Sometimes you can do all the training, make all the arrangements and be on top form but then it all goes wrong through no fault of your own as Dave discovered.
I made the decision to make Elbaman 73 my main event for the season and so tailored my training accordingly. I booked hotels, flights, including provision for one of the new club bike boxes, and ferry crossings well in advance.
Lynda and I set off for Pisa on Wednesday 20th September to give myself plenty of time to acclimatise. The ferry across to Elba was very good and everything seemed to be going along smoothly. The weather was really good, blue skies and 25 to 26 degrees C. I registered early on the Friday and was pleased with the Elbaman bag all competitors were issued with.
Saturday we had to take my bike over for racking. Our hotel was 18k away and over a mountain. We got to the transition area but I had forgotten my bike number. They wouldn’t let me in so I had to drive back and get the number!
Coming out of the transition area after racking my bike, someone jumped on my back and I turned around to see PJ and Helen who had also racked their bikes. There was a real cosmopolitan feel about the race and the excitement was tangible. We got back to the hotel and I loaded the car carefully ticking off items on my checklist. I had plenty of Clif bars following Malcolm’s advice, and drinks in line with Chris’ recommendations. Showers were forecast for the morning but this did not concern me as the weather had been warm and I thought I would appreciate a bit of cooling down.
Sunday morning came and I rose very early and grabbed a quick breakfast of coffee and two croissants that the late night porter sorted. It was grey but there was no rain in the air.
Arriving at the event I set out my kit carefully and met PJ, Helen, Jane and Bryan. It began to rain and we could see a storm moving in our direction over the mountains. The women’s 73 started their swim along with the full ironmen, including PJ. Then the rain really started. We had 15 cms of rain in 10 minutes. There was over a foot of water on the roads and some guys were diving in the water on the road by the start! Visibility on the swim course was virtually down to zero with torrential rain, mist and waves making the marker buoys invisible. Several swimmers went off course and had to be redirected by canoeists.
Biblical was the only word that could describe the weather; huge bolts of lightning came down and exploded on the surface of the sea. Several women came out of the water very frightened and shaking, especially those who had been close to the lightning strikes. Five men finished the swim and got their bikes. Within 200 metres three had fallen off. We were told that there was nearly a foot of water running down the mountains we were supposed to cycle up. The organizers had no alternative but to cancel the whole event. Talk about gutted! After running all those hill repeats and cycling hill repeats up British Camp and Hollybush in my training programme, some of us didn’t even get into the sea.
PJ was philisophical about the whole thing and said there was nothing we could do, the decision had been taken out of our hands. I thank him for that because it did ease the disappointment. Speaking with Helen, we both feel a little cheated and despite doing a long run over the mountains the next day and a 50k bike the following, I still feel a bit frustrated. Like Helen said, you have to experience the disappointment to understand how it feels. To make matters worse I returned home to find that Monarch had ceased trading and my flights to Mallorca next year had been cancelled! Perhaps somebody is trying to tell me something!
Tough news for Dave, Helen and PJ. If its any help, disappointment seems to be part and parcel for triathlon especially those whose who are focussed on a particular major or longer distance event. This week saw Tim Don suffering an injury in a road traffic accident on the eve of competing at Kona which resulted in him not starting.
A number of you may remember that Jodie Stimpson narrowly missed selection to the Rio Olympics which had been her focus for a number of years. When I asked her via twitter how she coped she said it was the support team of family, friends and coaching staff that got her through it. I'm sure we all hope that all the athletes involved, not just our own, bounce back ready for their next challenge.