*** many thanks to Neil Flanagan for providing us with this race report ***

I’ll pre-warn you – there’s a lot of pre-amble here, which looks like the idiots guide to preparing in the worst possible way for a huge race – if you just want the race report, it starts at the bottom of page 2!!

Those of you that know me well will know I am a creature of habit, and a bit of a control freak.  I eat pretty much the same thing day in and day out, and rely on the training plan that Jason kindly sends me each month – if it’s not on the plan, it doesn’t happen, simple as that!

Had a bit of drama before leaving with my GB race kit not arriving due to a Wiggle cock-up, but after much complaining they agreed to courier one direct to my hotel in NZ, so one less thing to worry about…

I flew into Auckland arriving at lunchtime on the Wednesday, the plan being to check in, unpack, build the bike, go for a jog to stretch the legs out, have a bite to eat, and get a good nights sleep before getting up to join one of the organised course familiarisation rides late Thursday morning, then follow with the usual protocol of gentle runs and swims to stay limber, a day of rest on the Saturday, the ‘15s’ on Sunday, and race Monday……

The Hotel computers were down when I arrived, and since it was cold and p*%^ing down outside, there wasn’t much to do but sit around and wait….5 hours later I finally got checked in, and had just enough time to unpack, build the bike, have a bite to eat and crash out.  Upon unpacking the bike, I noticed a big hole and a dent in the bike box, but everything seemed to be intact so didn’t give it too much thought…

Woke up nice and early (2a.m) Thursday morning, and after much faffing got down to the race venue for 9a.m to have the on-site bike mechanics check my bike over before riding the course – it quickly became apparent that there was a problem, turns out the rear derailleur and cassette had been broken in transit, and the bike was not safe to ride, so I had to order replacement parts (at a not insignificant cost) which would arrive on the following day….left my precious bike with the mechanics,  under instructions to come back the next afternoon to collect it when it would all be done.

Headed down to registration and picked up race pack etc, had a quick look at the swim course, and headed back to the hotel, quick run around the city centre and put feet up for the rest of the day – had checked the courier tracker for my race suit and it had landed in Auckland, so just had to get from the local DHL office to the hotel, sweet!

Friday morning fairly uneventful, went and did the swim course familiarisation after lunch, which was fine, water a bit on the cold side for my liking but nothing to worry about – then headed down to the bike mechanics and collected the bike, which was all repaired, tuned and ready to go J, decided to ride the course the following(Saturday) morning.

Headed back to the hotel, and my race kit had arrived, the last of any potential pre-race problems solved, time to relax……until I checked the kit and discovered it had not had the ‘GBR’ printed on the back of the suit! – headed over to the Team GB hotel  to see what could be done, to be basically told that the suit was ineligible under ITU rules and I would have to find a printer or I wouldn’t be allowed to race!

Another fairly average nights sleep followed, and I was up at the crack of dawn to find a screen printer who could print my kit that day – after a fair amount of wandering, begging and pleading I finally found a place who would do it and agreed to collect it at 5p.m that day-no room for error here, if it didn’t get done then I wouldn’t be racing, simple as that!

Back to the hotel, picked up the bike and headed out on to the bike course, just having a nice pootle round and had a nice surprise bumping into Ian Le Pelley, rode the rest of the course with him, took a couple of snapshots, gasbagged with a local who was out walking her dog and seemed more excited about the whole thing than either of us were, and headed back to the hotel to get ready to watch the Elite Womens race – the weather was glorious, so headed down to the race start area, met up with Jaq Sydow, who had a spare seat in the Grandstand (bonus)  - watched a great race, was awesome to see the best in the world up close and personal – had to dash off to collect my race kit, which mercifully had been done perfectly – finally, I was ready to race!

Sunday was another miserable Auckland day, rainy and windy, wrapped up warm and stayed close to the hotel and watched the Elite men, managed to get a few average photos – they don’t look like they’re running fast, (3 min/k)!!  Headed down to the transition area to rack the bike at around 4.30, joined a massive queue just as the weather took a turn for the worse, and basically stood in the pouring rain for the best part of 2 hours, firstly for bike inspection, and then for body marking – not the best organisation, but hey ho! Got home around 7p.m, time for a hot shower, bite to eat, put all kit out and double checked everything, and an early night.


Race day!! (finally)

Woke up feeling pretty average,  with a bit of a head cold, but calm, which is normal for me, had the usual breakfast, and headed down to the transition area for 5.30, my wave was going off at 7.16 so had plenty of time – checked the bike over,  quick chat and jog with Jason, saw Ian Le Pelley and exchange good luck wishes and headed over to the pre-race area to get wetsuit on and drop clothes off etc.

I have to say at this stage, the organisation was very good, waves were going off at 3-4 minute intervals, so you shuffled into a holding pen, and as soon as the wave in front left, filtered down onto the pontoon and sat on the edge, feet in the water (freezing) – then you were instructed to jump in, and hold on to the pontoon, waited probably 15 seconds, then boom, the gun goes off!

Swim – 12.09

Got off to a great start, not too much pushing and shoving! – saw Jason cut across ahead of me after about 100 metres, and saw him and another guy up ahead, I was in 3rd place…then, at the end of the pier, just when you hit the ‘chop’, I just kind of died! – floundered around for what seemed an eternity being swam past and over by other swimmers, until I finally got to the turnaround buoy, and from then on it was about survival, went from 3rd to 23rd in 500m, nice work Flanners! – clearly, I had gone out just a bit too hard, and paid for it….

T1 – 3.45

Not much to say about this except it was a loooong run, maybe 500m or more into transition, freezing cold, couldn’t feel my feet, fell over trying to kick the wetsuit off, and left without helmet on, had to go back – brain freeze!

Bike – 34.14

The bike was just a struggle, from start to finish – there’s about 2km on the flat before you hit the first hill, which is a long grinding climb, and a dicey descent, very pretty, but not much fun for me, I hate hills! – a few more climbs and a few more dicey descents (I’ve only ever biked in Dubai, I don’t have bike skills) and then you hit the turn point, for the last 7-8km which is all into a headwind – very happy to get off the bike, and into T2….

T2 – 3.01

Another long run with the bike down a very narrow chute with bike into T2, got stuck behind a couple of people from earlier waves, lost 15 seconds or so, but quickly on with the shoes and out onto the run…

Run – (5.2km) 19.23

Flanners on the run: giving it beans

I hadn’t seen the run course, but it was mostly flat, with a few tight turns that disrupted the rhythm a bit, saw a couple of guys 100m or so ahead in GB kit so just focussed on catching and passing them – saw Jason about 5 minutes into my run so knew he was having a good day, overtook a few guys and girls from earlier waves,  ran exactly to my Aerofit TZ3 threshold which is 3.45 min/km pace, very happy to see the finishing line, let a couple of people who were keen on a Sprint finish come through, it’s all about the finish line photo!!



What did I learn from all this?

We live in a bubble in Dubai, where the roads are smooth, flat and fast, and the weather is good for 9 months of the year – it’s not like this everywhere in the world! – if you’re planning on doing a hilly race, get some hill work done, practice going up and down hill, and work on your bike handling skills….

Whilst I was disappointed in the overall performance, having sat back and reflected on the whole thing, I am proud of what I achieved – when I got into this sport from a background of heavy drinking and smoking a little over 3 years ago, if you’d told me I would  qualify for and race at Kona for the World Ironman Championships, and represent my country at the World Sprint Championships within this time frame, I would’ve thought you were mad – triathlon is about patience, consistency, listening to your body, and your coach, and most of all, assuming you aren’t planning on turning pro, enjoying it! – it’s a huge honour to represent your country at world level, and I would strongly encourage anybody to have a crack at it.

As usual, thanks go to Jason for his ongoing support and encouragement, Marcus at Innerfight for his help with my strength training and nutrition, Boom for putting up with me when I’ve been a miserable git and constantly shattered these last couple of months, and all the people who’ve rocked up for mini tris, autodrome sessions  etc etc over the last couple of months – you know who you are J

And what’s next?

Back to the longer stuff, shedding a few more kgs (don’t be terribly worried)….I’ll be looking to qualify for Vegas for the 2013 70.3 World Champs, I think that would pretty much complete the set, and I need to even up my Kona tattoo!! - and then I can go back to sundowners at Barasti or the equivalent, boring people to death about how fit I used to be!

That’s all for now, if you’re still awake, thanks for reading!