St. Neots (Grafham) Standard Triathlon

After an evening of Biblical rain the night before, I had worries about this race. It’d been relocated from St. Neots to nearby Grafham water due to flooding earlier in the week. At both locations, the transition is on grass. The forecast wasn’t good, but even if it cleared up, it was bound to be a mud-bath!

It turned out my fears were unfounded, as the weather cleared up into a lovely day, and the grass transition was absolutely fine! Yay!

I was travelling to this race with a friend, Al, which makes racing a lot more fun! I had both our bikes on the roof of my car, on what I think of as a good bike holding solution (a Thule 591, somewhat like this). But there was a clunk while driving up the A14 dual carriageway, and my bike was dangling upside-down! Argh!

We pulled over, and fortunately it was held on by a bungie cord (which I use due to having a disc wheel), and nothing much seemed wrong with it. I don’t know what happened – I assume I messed something up, but I’ll be adding some failsafes in future! Once we arrived I found that this accident had knocked the front derailleur out of line, but I was able to fix that (I normally bring a full toolset with me!)

I bumped into a triathlon friend Clinton, who was very cheerful and upbeat despite the early morning! I think this may be his personality all the time!

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After registering, setting up in transition, and a bit of a panic about the toilet queues (which was resolved when I realised my parents, who’d come to watch, had a camper van with a toilet in it!), there was just a time to have a gel and get to the briefing. To be honest, I didn’t hear much of it, as there were a lot of people milling about, but I had read the instructions, and was already aware of the “foot down stop”. I just hoped nothing had changed.

I was racing in the 2nd wave (with fetching purple swim caps), starting 5 minutes after the 1st (red caps – they just weren’t as stylish). They got in the water, and as soon as they started, we started to get into the water. The temperature was apparently 13.7 degrees C. That seemed like it might be cold to me. I wasn’t sure if it was a great idea, but put on a neoprene swim cap under my purple race cap. This did mean I avoided ‘ice cream’ head when getting into the water, but I was concerned with overheating later on. Given that the air temperature was 8 degress C, I’d also put on a compression top under my tri-suit.

I had a cunning plan to draft Al on the swim, as he’s a better swimmer than I am (I assume this is to do with being Australian, rather than anything to do with skill…). Al had a plan to start at the back to avoid the madness of the mass start, and hopefully avoid any swimming panic attacks (which we’ve both had in the past). So, when the hooter went, I immediately lost Al, and then we both had to swim to the start line (which may have taken 20 seconds?), and then through a load of slower swimmers.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

The course was a rectangular affair, anticlockwise in what surprisingly turned out to be pretty clear, pleasant water! After the first buoy, we headed into deeper water and it got a bit more exposed. There was some chop, so I had to stop breathing on my preferred side (right) and switch. Fortunately I don’t care that much, so this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. I did get a little tight chested, but managed to calm myself down without noticeably slowing. Win!

I was on the lookout for feet to follow. I found some, and thought I might settle into this swim! Just at that point, there was a bit of chaos as we approached the next bouy, and new feet to follow appeared, but I promptly had to go round them as they weren’t moving very fast. Uh oh, we were catching ‘red hats’. Coming round the bouy, I found myself on my own with no-one to draft. But after a while I noticed some swimmers about 10 meters off to my right. I decided to change course in order to get over to them. Which I did, managing to get there just behind the last person, who had a fetching pink band around the ankles of their wetsuit.

I followed these feet for most of the rest of the race, occasionally touching them when he slowed to go around red hats. I hoped I wasn’t irritating him too much! After coming around the last bouy, I decided I might be able to go round him, so had a go. I pulled level, and then didn’t get much further ahead – I guess the drafting had been working then! Looking over, I suddenly recognised that it was Al! I had been following my plan, after all!

We came out of the swim side by side, which was great.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

I’m the much smaller one, although it’s not that obvious from this picture. He’s about 2 feet taller than me…

I don’t have a watch on for this, but from other people’s it looks like it was a full 1500m with a 30m run to the timing matt. I think this means I did the swim in 24 minutes, which was good for me! I think that was slightly over 79th out of 500ish.

I hossed into transition. I’d decided I didn’t fancy running without socks, so since I was going to put them on, I did this before the bike so I’d have the comfort there too. Unlike the pool based, non-wetsuit Saffron Walden triathlon, I was able to already have my calve guards on. I also had my numberbelt on under my wetsuit.

After a reasonable transition (I got my wetsuit off without sitting!) I got out on the bike. Jumping on it like a flying squirrel, I got my right foot on my shoe, then was soo excited I started pedalling before getting my left foot on. Doh. I had to slow down and get both feet on again. I got up to speed, got my right foot in, then had to faff with the left as the Velcro tab was now tightly attached having been pressed into the floor by my messed up mounting. Still, I got going and started overtaking!

There was a short sharp downhill, which got a lot of speed up before some corners, so I had to be a bit careful, especially while overtaking. The course went out for a few km, did a little loop, then headed back. At this point I got caught behind cars which were caught behind slower cyclists a couple of times. I don’t think I lost a lot of time, and tried to take it as an opportunity for a short break.

Before long I was back at the steep hill. On hills I try to up the watts, but limit it to something like 10% extra. But on something this sharp I wasn’t looking at the figures – just down into the easiest gear and then grind up it! I was overtaken by two people at this point. That doesn’t normally happen! I got to the top and then overtook them back within about 15 seconds. Ha!

I enjoyed most of the cycle. I managed the foot down stop without any incidents, and the rolling hills gave way to a fast section towards the second turn around point. I didn’t see all, but shouted out to Clinton at one point. I worked my way through enough of the field (including the red hat wave) that I was about 60 people back from the leader by the second turn around. I did wish I was racing in the first wave, as it’s nice to see who you’re racing!

There was a hill on the way back where I closed up on a big group, but they got to the top and dissapeared. I spent the rest of the race wondering if I’d catch them – which I did just coming towards the end. The course was slightly short (38km?) – if it’d been full lenght I would have passed them, but as it was I was about halfway through by the end of the bike section.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

Strava link

I’d come 2nd on the bike second, 15 seconds down on the fastest. I’d moved up to 12th position by time overall by this point.

I got off the bike with no trauma, managed a fast transition, including picking up a gel, and was off.

Although… running off of the bike is odd, and not helped by the fact that I haven’t done any ‘brick’ training, where you focus on doing this. The first part of the course is out and back over a damn, so is nice and flat, and had a beautiful view down over a flower filled meadow, where you could see the top half of people whizzing by on the bike leg! I, however, was being repeatedly passed by other athletes. I did think that this was going to feel like a looooong run. I thought I must be going very slowly, but was seeing 3:40 to 3:50 per km on my watch. Given my recent leg problems, I was aiming at 4:00km pace, so it was worrying to be being passed so easily!

Fortunately the others seemed to slow down, and running bacame to feel more normal to me, so I stopped losing places, except to the occasional good runner that came past. None of my injuries seemed to be flaring up, although my calves began to feel tight at about 5km in, and I was beginning to feel pretty hot in my compression top/tri suit combo.

The second part of the course goes round the lake and involves lots of short gentle hills up and down. None felt too taxing, but they certainly mad it hard to keep the pace constant or fast! I was doing a fair amount of watch watching hoping to get under 40 minutes for the 10km, and also, since there was another out and back section, number watching trying to work out who was in my age group.

This was a qualifier for the International Triathlon Uninion World Championship races in 2018 and 2019 – top 4 from each age group qualify. I wasn’t interested in the 2018 race (as it’s too far away – in Australia), but the 2019 in Switzerland I wanted to go to! The age groups around mine (40-44) all had a lot of people in them, around 50 I think, so it’s not easy. I didn’t know what the numbers were for people in my age group, and to add to that, you also need to look at the younger age group (which for me, happened to be racing in the previous wave) as if anyone goes up an age group by the next year, you’re competiting against them for the qualification slot.

Anyway, looking at their numbers really didn’t help, as I hadn’t worked out what range my age group was. So I was left with guessing from how fast people were moving, and how old they looked! By the time I’d got to the turn around, I’d convinced myself I must be in about 20th place in my age group (ignoring the fact that anyone younger had a 5 minute headstart, but I was slightly oxygen starved by this point!), so I focussed on trying to hit the 40 minute 10km run. I thought I was going to make it coming to the last km, as I had over 4 minutes left. However, I forgot that there was more up than down in that section!

I got to the finish in just over 40 minutes, to be greeted by a) (alcohol free) beer. Yay Erdinger Alkoholfrei! and b) my parents. Ace!

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

Strava link

That was a PB on the run (I haven’t done a 10km fast since I’ve been doing triathlon’s but a 2 minute PB is nice!)

I got my result printed out. 2nd in age group! 20th overall! Woop! I guess my counting of opponents wasn’t up to much. 2 minutes behind the winner of the age group in 2 hours 2 minutes 41 seconds.

Unfortunately, there were 5 athletes in the younger age group that were faster, and it turns out 3 of them are going up an age group! As a result, I’ll have to wait and find out if I get a ‘roll down’ spot (which is done by how close you were to the winner of your age group, so at 1.5% behind, I should get in).

All in all I’d had a fantastic time. The race organisation was very very good. I think NiceTri have been doing this for a while and have a very smooth process in place! The weather turned out nice, the company was good, and I didn’t break myself!

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Saffron Walden Sprint Triathlon 2018

It’s triathlon season! After a rather long period trying to correct my running and build my calf muscles up so that I could run, I was looking forward to starting racing. I’d built up to a maximum of a 16km run, but then had a bit of disaster on holiday.

We’d gone to the Lake District, which is kind of hilly. I live in Cambridge, which is very, very flat. Running up mountains, whilst fun, turns out to be something I’m not very cut out for, and I injured myself about 4 weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get back to the point where I could run, but wasn’t sure if my body parts would hold out!

Anyway, onto the race! I was going to this with a few friends, which is always a nice way to race! The course was 400m in a pool, 23km of rolling countryside on the bike, and 5km up and down a hill. Oh. A hill – great. Still, I did a recce of the course while waiting for my start – it was very beautiful!

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For the swim there were 5 lanes, so 5 competitors start at the same time (a ‘wave’), one in each lane, with about a 3 minute gap (so 2 to 3 people swimming in a lane at any one time). The people who’d put down the slowest estimated swim time were in the early waves, the fastest in the last. I was quite late on, with 3 waves to go after mine.

The one and only compulsory race briefing was at 7:30am, which meant getting up at 5:30, despite the fact I wasn’t actually starting until 9:50!

When the whistle went for my wave, I started off calmly. The guy in the lane next to me, Lee (who the last time we raced 1 1/2 years ago was 30 seconds faster than me over 300m) pulled away. The steady start is pretty unusual for me, but I wanted to focus on the techniques I’d been learning recently from Doug at Fast Fish coaching. It really seemed to pay off, as I overtook Lee around half way through, and ended up 10 seconds faster :D. It also felt pretty calm, and I wasn’t struggling for breath getting out. I ‘think’ I did the 400m in 6 minutes (the results include running to transition, so it’s difficult to tell), which is fast for me!

I had a plan to put calf guards on after the swim (as that’s a bit of me that breaks…). I’d practised this, and knew it took about 20 seconds – Lee had the chance to overtake me while I was doing this, so I was keen to attack on the bike! I got out of transition, jumped on my bike (flying squirel style!) and Uh-oh! I had a puncture!

I duly got off my bike again. I knew that any chance of doing well was gone, but did want to race, so set about changing my inner tube. I was quite calm, until I realised that the last competitors would be coming past soon, and at which point, the marshals would probably start taking the bike course signs down! After a little faffing, I got it changed, although I couldn’t work out why it was flat. Fortunately the tyre stayed pumped up though! By this point, the last competitor had gone past about 2 minutes before. I jumped on the bike, and finally got going, although in a very high gear having put the bike in this to help change the inner tube!

The course almost immediately turns up a hill, and I just about managed to get my feet in, and into a sensible gear before hitting this.

(I had put my head up for a better view over the junction, but I need to work on my head and shoulder position!)

After a few turns through a housing estate, it was onto the open roads. The course was a lovely, with some rolling hills, and pretty quite roads in the English countryside. I started overtaking, and relaxed about the course being taken down! I paced it mostly by feel, but using a power meter as a sanity check. It wasn’t a fast course, with a “foot down stop” at the bottom of a valley, and plenty of hills, but I was very happy to be still racing!

Coming towards the end there was long hill down, which finished just before transition. I planned to take my feet out of my (clipped in) shoes before the start of this hill so that I wouldn’t be trying to do that at high speed. I spotted the start of the hill coming, and got my feet out. There was another competitor just ahead, who I was closing in on fast. Unfortunately a couple of cars got between us, and didn’t overtake, so I had to slow down and wait until the end of the bike leg.

Strava link

Into transition everything went well, although I did miss my transition spot and had to run back to it when I spotted where it was! I ran out after the slower cyclist, who had the unmitigated gall to be a better runner than me! Damnit! He pulled away, but I was far more concerned about my injuries not reoccurring, so started off gently. I ran around the sports center, then towards the start of the hill.

Going up the hill, I still thought I was taking it gently, but by the top I was puffing hard! It was probably the right pacing strategy to race as fast as possible anyway! There was a rather odd looking marshal at the top:

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But he didn’t need to say much as the course was very well marked! After a brief flat section, there was a big downhill. I saw Lee and the race leaders going in the other direction.

I got to the turnaround, and then reversed my path. I felt like a was running well, regularly overtaking, and the occasional cup of water over my head helped keep my temperature down in the sun! Happily I didn’t feel any injury niggles. By the hill down I actually went pretty fast, overtaking another competitor towards the bottom and could see the finish arch.

He asked if I fancied a sprint, to which I tried to say “sure!”, but I think I just managed to grunt. It didn’t matter – he legged it away like a gazell, while I was completely spent, and if anything, actually went slower while feeling like I was running through syrup!

Strava link.

It was a good day out with friends who also seemed to have had a good time!

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I wasn’t too frustrated about the puncture, and worked out afterwards what had happened; my Aerodisc Aeox rear wheel is very wide, and the rim tape had pushed over to one side enough to allow a spoke hole to not be completely covered by it. I use latex inner tubes which blow out when there are any holes, which is what happened here. I’m glad it didn’t happen while I was cycling, or at a bigger event!

Full results here

Aerocoach AEOX disc wheel vs homemade disc cover – real world aerodynamics testing

I’ve just spent some hard earned cash on a new Aerocoach Aeox disc wheel, and to keep some sanity that I’ve not (completely!) wasted, I’ve done some simple aerodynamics testing compared against a no name Chinese carbon 88mm deep rim rear wheel with a home made disc cover (about £20 fit the plastic off of eBay).

The (inexpertly made!) homemade version is shown below.

It’s the second one I’ve made, and while better than the first, still isn’t completely symmetrical – the width isn’t consistent all the way round which you can see if you spin it.

I’m used my TT bike, which again is a no name Chinese frame, much like a Vitus Chrono. And yes, it does really, really, need cleaning!

The test was a 1km section of local road ridden in both directions at 38kmph, and the watts used measured.

The wind was mild, a cross head/tail direction. I wasn’t wearing particularly aero clothes or helmet, and the front wheel was a relatively shallow 37mm rim.

I’m using the same 23mm Michelin Power Competition tyre with latex tube on both wheels.

This a similar protocol to the hairy leg  and bike aerodynamic testing I’ve done in the past.

So, the caveats.

  • Although I’ve done my best, I only had time for 2 runs in each direction with each wheel, and it’s not a very long test.
  • I tried to be at 38kmph going into each section and keep the peace as steady as possible, and used the same gear each time. However, there will have been fluctuations both in the initial speed and consistency.
  • I’m using GPS for the speed, which has a lag and can be inconsistent.
  • Obviously, the wind may have changed at any point (although it didn’t do so noticeably). Disc cover runs took place about 12:30pm. New wheel runs about 1pm.
  • The following results are I no way statistically sound, but the variance seems reasonably small to me between runs.
  • The out run was slightly uphill, and into a mild cross/headwind.
  • I’m using a 4iiii Precision single side crank arm power meter. I think it’s pretty consistent (see DC Rainmaker’s review), but I suspect it’s reading low ish (I previously had another on a longer crank arm that I estimate reading about 40 watts higher at 40kmph).

The Results

Homemade Disc     Aerocoach AEOX
Watts Speed     Watts Speed
Out 283.0 38.1 Out 256.0 37.8
Back 212.0 37.7 Back 218.0 38.1
Average 247.5 37.9 Average 237.0 38.0
Out 294.0 38.2 Out 271.0 37.6
Back 215.0 38.1 Back 200.0 38.7
Average 254.5 38.2 Average 235.5 38.2
Average 251.0 38.03 Average 236.3 38.05
Watts Speed
Difference 14.8 -0.02

So, 15 watts! Pretty impressive! I’m a happy bunny!

I won’t be going back to my old setup, so hopefully I’ll manage even better than the last outing.

Unboxing, contents and general wheel observations

On terms of setting up the wheel, it’s 11 speed and comes with a spacer for 10 speed cassettes (you can see that her held on by an elastic band).

There are various warnings and instructions, and it comes with some rim tape, and valve hole covers.

The brake track is aluminium and really wide. It barely fitted in my brakes at their maximum width, even with slightly worn pads. It did line up nicely with the “23mm” tyre with though.

The cutout hole for the valve is not very big. I have an adaptor, which means I can use a track pump, but even this was a nightmare to get off with a 51mm length valve when it was pumped up – it’s bending the disc in the below image, which isn’t good.

I think I’ll need to get something with a shorter valve – maybe this Michelin A1 AirComp Latex tube which you can get in 36mm or 40mm versions.

I’d normally go 120 psi, but the warnings say go 100psi, so I did that for both wheels, although I don’t know if that’s really aimed at running tubeless.

It made a pleasing carbon hum when going quickly, but I didn’t notice any whumping noise. Maybe I need to go faster…

The wheel itself looks fantastic. It feels like a normal wheel with a built in disc cover. I don’t know what a Zipp disc feels like though, so maybe they all feel like that.

Bedford Autodrome Duathlon – GB European Championships Qualifier

I’d signed up to this race before I’d raced at Ely and hurt my calves again. A sprint duathlon – 5km run, 20km bike, 2.5km run – the fast running was likely to cause problems again. I’d had some time off running, and had been building it up slowly again. I wasn’t sure if I should take part, but had ended up running 5km hard as part of an MRI test on my calves a week before without any symptoms, so decided to race, but take the runs easy (i.e. no sprint at the start, and run by feel, trying to stay efficient and easy, rather than pushing the pace as fast as possible).

The race was a GB qualifier for the European Championships in Ibiza – top four from each age category qualifies, and there are a few “roll down” places (spread between the 3 qualifying races). I hoped my bike would be fast enough to outweigh my easy run pace, but wasn’t really expecting to qualify.

Arriving at the Autodrome, it was a misty, still day.

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The drive there was ace in the pre-dawn light. I was a bit tired after a 70s party the night before, but getting up seemed worth it now!

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I did a lap of the bike circuit, got set up, bumped into a few great people, and went for a warm up jog with one of them.

On an organizer note – I do wish events with a mass start would realize that you need a lot of toilets! I don’t know if you can see it, but this picture shows the queues…

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The start was a wide section of the track. Lots of people across, only a few deep – I didn’t want to be at the front, given my lack of sprint start, but didn’t want to be too far back either! I ended up on about the 4th row. The hooter went for the start, and we were off! Almost everyone went flying past. The wind had massively picked up by this point. Still and calm day. Ha!

I felt confident in my pacing, and it all felt under control. After a couple of hundred meters, checking my watch with people still flying past on either side, I saw 3:30 per km. A bit too fast – I though it should be about 4 minute pace; I slowed down a bit more.

After a while the people around me slowed and I started overtaking. Not a lot, but a bit. I think there were 500 people (there was also a “standard distance” race – twice the length of the sprint – going on at the same time), and some were quite a long way ahead! I guess after the start I was in about 200th (including the standard athletes). My calves felt OK, and it turned out that about 3:50 pace per km was what felt relaxed.

Coming towards the end of the second lap, I was overjoyed that I didn’t feel at all broken!

Strava link

I’d moved up to 91st place. Not particularly impressive, but not as far back as I was expecting!

Transition went well, and getting out on the bike, I was in my happy place. There was a narrow “slip” road to get to the main track, and I got caught behind a few other competitors, but then got out on the main track. The wind made it “interesting” on some of the tighter corners (it’s a car track with a few hairpin bends), but I was really enjoying it. I was holding about 340 watts, but with pauses for corners this averaged out to 320.

I overtook. A lot. It was kind of like a computer game, although one in which you have to try not to irritate others off by taking a racing line through the corners! Apart from the athletes ahead of me, there were also athletes coming onto the run a lap behind, and later on the standard distance athletes to overtake 😀

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Some of the corners felt a little scary as the wind was pretty strong by this point, and having a deep section front wheel and disc on the back meant I was swinging wider than I was expecting. Still, I got round with no issues.

Strava link

Coming back into transition there weren’t a lot of bikes around. It turned out that by this point I was up to 11th place! However, I still had no intention of putting my calves at risk, so set off again at a sensible pace. Unsurprisingly, people were soon passing me! One guy came past that had such a nice style it looked like he was floating! I had to remind myself to concentrate rather than analyse his running!

I felt my left calve get a bit tighter about 1km in, so slowed a little more. It seemed to loosen off, so I risked going a bit faster – it felt OK again 😀 I even managed a bit of a fast last 200m. I jumped for joy at having not broken myself!

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Strava link

After a bit of a cooldown I went to check the results. I’d come 25th – 4th in my age group – fast enough to qualify to race for GB at the European Championships! Woop. Wow, only just though – by a whole 4 seconds!

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Ely Sprint Triathlon

This didn’t go well…

This is 300m in an outdoor pool, a flat 21km bike course with a single hill at the end, and 2 lap, 5km hilly run course at the end of it.

My parents had come to watch, and brought the kids with them, which was ace 😀

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I did a warm up round one lap of the run course. One of the arrows pointing the way had blown round and was pointing in the wrong direction. I fixed this (hoping I’d got it right – I didn’t want to be doing a Dick Dastardly! I checked later – I had got it right) making it more secure as I did so.

I’d put down a slightly optimistic 4:32 as my predicted time for the swim, which given that you start off in reverse time order, left me about 8th from last to go (number 92). There was a 30 second gap between competitors, which should be good, but chatting to the guy behind me, number 93, it turned out he’d put 4:00 as his, which wasn’t optimistic! Oh well!

After some time on holiday with no swimming, I really wasn’t sure how well it was going to go. Apparently you lose the feel quickly. However, once I started, it felt fine. I wasn’t racing too hard, hoping to avoid having to start the bike in too much oxygen deficit. However, the guy behind was slowly catching up. Coming up to the last 2 lengths I decided he’d catch me, so I’d be gallant and let him past before he hit my feet and had to wait to the end of the length.

I did 5:06, which included 20 seconds to the timing matt, and probably 6 seconds to let #93 go by. I wasn’t particularly out of breath, so I’m pleased with that.

#93 got a bit of a gap by the time I got out of the pool, but I caught him up in transition, and was out on the bike before him.

The bike ride was a great course. The Fens are pretty flat, and it didn’t take long to get out of town and into the countryside. Some of the smaller roads were a bit ‘rustic’ (aka bumpy), but not having much in the way of hills, and the weather being great makes for a good bike split.

After racing at Dorney I thought I’d try a slightly higher target watts. I aimed at 320 this time, and was able to stick to it :D.

Navigation was… interesting. Having been on holiday, I’d not done my usual level of swatting up via Google Maps/Streetview. I thought it’d be fine though. However,

  • there weren’t marshals on all the turnings
  • there weren’t signs on junctions/roundabouts where you had to go straight on
  • the signs were before junctions/roundabouts only – i.e. coming up to them, not on the exit you had to take

I had one roundabout where I wasn’t paying enough attention before it (I was overtaking at the time), and ended up going fully round it and guessing the correct exit. I nearly took the guy I’d just overtaken with me, but we had a super quick pointing/shrugging interaction and he took that correct turning without following me all the way round. I apologised when I re-overtook him.

Coming up the only hill, there was a mini-roundabout with two exits – straight on, and right. I didn’t see a sign, and there were a couple of marshals about 15 meters up the road next to some cars. I didn’t know if they were meant to be at that junction and had gone to the cars for some reason, or if they were meant to be where they actually were.

I was making a quick decision that going straight on was what to do when one of them looked up – I thought he was looking at me. He gestured forcefully in 3 times in quick succession to my right.

I took the right turning. I powered down the road, and got to a junction and took a left. Then a right. No marshals in sight. No signs. No other competitors. Oh. In hindsight I guess the marshal had been talking to someone in a car and giving them directions…

If I was sensible I would have turned around. Instead, I did a quick cultural tour of Ely. Lovely place, but not if you’re in a panic about being lost in a triathlon!

I eventually found my back onto the course at the bottom of the hill. I went up it, and went straight on this time! The marshals were, it turned out, standing by the entrance back into the school where the triathlon was based. A quick turn in, and I was back at transition.

Strava link

I’d got a KOM on a segment doing most of the course until the bottom of the hill. I’d managed to hit my average watts target of 320 and that turned out to give 40.7 kmph on this course.

In transition, #93 was there, looking confused – he said he wondered where my bike was as he knew he hadn’t overtaken me!

The run stared off downhill. I don’t really know how to pace myself on hills, so probably went off a bit too hard, but I don’t think it was massively off the equivalent of 4 mins per km on the flat. Regardless, by about 1km in I knew I had calf issues. I was having another calf heart attack.

My right calf was causing the problems. I stopped, stretched, massaged, and then tried going again. Going slower, I could still feel it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed the rest of the lap, getting some high 5’s from the kids :D, slowly picking up pace again a bit, but by the same place on the second lap, I had to stop again. This time it was both calves. I did some more stretching, massaging, and got going again. It still didn’t feel right, so I tried again.

This time I got going slowly again, and managed to get to the end (via some more high 5’s) without it really feeling like either calf was locking up. However, trying to walk afterwards was pretty painful, so it was obviously worse than I thought at the time. Three days after and I still can’t completely walk without a dull ache. 😦

Strava link

It turns out I wasn’t the only one to get lost, as a friend from the Rowing club who was doing her first Triathlon had also gone off course for a bit on the bike leg. She’d sensibly managed to retrace her steps though and got back on course with less drama than I had!

Looking at the results, excluding my detours I would have had the fastest bike split by something like 90 seconds, and would have been in the lead by 60 seconds coming off of the bike. Not that I’m grumpy about this or anything…

Results

Still, I’m more worried about my calves, as I was hoping this was something I was going to be able to work out by slowly increasing my running training distances. It doesn’t feel like that’s going to be the case at the moment though. 1km in is as bad as it’s ever been.

I’ve now got an appointment to see a specialist for a scan next week, so hopefully it’ll show up something I can do something about.

Eton Dorney Mid-Week Sprint Triathlon

Votwo Events run a series of races. One of them is a mid week evening sprint triathlon I realised I could get to. After years of racing there in boats, it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist!

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My running training has been going well, and my calf muscles seem to be working. I figured that if I didn’t run too hard, I’d be OK.

I’d done a local 20ish km time trial a couple of weeks ago where I’d tried it racing at higher watts than I’d dared before, and it had worked! So I thought I’d go hard on the bike section, then wouldn’t even be able to run too fast…

There was a good atmosphere at the race. I was early to arrive. There were 3 waves, and I was racing in the third.

Before the start I lent a spare pair of goggles to someone who’d forgotten theirs. Then I couldn’t find the ones I was planning to wear when it was time to get ready! I ended up doing a bit more running to warm up than planned to get another spare pair from the car.

I found the original pair after the race. In my bag. Exactly where they were meant to be…

Anyway, when it was time to start, I found myself pretty near the front. We started off, and a group shot off the front. I think I was in a second pack. I was drafting someone who occasionally switched to backstroke, which was odd! I had to stop drafting them as I couldn’t cope with the changes in pace.

I’ve been doing 1:32 pace per 100m in training, so was hoping for about 11:30 for the 750m. The swim felt pretty good, although I didn’t get out of the water and up the bank very quickly. It turned out I took 12:46, which was 2 minutes down on the fastest.

I got out on the bike without any hassle, although I forgot to put on the race belt. It’s a 4.9km loop, on private roads (no cars!). It’s very flat, which is ace! There’s just a couple of sharp u-turns on each lap.

There was a bit of a cross-wind, but nothing too bad (which is amazing give how windy it normally is there!)

I did a lot of overtaking, which felt nice. I did spot the camera man, and was enjoying myself, so maybe did a bit of messing about…

It was difficult to tell where you were compared to other people as the previous wave was still on the course, but by the time I finished, I was pretty sure I was in first place in my wave, and had a bit of time over 2nd. Looking at the results afterwards, I was about a minute in the lead.

Strava link

I’d held 309 watts, and averaged 42kmph, which is a PB 😀 I think there may be a bit more speed to come at this power if I can cope with a lower front end though.

The run was a 2 lap out and back affair, nice and flat.

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I started the run steadily, aiming at 4 minute per km pace, hoping my calves would be OK. They felt fine, but by the time I reached the first turn around, I could see other competitors I thought were from my wave were closing in on me fast.

I started speeding up a bit… But still had time for the cameraman!

I made it to about 3km before I got overtaken. I tried to stay with him as he came past. I even tried to crack a joke about our laboured breathing, but he seemed focussed on running!

I managed about 30 seconds before deciding it was too dangerous for my calves. I suspect that I might have managed to hold on for another 10 seconds if that wasn’t an issue…

As it was, I couldn’t hold on (he had the fastest run of the night), and could see someone else slowly closing in.  I sped up a bit more. It hurt – I didn’t do any posing this lap! With about 1km to go I could see the guy following was speeding up even more, so so did I… Just enough so I thought I’d stay clear of him.

But he got faster. So did I. By the last 500m I kept getting faster, but he was still closing! I peaked at 2:55 pace. So much for taking it easy on my calves, but I managed to get over the line in front of him! (By 1 second… he really did have a fantastic finish sprint!)

Strava link

I collapsed to the floor after that! It turns out I’d come 2nd in my wave, 6th overall out of 250 competitors.

Results

Less than a minute down on the winner, and fastest bike. I’m quite pleased with that; I know where I need to improve, and there’s certainly room there in the swim and run!

Hever Castle Festival of Endurance – Aquabike. 2nd!

My calf muscles seem to be working a bit better now, but I’d found a couple of these Swim/Bike races where I could avoid pushing my luck with the running. This one was the biggest I could find (roughly 60 people racing it), set in the idillic surroundings of Hever castle. 

It is a very expensive race – it’s a longer one at 1.9km swim and 60km bike, with an optional (i.e. not timed) 4k run on the end. 

Frustratingly the organisers declared that the Aquabike was a ‘training distance’. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but when I enquired about timings for collecting my bike after the race and medal ceremonies as I was worried about getting home, they clarified that meant no winner’s ceremony or prizes which was a shame as it downgraded the point of it in my mind somehow. If I wanted to train I could stay at home and save £75 (plus £5 booking fee). OK, got that off my chest now… I feel much better for that!

Lots of other events were going on as well; Ironman, Half Ironman, long Aquabike, Marathon, Half Marathon, multiple aquathlons and long distance swims. Probably some others as well! There was also a stage with bands playing, and a few things for the kids going on.

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I’d arrived late the night before to camp. My new pop-up tent came into its own here and I was in bed in short order! The facilities were simple but sufficient – my only complaint was being on a flight path. The planes kept coming over till after midnight.

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5am in the morning, and the conditions weren’t the sun I was expecting! It was cool and misty, which made the castle very atmospheric!

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Not to mention the lake!

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Registration was very smooth, and the marshals and support team very well informed and helpful. It was a split transition (despite the optional lack of run for the aquabike) which was a first for me. Shoes and run kit in one bag, dropped off in a changing tent, then onto the bike transition.

The Ironman race was going off first, and was a bit delayed waiting for the mist to rise, which meant we had plenty of time, so no rushing! 

When it was our turn, we had a very clear briefing, then into the water for both aquabike distances – 52 people doing my race, and around 30 doing double the distance. There was a drone hovering overhead, and lots of excitement! 

The course went up the lake, either side of the buoys, then through a 2 buoy gate, over to the far right corner of the lake, then the far left corner, back through another gate, and then back via a beautiful river with spectators on bridges.

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There was plenty of space – the start line was about 100m wide. I did a bit of a warm up, then stopped where I was (which was on the left hand side), which means I actually had further to swim, but didn’t think about that at the time. 

We had the countdown, and were off! I found I had plenty of space around me. No bumping into anyone else to worry about, and I didn’t feel the need to sprint, so settled into a rhythm. However, possibly because anyone with any sense had started on the right, there was no-one to draft either. After about 300m I spotted someone about my speed on the right and slowly curved over to try to get behind them.

The water visibility was down to about 2 feet. Not the feet of the person ahead sadly! When I did get behind them, I couldn’t stay there – I drifted off to the right, then left and back again. Repeatedly…

I made it through the gate, around the corners, and then we started catching up with slower swimmers doing the Ironman. This wasn’t a problem, although once we got to the river it got congested a couple of times. At one point I hit something hard with my hands, which turned out to be the roots of a big tree on the bank. But mostly my navigation worked! Ever time I sighted I realised how lovely a place it was to be swimming!

I overtook quite a lot of Ironman swimmers, and also managed to pull past and away from the person I’d been failing to draft.

Coming to the end, there was quite a bit of support and cheering, as another race was about to start. I came out of the water. I was in 7th, which was good! 32 minutes – slightly slower than I’d hoped, but as the river section was against the flow, actually pretty good. Top 10% out of all swimmers that did that distance on the day (324, so a good number to compare to), which is waaaay better than I’ve managed before! Still 5 minutes behind the fastest though :/

Next was the run to the bike transition, which was a beautiful vine covered walkway.

 

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Past an unfortunate statue…

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Transition went smoothly – I even managed to take my wetsuit off without sitting down! Out onto the bike section, and the mist had cleared. In fact the sun was out! The course is quite hilly (830m climbing over 60km, 8% max gradient). Well, hilly for a Cambridge resident, as it’s very flat where I live!

The dappled sunlight made going down hills a bit scary on the slightly dodgy surface of British roads! At one point I hit 86 kmph – if I’d hit a pothole at that speed it wouldn’t have been good.

The race organisation was amazing. The roads weren’t closed, but there were people with stop/go signs at the bigger junctions stopping traffic. 

I immediately started passing people. We’d been giving a big, obvious sticker for our helmets, so that non-racing cyclists couldn’t take stuff from the feed stations. I thought the aquabike stickers were purple, so was looking out for these, and counting them. When I got to about 40 I realised this couldn’t be right! It was the same colour for the Ironman competitors as well. Doh. There were green numbers, which is what I should have been looking out for!

I had a lot of fun shooting down hills, although I realised after one about 10km in, where I’d been over some uneven road on a descent, that I no longer had a water bottle. It was an aero one, which has a special bracket, which meant even though there were full bottles being given out at the feed stations, I couldn’t take one. And it was getting hot!

Still, I had a few gels with me, which is a bit of liquid. One of those every 20km would have to do. I tried to pick up gels twice from a feed station, but fumbled one, and failed to persuade the people on the other one to hold out a gel rather than a bottle as I rode by.

About 30km I overtook Nick, who I’d raced at the Dartford Bridge aquabike a few weeks earlier. I thought he would probably be the main competition here as he’s very fast in the water, so it was good to catch him! We said “Hi” as best we could given that we were grinding our way uphill at the time.

By about 50km I was beginning to feel really dehydrated. I’d run out of gears going uphill a couple of times, and my back was beginning to ache a bit. I began to look forward to the end – up till that point I’d just been having fun!

The aquabike was the first race finishing – coming into the castle grounds I seemed to be catching marshals off-guard. I came into the run transition without any drama, which was odd as someone took my bike and helmet.

I’d done 1 hour 45 minutes for 60km. Not fast, but good given the hills. 280 watts normalised power (which has been at the high end of what I was aiming for for 30 minute sprint races, so it looks like the training is working).

Strava link

I asked if I was first – I was told yes, so I decided to go to the finish line the short (100m) way, then go do the 4km loop afterwards. 

I got my shoes on, and jogged over. Yay! I put sponges full of water over my head, which was the nicest feeling! Although the wet shoes weren’t quite so nice after that! And had a drink. And some food (there was a great selection!). The guy there told me I was second – someone had come in 10 minutes earlier! Blimey!

I then set off on the 4km run. This was great – the other guy hadn’t done the run, so I was first round this, and I deliberately wasn’t pushing the pace as I didn’t want to stress my calf muscles, so I had a bit of banter with the marshals. There was a feed station where I was offered water or coke. I said I wanted to pour it over me, so the marshal suggested the water… I did, and tasted it as it ran down over my face – it was High5 energy drink. Doh!

The route was beautiful, took in some hills, and went past the lake. Coming into the finishing chute was great, and back over the line (for some reason they wouldn’t give me another finisher’s medal!).

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There were a few people back by now, so we had a bit of a chat, which was good! Nick had come 3rd, but I’d just missed him going for the run, and he’d gone by that point, which was a shame.

The podium was there, so I decided I should have a photo even if it was only a ‘training distance’ (not that I’m bitter…)

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Full results here.