First race of the season in the bag.
In a repeat of last year, this was my first triathlon of the season. I set myself a series of goals for this race. In decreasing order of priority:
- Finish on the podium;
- Finish as fastest Savage tri club member (and quicker than last year’s fastest Savage);
- Every discipline quicker than last year.
No pressure then?
Let’s just say the week leading up to this race didn’t exactly go to plan. I originally started writing a full review of the week building up to this race, however I decided to save it for a separate blog post – it was a short period of hamstring injury and rapid rehabilitation that I learned a lot of useful lessons from so didn’t want to bury that information here. So I will gloss over the fact I couldn’t even run until the day before the race and and start from race morning…
A leisurely wave start time of 09:20 is a rare treat in triathlon, and provided plenty of time on race morning that you wouldn’t normally get without sacrificing some sleep. 6:30 wakeup call, my usual bowl of granola for breakfast, followed by a 30 minute drive to the race venue with Chloe. On arrival we collected our race packs then parted ways to follow our own race prep routines.
After some discussion with my coach, I decided to try a bike warmup on the turbo trainer. This really seemed to help prepare my glutes and hamstrings, and saved them from the shock they usually get after the swim, despite starting it about 1 hour 15 mins before the scheduled race time. I spent 20 minutes gradually building cadence in an easy gear, with a few spin-outs and a couple of minutes pushing a harder gear. I then went for a 10-minute jog incorporating some drills and short bursts of 15-30 seconds race pace running. I think this routine really helped to wake my body up and I will be trying it again throughout my other races. I’ve never been particularly fond of morning training/racing and find I need a long warmup at this time to really get going.
This left me with 15 minutes to head to transition and setup my kit as practiced before heading indoors for the race briefing, some dynamic stretches and a meetup with my club members. After applying and rinsing a thin layer of shower gel off the inside of my goggles (the only guaranteed way I have found of preventing goggles fogging up), we filtered through to wait outside the swimming pool, and were told the waves were 15 minutes behind schedule.
Swim (400m, pool)
When we jumped in to get ready for the start I was able to do a few strokes to get a feel for the water, and agree an overtaking protocol with the 2 clubmates I was sharing a lane with. It’s a huge help to swim in a lane with people who are happy with overtaking down the centre of the lane rather than waiting to the ends of the pool, particularly as there was maybe a 3 minute time difference over the 400m between us. Only once did I have to drop the pace back for a few seconds to avoid a collision, which meant I could swim at a nice solid speed throughout. I decided not to push too hard to prevent spiking my heart rate, and completed the swim and run to T1 in 5:24, which turned out to be quickest of the day by around 40 seconds.
Transition went perfectly, with no wetsuit to worry about, and I got on the bike and up to speed quickly.
Bike (24km, 2 laps)
On the bike I settled into a quick but comfortable pace. I was cautious not to try to get too low/aero as I didn’t want to put too much strain through my hamstrings early in the race. I focused on keeping a high cadence spin on the climbs and worked on catching the people from earlier waves who were ahead of me. Traffic was significantly busier than last year due to starting later in the day, and there was one particularly irritating kilometre spent trying to overtake a car who was stuck behind a slower cyclist and was intent on trying to move in or out to block my attempts to get past him. I was also stopped at traffic lights by transition as I was starting the second lap, and worked hard to get back up to speed as quick as possible.
I wasn’t sure what sort of speeds/time to expect as the course is rolling with a few short punchy climbs, but was thinking I would be maybe a couple of minutes quicker than the 50 minutes it took last year. It actually ended up 5 minutes quicker, which is a huge amount considering the increased traffic and the fact I was holding myself back more than I would have like to. This is probably the part of the day that I am happiest with, as it shows I am making significant improvements despite my cycling being the least structured part of my training.
T2 is a challenge at this event, as the approach is uphill with speedbumps making maintaining speed and removing feet from shoes pretty difficult. In removing my right shoe I managed to flip it when I hit a speedbump and pedalled with it upside-down scraping the floor to the mount line. This caused me to hurry while trying to remove my left foot, and while doing so my calf cramped pretty badly. I hit the ground to run through transition and realised this cramp wasn’t going anywhere fast. Interestingly this is almost an exact repeat of what my legs did at Brighton tri last year, so I have made a mental note to remove my feet sooner and take out the left foot first at the next race.
Run (5km, 2 laps, mixed terrain)
Shoes on, helmet off, start running. Ignore the cramp. This run is tough – hilly, 2 laps, with a mixture of road, bark, and grass. Stitch hit me at the end of lap one, and my pace slowed considerably. I managed a 20:45 5k here, which is about 1 min slower than I wanted to do at this race, and only 1 minute quicker than last year (despite my standalone 5k PB being about 3 minutes quicker than last year). This was not a good run, and I struggled mentally and physically throughout. However, given that I couldn’t run at all for a week until the day before the race, I’m not surprised that my legs were struggling. My cardio fitness didn’t feel too pushed on this, which does give me some hope for the next race.
Finish time: 1:13:51 (3rd/250 overall, 1st in Age, 1st Savage tri club)
Splits: 05:24 (1st), 51s (2nd), 45:54 (12th), 56s (13th), 20:45 (7th). All faster than last year.
Despite the race organisers saying they would allow for time stopped at traffic lights, the results don’t reflect this. The winner finished, in 1:13:30, and 4th place was 1:14:15. This means there was 45 seconds separating all of us, so if stops were factored in these places could totally change! It is a bit annoying that 2 weeks after the race this still hasn’t been resolved (and is the reason this has taken a while to write).
However, I am considering all goals for this race accomplished. Overall I am happy with how things went. Chatting to all of Savage Tri club after the race was a lot of fun, with everyone buzzing from their performances. Extra proud of Chloe for smashing her goals and finishing as fastest female Savage, and 5th fastest lady overall – we now have 2 shiny trophies in the house to find shelf space for.
Next up is the big one – Eton Dorney, AG Worlds Sprint tri qualifier.