WALRUS RUN 2017 REPORT

By Eddie Wetbeak

October 26, 2017  

In this frankly ludicrously long piece Eddie Wetbeak describes his tale of sorrow and joy at this year’s 2017 WALRUS RUN.

In the beginning (by that of course I mean breakfast) there were eggs

“Who the hell keeps stealing my googles?” I rage inwardly “I purchased 3 pairs only a couple of months ago, and they’ve now all gone. I don’t even swim that much. Where do they go? Are Zoggs stealing them, knowing I’ll just be back to buy another of the exact same pair? Zoggs are even selling bundles of 3 now! Because they know, don’t they. Because they’re the ones stealing them. The bastards.”

Are Zoggs stealing all my goggles?

Smiles on the outside – red hot liquid fury on the inside. It’s funny really, as I have about 40 swimming hats, which I have entirely no use for. Maybe the goggles are being melted into swimming hats because the draw I keep them in is too close to the radiator…

I better purchase another pair of goggles. I buy the Zoggs bundle. (Since goggles come in pairs, does that mean the Zoggs triple set is actually 6 goggle?) Next day delivery of course, whether I like it or not. Cancelling Amazon Prime appears impossible. A similar lobster trap that Strava premium has set up. Who actually needs Strava premium anyway – telling me what Zones I’ m training in, and my Suffer Score, as if it means anything. It means nothing at all. You might as well give every activity you do a foodstuff on a scale ranging from one BlackJack sweet to two bowls of upside-down pineapple cake. I do love upside-down pineapple cake, but it appears to be impossible to get your hands on unless you’re in a school canteen, and there’s only so many Open Days you can go on unaccompanied by kids before people start recognising you.

Who actually needs Strava premium anyway – telling me what Zones I’ m training in, and my Suffer Score, as if it means anything

Anyway, as I’ve already said, I’m in my kitchen getting ready. You can imagine the scene, I bet! (Although possibly only if you’ve ever been to my house – otherwise I’d be mighty impressed if you could imagine the layout of my kitchen without ever having been in it). I go down my pre-race-kit-list (which I had busily scribbled down in biro on the back of my hand on the train home from work):

– Wetsuit – tick (although hole in the shoulder noted – a few seconds of speed lost there, surely);
– Goggles – in the post (hope they get here in time);
– Swimming hats – aplenty;
– Running shoes – tick, although inexplicably soaking wet, and smell like bad news;
– Etc, etc…

“It’s all there” I yell. My wife (Maddy) tells me to be quiet. “Ok.” I say, but I yell to myself “I’m ready”.

I’m ready.

At this point it was still several weeks before the event, so my pile of pristine kit sat neatly in the corner of the bedroom, untouched. A few times in the lead up to the event, my wife (Maddy) would pick up the pile and move it slightly. Sometimes only by a few inches. But other times it would be in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLACE on the other side of the room!! Whenever I saw that this had happened, I would completely lose my shit and start screaming until someone (Maddy) returned the pile back to its original position.

Another tactic (admittedly less frequently used) is shortly before setting off on the swim, you take off your goggles and hurl them onto the riverbank

I must now, of course, apologise. I have not yet said what this fundungling event I’m even referring to is! It is of course the Sexy Walrus Triathlon and Adventure Club Annual Triathlon V!

The Sexy Walrus Triathlon and Adventure Club Annual Triathlon V (also not known as SWTACAT (pronounced “swat-a-cat”))

This year, I entered my fifth SWTACAT, so I like to think I know a little bit about the beast. Unfortunately, I can only tell you what I saw, with my own eyes, but for me, the following were the top 10 crucially key and important points in this year’s race.

1. Pre-race breakfast

For breakfast I had eggs. (I must now, again, apologise. I mentioned eggs right at the start of this article, and I’m only now getting to the eggs bit. Some of you are probably only still reading waiting to find out about what happens with the eggs, but actually I knew that might be the case, which is why I only put the eggs bit in now – hoping I might tempt you into reading more than you otherwise would. That’s right, read on. Read these words you egg-guzzling maniac).

I eschewed the generic pre-race nutritional advice that can be found on-line and from other competitors – one frequently recurring bit of advice was thus:

“on the morning of a race eat as many bananas as you weigh in stone multiplied by the total number of kilometres to be raced over all three disciples divided by ten, and rounding up wherever you’re in doubt.”

However, I felt that with my eggs, I didn’t need 34 bananas, so this year I just had the 4 before the race (although I did find time to snorkel down another 2 after the race).

2. The wrath of walrus

An essential ingredient of any Sexy Walrus Triathlon is getting shouted at by George. George is the club chairman and is a key figure in running the event. His one reward for the time and effort he puts in for organising what is such a great day for everyone else is that he gets to shout at you. Whenever he likes. Often when you’re really not expecting it.

An essential ingredient of any Sexy Walrus Triathlon is getting shouted at by George.

This year, I hadn’t even got out of the car before I experienced this particular pleasure. “What the F*** are you doing driving up here! You know you can’t drive up here!” he shouted. “Hello George, hello Caspar” I replied before hurriedly reversing the way I had come.

3. The race briefing.

The race briefing is much, much more than just a simple explanation of logistics and health and safety features, but plays an integral part in any Sexy Walrus triathlon. Often being a deadly serious, but at the same time jocular affair.

…that’s probably not my fault at all because of the number of turns on the bike course and several small hedgehogs that kept getting under my feet

This year the briefing began marvellously, with some general advice such as “please don’t undertake combine harvesters” (advice which is generally ignored), and “turn left once you go through the gate” (advice which Suzie Barker (and others) point blank refuse to abide by, despite the detrimental effect to T1 times).

But once we got into the nitty-gritty (i.e. how to navigate your way through T2) the shape of the briefing really started to deteriorate. Five different mouthpieces started horning off all at once, simultaneously describing the logistics of what was in fact a very simple process (i.e. running into transition and then running out alive with your bike), but somehow there was great confusion, even amongst those that had raced the course for multiple years. In the end, it took a live demonstration from one of the Marshals (Maddy) as to how one should navigate the gargantuan pitfalls of a savagely simple transition.

Throw the pigs in the river!

What’s more, to keep everyone on their toes, the briefing was carried out in the middle of an increasingly busy road, and at one point crucial information was being doled out while a van was doing a 3 point turn right in the middle of the now scattered crowd of athletes, marshals and interested by-standers.

As usual, the briefing finished with tales and anecdotes being told – some of these were to do with previous years of the SW triathlon, and others had nothing to do with the event at all, or even the sport generally, and were just being told by people who were pleased to have such a large, and on the whole receptive, audience.

Eventually, someone looked at the time, and realised we were already 40 minutes behind schedule, and so we should bloody well get a move on with things, and throw the pigs in the river!

4. The big race and how it’s run.

My previous reference to hurling farm-stock into a waterway may have shocked you if you aren’t familiar with how the race is structured. The SW triathlon puts the competitors into groups based on their expected finishing times, such that in a perfect world, the final 100m would see the entire field of competitors dashing for the line. What it means practically is that at the start of the race, the Sea Pigs (those with the most modest predicted finishing times) start their watery slither around 20 minutes before the more pointed noised Seal Elites (those who have tri-bars and read books about swimming techniques).

White Fang has the honour of setting off first.

5. White Fang.

White Fang is the autonomous award presented at the previous year’s dinner to the person who comes dead last. White Fang. Coming into the race, White Fang was Chris Lloyd (in the absence of Ed Cod), having had an absolutely storming 2016 race. However, shortly before race day, Chris sent a handwritten letter of apology to the race director, stating that due to a small child keeping him in a permanent state of awakeness for many months now (otherwise known as being Woke) he had stated hallucinating. He also mentioned he couldn’t swim, hadn’t seen a bike since people stopped drinking lager, and was now too serious an individual to even entertain the idea of breaking into a trot. He’s a barrister for Zeus’ sake. In fact, he mentioned that as recently as last month, he had entered into an contractual arrangement (with a certain amount of pressure from his chambers) that he would on no circumstances whatsoever be seen to be getting changed in public. This meant that any kind of transition was at worst completely out of the question, and at best would provide such an organisational headache for the race director, that it was thought best that this year he magnanimously bow out.

He also mentioned he couldn’t swim, hadn’t seen a bike since people stopped drinking lager, and was now too serious an individual to even entertain the idea of breaking into a trot.

(Chris was particularly frustrated to have missed this year, noting that he would have been just the 5th Walrus to have participated in each of the SW triathlons that have taken plaice. That number is now as low as 4, and I wonder how many will remain next year. I really wonder…)

Fortunately, all was not lost, and Tim Ellis was on hand (and possibly knee too) and more than happy to fill Chris’s damp cleats. I spoke to Tim before the race, quizzing him on the new position he now held. “Nervous Tim?” I enquired. “Honoured to step up” he replied. He went on to tell me with confidence (or maybe it was ‘in confidence’ I can’t remember) that this year he felt was ‘his year’. He was ready. “I’m ready” he shouted at me. I told him to keep his voice down, the locals were probably all still in bed. He said he was ready to knock a full hour off his time. I was suitably impressed, and had it not been for a brutal crash (whilst still in transition), a sickening calf sprain and what looked like a full rectal collapse (casually explained away as an exploded energy gel) I truly believe Tim would have fulfilled his promise.

So! The race began with the crack of the starters whip, and some cheers for Tim and also Sarah Keane, who set off shortly behind Tim, with a natural stroke that looked far too natural for the finish time Sarah had submitted before the race. Far too natural altogether…

6. Race Tactics and ‘doing a Burns’.

The tactics seemingly employed by Sarah mentioned above are not something new in the world of Sexy Walrus triathlons – if one submits a pessimistic expected finishing time to the race director, one may be placed low enough in the starting order to hold off the chasing pack, and cross the line first, earning the coveted award of FASTEST FINISHER. This tactic was first utilised by Ian Barnacles, way back in 2013, and successfully lead to Ian breaking the (imaginary) tape on the finishing line. Since then, behaving in such manner has been termed “doing a Burns” and generally people are pretty damn watchful of anyone trying to pull off similar tricks.

Another tactic (admittedly less frequently used) is shortly before setting off on the swim, you take off your goggles and hurl them onto the riverbank. Henry Courtier expertly pulled this move off this year, and I can only imagine swam with his eyes shut for the entire swim leg. I must admit, I’m less familiar with this tactic and its benefits, but I assume it must be something to do with improving the flow of the water over the head whilst swimming.

You might as well give every activity you do a foodstuff on a scale ranging from one BlackJack sweet to two bowls of upside-down pineapple cake.

Some tactics I employed this year (which I am happy to benevolently share with you so that you can use them yourself in your next race) are as follows:

a. As soon as the swim starts, put your head down and swim directly into the nearest set of thick weeds.
b. Under-estimate the length of the swim, so you constantly stop to look around for the exit, and keep close to the bank rather than staying in the middle of the river, where the downsteam current is at its strongest.
c. When on the bike, maintain position on the aero bars at all times. Even when cornering sharply, and even if this forces you to lose control and ride onto a raised grassy verge.

For the more bookish types, you may want to have a look at THIS, which really sets out where people went so badly wrong/ fantastically right.

7. The big race and how it’s won.

Due to the nature of the event it was very difficult to know who had actually won until hours after the last beast had crawled over the finish line. It appeared that Pete Sammon had crossed the line first, which was an impressive effort since he’d only come to meet Becky (Marshall) to collect an old woollen jumper and had no intention of hanging about, let alone racing, until someone forced him into some spare kit that just so happened to be lying around (the extra kit belonged to Roman (Marshall).

But once everyone had had a good-old look at the cold, hard, and (unless you are Ed Smith, Tim Smyth or Any M) slightly depressing data, it transpired that Graeme Acheson had won for a second year running. By a comfortable margin too and setting a new course record. No one was the least bit surprised by this. Least of all Graeme, who was heard later on in the evening, bragging that he thought he had had a slow bike but still won by literally miles. But congratuallyions to Graeme, who retains the portrait of Sir Walrus, and another year’s worth of bragging rights.

I was suitably impressed, and had it not been for a brutal crash (whilst still in transition), a sickening calf sprain and what looked like a full rectal collapse (casually explained away as an exploded energy gel) I truly believe Tim would have fulfilled his promise.

(Personally, I had thought I might have a shot at winning the title this year. I thought I had a shot. I’d even told my wife (Maddy) I might notch the big win. Get that bloody portrait. I’d even thought about where I was going to hang it and everything. Until that Graeme decided to show up. The things I thought about doing to him. I should have gutted him and hung him up on the wall where the portrait would have gone. Guts hanging out and blood dripping all over the carpet. No, that’s not really what I thought. Not really. We don’t have any carpets – it’s actually just some rather lovely wooden floorboards, although they are a little creaky when I get up and creep about a bit at night.)

What I really thought was bally well done Graeme. Instead I collected my third second plaice prize. Annoyingly there was no actual prize for this. Which was a surprise, as there was a prize for most other things. In fact, here’s a list of all the prizes dished out.

  • SW CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 CONQUEROR – EDDIE WETBERG
  • SEAL ELITE WINNER – GRAEME GOOSEBEARD
  • SEA BEAST WINNER – PETE SALMON
  • SEA MONSTER WINNER – GEORGE
  • SEA CUCUMBER WINNER – SMYTH
  • SEA SLUG WINNER – TYLER
  • SEA PIG WINNER – SARAH
  • GRUNDLE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE – JAMES CRISPWITHINSON
  • WHITE FANG – GORI
  • FASTEST FEMALE – ALEX
  • BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE – BEANIE

 

8. Burgers.

After a highly stressful but equally delicious lunch at the local Clanfield tavern (or for James and Alex who got lost on the short trip to the pub – some freezing cold cod and half-eaten chips) most decamped back to the Sexy Walrus manor house, where some received tender massages from a surpassingly talkative masseur (all part of the race-entry fee), whilst some of the Marshalls blitzed themselves on watt bikes, having itching muscles after watching others suffer all morning.

9. The Sexy Walrus Dinner 2017.

The dinner marks the end of the year for the Walrus. Much merriment is had, and the awards (see above) were doled out amidst much slapping of flippers. And as the wine and cocktails flowed, followed by the port, and the cheese, the Walrus slowly drifted off back to their beds, one by one, leaving only but a hardy few, dancing away to some grime music in a stark juxtaposition to the surroundings of a quiet 16th Century manor house. The night was finally brought to an end, as it ever is, by George. Who, having fallen asleep in a deep armchair, awakened and then told everyone to bugger off and/or get the hell out as he was going to lock up.

10. Personal race review and would I race it again?

I was a little disappointed with my time but that’s probably not my fault at all because of the number of turns on the bike course and several small hedgehogs that kept getting under my feet during the run so I could never really open up and record the kind of time we all know I deserve. Also, I swallowed a frog during the swim. Not a big one but it did put me off a bit – I even said to the swim exit marshal: “I’ve swallowed a frog” but she just pointed me in the direction of T1. I guess it probably sounded a bit like “I’ve hollowed a log” because I was still a bit woozy because of the whole frog ordeal so I don’t blame her for not giving me the sympathy I felt was warranted. Other than that the race was perfect, and the evening’s entertainment was just the recovery needed. So overall, I’d rate it 6 figs out of a bowl of bananas.

Footnote:

In case you were wondering what happened in the intervening period between packing my kit (months ago) and making breakfast on race day (eggs), well, nothing really. Nothing of note had happened. I mean some people had of course been training for the event, but since these same people were clearly refusing to put the results of their training on Strava, then I didn’t really see the point in training at all. Besides, I would have had to tinker with my neat pile of race day items, and I was not prepared to do that. Oh no.


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