It was a late decision to race the Boskman in the New Forest. I originally planned to race a middle distance event in Croatia the weekend before Ironman 70.3 UK, but after the cancellation of that race, I was left with a hole in the calendar. I still wanted the challenge of racing back-to-back weekends and the Boskman was the perfect race. The distance had immediate appeal – a 2.6km swim, 120km bike and 20km run – perfect. Having raced and trained on the course in years past, I knew the course - which looks reasonably benign on paper - would be tough and potentially slow, and that’s exactly how it turned out.
After a great battle with Sam Baxter of Team Freespeed at Ironman 70.3 UK last week (where he pulled away from me on the run), we were set for a rematch! I was pleased Sam was there, as I knew it would be another good (and potentially tactical) race. After a very brief swim warm up we lined up next to one another and waited for the gun to go.
Pushing hard at the start gave me clear water and at this stage I was pretty sure that Sam was right on my heels. It wasn’t long until he came alongside me and we swam side by side for the next 400m or so. Around the end of the first lap I’d opened up a small gap, but after rounding a buoy and heading towards the sun I made a navigational error that turned my lead into a deficit. After realising I’d veered off course, I had to really push to catch back up to Sam and promptly followed his feet for a while to try and recover. With less than a km to go I slowly started to get another gap, which I confirmed just before exiting the water as I turned on my back and saw Sam just behind.
I took off my wetsuit just before running into transition and by the time I’d done that, we were running right next to each other. After being sloppy in T1 last week, this time I was clinical and precise.
After going too hard on the bike last week, the plan was to be a little more conservative and be in a better position to run well off the bike. Knowing that I had a small lead out of T1 was comforting, as it allowed me to take the first few miles more comfortably than I might otherwise have done. Within 20 minutes on the bike Sam passed me and it was déjà vu! Just like at Wimbleball, we each spent time at the front, passing and re-passing each other for the first 2 hours of the ride. In situations like this you don’t tend to spend so much time concentrating on the power meter in front of you, at least not when you’re behind and trying to keep up. When you’re on the front it’s different, as you’ve still got to be wary of not overcooking it and going too hard.
Around the 2 hour mark I turned and saw that Sam was a little further behind than he had been – still within sight, but a little further back. At this stage I put my head down and upped the effort a notch, hoping to get a little buffer for the run. After spending the final hour battling into what seemed like a relentless headwind, I came into transition ahead, but didn’t know how much by. I’d paced the ride better than last week and hoped to find my running legs in transition.
As I ran out I saw Sam coming in off the bike and figured I had around 4 minutes or so. After losing 3 minutes to him on the run last week, I was taking nothing for granted. The first mile was on road, with the next 10 miles being along tracks through the forest, taking in some very steep climbs along the way, which I power walked up as it was quicker than ‘running’. Feeling a little low on energy, I threw back some caffeine energy gels in the early stages of the run, hoping to get a bit of a boost. It took a while, but around the 8 mile mark I was feeling more comfortable, still with a good margin. The final few miles seemed to fly by (which rarely seems to happen in any race!) and I crossed the line in a total time of 5:21:11.
As always, the Race New Forest crew had put on a great event and everyone I spoke to seemed to really enjoy the day, despite the challenging weather and course the forest had provided. The race turned out to be everything I’d hoped it would be and I was so pleased that Sam was there to push me all the way and help get the best out of myself.
A very easy week followed this race, which has allowed me to (hopefully) recover from the exploits of the last two weekends. This week is all about getting back into the routine again and getting ready for the Outlaw relay on Sunday as part of Team Compressport, which involves the small matter of a 112 mile time trial! The fun doesn’t stop there, as a few days after I’ll be joining Joe Skipper, Sam Baxter, Rob Brundish and Lucy Gossage for an impromptu 5 day training camp in Lowestoft, with a 100 mile time trial on the final day. Needless to say, this is going to be interesting!