Cowman for Caspar

Our man Caspar takes on the half iron Cowman... complete with only two gears

On the fourth of July, I headed for Emberton Country Park to compete in the Cowman, a half iron-distance triathlon. I was feeling relaxed and rather proud of my textbook preparation, having registered the previous evening and having already checked out the course. This was in marked contrast to my rushed arrival at the Dambuster two weeks previously and the subsequent disappearance of my timing chip somewhere in Rutland Water.
I oiled my bike and set out for a gentle spin through the gears in the watery morning sunshine. A soft crunch as I clicked the right hand shifter dampened my mood entirely and I rolled the bike with trepidation towards a race-side mechanic. “Oh that’s easy, you’ve just pulled the gear cable through… hang on, it could be a little more serious than that… (and then with a teeth sucking noise similar to a builder/plumber when quoting you for a job) no mate, that’s terminal”.
Hope to despair in the space of 10 seconds. As a temporary fix for perhaps its last ever outing, the mechanic taped up the cable and fixed the chain across the fourth small cog. This, at least, gave me a chance to complete the race even if it did mean riding the 92km course in just the two gears.
Bearing in mind that the last time I ventured out at Emberton I ended up in A&E, I was beginning to think somebody was trying to tell me something, even more so when the mass swim start of 500 descended into a brawl which didn’t thin out until the second lap. Exiting the water about halfway through the field, I set out on the fixed wheel.
One of my goals for this race was to practice taking on nutrition. I’d just about survived on cups of High Five at the 2009 Vitruvian race but realised that a similar strategy at Challenge Barcelona would probably end up with me face down in roadside ditch. The nutrition worked a treat, not because I felt its obvious performance benefits but because it was so disgusting that I actually enjoyed the riding, dreading instead the 30-minute intervals when I had to choke down a gel or spend 15 minutes chewing a bar.
Heading into T2, I felt pretty good and gritted my teeth and just about managed to hold down the ride’s nutritional intake as I struggled up the hill into the cornfields for the first of four laps. I crossed the line in 4:44.58 with a 1:22.20 run split, finishing fifth in my age group. No Emberton race would be complete without a personal appearance in the first aid tent and, of course, that’s where I ended after having run the last lap on a couple of open blisters.
After cruising through my first year of training and racing without so much as a flat tyre, it would appear that the more time, money and commitment I invest in the sport, the more there is that goes wrong. With a 2010 catalogue reading four punctures, a trip to A&E, a lost timing chip and now a broken bike, I guess I’m finally getting used to the world of triathlon.