As someone who has been fortunate, and fleet of foot, enough to win The Stinger on a few occasions (and trust me, you will be reminded of this incessantly on the day) I feel confident in passing on some tips on how to come away knackered, muddy and smug. So here is my guide on how to smash The Stinger in style.
1. Relax. It's not an Olympic qualification event, there are precious few bragging points, and within no time at all everyone, including yourself, will have forgotten it ever happended and moved on to the next event (hopefully Round 1 of the Soggy Bottom Series). So you can just relax and enjoy the personal challenge.
2. Sort your admin out. There is a fine line at a multi sport event between not having the right kit, and looking like you are packing for a fortnight away. You will not believe what people will carry into transition with them, and leave out in the rain for the duration of the event, so pack smart, and avoid the paralysis that ensues when you are looking at your transition kit mountain and can't find your lucky biking socks. You can run and bike in the same clothes, so you don't need a change of kit. You will be boiling hot from 2 minutes into the event, and will continue sweating for the next few hours so be bold and start cold. Don't run in a helmet or SPDs, that's just daft. Gloves should allow you to do up / undo your laces, so practice at home. You'll be out there for a couple of hours, tops, so you don't need a camelbak, just a bottle on your bike and a gel or similar for transition snack. If you can change tubes, carry tubes. If not, why bother? And the same applies to bike tools; if you can't fix it in your garage in the warm, you won't fix it mid race in the mud so don't weigh yourself down with tools. Travel light, move fast.
3. Practice. Practice putting your running shoes / biking shoes on quickly. Then practice again at the end of a run or bike ride when you are tired, stiff and confused. There are all sorts of gadgets that will help with transition, but none help as much as practice. Do it now.
Practice the bike course on the day. The course isn't overly technical, but the running whippets need to hold off the MTBers for as long as possible, and the MTBers have it all to do in the 20 km bike leg, so you all need to go as fast as your bravery will allow you . Go practice on the morning and commit as much of the course as possible to memory. The bike course will be open from 0930 ish on the day so get there early.
Practice transition on the day. Have a run around, run into the transition from the direction you will during the race and see how many strides it is to your bike. Trust me, you will run straight past it during the event, but at least you'll be close.
Have a look around the transition to make sure you know where you are going to enter and exit, and look at where The Stinger run is going to go, as your red mist will prevent you using your eyes during heavy breathing.
4. It ain't over 'til it's over. On one occasion, I didn't take the lead until the final downhill on The Stinger run, when the dude who had led all the way got cramp and I skipped past him in a sporting and supportive way. The shakedown in the event generally happens by the last lap of the bike, so don't panic and blow your doors too soon.
5. Pacing. All the mass of articles on this subject have always baffled me, because I always found pacing an event to be really simple - you just go as hard as you personally can until the nice man says "stop". We all have different cruising speeds, but you should defintely be blowing it out of your arse all the way round. There is only one response that you'll get to your "I think I could have gone harder" post-race comments, and don't expect it to be supportive. Go hard or go home, or choose your own cliche to that effect.
6. Patience. Results / photos / reports and all that will be available for you to analyse to death in the days after the event, so just wait patiently, don't hassle us, and say nice things about us when it all appears.
7. Bring some lunch cash. It's all change in the event catering at Newnham Park. With the Pickled Lemon Company having emigrated to Spain, and by the bizarre British double standards become ex-pats, rather than immigrants, we were short a caterer. So it's a welcome return for Rita and the legendary Portakabin bacon sandwich brigade. It'll be a simple post race menu, of the 'take it or leave it' variety, and not featuring any drinks that end in -achino. Expect home cooked food, Rita's winning smile, and some change from a fiver.
8. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to ask us. Just don't be surprised when we share it with the world every time you come round to finish a lap.
9. Definitely do The Stinger run. Even if you are struggling to complete the bike laps, we are still happy for you to go out and wallow in the mud of The Stinger run. You will still get a result relative to the number of laps you completed, and you'll get the full experience of losing your trainers in a bog, which is what you came for after all?!