YFenni Tri – Blaenavon – Richard Gardiner

I approached the new triathlon season after a long winter of training and trying to recover from Iron man Wales 2016. An event that had taken an incredible toll on my body, more so than any other event I’ve competed in over my 34 year career.

The winter had been tough, particularly with my running which I was really struggling with. On the plus side there was the acquisition of my first ever TT bike courtesy of Cranc Cyclesport. To top that off being signed up as part of their New Multisport Team ‘Team Cranc’ gave me the boost I required.

Rich May 2017 1My first race of the year billed as the oldest and toughest Triathlon in the UK, YFenni Tri – Blaenavon. An Olympic distance of sorts consisting of an 800m swim, 32 mile bike around some of the toughest climbs in the area followed by what could only be described as a 9 mile fell run to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

As race day approached the need to actually go outside on my new bike had become a priority especially as I’m not so technically gifted.  On the Wednesday before the race a club friend took me around the Tumble. This mainly consisted of him shouting at me at regular intervals to stop braking going downhill! The evidence that he was right showed when on one decent alone he almost put a minute on me!  That said I was quietly confident in how comfortable and strong I felt on the flat in my new position which I had spent hours in on my turbo.

On the day of the race I arrived with plenty of time and began to fluster over the many aspects of the sport. Going through my usual panic but the marshals and organisers were very patient and supportive which was of great comfort.

Finally I had all my kit in the right areas and could relax and focus on my race. I was in the last wave of athletes starting.  After the race briefing the swim was underway and as expected despite going as fast as I possibly could go it was clear that I was going to be last out of the heat with everything to do.

Rich May 2017 3T1 went ok, I had no real time loss without rushing either, I went out on the bike course looking forward to the climbs where I hoped to hold the faster riders. I was however dreading the descents along with the potential time loss I would incur. The bike course was a beast and the climbs went on forever, however still in my mind were the down hills. I thought to myself, “I must be the only rider in this race not wishing for the down sections!?” Eventually they came and I was constantly talking to myself to hold off the brakes. Reassuring myself that there is only so fast the bike can go if I don’t brake and that actually I will not hit 2,000 miles an hour…….. Alas, I eventually gave in and braked. The problem was once I’d started braking I could feel time slipping away.

Once on the mild decent back into Abergavenny via Crickhowell I settled into my aero position and hammered it home. Hoping Andy’s promise that “the TT bike may not make you faster on the ride so much but faster on the run” would come to fruition as I had only passed two riders from my wave on the ride.

Getting back into Abergavenny T2 was as good as T1, my wife greeted me with the news that my beloved Swansea City had secured their football Premier League status (genius psychology) as I changed! I asked her had I got everything to which she calmly from a distance replied “how would I know?” I then shouted to her “can I catch them” to which she was a bit more positive in replying “yea”.

The first 10 minutes of climbing I went through the usual ritual of “why am I doing this” before my running legs started to arrive (Andy was right!) and the thought of a late challenge moved to the fore.

Rich May 2017 2After what seemed like miles of climbing I could see the first runner to latch onto in the distance. By now I was into my rhythm, getting faster and faster, on catching him a whole line of runners appeared and I knew I was getting close to leading the race.  Before the final ascent to Sugarloaf I passed the leader confirmed by a marshal and the next challenge was to run to the summit without stopping (perish the thought) but you can’t underestimate these things.  I finally got to the top running straight on with the luxury of easing myself off the mountain, not taking any risks to take the win with a running split 7 minutes faster than the second fastest (thank you Argon18). After winning my first running race aged 10 and countless others since, at age 43 I could now add a Triathlon to the list and a legendry one at that!

It felt good to actually compete after months of hard work to win as part of the new ‘Team Cranc’ in such a friendly, well run event steeped in tradition.

Next up another 3 week block of hard work before going to Denmark with the GB team in the European long distance Championships, I’m looking forward to having a right go in the race although the Logistical challenge has stepped up another level!


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