It’s a glorious sunny Sunday on 3rd October and I’m about to walk across Bideford Bridge on my way to the transition area for the second ever Bideford Sprint Triathlon. Who would have thought it could be this warm at the beginning of October!
This is a small event by triathlon standards, with just under 300 competitors, but nevertheless it’s got the makings of being a fantastic event. With an updated course from the previous year the bike is a challenging 23.5k with plenty of hills thrown in and the 5k run is, let’s just say, far from being flat. With a 600m swim to start, going across the river and back at high tide it’s looking quite something.
Transition is in a car park off Barnstaple Road right on the edge of the river. The swim start is slightly down the river in Brunswick Wharf with the swim exit ramp back at transition.
The bike mount and dismount line is also within the car park (shown below by my faithful assistant).
As we wait eagerly at the start point, for high tide, the flow of the river appears to slow to a stop and it looks as still as a mill pond. We are all lined up in our ‘waves’ ready to enter the water in turn as quickly as possible so we don’t hit the tide turning. Not sure who the wetsuit clad ballet dancer is though!
The temperature is already climbing and standing there in a wetsuit in this heat makes the thought of getting into the water even more appealing.
By about 10:15 am we are all on our way. Being a tidal river this water is very salty and it’s not long before I taste a mouthful just to be sure! Nobody is going to spot anything in the water either as it’s completely brown. It’s almost like swimming through sand.
Swimming through one of the bridge arches, thankfully marked with a large arrow, at about 45 degrees we head for the first turning buoy. A right turn at that sees us head almost straight across towards the other end of the bridge and the second turning buoy. Round that and back under another arch and we head back toward the start to complete an almost U shape swim. There’s an exit ramp submerged in the river, which only a few hours earlier was high above the water. Thankfully there are a couple of marshals there to help haul us out and after a disappointing 00:14:10 I’m heading for transition. Note to oneself for next time – “gulping down saltwater will slow you down like hell!”
Helmet on, sunglasses on, yes sunglasses in October, it’s a short sprint with the bike before the mount line. Out of the car park and a turn left and it’s only 23.5k to go. Almost in a blink of an eye we find the first hill, one of several to come. It’s the first hilly bike course in a race I’ve done but thankfully some of those Cotswold hills I’ve trained on stand me in good stead. That said, I don’t make a habit of doing a tidal swim beforehand.
The heat today is something else, so I’m trying to make sure I’m taking in some fluid but this is made harder by the fact that for much of the first half of the bike course you are going uphill.
Heading into Barnstaple we are uphill again in a bit of traffic. I make an over zealous gear change on both front and rear cogs and off slips the chain! Not quite sure how I managed to unclip from the pedal so quickly but thankfully I save myself from the dreaded keel over and the inevitable embarrassment. It’s only a minute or so before I’m back on my way albeit with tell-tail oily hands. As I’m wiping the sweat away I’m wondering if I’ll look like Rambo by the time I get back.
The course flattens out after about 10k or so and what goes up does come down and there’s some welcome respite to my legs as we gradually descend back down towards Bideford.
A lesson learned from my Blenheim Triathlon was to try and get my feet out of my bike shoes, leaving them clipped to the bike so I could dismount and run into transition. Timing wasn’t quite right and I only got one foot out in time. Second comedy moment of the day saw me unclipping the other shoe, taking it off and running into transition, one shoe in one hand, the other bouncing along as it hung off the other peddle. What the hell, it was still better than trying to run in bike shoes.
Bike racked, helmet off, running shoes on I trotted out of transition, still a bit concerned as to whether my long running Achilles problems would come back to haunt me. I’d hardly run at all in the last month so it was going to be a bit touch and go. It was a right turn out of the car park this time, across the bridge and another right turn through the town.
The run wound itself around a few residential streets and again several hills we thrown in for good measure, one a real stamina sapper. Eventually the route finds it’s way back to Victoria Park and the finish line.
This last stretch has actually been flat for a change and as I head through the park on my ay to the finish I realise I’m actually smiling! This has been an amazing day.
Across the line and it’s 1h 44m 33s since I set off in the murky water or the river Torridge.
I’ve made it. It’s a beautiful sunny day in the park at Bideford and I’ve just finished a very special event. It’s not the longest, it’s not the biggest, it’s not prestigious, but then it’s not supposed to be. What it is, is a well run, friendly, good fun, interesting, challenging event and a bloody good way to spend a few hours on a Sunday!