The Big Optometry Blog: Bennett completes the Brighton Marina Triathlon
Author: Chris Bennett
It’s not very often you travel to a triathlon in temperatures of two degrees centigrade but as dawn broke last Sunday on the Brighton Marina event things were shaping up to be pretty chilly.
This year Optician’s charity challenge was to take part in the Sussex Original Triathlon to raise money for Blind veterans UK. While the fundraising had been going very well, over £1,600 had been raised before the event, the weather threw a spanner in threw works.As the event date, September 23, drew close a succession of storms caused its cancellation hence the switch to the Brighton event on September 30.
On race day the alarm was set for 4.30am and with a couple of snatched hours sleep and a bowl of porridge inside me I headed towards Brighton. My prep the day before had gone smoothly, I knew it would be a chilly morning so alongside the tri suit in went knee warmers, gloves a Blind Veterans UK jersey and a rain jacket to keep the cold wind out.
Arriving at the Brighton Marina was a bit surreal: it was still dark and the roads deserted except for a few Brighton clubbers but bathed in the Marina’s orange glow was a mass of traffic. Luckily it was mostly heading to the boats rather than the shopping complex which played host to the triathlon so I parked up and then started to find my bearings. I always like to bring a bit of an optical angle to the summer’s sporting challenges so had decided to wear contact lenses for the race. This would enable me to test out the Nike Hyperforce sports sunglasses Marchon had kindly provided. With the lenses popped in easily off I went.
The decision to wear multifocal contact lenses proved a good one. It was still dark and I was having to read instructions and a particularly small map of the complex. As it turned out everything was close at hand and I racked the bike and laid out my kit.
The Marina Tri is a laid back affair, the transition and registration is in ASDA’s car park. Your number is inked ‘old school’ on your arm with an indelible marker, no timing chips and just a basic hand written sticker for your bike. The event is billed as no frills and it lives up to the brief. The hour before the race was spent sorting kit and chatting to other triathletes while trying to keep warm.
Once the sun was up it was a short race briefing and walk to the sharp shingle beach near Black Rock for the swim. Most locals had brought a spare pair of trainers for the walk to the swim ( and the run back to the transition area) for those of us not in the know we had to use our race trainers. That’s all well and good so long as you are happy to complete the run section with soaking wet feet. After a brief moment of hesitation I decided to take my race trainers to the beach. It was the right decision. The stones were a nightmare to walk over let alone run across. On the beach the swim course was explained and after a short countdown we were off.
I admit to feeling a bit smug here as I had been training for a 2km swim, this was 800m, I had a fresh pair of Aqua Sphere Eagle goggles and Aqua Sphere had very kindly loaned me a Racer wetsuit.
Compared with the cold morning the water felt positively warm, the sun was rising to a clear blue sky and it looked as inviting as an English shore can. Things got ever better as the race started as everyone around me seemed to hesitate and I found some nice open water. Around me all hell broke loose with flailing arms and people trying to swim over, through and across each other. I was at the fist buoy in no time and heading to the second before I ran into any congestion with other swimmers.
As we headed for shore the swimmers fanned out along the beach but I remembered the marshal’s race briefing which said look for hi-viz jackets on the, pretty featureless, shore. It was good advice. I climbed out of the water right where some rush matting was being held for the swimmers to run up the beach and be reunited with their trainers.
Out of the water the air was still cold, not surprising most competitors left their wetsuits zipped up until they got back to the transition area and the bikes. The next decision was how much to wear. Quite a few of the triathletes opted for just their soaking-wet trisuit. I had plenty of extra layers but opted to leave the gloves and knee warmers off and put on a Blind Veterans UK cycling jersey, I had an emergency rain coat in the pocket in case it got too cold. As it turned out the climb out of the marina and up onto the coast road proved a pretty effective warm up.
A couple of miles later I was cycling past the Blind Veterans UK Brighton centre and the climbing started in earnest up onto the downs and the road around Brighton racecourse. It was a course of two half: one a leg-sapping climb and the other a manic descent. The good news is that these are my two most favourite things on a bike and I found myself working steadily up the field of riders. The descents were cold but all too soon the cycle was coming to an end ( I would have done another circuit but for a fellow rider) it was back to transition for the run.
By now the sun was up and with the run along the sea wall sandwiched between the high white cliffs and the sea it was sheltered, sunny and hot. The Nike Hyperforce sunglasses came into their own against the glare. The frame is well ventilated and rubberised sections on the bridge and temple makes for a solid fit. As with most good eyewear you don’t realise it’s there, visually the grey mirrored, Cat 3 tint was a good mix of protection while allowing clear vision of obstacles . Off came the jersey and I headed out on the 8k run just in the BVUK tri suit. Running isn’t my best sport and, as I enjoyed the scenery, I soon found runners over taking me. In a bid not to lose too much time I started to spot runners in the distance a reel a few in, my pace rose and in no time at all the run was over.
By now it was a glorious sunny day and I couldn’t think of a better way of raising money for such a worthy cause as Blind Veterans UK. Optician’s summer charity challenge might not have stretched to a half ironman distance tri but the Brighton Marina proved a worthy alternative.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Marchon, Hoya, Specsavers, CooperVision, Martin Smith Opticians, Rodenstock, CooperVision, AEL Markhams, Nikon, Louis Stone, Optix, Haine & Smith, Greepers and all the individual sponsors for their support. I also want to say thanks for help with Kit from Aqua Sphere, Greepers and Marchon for a Nike Hyperforce frame.
You can still donate through Bennett’s Justgiving page which can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/opticianedi... .