My decision to compete in Eilat was relatively late. I’d indentified the race with the purpose of sharpening up before Ironman Lanzarote next month. Initially, far from straightforward travel arrangements and, more latterly, heightened security concerns were pointing towards me not going. I was beginning to think that some greater force was trying to tell me not to race ;-)
Once I’d decided to race, my objective was to race hard. Up until the week before there was no suggestion that the swim would be wetsuit legal, so I was confident that I could lead out of the water. However, it transpired that the water temperature allowed wetsuits, so I opted for one as I knew that I swim 10% faster with a wetsuit and that there was time to be saved. I was off in the third wave (M40 and M45 swimming together, the younger male age groupers having gone off earlier).
A beach start into crystal clear waters was a welcome treat and the course was a straightforward 700m out, 100m across, 700m back lay out. Although I had some company for the first 400metres, my partner dropped off and I managed to exit the water in about 20 minutes with a 40 second over 2nd. A long run (450 metre) to transition and a fuss free T1 had me out on the bike in front. T1 time was just under 3 minutes.
Onto the bike leg, I was aware that Darren Milne of GB was a strong biker. The bike course was a 20k out and back and undulating, with the 1st 20k into a strong headwind. Therefore, my strategy was to push hard to the turn point. My belief was that the first man to the turn point would win the race, so I worked so that no one passed me. At the turn-point, I had clocked 36 minutes for the 1st 20k and then turned onto the return carriageway for the most enjoyable part of the course – 20k on new tarmac with a strong tailwind :)
I saw Darren Milne was about a minute down on me and rationalised that he would have his work cut out to make up time on the return section. I clocked the return 20k leg as 23 minutes odd !!! I entered T2 in 1st and felt good with a 2 minute lead over Darren. Just a 10k run to do – it’s funny how as a long distance athlete, I now equate 10k as my short run off the bike which I do most Sundays!
After a 90 seconds T1, I was out onto the run. The run was a 4 x 2.5k lap affair, partly off-road and partly exposed with dog leg out and back/turnaround section at the 1.25k point. I relaxed into a rhythm and was picking off runners from earlier waves. At the 1st turnaround on lap one I had a wake up call as Darren was bombing along and, by my reckoning, circa 30 – 40 seconds behind – time to stop enjoying the view – the race was on! I started to get a stitch towards the end of the first which thankfully abated and I was able to maintain my rhythm, but was expecting to hear Darren join me at some point. At the 2nd turnaround, I was surprised to see that I’d maintained a 40 second gap. That gave me a lift and shortly after I got another lift as I passed the finish chute to see my buddy Mark Nolan crossing the line to win M30 Gold and post the fastest time overall in 1:59:07. At the 3rd turnaround, Darren had closed to about 30 seconds and it was at this point that I lifted my pace with circa 3.75k to go. By the time I’d got to the final turnaround, the gap was still at about 30 seconds and I finally crossed the line to post 1:59:47 to Darren’s 2:00:22.
It’s always satisfying to win a race, but to win a race where you are pushed all the way to the finish line by a class athlete makes the win even more satisfying and I thank Darren for playing his part in that. It’s also a great feeling to win a medal representing your country and one that makes me really proud. This particular win has added significance for me as I was racing for my dad who has just returned home after 6 weeks rehabilitating in hospital after suffering a stroke the day before I raced in Abu Dhabi. He says that he’s going to wear it in his wheelchair when we go for a boys days out – I said that he’ll have to get a matching set of lightweight carbon tubs with ceramic hubs before we venture out ;-)