I enjoyed this cheap and cheerful event last year and was looking forward to another outing now I’d learnt the ropes.
However, the carparking at Wombourne Leisure centre was a bit of a nightmare and without a marshal there it was a case of closing your eyes and using the force and parking sensors.
Registration was a simple process in the separate hall, race numbers were issued and also marked on legs and arms, the most time consuming part was deciding which of the Chritsmassy chocolate sweet boxes to choose for your goodie bag on the way out, chocolate buttons were the order of the day. I think one of the Black Country Tris must work at Cadburys.
Transition was set up on a small quadrant of grass against the side of the main building, several marshals were overseeing the taped lanes. Suddenly the fire exit burst open to reveal an early start swimmer who’d just finished her 400m, as soon as the fresh air touched her steam started to billow behind, squealing as if she was running on broken glass rather than the frosty grass, the 2 degrees C shown on my car dash wasn’t lying. A strong smell of chlorine, sounds of splashing, shouting and heat also flew out of the door which was promptly slammed shut by an unseen hand from inside which made me feel a little uncomfortable for some reason.
A race numbered carrier sized bag is issued at registration, in it should go your goggles, swim cap, towel etc, you hand the bag to the marshals on finishing your swim and transition, leaving the area clear for later competitors including the Tri Stars youth age groups.
I just left trainers race number belt, gloves and a festive hat with my carrier bag on the inside of which I’d sellotaped my spare car key to ensure no dramas later.
Returning to my car I was stopped by Tri Redditch’s prodigal child Becky Lees who quickly asked a thousand questions about the event making me think I was on the cash-builder round on ITV’s quiz The Chase. I broke free with £7000 under my belt only to be shouted at by Tribot Louy Bea an android sent from the future programmed to continuously compete and save Triathlonkind. She was on the other side of fenced railings sussing out the finish line area and charging her solar batteries. With an eye on the clock there wasn’t time for a selfie but I succumbed.
There are 20p lockers in the changing rooms but then you have the chunky key wrist strap to wear, with a normal wrist watch and Garmin already affecting my hydrodynamics I was going to change by my car as my kit was already on underneath anyhow. Adjusting my goggles I broke the nose clip lug, there was nothing else for it but leg it to reception in a trisuit and flipflops to buy a new pair then feverishly tear open the heavy plastic with my teeth on the way back to the car to lock up my wallet looking completely amateurish in front of the yellow lycra Black Country Tris. Eventually at poolside where the Velcro timing chips are issued I could see the waiting queue of numbered swimmers were now at 125 and I’d missed my 105 time slot.
Maybe I could make out I was Stuart Mackay scheduled to swim at 10:15? He’d posted earlier he wasn’t attending this morning and the turncoat instead would be kitesurfing! Even now he’d probably spent tuppence on paper and strings and had sent it soaring up to the highest height, up through the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, I allowed a short chuckle visualising him checking the results later to find he’d swum at 9 mins 7 seconds rather than his usual 5:30.
My predicament was no problem for the BCTs as their swim timekeeper called me forward and entered my details onto his hand held PDA device where I glimpsed a race numbered/time spreadsheet through my new goggles. I was now with faster swimmers and my race tactical brain calculated I’d have a chance of drafting maybe half a dozen lengths? But he knew his stuff and started me off when t’other swimmer had just kicked off from the opposite end of the 25m pool heading towards me, after a few lengths I stopped for a good breather while he caught and passed me then followed celebrating in the champagne bubbles behind his free ride.
Number 134 Becky Lees followed me out the fire exit, then with transition complete and carrier bags thrown in to the marshals while following the tape and cones out, she flew past me with a muffled greeting to start the 5k run. Surely later she’d blow up at that pace leaving me to pull her to the finish Ali Brownlee style?
Marshals cleared spectators from the busy route out of the carpark which then led along two football pitches and onto the disused railway line, no sign of rails are left and with embankments topped with trees either side the pancake flat hard packed mud and leaves were well protected from any frost or wind. Finally I got my gloves all the way onto wet fingers and eased into a running rhythm. Still quite scenic the route passed under old brick bridges and an elevated café sited on a long closed station platform which was popular with walkers and mountain bikers. They’d look bemused over the top of their cappuccinos at the dripping wet numbered runners passing underneath only to see them and their festive hats returning the other way later.
I knew there was a turnaround point up ahead from last year and a steady stream of earlier runners were coming back heading for home including Becky. A quick 180 over Stuweb’s timing strip which would later show your 1.5k split and I was re-tracing the route homeward bound. Passing the café a second time the determined looking Louy Beasley powered towards me, coming from the future she already knew she’d return with a course PB today, I’d been Identified on her radar and got a high five.
I must have passed semi-pro Lisa Rushton on her outbound run but failed to spot her, the grey flash was probably busy contemplating why all the swimmers in her wave had their swim time clocked at 1hr 56 mins- true story!
The footy pitches slipped by to reveal a welcome looking finish line and photographer. Nearby were two vans and I didn’t know which to visit first, one sold burgers and bacon sarnies the other was Stuweb’s which printed out your till receipt style time details which confirmed I’d run a 27:07 5k and transitioned in 1:12 which placed me 103rd out of 151 competitors.
No frills, medals or T shirts at the BCT Splash and Dash but well organised with a steady flat run course and excellent swim pool, I will be going next year.