|Bala Middle Weekend|
|Tuesday, 14 June 2011 19:49|
Bala Middle Race Weekend – a view from the dark side
The Charity Swims
Saturday 11th June started with a prequel to the Bala Middle Distance Triathlon - the inaugural Bala Charity Swim. This was pulled together at very short notice and the organisers were unsure how many athletes would respond to the event. It had to meet several objectives; it had to provide a chance for Sundays athletes to sample part of the swim course in a mass start, provide an opportunity for non competitors of the triathlon to sample an open water swim, provide a safe but fun atmosphere, but more importantly raise money for Macmillan & Cancer Research.
Two distances, a 750m and 1500m event had been planned and included full safety cover and electronic timing. The response was better than anticipated even including the 7 year old Kyle O’Grady in the start list, a virgin to Bala but an experienced swimmer regularly swimming 1500m. Kids like this are the future of our sport and Olympic hopes.
YOUNG KYLE SHOWING NO FEAR
Interest in the swims was equally divided with 67 athletes completing the 750m course while 72 completed the 1500m, and of course a number of competitors choose to tackle both distances. Results for both distances are available from our race menu on the home page.
Post race feedback was positive with a number of athletes asking if we could make it an annual event, some even asking for a September event to precede the Bala Standard Distance Triathlon. Watch this space .
Many proclaimed that it had given them confidence and helped them feel much more relaxed about competing in the main event the following day. Others said how the lake felt warm at 13C. Little did they know what was actually in store for them on race day!
KYLE WITH HIS AWARD FOR SPONSORSHIP RAISED AND WITH PROUD DAD JOHN O'GRADY
You can still make a donation here
The Bala Middle Distance Triathlon
Storms had been forecast to hit the North of England, with Bala getting the worst of the weather at around 13:00. However we awoke on Sunday morning to see temperatures registering at 5C and tales of snow on the peaks of Snowdon and people scraping frost from car windscreens in some of the coastal villages.
By 08:00 hrs, after crawling on the grass helping start a generator for the inflatable gantry, I was shivering cold and wet, and I remained in that condition while I delivered the briefing and started each wave of the race. The briefing had to be delayed because a number of athletes had arrived late and did not make it into transition for the specified time. This added to the suffering of those who had arrived at the specified hour as they were exposed to the elements for a much longer period of time.
Despite this delay the race start was pretty much on time and the gaps between waves were sensibly reduced to avoid the athletes having to endure the foul weather for any longer than necessary. As I started the final wave the sun threatened to break through and I looked forward to a warm drink in the shelter of one of the race venues. Not to be. Every time I managed a few paces someone hijacked me. Athletes were being dragged from the water with hypothermia and panic attacks at a rate of knots. Some just seemed to lose the will to live.
TRANSITION - HOW DO WE GET THE BIKES NOW?
As I tried to make my way for a drink I was being handed timing chips from withdrawn athletes who were then marched off by St Johns. I was dragged into first aid to witness what appeared to be a scene from Mash with people draped over every available bed, shivering and wrapped in combinations of woollen blankets and space blankets.
Off I went again but next it was the police who intercepted me to say how well they thought it was all going – what!!!. As the lead swimmers were now actually starting to complete the course I knew the chance of a break was imminent. Not a hope – many of those exiting decided to enlist in the ministry of silly walks leaving the swim in all directions but that of their bikes. Strange how cold disorientates the brain.
Next it was Raynet that grabbed me – there were still swimmers in the water, but the news was that there where so many athletes already in trouble on the cycle that the ambulances were filling. Help was needed to retrieve both the athletes and their bikes. I was about to go and find someone to assist when Stu Webb kindly offered me the use of his van (b***ard).
I realised the hot drink would have to wait, and still shivering in 5 layers of clothing climbed into Stu’s van and set off on the cycle course. Under normal circumstances this would have been funny. The first athlete I picked up was frozen and obviously delirious. I loaded him and his bike, ensured that the heater was on full, then proceeded to drive around the course wondering which one of us was coldest. He started to tell me what a great race he was having and how he was going to win the run. Humour him I thought, at the end of the day we are now doing 40 mph around the cycle course, albeit in the van.
Suddenly I screeched to a halt when I saw 2 bikes leaning on a burger van – no sign of any athletes. I felt it my duty to investigate and still frozen searched around the empty area. Suddenly I spotted 2 pure white ghosts inside the van trying to warm their hands on a large hot tea urn. I told them to get in the van – one fell over and the other just stared a long, vacant stare. The burger man was a gem – he helped me assist the 2 corpses into the van and we loaded the bikes. By now the cab was getting warm and Numb Nuts (casualty 1) was in full flow – ‘We are going to cruise the run course guys, we will rack the bike together and run as a group’. I could not quite make my mind up if the 2 corpses had drawn their last breath or were choosing to ignore him. "What great training for the Ironman" he continued – I contemplated throwing him through the window there and then but I realised the local police had enough work on with the race so I took the second choice and put my foot down and headed back to base as he continued to grace us with his Ironman tales. I screeched into transition, pulled up at the first aid, opened the door and they all piled (well fell actually) out of the van. The two corpses headed to St John’s while Numb Nuts actually went to head off on the run course – jolly days.
Who cares, a hot brew at last – no – bl**dy chance. RAYNET appeared again with a list of locations of bodies. Off I go again. Half way up the course and the leaders were on their way back. For some reason no one appeared to be enjoying it – why were they not thinking of the £600 prize money for first place. A draft buster recognised me and waved me to a stop by the first ambulance – ‘This one’s full of athletes but the driver wants to warm them up before he moves them, can you go and rescue the body out of the telephone box 3 miles down the course’.
By now the cab was like a sauna and I was down to tee shirt unable to turn the heating down as I had just picked up another frozen body at the garage. I set off again, and then drove for what was more like 5 miles looking for a telephone box. Suddenly I was blinded by the reflection of my headlights – it was him, an unbelievable sight, shaking under a space blanket in the telephone box. Needless to say he did not speak or respond to my questions. I loaded him and bike, and with room for just one more set off to the turnaround point.
THERE WERE 3 MARSHALS HERE BEFORE THIS WAVE
Here I was greeted (I think it was a greeting, they were certainly waving fingers at me ) by a group of frozen marshalls led by Safety (note safety) Officer Chris Smith. ‘This ambulance is full, it has 13 people in it – can you fit this guy in? With room for one LITTLE one we squeezed this BIG guy in – it was very comfortable – no detail needed but changing gear was no fun and at one point the handbrake disappeared somewhere I was not going.
At this point Chris Smith gets pushed to the ground by some guy who then opened the side door and proceeded to climb under the three bikes for warmth. We gave up asking him what he thought he was doing as he did not answer. We could not physically drag him out as he held on to the bikes. Sod it – leave him there – and I set off back home.
By now I am soaked with sweat and steam is rising off me, but the bodies next to me are still turning blue with cold. No one spoke until I suggested turning the heating down a little. Amazing how certain words were used by all my passengers in harmony. Best plan was obviously get back ASAP. I put my foot down being careful to give the remaining cyclists a wide berth, partly for safety, but mainly because they were either being blown from side to side of the road or they were shaking violently from cold and wobbling like jellies.
Eventually we got back to transition and first aid. The passengers were ignored as St John’s had noticed this mad man in a tee shirt rolling around in the cold water trying to cool down after 2 hours in a sauna. I did eventually manage to persuade them I was not mad but my friendly club members did not help by insisting I was.
I finally got near the front of the queue for a drink when I remembered someone was still locked in the back of the van under all the bikes. It was a difficult call but unsure he would last much longer I went back to let him out. He just stared into space still holding the bikes refusing to move. I shouted St John’s and left them to it.
As I set off again for my long awaited brew I noticed Transition director Chris Briffa (well he says he is transition director – Aline Briffa thinks otherwise and we all know who is right). Anyway as I was saying, I saw Assistant Transition Director Chris Briffa struggling to persuade an athlete that he was not fit to go out on the run. Seeing him trying to start in his cleated cycling shoes I went over to assist. He fixed on me with the same vacant stare I had seen on so many faces over the last few hours, and then he eventually spoke:
Are you a member of Wrecsam Tri?
Do you know Tim Burrnett?
Is he here?
Tell him he is a Twonk!
He then collapsed with his head in the knee of referee Mellissa, can’t blame him for that!
Anyway, I then managed to escape for my long awaited drink before retuning to duty as the race leaders started to approach the finish.
On my return I continued to watch people arrive in transition determined to continue and finish. Some needed help removing helmets and shoes, others were too cold to put on socks and lace their own shoes, they got the help they needed and headed on their way.
It was only towards the close, as final race chips were being checked in that we realised how many had failed to finish, 50, then 75, then 100, 125, the final results showed 141 people did not complete the course.
As the race drew to a close, the final straw had to be at the presentation. We assembled everyone in the leisure centre and we were about to start when the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated. Everyone was out in the cold rain again. When we eventually got back in, the alarm went off a further 4 times before we could finish.
Meanwhile outside, drenched marshals started to return to base, but before long they were back out in the cold rain helping dismantle transition and pack gear back into vans and trailers. It was 21:30 hrs when the last of the crew left my house after helping put everything back into storage. I was then at last able to have a hot bath, some food, some bottles of wine, and a quick scan of the first e-mails that began to flood in from athletes who had made it safely home. Have a look on our forums and enjoy - here
This write up is based on fact – there is no exaggeration. It contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, but does reference several types of nuts. It is not intended to offend.
A serious write up would have been impossible as I saw very little of the race with all the distractions of the day. It is only after everyone is home safely that we can think of the funny side of events. I would much rather publish something serious from a competitor who could write an interesting review – if it is you then please feel free to send it on.
Seriously in the words of Chris Smith (remember – safety officer):
"Yesterday was definitely a day where it was better to marshal than race, there weren’t ambulances full of hypothermic marshals carted off the course! Huge respect to all who raced yesterday.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 11 July 2011 07:31 )|