Ocean Lava Triathlon – July 2016

When planning my 2016 season at the start of the year I knew that I wanted to race in Fishguard again. I have good memories from last years race, and the course suits me – flat two loop swim with an Australian exit, a tough hilly/windy bike but not to technical and a hilly hard run. This year however I had Cyclelogic team mate David Bartlett joining me, and knew he would be one of my biggest rivals, along with local Ironman athlete Oliver Simon. Unlike most races this took place on a Saturday, so Friday the car was packed for the 5 hour drive, unfortunately the traffic was horrendous and 8 hours later we finally arrived. We stayed in a lovely B & B called The Ferryboat which was only a two minute walk to registration. Because of my win last year I was given the honour of wearing the number one bib – something which has never happened before, now I knew I had a target on my back as last year I went under the radar as no-one knew who I was. The evening flew by checking out the bike course, sorting kit and finding somewhere for a simple pasta dinner.

Most races have a ridicously early start, but this race didn’t kick off till 10am – a 7am alarm on race morning was a luxury. The owners of the B & B very kindly started serving breakfast earlier than usual for the triathletes staying so I was greeted in the breakfast room to scrambled eggs on toast and fresh coffee on tap. Dave and I were able to roll to the transition area where I set up my gear and went for a warm-up jog before climbing into my wetsuit for the race briefing. After the race briefing I had my usual pre-race Torq gel with guarana – banoffee flavour to be exact and then headed into the water for a 10 minute warm-up before the start.

The swim consists of a two laps – one of 750m and one of 1150m with a 50m run along the front in-between. This is because there is also a sprint race (750m, 20km, 5km) that starts at the same time. The pace was fast to the first buoy in the initial 100m and I felt the three swimmers in front were going off course and taking a longer line. I tired to take the shortest line, but as I now didn’t have the draft effect I lost their feet, I tired like crazy to catch back up, but they were just too quick for me. Out of the water on the first lap and the three leaders had a 10 second gap. I sprinted along the front to try and catch them before the second lap, but no good. I swam the second lap solo but managed to catch junior Matt Bailey and we exited the water 1 minute down on Dave and 35 seconds down on Phil Wolfe (another very strong swim, bike runner). After a smooth transition I was onto the bike and headed off onto the three mile climb that starts the cycle course. I started picking off the sprint athletes who were already out on the course. I was 4th out of the swim according to the announcer but I overtook Matt in transition so knew there was only Phil and Dave up the road. After a few miles I overtook Phil into second. The course went all the way to st David – the country’s smallest city – before looping through the city and onto the coastal road with stunning views on the Atlantic – not that we got to enjoy them! The coast road was windy and narrow with some short sharp hills, you could never see too far ahead because of all the bends in the road so I couldn’t see Dave in the distance. I asked one of the marshalls for a time gap, in which he replyed ‘ummm say two minutes’, this turned out not to be accurate but in my head, knowing Dave took a minute out of me on the swim, thought he had taken another minute off me over the first 20 miles. After passing Trefin and Mathry the course re-joins the A487 to St David for the second loop. There was a strong-ish head wind so I put my head down and dug deep for 10 miles. During the entire cycle I made sure I was constantly re-fuelling. I sipped on Torq vanilla energy drink, had a couple of Torq energy gels and also had a few pieces of butter flapjack. My new profile design aero bottle and top tube bag were the perfect nutrition storage needed. On the second loop I started picking off the slower athletes, when in the distance I realised one competitor I wasn’t closing in on on the flat fast section. Down into Trefin around a shard bend and I realised it was Dave, I put in a strong effort and over took him on the hill, another big hill a mile later I put in another burst to drop Dave before joining the fast decent on the A487 back to Fishguard. I entered transition around a minute ahead of Dave.

The first half of the run starts off flat along a gravelly track on a jetty on an out and back section. After this the course heads uphill, fairly steep uphill aswell. You then looped back on yourself all the way downhill to transition – this made the quads burn! During the run I extended my lead with every mile which passed but I ran hard for the entire 13.1 miles as I wanted to beat my split from last year and this was to be my final middle distance race before Septembers World 70.3 Championships. The run course had a good atmosphere with lots of spectators and booming music. Another nice touch on the hills were the words painted on the floor by the organisers of ‘sorry’ and then on the next hill ‘really sorry’. I crossed the line first in 4 hours 14 minutes and 9 seconds.

Another great organised race by Activity Wales. The 5 hour drive didn’t do my legs any good so I now have a few days recovery before my final block of training for the Ironman 70.3 World Age Group Championships in Mooloolaba Australia.

Massive thanks as always to Cyclelogic, fitnaturally, Datasharp UK, Snugg Wetsuits, Torq Nutrition and Verve Fitness & Therapy.


Michael Birchmore

Training hard is what I do

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