After going from a couple of races per year to half a dozen last year, I have toned things down a bit for 2015 with just a two main races, partly due to being busier but mainly to get back in favour with my better half! Whilst one of them is Ironman 70.3 – one of the biggest races in the UK calendar this year with over 2000 entrants – I thought I would go the other way with my warm up event and try a nice local race with under 200 competitors.
This type of early season race is great for a number of reasons. Firstly to make sure my kit still actually works after spending the most of the winter in the wardrobe / shed. This mainly applies to my bike, as although I have been doing loads of training in the last 6 months it has all been at the gym in either spin classes or the stationary bike (I am not a fan of riding in the rain or cold, especially in the roads around where I live), but also to other things like my tri-suit (fortunately I seem to have lost some weight so still fit in) and other race day equipment.
The other reason is to practice the specialist parts of triathlon, such as timed starts, transition and a finish line sprint: all of which of course are possible to do on your own but a lot less fun then normal training, and therefore I don’t really bother. Anyway, let’s talk about the race itself:
It turned out I was also in the ‘senior’ race group (a first even for me…) which also meant I had to wait a fair while for my start as part of the final group, so after a 5.45 am get up, 6.45 arrival, and 7.15 briefing, I had to wait until after 9am to actually start, which – I am not going to lie – was not the most fun 90 minutes or so of my life. I spent most of it in the car listening to the Rocky soundtrack and trying to stay warm, given I had to change into my tri-suit before the start of the race. Finally, it was time to get into the pool, and near to the start.
Swim – 8.14
This was only the second pool based triathlon I have done, and the logistics can be a nightmare so I was interested to see how they would do this one. As before, we were split into 30 second stars based on our predicted swim times (making me wish I could have added on a minute or so to be able to start earlier!), but rather than working our way from one side of the pool to the other by ducking under a lane rope every few lengths, this one instead involved staying in one lane but each of us wearing a different coloured hat. I chose yellow of course, so coupled with my black tri-suit it matched my bike (little things…)
The pool was nice and warm which meant that other than dodging up to 3 others who were in at the same time as me things went well. Fortunately the breaststrokers had finished up by now, as when I was watching some of the earlier starters there were a few awkward looking collisions and overtaking manoeuvres.
The main incident involved my slightly old school digital watch with its velcro strap, which I use for triathlons as my GPS is not waterproof. It works fine on open water swims where I can tuck it under my wetsuit sleeve, but it has a habit of undoing itself in warm water pools, and did not let me down on lap 1 of this race, meaning I had to grip it in my fist for the return leg and hurl it at the friendly starter-lady as I neared the edge for her to hang onto until I got out.
She seemed to get the idea though, and looked after it until I hauled myself to the edge.This was another area I did have some concerns on before, as unlike my local pool where the water comes right to the edge of the sides, this one had a good 8 inch or so drop from the edge to the water, meaning it was a real effort to climb out after a heavy swim, and a for a few competitors in particular it was far from glamorous!
T1 – 2.52
There is a massive difference between the first transition in an open water swim to a pool one. In the former your fingers are typically frozen, meaning minimal dexterity and an inability to perform simple tasks such as doing up zips or laces; in the latter you are supposedly a bit warmer and therefore in theory more able to get changed. Of course in reality it does not quite work that way, as part of the problem is the fact your brain is a bit fuzzy after getting out of the water, which means however carefully you have laid out your kit before the race you still end up doing things like putting your top on the wrong way round, wasting valuable seconds trying to change it back! Other than this minor indiscretion my T1 was fairly uneventful (which is a good thing), and before long I was away…
Bike – 51.41
The bike course was beautiful, riding out of town and onto some nice quiet country roads. Although there was a bit of traffic it was still fairly early for a Sunday morning, and plenty of space for the odd car to overtake, so a good choice of course by the organisers. It was a fairly flat out-and-back course, with just a small hill around the halfway point, so a good chance to blow the dust off the bike tyres and stretch the legs.
It did make me feel a bit better that there were another 50+ people starting after me, so there were at least people coming the other way during most of my return leg, as there are few things more depressing that knowing you are pretty much the last person still on the course (I would know, I have been there!). Also, I literally just found out when checking my time online that the bike leg was 24 km rather than the 20 I thought it was, which does make me feel a bit better about my time, meaning I would have easily been under 90 minutes if I had not been cheated!
T2 – 0.59
As always, very little to say about this part of the race, except I was in an out in under a minute and everything went to plan.
Run – 27.31
After a frankly stunning bike ride around the Gloucester countryside I had high hopes for the run: fields or woodland I wondered to myself as I left transition for the second time. But, much like the Stratford Triathlon I did last year (in fact it was actually on on the same day this year but I decided to do this race instead) this was far more exciting – a tour of the Tewkesbury industrial parks! I kid you not. This was a fairly flat route which took me past a delightful series of office buildings, factories and warehouses (some of the businesses I had actually worked alongside in a former life), which were of course deserted at this time on a Sunday morning. Charming!
Perhaps underwhelmed by the scenery the run did not feel great, and without my GPS watch to give me an idea how I was doing I assumed I would be on for well over 30 minutes, so imagine my surprise as I got found myself on the return loop marshal shouted there was only 1 km left, and I realised I had only been running for 22 mins. I could actually do this in under half an hour (yes, that is a big thing for me)! So a final push managed to get me through in the above time which was not far off my PB, a great way to end the race and start the season.
Finish – 1.31.16 (133 our of 196)
For the first race of the season I am very pleased with this. Of course it would have been great to get under the 90 minute mark, but I will take that – especially after I found out about the extended bike leg which probably added close to 10 minutes. Most of the competitors were also part of the local club so knew the course well, which does help with pacing, etc, but in bearing in mind it was effectively a training race this was fine. The finishers loot was also not too shabby, with a medal to add to my collection as well as a nice mug from the triathlon club (a new one for me). All in all, a good early season race, and excellent preparation for Ironman next month!