Xman Tri The Goat – 3.9.16 – xmanevents.com
I woke on Sunday morning from an 11 hour slumber, feeling as though I’d been beaten up. Everything ached, from my legs to my neck. I wasn’t ill, no, I’d just Tri’d the Goat, one of the duo of races from the Tri the Beast weekend in Exmoor by family-run XMAN Extreme Triathlons. The shorter of the two, Tri the Goat is a 1km sea swim, 53km hilly bike and a 9km off-road run.
An event enjoying humble beginnings, there aren’t the pom poms and home-made signs of an Ironman event, nor indeed the crowds of support. In fact, just smattering upon smattering of sheep dotted along the moors, the occasional racer passing, and if you’re lucky, a goat or two.
Tri the Goat is now in its third year. Started by a family passion, the races aim to test body and mind in stunning locations, and to this end, entirely delivers.
I’d had a head-frazzlingy busy week. Going freelance apparently means working non-stop, thus Friday slammed into me when I wasn’t looking, and as I was trying to tie-up loose ends before departure to Devon for a 6am start to the Saturday morning race, the M5 wasn’t getting any quieter.
I finished up work and threw my tri kit into a suitcase, haring out of the door at 3pm leaving behind me a new shiny cross bike that had been in my possession for exactly five minutes with a whisper and a kiss to its sparkly top tube. I tried not to think about the drive, the pitching of tent, night in tent, race in the rain, de-pitching of tent, drive back that lay ahead, because I probably would have locked my door, switched off my phone and buried my head in my pillow if I had…
Instead of this probably more sensible option, I drove 90 miles through horrible Friday night M5 traffic, yet arrived in delicious countryside that rendered me really quite pleased. With newfound zest for my country weekend, I pitched my tent, and set my trusty porridge alarm for 4am.
There was a woman on her way to the start who looked like she really knew her VO2 max from her lactate threshold. She had all the swagger of a seasoned triathlete, but the real clue was in just how curiously late she left it to put her swim cap on. I couldn’t help myself, ‘you look like a pro!’ I announced cheerfully at her. ‘Nope, I’ve just retired from pro,’ she replied. Further pre-swim chat revealed that Joanna Carritt had podiumed at Ironman four times, and upon later stalking, seems she won the double enduroman Lanzarote. This is a double Iron distance for anyone who doesn’t know. Double Iron. Double hard. No wonder so much swagger had Jo. I immediately chilled out, I was not going to be winning the race today.
50 of us red-capped bods encased in shiny neoprene waded our way out to sea. It was a ‘deep water start’ meaning that we swam to the first buoy and waited terrifyingly quietly for the moment of almighty flapping and sloshing to begin.
I broke the peace by cracking a joke about a warm bit. The lady next to me was quick to agree,’yes, there’s this bit at the start where everything goes really quiet and everyone looks a bit sheepish,’ she laughed. I smiled and nodded in agreement, sheepishly.
A midnight wee and the milky way.
There was a lovely swell in the sea, rendering just a quarter of my sighting attempts useless, taking in only a swollen arc of sea surface ahead. My body was bobbed this way and that across the surface which felt serene and only mildly nauseating.
An early morning late summer satsuma sun speckled into my goggles as I lifted my head to breathe. I felt as happy as a person could feel with stranger’s feet knocking into their face, on the basis that it was apparent just how far I had come since having to climb into a life boat in my first open water attempt. Testament to this is the photo that Charles Whitton snapped upon my departure from the water that morning, which looked as though I’d done a little merry dance on my way out onto the sand, T1-ward. (In fact I was just trying not to fall over.)
A bike section to warm the cockles and burn just about every muscle in my rear and legs lay ahead. I once read in a book by a seasoned bike obsessive, a description of early morning hills as ‘pipe openers’, and this indeed, felt just that.
Alone in the wind and rain.
The long climb out of Lynmouth seemed to go on forever. The ride in total provided 4,200ft of climbing over 53km. I caught Annie from my tri club, BAD Tri, and we chatted about marmite sandwiches, races and drafting, and then the wind and rain got the better of me and I was alone.
Nothing quite produces the mixed feelings of grimacing alone, gaze floorwards to road lines, whispering rude words to another relentless hill beckoning unforgivingly, all the while taking in all the natural beauty of national parkland, one moment on a road seemingly as high as the clouds in the distance, and the next, descending and climbing through a darkened canopy of trees delivering damp woody scents to hard-working nostrils.
A blanket of heavy rain appeared out of nowhere. I stopped to put on my rain jacket but incredibly, it was sodden within a few seconds. Coastal winds whipped up, and suddenly I was being pushed over onto the wrong side of the road. This accompanied by wet brakes doing absolutely nothing on descents and the increasing cold chill across my back and through my bones led to a dampening spirit, which even the utter beauty of the moors failed to warm. By the time I was on the 3km descent into transition I was in hell on wheels, and the bottom of that hill into Lynmouth delivered me to T2, a sodden, utterly shivering, and yes, really quite weeping now, mess.
By T2, I was a weeping mess.
I fell onto my knees at my transition, fantasising about a cup of tea. A fireplace would be nice too, and one of those knitted oversized jumpers from 1987, a kitten on my lap, a warm hand stroking the back of my head, a giant slab of chocolate cake too, yes that would all be nice, but I would settle for a cup of tea. Instead, I pulled on my trainers and shoved a delicious flapjack into my face that was waiting for grabbing hands in transition. ‘Come on then,’ I said to myself, as I headed into the woods for a 9km hilly trail run.
The run route was beautiful. It was also magical, and before long chilliness had been replaced with childish wonderment, as I wended my way, mostly alone, along the wooded paths alongside a river dotted with huge mossy rocks that reminded me of the Mr Burps Bubbleworks ride at Chessington World of Adventures. On this ride, you took a boat through all manner of wonderous feasts for the eyes, with the ‘shhhhhhhh’ of rushing water as a backdrop for your ears.
I walked and jogged the run route, unable to propel myself forward any faster than veritable yog velocity, but I had decided that was ok. I allowed myself to enjoy this beautiful course, and not worry about the time for once.
I arrived at the finisher funnel 4hrs 18mins after that lovely swim start, bedraggled and not entirely ecstatic for the prospect of taking down a tent in the pouring rain and sitting on a stationary M5 for hours. Yet the sense of accomplishment, and the buzz I got from another solo adventure made it worth it. Once back home, I flopped into bed and promptly fell asleep. That night, I slept 11 hours, woke up and starting writing this article. Which brings me full circle.
Tri the Goat had a lovely laid back feel.
The XMAN Tri the Goat course was utterly stunning and I would love to swim, ride and run it again, the organisers were keen to ensure that everyone was having a great day, and it had a lovely laid-back feel about it. Check out Xman Events here.