
T2 was more clowning, my feet were numb lumps of insensate meat. I left with only one sock after getting one of my twin-skin magic blister-b-gone socks discombobulated around a numb folded toe. The bare foot suffered, but not too badly.
The run was slow. Not hard, just slow - couldn't find any speed. Chugged round and finally loosened up at 6k, a bit late. It felt slower than the posted time says it was, but it was an interesting route including a huge stupid sand dune. Usul, we have triathlete-sign the likes of which even God has never seen... The rain picked up during the run, so I ended in a shower and we stood steaming under the trees.
Breaking down the times, then, it's a 32:28 swim: I think I lost a couple of minutes going off-piste but all in all a major turnaround from Bude. Bike was 1:16:24, felt faster but I have done no speedwork at all so that's all off my base. Run was 1:03:50, a lot better than I thought (thanks, lovely podiatrist lady!) and better than it felt. I planned to take a lot more food and fluids and ended up using about 1250ml of Go and one gel (first thing on the run).
Organisation-wise it was a peach, a really straightforward grassroots event with nice courses. The race pack was great, the timing chips were really easy to use, the signing was grand and the free tea and buns at the end were just what the doctor ordered. Split start and finish were only annoying if you're a dithery arse and it's raining...
So, that's close enough to a Standard course tri to count, as far as I'm concerned. I want to do another one, cleaner slicker faster, and then maybe look at getting my run up to a good half-marathon (one I run, not jog) before considering upping the distance. The main thing: that was still fun. Big fun. It was wacky races and LRP and shapeshifting and Those Wonderful Toys and moving meditation and a straightforward in-the-moment celebration of physicality. Makes all that training worthwhile.
 Zen rain: The Rinzai school of Zen likens meditation to light drizzle. You don't realise you're changing, and then all of a sudden you notice that you've achieved enlightenment, in fact, it was a while ago; with rain, you don't realise you're getting wet, then all of a sudden you realise that you're soaked.
Wow, long report! Sounds like you had fun and the weather didn't completely ruin the race. Good luck at your next event, hopefully the weather will be nicer.
It'd better be, it's a sea swim! :O