Swashbuckler 2010 Race Report

2010 May 26
by Chris Vernon

Ten minutes to go!

On Sunday 23rd May I competed the 2010 Swashbuckler triathlon. At 1.9km swim, 80km bike and 22km run it is approximately a half Ironman distance race. The venue was the beautiful Buckler’s Hard historic village, in the New Forest. With registration on the Saturday and a 6:15am start we had to stay local. We camped at the Roundhill campsite which is probably the closest and with a couple dozen triathletes staying had arranged some ‘triathlon’ parking to facilitate our pre-dawn departure.

We arrived on site nice and early, the atmosphere was tense as everyone unpacked bikes, fussed over their transition layout, walked the few hundred metre run up from the water’s edge to their bike. Not a breath of wind and clear skies. The air temperature was around 11 °C and there was a thin mist over the balmy 16 °C water of the tidal Beaulieu River. This would only be my 2nd open water swim of the year, first completive mass start and first swim in any kind of current. As the ~400 competitors slipped into the water I ‘self seeded’ myself towards the back. This was probably a mistake as no sooner had I stepped into the water, still some 100 m from the start line the horn sounded and we were off!

Mass start

The swim consisted of two clockwise laps, with a cut-off time of one hour. By the time I had made it to the turn around buoy my watch said almost 20 minutes, I wasn’t going to make it at this pace! Missing the start and the incoming tidal stream was killing me. Luckily the return leg only took 10 minutes with the flow. The second lap was a little better 15 minutes out to the buoy, the only demoralising point was seeing the half dozen swimmers who turned back before the buoy… Another 10 minutes back with the flow and I was out of the water inside the cut-off, but not by much! Richard the race organiser was on the bank up to his knees making sure everyone got out okay and offering plenty of encouragement. 358th of the 390 to leave the water, the 92nd percentile, ouch.


By the time I got to transition most of the bikes were gone. I took my time, there’s no quick way I know to get compression socks over wet feet! The sun wasn’t hot yet but it certainly would be so a minute slapping on the factor-40 seemed like time well spent. Jogging out of T1, hopping on the bike and I was off. The weather and scenery biking around the New Forest was just superb, it was hard to remember I was meant to be racing rather than just out for a Sunday ride. Relative to the swim, not hard I know, I’m stronger on the bike so gradually started picking people off. The course was pretty flat so most of the time was spend on the aerobars.

We were told in the briefing that the course included a few cattle grids, another first for me, and assured they were fine to ride over. I don’t even like walking over them, this could be fun. Whizzed over first with no drama however on the road there must have been twenty escaped drinks bottles fallen from the riders ahead of me! Half way round and I was looking for a toilet stop. The course runs along a short stretch of beach with stunning early morning views out towards the Isle of Wight. Also a carpark and toilets. Before the stop my average speed had been 18.2 mph, I lost three minutes here and would finish the bike with an 18.0 mph (29 kph) average. My bike split was 291st out of 387 so the 75th percentile.

Half way!

By T2 it was getting hot, around 24-26 °C. I hadn’t done any real running since March where I aborted the Jurassic Coast Challenge 40 miles in with Achilles trouble and I’ve never been good with high temperatures. The 14 mile run was two seven mile laps. I was planning to maintain a steady nine minute mile pace but after four miles my head was a mess I couldn’t do this, too hot. I convinced myself I’d drop out after this first lap. Thankfully at five miles the route left the now blazing hot sun and entered the cool forest. Two miles later, completing the first lap by running up through the village to the cheers of the supports and I was feeling fine again as this photo was taken:

7 miles to go, so hot!

Kept up the nine minute mile pace through to the 9th mile where I let it slip a bit, lost five minutes until realising as I passed the 11 mile point there were three miles to go and 27 minutes left to get home under six hours. This was going to be tough! I managed an 8min 24sec mile and another in 9 minutes and managed to come home with a finishing time of 5hr 59min and 27sec. Done it! My run split ended up being the most competitive despite the heat and not having done any run training for almost two months. I placed 242nd of 371 for the 65th percentile. As I crossed the line I was totally exhausted. The last few miles certainly weren’t fast but were the hardest I’d ever run. I’ve got a lot of training to do!

To anyone thinking to enter this event next year – do it. The organisation is spot on, the venue is simply beautiful and both the run and bike courses are fairly flat. This is a quick course, the winner James Gilfillan, came home in the simply awesome time of 03:52:09.70.

...tired now.

Sadly, competitor Tim Wilks collapsed during the run section of this event and despite the valiant efforts of the competitors around him who administered CPR and the event medical team, it was not possible to revive him. RIP Tim.

More photos here.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. May 27, 2010

    Well done that is a great report and summed up the day really well. It’s a tough but fantastic course. You completed and that is awesome. It was really hot too. We were on the water station opposite transition. most of the water went over people’s heads. I am doing the Beaulieu Sprint and i’m a bit worried about the river.

  2. Adrian Pike permalink
    May 27, 2010

    An excellent report, but you have not persuaded me to give it a try!

    Presumably when swimming in a river current, the most optimal tactic is to put more effort into swimming against the current, then relax a bit when being carried along downstream?

  3. May 27, 2010

    Thanks for the water Soobee! Mine did indeed go over my head!

    Adrian, will you be doing Bath this year? Anyone else? I guess it would make sense to go hard into the current, I noticed some people going wide right along the far bank presumably looking for slower moving water.

  4. Nina permalink
    May 27, 2010

    Hi Chris,

    Great Effort.

    Here’s a tip to solve the problem on putting compression sox on on wet feet, wear compression calf guards under your wetsuit, then just put on sport sox!!

  5. June 28, 2010

    Good effort Chris – is the beard a sign of the amount of time you spend training? 😛

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