Cowman 2011 – Milton Keynes

In preparation for IM Wales, I thought it would be good to complete a middle distance race beforehand. It was a bit awkward to find one that was on a suitable weekend but decided to enter the Big Cow’s middle distance race, the Cowman. Based at Emberton Country Park a few miles out of Milton Keynes. A long way just for a race but it just happened to be on the same weekend that I had plans to there anyway.

Travelled up on the Saturday afternoon, camping was available at the park with 3 fields reserved for competitors so found a spot and set up camp. The park itself was really pleasant with 5 different lakes, kids playgrounds, fishing and an army of flying insects (though what can you expect with all the water around!) Registration was only a few minutes walk away so very convenient. Race pack contained the usual rubbish bin leaflets but also a High 5 Nutrition Race pack with user information leaflet and instead of a T-Shirt, you received a cycling jersey instead. With my bike racked and my food eaten, it was time to relax or in my case, join 65000 people to see the Foo Fighters at the National Bowl!

Cowman 2011 – Milton KeynesCowman 2011 – Milton Keynes

Camping and a good nights’ sleep never seem to mix with me so I didn’t have much sleep. Even with this, I was feeling quite up beat and not really aching anywhere. I know I couldn’t believe it as well! Start waves were at 0630 (males up to 44) and 0700 (males 45+ and all females) and with the usual race briefing out of the way, it was off for a warm up in the lake. Conditions for the swim were ideal with no wind to create any waves and a reported 19°C. Being my first time doing this distance, I had decided just to go steady for the duration, as I wanted to make sure I didn’t over cook it with a hot morning forecasted. I set myself the idea of finishing in 6hrs overall, I was using race as a training day.  Started nearer the back of the 300+ group so I didn’t get caught into a sprint start and finished the swim in 38mins still feeling good as I headed into T1.

Straight out of transition, you cycled a path for a couple hundred metres before turning out onto the road. Just before this, someone in front of me had a puncture and stopped suddenly which I had to swerve to avoid him. Trouble was, with sunglasses still a little steamed up I didn’t see a rut at the side of the path, which sent me over onto the grass. Lost about 5mins re-straightening my saddle, handlebars, forks and checking wheels but off I went to start the 92km bike. The course consisted of 2 laps of 36km followed by a shorter 20km lap and was a good undulating route with not a lot of traffic apart from the section along the main road. Nearing the end of the 2nd lap, my back was starting to feel a little stiff so along a long straight I stopped to stretch it. Ready to go again, looked round to see if safe to start off again and saw a peloton coming towards me (in a non drafting race!) so stayed tucked into the curb to wait for them to pass. All of a sudden, one of them comes crashing into the back of me and both of us hitting the deck. While getting back up, a marshal pulled up which saved his bacon! All I can think was the bloke was drafting and wasn’t looking up the road and couldn’t react in time when the person in front of him moved over. A car had pulled over with their hazard lights on to help indicate to others of the incident. I had decided bike was ok and I wanted to carry on, as I looked round to see if anyone was coming, a cyclist at full pelt went straight into the back of the parked car, smashing the rear windscreen, caving the boot lid in and snapping his bike in half as well. Obviously, he was in a critical condition and luckily an ambulance was already on the way for the guy that hit me. Obviously, after all that, I felt a bit less confident on the bike and was glad to get back to transition with no more dramas especially as I was starting to feel the effects of the collision.

Leaving T2 after 3:53 meant that I had a target for the half marathon of 2:07. The run is a 4 lap which consists of about 50% rough tracks which was going to be tough considering any clouds had now disappeared and was getting hot. Because the whole of the race so far I had taken steady, my legs actually didn’t suffer straight off the bike unlike normal and started to get into a rhythm making sure I used all 3 drink stations due to the heat. First lap done in 30mins but back and shoulder had started to really ache and basically finished my hope of 6hrs as had to stop to ease the pain. I thought about DNF’ing but was determined to finish so with a jog/stretch/walk routine, I finished the 4 laps. Running down the cheerleader lined finishing chute, crossing the line in 6:19 which was a bit of a disappointment but if it wasn’t for losing around 13mins due to the bike incidents and the subsequent extra pain, I know I would have been under the 6hrs. Plenty of fruit, pretzels, cake, jaffa cakes, coke, etc were there after the finish and all finishers received a glass memento that made a change from another medal.

Overall, the course was laid out and plenty of very supportive and helpful marshals at every turn. It was a very well organised race and one that I would definitely be happy to do again. Considering you received a High 5 race pack, cycling jersey, bottled water on the bike, 3 run drink stations, finishers memento and after race snacks and drinks, the £95 entry does seem good value compared with other bigger events (Windsor Olympic was £87 and received a water bottle, a pointlessly small towel and only water provided on race day!) More details can be found on www.big-cow.com if anyone is interested for next year.

Julian Hodge

Cowman 2011 – Milton Keynes - Julian Hodge