Phil Hall’s Isoman 2016

ISOMAN, the concept where Triathletes complete each of the three disciplines for approx the same amount of time, in addition there is a dedicated 8 minute transition ‘time out’ from swim to bike and 5 mins from bike to run, no advantage is gained by leaving transition early so you may as well relax do some stretches and enjoy the show. The idea thought up by an extremely powerful swimmer who only owned a Sturmy Archer 3 speed bike and liked to dry in-between toes while straightening their hair in T1.

Comprehensive email race briefings and maps arrived well before race day also an evening briefing the night before was helpful where I saw Tri Redditch’s Jeff Mosforth rubbing his webbed hands together in gleeful anticipation of his forthcoming 7 mile swim, Julie Brown also listened intently to her bike ride details. Any combination and permutation of the 3 different swim, bike and run distances were allowed, I’d opted for ¼ a 1.75 mile swim 15 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. I won’t mention the half and full details as you’ll have nightmares.

PH_Bike2Mr and Mrs Tri Redditch Russ and Lou Morey were on duty in registration, the next morning they would man the drinks station for the full distance bike route. Race day morning and competitors were directed to field parking away from main car parks where Ian Dickens a half distancer was easily spotted in his Triathlon Redditch Hoodie, we pushed bikes and kit to transition talking about how cool we both were and why his brother Steve just doesn’t get on in the water. Transition was guarded by our club’s own Phil Walker the Grand High Arch Bike Director General and joint organiser of the event. It was the securest structure I’d ever seen. Another half distancer Stuart MacKay was on the scene contemplating the benefits of wearing his wetsuit or blue Power Ranger onesie. I walked with John Legge around the lake, we could see the yellow caps of the full distance swimmers early mass start had threaded out in single file to 1 or 2 per 100 meters, the bow wave from Mr Mosforth could easily be seen,and we wondered how many lap counting wrist bands he’d collected by now.

PH_BikeAt 9:30 the half distance wave started then at 10:30, Orange capped ¼ distancers gathered under the Visitor Cafe on a concrete slipway and listened to a snap brief from a loud speaker, the nutrition jetty was in front of us as was the floating inflatable timing gate that would count and time our 2 laps, all well explained and controlled, once you’d given your number to the marshal you could enter the water for a 10 min warm up but watch out for the 2 foot drop off the slipway. Super swimmer Lorraine Dumont was there, later she’d return the fastest swim time and put Triathlon Redditch on top of the results table. The steady swimming Sunday drivers in their white and yellow caps must have thought it rush hour when suddenly the green light was given to us orange caps to merge with traffic on the right and join the ring road race. Canoes and safety boats shepherded us around giant minion buoys and spectators watched from the shore. Lap 1 complete and the nutrition jetty beckoned, I hadn’t left anything there and didn’t really want to eat or drink but was glad of a breather. Friendly marshals had filled and lined up plastic cups with water or electrolyte and were taking away the used ones, also lap counting bands were issued as some swimmers would eventually do 8 laps and I wondered if one would improve my catch? I returned a water cup to the line and knocked over 2 full ones apologised and slunk back into the water and through the timing gate. Swimming to the south end of the lake again seemed choppier this was proven by an easier swim protected from wind up the other side and back through the timing gate to finish. It had been quite a crowded swim for both laps.

PH_RunThe luxury of an 8 min transition was ahead and there was time to take a long swig of flat coke I’d left there, tidy up my wetsuit and do a few suduko puzzles before mounting the bike over the timing strips. The bike course started on a main traffic island but there was plenty of  protection from marshals and lines of cones marking an entry lane leading to the dual carriageway, again plenty of hi-viz signs warned car drivers that Isoman had come to town. The route was made of clever left turns off slip roads and soon back along lakeside following the winter chain gang route turning at the Greggs island where the bakery chain had missed a trick and weren’t selling bacon and cheese melts at the side of the road to the lapping cyclists. There was a steady climb up Green Lane where faster competitors were returning, screaming downhill tucked in on aero bars, onto the Slough and one of the few right turns at the Jubilee Inn where Hi-Viz marshals and a photographer ensured car drivers knew something was going on. Quiet country lanes led to Sambourne then a faster drop down to Coughton to return on almost the same route. Back in T2 with a quick change of shoes and it was ready for the off again, but not before a few games of candy crush to kill the time.

The run route used some of the Arrow Valley Parkrun course but soon large yellow arrows led further south under the dual carriageway where the Gould family had set up their drinks station, this was announced via young Miss Gould using the Parkrun sound system which sounded brilliant under the echoing acoustic underpass, she announced what drinks were being offered and not forgetting bananas were
available, she described it as the best drinks station in the West Midlands and it certainly was. A loop of the south park then a return to the north meeting other runners on their way down, the distinctive white reversed baseball cap of Suz Runner bounded in to view, just enough time to high five and she was off on her two lap half marathon. The sounds of the Gould’s loudspeaker could be heard again which must have been really uplifting for the circuiting runners particularly the marathons later in the day. A few directional arrows were missing here and there probably due to local youths but there were always coloured arrows stencilled on the path to follow. A cool looking medal and T shirt was at the finish line but no photo. Swim 05 min 19sec, bike 53 min 17 secs, run 1hr 06 min 28 sec, placed 32 out of 60. This was a professionally advertised, organised and controlled event that I found really enjoyable and the best thing was it being held in my home town.

Thanks To Gary Jarvis, Isoman Race Director for the pictures. If you want any of these or any other photos of the day, go to the Isoman Website where you can purchase them. Look out for the date of next year’s Isoman events!

Even if you can’t take part, then there are many marshal and helper spots available. Just let the Isoman team know and be part of the action!