So I made it through the first race of the season relatively unscathed, and here is how it went:
400m Swim – Time 7.47 (mins)
Not only was this was my first pool tri, but my first time in a 33m pool so I was pretty interested to see how this would go. I have to say it was really well organised, with everyone lining up in order of race number (Go #66!) and getting in the water to set off at 15 second intervals. There were three wide lanes, which allowed you to work clockwise, doing 2 up and 2 down in each lane, before moving into the next, and getting out on the far side. To be honest I barely noticed the extra 8 metres in each length, but I am sure it made it better than if we had been in a normal sized pool as it never really seemed overcrowded. The main issue I had was the swim cap; my wife likes to say I have a golf ball head, but this must have been made more for people with football sized barnets, as about halfway through mine started coming off, and at least twice I had to stop and readjust (I was worried about being DQd if I swam on without wearing it) which cost me a few seconds. Other than that though it all went to plan, and I was pretty pleased to beat my 8 minute target.
T1 – 2.19
One of my better transitions: After successfully negotiating some steel steps with my wet feet from the pool to the car park (if they got through the whole day with no casualties here I will be amazed) it was a quick change into bike gear. It was noticeably faster not wearing a wetsuit (although I did have my trisuit on instead) and the warm water also gave the bonus of not having fingers & toes that felt like calypso ice lollies! Luckily it was still before 9am, and transition was relatively quiet which mean there was plenty of space, and I was on my way without any real issues.
23k Bike – 56.45
The first half of the bike leg flew past, with the only incident being a brief stop as I had not properly attached my tool kit to the crossbar (adding about a minute), but it was otherwise incident free, particularly as it was the first time I had really pushed the new bike on the roads. The second half was much tougher, with more main roads and a horrendous head wind uphill at around 18 km, which made progress sluggish, like a wet sponge. It also did not help that despite the race distances being in kilometres, the distance marker signs were in miles, meaning fewer along the way and also the need for mental arithmetic to work out speed in kph – normally a strong area for me but not quite the same half-way through a race! It was also a bit isolated, as for large portions with no one in sight either in front of me or behind, creating a few mind games of whether I had somehow missed a turn and was speeding off in the wrong direction. There was also a bit of a lack of supporters on this part, but more on this later.
T2 – 1.08
As before, this went fairly well, other than being a bit too tired and having just taken it off, trying to then put my right bike shoe on my left foot. I had some lighter velcro trainers to put on which are quick to put on, although with hindsight may have been the wrong choice.
5k Run – 28.44
I had been expecting to run through town, or at least on proper roads, but it turned out this was an off-road foot race, meaning my choice of faster trainers instead of trail shoes may have cost me a bit of time and grip. Fortunately there was only a bit of mud, and some of the course did have a path, although you quite often had to step off-road when getting around others. This was a two lap run, and at least meant there were plenty of others on it, and even better you could always convince yourself that those overtaking you were on their first lap…
At laeast there were some supporters at the finish line, and below is my official event photo in full glory.
Being the first race of the year I thought I would come up with a clever, Giles Coren style rating system to allow me to compare the different events as I complete them. Unfortunately I can’t really think of anything that exciting, so am going to go fairly standard, as follows:
Build Up & Admin *** (out of 5)
I entered the race fairly late on, as more of an afterthought to use as a warm up / test run for the longer events later in the year. Alongside the fact it was a pool based sprint, there were actually few pre-race nerves, and if I am honest I had not thought that much about this over the last week or two. That said, the organisation was very good, with the ability to ‘check in’ the day before, and even get your snazzy (marker pen) race number tattoo, meaning it was a lot easier on the morning. (although I can still see it two days later despite all the showers…). Refreshment-wise, there were a couple of freebies on registering (two packs of porridge and one gel), and some cups of Hi-Five on the run, but I was expecting a bit more, although understand being a sprint they did not need huge amounts.
Course & Scenery ***
The fact transition was in a car park made it very accessible, but was not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing starting location. Having previously run all my triathlons around Dorney Lake, it was nice to be able to see some countryside, and also to have one large loop on the bike to avoid boredom (my last Olympic involved 8 laps of the same route…). The flip side meant that particularly as I was in one of the first waves I saw very few people on the bike, but this was made up for on the run, which was a polar opposite as in parts the paths were too narrow for multiple bodies to pass, and in one place had to use my arm to dodge a low tree branch which nearly took me out altogether! I think they need to find some sort of way to take in local sights though, as given what is in this town the race could be so much more.
Atmosphere & Support **
Sorry to say, but whilst the marshals et al were friendly enough, the nature of the course did not really lend for fantastic support. There was a balcony in the pool but I would be amazed if anyone noticed whilst going all out underwater. The bike leg went well out of town, and I had expected a few interested spectators along the way, but not a single one: just a few slightly perturbed motorists at having to overtake along single carriageway country roads. To be fair it was still fairly early on a Sunday, but even a few would have been nice… As for the run, I had expected to be running through the town with crowds of supporters, or at least past the famous theatre, but it was back-o-beyond stuff through some back fields, with only a few keen family members lining the first few yards of the route.
My performance *** Overall time 1.37.13 placing 348th out of 536 competitors
A decent start to the season, which inside my target time of 1.40. It was also a PB, although to be fair I can’t really compare this to the previous races I have done on the MTB, so I will have to wait until the next sprint to really see how it went. Writing this a few days later I have recovered fairly well, although a bit of pain in the right hammie, which will hopefully ease off for the weekend, as I need to get back into major training ahead of the next race. More on this soon, but lets just say it is going to be a big one…
But for now, I am pleased to say – First race of the year, Stratford Triathlon, Done – Pow!