As I have been a bit lazy with writing blog posts recently, I thought I should summarise what I have been up to since World’s qualification in Llandudno. I have had a bit of a break from racing triathlons – after doing 4 in 2 months, my bank balance needs to recover almost as much as my body does. So I have been trying to get a good block of training in, and keep things fresh by doing a few different events.
Friday Night Swim 1500m, Reading lake – 3rd/68 overall
I raced this last year with my fellow Basingstoke Bluefins masters swimmers, and it was one of the most violent swims that I have ever done (finishing 13th/120). I spent the entire race fighting with my teammates, or swimming at safety kayakers instead of bouys. This year I managed to take 50 seconds off my previous time, with a much calmer swim and some more sensible pacing. I didn’t learn my lesson about wearing dark mirrored goggles for night-time swims though, because I spent at least 100m sighting off the lights of a plane before I realised that it wasn’t a bouy.
HOWL Aquathlon (750m/5km), Eastleigh Lakeside – 1st/39 overall
This was my first ever aquathlon (swim then run), and we managed to enter a crowd of 5 Basingstoke Savages for the race (plus a 6th on the water as safety kayaker). I cycled the 16km from work to the lake as a warmup, set up my transition area (i.e. put my shoes on the floor), and cheered on Savagettes Chloe and Lisa who were racing before the men’s wave entered the water. This was also my first non-wetsuit open water swim, although it certainly didn’t feel like the promised 21 degrees in the water.
There were a couple of GB age-group team trisuits dotted about the crowd at the start, and another guy chatting to his friends about his Kona (Ironman Worlds) qualification spot, so i suspected some tough competition. I started fast on the 2.5 lap swim course, managed to break clear of the nearest swimmers by the first bouy, and somehow didn’t see the chasers for the rest of the race. Looking at the results and Strava flybys afterwards, it seems like I gained about a 2 minute lead on the 750m swim, then lost a little over a minute to the next closest person on the run (18:45ish 5km) to finish 1st. Neither the swim or run were particularly quick for me individually. I put this down to a slightly long swim course, a HR monitor under my trisuit that kept falling down, and a trail run with nobody for me to chase (which is unheard of for me).
But this is a cause for celebration, as this is my first ever multi-sport race win (excluding Go-tri events because they are targetted at beginners and the depth of competition is therefore quite a bit lower). I also got some great photos from the race taken by Daniel Stuart Photography, who made them all available for free. All race organisers need to take note!
VC Venta Park&Ride Crit (Cat4), Winchester – 19th/20
With the upcoming tri in Rotterdam being a draft-legal race (i.e. cycling in packs is allowed), I decided I needed more practice racing fast, technical courses in close proximity to other riders. I found a local Crit race which seemed liked the perfect opportunity to practice these skills. A crit is a form of cycling road-race, that takes place on a short traffic-free circuit. This particular event was 35 minutes long, plus 5 laps; whoever crosses the finish line first wins. The circuit was a simple loop, with 2 technical corners to negotiate on each lap.
My main aims for this race were to have fun trying something a bit different, learn something about cornering and pack cycling dynamics in a larger pack, and not crash. Of all forms of road cycling, crits probably see the highest number of accidents due to their high speed and technical courses.
I managed to get a good position on the front row of the start line, and things started at a fairly leisurely pace, and I spent a few laps sitting in the top few wheels getting a feel for the course and how people were moving through the bunch. The tight hairpin into an uphill leg seemed to stretch the bunch out into single file each time, and resulted in most people standing up to sprint out of the corner to get back onto the group. After 20 minutes of cruising around I decided the pace was a bit too low and moved up the outside to the front. I tried to gently force the pace up a little, but nobody seemed willing to come with me and I found myself with a gap of around 10 metres with little effort.
What I should have done at this point is put the hammer down to try to force a reaction in the hope that someone would bridge over and work with me. Instead, I sat up and soft-pedalled for a lap until I was brought back into the bunch where I slid towards the back to recover a bit before the inevitable later attacks. It was at this point that the group decided to start to turn the pace on, and as a few guys I was following started to slip off the wheels in front I found myself on the wrong side of a small split.
I tried to pick up the pace and bridge back to the group, but again I made some mistakes here. I should have put in a short full-gas effort to get back to the group then tried to recover in the draft, but instead I tried to put in a long hard effort to slowly claw my way back onto the group. Unfortunately this didn’t work, and before I knew it I was riding a solo timetrial at threshold for the final 10 minutes+5 laps. As the final lap rolled round I started my last lap as the leaders finished their sprint, to come in 19th of 20 finishers (after a few dropouts).
Whilst this is a pretty awful result, I achieved what I set out to, and learned a lot from my mistakes. I’m fairly confident that I won’t be making those errors again, and that had I not made them my fitness would have been sufficient for me to at least finish with the main bunch. But I will definitely be back to try one of these again – getting lapped doesn’t sit well with me, and I need to redeem myself!
Reading Sprint Tri – 3rd/192 Overall, 2nd in U40 AG
Two weeks out from Rotterdam it was time to refresh my Tri skills again with a local sprint race. This is run by Tri2O triathlon club in reading and usually attracts a good standard of club athletes. Following on from my earlier 3rd place at Winchester tri, my aim was to make the podium again against this faster competition and give myself a confidence boost going into World champs.
A rolled ankle whilst trail running 1 week before this race meant that I had mildly sprained my knee, so I was cautious not to aggravate this. I ended up not running at all in the week leading up to this race and I was pain free and feeling fresh on race day. This race is split into a 750m lake swim, 22km flat non-drafting bike course, and 5.4km trail run on long grass. The race was split into 2 waves, with under-40s going off first followed by the 40+ athletes 10 minutes later.
I settled into my rhythm quickly on the swim, and went clear of the main bunch with another athlete on my feet. I was happy enough to lead him round as it meant I could focus on my own technique in the millpond-flat lake without fighting anyone for space. As we approached the swim exit he moved up onto my hip before kicking out ahead, and I exited the water in 2nd place on his heels. My transition was probably the smoothest I have had all year (official timing was 35 seconds), and I successfully kicked off my wetsuit whilst putting my helmet on without falling over or getting stuck.
Onto the bike and I tried to stay close to the leader (who turned out to be Junior Elite Alex Deans). Unfortunately I lost sight of him about 5km into the ride and just focused on putting out an even power, get round a few frustratingly slow drivers on the downhill sections (why is it always Nissan Micra’s!?) and trying not to get caught by any of the chasers.
T2 went just as well as T1 (25 seconds this time), and I focused on maintaining technique on the rough terrain. I was actually fairly comfortable throughout this run, so I was pleased to finish the 5.4km course in under 19:49 (compared to my awful 22:27 over the same distance at Blenheim). I crossed the line second in my wave, and was subsequently beaten by 1 person from the following wave to finish 3rd overall and achieving my aims for the race.
Next stop Rotterdam!